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My sister got married last year when she was just 21. Having not attended many weddings herself, she needed a little help with the planning. We ended up having the best time working on it together, and it was an amazing bonding experience. She was sweet and relaxed and not terribly interested in the minutiae, so we put together a very simple, family and friend oriented afternoon ceremony, followed by a dessert and champagne reception in his parent's backyard.
We had about 125 people attending, and the we came in well under $5000, even with the high cost of the private chapel ($1200). No need for wedding insurance for this one! Scroll down to the bottom to see a detailed budget breakdown.
Clothes: My sister wore a gorgeously simple cream colored lace sheath dress that she got at Macy*s (not in the wedding section) for less than $200 - no alterations, but my mom added a little band of black velvet ribbon under the bustline. I was her only attendant and I wore one of my favorite J. Crew dresses and my mom made a cummerbund in the same silvery grey as the flower girls' skirts (also made by mom). Sis wore barely any jewelery - just a delicate cameo necklace (we have matching ones from when our parents traveled through Italy after they first got married!).
Food: Food is a huge part of the wedding budget. Rena was having an afternoon wedding, so we decided to keep things simple and stick with a dessert buffet, and offer champagne, cider and coffee to drink. You save money a couple ways. Obviously, you don't have to pay for full meals. You also don't have to rent forks, and you can just get small plates and cocktail napkins. Note: You need two plates for every guest, plus forks for the cake serving, unless you want to ask people to bring back their dessert plates so you can serve them cake. Trust me, you don't. It would back the cake line up significantly, unless your wedding is really small.
We used favorite family recipes to make tons and tons (seriously, tons) of cookies, adhering to the basic color scheme of black and white. I also made hundreds of mini cupcakes. We had copious amounts of champagne and sparkling cider. I wish I had another picture of the dessert tables, because this one is low res and it was taken after people had already started stuffing their faces. Tip: We didn't have a professional photographer at the reception and we got gorgeous photos from family and friends, but they don't usually think to take any detail pictures. If you want detail pictures, make sure to ask (kindly) someone specific to take them.
Making cookies is fun. Making thousands of cookies while living in an apartment is logistically difficult.
The freezer is your best bet, unless you are an actual baker by profession and have an industrial kitchen and lots of time. I looked for cookies that could be either baked and frozen, or doughs that could be rolled into logs, frozen, and then sliced and baked the day before. The goal here is to avoid getting stuck shaping cookies (even drop cookies take time) in the midst of pre-wedding madness.
I made an Excel spreadsheet for myself (UPDATE - I finally have the spreadsheet information up and you can see it here - http://heart-of-light.blogspot.com/2010/08/cookie-spreadsheet-explained.html), listing all the recipes I was going to use, and the number of batches of each, and then had it calculate the total pounds of flour, butter, etc. I needed to buy. I did one or two major shopping trips at Smart and Final and bought supplies in bulk. Knowing my entire list ahead of time saved time and money.
I made one or two different types of cookies per week, mixing up two double batches of each to save time, for the month and a half prior to the wedding. Of course, this meant our entire freezer (and my parents' entire freezer) was filled with cookies and cookie dough.
A few days before the wedding, I made hundreds of mini cupcakes. I cheated and used boxed mix that I picked up when it was on sale for $1 a box but I did make real frosting. The easy way to dole out cupcake batter? Get a gallon size ziploc bag, scrape the entire bowl of batter into it, seal the bag, cut a small bit of one of the corners out and then just use it to neatly dispense cupcake batter into the cups. You wouldn't believe how much time this saves, compared to spooning batter into each cup. You get approximately 75 mini cupcakes per box of cake mix, which makes these really cost effective.
We also picked out classic cookies in black and white (oreos, vanilla sandwich cookies and mini meringues) and put them in huge hurricane vases scattered around the dessert tables. It was cute and not very expensive.
Tips for doing a massive dessert buffet:
1. Unless you are a control freak (I freely admit I have a problem), please get other people to help. I've heard that in the midwest, cookie buffets are a wedding tradition, with family members bringing cookies to share. I think this is a great idea, if you provide the plating set up.
2. Tables look better with lots of height layers. I used my own stash of vintage cake platters and borrowed stands from people, trying to make sure we ended up with a variety of heights. I also bought (from a flower supplier) inexpensive hurricane vases in various sizes, to add a little contrast.
3. Buy little bags or boxes. We had tons of leftovers at the end of the night, and we set out little brown lunch bags, so that people could pack up cookies to take home.
4. Get someone to take pictures! I am still so sad that we don't have any good pictures of the tables, because they were really pretty when they were all set up.
Location: The ceremony was held in a little chapel up the street from the groom's parents' home (the one my sister always wanted to get married in). We all grew up in the same neighborhood, so it was a mere mile from my parents' house, making logistics much easier. The reception was held in the groom's parents' (thankfully large) backyard.
We rented tables and plain white tablecloths from a local rental company. A florist friend helped us pick out flowers (vast amounts of white hydrangeas, with dusty miller and other accents plucked from my mom's yard) and make simple clusters of them in low vases for the tables. Between the vases, we spread trails of glossy black river rocks (from Home Depot).
My mom and stepdad kindly transported the cake to the reception while we finished up taking pictures at the chapel. Can I just say I am so glad that I wasn't there to witness this moment? I think I would have had a heart attack watching the cake get moved. That sucker was heavy.
Here I am cutting the cake, after the top tier had been whisked away for storage. I have no idea why I look so concerned. I think I was trying to figure out how big to make the slices.
I know that making a wedding cake sounds intimidating, but here's the thing - it's all about your recipe. And your decorating taste. If my sister had wanted a fancy fondant tower with sugar crafted birds hovering over it, I would have immediately declined, because I am not a cake decorator and I am not insane. But how can you resist this?Photo from Martha Stewart Weddings, found here.
We had a copy of the actual magazine (since lost, much to my dismay - if anyone has it, I would love a scan of those pages!), and it provided amazingly detailed, easy instructions on how to assemble the cake. Luckily, they still have the basic recipes up on the site. Meyer lemon pound cake, coconut swiss meringue buttercream and meyer lemon curd filling recipes can be found here, here and here.
We saved the top of the cake for their one year anniversary, but I was nervous about how it might taste, so I made another little cake to give to them. Making one batch of cake is much more fun than making ten, by the way. If you want to make a smaller cake, just make one batch of the cake and a half batch of the frosting - it will be plenty. I made three little cakes from one batch, each six inches in diameter and three inches in height.
Things to think about, if you want to make a giant wedding cake:
1. Pick a recipe you are comfortable with - I highly recommend pound cake if you aren't experienced with making large cakes, because airier cakes are more likely to crack and cause major frustration.
2. Go to a cake store well in advance, because you are going to need large pans (some cake stores will rent pans to you for a fraction of the cost of buying them) and specialty ingredients.
3. Don't rely on your decorating skills too much, unless you are actually a cake decorator. This cake was a dream because I just slathered the frosting on for an amazing, stucco-esque finish and then added some candied lemon peels and flowers for decoration.
The invitations: On a tight budget, letterpress simply wasn't an option, so we decided to go super simple instead. I designed the invitations to maximize efficient use of paper and shopped around online for envelopes.
I designed the invitations in Illustrator and printed them on nicely textured white paper, four to a page. An ink jet printer works just fine, especially if you set the print quality to "best." A thick black paper with lightly embossed columns provided the backing, and I added a couple tiny rhinestones to the fly aways because I am a sucker for sparkles.
The RSVP cards were very similar, but I backed them on thick black cardstock, so that they would hold up to the mailing process. D designed a super simple map for the details card.
Tips if you are thinking about making your own invitations:
1. Try to maximize everything - I started with common paper sizes and then figured out what size to make the final invitations.
2. Research postal rules. We originally thought square invitations sounded fun, but oddly sized envelopes mean extra postage, which adds up quickly. We made the postcard RSVPs, which saves money on postage, but they have minimum and maximum sizes.
3. Invest in a paper cutter and some spare blades - trust me, you cannot do this with scissors.
4. Spray adhesive is a million times less messy than actual glue. We would lay several invitations out face down on a large piece of cardboard, spray them all (outside!) and then quickly lay them down on the backing.
5. Buy a test sheet of paper and print the invite on it before you commit to a bulk quantity. I made the mistake of not doing this and ended up with two unusable reams of paper, because the texture was just too smooth and I couldn't live with it.
*** BUDGET BREAKDOWN: ***
Approximately 125 people attended. I'm always curious about how these things break down, so here's what we spent.This is one of my favorite photos of them that day, taken candidly right before they walked into the reception. She just looks so quiet and contemplative (and lovely).
Rentals: $917 (included tables, linens, chairs, coffee cups + saucers, champagne glasses, plates, forks, delivery charge and tax)
Food: $400 (includes ingredients for thousands of home made cookies, plus all the stuff for making the cake, including cake pans)
Drink: $450 (we ordered 70 bottles of decent champagne ($7.50 per bottle) at BevMo. They have great prices and they allow you to return unopened bottles, which was great because we ended up only using 60 bottles)
Flowers, etc: $250 (for bulk hydrangeas, plus buying the vases, the ribbon for the bouquets and the river rocks)
Invitations: $300 (including invitation, inserts, envelopes and postage for 150 invites. We designed our own invitations, shopped around for nice paper, and printed them on our printer - this would have been even cheaper if I had more experience, because I messed up a few times and bought stuff we didn't need)
Dress: $200, plus another $50 for the material for the flower girl skirts, my cummerbund, and the boys' ties, all made by mom. Oh, and $50 for an adorable pair of black Mary Janes that went perfectly with the sweet little wedding dress.
There were other random incidentals that came up, so I don't know the real total, just that it clocked in under $5000, including the exorbitant cost of the private chapel ($1200 for just 2 hours of use time, but it was my sis's dream location) and the vintage rings they found for each other at an antique dealer in our hometown.
Of course, we did all the work ourselves, so I don't really know how to come up with a cost for that. I loved planning this wedding, but it convinced me that wedding planners more than earn their money. This took major planning, thinking ahead, researching, dozens of my nerdy organizational spreadsheets, plus a scale drawing of the backyard layout in AutoCad. We had three families and innumerable friends helping out, which was amazing, and fun, and more than a little crazy. Everything was simple and a true labor of love. No one seemed to mind not having plated service or a wedding band. We forgot to toss the bouquet. No one cared. After we saw off the happy couple (they camped out on the beach for their honeymoon), lots of people stayed to help clean up a bit and someone ran out and ordered massive amounts of In'n'Out burgers and fries and we all sprawled around and finished off more champagne.
My husband and I got married on August 16, 2008, and I was dumbfounded at the various costs of a wedding. Even after planning large events in my professional life for years, nothing had prepared me for the costs of adding the label "wedding" to anything you might need to buy or rent.
I'm here with some encouraging news, though. You can have that special wedding that you've dreamed about even on the minutest of budgets without having to sacrifice on elegance. The key is to go handmade on as much as you can. My whole wedding, including all of the homemade items shown below, cost only $8,000, which is less than half the national average of $21,814, according to The Wedding Report.The best part of going handmade is that you end up with a highly personalized and unique wedding that welcomes your guests to get to know your joint personality as a couple for perhaps the very first time. To me, that's even better than the money you'll save. Here are some of my handmade, money-saving wedding tips: Don't skimp on the wedding theme
Before you purchase anything, spend some extra time thinking about the elements you want to define your wedding experience, and then let these elements guide you through all of your wedding arrangements. This can be your colors, flower choices, personality (fun, sophisticated, etc.), or lifestyle (outdoorsy, beachy, etc.) in any combination.
For our wedding, I chose hydrangeas because the blooms are so large that you basically get a bouquet-sized arrangement for the price of one flower. I love the look of blue hydrangeas, so I picked two shades of light blue for my overall wedding colors. I also wanted to play off the idea of love birds for our reception and show our fun and laid-back personalities. This combination of hydrangeas, blue, love birds, and fun/laid-back style gave me plenty of detailed elements to work with as I started to make handmade items to carry out this theme. As I shopped for wedding bargains and craft supplies, I always asked myself if the item(s) up for consideration tied in with the theme, and if they didn't, then they weren't a good deal. This will greatly simplify decision making and help your wedding achieve a consistent feel.
Try not to purchase "wedding" items
Like I mentioned earlier, the word "wedding" comes at a premium price. Just about anything for your wedding except maybe your apparel can be created with a little out-of-the-box thinking. Consider your ring-bearer pillow. It's just a pillow with rings tied to it. I made the pillow below by hand sewing (I'm not very good with a sewing machine) two pieces of felt together embellished with a few blue buttons - items that I happened to have lying around.
How about your guest book? You want to record your guests' attendance, but those little books are so pricey, especially if you only need a few pages like I did. Instead, I used a well-wishes tree. I cut out little squares of paper with blue birds printed on them and attached a string of ribbon to the top. Guests were encouraged to write a little message on the cards and tie them on the tree. This tree created an interesting centerpiece for my welcome table, too, saving me money on my florist bill, which brings me to my next tip.
Let wedding items serve multiple purposes
You can't beat a two-for-one deal. Just like the well-wishes tree was able to be both the wedding guest book and a large table arrangement, there are plenty of other ways to let items serve double duty. For example, my wedding favors doubled as placecards. I found little nests and oval soaps online. Then I printed the guests' names on little strips of paper with blue birds in the background and secured them around the nests.
The one area where I splurged on professional printing was my invitations. I needed a way for guests to RSVP and also include a map to the venues. Instead of having two coordinating cards printed, I simply had one tiny card printed with a URL for guests to RSVP and print custom directions. The Wedding Channel has a great interface for letting you set up a custom website for free with RSVP functionality, uploading maps, etc. I was able to let one card serve as the map and RSVP card, saving me on printing, extra envelopes, and postage. Plus, many of my guests commented on how much more convenient the website was for them, and I thought this method fit in with our laid-back style perfectly.
Use what you already have in new ways
There's no better way to add personal flair to your wedding and save money than by using items you already own and love. Run around your house and try to look at everything with a fresh pair of eyes, keeping your wedding theme in mind. After speaking with florists, I found that I could save quite a bit by providing my own containers for flower arrangements. My mom had given me these cute cream-colored fluted bowls years ago as a gift, and my friend Brandi decorated a bridal shower she threw for me with large birds' nests and graciously gave them to me afterwards. I was able to take these to my florist, and he created some one-of-a-kind arrangements with my own containers that perfectly fit my theme. If you do this, it's a good idea to put labels on the bottoms of your containers letting guests know they should be returned to you. Sometimes, wedding guests like to take centerpieces as a souvenirs, which is fine, as long as you get them back once the flowers are past their prime.
My reception seating chart was also made from found items at my house. Instead of a fancy printed chart, I mounted slips of paper with table numbers and guest names to a basket-weave tray with pearl-embellished hat pins. I happened to have a little easel to hold it up, too.
I know these tips can help you have a beautifully coordinated and personalized wedding, no matter how large or small your wedding budget is.
About the Author: Betsy Pruitt
After the wedding, I missed planning an event from start to finish and thinking about all of the little details that make a party shine. It inspired me to create my own business, Belly Feathers, to help others have highly personalized events with lots of handmade love. I plan special events remotely from start to finish and design one-of-a-kind invitations, decorations, party favors, and more.
In addition to running Belly Feathers, my true passion, I work as a marketing communications manager focused on event planning, writing, and graphic design for a software company in high-tech Huntsville, AL. I bring over 10 years experience planning corporate and special events, both large and intimate, to my Belly Feathers friends (aka clients).
Photos courtesy of B. Good Designs in Huntsville, AL, and K&R Photography of Leesburg, GA
Being Filipino AND Pennsylvania Dutch, I come from a very financially conservative family. -aka- Frugal… cheap… ehh, whatever you want to call it. I am known as the coupon queen at work. Seriously, I have coupons for EVERYTHING. Our wedding really wasn’t any different.
Date: March 05, 2009
City, State: Kaneohe, Hawaii
# of Guests: 21
Ceremony Site/Type of Venue: $738. Byodo-In Temple. $700 for the use of the temple grounds for 2 hours (this also included a photography fee to photograph on their grounds). We spent about $38 in ribbon and paper lanterns to decorate the aisle. We figured that the temple grounds were so beautiful, there was no need to spend too much money on decor. I’m glad we went this route; the temple is BEAU.TI.FUL. We also supplied bottles of water (I DIY'd custom labels on the water bottles) and had palm fans (a family friend picked them up for us while she was in the Philippines...SUPER cheap!).
Reception Site/Type of Venue: $795 (about $37.85 per person). Germaine’s Luau. My wondrous folks were generous to gift this to us. Most of our guests were first time Hawaii visitors and since we’re pretty laid back, we decided to forgo a traditional dinner and take them to a luau instead. This is open to the public, so the general public was at the luau with us. We got a great deal using a military discount. The luau included a yummy Hawaiian buffet (with cake!), a few adult beverages, and 3 hours of entertainment.
Caterer/Food/Drink (per person if available): $0, included with luau.
Bridal Gown & Alterations: $373. $320 for my dress, which was purchased off of eBay. $53 for alterations, by Karen Chow, a godsend!
Bridal Accessories (Veil, Undergarments, Shoes, Jewelry): $120.94. Includes hair fascinator, 2 pairs of shoes (pair for the ceremony, pair for the luau), earrings and undies. This also includes the $12 I spent on our flower girl’s dress and her parasol.
Groom’s Attire: $492. His suit was custom made by Island Importer, $300. Shoes were also custom made Nike sneaks, $107. Shirt from Express, $35. Minor suit alterations, $50.
Stationery/Postage: $253.09. Includes our wedding invites, our Passport STDs, and inserts for our welcome bags.
Photography: $2094.24. Frank Amodo is wondrous and totally worth it! ‘Nuff said.
No, but seriously, we hired him for as long as we could afford to (which was 4 hours) and it really was totally worth it. I wish we could have been able to have him ALL day, but our budget couldn’t cut it. I would rather have had an AWESOME photographer for half the day, then a so-so photographer for the full day.
Ceremony Music: $150. I ended up hiring an ukulele player off of craigslist. I really did get an awesome deal, but the guy changed his prices on me 3 times. THREE. I really would have paid his top price to begin with, but it was more of the principle that you don’t change your prices 3 times in a 30 day period (this was even after I talked to him on the phone). I would have went another route, but I waited ’til the last minute and really didn’t have any other options. In all honesty, I don’t even remember him playing. At all. I’m sure he did… I was just too busy trying not to trip down the aisle to notice.
Flowers: $50. We really didn’t have flowers; there were no bouquets or bouts. We literally waited ’til the last minute to pick up leis for our lei ceremony. Literally, as in the morning of our wedding day. I really wish I would have bought better (and prettier) leis for our family members. That’s what happens when you wait until the last minute.
Officiant: $250. Alice Inoue. ::love.her:: I could have gone through the temple and used their officiant for $50 less, but I really liked how organized Alice was and it was totally worth it for my peace of mind. She really spoke from the heart and our ceremony didn’t feel scripted at all.
Coordinator: $0. I really relied on friends and family to help out here. Bestie Lauren and her husband, Kirk, really came through for me. Kirk has done TONS of events at the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort (where he works as an event coordinator) and helped out by providing me ceremony chairs, setting up, and tearing down our ceremony site. He’s starting to branch out into coordinating; hit him up if you’re getting married in Hawaii.
Hair/Makeup: $273, Beauty by May. Includes hair and makeup (including airbrush makeup and lashes) for me, my mom, and MIL. May is such a doll. She is the sweetest girl ever and she knows her stuff! Heart her!
Transportation: $405. Through Hickam’s ITT (military travel), we were able to get a shuttle van to pick up all of our guests staying in Waikiki, at their hotel, take them to the ceremony in Kaneohe, from the ceremony to the Luau (on the other side of the island), then back to their hotel (about 9 hours). They even upgraded our van to a shuttle bus. I originally called 3 local transportation companies and they wanted to charge me twice the amount for half the time. We really scored on this one!
Favors: $63.40. At our welcome BBQ, we gifted each of our guests with a bag of PA and Hawaii local goodies.
Wedding Party Gifts: $115.05. We didn’t have a wedding party, but I did gift my two besties a custom blurb “yearbook” of our friendship, along with a few other goodies. Just because they weren’t “official” bridesmaids, didn’t mean that they weren’t there for me for everything, wedding related and more.
Flight: $1541.60. Round trip flight for two.
Car Rental: $260.21. One week car rental.
Hotels: $600 (for 9 days). We used timeshare for 7 of the days and Hale Koa (military hotel) for the other two. We figured we wouldn’t be in the room much, so no need to go all out.
WEDDING DAY TOTAL: $8574.53
TOTAL COST PER PERSON (divide wedding day total by # of guests) : $408.31
All Inclusive Costs:
Welcome BBQ: $153.55. Includes a pavillon rental from Bellows and food.
Wedding Bands: $699. The hubby's ring was purchased through the AAFES catalog (for military peeps). My ring was purchased while in Hawaii from the NEX (military store), literally a week before the wedding. This was planned; I REALLY wanted my wedding ring to be Hawaiian jewelry and it’s always much cheaper to purchase from the military stores (plus no tax!). Our rings totally don’t match each others’; we figured if we were the ones wearing the rings for the rest of our lives, that we might as well pick out what we really like.
Honeymoon: $374.90. Includes 2 RT tickets to Big Island from Oahu, a 2 night hotel stay (does not include meals or tours).
ALL INCLUSIVE TOTAL: $1227.45
GRAND TOTAL (wedding day total + all inclusive total): $9801.98
Not too shabby for a destination wedding in Hawaii. Sure, we didn’t have 300+ people or our own intimate reception with a cake, but it was totally us. For you military peeps out there, utilize your military discounts! We saved thousands alone on just the reception luau and transportation. It doesn’t hurt to ask! The worst they can say is no.
Not sure how to trim down your wedding budget? No one will notice if you don'thave these extra wedding frillsBy: Sharon Naylor
Photo by Festivities Event
EXTRA CEREMONY DECOR: Skip altar flowers, pew decorations, swags of fabric and a custom-designed aisle runner to save a bit. Besides, your guests will spend the majority of the wedding at the reception.
VANITY RECEPTION DECOR: Do you really need to splurge on having your names spelled out in roses on the lawn? Do you need silk table runners, imprinted with your names and wedding date? Probably not, even if you really, really want it. Skip a custom-designed monogram projected on the dance floor in favor of clustered candles and votives to provide the same glowing ambiance.
AN ORNATELY DESIGNED CAKE: Don’t spend hundreds of dollars on sugarpaste flowers, butterflies, piped-on pearls or a replica of the lace pattern on your dress. The amount of labor the cake requires generally determines its cost, so opt for sleek, clean lines and minimal extras.
SOUPED-UP INVITATIONS: Check out a discount site like invitations4sale.com for 40% off, or use software and paper from mountaincow.com to make your own items for much less.
HIGH-END TRANSPORTATION: It’s expensive to rent limousines, classic cars and party buses, plus overtime charges can pile up. Instead, decorate your own or your friends’ cars, convertibles or even minivans for fun rides to the ceremony and reception. If you can't live without the limo, hire just two: one for you, one for the parents.
OVER-THE-TOP ENTERTAINMENT: Generally speaking, DJs cost significantly less than bands, but if you insist on live performance, look for a group with just three musicians who can play different instruments. Or program your iPod with your favorite tunes—just make sure the venue is equipped with good speakers.
FRIVOLOUS FAVORS: Treat your guests to edibles, like cookies or chocolates, with DIY labels that show guests how much time you (and your fiancé) put into them. Or try packets of flower seeds from Home Depot or Lowes—they retail for around $2 each. Feeling gratuitous? Make charitable donations in your guests’ names, providing is a tasteful and cost-effective solution to what to give.
By: Caitlin Zentgraf
Whether you’re traveling halfway around the world or to a neighboring state, getting your wedding dress there safely is a top priority.
Traveling By Plane
Most airlines advise not to place valuable items in checked luggage, therefore, a carry-on or protective garment bag are your next options. (Tip: Fold layers of tissue paper into your wedding dress. This will help keep the wrinkles and discoloring away.) Check with your airline’s policy on bringing a wedding dress on board. They may allow you to store it in a closet or overhead bin. However, you can’t always rely on the flight attendant to store it properly in a closet or overhead bin. Consider purchasing a plane ticket for your wedding dress or better yet -- if there are open seats on your flight, it doesn’t hurt to ask the flight attendant if you dress can fly for free.
Traveling by Car
You don’t want your wedding dress squeezed between loads of luggage in the trunk. Instead, drape it flat across your luggage in a protective garment bag.
Unpacking Your Wedding Dress
If you pack your wedding dress in a carry-on or protective garment bag, bring a travel steamer. (Tip: Test on white fabric before you use. You’ll want the steam to come out clear, so it doesn’t stain the fabric.) If you can’t bring a travel steamer, hang your wedding dress in the bathroom, turn the shower on full blast with hot water and watch the steam eliminate any wrinkles.
Your wedding reception is the ultimate party. It’s a celebration of love and commitment, shared with those who love you most. Plus, it will most likely be your only opportunity to laugh and dance and nibble on delicacies while garbed in the finest clothing your credit card can finance. So you want everyone to have a great time. And in your efforts to make your guests happy, you should not overlook the seating chart. No one wants to end up sitting alone, shut out of the conversations around them. And while you may be friends with a couple long since broken up, just because they want to support you doesn’t mean they want to sit together. If your guests are at ease at the reception, the party will thrive.
The Wedding Reception Must-Haves: Before You Begin
Before making any seating-placement decisions, be sure to know your venue’s floor plan, your guest list (after the RSVPs return), and the shapes and sizes of the tables you’ll be using. Most venues should be able to provide you with a plan of some sort. Take note of where your head table will be, where the dance floor is, and if tables will have to be moved to make room for dancing. Also be prepared for changes to your reception up until two weeks before the wedding, as your guest list will most certainly change.
Wedding Receptions: When You Don’t Need a Seating Plan
If your wedding reception has less than 20 guests, or if your guests all know each other, you can get away without a seating chart. Of course, if there’s no formal sit-down meal, you can also choose to just have casual seating arrangements without place cards. You may still want a head table set apart, along with a table designated for elderly guests or those in need of special consideration.
The Wedding Reception: About to Begin
This is one part of the planning that suits parental (and parent-in-law) input. It’s likely that the parents will know some guests better than you and may have some inside knowledge of family politics. So if anyone knows not to put Uncle Bob next to Great Aunt Sue, they would. Once you have your planning team, choose your method of chart making. Today, there are endless creative options when mapping out seating charts. Some like to physically move around cards or strips of paper with each guest’s name scrawled across them. Others use labeled poker chips. For the technologically savvy (or those without huge solid surfaces to sprawl out plans-in-the-making), spreadsheets are a great option. Wedding-planning software is the new thing; use a simple program to design (and redesign) your layout. Be flexible and creative as you start out.
Before you seat your guests, seat yourself. There are no longer any steadfast rules for seating at the head table. You may want your entire bridal party with you; you may opt for just the maid of honor and best man. Determine if you want the maids on one side and the men on the other, or if you want them paired. And since it’s your wedding, you can switch it up with parents and grandparents at the table, or just a sweetheart table for the two of you. Find an arrangement that best suits you as a couple, and try to make sure you’re visible to guests who will undoubtedly want to be staring at you and taking your picture all evening. The rest of the seating will revolve around the placement of this table.
Parents and Family
The general rule is to place family closest to the head table. Depending on the size of your wedding reception, you may place all the parents together or divide them by family. If your parents are divorced, consider letting each parent host his/her own table. You don’t want to promote awkwardness. Have your parents and grandparents closest to the head table, with the rest of the family spreading out from there. Don’t feel obligated to keep family groups strictly together; cousins may prefer sitting together rather than with their parents. And your aunts and uncles may prefer sitting with their siblings over sitting with their adult children. Instead of a table consisting solely of one family group, find a way to promote some interfamily mingling.
Wedding Reception Special Considerations
Consider the needs of your elderly, disabled, and super-young guests as you plan your seating. If tables will be moved to make room for the dance floor, try not to seat those who require seating at those particular tables, as you don’t want to displace them. Make sure that guests using walkers or wheelchairs have easy access to their tables and the exit. When in doubt, inquire in advance as to how you can best serve their needs.
If you choose to have children at your wedding reception, you have a few options. You can seat them together (strategically supervised), hosting them at a fun kids’ table. This can be a relief to parents and other guests who don’t want to babysit all evening. Offer little activities to keep them occupied and involved. Some would warn against this, especially if the children are young, loud, or unfamiliar with each other. You don’t want a crowd of kids distracting the rest of the guests. Seating them with their parents might be more favorable. Just make sure that you keep guests who are unimpressed with little ones at a different table. Kids fit in best with people who love kids.
Friends will make up the majority of your remaining guests. For starters, divide these friends into groups: coworkers, college friends, neighbors, etc. The trick is finding a balance between seating groups of friends together and encouraging mingling with new people. If you have a group of inseparable friends from your school days, by all means, seat them together. But if the group is too large for their own table, divide them into half tables, seating them with other guests. Never place a sole outsider with a tight-knit group. You want to make the evening comfortable for everyone; avoid situations where people will feel excluded. If you have a friend coming who doesn’t know anyone, try to introduce him or her to an outgoing friend before the wedding. When you do seat strangers together, match them according to similar interests. You may be tempted to play matchmaker with a singles table. Be careful. It’s probably best to have a mix of couples and singles. Yes, you can be strategic. But don’t be so obvious that it’s uncomfortable. Single people at weddings are very aware that they’re single. You don’t need to remind them.
Let Them Know
Once you have a plan, you need to determine how you’re going to inform your guests of this perfect seating arrangement. The more formal the reception, the more specific you’ll end up being. Some insist on individual place cards at each table, with chair assignments (not just table seating). In this case, you’ll seat dates next to each other, alternating males and females at round tables. Rectangular tables often have dates facing each other. In most cases, you’ll be assigning people to tables. Near your venue’s entrance (or in a very obvious place), have a list of your guests in alphabetical order. Some have a literal list; others use this as an opportunity to be creative. You want to make it simple for guests to find their names; a table number, then, will be associated with each name. Resist the urge to pin up a map of the reception venue with names scattered on it. You don’t want a crowd of people swarming at a chart, desperately trying to find their places.
After you’ve finalized your plan and created place cards, let it go. People will sit and eat and have fun; don’t stress once it’s out of your hands. Have some extra tables and chairs available in case you have more guests than anticipated, set out a table for the DJ and photographer, and watch your loved ones mingle and celebrate your awesome commitment to the love of your life.
Congratulations, you’re engaged! Now before the fun of planning the wedding starts, you’ll need to decide how much you can spend on the event. Whether you dream of a lavish ballroom affair or an intimate backyard fête, the first thing you’ll need to do is come up with a realistic budget to work from. You won’t want any regrets about your wedding, so you’ll need to figure out what you can and can’t afford before the bills arrive.
“Once couples have figured out how much they can comfortably afford in total, they then need to prioritize what is most important to them to determine what percentage of their total budget should be allocated to each element,” says San Francisco wedding planner Carrie Topoian. “From there, couples can build their wedding toward the budget they have predetermined.”
Carrie says some of the pitfalls in creating a wedding budget are that the couple may not realize how much each vendor will cost, whether there are any hidden fees at the venue, or they simply forget to build in tax and gratuity to their budget.
Couples can estimate to spend 50 percent of a budget on catering and venue. This includes food, beverages, staffing, taxes and tip. The ambiance portion of your budget—flowers, decorations and lighting—should only be 10 percent.
Another 10 percent should be set aside for music, and an additional 10 percent for photography. For favors and gifts, which include your attendants’ presents, stick to small items with a personal touch and don’t spend over 3 percent of the wedding’s total price tag. If the ceremony site is different from the rehearsal venue, set aside an additional 3 percent.
Invitations, save-the-date cards and programs should be priced at around 3 percent. And any transportation needed—will you arrive in a limo? Will guests need to be shuttled?—should cost around 1 percent of the total budget.
Dreaming of a designer dress? Carrie says most brides set aside 10 percent for wedding attire, but that includes the groom’s tuxedo too! Don’t forget to factor in the unexpected items like postage for the RSVP cards and marriage license fees, and avoid overtime—an extra hour on the dance floor can cost dearly.
Now that you have a budget you will want to stick with it. Put all your money you’ll be using for your wedding in one separate bank account, so you can keep track of the funds. If you’re paying for expenses with a credit card, find one with a low rate with mileage benefits that you can put toward your honeymoon airfare.
It is important to remember that every couple’s budget may vary depending on their vendor preferences and that each couple may have different priorities when it comes to their wedding. If you can stick to the budget, you can start your new life together without unexpected debt.
Photo by Union Photography
If you will have a beautiful little flower girl and a dapper young ring bearer in your wedding, they will certainly become one of the highlights of the ceremony! If you prepare your little helpers correctly and ensure that they know their roles, they will be more confident and ready to walk down the aisle before you. Here are some tips and important information on flower girl and ring bearer roles which will help you prepare the youngest members of your wedding party?
Photo by April B. Photography
Choosing Your Flower Girl and Ring Bearers
Keep in mind that the younger your flower girl and ring bearer is, the higher the risk of a crisis. Young kids are frightened easily and may decide at the last minute that they are not walking down the aisle, they need to go to the bathroom or they'd rather watch a video. If possible, choose slightly older children to act as the ring bearer and flower girl, so they will better understand their roles and will not be as afraid.
The flower girl follows the last bridesmaid, carrying a basket of flower petals to scatter across the aisle. She is usually a girl with a special connection to the bride and groom - whether related or family friend, and is usually between the ages of 4 and 10.
Typically, flower girls wear beautiful dresses - either small versions of the bridesmaid dresses or the wedding dress. Typically, brides have the flower girl wear a ring of flowers in her hair or a tiny tiara. After walking down the aisle, your flower girl will take her seat to watch the rest of the wedding.
Your little ring bearer comes behind the flower girl, carrying a pillow with the wedding rings tied to it. He is usually related to the bride and groom or the son of close family friends. The ring bearer is also usually between the ages of 4 and 10.
Many brides prefer that their ring bearer wear little versions of the groom's tuxedo, but you can have your ring bearer wear whatever you want. From slacks and a little velvet jacket to suits which match the groomsmen - he's sure to look absolutely adorable no matter what you put him in! Your ring bearer can either stand next to the groomsmen or be seated with his family depending upon his age.
Tips for Your Ring Bearer and Flower Girl
If the ring bearer and flower girl are prone to restlessness, have them sit with their families rather than standing for the wedding. You can even provide them with a coloring book or something else to keep them occupied for the wedding.
If your ring bearer is fairly young, you may want to put fake rings on the pillow and have your best man hold the real rings. Also, if needed, have the parents bring a change of clothing - most young boys don't want to stay in stiff clothing for too long!
By preparing your ring bearer and flower girl for their roles, you can ensure that the wedding goes smoothly and that they understand what they're supposed to do during the ceremony.
Usually, on the night of the rehearsal dinner or early wedding day morning, the exchange of gifts takes place. The bridal party typically receives a token of gratitude, and the bride and groom also give gifts to one another. So, as if shopping for the love of your life wasn't hard enough, what could you possibly get him for his wedding present?
Photography by: Michael Moss
Hopefully, I can shed a bit of light on the subject and get your creative juices flowing.
Wedding Present Brainstorming for Him
Your future husband certainly has interests, which you should take full advantage of when it comes to locating his wedding present. What activities do you see him participating in? Is he completely obsessed when football season rolls around? Perhaps season tickets would be perfect for his wedding present.
Tap Into His Interests
Is your groom a technology fanatic, keeping his eye on all the latest gadgets and constantly tinkering with his iPhone? Take this fascination to heart and seek his wedding present at the local electronics shop, like Best Buy or Apple. Does he like to play video games? Well, then you're just in luck because there is a plethora of gaming accessories and software to consider. Keep a look out to how he reacts when a commercial for a new release is mentioned on TV.
Take Advantage of His Hobbies
Hobbies will come in handy when choosing his wedding present as well. Tap into the kinds of things that make him happy and you'll never go wrong. Perhaps he's a Babe Ruth fan and collects old baseball cards. What about his poker playing with friends over the weekend? Does he like to tune-up classic cars? Do you have a master griller in the house? Then, a new grill, personalized poker set, or vintage rookie cards from eBay might be just the kinds of things to consider for his wedding present.
The Music Man
For the man who enjoys his music, consider the joy of owning an MP3 player or iPod. Today, you can even combine music, movies, and phone use into one by choosing an iPod Touch - a product much similar to the iPhone.
Straight From the Heart
Sometimes, you just want to choose his wedding present because of sentimental reasons. Framed photos of the two of you together; a slideshow consisting of special moments; or a memento from the past can all become touching, heartfelt presents for your groom. Monogrammed or personalized or just plain shiny, a gold money clip is another great way to present your fiancé with a cherished wedding gift.