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Your bridal party will include (or at least should include!) some of the most important people in your life. So it’s super-important to make sure that your photographer takes plenty of photos of them on your wedding day. Here are a few must-take photos of your ‘maids.
Photo by jHenderson Studios
The portrait of your bridesmaids standing in a line and smiling together is a total classic. Even if you’re more into natural, photojournalistic style photography, you’ll appreciate having a clear photo of all of your nearest and dearest.
Photo by Clary Photo
Make sure your photographer captures some shots of your pre-wedding primping – the excited nerves, and the bridesmaid bonding.
Photo by Jackie Cooper Photo
Your relationship with each ‘maid is different, so you’ll want to make sure that you get a photo in with each one. Include the image in your thank-you note to each bridesmaid.
Photo by Jen & Ashley Photography
We’re suckers for a fun footwear shot – especially if you’re all wearing cool colored shoes.
Photo by Paper Antler Photography
Laughter and Love
Say something ridiculous during the photo shoot to get everyone laughing – years down the road, it will help you remember all the fun you had on your wedding day.
Photo by onelove Photography
Ok, it’s a little cheesy, but take a few funny photos to let each bridesmaid express her personality.
Photo by Sarah Maren Photographers
An image of a bouquet against a colorful bridesmaid dress can capture the essense of your wedding palette.
Photo by Jessica Lorren Organic Photography
If you feel like your bridesmaids’ poses are too stiff, have your photographer take some shots of everyone walking together. It will help everyone relax and forget about the camera.
Photo by Loren Routhier Photography
The back view of a beautiful updo allows your 'maids to see how pretty their hair looked that day.
Photo by Genesa Richards Photography
Whether they’re silly or sweet, your bridesmaids’ speeches are a must-capture moment.
Looking for pretty bridesmaid dresses? Follow our Fashion Editor to see more!
Photo by Brett Arthur Photography
Planning a cold-weather wedding? Consider these little touches to help keep your guests warm and cozy during your wedding celebration.
1. Blankets Provide each guest with a snuggly blanket during the ceremony or at the reception. It’s a totally useful favor, plus will help fight off the chill in the air.
Photo by Michelle Warren Photography
2. Bonfire and S’mores A crackling fire just screams cozy romance, and delicious s’mores provide both a fun end-of-the-night activity and a sweet treat!
Photo by Alixann Loosle
3. Pashminas and Shawls They make a great bridesmaid gift, or you can go all-out and provide inexpensive shawls for all of your guests as favors.
Photo by Allison Davis Photography
4. Candles Everywhere! Not only do they look totally romantic, but an abundance of candles provides added warmth to your ceremony or reception space.
Photo by Aaron Watson Photography
5. Warm Drinks As you guests head out into the chilly night air, provide them with hot coffee, cider, or hot cocoa to help warm their hands and bellies.
Photo by Gerber + Scarpelli Photography
Looking for more winter wedding ideas? Check out these winter real wedding photos!
Photo by SMS Photography
Wedding toasts can be personal, funny, and even emotional - and they're an important part of a wedding reception. Typically, the best man, maid of honor, and the parents (usually parents of the bride, but this should be whoever paid for the wedding), give toasts during the reception – usually right before dinner, between courses, or before the cake cutting. Then, toward the end of the celebration (after the cake cutting), the couple can give a speech thanking their guests for attending.
Keeping the list of “toast-givers” at the actual wedding short will help maintain the flow of the party – your guests will want to eat and dance, not listen to toasts all night. If others would like to give toasts (a group of bridesmaids or a family friend, for example), the rehearsal dinner is a great time and place to encourage additional speeches. If the groom’s family is hosting the rehearsal dinner, as is tradition, they should speak then. The toasts should be kept short – around two minutes – and good-natured – save the insults and super-embarrassing stories for another, more informal, time.
Photo by Sarah Maren Photographers
One of the most expensive components of your wedding is the food. In fact, you will probably spend almost half of your budget on your venue and catering. So anything you can do to cut your catering budget will make a huge difference! Here are five of our top ideas to help you save some cash on your wedding catering:
Strategize Cocktail Hour Most cocktail hours feature both passed hors d’oeuvres and buffet-style stations. Rule of thumb: more expensive items, like seafood, should be passed, whereas cheaper foods like vegetables and cheese, can be served on stationery platters. Guests typically eat fewer of the passed hors d’oeuvres.
Think Drinks It’s easy to go overboard with alcohol – but you don’t have to have a top shelf bar. Instead, offer wine, beer, and a signature cocktail. Still plenty of alcohol, but you won’t spend a bundle on the hard stuff.
Go Family Style Many think that serving dinner buffet style as opposed to a sit-down meal will save you a lot of money. Truthfully, it’s not as cheap as you think. An alternative that may be even more budget-friendly is serving dinner family-style, where large platters of food are served to each table so guests can pass around and serve themselves. Plus, it’s a great way to get everyone to mix and mingle.
Let’s Do Brunch We love the idea of hosting a morning wedding with brunch service. The food is significantly less expensive, plus brunch is so unique and fun.
Don’t Go Overboard with Desserts Yes, we’ve all seen amazing dessert displays overflowing with sweets, but truthfully, your guests will probably be pretty full by the time dessert rolls around. All you really need to serve is your wedding cake, and maybe some fruit. If you do choose to serve additional desserts, present them as favors so they’ll do double duty.
Looking for more wedding planning ideas? Follow our Advice Editor!
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!
Photo by SH Photography
It’s your wedding – so it’s essential that you’re surrounded by people you love. So while you’re working on your guest list, you may encounter some people about whom you might ask “Do I have to invite them?” Here’s a primer on what to do about those on-the-fence folks.
Co-Workers This one is your call. If you work in a small office where you socialize with your co-workers outside of work, then by all means, invite them. However, if you aren’t personal friends with your colleagues, then you aren’t obligated to invite them. If you go this route, keep the wedding talk at work to a minimum to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings.
Parents’ Friends You Don’t Know Your mom really wants to invite her new friend from her yoga class – now what? If you’re paying for the wedding, you can quickly nix it, but if your parents are paying for everything, it’s a bit trickier. You can sit down with your mom and calmly express that you really want to be surrounded by people you actually know and love at your wedding, but if she insists, there isn’t too much you can do.
Your (or Your Fiance’s) Ex Even if you and your exes are still good friends, you should probably skip inviting them to your wedding. Your future-intended may claim that he/she is cool with inviting an ex, but it may start drama later on.
Your Friend’s New Boyfriend The “Should I invite plus-ones” debate is one that will probably keep you up at night. The bottom line is, you don’t have to invite plus-ones, but once you make a decision you must stick to it – no exceptions! Read more about inviting plus-ones here.
Kids This is similar to the plus-ones debate – if you decide against having kids at the wedding, you need to be consistent. The one loophole would be to only invite the children in your wedding party, but no others. For more advice on inviting children to your wedding, click here!
Photo by Jessica Lorren Organic Photography
Tossing the bouquet is a tradition that has been around for decades. Usually, all the single ladies gather around, the bride tosses her bouquet, and whoever catches it will be the next to wed. While it’s certainly a fun tradition, some feel that it’s a little outdated. If you’re looking for an alternative to the bouquet toss, try one of these ideas.
Anniversary Dance Instead of making a spectacle of all of the single gals, why not celebrate the couple who’s been married the longest? Have your DJ play a slow and romantic song (“Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole is a good choice) and then call out numbers of years that a couple could be married. As he/she announces the years, couples who have been married for that long must leave the dance floor. The couple who has been married the longest receives the bride’s bouquet as a prize!
Give an Incentive Attach a fun prize to your bouquet before tossing, and then invite all of the ladies, not just the single ones, to participate. A gift card to a favorite store or restaurant is a popular choice.
Split it Up Honor the important women in your life by giving your mother, new mother-in-law, grandmother, and/or any other close female relatives a single stem from your bouquet. Don’t forget to save a stem for yourself to preserve if you so desire.
For the Kids Got a flower girl who simply idolizes you? Surprise her by allowing her to keep your bouquet to decorate her room. She’ll be so honored and excited – the look on her face will be reward enough for you!
Use it as Décor Your bridal bouquet can do double-duty, serving as a reception table centerpiece or to decorate the escort card or cake table. It’s a great money-saver!
Just Skip It There’s no rule that says you must have a bouquet toss. If you feel that it will break up the flow of your reception and you don’t want your guests leaving the dance floor, then feel free to just forget the whole thing and party on!
Want more ideas for your bridal bouquet? Check out the hundreds of ideas here!
Photo by 52Forty Photography
Most couples want their weddings to be unique and personal, so why not try these twists on tradition to keep things interesting. They’re not so out-of-the-box that you’ll confuse or upset your guests, but they’ll make your wedding super memorable.
Have Cocktail Hour Before the Ceremony
If you’re hosting your ceremony and reception in the same place, consider offering cocktail hour before the ceremony. It might sound totally weird, but look at the positives – your guests won’t be famished post-ceremony, and it will pretty much guarantee that everyone is on time for your walk down the aisle – even if someone arrives late to the cocktail hour, they’ll still be in their seats by the time the ceremony rolls around.
Offer Other Entertainment
From photo booths to caricature artists to lawn games and cigar bars and more, provide your guests with an alternative to dancing – especially if your crowd isn’t into dancing. Just make sure that whatever activities you provide, they fit your personal style and work within your wedding venue! For more wedding entertainment ideas, click here!
Serve Dinner Cocktail or Family-Style
Instead of serving a sit-down or buffet-style dinner, why not do a small plates menu featuring different stations so that guests can get up and move around throughout the reception – a great way for everyone to mix and mingle. Another idea: Serve dinner family style. Passing and sharing food will get everyone chatting and provide a light-hearted and relaxed feel. Click here for more creative catering ideas.
Don’t Assign Seats
This works especially well if you’re having a smaller wedding and your guests all know each other well. Skip the escort cards and allow your guests to sit wherever they like. Again, this is another nice idea for a more casual and relaxed wedding.
Skip the Traditions
Bouquet toss, garter toss, long speeches – all of these “interruptions” might pause the flow of your wedding reception. Let your guests enjoy the party and keep the music going throughout the night. Keep the speeches to a minimum (save the long ones for the rehearsal dinner), and feel free to skip the bouquet and garter toss (for some alternative to the bouquet toss, click here!).