You Said “Yes”!….. Now, What?

Heart Beach Words

In celebration of all of the couples who became engaged over the holidays, here’s my advice on the FIRST steps a bride should take after the proposal:

Bask in the Glow

Unless you’ve set a date one month away, there is still a little time to celebrate just being engaged. You have a gorgeous new ring to admire every chance you get, and plenty of family and friends that are eager to offer their congratulations (and wedding advice). This period can be as overwhelming as it is joyful. Before you dive head-first, take the time to enjoy being engaged and begin thinking about what you want for your wedding. Have some “just-the-two-of-you” planning sessions. Getting all of Facebook involved may provide some nice ideas, but you run the risk of becoming more focused on impressing others than having the wedding that YOU really want (and can afford). Not to mention that, for some reason, many may think that because you have them as a Facebook “friend”, they are automatically invited. Keeping yourself and your fiancé a priority during this time makes for a happier experience.

Look at Your Budget

It’s definitely not the “sunshine and rainbows” part of the planning process, but it is vital. Before you start putting down deposits and telling the world about your upcoming platinum affair, talk with your fiancé about your wedding budget. This will help you determine when to set your date (a longer engagement may give you more time to save money), and have a clear understanding of who’s paying for what, in case you will be able to have help from family. Please see my post, “Balancing the Budget”, for further tips.

Set a Date (or a few)

You may have particular dates in mind that are significant to you and your sweetie: the anniversary of your first date, a year-to-the-date of your engagement, etc. Choosing such a date is the perfect way to commemorate an event specific to the two of you. However, if you are open to any date, you may want to have several to choose from. I always suggest narrowing down to a particular month or season in which you want to have your wedding; once you begin searching for venues and vendors, you can narrow down to an exact date depending on the availability.  If your heart is set on a particular venue, have a back-up date in case your first choice has already been booked. If you can, try to stay away from major holidays (except maybe New Year’s Eve). Out-of-town family and friends might not appreciate the elevated flight, gas, and hotel rates during a major travel holiday and you run the risk of not having full attendance if many on your guest list opt for family traveling and vacations.

Consider your guest list

Many brides begin making wedding plans – and paying for them – before they’ve even done their guest list! Honestly, not a wise move. It’s my job to advise my clients on ways to make their wedding planning process as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. Stressful situations most likely will come; why not keep them to a minimum with aspects of your planning that you can control? Before you get deep into wedding plans, finalize your guest list – at least within ten to twenty people. Your headcount will help you determine the appropriate venue; after all, why pay for a huge ballroom if you want an intimate wedding of fifty guests? Most importantly, your guest list and your budget go hand in hand, since most vendors work on a “per head” basis. If your budget is $5,000, you may want to think twice about inviting 300 people. Once your guest list is set, try your best to not stray from it. Sure, you may invite an extra here or there; or there may be a few folks that won’t be able to attend. But let’s limit the drama – “You’ve been talking about your wedding for the past year; I assumed I was invited!” – and work on the guest list now, keeping it among your innermost circle.

Set priorities

Lastly, sit down with your fiancé and decide what elements of your wedding are most important to YOU. Whether it’s the unique, historic venue, or the beautiful flowers, or the exotic food, or the fabulous DJ; prioritize which elements you want to focus your budget on, and which elements are not as important. Hiring a wedding planner will help you keep those priorities at the forefront. He/she won’t be biased to a particular venue. They will make sure that you are staying organized and on budget throughout the planning process, hook you up with proven professional vendors, and ensure that you will have the wedding of your dreams.

Unexpected (& Inexpensive) Ways to Add the “Wow” Factor

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There is nothing better than working with a couple whose focus is on making their wedding completely personal. I’ve seen many brides ask for everybody else’s opinions on what to do for her wedding. The thought of looking back on your wedding day and cherishing that fact that you made it unique to yourself and your spouse – and didn’t just aim to impress everybody – is what makes the whole experience worth it. In trying to personalize your wedding and add your own “Wow” factors, many couples face challenges. Anybody can spend the extra money on extravagant flower arrangements and grand ballrooms; what are some other ways to add unique touches? Allow me to offer a couple of unexpected ideas…

Go Different With Dinner

It’s pretty much a given: everyone will eat at your reception. But don’t think that you have to have a seven-course, plated dinner in order to make the dinner hour personalized. There are inexpensive ways to make the meal memorable. Try asking your caterer about a themed menu, and tailor it to you and your spouse. Are you going to Hawaii for your honeymoon? Add Polynesian flavors and dishes to your dinner. Was your first date at a baseball game? Have a hot dog stand with different toppings as a late-night surprise. You can also get creative with the bar. Are you having a brunch reception? Try a mimosa bar, with several selections of inexpensive champagne and sparkling wine; then add a variety of juices and frozen fruit garnishes, and let your guests create their own cocktail. And don’t forget about the guests that abstain from alcohol. Have your caterer create a signature “mock-tail”, which guests will find more delicious than a basic soda.

Really Take Care of Out-of-town Guests

If a large portion of your guest list is from out-of-town, they are already footing the bill for travel, lodging, attire, and a gift. There are creative ways that you can really show them how excited you are that they came to celebrate. Be generous with the information that you give guests. I utilize the free options online to create wedding websites for my clients. Block rooms at one or two hotels that are close to the venue (be mindful of the cost). Be sure to provide written directions on the website, as well as addresses, for those that may or may not have mobile navigation systems. If you have an in-town friend/relative that’s itching to help with the wedding, see if they might be willing to host a casual dinner or cookout the night before. Most importantly, leave an unexpected touch to welcome out-of-town guests. It could be anything from a small plate of homemade cookies that can be left at the hotel front desk for when they check in; or a simple personalized note with tips on shopping and restaurants, as well as a sentence or two expressing how much you love that they traveled to be a part of your wedding.

Include the Kids

Many couples choose to have adults-only receptions, which is perfectly fine. But if you are inviting little-ones to your wedding, make sure to look for unique ways to make them feel just as important as their parents. As an unexpected twist to the traditional role of ring-bearer, have your little guy act as “security” for your wedding bling! If you’re adding an extra table for kids in the reception, make some coloring books that are personal to you and the groom – it’s as simple as white paper, a black marker to outline your wedding fairytale, and a trip to the copy store to have it copied and bound.  As an added touch, address the kids personally in your invites. On the invitations that will be going to a family, leave a space on the RSVP card for the children of the family to include a fuzzy plus-one. Then, leave blank escort cards and crayons at the children’s table for them to write the names of their guests. A table of cute kids and their cuddly friends makes for some unexpected and adorable photography moments.

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Other Unexpected Party Touches

Now that the reception is in full swing, wow your guests by paying attention to the areas that many couples forget. Leave the ultimate first impression by focusing a little extra money into your entryway. Some extra flowers, lighting, and a creative picture or guest book will immediately set a tone of the festivities-to-come. You can ensure that your DJ is well-prepared by including a song-request line on the RSVP card; guests will get a kick out of hearing their favorite song played without having to talk to the DJ personally. Lastly, you can inexpensively leave a surprise basket of flip-flops in the ladies’ powder room for tired feet, or business cards from  local taxicab companies to encourage guests to find a safe and responsible way home. You won’t break your budget, and your guests will appreciate the effort you took to focus on some unexpected details.