Bands Personalize the entertainment – give some script ideas to the band leader. Note funny and meaningful facts about your courtship and members of family or close friends – and ask for the band to squeeze these comments in between songs. Bar time Stop serving alcohol one-half hour to an hour before the end of the reception, to limit guests from drinking too much before driving home. If you have big drinkers in your crowd, try to plan accordingly, by offering end-of-the-night transportation, or having your reception at a hotel where your guests can rent rooms. Beauty Make sure you’re comfortable with the hair stylist you choose. Be sure to take along any veil or head pieces as well as a picture of the dress to give them an idea of what they are working with. Trial hair runs are a must! Bridal Shows Temporarily rent a PO Box for all of the wedding related material, including free drawings and giveaway information, to come to. After the wedding you simply cancel the PO Box. (GREAT idea to do with e-mail as well!) Cakes Add even more meaning to the cake moment by personally serving a piece to one another’s parents after you’ve fed each other. Your parents will be honored! Ceremony It is not written in stone that your wedding ceremony has to take place between ten and two. Think about having an evening wedding by doing the photos first and therefore not making your guests wait around for the shin dig to re-start between the ceremony and dinner. DJ’s DJ’s can switch up the music for cocktail time and reception. What mood do you want to create? Etiquette Flower girls and ring bearers should be between four and eight years of age. While a two-year old may be really cute, this tiny person is not predictable. Go for adorable, sentimental, and age appropriate. Flowers For a calm and earthy mood, create centerpieces using green plants. Match up fragrant, flowering herbs, such as basil and oregano, with variegated leaves and wild flowers. Gifts & Registry If you already have most of the everyday ware, think of registering at specialty stores – art galleries, hardware or luggage stores, or even travel agencies! Gowns As emotional as you are, don’t let sales persons or well-meaning family and friends talk you into a dress you have doubts about. Pay attention to the moment that you felt a tingle, a sparkle…the instant you saw the dress in the mirror Honeymoon Are you doing most of the wedding planning? How about putting your groom in charge of the honeymoon details? Lots of guys like to plan the honeymoon because this is where they get to be adventurous and romantic. Brides, give him a few “dreamy locations” and a couple of “absolutely-not’s,” and let him surprise you! Invitations Get creative with your invitations! Try box-style invitations with mini objects illustrating your theme inside or try wrapping your invitations in monogrammed paper. This will serve as the first impression, make it spectacular! Music Whether you hire a DJ or a band or burn your own music, choreograph your first dance and make sure it’s part of the play list. Personalized Ideas Consider making photo books with old photos of you and your friends. Spend some time thinking of all the things you’ve been through and give these cherished, personalized gifts to your maid of honor and best man. Photography Have supplies for a wedding scrap book on hand at your reception so your guests can take Polaroid’s AND create pages for your book on site. What fun for the guests to create and for you to enjoy afterwards! Pre-Wedding/Engagement A good test for a photographer is the engagement photo. Pay attention to the way he/she communicates and whether or not you are handled in a relaxed but professional manner. Is this person willing to work with you? Do you love the results? Is the customer service excellent? Don’t sign up for the package deal untilyou’ve seen the end result. Reception Create a memorable, take-home token for your guests and set up digital photo booths during the cocktail hour. Have the memory card processed at a nearby one-hour shop and present the guests with a framed photo. Transportation After booking your luxury limo for your wedding date, strategically plan out times, stop-off’s and routes. Consider transporting other guests if you have gaps in times or layovers. Videographer Entertain your guests with a brief, after-dinner creative flick that’s more than just snapshots of you and your honey in diapers. Arrange to have your videographer do tongue-in-cheek interviews with close friends and family. More Wedding Tips Bands Personalize the entertainment. Give some script ideas to the band leader. Note funny and meaningful facts about your courtship and members of family or close friends – and ask for the band to squeeze these comments in between songs. Having a theme or a destination wedding? How about unique music and dancers! Hula, salsa, disco, Irish folk dancers – get creative and make your reception awesome. “And the band played all night long.” Will the band play an extra hour if the party’s still going? Find this out ahead of time. Meet all the band members. Before the fun begins, make sure you know the all the musicians who will be playing at your wedding. Think of them as part of the guest-list and make sure their character represents your tastes. Read the fine print! Confirm that your band’s contract lists exact number of members and instruments, or by the time of your gig, you could be left with a solo performer. Go back to school? Consider hiring a few first-chair high school students to play violin during dinner. The success of your reception depends on music! Music makes a party; make your bash rock! Nothing gets the guests energized like great music. Hire the best band you can afford. Book the music that makes people want to dance. Beauty Put the right things in. For good skin and better body on your wedding day, your diet should focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein. Avoid fad diets because they are stressful to the body and can end up backfiring in the end. Put your best face forward. No facials the week before the wedding! Unless you’re a facial-getting regular, don’t get one just before the wedding. It can bring impurities to the surface and you don’t want to break out on your Big Day. Don’t make any major changes to your skin care routine the weeks before, for the same reason. Do a test run. Make sure you test out beauty products several times to make absolute sure that you’re not allergic! You wouldn’t want to find out that your new foundation gives you hives on your wedding day! Take a little step. Even if you never wear foundation, consider one for your wedding day simply to even out skin tone. Use a light formula followed by a translucent loose-powder. A touch of this, a touch of that. To get a luminous radiant glow on your special day, try mixing a cream blush with a touch of bronzer. All eye’s on you. When it comes to eyeliner, navy blue or bronze gives you depth without “closing up” your eyes like your basic black sometimes can. Try a powder shadow that doubles as a liner to keep it soft. Fake can be good. Fake lashes aren’t just for movie stars any more. Try adding a few individual fake lashes at the outer corners of your eyes to make them pop in your wedding photos! Relax. A relaxed bride is a beautiful bride. The rest will just fall in to place. Tanned beauty. If you decide to start tanning, start at least two months in advance so people are looking at you on your special day and not your sunburn! If you try the self-tanner, try it in advance, of course, and make sure you exfoliate every day for about a week before you start applying it. Raise your hand. Hands down, your appendages should look good, especially the one that is going to be wearing a new ring pretty soon. To keep hands soft put a rich moisturizer and cotton gloves on while you sleep. Picture perfect. Make sure you’re comfortable with the hair stylist you choose, and take along any veil or had pieces as well as a picture of the dress to give them an idea of what they are working with. Trial hair runs are a must Bridal Shows Heading out to a bridal show. Be sure you are comfortable from your shoes to your hair! (Especially your shoes – you’re going to be on your feet for quite a while). You don’t need to look like a beauty queen today: That comes later. Label it. You’ll find that you will be filling out SO many things that even your hands will become achy. To avoid this come prepared with labels that include your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and wedding date printed on them. This way you can easily enter the various giveaways and promotions and save a whole lot of time. Just for now. Temporarily rent a PO Box for all of the wedding related material, including free drawings and giveaway information, to come to. After the wedding you simply cancel the PO Box. (GREAT idea to do with e-mail as well!) Share the experience. Don’t go to a bridal show alone! Although your fiancé is probably the best one to bring along, a couple of friends or family will suffice. You need others’ objective opinions and perhaps some physical help carrying around the many things you will inevitably pick up. Fashion isn’t everything. If you already have all of the attire for the wedding picked out, you might want to skip the bridal show fashion presentation and visit vendor’s booths at that time. You’ll battle fewer crowds and you won’t start re-thinking anything. Fill your bag. Take all the brochures you can from the bridal show. You might not think you need information about bridesmaid and groomsmen gifts now but who knows, things have a way of creeping up on you. A picture says a thousand words. Bring your digital camera to bridal shows. There might not be too many things you can snap up, but you may be able to snap a photo! Ask first. I’m the bride! Wear a cute bride-to-be T-Shirt, hat, or sticker to the bridal shows. You will look cute and you WILL receive special attention from the vendors. Seriously, it works. Relax and take your time. There will be a lot for you to see at bridal shows. Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed or discouraged. These events tend to bring out more emotion than you may anticipate. Just take it all in and enjoy yourself. Cakes Let them eat cake…and more! Accompany the cake with alternatives such as cream puffs, tarts and/or chocolate dipped strawberries. This is a great way to please all the different sweet tooth’s at your wedding. Variety is the spice of life. If you decide on a basic tiered cake, use different flavors / fillings for each layer to appeal to more tastes. Serve double duty. Set one small cake at each guest table instead of a centerpiece. This is a unique and edible centerpiece for each table! (If children are invited this may not be the best choice) Presentation is everything. Are you on a tight budget? Have only the top layer of your cake real (the rest made of Styrofoam) and then serve a less expensive sheet cake. This way you can have a beautiful cake for presentation while keeping your costs down. A touch of history. Incorporate old photographs of the bride and groom and/or ancestors for a vintage-looking tablecloth for the cake table. Personalized tops. Make your cake topper unique to you by using figurines that show your personalities. Some companies will even specially make figurines in your likeness! Good luck. If you are superstitious, make sure that the bride is the first to cut into the wedding cake. The Romans believed it was an omen of happiness and good-fortune. His and hers. If you and your groom have very different tastes, try two small his-and-her cakes, the Bride’s cake being white and fancy and the grooms ‘tuxedo style’ in a black and white. The FUN cake. Let the groom show off his interest or hobbies by having a smaller “Groom’s cakes” If the groom has a passion for football, why not have a fun football shaped cake. Or perhaps he loves fishing, how about a whimsical fish-shaped cake. Have these surround the actual wedding cake. This can be fun and a great conversation piece. Sentimental touch. Add more meaning to the cake moment by personally serving a piece to one another’s parents after you’ve fed each other. Catering Budget wisely. Don’t forget that tax and gratuity can be a large chunk of your food and beverage costs, so make sure you’re including these in your budget. You certainly wouldn’t want to be surprised later! What’s for dinner? Generally, the time of day indicates to guests if they will be eating a meal. If you’ve decided not to serve a full meal at your reception, invite people for tea, 3-5 p.m.; cocktails, 5-7 p.m.; or dessert, 9 p.m. to midnight. And just to be clear, include this information on your invitations: “Please join us for tea [or cocktails, or champagne and cake, or light refreshments] following the ceremony.” Taste test tips. It’s easier to cook a great meal for two people than hundreds, so don’t rely on your taste testing alone – check some references as well. Try at least two items for each course so you’ll have an alternative if your first choice doesn’t work out. Delicious cocktails. “Open bar” is the most expensive option, offering guests anything they want to drink – soda, beer, wine or mixed drinks; a “limited bar” narrows the free choices down to whatever you’ve decided, such as soda and beer, or soda, beer and wine, with the option to buy mixed drinks if desired. A “cash bar” forces your guests to pay for any drink – yikes. Try to avoid the all “cash bar” route – this is, after all, a party that you invited them to as guests. Many couples have an open bar for cocktails before dinner, and a limited bar for the dance reception. This is perfectly appropriate, and is more budget-friendly than an open bar all night. Discuss your options, the prices, and your budget with your caterer. Bar time. Stop serving alcohol one-half hour to an hour before the end of the reception, to limit guests from drinking too much before driving home. If you have big drinkers in your crowd, try to plan accordingly, by offering end-of-the-night transportation, or having your reception at a hotel where your guests can rent rooms. Ceremony Start at the beginning. Make sure to choose the place of the ceremony BEFORE you choose your colors. You would think that nothing could clash with cirilian blue, but trust me you will find the walls of a banquet hall that will. Be realistic. If you plan a religious ceremony that calls for possible kneeling, you may want to opt out of the form fitting / mermaid dresses. Popular with guests. It is not written in stone that your wedding ceremony has to take place between ten and two. Think about having an evening/night wedding by doing the photos first and therefore not making your guests wait around for the shin dig to re-start between the ceremony and dinner. Themed weddings. Have a themed wedding –a specific time period, a country or sports team that the two of you love. Or even a costume theme! (Be aware that most guests will not want to dress up). Think about how much fun and interesting it would be to plan the event around the theme of your choice. Some of the most popular themes are winter, tropical, and garden. Your close connections. To include more people in the ceremony have them read a poem or prayer or sing a song at the ceremony. A special moment for Mom. If you and your mom are very close, think about asking her to be your “matron” of honor, or have both parents walk you down the aisle. Just don’t leave out Mom. Mistakes that turn into fond memories. Keep in mind that things will not go completely according to plan. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It gives the entire ceremony “personality” and will richen what will inevitably become the prologue to the story of your lifetime. Two by Two. No one said your bridesmaids and groomsmen have to match in height/and or age. Feel free to mix and match bridesmaids and groomsmen as you think they would feel most comfortable, and even feel free to throw in a loaner. Nice extra. During the ceremony, recognize important people by giving them flowers. Personal story. Ask the officiant to work in a story about your meeting or courtship into the ceremony. Fun and furry. Can’t find a ring bearer? Use the family pet! In the round. At the ceremony, arrange the chairs so that everyone surrounds you. DJ's Write it down. Put in writing other special occasions that might coincide with your wedding date, e.g. anniversaries or birthdays for guests that are attending. Ask DJ to plan some arrangements and special surprises. Set the mood. DJ’s can switch up the music for cocktail time and reception. What mood do you want to create? Well made plans. DJ’s have a lot more versatility than a band; but if you’re an electric slide couple and the DJ starts playing polkas at your reception…well, just narrow down the options ahead of time. Sketch out your music list and don’t leave it all in the hands of the DJ. Master of Ceremonies. Your DJ’s personality is as important as the music. Prepare for the meeting by having some important questions ready. Make sure that your DJ clicks with your style. Personalize! While-you-were-dating songs bring back special moments, include them on your play list. The perfect mix. Think about your own music tastes and mix it up with your guest’s ages. Put in writing any oldies or pop songs that are fair game and be sure to include songs you absolutely don’t want to hear. Worth the extra effort. The success of your reception depends on music! Music makes a party; make your bash rock! Nothing gets the guests energized like great music. Hire the best DJ you can afford. Book the music that makes people want to dance. Etiquette Just right. Flower girls and ring bearers should be between four and eight years of age. While a two-year old may be really cute, this tiny person is not predictable. Go for adorable, sentimental, and age appropriate. Planning to elope. If you elect to elope, don’t worry about offending anyone. Send out a photo postcard, along with a printed message that conveys the when and where you got married, and then ask for blessings from the recipients. Plan either an elaborate party or have an informal gathering to celebrate. Should or shouldn’t? Although bridal registries are a great time-saving system, it is offensive to include registry information with your wedding invitation. Leave that to the people planning your shower. The time is right. Although there is a rumor out there that the wedding couple has a year to send “thank-you cards” for gifts, most gift-givers would prefer not more than three month’s time before receiving an acknowledgement for their thoughtfulness. It matters. Yes, you are exhausted after the wedding, but don’t skimp on your thank-you’s by pre-printing a verse on a photo card. Your guests invested in your celebration by giving their time, money and thoughtful gifts to you; in return, you must be gracious and write a personalized thank-you note. It’s simple etiquette. Position of honor (and responsibility). Your maid or matron of honor and best man are in positions of esteem, but don’t assume that they know what is expected of their roles. Plan to have tactful conversations about the duties you expect them to perform and make it fun and meaningful. Find articles that cover this information rather than verbal instructions. Set the right tone. Consider the tone of your voice when dealing with family members who are helping out. Relationships last longer than the day of your wedding and the words you use will either create a foundation of kindness and thankfulness, or will set up resentment. Time Management. If your wedding is earlier in the day and there is a long period of time until the reception, don’t feel that it’s necessary to entertain everyone. Plan activities for your bridal party and don’t worry about the other guests; they will find something fun or relaxing to do. It adds up. Be careful with monetary expectations for your bridal party. Offering to pay for portions of the showers is a good-will gesture. What really matters? Acknowledging your guests and personally greeting them is more important than having an over-the-top event. Make every effort to show gracious attention to everyone you invite. If the numbers appear too much, cut back. Kind works and deeds. Don’t be rude to anyone – whether vendors, service people or your bridal party and friends. You will set the tone for a graceful and loving wedding if you mind your manners. You must set the example. Last Resort. Think twice about inviting people to just the reception and not the dinner. They will most certainly find out and the hurt feelings aren’t worth the savings. Fool Proof Plan. Track those gifts and thank you notes. It’s so important to have a fool-proof system to record gifts received and thank you notes sent. With a flood of gifts coming in, and so many notes to write, if you rely solely on memory you’ll become quickly overwhelmed. Thoughts of “did we send Aunt Velma a thank you note yet?” can haunt you. Flowers Flowers by the season. Florists are able to order a wide-variety of flowers no matter what the season; however, be prepared to pay for this service if the flowers you have your heart set on are only grown in Holland at certain times of the year. Sensitivity. Ask people in the bridal party if they have any allergies to certain flowers before placing the order. Personalize if you can. Contemporary designs are personalized with blossoms that express the inner you! Whether you choose a freeform bouquet or a small nosegay, choose blooms with your favorite colors and scents. Express yourself. Don’t limit your bouquets to traditional flowers; use your imagination and consider adding small branches of wild flowers that add bits of color and a touch of simpleness. Mix it up. Don’t try to match the flowers with the dresses. Consider contrasting the color theme with varying shades or a dramatically different array of flora, to set off a vibrant stream of positive energy for the day. A party event. Make your reception centerpieces the theme of a bridesmaid’s party. Ask everyone to bring a small crystal bowl, mirror and pillar candle the color of the dresses. Your nose knows. For a calm and earthy mood, create centerpieces using green plants. Match up fragrant, flowering herbs, such as basil and oregano, with variegated leaves and wild flowers. Memories that last. Your bridal bouquet and small mementos can be preserved and made into a decorative piece for your wall or table. Using chemical techniques, the flowers are sealed inside a glass or wooden container. Look into your preservation options prior to the wedding. Keep it fresh. Garden-grown flowers are especially meaningful and give the wedding a fresh feeling. Collaborate the growing season with your florist and don’t try to make the arrangements alone. Coordinate the timing and possible sources long before your wedding date; arrange to have plants grown in a greenhouse. The case for baskets. Think about using colorful, lush hanging baskets for your reception to give it a fun and flourishing feeling. Consult a nursery grower and accept with vibrantly colored ribbons. Afterwards, you can hang the baskets around your new home! Head for the tropics. Floating orchids, water lilies, or roses in small crystal bowls creates a tropical and romantic atmosphere. Use the same flowers in the bouquets and large centerpieces. Stretch your budget. Lengthen your floral budget by asking your florist to use long feathers, branches wrapped with ribbons, and holiday sparklers in the arrangements. Gowns Your mirror image. As emotional as you are, don’t let sales persons or well-meaning family and friends talk you into a dress you have doubts about. Pay attention to the moment that you felt a tingle, a sparkle…the instant you saw the dress in the mirror. Check your dress. Consider dry cleaning/alteration costs when buying off-the-rack gowns. Look the gown over with a fine toothed eye for detail, and when trying it on, sit-down and move around a lot to make sure there are no rips or buttons missing. Church Rules. Before ordering a siren-sexy dress, check with your church to make sure that there are no dress code restrictions. Be a fashion diva! Plan to attend bridal fashion shows – make a list of where, when and which bridal salons will be there. Be trendy. Spend lots of time at the local library browsing through bridal magazines and on-line websites. Get a feel for what the latest trends are. Call manufacturers direct, ask lots of questions, and get to know when seasonal gowns are special-orders or last year’s merchandise. Be an early bird. Start dress-shopping at least nine months prior to your wedding. It takes time for the manufacturer to make your dress, for fittings and alterations. Don’t procrastinate on this very important item. Change is good. If you want a sleeveless gown, but a dress with sleeves fits perfectly, remember that it can be altered. Be contract savvy. Only shop at reputable bridal stores and ask questions about anything in the contract that you don’t understand. Draw a line through things that you don’t agree with, write in options that protect your investment, and make sure that everything you agreed upon is in writing. Go to great lengths. Wedding dresses run small and short. Plan on paying for alterations and know the time it takes to get them done. Also remember, a long dress can always be shortened, but a short dress cannot be lengthened. Budget accordingly. Establish a budget when dress shopping, but be prepared to spend a little more. Remember that just because it’s a great price doesn’t mean it’s a great dress for you. And don’t forget to bring along a pad of paper and track styles, dress names and numbers. Honeymoon Honeymoon surprises. Lots of guys like to plan the honeymoon because this is where they get to be adventurous and romantic. Brides, give him a few “dreamy locations” and a couple of “absolutely-not’s,” and let him surprise you! Grand illusions. Overwhelmed and exhausted with wedding planning? Arrange for a relaxing pre-honeymoon and don’t over extend your illusions for an elaborate, adventurous getaway. Consider staying at a posh, spa hotel within two-hours from home for the first few days, and then, after you’ve come down from the clouds, leave for your big, dreamy trip Charge it! If traveling overseas on your honeymoon, use your credit card for every reservation or purchase. You will receive discounts, have a better exchange rate, and will have an itemized monthly list of transactions. A yearly tradition. Think about a honeymoon that becomes an annual event. Make this a location that has meaning for you and combines a getaway with mutual interests. Think about whether you want exotic beaches or a place with bike-trails. Consider the ease of transportation and consider whether you will be able to swing a once-a-year return trip. Make your honeymoon into a meaningful tradition – something you can look forward to year-after-year. Put it off. Consider taking an easy three-day trip right after your wedding, but plan for a more extensive honeymoon six months later, or on your one-year anniversary. You’ll be more relaxed. Get out of town! Destination weddings are the big trend. This combines wedding/reception and honeymoon all in one package. Remember to ask your bridal party and family members what their budget is before booking your date. Set sail. Cruise ships are a big craze in wedding planning. You can have your wedding in the on-board chapel, hire the ship’s wedding planner, have your gala in one of their party rooms, and then sneak away for a few day trips alone! Your friends and family will share the vacation fun and talk about wedding memories for years to come! Plan ahead. Coordinating an overseas honeymoon requires long-range planning. Get a passport at least ninety-days prior to date of departure; plan shots if visiting a third-world country; and consider learning the language if different from yours. Travel plans. When working with a travel agent, confirm all honeymoon arrangements a month prior to your wedding, and again, one-week ahead. Get an itinerary in writing and have a back-up plan in case of inclement weather. Invitations Out with the old. When trying to trim down the guest list, think of it as throwing away old clothes, if you haven’t seen a friend in over two years even though they live twenty minutes away, don’t feel obligated to invite them. (In closet terms, it’s going to good will!) Guest relations. Don’t feel that it’s necessary to invite your single friends “and guest”. You can actually, drop the “and guest.” It cuts down the list AND could provide some entertainment on the dance floor. The right stuff. Don’t underestimate the time it will take to stuff and address envelopes. Set aside a day to do this by making a “bridesmaid get together” out of it. On the A-list. Have an A-List and B-List of people you want to invite. Send out the A-list eight to ten weeks in advance and use the B-list as alternatives for those from the A-list that decline. Oops! Mistakes happen. Be sure to order plenty of extra envelopes in case of mistakes. Especially if addressing them is accompanied with a “bridesmaid get-together” – (Perhaps limit the champagne). Let them know. As soon as you set the date send out “save the date” cards or better yet magnets so it is harder for your close friends to misplace. Make an impression. Try box-style invitations with mini objects illustrating your theme inside or try wrapping your invitations in monogrammed paper. This will serve as the first impression, make it spectacular! Don’t quote me. Pick a special quote or song lyric that relates to either your relationship or the theme of the wedding to add to the invitations. By the numbers. Put a secret number on the back of each response card that corresponds with your guest list, written lightly in pencil…in case they forget to write their name. This does happen more often than you would think! Return to sender. Remember to have your return address on the invitations and replies!! Think about having this pre-printed on the envelope. The extra cost could end up saving you from a huge headache or possible family drama at a time where stress levels are probably already pretty high. Signed, sealed, delivered. Know your postage. Once you have a completed invitation available, take it to the post office and get it weighed, so that you’re absolutely positive of the postage required on your invites. And don’t forget that square invites require more postage because the automated machines can’t read them – they don’t know which way is up. Personalized Ideas Wrap them in luxury. A really plush gift idea for your bridal party – have monogrammed robes made. Quote your parents. Your parents will most likely invest some of their life-savings in your big day. Acknowledge their generosity with a personalized gift in return. Find an eloquent quote about parenting or the relationships between fathers/mothers, sons/daughters, and have it engraved on a special plague. Rock on! Polished stones carry special meaning. Find a local boutique that sells “love rocks,” and give one to each of your guests. Photo opportunity. Consider making photo books with old photos of you and your friends. Spend some time thinking of all the things you’ve been through and give these cherished, personalized gifts to your maid of honor and best man. Picture your friends. When making a video that will be shown at the wedding, include photos of family and friends – not just of the bride and groom. Your guests will be pleased that you thought of them. The write stuff. The thank-you cards are more meaningful than your invitation! Yes – by acknowledging guests with hand-written, personalized notes, you are saying that it mattered that they came to your wedding and/or sent a gift. Spend more time on this end of things and the time invested will return with gracious measure. Refresh your guests. If you have out-of-town guests who are staying at nearby hotels, acknowledge them by arranging to have a refreshment package, along with a personalized note from you, in their room! Welcome wagon. Wedding sheets are an extravagant keepsake. When approached by family or a close friend, ask them to consider this as a meaningful gift, and ask them to have a set of luxurious sheets monogrammed or embroidered with your initials. Dance the night away. If your mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandfather, friend, et al, said something insightful, write it down. As an extra special and meaningful touch, pull together a small book of personalized quotes and give this to them on your big day. Bubble heads. Use the buddy system for out-of-town guests. Try to assign a friendly, outgoing family member or close friend to any out-of-town guests, to act as their ‘ambassador’ for the wedding weekend. The ambassadors can greet guests at the airport, take them to the hotel, and suggest things to do. This makes out-of-towners feel welcome. Photography A formal affair. Have a photographer who is willing to have a little set-up for somewhat formal pictures for your guests. (A small backdrop, stool, light, and camera stand should suffice.) Check it out. When looking for a photographer ask them to see pictures from one complete wedding rather than his of her “best of” collection. Trust your instincts. Your photographer will, in fact, become your third wheel so make sure you “click” with and are comfortable enough with them to get you in some unusual aspects. Also make sure that you have complete trust in your photographer. If you don’t have that trust you could spend the entire day giving orders. Share a booth. Think about renting a photo-booth for your friends and family to have fun and leave you with fond memories of your guests enjoying and sharing in your day. Call the shots. Ask someone specifically in advance to play photographer at different occasions leading up to the wedding including the fittings, showers, and rehearsal dinner. Picture this. Have your guests sign a photo mat with silver pens so that you can frame your wedding photos and remember who was there. Go digital. Ask close friends and family to use their own digital cameras to take some informal pictures that your photographer will be sure to miss. You can easily upload these to your wedding website for all to enjoy! Try before you buy. A good test for a photographer is the engagement photo. Pay attention to the way he/she communicates and whether or not you are handled in a relaxed but professional manner. Is this person willing to work with you? Do you love the results? Is the customer service excellent? Don’t sign up for the package deal until you’ve seen the end result Get crafty! Have supplies for a wedding scrap-book on hand at your reception so your guests can take Polaroid’s AND create pages for your book on site. What fun for the guests to create and for you to enjoy afterwards! Pre-Wedding Engagement Long range planning. Consider your engagement as the beginning of your lifelong commitment; it’s the perfect time to create a healthy foundation for your marriage. As you plan your wedding, focus on your financial future by sharing dreams, savings, and debt issues, and start making a joint plan. Magnetic personality. For weddings that fall around holidays such as New Year’s Eve, to reinforce the date, create personalized, magnetic save-this-date cards, and send them out at least six month’s in advance. Get professional help. If you’re a disorganized bride, the stress will show at every turn. Use the pre-wedding time to organize and weed-out conflicts, clutter, and emotions. Enlist expert help to support you by hiring a financial advisor, wedding planner, organizational consultant and personal trainer. The extra time and money invested will result in a successful wedding and good-to-go marriage. Choose your friends wisely. Once the engagement is announced, choose the bridal party carefully. Yes, it’s an emotional time, but use logic when you make important decisions. Consider: emotions, personalities, dependability, affordability, and your relationship with him/her. Once you make the offer, you can’t take it back, so use your best judgment. Group Discounts. Host your engagement party at a restaurant that caters to celebrations and ask whether they might give you a discount on catering, etc., if you also book your shower or rehearsal dinner with them at the same time. Make arrangements. Don’t put off discussing premarital agreements – get it out-of-the-way, right away. Yes, it’s awkward, but it’s part of our culture. If you try to slide the issue on the table a month before the wedding, you’re not only asking for disaster, but it might not hold up in a court of law because it can be considered an agreement made under pressure. Don’t stress out. WEL-COME – “Wedding Essentials List: Communicate/Compromise, Organize, Manage and Exercise.” During the engagement period, work on these everyday. You’ll reduce your stress during the hectic and emotional months ahead. Gain strength. Use the engagement time wisely. Pre-marriage counseling is meant to weed out potential problems and strengthen your communications. Get organized. Right after the engagement is announced, create a wedding binder with plastic sleeves. Any items or documents you find can be organized immediately. Tell the world! Make your engagement public by placing a formal announcement and black and white photo in local newspapers, alumni and professional publications. Before sending in your written spec. sheet (parents of bride and groom, career information, etc.), have someone proof it for accuracy, and put your names and phone number on the back of the photo. Most often, this is a free public service. Get help. The pre-wedding phase is crucial planning time. Make a list of things you want to delegate and create a support system from the start. A reflection of you. What’s your wedding style? After you’re engaged and before you’re knee-deep in wedding planning, take some time with your sweetie and discuss your unique wedding vision. Maybe it isn’t the large, formal, Saturday evening affair. Or, maybe it is. Either way, it should ultimately reflect the two of you. Get licensed! The most critical part of the wedding: the marriage license. Without it, you can’t get married. Call the office in your county that handles marriage licenses, and get all of the important details, such as when you need to apply, how much it costs, and what types of payment are accepted. Do this far in advance of the wedding! Get the proper coverage. Is your ring insured? As soon as bring your engagement ring home, make sure that you your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy is updated to offer adequate protection in the event of a loss or theft. Take the time needed to learn the details of the coverage – what is and is not covered, etc. Party girl. Be a happy bachelorette. Be clear and articulate with your bridesmaids about the type of bachelorette party you would like to have. You don’t have to dictate the details, but if you want an intimate gathering of friends to talk’ and they’re planning a ‘wild night at strip clubs’ you may feel a wee bit disappointed, not to mention uncomfortable. Reception Don’t drink and drive. After the vows, it’s time to mingle with guests, so plan a classy cocktail hour. Let your warm mood sizzle with a classical guitar and steamy Latin music. Cocktails anyone? Mirrors and candles will reflect your loving mood, so place them throughout the reception hall. A mirror image. For a sensuous pause before a high-energy party, have a small jazz quartet set the tone with a wine and micro-beer tasting, served with cheese selections. Make it special. Make a limited bar interesting by offering your favorite wines and micro-brews. Mix it up with a few specialty drinks that are uniquely named just for your wedding. Be budget conscious. Rather than a pricey, all-night, open bar, give your guests generous options that aren’t budget-breakers. Serve specially priced, locally made wine and beer and a ready-made cocktail made with premium vodka. Custom accents. Do your homework before you collaborate with your caterer. Research case prices and ask if you can have a special occasion wedding label put on each bottle of wine or beer. Perfect paintings. For an ideal dining experience, pair the perfect vintage with each course offered. Your guests will notice this special touch. Be professional. You’ll need one bartender for every 100 guests. Hire experienced professionals who are able to tactfully refuse service to over-indulged or under-aged guests. Pop the cork! Be sure that your caterer allows you to bring in wine with personalized wedding labels and ask if there is a cork fee. Safety first. Plan safe travel ideas for guests and offer late-night snacks about an hour before the reception is scheduled to end. Set up the service and someone to make an announcement. Caffeinate responsibly. A late-night coffee/tea service has become popular and guests will appreciate this thoughtful gesture prior to their drive home. Smart snacking. Set up a special table with festive favors along with canapés or veggie pizzas for the guests to snack on throughout the evening. Mimosas anyone? Combine the chicness of champagne with a cocktail edge by serving mimosas, a drink composed of three parts champagne and two parts thoroughly chilled orange, peach or pear juice (orange is most common), served in tall champagne flutes. (Also cuts down on the number of bottles of champagne needed, and therefore costs). Registry Mix it up! Don’t worry about matching your tableware exactly. It’s actually stylish to mix several patterns in the same place setting to personalize your table. Time it rights. The key is timing. Make sure to register BEFORE the first bridal celebration but not early enough that some of your items may become discontinued. Take it slow. You know not to go to the grocery store hungry, so don’t register for everything in one day, writing down every cute thing you think you think you need. Instead take your time and consider all your options before completing. Think outside the box. If you already have most of the everyday ware, think of registering at specialty stores – art galleries, hardware or luggage stores, or even travel agencies! Let them know. Although it is usually considered impolite to ask guests to buy gifts at certain locations, putting your registry information on your wedding website is perfectly acceptable and in this day and age, probably one of the most effective and polite ways to aim people in the right direction. Theme tie-ins. The individual throwing your shower can certainly make it “themed” based. If you and your hubby to be are going on a tropical honeymoon, the shower and gifts can be based around this theme. Or perhaps you really need kitchen items, why not a kitchen based shower. For more shower ideas, view our registry page for more information. Tell them what you want. Word of mouth. No matter what, people are going to ask for your closest friends and family’s input into what would be best to get you, so just make sure they are well-informed. Transportation Go mobile. If you want a “gang’s all here!” type of mood for your wedding party, consider renting a Winnebago. As you move from home to church to photo-ops to the reception, it has all the amenities: space, seating, refrigerator, restroom, and room to stretch out and relax. It could even serve as a mobile hotel room if needed! A novel idea. Are you a Rolls Royce couple or a trolley twosome? Think about novelty transportation and what type of mood you want to convey on your special day. Fit for a princess. Make a grand entrance at your reception and look like royalty – arrive in a horse-drawn carriage! Ride the shuttle. Sometimes the hotel where your reception is at will provide a shuttle-service to and from the picture setting. Be sure to check what’s available and ask if there is a cost involved. Map it out. Think about the route you will take as you travel from church to reception, and consider possible delays or detours. Discuss these issues with all members of your bridal party ahead of time and print out maps for each driver. Test the waters. Take a test drive in the automobile or limousine you want to cruise in on your big day. Transport your guests. If out-of-town guests will be staying at outlying hotels, arrange for shuttle service to the reception and have the optional transportation times noted on a card that is waiting for them at the front-desk. Make a plan. After booking your luxury limo for your wedding date, strategically plan out times, stop-off’s and routes. Consider transporting other guests if you have gaps in times or layovers Plan ahead. Need a limo? Know the busy seasons! If your wedding is around the holidays or prom time, be sure to book your transportation well in advance, five to six months before the Big Day. Videographer That’s entertainment! Entertain your guests with a brief, after-dinner creative flick that’s more than just snapshots of you and your honey in diapers. Arrange to have your videographer do tongue-in-cheek interviews with close friends and family. Comic relief. Ask your videographer to add some humor by incorporating a “Blooper” section at the end of the video. You CAN take it with you. Ask the videographer to make ready an unedited copy of the wedding/reception CD/DVD by the time they leave the reception.You can relive the day right away and patiently wait for the edited version. Have a backup plan. Equipment failure is always a possibility – have an extra camcorder and battery on hand, and enlist a willing and knowledgeable close friend to help out if needed. Silent movies. Your videographer should have state-of-the-art equipment, but should also have gracious manners. Hire only a professional who answers your questions courteously and will be able to convey a non-intrusive approach with your wedding guests. Get everyone in on the action! Capture your wedding day from different perspectives. Hire a professional videographer, but arrange to have four or five different people shoot brief scenes throughout the day with other non-professional video equipment. You’ll be able to see everything you might have missed! What’s your style? Do you want a documentary and play-by-play video of your big day, or do you envision a romantic or charmed? Ask to see videographer’s demo tapes and think about a combination of the two. A work of art. By digitally enhancing your wedding photos, your videographer can create enchanting movies. Think about incorporating other unique scenes and make your wedding video a work of art. Book ’em now. The best videographers are booked solid; so as soon as you have your wedding date, arrange for meetings, portfolio reviews, samples, and get the contract in writing at least six month’s prior. Get a recommendation. Videography can make your big day last forever. Don’t ask Uncle Joe to take home videos, but instead, ask for expert recommendations from local photography shops and studios. Keep it raw. Capture your day on video. If your budget is tight, consider hiring a good videographer to get quality ‘raw footage’ of your day. You can always go back later to create an edited summary set to music, but you can’t ever go back to your wedding day!