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Planning Wedding Ideas


  • 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!

    4

  • 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:

    Officiant
    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
    Bride


    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.

    11

  • 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:

    Greeting,

    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.).

    Closing,
    Your Name

    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!

    Love,
    Annie

    Easy, right? So get out those pens and stationery and start writing your bridal shower thank-you notes!

    3

  • Photo by Kurt Boomer Photo

    Ready to start planning your wedding? First things first, it’s time to lay out your budget. It’s not the most fun task, but it’s necessary to figure out how much you can spend on your wedding day before you choose a venue, meet with vendors, and buy your dress. If you’re looking for ways to save money, check out a few of our favorite ideas.

    Be Flexible on Date, Time and Season: A Saturday night in September or May is probably the most expensive wedding date you can choose. Vendors will sometimes charge less to couples who get married in the off-season or on off-days. So consider getting married on a Friday, Sunday, and even Saturday morning or early afternoon in January, February or March.  

    Be Honest: Be upfront with potential vendors. Tell them the amount that you’ve budgeted for his or her services and see if he or she can work with that, instead of asking for a proposal and trying to bring the cost down. Vendors will appreciate your honesty, and in many cases, try their best to accommodate you if there’s any wiggle room.  

    Cut the Guest List: Many venues and caterers charge on a per-person basis, so the fewer guests you invite, the less you pay.

    Get a Planner: This may sound confusing – how can hiring an additional vendor help you save money? Well, wedding planners often have great connections with other vendors and can help you get the best deals.  

    DIY Wisely: Yes, creating items for your wedding yourself can help you save money. However, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by trying to do too much. Instead, pick one area of your wedding that you can DIY – whether it be your favors, ceremony programs, escort cards, or something else – and focus on doing a great job on that project. Check out our DIY Editor for lots of great ideas!

    Enlist Friends: Got talented friends and/or family members? Enlist them to help where they can – but only if they’re truly skilled in that area. Friends and family can also donate their time in helping you with DIY projects, or even with set up on the big day. You can even have a friend or family member officiate your ceremony!

    Turn Bouquets into Centerpieces: Floral arrangements can be quite expensive, but if you use them wisely, you can save a bundle. See if any of your ceremony flowers (bouquets, altar arrangements, etc.) can be used as centerpieces at the reception. This can help you avoid paying for floral décor that you don’t need.  

    Shop Sample Sales: When shopping for your wedding dress, check out sample sales at area salons. However, don’t purchase a dress that completely doesn’t fit, thinking that altering the dress will be inexpensive. If a dress needs a complete overhaul, the alterations can more than double the original cost of the gown!

    Think Drinks: Alcohol can be a huge budget buster. Some venues allow you to purchase your alcohol yourself, which can help you save some cash. Also, you can simply serve wine and beer, along with a signature drink or two instead of offering a fully-stocked top-shelf bar.

    Something Borrowed: Instead of purchasing lots of expensive jewelry and accessories to add some sparkle to your wedding day look, look to family members and friends to help accessorize. Your grandmother’s veil, your mom’s earrings, your great aunt’s necklace, your sister’s shoes – it’s so special to wear a family heirloom on your wedding day. 

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  • 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! 

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

    4

  • Photo by Keepsake Memories Photography

    Don’t stress over choosing your first dance song! With thousands of tunes to choose from, you’ll find a song that speaks to you and your almost-spouse – it’s just a matter of taking the time to look – and listen. Check out our top tips for selecting “your song.”

    Think About Your History Take a look back – way back – to the most important moments in your relationship. The night you met, the first “I love you,” your proposal. Were there any songs that made those moments even more special? If there’s a song that you’ve been listening to or singing together for the duration of your relationship and feels appropriate for your wedding, go for it!

    What’s Your Style? If there’s no song that immediately jumps out at you, think about your personality as a couple and the type of song you want. Something romantic and emotional or sweet and a little cheeky? Do you prefer country or rock or pop? Deciding on some general guidelines will help narrow down the thousands of choices out there.

    Listen, Listen, Listen Pay more attention to the music you listen to, and be sure to visit our Songs Gallery to check out more first dance song options. Note any songs that you like, and listen to them with your fiancé(e). Ask him/her to do the same. Schedule some time each evening to listen to song options until you’ve found one you both agree on.

    Consider the Lyrics While listening to potential first dance songs, pay close attention to the lyrics. Make sure there’s no inappropriate language or content that would make your Grandma Ethel blush. Some songs may sound super sappy and romantic at first listen, but the language may not be entirely wedding-appropriate.

    Not Too Fast, Not Too Slow Practice dancing to the song – even if it’s just in your living room. A song should neither be too fast (hard to keep up!) nor too slow (too dull). Also consider the length of the song – a first dance song should be less than three minutes long. If your song runs too long, you can ask your band or DJ to cut it off at a certain point.

    Talk to Your Band or DJ If you’re still having trouble finding a song that speaks to you, talk to your wedding band or DJ. They have lots of experience and will be able to suggest some tunes that will work with your style.

    Come to an Agreement There are thousands and thousands of songs that will work well for a first dance – so don’t despair if you and your significant other don’t come to an agreement right away. This is a song that you’ll also remember and associate with your wedding, so it’s important that it’s a tune that you both can live with.

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  • Wedding reception activities typically include dinner and dancing - but if you want to give your guests additional options, there are lots of unique (and still wedding-appropriate) entertainment ideas to choose from! Check out some of our favorite reception entertainment ideas for your wedding celebration.

    Photo Booth: A perennial favorite, but an activity that guests always enjoy. To step a bit out of the box, video booths and slow-motion booths are also growing in popularity.


    Photo by IQphoto

    Lawn Games: Croquet, corn hole, badminton and more! Outdoor games provide a relaxed and fun atmosphere for a casual wedding celebration.


    Photos by (from left): Keepsake Memories Photography; Ulmer Studios

    Written Games: A word search or Mad Libs-style game can be a fun addition to a ceremony program or place setting. Guests can enjoy the silly, personalized games in between courses or while waiting for the ceremony to begin.


    Photo by Genesa Richards Photography

    Board Games: Scrabble, jenga and other board games can be a great way for guests to interact during the reception. Set up a games station for everyone to enjoy!


    Photo by Larsen's Photography

    Pinata: Hosting a destination or beach wedding? A pinata is so festive for guests of all ages. Plus, the sweet treats can serve as your favors!


    Photo by Julie Saad Photography

     

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  • 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!

    4

  • 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:

    Officiant
    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
    Bride


    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.

    11

  • 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:

    Greeting,

    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.).

    Closing,
    Your Name

    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!

    Love,
    Annie

    Easy, right? So get out those pens and stationery and start writing your bridal shower thank-you notes!

    3

  • Photo by Kurt Boomer Photo

    Ready to start planning your wedding? First things first, it’s time to lay out your budget. It’s not the most fun task, but it’s necessary to figure out how much you can spend on your wedding day before you choose a venue, meet with vendors, and buy your dress. If you’re looking for ways to save money, check out a few of our favorite ideas.

    Be Flexible on Date, Time and Season: A Saturday night in September or May is probably the most expensive wedding date you can choose. Vendors will sometimes charge less to couples who get married in the off-season or on off-days. So consider getting married on a Friday, Sunday, and even Saturday morning or early afternoon in January, February or March.  

    Be Honest: Be upfront with potential vendors. Tell them the amount that you’ve budgeted for his or her services and see if he or she can work with that, instead of asking for a proposal and trying to bring the cost down. Vendors will appreciate your honesty, and in many cases, try their best to accommodate you if there’s any wiggle room.  

    Cut the Guest List: Many venues and caterers charge on a per-person basis, so the fewer guests you invite, the less you pay.

    Get a Planner: This may sound confusing – how can hiring an additional vendor help you save money? Well, wedding planners often have great connections with other vendors and can help you get the best deals.  

    DIY Wisely: Yes, creating items for your wedding yourself can help you save money. However, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by trying to do too much. Instead, pick one area of your wedding that you can DIY – whether it be your favors, ceremony programs, escort cards, or something else – and focus on doing a great job on that project. Check out our DIY Editor for lots of great ideas!

    Enlist Friends: Got talented friends and/or family members? Enlist them to help where they can – but only if they’re truly skilled in that area. Friends and family can also donate their time in helping you with DIY projects, or even with set up on the big day. You can even have a friend or family member officiate your ceremony!

    Turn Bouquets into Centerpieces: Floral arrangements can be quite expensive, but if you use them wisely, you can save a bundle. See if any of your ceremony flowers (bouquets, altar arrangements, etc.) can be used as centerpieces at the reception. This can help you avoid paying for floral décor that you don’t need.  

    Shop Sample Sales: When shopping for your wedding dress, check out sample sales at area salons. However, don’t purchase a dress that completely doesn’t fit, thinking that altering the dress will be inexpensive. If a dress needs a complete overhaul, the alterations can more than double the original cost of the gown!

    Think Drinks: Alcohol can be a huge budget buster. Some venues allow you to purchase your alcohol yourself, which can help you save some cash. Also, you can simply serve wine and beer, along with a signature drink or two instead of offering a fully-stocked top-shelf bar.

    Something Borrowed: Instead of purchasing lots of expensive jewelry and accessories to add some sparkle to your wedding day look, look to family members and friends to help accessorize. Your grandmother’s veil, your mom’s earrings, your great aunt’s necklace, your sister’s shoes – it’s so special to wear a family heirloom on your wedding day. 

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  • 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! 

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Photo by Keepsake Memories Photography

    Don’t stress over choosing your first dance song! With thousands of tunes to choose from, you’ll find a song that speaks to you and your almost-spouse – it’s just a matter of taking the time to look – and listen. Check out our top tips for selecting “your song.”

    Think About Your History Take a look back – way back – to the most important moments in your relationship. The night you met, the first “I love you,” your proposal. Were there any songs that made those moments even more special? If there’s a song that you’ve been listening to or singing together for the duration of your relationship and feels appropriate for your wedding, go for it!

    What’s Your Style? If there’s no song that immediately jumps out at you, think about your personality as a couple and the type of song you want. Something romantic and emotional or sweet and a little cheeky? Do you prefer country or rock or pop? Deciding on some general guidelines will help narrow down the thousands of choices out there.

    Listen, Listen, Listen Pay more attention to the music you listen to, and be sure to visit our Songs Gallery to check out more first dance song options. Note any songs that you like, and listen to them with your fiancé(e). Ask him/her to do the same. Schedule some time each evening to listen to song options until you’ve found one you both agree on.

    Consider the Lyrics While listening to potential first dance songs, pay close attention to the lyrics. Make sure there’s no inappropriate language or content that would make your Grandma Ethel blush. Some songs may sound super sappy and romantic at first listen, but the language may not be entirely wedding-appropriate.

    Not Too Fast, Not Too Slow Practice dancing to the song – even if it’s just in your living room. A song should neither be too fast (hard to keep up!) nor too slow (too dull). Also consider the length of the song – a first dance song should be less than three minutes long. If your song runs too long, you can ask your band or DJ to cut it off at a certain point.

    Talk to Your Band or DJ If you’re still having trouble finding a song that speaks to you, talk to your wedding band or DJ. They have lots of experience and will be able to suggest some tunes that will work with your style.

    Come to an Agreement There are thousands and thousands of songs that will work well for a first dance – so don’t despair if you and your significant other don’t come to an agreement right away. This is a song that you’ll also remember and associate with your wedding, so it’s important that it’s a tune that you both can live with.

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  • Wedding reception activities typically include dinner and dancing - but if you want to give your guests additional options, there are lots of unique (and still wedding-appropriate) entertainment ideas to choose from! Check out some of our favorite reception entertainment ideas for your wedding celebration.

    Photo Booth: A perennial favorite, but an activity that guests always enjoy. To step a bit out of the box, video booths and slow-motion booths are also growing in popularity.


    Photo by IQphoto

    Lawn Games: Croquet, corn hole, badminton and more! Outdoor games provide a relaxed and fun atmosphere for a casual wedding celebration.


    Photos by (from left): Keepsake Memories Photography; Ulmer Studios

    Written Games: A word search or Mad Libs-style game can be a fun addition to a ceremony program or place setting. Guests can enjoy the silly, personalized games in between courses or while waiting for the ceremony to begin.


    Photo by Genesa Richards Photography

    Board Games: Scrabble, jenga and other board games can be a great way for guests to interact during the reception. Set up a games station for everyone to enjoy!


    Photo by Larsen's Photography

    Pinata: Hosting a destination or beach wedding? A pinata is so festive for guests of all ages. Plus, the sweet treats can serve as your favors!


    Photo by Julie Saad Photography

     

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