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Photo by This Modern Romance
We've all been there. You're at an event, wedding or otherwise, and are just plain uncomfortable. Too hot (or cold), strange food, long line for the restroom. You always vowed you'd do things differently at your wedding - and now's your chance. Here's our guide to how to make sure your wedding is memorable for the right reasons.
Think About Your Venue When you’re venue hunting, make sure that you keep your wedding guests’ comfort in mind. Will there be enough room to give your guests breathing room? Is there accessibility for handicapped or elderly guests? What is the climate control and restroom situation? Instead of just picking a venue for its beauty, think about it as though you were a guest.
Give Advance Notice Make sure to give your wedding guests plenty of notice when it comes to your wedding so they can plan accordingly. Save-the-dates should be sent a year in advance if you’re planning a destination wedding in a far-off locale. Six months in advance should suffice for a hometown or local wedding. And invitations should be sent out six to eight weeks in advance of your wedding. Also, make sure that you have a wedding website to provide additional updates.
Make Travel and Accommodations Easy Speaking of your wedding website, use that platform as an easy-to-navigate home base for all of your travel and accommodation information (if there are older guests who aren’t internet savvy, call them yourself or have another relative do so to keep them informed). Reserve a block of rooms at a local hotel or two, so there’s no question about where out-of-towners should stay. Direct them to airlines, train stations, and public transportation routes that will assist them on their journey.
Don’t Over-Ask Your guests want to come to your wedding to see you get married – so don’t make it difficult for them. There’s no need to ask them to wear something super-specific, bring a specific type of gift, or pay for their plate.
Welcome Them in Style Whether you’re hosting many out-of-town wedding guests or just a few, make sure they feel welcomed when they arrive to their lodging. Creating a welcome basket with ample drinks and snacks is great, but even just a kind and gracious handwritten note will suffice.
Keep Them Comfortable If you’re hosting an outdoor wedding, provide shawls or blankets if it’s chilly out and give guests fans and cold drinks if it’s super hot. And if the weather is extremely hot, cold, or just plain inclement, move the ceremony indoors. While you might not have the outdoor ceremony you expected, your guests will thank you.
Strategize Table Assignments Be sure to seat your guests at the tables where they’ll feel most comfortable. For example, put groups of people who know each other together whether they’re in couples or single. And while it’s okay to mix single people and couples, try to avoid seating one or two single person at a table full of couples. And think table placement as well – don’t seat elderly guests right next to the band or DJ.
Feed Them Well Make sure there’s plenty of food and drink for all to enjoy – and consider your guests who may have dietary restrictions or concerns. Most caterers can handle vegetarian, gluten-free, or other requests, so try to honor those whenever possible.
Get Everyone Home Safely You don’t have to provide transportation for your guests, but it’s sure a nice gesture. The goal here to avoid guests drinking and driving, so while having a shuttle bus or van bring guests to the wedding and back to their hotel is your best bet, even just providing a phone number for a taxi company in the welcome bags is appreciated.
Photo by Nancy Aidee Photography
Turns out your smallest guests may be the most difficult to please. If you are hosting little ones at your wedding, check out these ideas for keeping them entertained and happy.
Offer Appropriate Food
Sure, some kids love fancy foie gras and filet mignon – but for more little ones, chicken fingers and mac and cheese will do just fine! Make sure you provide some kid-friendly options for cocktail hour, dinner, and dessert (though we think most sweets will be perfectly acceptable for kids’ palates!).
Photo by Freshly Bold Photography
Give Them Jobs
Whether they’re the flower girl or ring bearer or handing out programs, kids feel important when they have a job to do. Even if it’s something as small as holding your bouquet during the first dance, little ones will feel so special and be more likely to behave themselves if focused on the task at hand.
Photos by (from left): jHenderson Studios, Acqua Photo
Provide Hula Hoops
If your venue has a large outdoor space and you’re hosting a fairly casual affair, offer activities for your youngest guests. When providing games like hula hoops or bubbles, just make sure there are enough for all the kids so no one feels left out!
Photo by Cramer Photo
Play Corn Hole
Corn hole is another fun games that guests young and old will enjoy. We also love that you can decorate the corn hole board in your own wedding colors and style!
Photo by Joshua McDonald Photography
Have a Piñata
Who doesn’t love a piñata? Of course, the kids will flip, but adults will also love the touch of nostalgia.
Photo by Nelly - Photographer
Create a Cute Kids Table
Kids may have difficulty sitting at their table for long stretches but if you provide them with activities like coloring books or small games, they’ll at least be occupied.
Photo by Maiko Media
Try “I Spy”
Another activity for kids’ place settings – an “I Spy”-style game that encourages little ones (or those of any age) to look for various items around the wedding – from the mother-of-the-bride crying to a sparkly diamond. The one who finds all of the items first can win a prize – nothing like a little friendly competition!
Photos (from left) by Julius Photography, Rachel Robertson Photography
Have a Photo Booth
Kids will not only love posing for silly portraits, but trying on different props and costumes is an activity in itself.
Photo by Pasha Belman
Think About Your Music Selection
No, we’re not suggesting that you play “Old MacDonald” or “The Wheels on the Bus,” but lively Top 40 music appeals to younger people, who are often the biggest hits on the dance floor!
Photo by Ian Grant Photography
One Word = Candy
While their parents might not be a fan of the resulting sugar high, one thing is clear – kids love candy. As much as a wedding is already a pretty magical event, offering up candy will make it even more amazing for children!
Photo by Joel Bedford Photography
Check out these cool kids’ table ideas »
Photo by IQphoto Studio
This may be one of the biggest wedding etiquette stumpers you’ll encounter during your wedding planning experience: How do you determine which of your guests get to bring a plus-one and which do not?
Married or engaged guests or those in a long-term, committed relationship should always be invited together – even if you have never met the spouse or partner. For those guests who are unattached or casually dating, it’s your call. You could nix any plus-ones for your single guests, or you may decide to allow your single wedding party members to bring plus-ones, but no one else. Or you could invite all of your single guests with plus-ones. The most important thing is to make a rule and stand your ground – no exceptions. And be prepared to explain your reasoning in case a guest asks you to bend the rules “just this once.”
If you’re having trouble deciding whether or not to allow your single friends to bring a plus-one, it may be worth considering the rest of your guest list – if you’re inviting many couples and there are only a few single guests, you may want to consider inviting them with an “and guest” – they’ll appreciate having the option. But if you have budget or venue capacity constraints, you certainly do not have to invite plus-ones.
Photo by Nadia D Photography
Your littlest guests may be the ones to cause the most anxiety. If you decide to invite children to your wedding, it’s important to consider their needs when planning your day. If you follow these simple rules, your young guests can be adorable additions to your day.
Decide Who You’re Inviting: Make a rule and stick to it. If you’re open to having all the children of all of your guests attend, do so – particularly if you’re having a super-casual celebration. You can allow only children over a certain age to attend your wedding. You may choose to only invite the children in your wedding party and that’s it. Or you may prefer to have a child-free wedding. Whatever you decide, don’t make any exceptions or risk causing hurt feelings and confusion.
Pick Your Flower Girl and Ring Bearer Wisely: These roles are best suited for children of close relatives or friends, ages 3 to 7. Talk to your flower girl and ring bearer in advance about how important their role is and how much it means to you that they’ll be a part of your special day. Provide their parents with the music that will play when they walk down the aisle so they can practice. And if all else fails, bribery always work! Make sure you get your flower girls and ring bearers small gifts to reward them for a successful walk down the aisle.
Let Them Feel Grown-Up: If you are inviting children who are not in the wedding party, feel free to give them small tasks so they feel like they have a role in your day. They can hand out ceremony programs, give out favors, hold your bouquet while you’re getting a makeup touch-up – even the smallest of tasks will help little ones feel important.
Lay Some Ground Rules: This should be common knowledge for most parents, but before the wedding, tell your guests with kids that if a child starts to become loud or distracting at the ceremony, they should be immediately removed from the premises.
Smile! If you’re concerned about children smiling for portraits, have a parent or grandparent of the child stand behind the camera with a puppet or singing a favorite song. And be sure to make your photo sessions with kids very short (like, a minute or two) – little ones will not stand still for very long, so take a few shots and then set them free!
Offer Activities: Ask the invited children’s parents if their little ones would prefer sitting at a table with other children or staying close to their parents. Whether you create a kids’ table or allow children to sit with their parents, be sure that you offer lots of entertainment for them – games, coloring books, and small toys (that don’t make noise!) are all good ideas.
Kid-Friendly Food: Sure, you may be offering gourmet cuisine at your wedding, but for kids, chicken fingers and grilled cheese is their dinner of choice. Be sure to have kid-friendly meal options for your smallest guest – and be sure to ask parents in advance of any allergies or preferences.
Offer Babysitting: It’s not necessary, but having babysitting at your reception site is a very kind gesture for your guests with children. If your reception will run until late in the night, ask your littlest guests to bring sleeping bags and create a fun slumber party environment.
Don’t Sweat It: No matter how much you prepare, children will misbehave and act out. If a child behaves poorly at an inopportune moment, just laugh it off – the unexpected moments are often the most endearing of the day.
Photo by Michelle Lindsay Photography
The bridal shower is an opportunity for friends and family to celebrate a bride’s upcoming nuptials. While it should be a fun and relaxed event, there are lots of questions and etiquette concerns that often arise. Check out our top do’s and don’ts for planning a bridal shower.
DON’T invite people who aren’t going to be invited to the wedding. The only exception would be if you’re having an extremely small wedding (like, less than 20 people) and your guests know and understand this in advance. Also, if your office is hosting a shower for you, not everyone you work with needs to be invited to the wedding.
DON’T host the shower yourself – it looks like you’re asking for gifts. Normally, the maid of honor and bridesmaids host the bridal shower, but it is acceptable for family members (yours or your future spouse’s) to throw you a shower if the situation is appropriate.
DO allow multiple parties to throw a shower for you, if they want. But DON’T expect guests who are invited to multiple showers to bring more than one gift. They only need to bring a gift to the first shower they attend.
DON’T use the wedding décor as inspiration for the bridal shower. The bridal shower should have its own theme and color scheme – let the wedding’s décor be a surprise!
DO send a paper invitation, rather than via email.
DON’T include registry information on the shower invitation. It may be noted on an insert, or guests may be directed to the couple’s wedding website which can feature registry information.
DO set up an activity for guests. This will allow everyone to meet, mix and mingle. From a toilet paper wedding dress contest to a cooking class, a group activity will liven up any bridal shower.
DO create a ribbon bouquet. We love this tradition, a bridesmaid or other attendee can gather all of the ribbons from the gifts and create a bouquet for the bride to carry at the rehearsal. Just be sure that the bride takes it home with her!
DO thank everyone promptly. Send handwritten notes to the attendees thanking them for their gift, and give a small gift to the hostess or hostesses (some ideas: a personalized mug or a gift certificate for a manicure).
DON’T stress about your shower. This is a party that’s thrown for you, so allow others to do the work and enjoy the day!
Photo by Frame 36 Photography
Throughout your engagement, thank-you notes will be a constant part of your life. Every time you receive a gift, you’ll need to break out your stationery and pen and hand-write a note to the giver. As much as we love technology, it’s important to write thank-you notes in the traditional way.
If you’re having a bridal shower, you’ll need to write thank you notes no later than two weeks after the event. Yes, we know you’re busy but it’s essential to show your guests your appreciation in a timely fashion - so don’t let yourself get behind. Purchase nice stationery, but don’t use any paper goods with your married name or monogram on them until after the wedding.
While your thank-you notes should be personal to each guest, there is a formula that you can follow to make writing them a snap. Here’s how it should go:
Thank you for the (name the gift)
A sentence about how much you love the gift and how you will use it.
A sentence thanking the person for attending your shower (or expressing sadness that they weren’t able to attend)
Share how you are looking forward to seeing them at the wedding (if they aren’t attending the wedding, say you’re looking forward to seeing them soon and share where you’ll likely see them – Thanksgiving dinner, at church, etc.).
Here’s an example:
Dear Aunt Suzanne,
Thank you so much for the lovely teapot. I’ve been using it every evening to make a nightly pot of tea for Sam and I. I was so glad that you could attend my bridal shower and hope you had a great time. Looking forward to seeing you at the wedding next month!
Easy, right? So get out those pens and stationery and start writing your bridal shower thank-you notes!
Photo by James Rubio Photography
You’ll always remember the people who surrounded you on your wedding day – friends, family, loved ones. Creating your guest list is one of the first steps of wedding planning – we recommend drafting at least a preliminary list before you book a venue. Here are some of top tips for starting your guest list.
Consider Your Budget Before you can create a guest list, you’ll need to come up with your wedding budget. Remember that a small budget doesn’t have to mean a small guest list. You can have a big wedding with limited funds, but you will have to make certain sacrifices.
Set a Target Number Talk to your spouse-to-be about your vision for the day. Do you want a big or small wedding? A hometown wedding or a destination celebration (hometown weddings typically have more guests because there’s less travel)? Are there any venues you have in mind right off the bat? Come up with a target guest count and make sure you’re on the same page.
Have “The Talk” Have an honest discussion with you VIPs – those who will be contributing financially to your wedding. Express your general vision for your wedding and target number, and ask each party to create a list of their desired guests with that in mind. Make sure you emphasize that these lists aren’t final, and there’s room for discussion.
Create an A, B, and C List Using the lists you’ve received from your VIPs, create three sub-lists. The A list should include immediate family and close friends, the B list are family members and friends who would be “nice to have” at your wedding, and the C list are those you don’t have a strong relationship with. This will help you narrow down your headcount and come up with a final list (after discussing with your VIPs first).
Final Means Final Once you’ve come up with your final list, stick to it. We don’t recommend inviting certain people, waiting to see how many will attend, and then inviting others at a later time if there’s space. Your guests will find out that they weren’t on your “A” list and feel insulted. Make sure that you share your final guest list with your VIPs – you don’t want them saying “See you at the wedding!” to someone who isn’t invited.
Consider the Yield For most weddings, around 20 percent of invited guests won’t attend. However, you’re likely to have more yeses for a hometown wedding (especially if you and your spouse are from the same town) and more no’s for a far-off destination wedding.
Be Consistent Make rules and stick to them. If you don’t want any children, don’t make exceptions. If you’re not inviting plus-ones, you have to stay firm. This will help maintain your guest count and avoid hurt feelings among your guests.
Photo by Katie Osgood
You’ve spent so much time planning your wedding events, so it’s essential that your guests have enough notice so they can plan to attend! There’s a fine line to giving your guests enough advanced notice and sending your invitations too far ahead of time so that people forget to RSVP. Here are a few guidelines.
Set up a wedding website right away. As soon as you set a date, create a wedding website so that you’ll have a home base for all of your wedding and travel information. You can send out the link to your guests via email, or include it on your save-the-date.
Save-the-dates If you’re having a destination wedding where most of your guests will have to travel, we recommend sending your save-the-dates at least eight months in advance – even up to a year if possible. You’ll want to include all the pertinent travel and accommodations information so that your guests can book right away. If you’re having a hometown wedding with little travel involved, send your save-the-dates at least six months in advance.
Bridal Shower Invitations and Other Pre-Wedding Events Bridal shower invitations are usually mailed out three to four weeks in advance – same goes for engagement parties. Set the RSVP date for one to two weeks in advance of the big day.
Wedding Invitations Wedding invitations should be mailed out six to eight weeks before the wedding date. Ask your guests to return their RSVP cards by at least two weeks, preferably three, before the wedding date so that you and your vendors have enough time to create table assignments, escort cards, etc.
Rehearsal Dinner and Post-Wedding Brunch The rehearsal dinner invitations should be mailed out separately a few days – no more than a week - following the wedding invitations so guests can make travel plans accordingly. If you’re having a post-wedding brunch that everyone is invited to, feel free to include a card with your wedding invitations and on your wedding website, too.
Looking for more wedding stationery ideas? Follow our Stationery Editor for lots of great ideas!
Photo by Stacey Hedman
Getting married in your own backyard has so many benefits – no venue costs, you can pick whichever date you want, and it’s totally personal and unique. However, planning a backyard wedding is quite different than planning a wedding at a hotel, country club, or other venue, so we rounded up our top tips for putting together a fabulous backyard wedding.
Know the Rules Your town or county may have rules and regulations when it comes to hosting a wedding at home – from noise ordinances to parking permits, you may have some paperwork to fill out! Call your town or county office to find out what’s needed – or hire a wedding planner with experience in this area to help you navigate the procedure.
Have a Plan B Even if you live an area with amazing weather, we hate to break it to you, but it may rain on your wedding day. Whether it’s moving the celebration inside your house or erecting a tent, you’ll need to make sure you have a clear plan for bad weather. Also make sure that you have climate control – heaters, fans, air conditioners, etc. so that everyone is comfortable.
Avoid a Bathroom Crisis If you’re hosting more than just a few guests, we recommend bringing in bathroom trailers. While you may think your home bathroom can handle all of the, er, traffic, if something goes awry, it will be a major issue.
Consider the Kitchen Sure, you may have been able to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 20 in your kitchen but a full wedding meal with cocktail hour for 150 guests? That may be more than your kitchen can handle. Consult your caterer about this one – they may need to create an outdoor kitchen to prep your wedding meal.
Prep the Yard You’ll want to make sure that your backyard is in good shape for your wedding day. The lawn should be mowed, leaves raked, and any insect situation under control well in advance of your wedding day.
Check out some of our favorite backyard wedding décor ideas here!
Photo by Jonathan Young Weddings
Figuring out where your guests will sit is an important part of wedding planning. Once you have all of your RSVPs and know exactly who’s attending your wedding, you can start creating a seating plan. Here are a few of our top tips!
Assign Tables This is a wedding, not a high school cafeteria! Even if you’re hosting a laid-back and casual wedding, you’ll still want to make sure everyone has an assigned table and doesn’t spend the evening awkwardly hunting around for a seat. While you don’t have to assign guests’ seats at each table, you may do so at more formal weddings. Also, make sure that table assignments are clearly spelled out on escort cards or seating charts.
Types of Tables While round tables are the standard, you may also choose to have your guests sit at long family-style tables or square tables or even cocktail tables! Pick the table shape that suits your style – and guest count – the best. Round tables usually can seat 6 to 10 people, square tables can seat 8, and long tables usually start at eight people, but depending on how much room you have, long tables can seat many more guests!
Sweetheart Table: Yea or Nay? It’s time to answer that important question – do you and your future spouse want your own private table at the wedding or would you prefer to sit with your guests? Some couples prefer to sit a deux to steal a few private moments during the reception, while others feel that a sweetheart table puts them “on display” and would rather sit with family or friends. Decide what suits your style best before moving forward with your seating plan.
Seat Your VIPs Think about your families and wedding party. If you’re not having a sweetheart table, you may sit either with your wedding party or immediate family members from both sides. Couples can seat their wedding party in a variety of ways – but make sure that each wedding party member is seated with his or her date, even if that means breaking the party up over several tables. It’s a nice idea to sit both immediate families together, but you may also give each set of parents’ their own table to sit with their close family or friends.
Consider Guests’ Needs Use common sense – elderly guests should not be seated near the band or speakers, people should be seated near those they know or have something in common with, and children should be seated with or near their parents. Seat younger guests, or those more likely to dance, near the dance floor, while older guests or those who might want to focus more on conversation, further away from the dance floor.
Check out some of our favorite ideas for reception tables and seating here!