Kid-Friendly Wedding Ideas

If you and your fiancé do not have children, the decision whether or not to have kids attend your wedding can be a delicate one. It’s best to be clear on the save-the-dates or actual invites if children are invited or not.  Addressing the envelope to the whole family, for example, The Smith Family, versus addressing it to Mr. and Mrs. Smith helps clear up some confusion and is the most polite and subtle way to approach the issue.  Since today’s blog is about those who do wish for kids to take part in the festivities I will leave out the best ways to say “No Children Please” and continue on to how to make kids a sweet and fun addition to your celebration!

If you don’t want restless children at your event you will need to provide some entertainment options for them.  Here are 3 helpful trends I have been seeing:

  1. Ceremonies
    Unfortunately, during the time the children are expected to sit still and be quiet is when they seem to experience the most restlessness.  Ask your caterer to make the kid’s small individual bags of popcorn, or something similar, to keep them occupied during this time.
  1. Kid’s Meal Options
     Don’t be afraid to ask your caterer for kid’s meals. Young children don’t typically like the adult food served at receptions and a group of cranky, hungry little ones is the opposite of what you want. Most caterers are happy to provide a kid’s buffet or boxed meal option, this can even save you a couple bucks!
  1. The Tot’s Table
    If the children are old enough to be at their own table (think kindergarten and up), a Kids Only Table is the best way to keep them entertained throughout dinner and can be really fun. Don’t shy away from asking one of your closest mommy or daddy friends to help you get creative with this and even help you decorate it on the big day. Close friends, for the most part, like to be involved in the wedding planning in some shape or form so now is your chance to make them feel included, it’s a win-win!
    Some ideas for the kids table include bubbles, glow sticks, crayons, coloring books, and play dough.  The Crayola website, along with quite of few other free websites, provides downloadable coloring printables. I have even seen wedding themed coloring printables at receptions before. Don’t forget snacks and possibly juice boxes.  Centerpieces should be interactive, so swap that floral arrangement for pinwheels for example.  Stay away from glitter, paint, or confetti to avoid any venue restrictions and possible clean up fees if it gets all over.  Also, be sure to put signage on the kid’s area so parents can easily find it.

In the end, parents will also bring the items needed to help entertain their children so don’t feel too much pressure. However, providing a few kid-friendly options definitely doesn’t hurt. If all else fails, hire a babysitter to watch the children in the Kids Only Space at your wedding. This is an especially good option if your venue has a space that can be used as a kid’s lounge.  I hope these kid-friendly wedding ideas come in handy, happy wedding planning!

Wedding Food 101: Plated vs. Buffet

Choosing what style food service you want at your wedding reception is no easy task, there are a lot of different factors that play a part in this decision.

Choosing what style food service you want at your wedding reception is no easy task, there are a lot of different factors that play a part in this decision.  Plated and buffet style events are both very popular for weddings, it all depends on your preference and the style of your big day.  Knowing a little bit more about each type of food service will help you discover which type is right for you, this is why I have decided to provide you with a list of pros and cons for both a plated meal style event and a buffet style event. I hope this breakdown of the two will help make your decision easier and allow you to find which option best suits your needs!

Buffet Style Reception:
Buffets are great for more casual events because they promote more mingling and interaction among guests.  If you are looking to keep your costs low, buffets are a great choice. They do not require servers to serve your guests which will save you money on catering staff, and you are also able to provide a larger variety of food options.  If you choose a buffet style meal, your guests will serve themselves from food stations set up on long tables. While guests serving themselves will save you money on staffing costs it may cause a line to form and take a while for everyone to get their food.  Some guests will take a bit longer to finish their meal depending on when they get back from the food line so if you are on a tight schedule for doing dances, toasts, etc. this may not be the right option for you.   Buffets require a bit more food since people tend to eat more when serving themselves, it is also a small possibility you may run out of some items because there is no exact amount that each guest may take.

Plated Style Reception:
Plated meals are the most traditional and formal option for events, they usually consist of three to four courses that are served while your guests remain seated. Having your guests served while being seated is a lot less chaotic, there will be no lines and everyone will be served at the same time.  An advantage of doing this type of meal service is that you can spread out activities such as dances and toasts in-between courses to keep guests engaged and maintain a nice energy throughout the event.  Another nice aspect of having a plated style meal is that you do not have to worry about running out of food since each guest is being served the same set amount, one thing to keep in mind, though, is the extra cost of servers required for this style.  Also, be aware that having a plated dinner will require a bit more planning and organization on your end.  You will need to send out response cards so your guests can select their meal preference, you will also need to have escort cards and place cards so the servers know which dish each guest ordered.

Both options have positive and negative aspects to them, but your guests will have a great time either way! If you are more relaxed, want to encourage your guests to mingle and not on a strict schedule, a buffet style might be best for you.  If you are a planner and like to keep things very organized and traditional, a plated style reception is what you should go for.  At the end of the day, it really just depends on what style you like best and what your budget allows.  Happy Wedding Planning!

Brunch Weddings: Why and How-To

Brunch weddings are a differentiating spring and summer trend that is starting to take off as couples tie the knot early in the day then get to the celebrating!

If you are a morning person, or just love brunch, I have good news for you!  There are many perks to a late morning/early afternoon wedding. Brunch weddings are a differentiating spring and summer trend that is starting to take off as couples tie the knot early in the day then get to the celebrating!

One of the perks of a brunch wedding is that it can actually save you a few bucks on venue fees, especially if you opt for a Sunday morning date as opposed to the premium Saturday rates. Another perk is the sun, daylight is a photographer’s dream and can make for some magical pictures. Late morning weddings are also very versatile in the sense that they can be made as dressy or casual as you would like. Most importantly in my book, of course, is the food and menu options. Brunch is great because breakfast and lunch foods are typically easier to please all the many palates of your weddings guests. Below are some wedding brunch menu ideas to get you started:

Hors D’oeuvres: Just because its early doesn’t mean you should skip the appetizers!  Most of your guests won’t have eaten anything yet that day and will be looking forward to anything you have to offer. Think mini quiches, donut skewers, bacon “lollipops”, french toast sticks, and shrimp cocktail shooters.

Breads and Pastries: Your morning meal would not be complete without breakfast breads. This can be something neat like a Biscuit Bar with jams, jellies, honey and gravy or maybe a Bagel Bar with all kinds of spreads from sweet to savory which can also include traditional salmon lox. Even an alluring display of mini muffins, breakfast breads, and pastries can turn out very impressive to both the eye and stomach.

Main Course: For your main dishes you can do anything from a sit-down breakfast or buffet to more casual and very fun stations. Examples of some delicious Brunch Stations are Waffle Bars or Chicken and Waffles, Made-to-Order Omelet Stations, Carvings Stations, and Cereal or Yogurt and Granola Bars.

Bar: One of the most exciting parts of a morning wedding is the brunch style drinks! Think Bellini as your signature cocktail and keep the mimosas flowing, both are breakfast beverage staples.  Bloody Marys are another must have, or hey maybe even a Bloody Mary Station to allow your guests to really get into it. Coffee Bars are also very well received at brunch events, which is no surprise.  Most guests will probably consider coffee a necessity, so make sure they are able to get their morning caffeine fix at your wedding!

Favors: To end the reception you can incorporate your breakfast theme into your favors as well. This could be coffee mugs, chocolate covered coffee beans, coffee grounds, bloody mary mix, mini vodka and OJ’s or mini champagne and OJ’s.

So there you have it, your how-to guide for a brunch wedding!  Feel free to make your brunch event as casual or as dressy as you would like.  Incorporating games and puzzles is something else that is very popular during a morning affair, as well as, wedding décor involving morning papers and mason jars or jazzing it up with charming tea-style themes. The party doesn’t have to stop there, the best part about an early wedding is that it provides the opportunity for great after party events surrounded by friends and family.   A morning wedding means more hours of celebration and who wouldn’t love that?!  Just remember, no matter what hour of the day you choose, happy wedding planning!

4 Details You Need to Know Before Meeting Wedding Caterers

Wedding planning can be made into a bigger beast than it needs to be, but if you come prepared to vendor meetings it will tame things quite a bit.

Wedding planning can be made into a bigger beast than it needs to be, but if you come prepared to vendor meetings it will tame things quite a bit.  Vendors don’t expect you to walk into the meeting knowing the ins and outs of the wedding world … that’s their job! However, in order to successfully find the right vendors for your big day, you do need to know what you want to a certain extent. Here are four key things you need to know, or at least have some idea of before starting your search for the perfect wedding caterer:

  1. Your Budget
    This topic always feels so taboo to couples which is why I bring it up first.  Your budget really dictates what can be made possible.  There is nothing wrong with saying your budget, it actually helps in many ways and makes planning much easier. Stating your desired budget helps your prospective caterer choose the best menu for you. Don’t fixate on whether your budget is too high or low for what you want.  Tell your caterer what you want and what you are willing to pay for it. If your budget truly is unrealistic, caterers will help bring you to reality.  There isn’t a caterer out there that could pull off serving surf and turf for $8 per person.  However, if you are willing to work with the caterer and be open-minded to their suggestions, you may be able to get closer to your ideal wedding menu without completely hurting your wallet. Trust the pros! Tell them what you want. Be honest and open, and they will do the same.
  2. Your Desired Theme/Style
    Whether you want traditional or quirky, you need to have an idea of which road you want to take. Some caterers specialize in very elegant, traditional plated meals while others are known for breaking the mold. Then, of course, there are the caterers in the middle who do a little bit of everything. It’s not a matter of talent, but your preference.  Knowing earlier on what type of meal you want to have at your wedding helps save you time and stress. Choosing your vendors is like dating all over again, you find the one you click with, and the rest is history.
  3. Guest Count
    By no means do you need a final headcount before meeting with caterers, but having an idea of how many guests will be attending will help your prospective caterer choose menus that are more realistic for you. This goes side by side with your budget like we just talked about above, 250 people versus 50 people can mean a completely different menu for your desired budget. If you really don’t have any idea how many guests you plan on having, you need to step back and sort that out first.
  4. Event Hours
    This detail gets overlooked a lot, but it affects your caterer just as much as the menu or rentals. Most caterers include an hourly rate for their staff, so you need to have an idea of how long you want your event to be. If you already have your venue booked, this should be an easy answer. If you are still looking for your venue, just having an idea of the type of event you want is enough for your prospective caterer. Some couples choose to only have a light cocktail reception that wraps up within two hours while others want a six-hour reception. You don’t need to know your exact event start and end time, you just need to know what kind of event you have in mind.

So there you have it, the 4 details of your wedding that you should know the answer to before starting your search for the perfect caterer.  The more information you can provide your prospective caterer with, the better off you will be and the more they will be able to help you.  Planning your special day is never anything short of stressful, embrace the help when it is available and allow your caterer to make your ideas work the best they can.  You will be surprised at what is possible when you let down your wedding planning guard a little and leave some aspects to the pros.  Happy wedding planning!

4 Unique Wedding Cake Alternatives

We all know a tiered wedding cake is the traditional dessert and often a focal point at any wedding, but these days more couples are opting for something a little bit more distinctive. Here are 4 unique ways to satisfy your sweet tooth on your big day!

We all know a tiered wedding cake is the traditional dessert and often a focal point at any wedding, but these days more couples are opting for something a little bit more distinctive. Here are 4 unique ways to satisfy your sweet tooth on your big day!

  1. Donuts
    Donuts will be the next big thing in wedding desserts, taking cupcakes place as the runner-up to cake. They are easily customizable, you can decorate them to be plain or ornate.  Donuts also give you the ability to create tons of different flavor options for your guests, allowing you to be able to please everyone with the variety of options. Serve these babies up with cold milk or hot coffee and they are sure to be a hit!
  2. Pie Buffet
    Having a pie buffet at your reception will give it a hint of nostalgia and a variety your guests will love. This option can also be very budget friendly if you have family members or friends who are expert pie makers. Pair this up with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and you’re set!
  3. Ice Cream Sundae Bar
    Who doesn’t love ice cream?! A make-your-own sundae bar will win over guests of all ages. With so many options you can even cater to those who have special dietary restrictions by offering ice cream made with coconut milk or non-dairy sorbets. You can also add a personal touch by creating custom flavors to really impress your guests. Add some sprinkles, nuts, chocolate sauce and caramel for your guests to customize their sundae and you are sure to have a winning dessert bar!
  4. Fresh Fruit & Cheese
    Fruit and cheese are such an elegant pairing of deliciousness! You can create beautiful displays by playing up the different shapes and colors of the fruits. An assortment of cheeses will provide your guests with a savory snack while the fruit will satisfy their sweet tooth without any of the guilt. You can also add a chocolate fountain to dip the fruit in for a little indulgence and because, well, who doesn’t love a chocolate fountain?!

There you have it, 4 wedding cake alternatives sure to please any guest.  Don’t be afraid to shy away from the traditional aspects of things when planning your wedding, it might make your special day even more special when you do!  As always, happy wedding planning.

Refreshing Spring Wedding Ideas

Spring is upon us and with the change in weather, we are seeing couples opt for some less formal options, as well as, lighter menu selections to add to the big day.

Spring is upon us and with the change in weather, we are seeing couples opt for some less formal options, as well as, lighter menu selections to add to the big day.  Below are some fresh and cool ideas for the warmer months of 2016:

Grown up Popsicles:
“Poptails”, or frozen cocktails are a playful idea for the spring or summer and the options are endless. These can go with your wedding theme or be a take on your favorite cocktail. Great with champagne or prosecco, examples include champagne and raspberry, margarita, wine soaked, bourbon peach and many more. Also, feel free to leave out the alcohol in some for a kid-friendly version!

Mix and Matched Décor:
From stemware to plates to chairs not everything has to match anymore. If you are going for a slightly more casual and lively look, this is a new trend in the wedding world. You can also apply the same concept to bridesmaid dresses and color palates. Don’t be afraid to get eclectic!

Fruit and Veggie Bar:
This is a great cocktail hour idea for a lighter fare. For the veggies, this is all about the dips, be sure to have a few different dip options! To change up the traditional veggie and fruit display idea, you could offer individual veggie cups with dip or yogurt and fruit parfaits.

Dessert Shooters:
For a late night snack or appealing display, these are a standout dessert option. Wedding cake is often left untouched, but mini desserts seem to fly off the tray! Some ideas include Strawberry Shortcake, Key Lime, Lemon Meringue, Boston  Crème Pie, Banana Cream, and Lemon Cheesecake

Low-Key Ceremonies:
If you are a more private couple, you can choose to keep your wedding ceremony simple. I am seeing this more and more with couples who want to get to the celebrating while still having a meaningful intimate moment with one another. Another way to keep things relaxed is by offering pre-ceremony cocktails because, well, it’s never a bad time for a cocktail!

Spring weddings are great and super enjoyable.  Not only is the weather beautiful, but this time of year allows for a lot of fun food and drink options.  Whether you want a low-key wedding or to go above and beyond, these ideas can help make your special day complete.  Happy wedding planning!

4 Must Have Spring Wedding Cocktails

There are so many ways to tie a spring theme to your wedding beyond just your bouquet. I compiled a few of my favorite floral inspired drink recipes for you to try.

Who doesn’t love a spring wedding? Everyone will be looking forward to the great weather and beautiful blooms on your special day, but there’s no reason to stop there!  There are so many ways to tie a spring theme to your wedding beyond just your bouquet.  I compiled a few of my favorite floral inspired drink recipes for you to try. Looks like this spring will be a gin-lovers dream!

Lemon and Lavender Collins
2oz gin
1oz lavender simple syrup
1oz lemon juice
Seltzer Water
Sprig of lavender or lemon wheel for garnish

Lavender Simple Syrup Recipe
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1 Tbsp Lavender Extract

Part 1 – Making the Lavender Simple Syrup
– In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the water and sugar
– Stir to combine, then bring to a boil
– When all of the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes
– Turn the heat off, add in the Lavender Extract, stir
– Allow to cool completely before using
Part 2 – Mixology
– In a cocktail glass, add in a good handful of ice followed by the gin, lavender simple syrup, and lemon juice.
– Stir, then top off with seltzer water.
– Garnish with a sprig of lavender or thinly sliced lemon wheel and enjoy!

Cardamom Rose Cocktail
1.5oz of Hendrick’s gin (this is a rose & cucumber infused gin)
.75oz of Rose syrup
.25oz of Fresh lemon juice
.75oz of Fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
2 dashes of Peychauds bitters
1 Cardamom Pod

Rose Syrup Recipe
2.5 cups water
4 cups sugar
.25 cup fresh lime juice
.5 cup rose water

Part 1 – Making the Rose Syrup
– Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan
– Simmer for 10 minutes
– Add the lime juice and rose water and cook 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally
– Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool
– Pour the syrup into a clean, dry bottle
Part 2 – Mixology
– Lightly muddle 1 cardamom pod at the bottom of shaker
(not too much muddling or it will overpower the drink)
– Add the rest of the ingredients and ice; Shake for 20 seconds
– Strain over fresh ice to remove the cardamom pod
– Add a splash of seltzer water
– Garnish with rose petals or fresh lemon wedge

Jasmine Cocktail
1.5oz gin
.75oz fresh lemon juice
.25oz Campari
.25oz Cointreau

Mixology
– Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake to chill.
– Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist

Chamomile Honey and Whiskey Cocktail
6 chamomile tea bags
4 cups water
4 tbsp honey
3oz whiskey or bourbon
2 orange slices
3 lemon slices
Fresh chamomile flowers (optional)

Mixology
– Heat water to a boil, pour hot water over tea bags in a large, heat-safe pitcher/container
– Add honey and bourbon and let steep for 5 – 10 minutes
– Pour mixture into a shaker, add ice and shake for 15 seconds.
– Pour over ice cubes into a rocks glass, and garnish with chamomile flowersI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, having a signature cocktail at your wedding is a great idea!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, having a signature cocktail at your wedding is a great idea!  Leave your guests with the memory of something they had only exclusively at your wedding and will talk about for long after the day is over.  Give one or two, or maybe even all, of these cocktails a try and you will be glad you did!  Enjoy! And as always, happy wedding planning.

3 Things Your Wedding Caterer Wants You to Stop Doing

While you may find yourself so wrapped up in your wedding planning, there will come times when you will need to momentarily step back and to let the wedding professionals guide you.

I know you are new to wedding planning, and for most couples, this is the first time they have ever had to plan something so big and detailed. But don’t worry!  That is why I am here to help you build your dream day! With that said, there will come times when you will need to momentarily step back and to let the wedding professionals guide you. Your wedding is your vision and I want to help you get there. Just keep in mind that sometimes you may need to briefly get out of the driver’s seat – just long enough for your wedding vendors to map things out for you.  Below are three things that you should stop doing when planning your wedding in order to make the process easier and more enjoyable for everyone!

1. Not Revealing Your Budget
While it may seem like being completely upfront and honest with your vendors could make you too vulnerable, it’s actually the opposite. This is your first time, but wedding professionals do this every day. It is very common for couples to hide their desired catering budget and us wedding professionals don’t understand why! When you go to buy a car, you know before you leave the house whether you’ll be shopping for a Honda or Lamborghini, and you should follow that same mindset while planning your wedding. Give your caterer a starting budget that you know you are comfortable with, even just a range is fine! Providing a dollar amount as a strong starting point is so much more helpful than saying, “low budget”, “affordable” or “high-end budget” – your definition of “affordable” could mean a far different number than another couple.
The worst thing you can do is ignore the budget topic altogether.  Your caterer will want to provide you the best services within your budget. No caterer wants to scare you away with a giant sticker price and also doesn’t want to disappoint you with something more basic than what you had in mind. Trust that your wedding caterer isn’t out for every dime of your budget! Holding out on your budget only slows things down and makes it take longer to get you the information you need. If you truly don’t have a budget in mind, be upfront about it, but also be realistic that you may not get the type of catering proposal you had in mind right off the bat.

2. Bringing an Entourage to Your Tasting (Especially Without Notice)
This one can easily be avoided. For most caterers, they plan ahead to serve two people and prepare accordingly. Your tasting is basically a private dinner consisting of one on one time with the chef. Unlike restaurants, not all caterers have endless amounts of food on hand. Caterers order food fresh for each event and order the quantity based on attendance. Your caterer will understand that there may be a parent, bridal party member, or sibling who wants to come as well, and that is fine, but you should be sure to share that information beforehand.  Not only does your caterer not want to look ill prepared, but they also like to know your proposed headcount ahead of time to make things easier on you. If you have six people that want to join your tasting, most caterers will kindly guide you toward a more intimate number. While it is understandable that some people may be helping you pay for the wedding, or your best friends are foodies and you value their opinions, there really can be too many cooks in the kitchen. Once you surpass four people, the opinions can be overwhelming, and you may walk away feeling more stressed than needed. The value of bringing others into the wedding planning process is understandable and appreciated, but ultimately this day is about you and your partner. This is your day to be yourselves, and have things the way the two of you like them! If you bring too many strong opinions to the table, you might lose your wedding day identity.

3. Asking Too Many Questions without Answering Any of Theirs
We know this is an exciting time, and definitely an unknown domain. You have nothing but questions, and that is very normal, but remember how often your caterer has done this. Let them guide you. It’s just like in school – if you wait long enough, your questions will probably be answered before you have to ask them. You’ll get your answers faster by providing some first. It’s very hard to tell you how many servers you will need to have on staff for your event if you don’t state how many people you’re expecting or what type of dinner you want. Event hours, guest count, type of dinner service, and type of bar are just a few of the factors in calculating event costs. The only question you really SHOULD ask upfront is to see a menu, because after all, if you don’t love what your potential caterer is cooking up, it’s time to keep looking.

While this post focused on things to avoid while working with your wedding caterer, these 3 tips can be applied with almost all of your other wedding vendors as well.  Not everyone is out to get you when planning a wedding.  Wedding professionals understand what a great expense a wedding is and want to make your event as amazing as possible.  This is why it is important to be honest about your budget so that they can plan accordingly and do their absolute best to fulfill all of your requests.  Also, remember, whether it be about food, color scheme, decorations or anything else, don’t let anyone’s opinion take over your day, you and your future spouse should make all the final decisions and always remember to please yourselves before anyone else!  While your mind will most likely be filled with questions the whole time you are planning your wedding, stay calm!  If you are working with the right wedding vendors they will ease your mind and provide you with the knowledge you need to plan your dream day.  I hope this helps and as always, happy wedding planning!

12 Month Wedding Planning Timeline

A year is a good amount of time to be planning the wedding, not including your blissful, “We just got engaged!” phase together. The more time you give yourself, the less stressed you’ll be, and the more time you’ll have to save up some money.

When you first get engaged, it seems to be proper for you to immediately start planning the wedding.  But in my opinion, you’re missing out on an amazing part of your life together if you do that.  Why not enjoy your engagement a little bit before you go bonkers and start stressing out?  Why not celebrate the fact that you’re going to spend the rest of your lives together, instead of spending all of your time worrying about one day?  Not to say that your wedding day isn’t a big day, it’s a huge day!  But don’t let it get to you.

I’ve looked at a lot of timelines people suggest for when you get engaged, for when to start looking for a venue, when to order your cake, your invitations, etc.  But they all seem to have items on their to-do lists that I just don’t think are necessary, or maybe just in the wrong place.  Now, I will agree that a year is a good amount of time to be planning the wedding, not including your blissful, “We just got engaged!” phase together.  The more time you give yourself, the less stressed you’ll be, and the more time you’ll have to save up some money.

So with that, here is my version of a To-Do List:
Oh but first here one more tip! Get your engagement photos taken during your blissful stage, before all the planning.  This will produce some of the cutest pictures and you will have plenty of time to get them printed and back to you before you send save-the-dates and invites.  Don’t have this feel like just another item on your checklist to get done.  This is a sweet and wonderful time full of happiness, so take advantage of that!

12 Months Out:
*Get a wedding binder
This is for you to be able to keep track of everything you’ll be needing and going over; contracts, quotes, pictures, etc.  Have this include a calendar of some sort so you can keep track of all your appointments.  This is something you should be doing whether or not you have a coordinator.
*Work on your budget
This is very serious and very important.  If you do not sit down with your significant other and decide on a budget, it could open up a whole new door of complications.  Together, decide what you can afford and what some absolutely necessary items would be and what some things you can live without are.  Without a budget, you’ll never know when to stop.
*Write down a preliminary guest list
You will, at least, need to have an idea of how many people you will be inviting because this has a lot to do with your budget.  If you know how many people you’ll need to feed, you’ll know how much money that will cost; the more people, the more food cost.
*Choose a wedding date
This one may be a little obvious but sometimes you’ll need a couple of different dates.  So sit down together and discuss at least 2 or 3 dates in case you find the perfect venue, and they don’t have your first choice.  Sometimes even just a month and day of the week would be enough to give you the freedom for whatever venue you fall in love with.
*Start looking for ideas
Now you should have your budget, so you will know if you’re going to be making your decorations yourself or having someone else do them.  Start browsing around the internet and see all the different ideas that are out there.  Pinterest is a great place to start and we both know, a helpful wedding blog is always great!
*Start looking for your dress
At this point, we don’t expect you to find THE dress, but you should, at least, start to look at places that are affordable for you.  There are hundreds of places to get a wedding dress and you don’t want to miss out on anything because you don’t have time to try all the places you’d like to.
*Pick your bridal party
If you want to do something cute to invite your friends to be in your bridal party, now is the time to do it.  I’m sure a select few would know it’s coming, but it shows your appreciation if you go out of your way to ask.  It is not a small commitment for your maid-of-honor and bridesmaids to say yes.  The same goes for your sweetheart, make sure you both know how many you want in the party and that he asks as well!
*Pick your venue
You will need at least a month to shop around for venues, so start now and you’ll have a better chance of finding your date.  Once you find the place you want to get married, DO NOT HESITATE!  If you hesitate to book it, someone else will take it right out from under you.

9 Months Out:
*Save the Dates 

Pick and send out your save the dates.  I love the idea of a picture of the couple for save the dates but keep in mind the extra cost on the photos.
*Gift Registry
Go ahead and start registering.  Sometimes this can take quite a while, so give yourself plenty of time and don’t feel rushed, but don’t overwhelm your guests either.  Find a happy medium.
*Pick and order your dress 
You may have already found the one by now, but in case you haven’t, it’s time to get crackin’!  Every bride wants to look their best on their wedding day, but don’t go crazy.  Make sure that once you have your fitting, you’re at a size you plan on being at, and maintain that.  Be comfortable with yourself and don’t work out too much, but also, don’t go overboard at those cake tastings.  Don’t try to make your body fit the dress; make the dress fit your body.  You will look much more beautiful if your dress fits you perfectly!
*Block out rooms at a hotel
If you’re going to have a bunch of out of town guests, you’ll need to have a block of rooms at a hotel that is decently close to your venue.  Hotels do not charge you for this and will give you a lower rate for the block.  Try and find something that won’t be too expensive either, they are already spending money to fly or drive to your wedding destination.  Also make sure your guests get the information for the hotel you have rooms at.
*Shop for bridesmaids dresses
This is something that can get very stressful, if you let it.  Decide if you want matching dresses, just matching colors or just a matching color scheme.  It is good to have your bridesmaids go with you, so you can see what style dress looks good on them.  But if you’re doing all one dress style and color, don’t let them sway your decision completely and stress you out.  Try to keep the cost down on these dresses as well.  If you do the dress shopping far out enough in advance, your friends may have more time to save up for the dress, but it is still something they will probably only wear to your wedding.  In the end, you probably won’t be able to make everyone happy, but try your best.
*Book your honeymoon 
Take some time and look into different airfares and hotels.  Be sure to make this fun and exciting!  Don’t stress out over it.  Go somewhere that you’ll both enjoy and can afford.  Also, don’t forget about a hotel the night of your wedding if you are leaving in the morning.
*Shop for and purchase your wedding rings
 If your engagement ring was bought as a set, it will probably be easiest to go back to the same place, but you don’t necessarily have to, and you don’t need to get his there either.  Look around at what other places have to offer.  Make sure it’s something you love, because you’ll be wearing it for the rest of your life!
*Book your DJ, Photographer, Florist, Cake, etc.
This is probably the part that will take the biggest hit to your pocket.  Now is the time you’ll need to start putting down deposits to book your musicians, photographers and videographers, day of coordinator, etc.  Make sure you have done plenty of research on someone before you give them your money.  Look into their past events, make sure it’s something you want and make sure you have good chemistry with your vendors.  Don’t book someone that you don’t really get along with.  If you are doing your decorations yourself, start buying all of your products to make them, and start working on them.  Give yourself enough time just in case an idea doesn’t work, or you end up needing more of something.  Making the decorations can be extremely stressful, so don’t procrastinate it and feel free to recruit some free help.  When it comes to your cake, please, please, please try many different bakeries and their cakes, check into many different prices, and look at past cakes they’ve done.  It is a horrible experience to have your cake be dropped off hours before your wedding and it be wrong (Yes, I have witnessed this happen.  It was able to be fixed up a bit, but the couple was still unhappy with the situation and it really stressed them out, that’s not something you need).

6 Months Out:
*Book the rehearsal dinner
Make sure you get your guest list for the dinner and everyone gets an invite.  Don’t forget to invite them to the ceremony rehearsal as well.
*Look for and rent Groom and Groomsmen’s tuxes
This is not nearly as painful of a process as finding the bridesmaids dresses, but it is just as important.  Make sure to give yourself enough time for it.
*Order the rest of your bridal accessories
Now is when you should be getting your cute extras.  Order your veil, gloves if needed, undergarments for the dress and don’t forget your shoes (or to break in your shoes if you already have them).
*Finalize your guest list
Sit down with your honey and make some more cuts, if necessary, or add a few more people you hadn’t thought of.  Try to get a good idea of how many invitations you’ll need before you order them.
*Select and order your invitations
Invitations are very important, so make sure you order plenty of them and with enough time to get them sent out and get your RSVP’s back.  Sending out the invitations can be very time consuming because you’ll probably have to address every one of them.  And again, some free help is always appreciated here if you can find it!

2 Months Out:
This is the time for you to start to finalize everything.  You’re now in the home stretch!  So make sure everyone is on the same page and everything is being paid for!
*Order your cake
This is something you are allowed to be picky about.  Don’t be afraid to express exactly what you want and make sure there is no confusion and no questions when you leave.
*Check in with your wedding party
 Give them a little nudge and make sure they have everything that they need, just don’t forget to be nice!
*Get your marriage license
 Find out what requirements there are for obtaining your marriage license and make sure you get it done, and don’t forget to pick it up once it’s ready.
*Send out thank you cards for the engagement party
You should have already ordered your invitation set, and hopefully your thank you cards as well.  Make sure you order a few extra to send for the gifts you received at your engagement party/bridal party/etc.
*Finalize day of transportation and jobs
You can easily get caught up in all of the fun details like decorations, dresses, makeup, and invitations, but it would be quite embarrassing if you had forgotten about how you’ll get to your ceremony or how you’ll be sent off as the newlyweds.  Some venues have rooms for you to get ready in the day of, so it takes a little stress off of you.  You won’t have to worry about getting in the car with your dress or having your makeup sweat off, but what about the send-off?  Do you want to drive off into the night in an old classic car that says just married?  Don’t forget about the transportation!  Also, finalize what everyone will be responsible for.  Whether someone is in charge of making sure you don’t forget a shoe, or that all of the party favors get to the venue. Make sure someone has a job for the clean-up.  A lot of places won’t clean your decorations for you, so delegate someone to take them home, or make sure your decorator knows when to pick them up.
*Start to pay off your vendors
The sooner you can start to get some things paid off, the more it takes off your mind and the less you have to do closer to the big day.
*Pick your hair and make-up stylists
 Don’t go into this blindly.  Look around at different stylists, or maybe you have a friend that can do it.  Either way, make sure you have a trial run!  This way, you can discuss everything in much more detail when it’s actually being done.  If something doesn’t work out, you know not to do it again.
*Mail out your invites 
You could do this earlier, just be sure and give your guests plenty of time to clear their schedules and ask that the RSVP’s are back 3-4 weeks prior to the wedding.

1 Month Out: 
*Finalize vendors and pay them
Some vendors don’t require final payment until a couple of weeks out, but the sooner you get it done, the more stress it removes from you.
*Pick up your rings
Make sure they are correct, whether there is an engraving, or the size is right, etc.
*Write your speeches and vows
Make sure anything you want to say at the rehearsal or the wedding, is down on paper somewhere.  It helps to write it down and get it out, that way you can tweak it if you want.  And if you lose it, it will probably be easier to remake.  Have someone read it too, or read it to them, and see if they have any suggestions.  The vows are very important and should be taken seriously.  You are making one of the biggest commitments you will ever make in your life.  Don’t go into it lightly.
*Something old, new, borrowed, and blue
If you’re going the traditional route, make sure that you have your something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue, and be sure and keep track of them!
*Purchase guest book, cake cutting set, champagne flutes, etc.
Go ahead and get your small items like this.  This gives you enough time to look around for the cutest sign-in book and cake cutter.
*Check in with those that haven’t RSVP’d
This is not going to be fun, but you need to start hunting down those, hopefully only a few, people that still haven’t RSVP’d.  You have to know a final guest count for your caterer and so that your venue knows how many to seat for.
*Schedule a final dress fitting
It’s crunch time!  Make sure it fits!
*Put together a timeline for the night
Your vendors will need a timeline so they know when to set up and be ready and when to come back and pick everything up.  If you have a coordinator, she may do this, but do it with her and make sure you’re both on the same page.

1 Week Out: 
*Finalize any due balances
Make sure everything is paid for and there are no loose ends!
*Pick up your dress
Yay! It’s time to go get your dress!  This should be a simple enough exchange, just make sure you keep the dress clean!
*Confirm any last minute details
If you have a limo, make sure it is confirmed.  Confirm drop off and pick up times for your vendors.  Confirm reservations.  Any small detail that could go wrong, make sure it’s going to go right!
*Emergency kit
Put together an emergency kit for yourself and your bridal party.  Extra bobby pins, safety pins, sewing kit (if you’ve got someone who can sew), hair bands, tissues, band-aids, anything you can possibly think of that you might need.  If you think about it and decide against it, you know you’ll need it, so just put it in the kit anyway!
*Go get pampered
Treat yourself to a mani/pedi, or a facial, or go full out and have a spa day.  After how stressed you’ve been, it’ll be nice to just relax right before your big day.

1 Day Before:
*Pack all necessary day of items
Make sure you don’t forget anything.  If you need to make a list to help you remember everything, do it.  Especially don’t forget the rings, license, or the cake cutting set!
*Attend rehearsal dinner
Now would be a good time to test out your new waterproof makeup.  If you plan on giving out any gifts, now is also the time to do it.  But most importantly, have fun!  Enjoy some good food and good company before the big day.
*Go to bed early
You may not be able to fall asleep for a while, so make sure you get in bed early.  If you can manage to fall asleep right away, even better, then you’ll just be extra rested for your wedding.

The Day Of: 
*Eat a healthy breakfast
Eat something that will give you energy without making you shaky; something that has lots of fiber and antioxidants.  Get your day started right, and the rest of day will go smoothly!
*Double check
Double check everything you’ve packed up, including your honeymoon luggage and necessary items (passport, tickets, etc.).  Double check that everyone knows what they’re responsibilities for the day are.  Double check and make sure you grabbed that amazing waterproof mascara.  Double check anything and everything that could possibly cause you more stress if it went wrong.  Take the time to do it in advance, and you’ll be glad you did.
*GET MARRIED!
And have fun doing it!  It’s a celebration of a huge step forward in your life with the one person you love the most.

So there it is, that’s all I’ve got for you.  Just remember, keep your stress as low as possible, it’s not healthy to be stressed.  Don’t procrastinate because you think you have all the time in the world, it’ll be here before you know it!  And love, love so unconditionally it hurts.  If you do this, you and your special somebody will have an amazing life together.  Happy Wedding Planning!

Beginner’s Guide to Wedding Venue Hunting

When starting your hunt, you want to get as much information as possible from the potential venues so there are no surprises down the road and to ensure the venue you end up with is your perfect fit.

When starting to wedding plan, one of the first things to do is find a venue. Everything centers around the venue so this is one of the most important parts of getting the wedding planning process started. When starting your hunt, you want to get as much information as possible from the potential venues so there are no surprises down the road and to ensure the venue you end up with is your perfect fit. Below is a list of questions to help you make the best decision for your special day.

  • How many weddings do you have in one day?
    Many venues have more than one wedding in a day, which is fine, you just want to ensure you have enough setup and breakdown time, as well as, enough time for your event. You will want at least 2 hours for setting up, 1 hour for breaking down, and 4 hours for your actual event. Another great question when discussing the time frame is the cost of adding an additional hour.  An extra hour can eliminate some stress and erase any feelings of needing to rush any portion of your event, so if the price is right, it is definitely worth it!
  • What is included in the venue rental?
    Venues range from providing only the venue space to providing tables and chairs, utensils and plates, linens, napkins and more. If no additional items are included, another great question is if you must rent them through the venue or if they can be provided by the caterer or a vendor.  The fewer vendors you have to deal with, the less stress you will have.  A venue that provides you with more than just an empty space will save you from the headache of making sure everything arrives at the right place at the right time and allow you to pay attention to other important details of your day.
  • When are the final details due?
    You want to know up front what your commitment is when signing the contract and the flexibility of final head count and any possible changes you may need to make down the road when you are further into planning.
  • Are you required to use the venue’s preferred vendors?
    Some venues will have a list of vendors you must use such as caterers, decorators, florists, and so forth.  If this is the case, you will want to look up these vendors before deciding on the venue in order to make sure they are also a great fit for you and to get an idea of their pricing.
  • What are you, as the client, responsible for as far as breakdown after the event?
    Some venues only require that you or your vendors take out any décor or items you brought in the venue with you. Others require you to go so far as to sweep and mop the venue when your event concludes. This is good to know so you can prepare accordingly.
  • Are there any restrictions?
    Can you hang decorations from the ceiling or on the walls? Are candles allowed? Is confetti allowed? These are all good questions to ask so that you have all the facts and are aware of all the venue regulations.  You don’t want to find out that you can’t have certain decor after you already had the perfect vision of how you planned to decorate the venue in your head.

While the above are basic functional questions you need to know, don’t be afraid to ask a ton more. A great wedding venue will be happy to answer your questions and there is no such thing as getting too much information. Feel free to walk around the venue and take pictures if you like. Keeping organized and bringing a list of questions in a wedding folder can prove to be very helpful.  Happy wedding planning!