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Photo by Emily Takes Photos
Your ceremony is the most meaningful part of your wedding day. Depending on how traditional your ceremony will be, there are ways to personalize your nuptials to ensure that the experience feels true to you and your future spouse. Check out some of our favorite ways to personalize your wedding ceremony.
Check with your ceremony venue to see if you can incorporate non-classical music into your ceremony playlist. Whether it’s an instrumental version of your favorite pop ballad during the prelude or a cheeky pop tune as a recessional, selecting music that you love will give your ceremony a personal touch.
Depending on your ceremony traditions, you may be able to include a few readings into your ceremony. From Shakespeare to religious texts to more modern-day literature, pick a few passages that speak to you. You can ask close friends or family members who would feel comfortable speaking in front of a crowd to perform the readings.
Many couples prefer to write their own vows. Work with your officiant to come up with a general template to help you get started.
Include personal touches to your ceremony program. Design the program using colors and fonts that you like, and write a note thanking your guests for attending. Check out some of our favorite ceremony programs here.
Be sure to meet with your officiant several times before your ceremony. It’s important that your officiant gets to know you as a couple, so that he or she can create a ceremony that includes anecdotes and details about your relationship.
Incoporate flowers and other decor items that are meaningful to you - whether it's including your grandmother's favorite flower in your altar arrangements or including a family quilt in your chuppah or ceremony canopy. Find more ceremony decor here.
Photo by Jonathan Young Weddings
Booking and confirming your wedding-day transportation is one of the most important parts of planning. Whether you’re looking to ride with your new spouse only or with your whole crew, there are lots of different transportation options to choose from! Check out some of our favorites.
Limousine The ultimate classic. A limousine is great because it’s so versatile – depending on the size you book, it can be big enough for the whole wedding party or intimate enough for just you and yours.
Classic Car Hosting a vintage wedding? There’s nothing more romantic than a throwback car, like a Rolls-Royce or Bentley. It truly makes for some glamorous photos, as well!
Shuttle Bus If you’re hosting a lot of out-of-town guests, it’s a nice idea to provide a shuttle to and from the wedding – this also discourages drinking and driving.
Horse and Carriage If you’re dreaming of the ultimate princess wedding, there’s nothing more classic than a traditional horse and carriage – particularly for winter weddings!
Pedicab For eco-friendly couples, a pedicab is a casual and cute way to arrive or exit your reception – plus it’s emission-free for the environment!
Trolley If there’s a long break between your ceremony and reception, we love the idea of taking your guests on a trolley tour of the city or town where you’re marrying.
Boat Planning a waterside wedding? Go nautical-chic by making your great escape on a boat or yacht.
Golf Cart Country club couples can get shuttled on golf carts for a fun and low-key entrance or exit.
Looking for a transportation pro near you? Check out our Vendor Gallery!
One of the most widely known wedding tradition is the idea that the bride has to wear “Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue” for good luck. While it’s all purely superstition, we do like the idea of including these traditions in your look – particularly the items that can have family significance. Here are a few of our ideas to help you find your “somethings.”
Photo by Nadia D Photography
Something Old Ideas
Your grandmother’s veil
Heirloom brooch on your gown or in your hair
Lace from your mother or grandmother’s wedding gown to wrap your bouquet
A locket featuring photos of late relatives either worn around your neck or attached to your bouquet
Your mother’s garter
Photo by LSD Photography
Something New Ideas
Your wedding dress
New sash to accent your gown
A new, fresh flower for your hair
Photo by Volatile Photography
One of your bridesmaids’ clutch handbags
A handkerchief borrowed from your mother, grandmother or aunt
A wrap or fur stole
The headpiece your sister wore to her wedding
Photo by Jackie Cooper Photography
Blue wedding shoes
Your monogram embroidered in blue thread on the inside of your gown
Blue toenail polish
Have your bridesmaids sign their names in blue marker on the soles of your shoes
For more ideas for wedding accessories, follow our Fashion Editor!
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!