Comprehensive Guide to Wedding Planning

One of the most memorable days of your life is the day you get married. Whether you choose to elope or have a civil or religious ceremony, it is a day you will remember. The following is a comprehensive list of the details you may want to and in some cases need to consider while planning your own wedding.

Preplanning
Go out and buy yourself a wedding organizer. There are several available at places like Barnes and Noble. This will be a lifesaver. Visit wedding websites such as theknot.com where you can meet and chat with other brides. There is even a local board where you can talk to other brides in your area and find out who they are using and who to avoid for vendors. BUDGET! BUDGET! BUDGET! You must have an idea of how much you can spend before you set out to look for venues or gowns.

The Date and Venue
Nothing can be decided before a date is chosen. You may pick a date that is sentimental or you may opt to choose simply a month or time of year and see what the venue you choose has to offer. The best venues tend to book at least a year in advance so get out and start looking now. Create a rudimentary guest list so that you know the venue you choose can accommodate your guests. Some venues also require a minimum number of guests. Make sure your venue has nice spots for picture taking since this will be a day you want to look back on. Most sites now offer the availability of having your ceremony onsite as well. If you are having a civil ceremony then this is a great, convenient option.

The Ceremony
If your ceremony is at a different location than your reception, you must coordinate the day and time with the ceremony site. Make sure to book your ceremony site in advance as well and be prepared to pay to have the ceremony site decorated.

The Wedding Consultant
The wedding consultant can be anyone from a paid professional to a friend or family member. The job of a wedding consultant is to help with the details and planning of the wedding. They will generally set up meetings, handle deposits and make sure everything runs smoothly the day of the wedding. A wedding consultant is not necessary. If you are extremely busy then this may be a good option. Many venues will offer a consultant for the day of the wedding.

The Food and Drink
Most venues provide their own menu, but some venues only supply a place and so a caterer and bartender must be brought in. When choosing food, make sure it is representative of the style of wedding you are having. The wedding food usually consists of hors d’oeuvres, appetizer, main course, and dessert. Specialty stations can be brought in to provide additional courses such as a pasta course. It is up to the bride and groom whether to offer only a single dinner or to offer a choice to their guests. Offering a choice can become more expensive and also requires more work. There should also be a vegetarian option and a children’s meal if there will be children at the wedding. You must also decide what to offer as far as the bar is concerned. Traditionally, an open bar is the standard, however in some areas, such as the northeast, a cash bar is standard. The bride and groom need to decide what beverages will be offered. A lot of weddings will have water, soda, wine, champagne, and beer available. Some weddings are

Photographer/Videographer
A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video lets you hear those words. The wedding day is often a time when families have family portraits taken, so it is important to find a good photographer. Plus, you want to remember this day as beautiful as it is. While most photographers are going digital now, there are still photographers who shoot in medium format. Medium format pictures are the best way to go. Some photographers force you to purchase your prints through them, however there are some companies who will sell you the negatives. This is a cost saver. Some people feel they don’t need a videographer. I was one of those brides. The night before my wedding, my future in-laws presented my husband with a video camera and we were lucky to have a friend who could use it somewhat skillfully. I am very grateful to have the video although I wish it were professional. The videographer can capture moments that a photographer just can’t.

Music
Musicians and DJ’s book up fast if they are any good so make sure you jump on this right away. Most bands will set up so you can see them play or invite you to a gig they already have. DJ’s generally provide videos of past jobs. There are so many options available here. If you are getting married outside, don’t forget about music for the ceremony as well. You will need to choose certain music for throughout the day. Make sure that you choose ceremony music for the bridal party to walk into plus music for the bride to walk in to. Then there is the song to walk in to the reception as husband and wife. There are also songs for your first dance, bridal party dance, mother/son and father/daughter dance, cake cutting song, and final dance song. These songs will forever remind you of your special day.

Save the Date Cards
Save the date cards alert your guests well in advance of your wedding day so that they have the opportunity to plan other things around your wedding date.

The Bridal Party
The bridal party should consist of close friends and family. Generally there is a maid/matron of honor, any number of bridesmaids, flower girl, best man, groomsmen, and ring bearer. It is the responsibility of the bridal party to pay for their own wedding attire. Make sure to ask them well in advance so they have the opportunity to save for this expense. The maid/matron of honor generally plans the bachelorette party and bridal shower. The best man plans the bachelor party. The bride often chooses the attire and color for the bridal party. This is difficult since people look good in different styles and you don’t want your bridal party to be uncomfortable. A good idea is to choose a specific color and let your party choose their own dress, or take your party to the bridal shop and try on dresses until you can all make a united decision. The groomsmen and ring bearer generally all wear the same suit. Make sure you coordinate shoes as well. Some brides go so far as to coordinate jewelry and hairstyle as well.

The Registry
There are so many occasions for gift giving when someone gets married. Sometimes there is an engagement party. Then there is the bridal shower and the wedding itself. The concept of the registry used to be that you were setting up your first home together and would need the essentials. Now, many couples have lived alone on their own, or together as a couple already. The registry can be for any number of things. Register for items you need in your home or items you want to upgrade. This is a great time to register for crystal or china if you want them. Another option is to set up a registry at a travel agency so that guests can contribute to your honeymoon.

The Honeymoon
Tradition dictates that the groom plans, books, and pays for the honeymoon. This isn’t the case today where women want to have more of a say in where they will spend their honeymoon. There are so many possibilities for destinations that it can be overwhelming. Start looking early. After the wedding you will need a place to relax.

The Florist
The florist plays a big part in your wedding day. You will need flowers for the ceremony site and the reception site. Centerpieces for the tables are a big expense but worth it. Also, there is your bouquet, bouquets for the bridesmaids and maid of honor, and flowers for the flower girl. You will also need boutonnieres for the groom, groomsmen and ring bearer. This is also a way to honor your parents and special guests. Provide corsages for the women and boutonnieres for the men.

The Wedding Gown
Ask any bride and she will tell you that she knew instantly when she tried on “the one.” Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a lot of time finding the right dress. First and foremost, buy a few bridal magazines and rip out pages with dresses you love. Then head on out to the bridal shop, show them what you are looking for and let the fun begin. Make sure you take objective people with you. Often, the bridal shop only carries smaller sizes in most styles of dresses, so if you are a bigger woman, then the selection may be limited. However, the other dresses can probably be ordered in your size. Make sure you are comfortable in your dress because you will be wearing it for hours. Also, make sure you buy undergarments and crinoline if you need it. Don’t forget shoes. How could a woman forget shoes? Make sure your shoes are comfortable. Many brides are opting to wear sneakers under their dress. Another good idea is the ballet slipper.

The Wedding Invitation
Purchase your invitations early! It can take awhile to have the invitations printed and then if you are using a calligrapher it will take time to get those back as well. The invitations are important because it gives your guests the first look into your wedding. A simple, elegant invitation gives the impression that the wedding will be simple and elegant, so choose your invitations accordingly. The invitation gives the important details such as date, time, and location. Also, make sure to include an RSVP card. If you are allowing the guest to choose their meal then make sure that is listed on the RSVP as well. It is appropriate to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of the RSVP card. When you send out the invitations, take at least one to the post office and have it weighed. The invitation may weigh more than standard mail and will cost more than a single stamp. Also enclosed with the wedding invitation should be directions to ceremony and reception as well as a nearby hotel for out of town guests.

The Cake
The wedding cake is a symbol of your devotion. There are so many options available for cakes. Search the internet for designs and bring those designs with you to tastings. Each bakery will also have their own portfolio of designs. The number of guests you expect to be at the wedding generally determines the size of the cake. The number of slices the cake will provide determines the cost of the cake. Traditionally, wedding cakes include fresh flowers as part of the decoration. When choosing a bakery, make sure to schedule a tasting. The bakery will set up samples of their different cakes and fillings. They will not be able to provide every available option but you will be able to get the idea of the quality of the cake. This is one of the best parts of wedding planning.

The Favor
The wedding favor is generally a small token for each guest as a thank you for attending the wedding. Often times this is something that the b ride and groom make or put together themselves. The traditional favor is Jordan almonds. Other options include personalized candles, cd, or any other number of small token gifts. Another popular option is making a donation to a charity in the name of your guests.

The Wedding Bands
The wedding band is the symbol of your marriage. The exchange of the rings is the highlight of the ceremony. There are so many options available for wedding bands. There is any number of metals, with gold, white gold, and platinum being the most common. The rings can be created with any number of precious stones or be kept simple. Ultimately, they should reflect your personal style. It is also customary to have the wedding bands engraved. Make sure to do this early so that the bands are back before the wedding. On the day of the wedding, the rings will be held by the maid of honor and the best man prior to them being exchanged.

The Transportation
The transportation can range from traditional to outrageous to just plain fun. The transportation will transport you to the ceremony and reception and to wherever you go to after the wedding. Traditionally, a limousine is the transportation of choice. Brides and grooms can customize the transportation to fit their personal style. Perhaps they will use a Rolls Royce, a horse drawn carriage, a classic car, or a motorcycle. The transportation generally carries the bride, bridal party, and the bride’s parents to the ceremony. The bride and groom will take it to the reception. It is important to make sure the company is reliable and that all the times are coordinated.

The Marriage License
The marriage license is required prior to the wedding taking place. Check state laws for the requirements. There will be a fee.

The Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner
The rehearsal is generally held the night before the wedding. The rehearsal is a time for all members of the party and the officiant to run through the wedding. This way everyone knows what to expect, where to enter, and where to stand throughout the ceremony. After the rehearsal, there is usually a rehearsal dinner. The groom’s parents usually pay for the rehearsal dinner. The rehearsal dinner should include the bridal party, bride and groom’s parents, other close family members, and sometimes out of town guests. This is also the time when gifts should be given out to the bridal party and parents for all their help and hard work.

Planning a wedding is a gigantic task. This is the day you will remember forever and it is important that you have it just the way you want it. Follow this guide and you will have at least the basics taken care of. Have a beautiful day!

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