In my experience, here are the things that can cause the most heartache after you get your final bill.
1. Not including tips and gratuity. Tipping on catering alone is often $1500+ so not including it in your budget will cause you a major meltdown later on. Here’s a great tipping cheat sheet I recommend to my couples: http://www.bridalguide.com/blogs/the-budget-guru/how-to-tip-wedding-vendors
2. Not budgeting for overages/accidentals. You always want to provide a cushion in case an unforeseen cost should arise (and it usually does). Examples? the venue only has 1 bathroom so you need to rent a port-a-potty, the tent will need staging due to un-level ground, your DJ/friend/sister’s boyfriend is now a no-show and you need to find a new one ASAP. Consider it your emergency savings for your wedding. We recommend budgeting 8-10% of your budget for overages.
3. Not budgeting for a rain plan. One of the biggest mistakes I see when coming late to the game with brides. A bride planning an outdoor wedding who convinces herself it won’t rain on her day usually gets the worst surprise of her life when a week out she’s faced with a 90% rain chance and no budget for tenting. Rain plans are unfortunately an expensive and necessary evil, so put the money aside and consider it spent until you get the 48 hour forecast. Most basic tents start at around $600.
4. Consistently going over budget in every category. A good budget is set up to be flexible, but, if you are consistently going over in every category (even $100 or so) you will find yourself quickly reaching into an empty pocket book. The best way to approach this is to talk to your fiancé and decide what areas you’d be willing to splurge on, and how much you can afford to splurge. After you’ve talked about potential overages, stay in budget in the other categories, no matter what. Chances are you will come under in other areas and come out on top.
5. Details, details, details. Not factoring in the small items can be a budget breaker. For example, you may have booked rentals, but did you factor in delivery and set up? ($300-$500)What about your guest book? ($20-$50) Those champagne flutes for toasting? ($20-$200) All of these items need to be accounted for. The best way is to start with an overly intensive budget and work your way through it, deleting anything you don’t need. Being too general with your categories can make it very difficult to get accurate estimates.
With a wedding, you have enough to worry about with the dress, the caterer, and your new in-laws. Why add anything else? These are the top 5 stressors to easily avoid to have the best (and most relaxing) day ever:
1. Too Many Hens
The most important people to have a final say in the planning of your wedding are you are your fiancé. While knowing that Mom might not love your favors, or your fiance’s Grandma may not get the idea of having an outside ceremony, you should be prepared to stand by your decisions, regardless of the feathers it my rustle. Years from now, you’ll be glad you did.
2. Dealing with a Troublemaker
Think deeply about your day and who you want involved in the wedding planning process. Having a bridesmaid who tends to make everything about herself, or a groomsman who plans on beginning the day with 3 shots of whisky will cause more hurt, stress, and frustration than it’s worth. If you’re having second thoughts, consider asking the bridal party member to be a part of the ceremony via a reading or to help run the photo booth prop station. Something that will give them responsibility without putting them in the direct spotlight.
3. Weather Mapping
With forecasts predicting weather further and further out, it’s tempting to want to check your wedding date as soon as you’re a month out, but this will just stress you out with little to no payoff. If the prediction is sunny skies, you might be more disappointed when rain appears in the forecast. On the other hand, you could spend the entire month planning for rain for no reason! These monthly forecasts are actually based on past observed weather and not on any current data, so the error margin is very high. I check the weather once at 5 days out, and again at 3 days out when I make final calls for my clients. 30% or more 48 hours out is usually enough of a probability for us to call a rain plan.
4. Not Spending Enough on Necessary Items
While saving money is always the goal for my clients, making cuts on things that are necessary will only lead to stress. Some of these include: a great and reliable photographer, tenting, staging, lighting, and a good caterer.
Certain vendors are cheap for a reason, and as the day gets closer and you still haven’t heard from the DJ, or the day-of the tent is 1/3 of the size it needs to be, it will overshadow the rest of the event–and your mood.
At the end of the day, shop within your parameters, and don’t skimp on the important things. While it is one of the most important days of your life, take everything into consideration when spending.
Hopefully, when you decided to marry your partner, you didn’t stress for months on end about whether there was someone better out there. You should take this same approach when finding your vendors. When you meet and fall in love with your vendor, consider that you’re marrying them, too! Shop for vendors that possess certain qualities you want and are in your price range, and once you’ve found someone, don’t spend the next few weeks worried there might be someone better out there. Too many times brides have wavered back and forth about hiring a vendor, only to lose them to another bride before they had the chance to book. Trust your gut!
Coordinating same sex weddings has taught me some awesome lessons about the industry and planning that I felt like I could pass on to other planners (or couples who ARE the planners) when pulling together details.
Here are some things I have learned:
Forget Emily Post. This “etiquette appropriate” trend for everything from addressing invitations to who should speak first at the reception is thankfully fading (though there are some exceptions which I discuss in this article.) When planning a same sex wedding, begin with a blank slate rather than trying to modify or alter tradition. Want to walk down the aisle together? Sure! Want to meet in the middle? No problem! Want one person to wait at the front while the other person does somersaults down the aisle into his/her arms? (Please let this be real.) The point is, there’s no need to reference a rule book when at its core any wedding should be about what makes the couple comfortable and happy.
Make sure your forms are gender neutral or same-sex friendly. This was unfortunately an early mistake I made, which the brides politely brought to my attention (and rightly so). Try to ensure that all of your materials refer to the “couple” or “fiancé” and “bridal party” as opposed to “bride” and “groom”. If you need to get specific, create specific forms for LGBT couples. With same sex couples still highly aware of (and often frustrated by) the gender norms that are associated with weddings, it’s the least we can do as a wedding industry to change our perceptions (and paperwork) that states a wedding always has to be between a bride and a groom.
Keep in mind that this can be a tough time. Anyone who’s planned a wedding or even HAD a wedding knows that family tension and drama always runs high, but unfortunately, for many gay couples this can be an especially bittersweet event in their lives. With this in mind, never assume that both sides of the family will be present, emotionally or physically. If the couple thinks that there might some members of the family that could potentially cause a problem, try to identify and discuss how to handle it beforehand so you can be prepared to kick any drama to the curb.
Make sure your vendors aren’t jerks. One of my couples, before I met them, had reached out to a photographer who flatly told them he would not shoot their wedding because of his religious beliefs. Obviously, the couple was tremendously hurt and offended, and became nervous about researching and reaching out to other vendors who might act the same. Often if I meet a vendor I like and want to refer them, I will first ask if they are open to–or have done–same sex weddings. More often than not, the answer is “Of course!” but I would always want to make sure before I put my couple through that.
A same sex wedding is no different than any other wedding. Here’s a few things that I’ve witnessed at same sex weddings: the bride got nervous before she walked down the aisle, the couple wasn’t sure what order the toasts were supposed to be in, a family member was late to the ceremony, some bridesmaids did an awesome dance to Beyonce in front of the whole party. Now that I think of it, both weddings had a major Beyonce moment. Very normal wedding stuff. None of the things I’ve learned about same sex weddings are because the wedding itself is any different, but more because we–as a culture, and specifically the wedding industry–are not acknowledging just how normal it is.
A question I get often from brides is, “My friend keeps asking me what she can do to help, but I feel bad putting her to work, is there a job I can give her?” This will, of course, depend a lot on how far you are from the big day, but the guilt that comes from asking friends and family to spend their Saturday putting together 300 favors never really goes away.
When taking your friends up on this offer, it’s best to plan ahead so you don’t end up asking them–a day before your wedding–to stay up all night with you and strip flowers. Here’s some pro tips on when and how you can utilize some friendly generosity.
1. Make a Decor List
Once you’re about 6 months out, you’ll probably have a good idea of what projects you’ll need to complete. A great way to stay on top of things is to assign one project a weekend. (Do buy all your supplies early on so you don’t end up making 30 trips to Hobby Lobby.) This keeps you from having those infamous all-nighters a week out from your wedding, and allows you to be more productive in assigning projects to those who might want to help.
2. Hold Weekly Craft Nights
A craft night does not mean every week your friends get together to work on your wedding, which seems like something off an episode of Bridezillas. Instead, encourage your lady friends to bring over whatever they might be working on––a knitting project, a scrapbook––and if anyone doesn’t have a craft, they can have the option to help you with yours. That way it makes the tediousness of DIYing a little more enjoyable. Try to hold it on a weekday so your friends don’t feel like you’re forcing them to abandon their weekends to hole up with you. See also: Booze & Craft Nights.
3. “Hire” Your Delivery Help
A lot of brides underestimate the amount of decor they can accumulate over the course of 6 months. Find some friends with ample trunks (no jokes here, I’m a professional) that can tote decor to your venue the day-of, and then ask them to stay afterwards to take anything left at the end of the night. Keep in mind, in addition to decor, you’ll need someone to carry your gifts, alcohol, cake, and flowers/vases. That’s at least 3 (sober) people you need to count on to get you through the end of the wedding. Let them know now in case they were planning on having a really good time and going to take a cab home.
4. Wedding Duties
Now would be a great time to ask your hilarious and amicable old roommate to kick off toasts, or your 14 year-old cousin to help man the photo booth. There are plenty of jobs to go around the day-of, and finding guests who would enjoy doing them is a cost-saver, and more intimate than having a pro. Everything from reminding guests to sign the guest book, to helping intimate family find their seats for the ceremony can make some of your friends and family feel included and special.
5. Count Your Blessings (and Talents)
That good friend of yours who has incredible handwriting? Or the best friend you met in art class? Either would be the perfect person to work on some of those craft projects. If you have talented friends (and keep in mind: GOOD friends, not acquaintances, unless they’re so good you don’t mind paying them) who are asking to lend you their services, take advantage! A lot of brides feel like their weddings should be entirely made by them, but looking around the room and knowing that your grandmother strung together the banner for the wall, or your best friend wrote all the escort cards, is part of the intimacy and magic of a wedding. One of my favorite moments at a wedding so far has been watching a Mother of the Groom carefully place the cake she had made and top it with store-bought flowers.
Lastly, stop feeling guilty. Your friends are happy to help as long as you don’t work them to death. Give them projects you know they’d enjoy, and if it’s not enjoyable (i.e. picking up cigarette butts at the end of the night) it is WELL worth the money (and your relationship with this person) to hire someone to do it for you. Promise!
I have a lot of brides who consider themselves untraditional, and I love it! It certainly makes my job more interesting, and finding ways to accommodate to their every whim is part of the excitement. However, here’s a list of traditions can toss, and what’s important to keep around!
You CAN ditch…
Spending ~$100 on printing programs that will inevitably be left in the seat or on the floor of a venue does not seem worth it. If you still want your guests to know more about your bridal party, or if your ceremony is a bit unusual, you can make a chalkboard or wooden sign at the end of your aisle and save some of that hard-earned money!
2. “Picking a side” at the ceremony
With ushers becoming less and less of a necessity, guests can easily come into a ceremony and seat themselves in the first available seat. This is also a great way to even out a wedding that might have more guests coming from one side.
3. Not seeing the groom until the ceremony
For a lot of brides–seeing their future husband and best friend before the ceremony is a great way to calm the nerves, and have an intimate moment before the next 5 hours are filled with hugs and kisses from everyone you’ve ever known. Plus, it’s a great way to get those portraits done so you don’t have to spend the cocktail hour taking photos!
4. Eating with your guests (aka NOT eating and spending your precious dinner time talking to your guests)
While it seems rude at first, having a private meal before your guests is a great way to keep hunger from ruining your mood. Sometimes it can be 5 or 6 hours before you can get a morsel of food into your body with all the makeup, hair, photos, nerves, and catching up with friends and family. Sneaking off right after the ceremony to have a bite of food and regroup is a great way to get your energy up for all of that mingling (and to fend off the dangers of drinking champagne on an empty stomach).
I would encourage you to save your money, as most of your guests will lose it or leave it behind. I spend more time throwing away favors at the end of the night than I do anything else. Take the $200-$500 it would’ve cost you and put more money into the dessert table. That’s something your guests will really appreciate!
What you should KEEP…
1. The exit
We’ve all been there–we’re having a great night out and suddenly the lights come up, the music turns off, and people begin ushering you out of a venue. That’s a jarring way to ask people to leave. With an exit, you get a fun way to say goodbye to the bride and groom and a happy ending for the evening.
2. Table numbers
This is #1 on my list of things I have to (sometimes force) my brides to do. Yes, it’s awkward and tedious to design, but this is something that is VERY important to keep around. Why? Have you ever been to a packed movie theatre with some friends, and getting there a little late, you see single seats scattered throughout the theatre but can’t manage to find any together? That is exactly what happens. (I have a memory of one wedding where couples were sitting by themselves on the stairs, eating, because they could not find two seats together.) By assigning a certain number of people to a table, you are doing that work for them–to ensure that couples can sit together, and every one has a seat.
I would keep it down to the people who really mean a lot to you and maybe 4-5 people max. (Open toasts can get awkward.) It’s a way for your family and friends to publicly share how special this moment is for them, on a day when often the people who care the most can fade into the background amidst all the hubbub. It’s also a great way for you to thank your guests for coming, since you may not get the chance to thank them all personally.
I would REALLY encourage you to have a DJ if you can afford it. I work a lot with spotify and iPods now… but a computer doesn’t really motivate and understand the crowd, feel a lag, and play something that will keep people on the dance floor. There’s often awkward silences between songs, hitches in the playlist, and drunk guests insisting that they man the station and play more Miley Cyrus. Additionally, DJs are in charge of making announcements, keeping things running smoothly, and encouraging guests not to leave before they take a picture in the photo booth, and they are probably one of the most affordable vendors.
5. Paper invitations
With everything moving online, it’s not surprising people would consider doing digital invitations to save on money. While it is economical, there is something really sentimental and beautiful about receiving a paper invitation hand mailed by the bride and groom. It’s the perfect way to invite someone to share your wedding day. Plus, there’s a lot of flexibility in printing invitations now with all the great DIY and independent designer websites, so it’s easy to find something that you can afford.