HOW TO PLAN A WEDDING
Many important issues, when dealing with planning your wedding, are listed below. Separated into categories to simplify. This information is provided as a courtesy. I will do whatever I can to offer assistance for your big day. Any information to add? Please contact me and let me know. Thank you.
engaged can be one of the most memorable and exciting moments in your
life. For the first few weeks after the proposal, you both feel dizzy
with happiness and are bursting with anticipation. As well you both
should be! You've met the man or woman of your dreams, you've decided to
get married, and now it's time to plan the wedding -- the official
celebration of your love and commitment.
As you plan this
wonderful day, you both will continue to feel great joy, but may also
experience a few butterflies and a little confusion. After all,
organizing a ceremony and reception is a big undertaking.
will be questions about anything and everything: from the meal (fish,
chicken, or beef?) to the wedding gown (low-cut, fitted, or
empire-waisted?) to the reception music (live band, small orchestra, or
DJ?). There will be issues about budgets, guest lists, and styles.
in the end, just remember what this day is really about -- a
celebration of love. Stay focused, and keep organized. This is where
this article comes in handy.
this article features special Stress-Busters and Budget Extenders tips
that help you both tackle the tough problems and really stretch the
Designed to help the engaged couple plan an
entire wedding, from announcing the engagement and buying the rings to
cutting your cake and planning the honeymoon, this article will help you
both create a truly memorable day -- without driving yourselves crazy
in the process.
Every wedding is different so there might be
worksheets that you both will have to reprint to have enough to cover
all of your guests or all of your vendor candidates. Conversely, there
might be some worksheets that you won't need at all or that you might
have to tweak to fit your needs.
Get started on the right track by beginning a list of important phone numbers
-- from wedding party members to the florist and musicians.
You both also will find information about announcing your engagement and
how to choose a ring -- that is, if you don't have your rings already!
The engagement period will probably be the most gloriously tranquil
time of a couple's wedding process. You both soon will be faced with
decisions, compromises, and debates -- some simple, some funny, some
tough, but all important. While it's important to bask in all the
happiness, there are also a few tasks that should be handled pretty
quickly. The couple need to set the budget and a timetable for planning
the wedding, buy the rings, and announce the engagement. Below are
helpful tips on making the many choices surrounding these aspects of the
Building a Budget
Setting a budget for the
ceremony and wedding reception is somewhat easy -- you have what you
have and that's that. Sticking to the budget is where things get tough.
For now, the engaged couple needs to sit down with both sets of parents
to discuss how much money they have, how much money they need, and who
will be footing the bill for what part of the wedding.It's going to be difficult at times, but try to plan a wedding within your means. Before you begin, determine a priority list
for the ceremony and the reception. Ask yourselves a silent question:
Is what we are spending on this item worth it to both of us?
After all, needing five years to pay off the reception is not the way to
go, especially since most newlyweds have a long list of wanna-haves,
such as a first home and/or new furniture.
You both may want to include your families in this conversation,
especially if they live out of town. Here are several important things
to consider when choosing a date:
- The honeymoon:
- Consider the type of honeymoon you both want. For instance, if you are
both sun-worshipers, don't plan a wedding date when your favorite island
is experiencing monsoon season.
- Work schedules:
- You both may have work periods when you can't take time off. Select a date when your lives are least demanding.
- Holidays and family occasions:
- Some couples go out of their way to schedule a wedding over a three-day
weekend, so everyone has more time together. This idea works best if
you send invitations at least eight weeks in advance; otherwise, people
might already have plans.
- Day of the week:
- Fridays & Saturdays
are generally the preferred wedding days. That way, out-of-town guests
can easily stay overnight.
- Alternate dates:
- If possible, have a first-choice date and at least one backup date.
Once the couple decides on a date, the real fun can begin! Work backward from the chosen date to determine a timetable
of what needs to be done when. Some tasks, such as mailing invitations
and picking up the rings, obviously can't be checked off until two
months before the Big Day. On the other hand, you both want to take care
of other items -- booking a florist and reception site, for example --
at least a year in advance.
How to Choose a Ring
In decades past, the man got down on one knee, ring in hand, and
proposed. Today, many couples jointly decide to become husband and wife.
Likewise, they choose the rings together. It pays to know a few things
- Find a jeweler you can trust. Use recommendations or family connections to find a jeweler you know to be honest and fair.
- Select a style. There are many rings out there, with styles from heirloom to contemporary. Choose a style that reflects your personal tastes.
- Set a price range.
Have some sense of what you can afford before you even visit any
jewelers. Most experts agree that the ring budget should total no more
than the bride and groom's combined salaries for two
- Know your diamond basics. There are
four categories by which a jeweler assesses the worth of a diamond: cut,
clarity, color, and carat.
Be sure to keep a good record of where the rings were purchased, how much they cost, the four C's of
the diamond, etc. This will come in handy for insurance purposes and if
you find something wrong with the rings after bringing them home. Also,
you both just spent potentially thousands of dollars with a jeweler, so
take advantage of your new status as a valued customer and consider
using the same jeweler to purchase the bride's attendants' gifts. Don't
be timid about asking for a quantity price break. Announcing the Engagement is one
of the most wonderful duties the couple has during this period is
announcing the engagement to the world. And while you both may have an
urge to shout the news from a rooftop, there are a few more traditional
ways to announce the engagement.First, you'll need to call the
"A" list -- friends and family who need to hear the news straight from
the bride or groom. Take a moment to jot down the names and numbers; be
certain you both don't forget anyone in your immediate circle. Schedule a
few chunks of free time to make the calls. You both are going to have a
lot to talk about! Traditionally, the groom's mother contacts the
bride's mother for congratulations and a get-acquainted chat. It's a
nice gesture to write down the bride's mother's home phone number and
mail it or personally give it to her future mother-in-law. If the two
women have not yet officially met, the bride might want to add a few
words of encouragement like, "My mom can't wait to hear from you. She
already has lots of things to discuss!"
Newspaper / Magazine Announcements
Newly engaged couples often send an official announcement to their
local newspaper and/or city magazine. They need to contact the
publications to find out the submission deadlines, run dates, and photo
requirements (you may want to keep an engagement photo log with key information). Be sure to keep track of the newspapers and magazines contacted so you can buy plenty of copies when it is published.
A proper announcement includes:
- Bride's full name
- Groom's full name
- Bride's mother's name
- Groom's mother's name
- Bride's father's name
- Groom's father's name
- Bride's parents' hometown and state
- Groom's parents' hometown and state
- Wedding site city, state
- Season, month, and/or date of wedding
is not recommended that the couple include addresses, since they will
receive many wonderful gifts during the next few months and don't want
to tip off burglars. Engagement parties often occur soon after
making the official announcement. Presents are not generally given; if,
however, someone does bring a gift, be sure to promptly send a thank you
card. It's an easy gesture to forget, since about now both of your
minds are focused on wedding plans, and you probably do not yet have
official thank you cards printed. Did you both get through the
budget, timetable, rings, and announcement without a hitch? Good for
you! If not, take a deep breath. It will all work out, and there's a lot
more to do! Let's move on to find out more about making the guest list
and selecting invitations in the next section.
The Guest List and Wedding Stationery
The guest list affects many of the wedding decisions the engaged
couple will make, including the selections for wedding stationery. So,
before any of the invitations, stationery, and so on can be purchased,
you both have to set the guest list and determine the total number of
guests. We'll walk you through the process. And remember, you can click
on the links for worksheets to help you with each step. Your
guest list generally drives other decisions, so it's often smart to
write the list sooner rather than later. Two of the earliest concerns
dependent on final guest count are the total budget and the invitation
requirements.The guest count has a trickle-down effect on just
about all matters related to the wedding. If your list is extremely
long, you both may want to ask only a handful of close friends and
family to the ceremony and invite everyone to the reception. The size of
the guest list can also affect the mood and tone of the day, as well as
the size of your wedding party.There are three steps to making a guest list:
- Do first things first:
- Some couples like to set a guest count first and then set the budget
accordingly. This is appropriate if they know upfront that they'll have a
generous budget. Other couples like to set the budget and then
determine how many guests can be invited. This is appropriate if they
think funds will be tight.
- Divide the list by five:
- Divvy up the guest list between five categories: the bride's list; the
groom's list; the couple's list of common friends; the groom's parents'
list; and the bride's parents' list. (Sometimes it's easiest to allocate
all family guests to the respective parents.)
- Now begin removing names until you both hit your mark.
it comes to the guest list, you both are likely to have some sticky
situations. Remember, this is your party; within reason, the guest list
is the bride's and groom's decision. But if you both find yourself
growing weary or confused, here are a few hints:
- If you both haven't seen or spoken to someone in over a year, he or she can probably come off the list.
you both need to make cuts, select an entire group, like all business
associates or all book club members. If anyone complains, simply explain
that you're planning a small wedding.
- If you both decide
against having children at the ceremony, and the Smiths respond that
they are coming with all four kids, handle it tactfully and directly.
Call them up and say, "I'm sorry, but we simply can't accommodate
children at the wedding."
- If there is an "ex" in the bride or
groom's background (this could mean girlfriends, boyfriends, in-laws, or
stepparents), ask yourselves if everyone in the extended bridal party
would feel comfortable about this person being invited. If you or anyone
else might feel uneasy with this guest present, then he or she should
be dropped from the list.
You both will need quite an assortment of printed items for the wedding. Depending on which printer
you choose, the items included in the wedding stationery package will
vary. (Be sure to look at all the package options before you make your stationary order to ensure you get everything you want -- and nothing you don't need.)
can usually spot a wedding invitation in the mail a mile away -- it has
a "LOVE" stamp in the corner and is bursting at the seams. To figure
out why the envelope is so jam-packed, read on to find out more about
what typically goes in a wedding invitation package.
- The Ceremony Invitation and Envelope:
- The invitation announces the tone of the wedding and thus can take on
any number of styles -- from traditional to unique. The wedding
invitation itself traditionally comes from the bride's parents, but it
can also come from the bride and groom. The tone or style of the
invitation should reflect the tone or style of the ceremony and
reception.There are several different invitation styles, from
traditional to contemporary. All are perfectly acceptable. You both
will, however, need to set a style before hiring a printer, since
different shops have different printing capabilities. There are lots of
places to look for style inspiration. You could look at friends'
invitations, for example. You should also visit at least two printers
and look at their sample books so that you can get an idea of what's
- The Reception Invitation:
reception invitation can have three formats: It can be included on the
same invitation as the ceremony information; it can be a separate
invitation/card altogether; or if a guest is only invited to the
reception, it can be used in place of the ceremony invitation.A combined
invitation for both the reception and the ceremony is a great way to
save money without sacrificing elegance. If the reception invitation is
separate, however, the only thing to remember is that the card style
should match that of the ceremony invitation. In other words, it should
follow the traditional or contemporary style of the invitation.
- The Response Card and Envelope:
- The response card addresses the reception only. It should have a line
for the guest name(s), the number of people attending, and the menu
choices (if needed). You both should also include a self-addressed,
stamped envelope for the guest to return the response card. The card
should have a final response date -- generally two to four weeks before
- It is increasingly common to
include a map to the ceremony site and the reception site with the
invitation. This could be a computer-generated map or one that you draw
yourself. Just make sure that all of your lines and directions are clear
before you give it to the printer. Also include a phone number for the
destination. That way, the guest can call if he or she gets lost.
Other Printed Items
you both know in advance the other printed items you would like at your
wedding, ask the printer you've selected for your invitations to add in
these items at a discount. This will not only save you money but will
also ensure that each printed piece matches the style of the others.
- Pew cards:
- If you plan a large wedding ceremony and want to make sure certain
guests have reserved seats, insert a pew card into the invitation. When
guests present this card to an usher, they will be seated accordingly.
The pew card includes the guest name(s), the ceremony location, and the
pew number and its section (the bride's side or the groom's side).
- Place cards, matchbooks, napkins, etc.:
You can include printed items -- such as napkins and matchbooks -- at
the reception tables and scattered around the site, such as at the bar
or the appetizer table. These printed pieces can include your names
only; your names and wedding date; or the names, date, and a symbol,
such as wedding bells. They are generally printed in a color that
coordinates with your reception colors.
- Wedding programs:
- The wedding program names the bride and groom, the officiant, all
members of the wedding party, and any readers and soloists. It also
lists the ceremony events, including all songs, prayers, and scriptures
to be read. Ushers distribute the programs as well as seat the guests.
Either your officiant or your church, synagogue, or temple coordinator
can supply previous wedding programs for samples. You could also check
with friends and your printer to see other examples.
- Thank-You cards:
- Since you both will be writing many thank you cards during the coming
months, it's nice to have appropriate thank you stationery printed fto
use. These cards are small (generally folded and four inches by five
inches) and are usually made of rich white or ivory paper. They have
"Thank You," the bride's and groom's names, or their initials printed on
the front. Be careful about how you print the names or initials, since
the bride may need her maiden name on cards used before the ceremony and
her married name on cards used after the ceremony.
- Wedding announcements:
- A formal wedding announcement is mailed the day after the wedding to
family and friends who couldn't be invited to the event. An announcement
can also go to local newspapers and magazines. A newspaper or magazine
wedding announcement is worded much like the engagement announcement.
- At-Home cards:
- This card is sometimes included with the invitation or the wedding
announcement. It tells whether the bride will be using her married or
maiden last name and where the couple will live.
Show Proof of Proofing
you imagine anything more embarrassing than misspelling your future
mother-in-law's name on the invitation? To avoid mistakes, enlist
proofing help from at least three people -- preferably a mix of people
from both sides. In addition, read each line in the invitation proof
backward, from right to left. This forces you both to isolate each word.
If you both question any name, circle it and phone someone to check the
spelling. Use a dictionary to check other questionable words. As for
dates, times, and sites, after you've double-checked this information,
go back and check it all again. (And a third check wouldn't hurt,
Addressing the Invitations
It may be tough to
forgo the ease of computer-generated labels, but the invitations really
should be hand-addressed. It is acceptable, however, to have your return
address printed on the envelopes. If the invitation includes an inside
envelope, repeat only the names of the guests (including any children
under 16) on it. Persons 16 and older traditionally receive their own
invitations. Single persons may have "and Guest" printed beside their
name. Formal titles, such as Doctor or Reverend, should be spelled out.
forget to include the postage costs in the invitation budget. And be
certain to weigh the entire invitation to ensure correct postage. Ask
your printer for a sample of your invitation, including every envelope
(with the postage stamps), every enclosure, and every piece of tissue
paper. These samples can be blank, since normal printing doesn't add
weight. Take this sample to a post office and have it weighed. Now
that the guest list is set and the wedding stationery is ordered, the
couple is ready to get into the nitty-gritty details of the ceremony and
reception. On the next page, we will get started by learning more about
choosing music for the ceremony and the reception as well as finding a
Ceremony Music and Reception Music
The music and flowers play enormous parts in setting the mood for
your wedding. Both of these speak to the day's romantic tone and serve
to express the couple's style. The average couple spends
approximately 4 percent of their total budget on flowers and 5 percent
on music. However, if you both choose to make the music and/or flowers a
priority, you'll soon see how quickly your budget will climb. Probably
the most important thing to remember as you make final music and floral
selections is that there are choices, including some very creative,
very engaging, and possibly less expensive alternatives.
If the ceremony
will be in a religious building, be sure to ask if there are any music
restrictions. Instrumental music generally begins 30 minutes before the
ceremony, and a solo is often performed immediately after the bride's
mother is seated. The processional begins with an instrumental -- or
sometimes a soloist -- and has a slow, even beat that you can walk to.
After the final attendant is down the aisle and in place, special music
announces the bride.The bride's music can vary -- anywhere from
traditional or contemporary, an instrumental or a soloist. The most
popular choices are Wagner's "Bridal Chorus" ("Here Comes the Bride")
and Mendelssohn's "Wedding March." You may also want one or two songs
played during the ceremony. Finally, there's the recessional, which
generally has a slightly quicker tempo.No matter what you both select for your song list,
take the time to find music that means something to you both -- or at
least music that you both enjoy. And keep a worksheet on each of your ceremony entertainers that lists contact information and other important details.
ceremony musicians, who need to reflect the moment's solemn, heartfelt
ambiance, reception music is all about entertainment. It should inspire
dancing, joyful singing, and all-around merriment.If the ceremony
and reception are hosted in the same building, you may be able to hire
one set of musicians for both events. More often, however, you'll need
separate musicians for the ceremony and the reception.Below are a
few ways to stretch your reception music budget, and surprisingly
enough, these ideas can often lead you both to more creative and
open-minded musical talent.
- Hire a DJ rather than a band.
out local universities or colleges for young talent. Remember, these
students may be the same musicians to play at your baby sister's wedding
years from now! Another bonus: Because they do not have a standard
wedding repertoire, these musicians may be more open to learning special
requests. (Be certain, though, to find someone reliable and
trustworthy. The money you save isn't worth worrying about any
Once you select your reception entertainment, create a music schedule to help them play key songs at certain times throughout the evening. Such as the first dance and the bouquet toss.
You both will most likely be shocked and amazed at the sheer volume
of flowers it takes to adorn a wedding. Even more amazing is the cost,
especially since you're probably only used to buying small bouquets from
a local florist or grocery store. But the right botanical display is a
breathtaking addition to a wedding.When interviewing florists,
find out how open they are to working within your budget. The best
florist is one that can be creative and provide you with unique yet
reasonably priced arrangements. Here are a few tried-and-true ways to
extend the flower budget:
- Use in-season flowers.
- While your florist can generally get almost any flower you want, in-season selections tend to cost less.
- Use lots of greenery.
- For bouquets, you could instruct the florist to retain more stem leaves
(requesting, of course, that only unblemished foliage can be used). Or,
you could entwine a few perfect blossoms within ivy garlands.
- Limit the number of attendants.
- Remember, every person participating in your wedding requires either a
bouquet, corsage, or boutonniere. Fewer bridal attendants means fewer
costly floral arrangements.
- Consider tabletop alternatives.
- Alternatives like balloons mixed with only a few flowers, candles
surrounded by ivy garlands, and heavenly scented herb arrangements can
lower your floral costs. You might also want to consider renting bonsai
or small topiary trees.
- Use the ceremony flowers
- at your reception as well.
One caution: There may be a slight up-charge if you'd like the florist
to transport and set up the ceremony flowers at the reception site.
However, sometimes this cost is far lower than purchasing flowers for
two separate locations. Of course, you also could ask a friend to be in
charge of transporting the flowers and setting them up.
- Share the ceremony flower cost
- with another couple.
Oftentimes, ceremony flowers are designed to decorate specific areas
within the church, synagogue, or temple. This may make it impractical to
move and reuse the flowers at the reception. In this case, you may want
to try splitting the ceremony flower costs with another couple. Ask the
contact person at your church, synagogue, or temple if there is another
wedding the day before or after yours. If yes, call that couple, and
see if they are open to this huge cost-cutting measure.
- Sometimes less really is more -- especially if your wedding style is
particularly elegant or sophisticated. For example, if the bride's gown
is a simple sheath, select a bouquet of one dramatic, breathtaking
flower surrounded by beautiful ribbon.
As with all of the
vendors associated with the wedding, keep a contact sheet handy that
includes all the key information about your florist. Use this sheet to record notes from each meeting you both have with him or her. Also create a detailed list of your flower orders that sums up what needs to go where and get into whose hands or on whose lapel. Since
you've spent all this time picking the right music, musicians, and
flowers, you want to make sure you properly document how beautiful it
all turns out. In the next section, I will discuss how to select a
photographer and videographer.
The wedding photographs preserve forever the magnificence and magic
of your wedding day. Your wedding video, on the other hand, tends to
capture those precious and often spontaneous moments that defy the
limitations of still photography. Take the time to carefully
select both the wedding photographer and videographer. Remember, these
are the people who are in charge of recording your precious memories.
Remember, you can click on the links for worksheets to help you with
Amazingly enough, the couple
can plan, delight in, and obsess about their wedding day for 12 months,
and then -- poof! -- everything's over before they know it. Even though
the guests will appreciate every effort you both took to make this a
memorable day, you both may find yourselves barely able to remember the
menu, let alone the white roses at the end of the aisle. For these
reasons and a million more, your photographer will eventually (say, on
your fifth wedding anniversary) become one of the most important persons
to have attended your ceremony and reception.
Choosing a Photographer
your homework. Ask recently married couples for recommendations. Take a
lot of uninterrupted time to study a photographer's portfolio. Look for
technical skill, including clear, well-lit photos. Study the bride's
and groom's faces: Was the photographer able to capture that nano-second
where the bride's eyes expressed the love in her heart rather than the
butterflies in her stomach? Despite being posed, do the traditional
shots still have a sense of candid happiness, or do they seem flat and
un-animated? Does the photographer use multiple-image, split-frame, or
other creative techniques? There are important questions for you both to ask during initial interviews with photographer's:
such as the rate per hour, extra potential costs, photographer's
attire, and number of assistants to be used. There are also definite
ways to make the search for a photographer a little easier. For example,
- Start early.
- The best
photographers are booked months in advance. Since you want plenty of
time to interview and review more than one photographer, it's best to
begin this task as soon as possible.
- See other people's wedding albums.
- Recommendations are great, but actually seeing the photographer's work is better still.
- Attend bridal fairs.
- Photographers often have booths at these fairs. You can look at
portfolios, collect business cards, and check for available dates. It's
also a great way to see several photographers without having to drive
all over town.
- Ask your caterer, and D.J. for recommendations.
- These people are in the wedding business, and they've probably seen it
all. Of course, their recommendations will probably be from a different
perspective. For example, this photographer did not get in the way as
food was served, and that photographer got right in the middle of the
dance floor and captured every move. In the end, these are all important
viewpoints that the average bride might not know to consider.
- Interview several choices.
- You both may think that wedding photographs are all the same, but they
really aren't. There are different levels of creativity, talent, and
technical skill. After talking to several photographers, you'll begin to
understand the differences, and you'll spot the right person.
- Consider your chemistry
- with each photographer interviewed. While a photographer's portfolio is his best recommendation, it's also
important to consider how you get along with this person. If you both
prefer a take-charge, assertive person, look for these qualities during
the interview. On the other hand, if you want someone who's laid-back
and goes with the flow, watch for this attitude.
- Consider a photographer's creativity.
- When reviewing a photographer's portfolio, look for black-and-white
treatments, multiple images, and other creative techniques. Don't be shy
about making special requests. If a friend's wedding album catches your
eye, ask if you can borrow her book and show it to each photographer
- Make sure your photographer
- has wedding-specific experience.
Photographers who specialize in animal shots or formal portraits are
probably not your best bet. You want someone who understands what a
wedding album means.
Getting the Important Shots
If there are people at your wedding who you especially want
photographed, make sure the photographer meets these people. Introducing
the photographer to your great-grandmother is a nice responsibility for
your maid/matron of honor. And be sure to make these special requests
clearly known before the wedding day.Wedding Photography Trends. Several
trends in wedding day photography can make the entire process much more
predictable and less stressful. Ultimately, the ideas below can give
you more free time on the wedding day.
you both have determined which specific shots are important and when
you would like the photographer to take these shots, create a photography schedule
to keep him or her on track. And while you're at it, make a contact
sheet with the details of your wedding package along with basic
information about the photographer. This will make sure you and the photographer are on the same page and eliminate any potential for surprises.
- Take the formal shots
- the day or week before your ceremony.
Yes, the groom will have to see the bride in her gown, but the benefits
of a calm, unhurried session often outweigh any superstitions! Also, a
pre-wedding-day photography session gives you both a true dress
- Take more candid shots.
- There is
something captivating about well-taken candid photographs. Some great
candid opportunities are when everyone is getting ready, between formal
shots when everyone is happy and playful, and as the bride awaits her
first step down the aisle.
- Request creative techniques.
- Black-and-white or black-and-white hand-tinted photos, double
exposures, or special filters all offer unique and captivating results.
Like the photographer, the videographer is responsible for capturing
memories. What sets the video apart from the wedding album is that video
tends to be more action- and sound-oriented and thus has the potential
for being more spontaneous and candid. There's no better way to remember
the informal but nonetheless remarkable moments of your day.Many
times, video is the only way to capture the moment you exchange vows,
since the flashes for still photographs are sometimes not permitted or
wanted during the ceremony. A quiet video camera, unobtrusively set up
stage left, allows you to hold those vows forever at your fingertips. As you both did when selecting photography, interview several videographer's, and use friends' wedding videos to help express what you're looking for. Once you find that perfect one, create a schedule with all the key moments you would like captured plus a contact sheet detailing everything you need to remember about your videographer. Details,
details. There sure is a lot to remember when planning a wedding, isn't
It's easy to get bogged down in the details of wedding planning --
especially for aspects of the wedding that have so many components, like
the rehearsal and the ceremony, and for the more mundane items on your
checklist, such as transportation. Remember to keep the overall picture
in mind, and always try to add a personal touch to each detail you both
plan. Don't forget you can click on the links for worksheets to help you
with each step. The rehearsal
is incredibly important, not only for obvious reasons, but also because
it reduces the risk of ceremony surprises, tends to relax the wedding
party, and gives his side a chance to mingle with her side. It also
makes the reception even more fun and personal.The worksheet link
above provides a cheat sheet of everything you both need to remember
about the rehearsal, including what you both should take along (such as
the wine and the marriage license) that you will need on your actual
This immediately follows the official rehearsal. While the party is
traditionally hosted by the groom's family, more and more groom's
parents now choose instead to help with the overall reception costs,
which, with the exception of the bar bill, were traditionally covered
only by the bride's parents.The rehearsal party is a chance for
the bride and groom to mingle with loved ones and introduce wedding
attendants from his family to wedding attendants from her family. It's
also traditionally the time for the couple to give gifts to each wedding
party attendant. Rehearsal parties can run the gamut. They can
be quite formal or casual. They can be in a restaurant or a private
home. They can include dinner or simply be drinks and appetizers. In
other words, anything goes and anything is acceptable.All members
of the wedding party are included on the rehearsal party guest list, as
well as their spouses. All parents, the officiant (and his or her
spouse), and the coordinator (if any) are also invited. Some couples
also invite other wedding vendors (the musicians, photographer, etc.)
and out-of-town guests, but that is entirely optional.
is the time to acknowledge every fantasy and recall every wedding
ceremony that has touched the bride's and groom's heart -- whether the
ceremony was your best friend's, your Aunt Mabel's, or a scene on the
big screen starring Audrey Hepburn. Indulge yourselves and your most
romantic dreams. The only real limitations are budget and size. (In
other words, you both want to make sure the ceremony site can hold all
of your guests.)
The Ceremony Site
A ceremony does just as
much to set the tone of the wedding day as anything else. If the bride
and groom belong to the same church, synagogue, or temple and they want a
traditional ceremony, choosing the ceremony site
is simple. If, however, they want a more unique ceremony or if they do
not belong to the same religious organization, then they may need to do a
little hunting to find the perfect site. There are four general
ceremony styles for you both to choose from. Each of the four styles has
plenty of room for personal expression.
No matter how extravagant or simple the couple's dreams are for the ceremony site,
it's important they keep track of all the details, including such
things as the maximum number of guests, fee involved, and attire
- A traditional ceremony is performed in a church, synagogue, or temple
by a religious leader. (A military ceremony is also considered
- This ceremony is
most often in a historical building, museum, garden, or along a
shoreline. There generally still are seats, an aisle, and a religious
- These "extreme" ceremonies
are held underwater, on mountaintops, in the air, or wherever your
fantasy leads you. It takes a lot of courage to select this style, and
you can expect more than the average number of regrets. If it's your
dream, though, go for it!
women fall in love and get married, too -- they just don't want to be on
center stage. For these people, a private ceremony at city hall or a
small religious site is perfect. They can then have a large party, with
lots of mingling and no spotlights, at another time.
There are several standard fees associated with the wedding ceremony.
The following areas are all considered normal add-on fees and should be
included in the budget. In the end, all of these additional fees add
value to your ceremony.
- This is the person who actually performs the ceremony, legally pronouncing you husband and wife. The officiant may be a religious leader at the church, synagogue, or temple where you
will hold your ceremony; a religious leader invited to your ceremony
site from another church, synagogue, or temple; or a judge or justice.
Whoever the person is, there will be a fee (or donation) for the
service. Be sure to provide a schedule to the officiant so he or she knows exactly what you have planned for the ceremony.
- Site fee:
- There are often additional fees beyond the building in which you hold
the ceremony. These are generally for decorative items used to set up the site
to your liking or items associated with religious traditions. Some of
the add-on fees may include an aisle runner, candelabras and candles (if
permitted), the altar or chuppah, knee cushions, canopy, and chairs (if
necessary in addition to the pews).
- Special services:
- Certain services outside the jurisdiction of your officiant or site
manager include cleanup services, parking services, setup services, or
tear-down services. These normally have an additional fee.
There was a time when the wedding vows
were more or less set in stone. Those days, however, are gone. And
while that's good news for those who are looking for another way to
express their love, it also means one more thing for the bride and groom
to worry about. Here are your choices:
- Traditional vows:
- If you are having a religious ceremony with traditional vows, there is
still room for input. Read through the customary vows to make sure you
find nothing contradictory with your beliefs, such as things that you
think are outdated or sexist. Consider inserting special readings or
poems. Sometimes family and friends are invited to read scriptures or
- Self-written vows:
- Many brides and
grooms write their own vows. A few suggestions are to acknowledge the
guests and the importance of their presence; explain the qualities you
most love about your future spouse or tell your hopes for the future.
The Receiving Line
The receiving line
is a special chance for guests to officially meet the bride's and
groom's families, as well as an opportunity to personally congratulate
the newlyweds. This line is usually formed directly after the ceremony,
with guests offering their congratulations as they move on to the
reception. It can also be formed so that guests arriving at the
reception must first pass through the line. It's perfectly fine to keep
conversation brief (yet still somewhat personal).
Some might consider limousine service on your wedding day
extravagant, but it is a surprisingly affordable luxury -- and an
appropriate indulgence when you consider the miles of lace the bride
will be wearing. Check out several transportation company candidates before settling on one -- many offer great deals if you both search hard enough.A
limousine can be used both before and/or after the ceremony. For
example, the bride and her attendants could take a limo to the church.
The couple (and possibly the best man and maid/matron of honor) could
also be whisked away to the reception in a limousine. And remember there
are several romantic alternatives to a limousine service. For example,
the couple may be able to rent an antique car or hire a horse and
carriage. One trend is to find a way to keep the whole wedding
party together in transit. This can include anything from renting a
trolley (check the Yellow Pages for any local companies) to renting a
mini-bus (available through many limousine services).
This allows the
entire wedding party to have a private post-ceremony celebration
together. Beyond hiring transportation
for yourselves and the wedding party, you may want to consider paying
for valet parking for your guests. If the ceremony and reception are at a
fine hotel, they probably already offer this service -- which you can
often secure at a reduced rate. If this service is not part of your
ceremony or reception package, consider hiring parking attendants. This
is a particularly thoughtful gesture if your ceremony is someplace where
street parking is difficult.You' both have walked down the
aisle, exchanged vows, puckered up for the all-important kiss -- and now
it's party time! In the next section we will help you both plan your
Reception and Catering
Like the ceremony, the reception and catering should reflect the
bride and groom's overall wedding style. And just as with the ceremony,
pretty much anything goes. Your reception can be an elaborately planned
formal sit-down dinner, a relaxed yet elegant semiformal buffet
luncheon, a glamorous cocktail party, or a casual outdoor brunch. No
matter which style you both choose, you can click on the links for
worksheets to help you plan the reception and catering. Traditionally,
a reception includes the following broad categories: a receiving line
(which you may choose to include as part of the ceremony), a toast to
the couple, a meal, cake, and music. The only must for a wedding
reception, however, is lots of celebrating. In other words, do whatever
you both like to make this a truly romantic, memorable, and -- above all
-- lovely day. While reception sites run the gamut from a formal
restaurant to a backyard, you both want to make absolutely certain that
your site can comfortably hold the number of guests you wish to invite.
It also must accommodate guests' parking needs and any activities you
want, such as dancing.Before choosing a reception site, you both
must define the mood of your reception. Even though anything goes, you
still have to define what "anything" means to you both.To begin,
consider your other wedding decisions, such as the style of your dress,
invitations, and ceremony. Will these be very formal and traditional? It
might seem odd to go from a formal, traditional ceremony to a unique,
creative reception ... but again, it's up to you both. Once you set the mood, select three or four reception site possibilities that can accommodate your concept. After choosing the reception site
that meets your needs, keep a detailed checklist of everything the site
has and, more important, doesn't have, so you can be sure to rent what
you need. Also provide the site with a schedule so the people in charge on your Big Day know what you expect. Be sure to map out a seating plan -- with help from your fiance -- and give a copy to the manager at the reception site and a copy to your caterer. You both will probably devote 35 to 40 percent of your wedding budget to the reception. Some ideas for stretching the dollars:
- Serve limited alcoholic beverages.
- By limiting your bar selections to soft drinks, punch, champagne, beer, and wine, you will save a substantial amount of money.
- Rent necessary equipment yourself.
- You'll cut out the middleman and save a significant amount of money.
- Select a meal option other than dinner.Breakfast, brunch, lunch, high tea, and cocktails are all less expensive than dinner.
- Limit the open bar.
- If you both definitely want an open bar but need to trim costs, limit
the time your bar is open. Once the bar is closed, you can still have
wine, beer, and nonalcoholic beverages available.
- Always ask about packages.
- Many sites offer reception packages, and while these options may give
you less room for special requests, they often come with a lower final
There are basically three options
for the reception food: self-catered, catered, or included with the
total reception package. With the last option, you'll generally work
with the food manager from a hotel, restaurant, or country club. Within
these three categories, you can aim for a formal, semiformal, or casual
Some hotels and especially private
establishments such as museums or historical buildings do not offer food
preparation services. In these cases, you need to hire a caterer. Make
sure you choose a caterer
you can trust who is experienced in weddings. Then let this person be
your guide. Your caterer is an expert, and considering the fact that
you're paying for his or her services, you might as well sit back and
enjoy the help. Also, you both should insist on a tasting session before
choosing a caterer. Give very careful second thoughts to anyone
unwilling to provide this service. Once you both have settled on a caterer, keep a worksheet on all of his or her contact information as well as details about the menu, including costs.A Food ManagerThis
person -- while technically working for a private club, hotel,
restaurant, or country club -- should be handled just the same as a
Again, you need to be certain to find one that you're
comfortable working with, and you need to sample the food offered before
you make any decisions.
Food managers should be able to accommodate
special requests, although sometimes on a more limited scale. With a Self-Catered Affair you
may choose to prepare all of the food yourselves. If you both are
planning a small, intimate reception, this is sometimes an option that
can save some money. If you both choose this, be sure to go into it with
your eyes wide open. The secret is to plan ahead, ask for help, choose
as many make-ahead-and-freeze courses as possible, and organize,
The wedding cake should be a
work of creative art as well as a delicious dessert. Many reception
sites and caterers include the cake with their wedding packages, but you
may prefer to select a baker on your own. If doing so, you both first need to select a cake type, size, and style. The
number of tiers is dictated by sheer preference, budget, or the number
of guests you need to feed. The icing is generally white, but the inside
can be whatever flavor you desire.Generally speaking, it is the
outside cake decorations that most affect cost. The inside follows no
standard rules and can be any flavor. As with the food, insist on a
tasting session before you choose a baker. Also keep a detailed list of
important information about the baker you've chosen that includes fees and specifics about the cake. The groom's cake
is an old Southern tradition that fades in and out of favor. While it
is certainly not mandatory, it does add a sweet touch to the day. This
cake, generally chocolate cake with chocolate icing (as opposed to the
bride's white cake), is cut, placed in take-home boxes, and given to
guests upon departure. Legend has it that a single girl who places this
cake under her pillow will dream of the man she will marry.Many
women have a picture of their dream wedding gown in their head long
before they even meet the man they want to marry. But wedding attire
involves more than just the bride's white dress. Check the next section
for helpful tips on selecting the perfect wedding attire for the bride
Everything that surrounds the bride as she walks down the aisle
should represent nothing less than warmth, love, and beauty. Her gown,
her attendants, and both of your family and friends standingnear -- they all embody decades of dreams, centuries of tradition, and a few fleeting moments of utter joy. Choosing
the bride's gown and groom's attire, and the apparel for the rest of
the wedding party, can be a long process. Just remember to use the
clothes to reinforce the style of the rest of the wedding. In other
words, if the wedding is a formal evening affair in an elaborate
setting, don't put the groomsmen in casual sports coats and trousers. As
we walk you both through the process of selecting the appropriate
wedding attire, remember that you can click on the links for worksheets
to help you with each step.
The Wedding Gown
bride begins shopping for her gown, she should take a look inside her
closet and pull out the dresses that make her feel absolutely gorgeous.
Study their basic shapes and cuts. Next, buy an armful of bride
magazines. Tear out pages with fashions that catch her eye. Have a pen
handy, so she can circle any neckline and sleeve treatments she likes. She'll probably be trying on dozens of dresses, so create a log of what she likes and didn't like about her top gown options. Once she has made her selection, keep track of all of her ordering information in one place to make it easy to make any follow-up phone calls to the boutique. The Veil and the Headpiece.
Many styles of veils and headpieces
First and foremost, the bride should choose headwear that coordinates with her dress. However, most headwear can be adapted to coordinate with any gown style. Her
only other concern is deciding what sort of veil and headpiece she
feels comfortable in. Her comfort level depends on how she likes to wear
her hair and whether she wants to wear all or part of the headpiece
during the reception. On the subject of hair, she'll probably want to
make a general decision about her wedding day hairstyle before buying
The Bridesmaids' Attire
Once the subject of
ridicule and scorn, bridesmaid dresses now have a world of
options.Bridesmaids don't even have to dress alike anymore. The bride
can choose to have the wedding party all dress in the same color or
fabric. Just remember that the bridesmaids will be paying for these
dresses; try to choose one within their budgets. As the bride did with her wedding dress, she should keep track of the likes and dislikes of her bridesmaids' gown options. Then create a detailed worksheet about the bridesmaid gowns she has selected, including all of her attendant's measurements.
The Groom's Apparel
with the modern bride, the modern groom no longer absolutely has to
wear a traditional black tux. A nice-looking suit and tie has become
popular, and this option allows the groom to wear the suit for other
special occasions. If he wants to stick with the rental route, be sure to check out a few rental apparel options to make sure he gets the style he likes at the price you both like. Then keep track of all the groom's ordering information, including dates for the fittings.
The groomsmen's attire
should match (or at least reflect) the style of the groom's attire. The
groomsmen will sometimes wear a less formal or less colorful version of
what the groom is wearing. The best man will often match the groom.
It's a good idea to have a list of all the groomsmen's measurements in
case you run into any problems with the rental company. Phew! You
both made it through the wedding planning. That's it, right? Well, not
quite. You can't forget about the honeymoon, post-wedding parties, and
gift registry. While all of these are pleasant distractions, they do
take planning nonetheless.
Gifts and Parties
A wedding is all about fun stuff. And what could be more fun than
giving everyone an excuse to have a party -- to put on clothes that
rarely get worn, to get silly and sentimental all at once, and to hug
anyone and everyone. There will be lunches, brunches, showers, cocktail
events, bachelor and bachelorette festivities, and impromptu gatherings
galore. In addition to the parties, there will be gifts...lots of
them. You and your fiance will receive presents big and small. To make
sure you receive what you both truly need and want, you should register
with at least one store. We will show you both how to tend to these
final party and gift details. And remember, you can click on the links
for worksheets to help you with each step. Registering is
time-consuming and can be slightly stressful because of the many
decisions that need to be made. Physically, it's easy. You both simply
go to the gift registry department at your favorite store and either
fill out a massive checklist or use an electronic scanner to note items
that you want. Then, the store will print out your complete wish list. You
both should seriously consider registering at several stores, maybe one
that offers wonderful formal dinnerware. Or one that offers gorgeous
furniture and housewares, and one larger superstore where you can
register for electronics, gardening supplies, or any little thing your
heart desires. That way, you both are sure to hit all of your wishes and
all of your guests' price ranges. On the subject of gifts,
perhaps the greatest gift of all is the honeymoon -- something you and
your fiance give to each other -- and something most newlyweds need and
want more than anything. After months of planning, negotiating, and
compromising, you both deserve a special and memorable getaway. After
all, once you both return home, it's back to reality.
Creating the Gift Registry
for gifts is fun and functional. As for the fun part, what better way
to spend an afternoon than jotting down hundreds of things you both wish
you owned. As for functionality, registering ensures that you actually
receive things you need. Registering also keeps duplicate gifts at a
minimum...unless you both really want four gravy boats? At every store you both register, you will receive a printout of your registration
that details all selected items, style numbers, and desired quantities.
If you care to know your gift status at any given time, you both can
request an updated printout that will list all items and quantities
purchased thus far. Some stores also have Web sites that let you check
the up-to-the-minute status of your list. Before heading off to
register, go through the following list together and take note of the
general categories that deserve special attention. Think of particular
items that you both need in each category, and jot them down on a piece
- Formal dinnerware
- Informal dinnerware
- Formal flatware
- Informal flatware
- Casual glassware/barware
- Bar needs
- Decorative items
gift -- big or small, expected or not -- should be followed up with a
thank you card. To make the process easier, keep a good wedding gift registry
from the start that includes the name of the giver, the gift, and an
area for you to check off when you've sent a thank you note. The
note should be sent as soon as possible, so you both want to try to keep
up with this as the gifts arrive. Because you'll likely be writing many
notes, keep them brief. You are not obligated to send an entire letter.
Simply begin by thanking the person for the gift. Move on to a sentence
about how the two of you will use the gift, mention how happy you are
that this person could attend the shower or wedding, and close with a
second and final thank you.
Legend has it that
bridal showers began when a poor Dutch miller wanted to marry a woman
whose father forbade the union and refused a dowry. The Miller's friends
decided to shower the couple with everything they needed to begin a
life together. Today, the bride can expect anywhere from one to many showers.
Showers can have themes, such as kitchen or honeymoon; they can be of a
personal nature, with gifts centered on lingerie and bath items; or
they can simply be friendly gatherings with gifts purchased according to
the couple's registry list.
The trend is a couples shower, where
the engaged couple attends together and the guest list includes other
Each person or couple who throws a shower should receive a
special thank you letter, something a little more intimate than the
usual thank you card. You both may also choose to offer hosts and
hostesses a small gift -- a token of your appreciation. This could be a
bouquet of flowers, a plant, a meaningful book, a special bottle of
wine, or any other personal gift.
Some brides like to hostess a bridesmaid party.
This is a wonderful way to show your appreciation or their support,
love, and help before, during, and after the wedding. It's also a great
way for out-of-town attendants to meet everyone else before the Big Day.Post-Wedding Party.
The post-wedding party
held the day after the reception, probably began spontaneously because
of out-of-town guests with time on their hands. Today, it is a very
popular idea and well on its way to becoming a tradition. This event is
usually hosted by the bride's mother, the groom's mother, or both
mothers together.The event can be brunch or lunch and includes
anyone you both care to invite, but it especially includes out-of-town
guests. The bride and groom may or may not attend, depending on personal
preferences and/or the honeymoon schedule.
Whether you both hire a consultant to take care of every last wedding
detail or you handle every decision yourselves, you are likely to leave
the reception exhausted. You both will need the honeymoon to come down from all the excitement and activity.
best time to tackle the honeymoon is right from the start of the
wedding process. This is when you both want to begin considering
honeymoon possibilities and then select a wedding date that coordinates
with your general destination. For example, if you are both ski
enthusiasts, you probably don't want an August wedding. After you set a
date, begin thinking of the honeymoon specifics.
Anyone who has
planned a wedding will probably say they never imagined how many details
there were to take care of.
The good news is if you both use the tips
and worksheet links included in this article, you'll have all the bases
covered and you both can focus on the fun, personal touches that really
make a wedding spectacular.
This is a LOT of information! But, your day is very important. I hope that this information (lifted from many various sources) will be helpful in your pre-planning. If there is anything I should add, please let me know!