Plan your wedding well in advance – a year is a good term – and you will limit the stress to a minimum. Having a year will allow you to book the location on the date that you want. You will also have time to iron out all the details. Here are a few things to consider.
When and where to have the wedding
You may have a preconceived idea of the time and place. Perhaps, you met at the park, so Botanic Gardens may be your place of choice. Perhaps, you like to read, so you choose an old Library building. Perhaps, you like to play golf, so you arrange for a golf club reception. Decide if it is the time or the place that is more important to you and go from there. Saturday is accidentally the most popular wedding day, so you will have to compete with others, but it is popular for a reason – it’s convenient for out of town guests and all the working public. If you are flexible with the date – picking Sunday or Friday may offer more options if you are set on a particular place. The time matters too. Are you planning a fancy dinner for 200 or do you want a buffet brunch for a cozy group of 30? Most people are used to the evening wedding, but you can do what works for you and your budget. Most weddings happen in July, December and May. Avoid those times and you may have more options if you are set on a particular place. Yet, these times are popular for a reason – good weather for July and May weddings and holiday festive spirit for December weddings.
Yes, weddings are a romantic subject and perhaps you don’t want to be bogged down by petty financial details. Stop right there. Plan the right budget and you will lose less sleep and it will be helpful for your life together, as money will come up very frequently in your future. You can always rely on the services of wedding planners which are excellent at what they do, but they will also need a budget. If you have the time, I believe you can do it on your own. Just plan wisely. The most important budget advice I can give you is be realistic about what you can spend overall, but be flexible about the money allocated to each planning area.
Assuming you picked the time and the place and decided on the budget, the next logical step is music. Music sets the tone and you may need it for various parts of the wedding – ceremony, cocktails, reception. If your budget allows for a band, it will be well worth it, as guests will have a great time and your wedding will be memorable. Check out local message boards on various wedding sites, such as TheKnot.com or Weddings.com and ask if someone can recommend a band. You can also ask your friends or co-workers. Once you generate a few recommendations, call to ask if you can audition them. All it takes is going to a few weddings – this may also give you some ideas for your wedding. Many bands will let you listen to their demo online or on a CD. Once you select the band you like, book them early. If you prefer or can better afford a DJ, it’s also a popular music selection. You can ask around in the same manner as for a band, or visit a few wedding fairs – many DJs and other wedding services for that matter, will be there. No matter what your choice of music is, think of some songs you want them to play and some you would gladly avoid – they will need that list from you at some point. You will need to think of selections for the ceremony, the party and your first dance.
The dress makes the wedding. You may already have an idea of what you will wear – and that’s great. If you don’t, prepare to be impressed by the collections available today. You can buy your dress off the rack at specialty bridal shops, or Macy’s, or other department stores. You can also have the dress custom made for you. Perhaps you want an haute couture designer dress. It’s a good idea to look at bridal magazines – they have numerous pages dedicated to wedding dresses – as well as search online. Once you know the style or even brands that you like, go try them on – you may be surprised what looks best on you. Whatever your choice, look at MANY options. It’s just like finding your future husband – you will know when you have the right dress on. Along with the dress, you may also want to pick your veil, garter belt, stockings and other accessories.
Shoes are a matter of preference – many a bride wear sneakers – if they are tall enough and the dress is long enough, no one would notice and they are more comfortable and able to walk the next day. Bridal shoes or just any beautiful designer white high-heal shoe will make you feel more special and taller and leaner on your wedding day. Once you select your dress, give a thought to your bridesmaid dresses. Your bridesmaid dresses should complement your theme and/or your dress. Pick the dresses that will look good in the pictures and will not make your bridesmaids mad about your choice of color or the amount (or even the presence of) ruffles.
You will get the best price on the flowers if you go with a local shop – keeping it in the community helps keep the prices down. Think of the times you liked the flowers you bought for your home or your friends – their wedding flowers are likely to be just as good. It’s a good idea to know your theme or colors by the time you talk to the florist, which should be 3-4 months before your wedding. If you don’t have a theme, think of the season – for example, red is good for February and December weddings, yellow and orange work well for fall and blues, greens, pinks and whites are perfect for the summer. I suggest you keep an open mind about the type of flowers you want – if you are set on roses, that’s OK, but perhaps adding irises will make an interesting twist. When selecting your flowers, you will need your bridal bouquet, your tossing bouquet (to the next to get married girl), your groom’s flower and your family and wedding party flowers. Your florist will also need to decorate the reception hall – from table décor and centerpieces to entrances and gift table.
After the wedding, keep the bouquet – it will be a nice memory of your wedding.
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Photography and Video
You definitely want to preserve the memory of this once-in-a-lifetime event. If your budget is on the higher end, you can hire both a professional photographer and a videographer. However, consider if you will watch the video more than once to determine if you truly need it. Perhaps, one of your family or friends can use a camcorder – it won’t be professional quality, but this is one area you can probably save on. As to the photographer, ask around, go on local message boards and pay them a visit. Take a look at their sample work – does it align with what you were envisioning for your pictures? Ask yourself if you want a formal setting for pictures or have them all in a documentary, real-life like quality. Think about when you want the photographer to shoot – do you want to capture your preparation for the wedding? Do you want to capture some of the places you both went to? Do you want to capture the city you both met at? These are the kinds of questions that will come up. Other important questions to ask the photographer now are if you can keep the negatives, how long he or she will shoot for and what album packages are available. Your wedding album will be an important memory of the event that you can look at for years to come. But don’t go overboard – capture the most important details.
Catering and Cake
If you are having your reception at a banquet hall or a golf club, for example, your catering will usually be taken care of, as well as your cake. I would highly recommend going with such facilities, as they would simplify your event. Whether you decide to go with your own caterer or use the packaged deal, think of the menu that everyone will like, that is seasonal and looks good. Don’t forget to sample everything and invite your future in-laws to share some opinions. Wedding cake is typically part of the package, but you may choose to pick your own, since package cakes often carry some limitations to what you can do. You can look at some local bakers or ask around and sample, sample, sample! When selecting a cake, think about how it fits your wedding theme, whether you want to decorate it and how (flowers, toppers, etc.), which flavors you and your guests would like best, and if you need one or more cakes. Many couples these days add a groom’s cake to go with the main wedding cake. Many go with more quirky options, such as cupcake cakes. Whatever the choice, pick one that tastes good and looks good in pictures.
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You don’t have to have a theme for a wedding, but picking one makes it more entertaining. Some popular choices and corresponding table name ideas include:
- A place where you two met. You can make the table names with that location’s popular sights and give something related to the place in everyone’s goody bag. One friend I know met her now husband in San Francisco, so they named everyone’s table with different San Francisco memories – from the Trolley to the Pier to Godiva.
- A place where you fell in love. I know a couple that used to spend all their days in a coffee shop, so they felt that it was coffee that brought them together. They named their tables after different coffee drinks – Latte, Mocha and such.
- Something you both enjoy. Jim and Marla are sports fanatics; they never miss a ball game. They named their tables after different ball parks. Trent and Nicki both share a passion for rock-n-roll, so their tables spotted the names of different rock bands and artists.
The list goes on and on. Now think of something that unites you two and go from there.
Invitations and Thank you cards
You will need to send invitations a few months before your wedding, so plan on ordering them accordingly. Many websites, such as www.mygatsby.com, offer easy customization of nvitations and quick delivery – a convenient and frequently less expensive choice. You may also decide to go with a local print or card shop. Again, think of the theme/style of your wedding and the tone you want to set (formal, casual, etc.). Make sure you order some extras – for you to keep and in case of any envelope errors. It’s a good idea to get your thank you cards early, so once you get the gifts, you will be ready to thank people for them.
As we are on the subject of gifting, offering clues to what you like best will save you and your guests some precious time (no returns for you and no guessing game for your guests). Many department and specialty stores offer wedding registries. Some of the more popular include Target, Macy’s, Crate & Barrel; most large stores have this option nowadays. When you register, it is easiest for you to pick one store as your main registry but then also give people other store options as they may be closer to one or the other. Do a quick inventory of what you two may already have and what you need for your life together – select the most important items, as you are sure to get the gifts you didn’t expect. Note that majority of gifts will be probably purchased for your bridal shower, which happens within a month before the big day.
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Depending on the season when you have your wedding, you may need to book this one in advance, so you have a convenient flight and get the date that you want. I would advise against having your honeymoon the day after your wedding – recover for a day and then start your life together. Some of the more popular honeymoon options include cruises (such as a Caribbean cruise), trips to Europe (such as Italy), vacations in an exotic destination (such as Vietnam), and adventure trips (such as skiing in Colorado). Use your local travel agent, or better yet, go online – Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, Cheaptickets offer easy search and booking options for any trip. You can find some trip ideas on CafeYak Vacation pages.
Perhaps you read the above and think it is too complicated for you. Or perhaps you don’t want to or can’t wait for the time it takes to plan a good wedding. In that case, I would recommend a destination wedding. Las Vegas and Caribbean are popular choices. Las Vegas weddings are a business, so things will be easy, fast and as expensive as you like. Any place in the Caribbean will be a nice sunny spot but may be harder for your guest to get to, so your wedding may be smaller though more personal.
Whatever your choice of wedding, go with what you really want and enjoy every minute of it!