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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 Rylee Hitchner
Of course, your guests are super-excited to share in your joy, participate in your romantic ceremony, and celebrate with you all night long. But there’s one important part of your wedding that they’re almost just as psyched for – the food! So it’s important to make sure that your food is both delicious and plentiful. And why not put a creative spin on the standard wedding cuisine? Here are a few of our favorite wedding food trends for you to consider for your own menu :
Food Trucks These mobile eateries are a huge trend around the country, so why not hire one – or several – for your wedding day celebration? Surprise your guests with a food truck as they’re exiting the ceremony, or create a mini food court of several food trucks during cocktail hour!
Brunch! Morning weddings can be a foodie’s paradise. Think classic favorites like omelets, crepes, and mimosas.
You Name It! Add a personal touch to your menu items by naming dishes after yourself, your partner, and your family and wedding party members. If there’s a specific drink or menu item that someone close to you loves, share it. Some examples: Grandma Molly’s mint juleps, Melissa’s Favorite Macaroni and Cheese, etc.
Family Style Fare Serving dinner family style (meaning: a large platter of food is served to each table, and everyone passes the dish around to share), is a great way to get your guests to mix and mingle – and it can also be a good money-saving serving style.
Mason Jars Clearly, mason jars are a popular décor item, but they’re also a great vessel for drinks and food! Serve signature cocktails, desserts, even salads in mason jars for a unique treat!
Unique Desserts We recommend having a wedding cake for tradition’s sake, but it’s always fun to add other desserts to the spread. Of course, cupcakes are perennials favorites, but what about cookies, pies, French macarons, whoopee pies, cake pops, or creative popsicles? Yum!
Interactive Food Stations If you’re the DIY type, why not extend that style to your menu? Have your caterer set up food stations where guests can create their own foods – think make-your-own tacos, stir fry, sundaes, and more!
Tasting Menus If yours will be a wedding full of foodies, offer your guests a tasting menu full of delicious small bites. You’ll need to make this a multi-course affair full of small but satisfying favorites, but your guests will enjoy sampling lots of delicious items.
Seasonal Favorites Think about the season when it comes to creating your menu. For fall, offer your guests hot cider and apple doughnuts. In the winter, serve peppermint hot chocolate in to-go cups to keep everyone warm and cozy. Edible flowers can be used to highlight springtime fare, and in the summer, we love lots of fresh seafood and cold lemonade!
Late Night Snacks Your guests will work up an appetite after a night full of dancing. Pass savory or sweet easy to eat favorites to your hungry partiers – think sliders, tacos, French fries, root beer floats – even a s’mores station!
Photo by Viera Photographics
It’s the big moment – your walk down the aisle. Whether you love it or not, all eyes will be on you, so it’s important to plan ahead and make sure your processional goes smoothly. Follow our simple tips to ensure a memorable processional (for the right reasons!).
Practice Makes Perfect It’s essential to do a run-through of the ceremony beforehand. Usually, this occurs before the rehearsal dinner, but some couples choose to hold a cram session on the wedding day before guests arrive. Either way, gather your wedding party, family members, and your officiant to practice the order of the processional and recessional, as well as where everyone should stand or sit during the ceremony.
Order, Order While you can switch things up based on your religious or cultural traditions, family structure or your preference, this is the traditional order of the processional:
Mother of the Bride
Groomsmen (The groomsmen can also serve as escorts for the bridesmaids. The best man should be last).
Groom (Sometimes the groom doesn’t walk down the aisle, but emerges through a back or side entrance so he can immediately stand at the altar.)
Bridesmaids (maid of honor is last)
Ring bearer and/or flower girl
Photo by IQPhoto Studio
Assign a Stage Manager Whether it’s a wedding planner, family member, or friend, make sure you assign someone to cue the ceremony music and then signal for each person to walk down the aisle. The “stage manager” should wait until the wedding party member has taken his or her place at the altar before cueing the next person to begin his/her walk.
Walk This Way We’ve all seen Father of the Bride and know the whole “left together, right together” routine – but that’s a pretty old-school technique. Encourage your wedding party to walk normally, just a teeny bit slower than usual so it doesn’t look like you’re racing down the aisle. Your stage manager should emphasize this point before each wedding party member starts to walk.
Photo by Retrospect Images
Keep The Path Simple Sure, it may look really cool to enter your ceremony from the top of a grand staircase, over a narrow bridge, or down a cobblestone path, but consider your dress, your shoes – and your sanity. Try to keep your aisle as straightforward and simple as possible to avoid every bride’s worst nightmare – tripping and falling. If your ceremony site does have a tricky aisle setup, be sure to practice (in your dress and shoes!) beforehand.
Your Escort, Your Choice The tradition is for a bride to walk down the aisle with her father. However, you don’t have to do it this way. Depending on your family structure, you can walk down the aisle with just your mother, both parents, a grandparent, sibling or other close relative, alone, or even with your soon-to-be spouse. If you’ve been raised by several people (stepparents, etc.), you can have one person escort you partway down the aisle, and another bring you the rest of the way.
Photo by A Blake Photography
Pick the Right Songs Of course, there are some classics (Pachelbel’s Canon in D, anyone?), but there are a wide variety of both traditional and contemporary songs that would work for a processional. Just make sure that the tempo isn’t too fast or too slow – try walking to the beat of the music to make sure it has the right rhythm. Instrumental versions of songs usually work best, but if a song has lyrics, listen to them carefully to make sure they are, ahem, wedding-appropriate.
Change the Mood After the flower girl and ring bearer have walked down the aisle, take a few-seconds long pause before you begin your processional to add a bit of suspense (your guests are excited to see you!). And be sure to change the music – you should walk down the aisle to a different song than your wedding party members.
Photo by Nadia D Photography
Take It All In Many brides focus squarely on their grooms during the processional, but try to glance at your guests as you walk down the aisle. This is one of the only opportunities you’ll have to gather all of your nearest and dearest in one place, so take mental pictures to remember this important moment.
Relax Try your best to smile and stay cool and calm while you walk. Many brides tense up their shoulders and hold their bouquets too high, almost blocking their face – so relax your shoulders and arms and hold your bouquet low.
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 Taylor Lord Photography
Not into the whole late-night-strippers-getting-wasted bachelorette party itinerary? We totally feel you. Check out these unique ideas for a bachelorette celebration that’s more about bonding than clubbing.
Spa Getaway Manicures, pedicures, massages, oh my! What’s more fun and relaxing than a day at the spa? Enjoy a ladies’ lunch and then get primped and pampered at your favorite spa getaway. Another option is to hire a manicurist to come to a ‘maid’s home for a girls’ slumber party.
Learn Together If the bridal party consists of a group of friends and family members who don’t know each other well, a great way to mix and mingle is to take a class together. From cooking to knitting, you’ll learn a new skill and bond in the process!
Get Outside! A camping trip is the perfect getaway for a group of outdoorsy type. If you’re not into camping, but still want to spend time outside, why not find a ropes course, a sailing cruise, or a scenic hike in your area? Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the great outdoors!
Get Away – Sort Of Destination bachelorette parties can be a trip to a far-off destination from the Caribbean to Mexico to Miami to Vegas, but you can also “get away” a little closer to home. Pick a nearby city or town, book a hotel room, and spend the day exploring, shopping, and hitting up new restaurants. You’ll be amazed at how fun and exciting it is to be a tourist in a town near you.
Photo Shoot Are you America’s Next Top Model? Find out when the bridal party gets together for a girls’ photoshoot. Get dolled up with professional hair and makeup and hire a professional photographer to take shots of the crew, together and individually. These casual shots will make fabulous Facebook profile pics, and will be a fun bonding experience for all!
Photo by Braedon Photography
It's a seemingly impossible situation. You've asked your nearest and dearest friends and family members to be a part of your bridal party and they all happily accepted. But now, one (or more) of them is acting "over it." She's not participating in planning the shower, complains about the bridesmaid dress you selected, and just doesn't seem to care about you or your wedding at all. Bottom line: She's being a Debbie Downer and you want her out of your bridal party. Is there a way to ask your bad-behaving bridesmaid to step down?
This is indeed a toughie, but you really can't officialy "fire" your bridesmaid. Your best bet is to start an open dialogue with her. Tell her that you're noticing she's acting differently and ask if there's anything wrong. Maybe there are issues going beyond behind the scenes that you're unaware of - she lost her job, broke up with a significant other, or is having family problems. Instead of forecefully telling her she has to step down, be gracious and ask her if there's anything you can do to make the situation easier for her. This basically gives her an "out" - and if she wants to step down, she can. However, if she wants to remain a bridesmaid, accept it and move forward with a positive attitude and the hope that things will improve. Showing her that you still care about her as a person and friend, not just as a bridesmaid, may be just what she needs to start behaving.
You've spent so much time and energy making sure that your engagement photos came out beautifully - picked the right photographer, agonized over your outfit, found the right location - so why let your photos just sit in an album? Check out some of our favorite ways to display your engagement photos at your wedding.
1. Your Save-the-Dates
Photo by Sharon Elizabeth Photography
Make your save-the-date cards uniquely yours by adding a few of your favorite engagement photos. We love how the couple pictured used both full portraits and detail shots in their save-the-dates to create a visually interesting finished product.
2. Your Guestbook
Photo by Onelove Photography
Create a bound album of your photos and allow your guests to write their well wishes inside. Your guests will love perusing your gorgeous engagement photos!
3. On a Clothesline
Photo by The Nichols
Pin your favorite engagement photos to a clothesline to create a display of your photos at your cocktail hour. It will be a beautiful focal point for your guests to enjoy as they mix and mingle.
4. Art Installation
Photo by Nadia D Photography
As your guests walk from ceremony to reception, line the walkway with a museum-worthy "installation" of blown-up engagement photos.
5. On a Tree
Photo by Stacey Bishop Photography
If you're hosting a garden-style wedding, hang engagement photos and other mementos on a large tree, which can sit on your escort card table. It's a visually interesting way to show off your photos.
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.