Congratulations! Deciding to get married is the easy part. From this day until the day of your wedding, you will be busy planning for what will be the most important day of your life!
But, the planning doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can find many good and bad wedding checklists online. Every checklist assumes you’ll be following all their items. But remember, not everything applies to everyone.
Here are a few tips many of our brides have found useful.
1. Decide on a Budget and Stick to it.
The word “budget” always sounds so restrictive – kind of like “diet”. Rather than call it a budget, create your “Wedding spending plan”. Regardless of what you call it, wedding spending plans are all about balance. Start your planning with the total amount you can comfortably afford and save for. The last thing you want is to go over your limit and start your life together with more debt.
As you create your spending plan be sure to add in about 5% – 10% for “stuff we didn’t think of”.
Start your planning by making a list of the crucial parts of the wedding, like the venue, the music, the wedding gown, the invitations, the flowers, the photographer, the honeymoon, etc. With your fiancé and family assign a priority number to each — one being the most important and three being the least. But remember it’s your day. Accept other people’s opinions but if they’re not paying the bills, don’t feel pressured to do what they say.
Invest your money in all your number ones and cut corners on your number threes. (But everything can’t fall into the number one category!) For example, if a designer gown and fabulous food are what really matter, you may have to choose simple invitations and smaller floral arrangements.
2. Sooner or Later You Have to Pick a Date
Sometimes, last minute planning can work in your favor. The closer your date, the more bargaining power you have. Since most people book their wedding sites at least six months in advance, calling for open dates two months prior to your desired time can save you up to 25 percent. And, Friday and Sunday weddings should cost about 30 percent less than Saturday weddings. Click here for potential dates to consider and/or avoid
3. Get Organizationally Focused
In a three-ring binder or folder, compile all your correspondences with vendors; notes you make during meetings; and photos or tear sheets from magazines you want vendors to see. Set up a special email address dedicated to your wedding, and store important vendor numbers in your cell phone.
4. You Come First. Guests are a Close Second
Get a grip on the approximate number of guests you’ll invite before settling on a venue. This will ensure there’s ample space for your crowd. As a rule of thumb, allow for 25-30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot, but it’s not if you count the space you’ll need for the tables, bustling waiters, the band, and the dance floor.
5. Listen to Mother Nature
Heed the weather and other potential annoyances. Guests have been known to skip out early from hotter-than-hot, summer tent weddings and improperly heated winter loft receptions. Bugs (gnats, deerflies, chiggers, and no-see-ums) also swarm in certain areas during certain seasons. Consider renting pest control tanks to alleviate the problem or including bug repellent in guests’ gift bags. And if you want a sunset ceremony, make sure you know when to say your vows by checking www.sunrisesunset.com.
6. Ask for Referrals from Everyone – Especially Vendors
Let one vendor lead you to another. Your photographer can tell you which florist’s blooms really pop, and your reception manager should know which band packs the dance floor.
7. Lighten Your List
The easiest way to trim your budget is to cut your guest list. That sounds harsh but remember, half of your wedding expenses go to wining and dining your guests. If it’s costing you $100 per person, eliminating one table of 10 can save you $1,000.
Pare down your guest list with the “tiers of priority” trick. Place immediate family, the bridal party, and best friends on top of the list; follow with aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends you couldn’t imagine not being there. Under that, list your parents’ friends, neighbors, coworkers, and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.
If your guest list is bursting at the seams, assess the plus-one scenario. Do a faux seating chart in your mind, and imagine whom your single pal would sit with. If it’s a table of singles that she knows pretty well, then you’re all set. If it’s a table of couples (making the single one odd man out) or if it’s a table of singles where she won’t know anyone, consider bending the rules. If asked why you’re not allowing single friends to bring guests, size constraints or your parents’ never-ending guest list are always good fallback white lies.
8. Make a Meal Plan
Another unforeseen expense? Feeding your wedding day crew. Before you sign the contracts, make sure you’re not required to serve the same meal to your vendors that guests will receive. Otherwise, you could be paying for 20 additional lobster tails. Choose a less expensive (but equally hearty) meal for them instead. You will have to let your caterer know a couple of days before the wedding exactly how many vendors you need to feed (don’t forget photography assistants and band roadies) and what you want them to serve.
9. You Don’t Get if You Don’t Ask
With vendors, almost everything is negotiable. But remember their livelihood depends on them doing a good job and being paid a fair price. Negotiable means give and take. It’s doesn’t mean “gimme this for free.” Don’t say, “I would love to have you, but my budget doesn’t allow for this. If you give me _____ for free, I’ll sign the contract.” Rather say, “What can we change to so your costs fit my budget and I still get your great service.”
10. Prepare for Rejection
Know that as a rule, about 30 percent of the people you invite won’t attend. Naturally, this depends on the location of your wedding (destination weddings are harder to attend), how many out-of-towners are on your list, and the timing of the event (some guests may have annual holiday or summer plans). On the other hand, everyone should accept — knowing your wedding will be the can’t-miss party of the year!
11. Make a Uniform Kids Policy
You have four choices: you can welcome children with open arms; you can decide to have an “adults only” wedding; you can include immediate family only; or, you can hire a child care service to provide day care either at the reception space, in a hotel room, or in a family member’s home. To prevent hurt feelings, it’s wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others (unless, of course, the children are in your bridal party).
12. Take it One Step at a Time
Put together a wedding planning schedule and do things one by one, in a logical order, so you don’t take on too much too fast and end up with everything snowballing around you. Don’t hire any vendors before you’ve confirmed your date; don’t design your cake before you’ve envisioned your flowers; and don’t book a band before you’ve settled on a space.
13. Provide Accurate Driving Directions
Make sure guests know where they’re going. As easy as online map programs are to use, sometimes the directions are wrong — or there’s a quicker, less traffic-prone route to take. Ask your ceremony and reception sites for printouts of recommended driving directions, which they often keep in stock for weddings and will give to you for free, and test out the routes yourself.
14. Keep a Paper Trail
Get any nonstandard changes to your agreements in writing or send the vendor a confirmation email saying, “Hello, just confirming that you’ll keep the venue open until 2 a.m. versus midnight.” Don’t take anyone on his word — by the time the big day rolls around, your contact may no longer be working there to vouch for you.
15. Schedule the Setup
You must make sure there’s ample time for setup. If you’re renting a venue and bringing in outside help, ask, “What time can people come in to set things up?” Preston Bailey, author of Preston Bailey’s Fantasy Weddings, recommends seeing if they can do it the day before, or at the very least the entire wedding day, before the event starts.
16. Learn About Marriage Licenses
You can check your state’s license requirements online, but confirm with a call to the county clerk’s office to see when they’re open. Even if it’s open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., they may issue marriage licenses only during slower times like, say, Thursdays from 2 p.m.-3 p.m. Give a copy of your marriage license to your mom or your maid of honor (just in case you lose yours during the final days before your wedding).
17. Go Over Ground Rules
Be prepared! Ask the manager of the house of worship or site where you will be married for the list of restrictions (if any). For instance, are flash photography or bare shoulders prohibited? Or, if you’re exchanging vows outdoors, are you allowed to plant tent stakes in the lawn (which is often a no-no)?
18. Help Guests Pay Attention
Make sure your guests can see — and hear. If people are seated farther than 15 rows back from your ceremony altar or podium, consider renting a microphone and a riser. This could range anywhere from $50-$100, depending on the equipment used. You’ll need to coordinate the delivery and setup with your ceremony space, so put your wedding planner or best man in charge of this task.
19. Write Down Your Digits
Carry an emergency contact sheet on your wedding day. Keep the paper with names and phone numbers of all your vendors in your purse — it may come in handy in case your limo driver gets lost or you decide you’d like your photographer to take some behind-the-scenes shots. And give a copy the list to your fiancé, best man, and maid of honor.
20. Be Realistic With Your Time
When it comes down to the last month of your planning (and when you’re particularly harried) look at your mile long to-do list and cut three things. Yes, cut three things. Not crucial things that you just don’t feel like doing, such as picking a processional song or confirming final details with all of your vendors. Eliminate only the over-the-top tasks like hand-painting “Just Married” signs, or baking cookies for all of the welcome bags. Make a pledge to not think about them ever again.