This is going to be the most beautiful, memorable, spectacular day of your life and you want to make it perfect. To accomplish that, there are things you MUST know and others that aren’t quite as important. We’ve compiled a pretty thorough list, designed with only one thought in mind, to help you pull off the wedding of a lifetime.
How many guests do you plan to invite? Get an approximate number of the guests before choosing your venue. You don’t want hundreds of people crammed into a small space, nor do you want a giant hall, with only a few.
NOTE: While not a hard and fast rule, approximately 25 to 30 square feet per guest is ideal. At first glance, you may think that is more than needed, but when you factor in tables, chairs, dance floor and band, space gets filled very quickly.
Your Wedding Date
Before you settle on a particular date, make sure the day doesn’t have a direct conflict with a significant event in your area. Such an event could make travel and accommodations difficult or expensive for your guests. Here, we’re not talking about the apparent conflicts, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but ones that may be uncommon to you, but very important to others. Read our guide to picking your wedding date here.
Mother Nature not Mother-in-Laws
While it may take some adjusting for both bride or groom to interact with the others parents, that’s part of life, and we wish you Godspeed and blessings. Here we’re speaking of Mother Nature and how the weather could affect your guests and choice of venue. An example might be an outdoor wedding in the hot sun which could make those tuxedos and bridesmaid dresses uncomfortable. In that case, you might consider a tent or indoor area with an outside view. Another consideration is insects, which in some locales are merely an annoyance, while in a wedding in the woods, they could be vicious. That’s not to say change the venue, just consider hiring a pest control company or having an ample supply of bug spray for guests.
Credit Cards and Airline Miles
Your credit and your future finances are essential and planning now, can only help you later in life. With that thought in mind, and assuming you’ll use credit cards to pay for the many, many wedding expenses, consider a card with rewards. The rewards could be cash back, travel points or other sundry items, but take the time to choose the best one. Doing so just could pay for the honeymoon or allow an extended stay in some exotic honeymoon spot.
Ask Your Vendors For Recommendations
You may already have all your vendors picked out, if so, congratulations on your planning. IF however, you’ve only chosen a photographer, or possibly a reception manager, ask them for suggestions. It’s very likely they already know the perfect florist who can make your reception explode with color and fragrance or possibly the best band to ignite the dance floor for your first dance.
The Guest List
This is going to be a tough one, should you invite Tom? What about Betty? Only you can know who just must be there, and those that can afford to miss the ceremony. But do consider this, a significant portion of your wedding budget will be spent feeding and entertaining your guests. If you can whittle down the list, you have the potential to reduce the budget substantially. Choose with care, you don’t want angry in-laws.
Nail Down The Vendor Contract
What is it you need from your vendors? The time for negotiations is before you sign the contract and put down a deposit. At that moment, they are trying to win you over and can likely be talked into something extra. As the wedding day approaches, however, they may change their tune and be less accommodating of last-minute extras. Plan it out ahead of time as much as possible.
Feeding the Vendors
Will you be feeding your photographer, band members, helpers, assistants, etc., the same meal as your wedding guests? This could be costly, mainly if you have some memorable dinner in mind. You need to feed your vendors, that’s not a topic for discussion, but it is possible to feed them well, but with a less expensive entrée. Once you’ve made this decision, be sure and let your caterer know several days ahead of time.
There are a million and one things you need to do for your wedding, doubly so if you’re doing it yourself. One of the best things you can do, even in this digital age, is to keep a three-ring binder of all your correspondence with vendors *(print out an email as needed). Separate the print-outs into sections such as food, photos, flowers, etc.; this allows you to quickly and easily find the right document should you need it. If you’ve been looking through wedding magazines, tear out any individual pictures that feature a dress, floral arrangement, venue, etc. By doing this, you can quickly show a vendor precisely the look you’re going for.
Long Lines at The Bar
Generally speaking, which will vary depending on the skill and speed of the bartender, you’ll need one bartender per 50 guests. Indeed you could save money by having less, but long lines at the bar are to be avoided if at all possible.
Watch Your Budget
Money can fly out of your wallet when planning a wedding, and that doesn’t even count the expenses you may not have thought of. Here are the typical (percentages of total budget) you should plan for. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but experience has shown they usually fall within these numbers.
THE RECEPTION will take up to 50 percent of your total budget
FLOWERS, while crucial to the atmosphere, should fall between 7 to 10 percent.
WEDDING DRESS and OTHER ATTIRE will fall between 7 to 10 percent.
ENTERTAINMENT, which will likely include a band comes in at 8 to 10 percent.
PHOTOGRAPHY/VIDEO, essential and usually 10 to 12 percent.
INVITATIONS fall into the 2 to 3 percent range.
GIFTS for a few or many will be 2 to 3 percent
THE UNEXPECTED – No matter how diligently you plan, there will always be the unexpected, last-minute emergency, so expect to keep eight percent inreserves.
Talk To Your Vendors
It’s important to realize your vendors are your best friend during this process. Indeed they are getting paid, but perhaps based on that; they’re going to desire to do the best job possible, ensuring your wedding is exactly like you want. What that means to you is just this, if you have an issue, want something unique, worry, ask their advice. Since it’s likely they deal with expectant couples frequently, they can probably quickly answer your questions, and possibly even save you money in the process.
Most plan their wedding and book the venue six months in advance. That’s fine, but there is a situation that causes a couple to choose a place much closer to the actual wedding date. This isn’t necessarily a negative, in fact, it may work in your favor. Often, when you book a venue two months out, you can negotiate a better rate since it means the place wasn’t already reserved. Additionally, if you can have your wedding on a Thursday or Friday, instead of the more popular Saturday, you could save up to 25 percent on the price.
If you want to make your invites individual, you aren’t going to be using email, instead beautiful stationery or a card delivered the old-fashioned way. That’s a perfect idea and if you want to seal the deal with a particular stamp, plan ahead. Not every post office will have every variety of stamp, and particularly not in quantity at the last moment. Not a problem, just visit usps.com and place your order online, even then, do it well in advance.
Who’s Coming Who’s Not
It’s natural to want everyone you invite to attend your wedding, after all, this is your special day, and it will undoubtedly be a grand affair. That aside, not everyone will be able to make it, so be prepared for that and don’t let it ruin your day. This is particularly so if you’re having a destination wedding, guests may not be able to attend because of conflicts, finances, or difficulty finding accommodations. The plan as best you can, invite whoever you want, but don’t be overly distraught if some can’t make it.
Can Children Attend
That may be a tough call, but it’s up to you to make a decision, then stick with who can attend, which is your call. You don’t want hurt feelings by allowing some children to participate, while saying “no”, to others. Experience has shown there are a few options.
1. Children are welcome
2. Adults only
3. Hire a child care service for the duration of the event.
Of all of those choices, number 3 has proved the best.
An Out of Control Guest List
Let’s face it; there are some people who MUST be in attendance, others who you’d like to be there, others, well, they could be there or not. If your guest list is growing out of control and the reception costs are headed for the roof, here’s how to prioritize.
1. Your immediate family, bridal party and best friends on the top of your list.
2. Extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends.
3. Parents friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Then, should you need to trim the guest list, start at the bottom, and move upward with greater and greater care.
Follow a Logical Path
There will be a million and one things to do, but staying organized is imperative. You don’t want to have everything hitting you at the last minute, so make a detailed wedding schedule and follow it. For instance, you don’t want to book a venue before you decide on the reception hall or design a cake before deciding on a theme for flowers. Take a breath, then take a step, then another and soon you’ll be walking down the aisle.
Just Say No To Hotel Demains
If you have guests coming in from out of town, and in most cases, you will, you’ll want to release any rooms not needed as soon as feasible. So hotels will not try to charge you for those rooms. They may ask you to sign a contract ensuring they’ll be paid for a block of rooms, even if you have not as yet established a final count. Stand firm and say no, I don’t want to be held responsible for places you can’t fill.
NOTE: Be sure and ask for a block of rooms designated for your wedding, along with a unique discount code. That booking room should be able to use the discount code to ensure a better rate.
Even in this tech savvy world, people still can get lost, the phone can die, traffic can snarl, and there is often a better, faster route to the wedding venue. To ensure everyone arrives on time, test drives the route ahead of time, find the best, quickest drive from various directions, then put those instructions on your website or email to those attending.
Nearly every wedding will have a special request, even if it’s small, “can we arrive early”, can you accommodate an extra family,” etc. These are things agreed upon verbally. However, it is the wise wedding planner who gets confirmation in writing, or at the least, an email. This isn’t because we believe the venue will go back on their word. However, the person you’re speaking with may no longer be working there if the date is months away or may forget to forward the message on to the proper person. Being prepared and getting confirmations will make your special day go much smoother.
Planning for the Setup
If you’re planning on having a magical wedding, then allow adequate prep time. There are tables to set-up, flowers to arrange, music to get settled, photographers to manage, etc. For all this to happen flawlessly, adequate time for proper setup should be figured into the equation. Ideally, the day before, but failing that, early enough the day of, so no one is overly rushed, and there is time to test the important elements.
In all likelihood you’ll have your wedding license well in advance of the wedding date, at least you should. If that significant step hasn’t happened as yet, check online or give your state licensing bureau a call to check on their hours and what documents are required for the license to be issued. Then, and perhaps most important, make a copy, no, make several copies and give one to your mom, the groom, your maid-of-honor, etc. That’s probably over cautious, but better safe than sorry since it’s a critical part of the process.
Check Venue Rules
Don’t assume that everything you want to do is allowed in a particular venue. In most cases, and especially in a traditional wedding, you’ll be fine, but what if… What if your marriage has unusual elements, those not seen every day, fireworks, tents, performers, etc. Check with the manager of the venue to make sure what you have planned is allowed. Much better to alter well in advance, then find out the day of the ceremony, it is not permitted.
Sticking to a Budget
Unless you have an unlimited budget, it’s essential to prioritize your expenses. What are the critical elements in your wedding? Is it the venue, the wedding dress, the destination? Write down a complete list of your expenses, then prioritize them with a numbering system, with one being most important and ten being the least. Look at the total number and if you’re over budget, either eliminate or reduce the expense of the least essential elements, then work your way up the list. You likely won’t want to change the number one items, but the fives and sevens, and particularly the tens, may have to go.
We Can’t Hear You
Nothing is worse than attending an event, be it a wedding, play or movie, and not being able to hear what is happening, or straining to catch what is said. This is particularly important with the vows. How can you assure this won’t be an issue, do a test. Sit in each row, particularly the back rows and determine if you can easily hear the ceremony. If yes, then great, on to the next element, if not, then it may be necessary to have a microphone and speakers. These aren’t expensive and can be attained from local AV companies. Make this determination well in advance to assure availability.
Print Out Phone Numbers
Make a list of every relevant phone number, then print out the list and give copies to everyone involved with the wedding, mom, dad, best man, maid of honor, etc. If you’re wondering why, its only a bit of safety in case you need to reach a vendor (photographer, limo driver, videographer, etc.), the day of.
Get An Honest Opinion on Your Wedding Dress
Your wedding dress is likely the most crucial element of the ceremony, and everyone will be taking particular notice. For this reason alone, get a second opinion from someone you trust, someone with good fashion sense, how you look in the dress. If you do this on your own, then take pictures and selfies, then show them to friends who will give you an honest assessment.
This is your wedding day; you want it to be perfect, not filled with stress and anxiety. When the days get too full, and you just can’t get everything done, it’s time to delegate or cross those less important things off the to-do list.
It’s our hope your day will be filled with love and memories and is merely the beginning of a full and exciting life together. If you have questions or comments about anything in this article, please be sure and get in touch.