“Love recognizes no barriers,
It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls
to arrive at its destination full of Hope.”
(As we area ready to “Leap” in to 2020, and we are receiving so many calls about wedding flowers, I thought it might be helpful to translate 35+ years of advice into a roadmap for our newly engaged couples. If there is anything you need, or any questions that we can help answer, please feel free to call me.)
Planning a wedding ceremony and reception these days really can become a daunting task. It is a task that many people have little experience in, and are reluctant to ask for help or advice. It is not that anyone is “dumb,” it is a matter of not knowing what questions to ask. Hillary Rodham Clinton stated that: “It takes a Village to raise a Child.” Today, it takes a Village to Plan and Execute a wedding!
Many times today, a wedding planner or a Day-of Event Coordinator, is hired near the beginning of the process. Sometimes the “chief planner” role falls to the Mother of the Bride, or Groom or the Big Sister or the helpful Aunt to shepherd things along, and keep everything on track. Sometimes, the wedding couple is almost entirely on their own…..and need to rely on the words of wisdom given to them by many knowledgeable vendors & friends.
So, in planning a wedding, where do you start?
Step one: Start by compiling a rough guest list. Approximately how many people do you want to share your wedding day with? Knowing roughly how many people might be invited or attending helps to narrow the choices of ceremony and reception sites. Moms and Dads will have input as well. Finances and budgets will be discussed extensively at this point and agreed upon. (Remember that not everyone who is invited will be able to attend your wedding).
Develop a “guideline budget” for each item or service that you will need to purchase. You may not know the exact cost yet, but you need to at least have a “goal number” in mind. This is not cast in stone, and may change as the process evolves…. but it is a place to start.
If you are employing the services of a wedding planner, this would be the point that the wedding planner is hired. They will guide you through all the many next steps, including being realistic about each budget item.
Step Two: What is the vision that you see for your day? Are you planning on a wedding inside a church, or a barn or another type of all inclusive facility? Do you want to be married in a meadow, or in a grand Cathedral?
Step Three: What time of year would you like to get married? Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter? Each one of the seasons has its advantages and disadvantages. There are often financial incentives offered for winter weddings. Special Holiday weekends, such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day can mean that certain items (such as flowers or food) will be more costly.
Step Four: Now that you have answers to 1, 2, and 3, you can begin visiting churches and reception venues and hopefully book something that will accommodate your tentative plans. Book and get under contract the ceremony & reception site that best fits your needs. Deposits or retainers will be required for both, and are generally NON-REFUNDABLE…………choose wisely, and read the contract before you sign on the dotted line.
Step Five: Now that you have a date, church and/or venue booked, begin shopping for Dresses. Your bridal dress should be the first priority, with bridesmaids dresses second. It’s your day. You get to pick! Have fun shopping! Be sure to ask for color swatches, and take lots of pictures for the florist and other vendors to see. Your shopping should also include veil or headpiece, shoes and the appropriate undergarments needed for your dresses.
Step Six: Now begin booking your other vendors. All require a retainer/deposit to book their services. Needed vendors may include: caterer (if not part of your venue package), photographer, ceremony musicians, DJ or band, florist, make-up artist, hair salon or hair stylist, transportation, videographer, photo booth, bakery, minister or officiant (if you are not getting married in a church.) Your venue can often give you a list of preferred or referred vendors. These are vendors that have proven to be reliable and trustworthy.
All of these vendors generally have information available online about their services. Pricing is often customized to fit your requests and timing. Many will require face-to-face meetings or Skype or similar to make sure that they understand what you want each of them to provide. (This is not a “shop online” process. You really do need to talk with the vendors in person, and interact with them.)
The Photographer may offer you an engagement session; The florist may need to meet with you one or two times; The bakery needs you to taste the flavors of their cakes and pick one; there will be food tastings, and many other decisions to make along the way. Our advice is to make the decision on each item — check that item off the list and move on to the next item. If you agonize over the decisions, or are indecisive, then you will make you, your fiance and everyone else working with you a basket case. You want to enjoy planning your wedding…..and not find it distasteful for years to come!
This is usually the point where some of your earlier choices may begin to have a positive impact your budget. For instance, if everything is taking place at Rosemary’s Long Lost Sunny Acres Barn (ceremony & reception), you will generally not need a limo or a bus to get everyone there. Family members can drive the bridal party to the event, or they can drive themselves. If you are at one location, your DJ may be able to handle the ceremony as well as the reception music. (Translation: Savings on transportation and ceremony musicians).
Your florist may offer items that can be used both for ceremony as well as reception decorations. Again, potential savings for you.
Your “venue package” may include: cake, linens, up lighting, flower centerpieces for your tables. Try to use everything that comes with your package. Often you will not get a deduction from your venue price if you do not elect to have a wedding cake, for instance. (However, you may be able to change the cake to cupcakes, instead).
There are a couple of things that you do not want to skimp on: Food, Liquor and DJ (or music). It is quite the norm these days to serve only beer & wine at a wedding reception. However, if you are planning a non-alcoholic reception, please be sure to make that known to your wedding guests on your wedding invitations.
Step Seven: Invitations need selected, printed, and mailed approximately 8 weeks prior to your wedding date, with a reply deadline of at least 3 weeks prior to your wedding date. Email invitations are not generally appropriate for weddings. You need to spend the money, address and stamp the invites and actually mail them via snail mail. If you have not received a response from someone when the response deadline is passed, plan to call or text them to get their response. (Assuming that someone is not coming could mean that your guest shows up, with no place to sit and no food to eat.) It has become OK to set up a wedding website & have the guests RSVP on the website. Very easy for them to do, and actually brings in a higher response rate.
Step Eight: The bridesmaids, friends, etc plan your bridal shower. You should not plan your shower… They can check the date with you, and ask what type of affair you would like to have. (Informal, picnic, formal, etc.) They are in charge; you are the guest of honor!
Step Nine: The Bachelor and Bachelorette parties are planned; The guys and girls give you and your fiance a nice night out on the town. ‘Nough said.
Step Ten: Arrange the seating of your guests with your reception site co-ordinator, including the placement of cookie tables, buffet tables, etc. Think of “traffic flow” at this point. Try to avoid creating bottlenecks that will delay the start of cocktail hour or serving dinner.
Step Eleven: About 1 to 2 weeks prior to your wedding, finalize your ceremony with your officiant and church or venue. Confirm delivery and set-up times with all of your vendors. Supply all items that you need to drop off, such as place cards, favors and cookies, when they are requested.
Step Twelve: Finally, Show up on your wedding day with a smile on your face, and a sunny disposition. If something happens that was not as you planned, deal with it after your wedding day is over. Do not allow a small hiccup to ruin your day. Enjoy your day, and the beginning of a lifetime of happiness together. And afterward, be sure to thank the Village that helped you plan this most beautiful day!