Anna wears many hats: writer, mother, crafter. Over the years, she has found what works and what doesn't for herself and her family.
Why Did I Ever Do It?
A great number of years ago, I got engaged. I was the happiest woman alive. I had great hopes for my wedding day, and wanted everything to be absolutely perfect. What bride doesn't? Well, want in one hand, and you-know-what in the other.
We didn't have a lot of money, so we decided to do almost everything on our own. And when I mean we, I mean me and my mother. My fiancé wasn't around much to help, wasn't a lot of help when he was around, and didn't have much to say when I asked for his input. Maybe I should have taken all that as a bad sign...but, then, hindsight is 20/20. He pretty much stuck to picking out the tuxes and hiring the DJ, aka his friend.
The Best Pieces of Advice I Can Give
There are so many things to think about. So many things to do, and there never seems to be enough time to do it all. A site for the ceremony, someone to perform it, music, reception halls, flowers...it never seems to end. It makes a person dizzy, just thinking about it all. What do you really need to remember? What can you not forget? It may seem like every detail has to be exactly perfect, but if it isn't, will anyone except for you really know the difference? I am not going to go into the little details that you may, or may not want, to think about when planning your wedding. I am going to cover pretty basic things, and give some advice and tips based on my own experiences with weddings. Some of these things I had never really thought about during the planning of my own wedding.
Out of everything involved in the planning of a wedding, this is the single most important issue. When do you want your wedding? Do you want a summer wedding? A spring wedding? This is the most important thing to think about. After you have decided around what time of the year that you want your wedding, you have a lot of other things to think about. A lot of reception sites can be booked solid for two years in advance before they have an opening. This is especially true if you want a summer wedding. June through August is wedding season. Everything is harder to book for a summer wedding, and usually costs a bit more. If you are cutting costs, think about maybe a fall or winter wedding instead. Weekends present the same issue. A wedding on a Saturday usually ends up costing more than a Friday wedding. Many places offer discounts for Friday weddings over Saturday weddings. If you are dead set on a summer wedding, make sure you have enough time to get everything done that you need to do, and that you have options available to you. Is there one place you really want to have the ceremony? Call and see what is available. You may end up having to wait a year or more to get that desired location. You have so many things to book, and they all have to fall on the same day. That means a lot of phone calls and a lot of rearranging of schedules. You are going to need a lot of time to get all of this done! You have to book an officiant, a ceremony site, a reception site, potentially a caterer, photographer, videographer, baker, and a DJ or band, and they all have to have the same day available. That takes a lot of work, and a lot of time.
Give yourself plenty of time to do all this, while still allowing for some time that isn't wrapped around wedding plans. Wedding planning burnout does happen! I know firsthand! I only had seven months to plan my wedding, and with doing everything myself, it was all I ever thought about. I had dreams and nightmares about wedding cakes, flower girls, you name it! Make sure you take some time for yourself. Do something that has absolutely nothing to do with the wedding planning.
2. The Dress
Everything starts with the dress. The moment that engagement ring is on your finger, you start to picture that perfect wedding dress. Strapless? A train? Bead-work? Simple and elegant, or bold and daring? Take your time. There are thousands upon thousands of dresses out there, and you are only one person. Browse catalogs, tear the pages out with the dresses you like the best. Try on dress after dress after dress. Take pictures, if they let you (A lot of places won't let you take pictures!!! As terrible as that sounds, it's true!)
Bring someone with you while you shop for a dress. Make sure it's someone you trust, someone you know will be honest, and someone who doesn't mind hours of boredom as you go through the difficult maneuvers of trying on all those dresses. Pick something you love, but also remember, you will be in that dress for hours!!! Make sure you are comfortable and you can breath. While it may make an amusing YouTube video, no one wants to pass out from lack of oxygen on their wedding day. Obviously, white is traditional for brides on their wedding day, but if you have a wilder, more vibrant personality, throw in a little color. A lot of dresses offer little touches of color that give it a personality all its own.
My mother is an amazing seamstress, so we made my wedding dress. She handled the sewing machine, and I handled all the hand sewing work. Hours and hours of tedious labor, but it was worth it. I had a one of a kind dress that meant so much more to me than any dress I could have bought in a store. So, if you have a relative who has quite a talent behind a sewing machine, that could be an option for you. Fabric stores offer a wide variety of wedding dress patterns, special occasion fabric, lace, and everything you would need to make a one of a kind wedding dress, and it costs a lot less!!!
Just remember, this day is about you, so the dress should reflect who you are, so make sure it is exactly the one you want. Your mother may be dead-set on you wearing the dress she wore when she married your father, but if it isn't you, consider having it altered, so that it's a bit more updated, and more your style.
Red Is a Non-Traditional Choice
Where Is Everyone Going to Sit?
This may not end up being a big issue for most people, but on several occasions, I have known it to be a HUGE issue. Is there enough room for everyone?
That quaint, little, romantic wedding chapel may be just the perfect setting for your wedding, but will it hold everyone you want to invite? Is it fair to tell some of your family that they can't come to the ceremony because there just isn't enough room? Do you feel comfortable doing it? That's up to you. It is something you have to think about.
Take my sister's wedding, for example. She chose to get married at a little chapel on a gorgeous estate, but it only held like 80 people. She had invited about twice that. There were people standing here and there in the back, some had to stand outside, hoping that they could see and hear what was going on.
Then there's the reception. Seating charts and name cards may not always be necessary, but I have found that in today's society, with divorce being ever more common, it becomes more and more necessary. Do you really want your parents sitting next to each other, or anywhere near each other, for that matter, when they haven't gotten along in twenty years? Uncle Bill can't stand Uncle Mike. Does it make sense to have them at the same table? Sometimes, a lot of problems and arguments can be averted by creating a well thought out seating chart. Work with the reception site, ask about the number of tables that will be in place, and try to keep everything fair. Everyone wants to sit up close to the bride and groom, but that simply isn't possible. Did an aunt or a good friend do something special to help with your wedding? Maybe they should be rewarded with a seat closer to the head table. Fill in those gaps at tables with those people you know will be attending solo.
When making a seating chart, draw up a basic floor plan of the reception hall, placing the tables where they will be going, and label the tables with a number system. Instead of writing everyone's name right on the floor plan, write them on little pieces of paper and arrange them around the tables. That way, you can move people from table to table, if you decide to make changes, or someone calls last minute and says they aren't going to make it. It is much easier than erasing names, and writing them in again. Or look into computer programs offered by websites like TheKnot.com. I believe they provide guides and information on seating charts.
Flowers Add the Finishing Touch
What is a wedding without flowers? Whether you go for simple and elegant, or you prefer a garden of flowers at your wedding, flowers are important. Choosing a florist can be difficult. Talk to friends and family. Talk to people you know that have gotten married recently. They can give you insight into their experience. Did they like the florist they chose? Did they offer a discount or special prices on seasonal flowers? Flowers are expensive! It seems like the price automatically gets raised when you tell them that the flowers are for a wedding or a funeral.
Find a florist that will deliver the flowers the day of the ceremony, that way the flowers are as fresh as possible. Check references. Like I said, talk to people you know. Just because a florist is offering you a bargain, doesn't always mean that it ends up being a bargain in the end. I have heard of florists making substitutions on the flowers, even after a specific order was placed. The substitute cheaper flowers for the same rate as the more expensive ones that were originally chosen. If you want pink roses, make sure you are going to get pink roses.
My mother and I ended up doing the wedding flowers ourselves. We did the bouquets, the vases for the church, and everything. We practically bought out the flower stands at the local grocery stores, farmer's markets, and such. We spent maybe $100 on flowers. We used all fresh flowers. We used silk flowers for the toss bouquet, and for the scattering petals for the flower girl. I got the flowers I wanted, and I saved a fortune. Granted, it was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun. For a simple, elegant bridal bouquet, you could end up spending very little money and have a very professional result. If you do decide to do the flowers yourself, make sure you do not tell the florist that these are for a wedding!! Ask for a bunch of the flowers you pick out, in a loose arrangement (usually wrapped in plastic or paper). This way, you can arrange them yourself the way you want them, and they are none the wiser. If you have them do the arranging, it will end up costing a bit more.
The Wedding Party
5. The Wedding Party
Do you have five sisters/brothers that are all expected to be in your wedding? Do you have a bunch of 'best friends' that assume they are going to be your best man/maid of honor? Deciding who makes the cut can be difficult. Don't let the feelings of others influence your decision, after all, it is YOUR wedding, not theirs. Did your sister recently get married, and you weren't even in the wedding party? Maybe you two aren't as close with each other than one of your other sisters, or maybe, your best friend.
You may want to have six bridesmaids just to keep everyone happy, but do you and the groom have six men you can call on to fill the groomsmen roles? There are expenses associated with being a bridesmaid/groomsman. Can your brother afford that tux rental? Can your BFF shell out the money for that bridesmaid dress? You may want them in your wedding, but if they can't afford it, that leaves you with two options; either you help them with the cost of everything or you ask someone else. Unfortunately, cost is a factor when making these decisions. If you have a friend you know can't afford to buy her bridesmaids dress, but you absolutely HAVE to have her in your wedding, you may have to absorb some of that cost, or talk to the other bridesmaids and see if they might be willing to pitch in a little, even a few bucks is better than nothing. The same thing applies to the flower girl and ring bearer. The parent's of the children filling these roles are responsible for any costs associated with their role in the wedding. Make sure that they are aware of this, and ask if they can take that on.
When selecting bridesmaid dresses, think about the people you are going to have in your wedding party. Pick dresses that are similar in style to your dress. Find dresses that offer different looks in the same style, to accommodate each person's tastes and body types. You may want everyone in strapless dresses, but your sister may not feel comfortable wearing a strapless gown. The dresses should all be the same color (or in the same color family), and same basic style, but offer choices. The flower girl dresses should complement the bride, and coordinate with the wedding colors.
The tuxes are an easier task. Select simple tuxes or suits with colors that compliment the color scheme of the wedding. Basic black, white or dark grey are the best options for the tux color, and the ties, vests and such should be in one of the colors of the wedding. Make sure that the groom stands out from the groomsmen. This can be done with either a different color of tux, or different color of tie or vest. For example, you could have the groomsmen in grey tuxes with a colored vest and tie, while the groom is in black with the same color of vest and tie. Just make sure the groom isn't mistaken for the best man. The ring bearer should be dressed similar to the groomsmen, or in a style that compliments the wedding colors and theme.
Money Can't Buy You Love
Everything in a wedding costs money! EVERYTHING!! The only thing that doesn't cost money is the love that you share with the person you are marrying. If the wedding industry could find a way to charge you for that, I am sure they would. Generally, it is customary for the parents of the bride to pay for a majority of the wedding, while the family of the groom pays for the rehearsal dinner and, occasionally, the alcohol or flowers. That all depends on traditions. There are different traditions for different religions and cultures. These days, those 'rules' are a little looser.
Many couples pay for their own weddings, or the bride's family, or groom's family, foots the entire bill. This is the part where math is involved! I know, it's scary!! I hate math. Find out what everyone is able to contribute financially. You may want that grand wedding, with a reception at that really fancy reception hall, but it just might not be in the budget, or maybe you need to take some time to save up a little more of the green stuff. Save the loans for buying that first house!
Plan ahead! Buy those things that aren't going to go bad way ahead of time. Thank you cards, little boxes or bags for favors, and place cards can be bought early on and stashed away. Buying things over time can ease some of the financial burden. Doing things on your own can help cut costs, as well. I got lucky! My mom is a great seamstress, so we worked together and made all the dresses for the wedding, we made the cake (that was an interesting experience! I have learned that I hate fondant!), I bought a kit and printed my own invitations, did the flowers, and made all the favors myself. There are a lot of books on do-it-yourself weddings. Get crafty! It will save a ton of cash, and give you a wedding that is one-of-a-kind, personal and special! Pinterest is also a great resource if you are planning on doing a lot of the work yourself.
Just remember, even if your parents are paying for the wedding, there are still expenses that you have to remember. Those include gifts for the wedding party, getting your hair and nails done, undergarments (yes, they are important), and other miscellaneous costs.
Figure out how much everyone is able to contribute, and set a budget. This way, you can keep on track. If your budget is small, consider doing some things yourself, or asking friends and family for help. You may have a family member who can sew, a crafty family member who can help with a lot of different things, or even a friend who makes amazing cakes. Offer to pay them for their help, even if they end up refusing you, it is always a good idea to offer to pay them something.
Wedding Party Gifts
No, I'm not talking about the mountain of gifts you will get on your wedding day, and then spend the next day opening, contemplating what you are going to keep, what you are going to return, and what Aunt Beth was thinking when she picked that weird goose-shaped vase out. No. I am talking about gifts for your wedding party. A special thank you to everyone who helped make your special day that much more special.
Don't forget to get gifts for the parents of the bride and groom. They had a big hand in making this day special, and it is a great idea to get them each a little something.
I know, that means spending more money! I told you everything costs money! Weddings are expensive! What do you get them? This all depends on who your bridal party is, what they like, the theme of your wedding, and a whole host of other factors. Gifts need to be nice, but not overly expensive, unless you can afford it.
I had a lot of trouble with what to get for the wedding party. I had no idea what to get anyone. I decided on the customary jewelry for my bridesmaids and the flower girl. I got my two bridesmaids matching earring and necklace sets. My flower girl got a necklace that matched the bridesmaids. I also chose to include a personal gift for each of them. I made each of them something special. This can be a nice touch. It can be anything, a lovely picture frame, a small jewelry box, or anything personal that you know they would like.
I let my fiancé handle the groomsmen and ring bearer gifts. He chose to go with engraved flasks and a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant for the groomsmen. I made a special teddy bear bank for the ring bearer, and we also gave him a gift card to a toy store. Whatever you decide to give as wedding party gifts, make sure they reflect who each person really is. Don't give a non-drinker a flask. Instead, maybe a coffee cup, or personalized golf balls, or golf tees. If they are in your wedding party, one can assume you know them pretty well. It shouldn't be too hard to find something special that really says thank you in the best way.
Like flowers, a wedding just wouldn't be right without music. From the start of the ceremony to the last dance of the night, music fills the air all throughout the day. Don't stress over it too much, though. I spent hour after hour listening to every piece of classical music that I could to try to find the 'perfect' songs for my ceremony. The church I got married in did not allow the traditional wedding march. Don't ask me why. I asked, but after all these years, I don't really remember. Something about who wrote it, or the intention of the song, or some other silly-ness. Maybe I will research it one day, and really find out. (Great, another idea for a hub...I only have about a dozen floating around in my head right now!)
Anyway, back to the business at hand. Music. If you know of a song that you particularly love, use that! Many churches provide organists for the ceremony. Even if you aren't getting married in a church, make an appointment to meet with the organist from your church. They can help you by offering a variety of often used wedding music for you to choose from. It is a lot easier than spending hours on the Internet, listening to piece after piece of classical music, until all you hear in your sleep is Bach and Beethoven. It can make your search that much smoother.
A funny story from my own wedding. It haunts me, but no one else even noticed. The day before the wedding, we had our rehearsal, but the organist failed to show. The day of the wedding came, and she was there, but I didn't know the cue for my entrance. She hadn't been there to work that out. The wedding party made their way up the aisle, and I waited. I waited until they were all the way to the front of the church, and then my father led me down the aisle. We had started too soon. We were apparently supposed to wait. She was still on the first piece of music. No one except my father and I even noticed, or if they did, no one ever said a thing.
The reception presents another musical challenge. What to play? Well, there are the basics that need to be covered; the much anticipated 'first dance', the father-daughter/mother-son dance, the wedding party dance, and so on. If you and your fiancé have a song, go with that. Even if the song is something silly, non-traditional first dance music...so what??? Your wedding is about you, not about what everyone expects you to do.
The rest of the music should be a good mix of fun, upbeat party songs, a few romantic slow songs, and whatever you really want to hear. If you absolutely MUST hear Ice, Ice Baby at your wedding, then add it to the playlist. Most DJ's will provide you with some form of paperwork to fill out, so that all the music you want played will be played. Think about your guests. If there will be children there, or people who are easily offended, maybe you should avoid that 2LiveCrew song that you love so much. Work with your DJ, or band, to create a playlist for the evening. Most DJ's worth their salt will have done a number of weddings, and will know what they are doing, and will know how to read a crowd. If you tell the DJ that you love country, but hate rap, he will be sure to follow in line with your tastes.
Again, when booking a DJ or band, ask for references, get a sample playlist, and sit and talk with them about what you want and what you expect. DJ's often offer various packages, with differing costs, to cater to your wants. If you want an interactive DJ who engages the guests, and makes your wedding reception a real party, some will offer that, usually at a higher cost. If you want a more low-key affair, a basic package is probably your best bet. As I said, a DJ will often have a sheet for you to fill out with the songs you want for various dances, names for introductions, and a place for you to include your tastes, and certain songs you would like to hear.
Wedding Music Tips
- Wedding Ceremony Music
A list of some great selections of wedding ceremony music. Videos and ideas for wedding ceremony music.
- Wedding Reception Music
A collection of suggestions for wedding reception music. A list of song selections for specific dances at the wedding reception; including videos.
Do NOT Forget to Get Some Rest
I cannot stress this one enough. Weddings are exhausting! During the whole process of planning your wedding, make sure to take some time out for yourself, and make sure you get plenty of rest! Not only will you enjoy your wedding that much more, you will look all the better for having taken good care of yourself.
If wedding this, and wedding that is driving you nuts, take the day off. Go do something fun and relaxing. Cool off a bit. Go get that massage you have been wanting so badly, and get some of those wedding-induced stress knots out of your muscles. Spend some time with your friends or family, and DO NOT talk wedding stuff. This goes along with the issue of time. If you give yourself enough time to plan your wedding, you will have the opportunity to take some time off from all the planning. I was up for the entire two days before my wedding. I looked like hell (in my own opinion), and after it was all over, I fell asleep the second I got to the hotel room. It was a sad wedding night, to say the least.
Weddings are stressful. If you take care of yourself, get plenty of rest, and take time away from all the wedding planning, it will be easier to deal with it all. Take a break, get your head out of the wedding catalogues and magazines, crawl out from under that pile of satin and lace, and do something else. Go see a movie in the middle of the day with a friend you haven't talked to since all the craziness started. Spend the day in the bathtub with a steamy romance novel. Go shoot hoops with your best buddies. Catch a football game at a local sports bar. RELAX!!!
10. Have Fun
Weddings are supposed to be fun!!! You aren't supposed to walk out of the reception hall, get into that beer can and shaving creme decorated car, drive away and think, "Thank goodness that's over!" Truth is, that's exactly what I did! I barely got to enjoy my own wedding! Between stressing out about the fact that I forgot to grab the bubbles from my house (I remembered during the ceremony. I was kneeling before the pastor, and said "Oh, sh*t." out loud during my wedding when I remembered), to arguing with the reception hall because they forgot the candelabras and the champagne, and being dragged around by my photographer for one picture after another, I never got to enjoy my own wedding. I took it all too seriously.
Have fun!! Things are going to go wrong. More often than not, you are the only one who will even notice! Don't worry about it! Get over it and have a good time! Dance, drink, visit with your guests, and make amazing memories that will last a lifetime. Don't sweat the small stuff. Make your wedding memorable for all the fun you had, not for all the stress you endured. Take a dance class so you can dazzle your guests with a fun dance number, take silly photos along with the serious ones, poke a little fun at yourselves, and really have a good time. This is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, not something you were glad you survived. Be silly, be creative, be daring, but most of all, be yourself.
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on May 16, 2012:
Dale-- Yes. You. Need. to. pay. for. a. WEDDING. dress. Not sure about the strange punctuation. LOL!!
Dale on May 12, 2012:
Like. To pay. For. A. Webbing dress
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on April 30, 2012:
Ian-- Obviously, you have never tried to plan a wedding.
Ian on April 22, 2012:
This Article is LAME..... Live a little, if i followed this i would go out of my mind.
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on September 29, 2011:
Crazychic-- I understand. Most girls start planning, or at least thinking about what their wedding will be like years before they even get close to getting married. I remember being young and thinking about what my wedding would be like. I am glad you found this useful.
Crazychic on September 29, 2011:
I'm only 15, but i found this article totally helpful. I know I'm planning a wedding at such a young age , but you have to be ready for whatever the world throws at you. When i get married i hope that this article will be even more of a help later like it is now. This was truly and absolutely an outstanding article. Thank you so much for the advice ;) P.s. im not really getting married now. I just wanted to let you know because my comment at the beginning made it seem like it.
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on July 05, 2011:
Nike-- You are welcome..
events-- Budget is a tricky thing...I agree. That is always the hardest part.
Pinkchic-- There really are...not sure I want to go through all that again...Thanks for reading!
Sarah Carlsley from Minnesota on July 05, 2011:
There are sooo many things to do and think about when you're planning a wedding. Great tips here!
eventsyoudesign from Nashville, Tennessee on March 23, 2011:
Good hub. You were lucky that you could do most of the work yourself. It is an arduous process. I plan events, but I would not take it upon myself to create a wedding cake as I am not too good at the decorating of cakes. The hardest part is staying within the confines of your budget. I enjoyed reading your hub. Thanks for sharing. Teresa
Nike Air Max Shoes on March 02, 2011:
admin-- Thank you!
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on September 27, 2010:
flowergyrl-- Thank you!
flowergyrl from Northern Ontario on September 27, 2010:
What a detailed hub! Thanks for all the great info and effort you put into this hub!
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on September 21, 2010:
boons7 on September 20, 2010:
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on September 19, 2009:
michelle-- Thank you!!!!
michelle.dragon99 on September 08, 2009:
Hie Anna, great advice!
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on September 06, 2009:
Maddi-- Best of luck to you and your friend as you plan your dream weddings!! I think I did a lot of that when I was that age!! Have fun, and thanks for stopping by!!
Maddi on August 27, 2009:
Hey. thanx. me and my friends are planning our DreamWedding!
We are only 12 but we have wild ideas. we have been finding great new ideas ALL over. I found this page to be one of the best so far!!
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on August 23, 2009:
magnoliazz-- Thank you!! I have thought about it, but I know what I was like during the planning of my wedding, and could not imagine dealing with that from someone else. LOL!
magnoliazz from Wisconsin on August 23, 2009:
WOW, what an informative hub, you could be a wedding planner, you simply think of everything!
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on June 18, 2009:
Elvina-- Thank you so much!!! I am glad that you have found this guide useful!!! Best wishes for your wedding and marriage!!!
Elvina on June 17, 2009:
Congratulation Ana, your guide is very useful. i found all these elements very important for a beautiful and unforgetable wedding day. Next month i wil get married and i followed your guide.
i want to thank you for helping the people, especially brides who always dream their wedding as a uniqe one. best regards
Pregnancy Advice on June 08, 2009:
Wedding supposed to be fun. The videos shows and I agree with that... Just don't forget to have someone to married to...
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on April 21, 2009:
anicheri-- Your hub sounds like a great idea!! A great way to figure out all the insane number of details. I will stop by!!!
anicheri from Illinois on April 21, 2009:
I am planning my wedding and started a hub for it. I've asked people to vote on what they like best and I add a new element each week. judging by your hub I think you could help me a lot. right now it is bridesmaids dresses and is soon to be changed to bouquets. I would greatly appreciate it if you could stop by and take a look as well as vote on the dress and my page.
lots of love--nina
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on February 26, 2009:
Thank you!!! I thought they were fun! A friend's wedding inspired me to add those. She had a lot of fun dancing at her reception!!
mamacoots from Louisiana on February 26, 2009:
Another great hub to pass along to my sister. I LOVED the dance videos! How fun!!!!
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on October 08, 2008:
Thanks, Ryan!! I hope a lot of people get the chance to read it, as well!
Ryan Hupfer from San Francisco, CA on September 14, 2008:
Anna, you've really out done yourself with this Hub...this is an awesome guide to weddings that I hope many, many people get to read. Thanks for answering the request and keep up the great Hubbing!
Anna Marie Bowman (author) from Florida on September 14, 2008:
Thanks! It took me forever to finish it, though. Sick of weddings all over again! LOL!
KT pdx from Vancouver, WA, USA on September 14, 2008: