Ten Secrets to Planning a Successful Wedding Your Friends Will Envy
Brides who know it all need go no further into this article than this paragraph, because it is not for them. Neither is it for those who are satisfied with where they are in their wedding planning and the progress they’ve made so far.
You’ve got the dress. You’ve got the man. The caterer’s booked, along with the photographer and the D.J. Are you still worried about your wedding day? Will your guests enjoy themselves? Most importantly, will you enjoy yourself? After all, it is your day!
Whether you have the next year or a limited time for your wedding, your event can still be just as spectacular as those seen in the magazines and TV Shows. Yes, you can impress your family and friends with your celebrity-style wedding. I am going to show you how.
1.) Remember Your Guests. Your family and friends will have gone to some expense to enjoy your nuptials with you. Make sure that you show your appreciation and include them—guests like to feel like they belong. If you have a lot of out-of-town guests, be sure to provide them with a welcome basket in their rooms. This can be done on your own (or you can buy pre-made) by adding inexpensive staples and mementos of your host city. If you opt not to provide a basket or gift for your guests, at least supply them with an itinerary. Guests who come to another city for a weekend for only one event will want to see more of you and share in your wedding events. Inviting them to your rehearsal dinner or a post-wedding brunch is a very kind and generous gesture.
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2.) Get a Theme. When a bride comes to me, one of the first questions I ask is “What is your theme?” When they say they don’t have one, I must admit, part of me knows this will be an uphill battle. Ever heard of the saying, “If you stand for nothing you’ll fall for anything?” The same is true with themes. If you don’t have one, you will find yourself (subconsciously) with five different unrelated things in your wedding. It’s horrid. Pick a theme. The theme doesn’t have to be big—look at who you and your fiancé are. What are your hobbies? What do you do for a living? Golden Age of Hollywood, Mardi Gras Masquerade, Country, Mediterranean, etc. The possibilities are endless! And just to simplify it, yes, your colors can be a theme. However, you must consistent. If your “theme” is going to be green and pink, decide on what shades and stick to it—no forest, chartreuse, lime and mint all over the place. We’re at a wedding, not a kaleidoscope. Should you pick colors, try to pick a maximum of three and make sure that they complement each other. Try to pick “in-season” colors as well—pastel pink at a November/December wedding is a bit odd. Your theme will pull your whole event together—from food to favors, everything will coordinate in style.
3.) Décor. Even if your place is low on the totem pole of venues, you can still make it look like a million bucks. Are you wishing that Christopher Lowell or Martha Stewart could come in and work their magic? They can—pick up an interior decorating book at your local bookstore or library. Pay attention to lines, textures and silhouettes. How do they make you feel? Is that what you want to convey at your wedding? Implement things like flowers, candles, sashes, seashells, etc. into your décor. You will save money but also give your theme some authenticity. Find out from your venue what type of restrictions you are working under (i.e., no open flame, etc.). If you have some money to play around with, invest in some props to go with your theme or a lighting and staging company to help bring it all together.
4.) Get Personal. Being unique definitely sets you apart in the minds of your guests. Step out of the ordinary with personal vows and toasts. Share your relationship with your guests—name your assigned tables after places that you and your fiancé have traveled, favorite foods, movies, etc. Display pictures as centerpieces and to spruce up a cake or gift table. Celebrate who you both are by incorporating ethnic and family traditions. For example, if you have a very close relationship with your extended family, and your guest list is small, opt for the American/Family style dinners—where the dishes are sat in the middle of the table and guests serve themselves. If your culture calls for a special wedding dress, have the best of both worlds and wear your gown to your ceremony and your traditional dress to your reception. Include your guests in ethnic rituals like jumping the broom, the Hindu vermillion powder ritual, etc. Guests love to see picture shows! These are very easy to do, and give your guests an opportunity to get to know you.
5.) Don’t Skip the Cocktail Hour. While you are off being in love and grasping the concept that you are a “Mrs.”, your guests are left at your reception site awaiting your arrival. Be generous and have sumptuous treats to greet them. Create an environment conducive to mingling and conversation with soft music playing in the background. You do want people to get to know each other and talk—so don’t blast it. Opt for Jazz classics, songs that make people feel like they are at something important. Another thing you should definitely consider springing for is extra wait staff. It is quite a hassle to have to repeatedly go to the bar, and once there wait in line. It also adds a sense of refinement to your event with butlered drinks being passed—it makes your guests feel important. Here is a chance to incorporate your personality by having a signature drink passed and available at the bar. Put up a little sign in a silver plated frame explaining the significance. Your guests will feel included and also get the chance to try something new!
6.) Don’t Skimp on the Food! Food and drink make the event. Good food and drinks make the party! I understand that budgets are limited, but there is no need to have your 300 guests fighting over Ritz crackers and spray cheese at your 7:00 p.m. reception. The reception (including food) should take a big chunk out of your budget—and it should show. If it doesn’t what it will show is that you are cheap, and your guests will leave to find food elsewhere mid-reception. Who wants to stay at a party hungry? If your choices and funds are tight, ask your caterer what they can do to help you out. Ask if you can provide your own recipes (pick up a nice cocktail book. I personally love Cocktail Food by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford with Lori Lyn Narlock). Bulk up on the presentation—that may mean for you, no ice sculpture or five foot eagle made out of lox, but you could add fresh flowers and candles. Add variety with themed stations, convenience with buffets and elegance with plated dinners.
7.) Have Assigned Seating. I know a lot of planners are against this, but it does work out better for your guests. Of course keep your couples together, but do encourage single guests to get to know others at the reception. I have seen where there has not been assigned seating, a single guest finds his/her way back to their seat to find someone’s coat or purse in their seat with five people talking that all know each other. A bit intimidating.
8.) That’s Entertainment. Whatever you choose—a band or a DJ, make sure that they mesh with you and your personality. You also want them to reflect the overall theme and formality of the group (for example, no harpist at a country western wedding). When interviewing a DJ, ask to see pictures from prior events, if available. What does their guest pool look like? Is it similar to the one that will be at your own wedding? What does their selection and library consist of? You will need someone who is not too low-key that they put everyone to sleep, and not so over-the-top that they want to rush to the nearest exit. You need a professional to gauge and tempt the crowd. Definitely make sure that you keep music playing through their breaks. The dead silence will definitely murder the fun at your party.
9.) Get the Party Started. Nobody likes to be the first on the dance floor. But it is your party! You will be the center of attention, as you should be, and everyone will follow your lead. If you get up and dance, your guests will too. While your DJ maybe fantastic, your guests know you—your excitement will be contagious and they will not be able to resist joining in. Make sure that you are social. Instead of the boring receiving line, you and your new husband can go from table to table to say your “hellos” and “thank yous”.
10.) Get Help. It is always fun to meet someone who wants to hear about your wedding—all the time. Get your creative juices flowing, take advantage of vendor discounts and learn secrets of the industry by enlisting the help of a professional wedding planner. Everyone will have a job to do at your wedding. Yours will be to be the bride and to enjoy the first few hours of married life with your family and friends. While you may think you can handle an emergency during your wedding, more likely you cannot. Definitely enlist the help of a wedding planner to do your Day Of coordination.