• Couple's Engagement Story - One of the first things we will want to learn about our new clients is the way it happened for them.
  • Imagined Size of the Wedding - In more traditional weddings, the bride’s family sets the size of the guest list and allots half of the spaces to the groom’s family regardless of which family has more relatives and friends. However, with many modern weddings, the number of people invited is determined by the size of the families, the location of the wedding, and the atmosphere that the couple is trying to create. 
  • Budget - We recommend that the bride and groom sit down by themselves before the first planning session and discuss their style ideas. Having this discussion and coming to a mutual agreement will help unify them, especially in the event that their wishes clash with those of their families.
  • Imagined Style of the Wedding - Now it’s time to begin discussing the style of wedding the couple envisions. Do they want it to feel like a blow-out party? An intimate gathering? A sophisticated social event? Some couples choose to have themed weddings. Some have weddings in very modern settings, such as a contemporary art museum. Others choose to get married at home. Some people get married on horseback, underwater, or in midair.

    One thing that will help establish the style is the day and time of the wedding. For example, Sunday afternoon weddings tend to be casual, while Saturday evening weddings tend to be more formal.

    Style decisions will affect the pricing of the event. Also, keep in mind that the times for religious weddings may be determined, in part, by the traditions of a particular faith. For example, Jewish custom dictates that weddings not be held on Friday evenings or before sundown on Saturday. What kind of wedding do you want? Formal? Ultra-formal? Casual? Intimate? Traditional? Themed? Daytime? Evening? Site-specific? Religious?
     
    Do your families share your vision? If not, how do their ideas differ from yours?
     
    What problems have your friends run into when planning their weddings?
     
    What have you liked and disliked about weddings you’ve attended in the past?
     
    What do you want people to remember when they think back on your wedding?
     
    What parts of the wedding celebration mean the most to you? The ceremony? The reception? The wedding cake? The band?
     
    Will the ceremony be religious (performed by a clergy person with prayers and blessings), secular (no specific mention of God), or civil (before a judge or justice of the peace)?

  •  

  • Wedding Date and Time - Check for event happenings before booking date.
     
  • Guest List - client create four separate lists
    • Bride’s List.
       
    • Groom’s List.
       
    • Bride’s Parents' List.
       
    • Groom’s Parents' List.

A wedding announcement may be an appropriate way to notify those not invited to the wedding, such as distant relatives, friends who live far away, and professional associates. Announcements should be mailed out on the day of the wedding or soon after, but never before. A wedding announcement does not oblige the recipient to send a gift.

Engagement Etiquette

  • When does a couple become officially engaged? A couple is officially engaged the moment they agree to marry. No ring or engagement party is necessary, just a mutual commitment.
     
  • When should parents become involved? As soon as the couple has made the decision to marry, they should tell their parents. This begins the process of bringing the two families together. It’s never too soon to establish a positive line of communication.
     
  • How should an engagement be announced? The most appropriate ways to announce the good news are either at a party or by putting a notice in the newspaper. Etiquette discourages sending engagement announcements by mail because this may make people feel obligated to buy gifts.
     
  • How long should an engagement be? There is no right length of time for an engagement. It can be as long as the couple wants. If a date hasn’t been set yet, ask the couple to describe their dream wedding. Then give them a realistic estimate of how long it will take to put that type of wedding together. Currently, the average length of an engagement is 15 months.
     
  • Should the bride and groom receive engagement gifts? No one is obliged to give an engagement gift. If the couple does receive gifts, they should open them in private—not in front of others who might be embarrassed that they didn’t give a gift. You should remind the couple to respond promptly with a written thank-you note if and when they do receive gifts.

Formal Announcement

A formal engagement announcement takes place in a public forum. One type of formal announcement is a write-up and photograph in the local newspapers where the bride and groom currently live or where they grew up. To place an announcement in a newspaper, contact the Society Editor. They will send you a form to fill out asking for the following information.

  • The names of the bride and groom.
     
  • The town or city in which they currently reside.
     
  • The schools they attended and any academic degrees granted.
     
  • Their places of employment and job titles.
     
  • Their parents’ names.
     
  • The date and location of the wedding.

Most newspapers prefer to receive the accompanying photograph electronically.

It’s also worth noting that people are more likely to announce their engagements in the newspaper in smaller communities than in larger urban areas. 

The following are some general guidelines for composing an appropriate engagement announcement in the newspaper.

  • Typically, the bride’s parents make the announcement.
     
  • If the bride’s parents are divorced, either parent may announce the engagement. The parent with whom the bride grew up typically does this, but both parents should be mentioned in the article.
     
  • If one parent is deceased, only the surviving parent should make the announcement. (If the deceased parent is mentioned, the word late should precede their name).
     
  • If both parents are deceased, a relative, friend, or the bride herself may make the announcement.
     
  • An engagement is typically not announced more than one year before and no later than six weeks ahead of the wedding date.
     

Tip: Don’t put the street address of the bride or groom in an engagement notice.

 

Save-the-date-Cards

Save-the-date cards give guests ample time to plan for a wedding, particularly if there will be travel involved. They can be as simple as a postcard with the couple’s picture on the front and information about when and where the wedding will take place on the back. They should state that a formal invitation will follow.

If your clients intend to reserve a block of rooms near the wedding site, this information should also be included on the save-the-date cards. This courtesy makes it much easier for out-of-town guests to make their travel arrangements and usually secures a lower rate.

Only send save-the-date cards to people who are definitely on the final guest list. There’s nothing ruder than asking people to save the date, and then not sending them an invitation!
 

Tip: Do not send out save-the-date cards until the reception and ceremony venues have been secured.

Printing Options

There are several types of printing processes to choose from, and you should advise your couples to look at samples of each so they can choose the one that best fits the occasion.

  • Engraving. Engraving is a process where a letter or design is etched into a block, which is then used for printing. It is the most formal and traditional method of printing wedding invitations. It is also one of the more expensive processes.
     
  • Thermography. Thermography is the process of producing raised letters by applying a powder that fuses to fresh ink with heat. The result is a slightly shiny finish with a raised texture. Thermography is the most popular choice for wedding invitations because it is quicker than engraving and half the price.
     
  • Offset Printing. Offset printing works by direct image transfer. A metal or paper plate transfers ink to the paper. Offset is the least expensive and least formal of the printing processes. It offers many choices of ink colors and typestyles.
     
  • Desktop Publishing. Desktop publishing is another option for informal wedding invitations. By desktop publishing, we mean the design and production of invitations on your own computer. If a couple chooses this option, advise them to use high-quality paper. Visit a good stationery shop for advice. This is a very affordable option, and it can produce lovely results. It may, however, be a more time-consuming option, particularly if a couple does not have any experience with graphic design.

Decorative details, such as laser cuts, embossed designs, lithographs, photographs, and ribbons, are currently in vogue. Although quite beautiful, these enhancements are used mainly on informal invitations. Decorative papers are available to enhance the attractiveness of the stationery.
 

Tip: Be prepared for some spoilage by ordering 25 to 50 extra invitations and 50 to 100 extra envelopes.

Nine to Twelve Months Before the Wedding

Here is a list of tasks that will need to be accomplished 9–12 months prior to the wedding day.

  • Hire the wedding planner.
     
  • Find a ceremony venue.
     
  • Find a reception venue.
     
  • Set a date and time for the wedding.
     
  • Hire an officiant.
     
  • Make an appointment for premarital counseling (if applicable).
     
  • Choose the style of the wedding and reception, including the degree of formality.
     
  • Determine a budget and devise a method of keeping an account of payments.
     
  • Determine how many people will be invited.
     
  • Choose the wedding attendants and invite them to be in wedding.
     
  • Create a preliminary guest list.
     
  • Determine a color scheme.

 

  • Hire a caterer.
     
  • Send the engagement announcement to appropriate outlets.
     
  • Create a wedding website.
     
  • Order invitations, wedding announcements, and thank-you notes.
     
  • Select and order the bride’s gown and headpiece.
     
  • Select and book the photographer and videographer.
     
  • Select and book the DJ or band.
     
  • Select and book a florist.
     
  • Select and hire a limousine or other special form of transportation.
     
  • Order passports for the honeymoon (if applicable).
     
  • Create and send Save-the-Date cards.

Four To Six Months before the Wedding

Here is a list of tasks that will need to be accomplished 4–6 months prior to the wedding day.

  • Select the gowns, shoes, and accessories for the female members of the bridal party, including the flower girls and ring bearers (optional).
     
  • Finalize the guest list.
     
  • Order the invitations.
     
  • Address the invitations.
     
  • Prepare a map and directions to the wedding and reception sites for inclusion with the invitations.
     
  • Set a date, time, and place for the rehearsal dinner.
     
  • Prepare a bridal registry at one or more stores.
     
  • Have both mothers coordinate and select their dresses.
     
  • Select the wedding rings and attend to any engraving that needs to be done.
     
  • Select the male attendants’ wedding attire and reserve the appropriate sizes (if renting).
     
  • Research local requirements regarding marriage licenses, blood tests, and physical exams. Book appointments as necessary.
     
  • Book accommodations for out-of-town guests and attendants.

Two Months Before the Wedding

Here is a list of tasks that will need to be accomplished two months prior to the wedding day.

  • Order the wedding cake.
     
  • Plan the bridesmaids’ luncheon.
     
  • Mail the wedding invitations.
     
  • Design and print the wedding programs.
     
  • Have a photograph of the couple taken for newspaper announcements.
     
  • Select favors for the reception.
     
  • Finalize all details with the caterer, photographer, florist, reception site manager, and DJ or band.
     
  • Finalize details of the ceremony and communicate them to the officiant.
     
  • Finalize the honeymoon plans.
     
  • Make a hair appointment for the bride.
     
  • Purchase a wedding guest book.

One Month Before the Wedding

Here is a list of tasks that will need to be accomplished one month prior to the wedding day.  

  • Have the final fitting for the bridal gown.
     
  • Have final fittings for bridal attendants’ gowns.
     
  • Have shoes dyed (if applicable).
     
  • Get the marriage license.
     
  • Track guests’ invitation responses.
     
  • Purchase gifts for the male and female attendants.
     
  • Have the bride and groom purchase wedding gifts for each other (if applicable).
     
  • Begin a record of all wedding gifts received and write thank-you notes immediately.

Two Weeks Before the Wedding

Here is a list of tasks that will need to be accomplished two weeks prior to the wedding day.

  • Get the necessary forms for the bride’s name change (if applicable). Consider her Social Security card, driver’s license, insurance and medical plans, bank accounts, and credit cards. If the bride and groom are hyphenating their last name, both of them will need to do this.
     
  • Reconfirm accommodations for out-of-town guests.
     
  • Call any guests who have not yet RSVP’d.
     
  • Arrange for transportation of wedding gifts after the reception.
     
  • Create a reception seating chart.
     
  • Create seating place cards.
     
  • Pick up the wedding rings.
     
  • Confirm the shot list with the photographer.
     
  • Meet with any musicians to confirm what music will be played and when (including musicians for the ceremony).
     
  • Confirm reservations and accommodations for the honeymoon.

One Week Before the Wedding

Here is a list of tasks that will need to be accomplished one week prior to the wedding day.

  • Re-confirm arrangements with all vendors.
     
  • Pick up all wedding attire.
     
  • Give the final guest count to the caterer.
     
  • Pick up all travel items for the honeymoon.
     
  • Give small gifts and a note of appreciation to friends and relatives who did special favors to help with the wedding.

One Day Before the Wedding 

Here is a list of tasks that will need to be accomplished the day prior to the wedding.

  • Give the best man a check for the officiant’s fee.
     
  • Confirm who will return the groom’s tuxedo to the rental shop and when.
     
  • Have the bride go for a manicure and pedicure.
     
  • Confirm that the couple’s wedding announcement will be mailed to the newspaper the day after the wedding.
     
  • Hold the rehearsal with all participants in attendance. Review each person’s duties.
     
  • Give the attendants their gifts.

On the Day of the Wedding

Here is a list of tasks that will need to be accomplished the wedding day itself.

  • Give the wedding rings to the maid of honor or best man.
     
  • Give the wedding license to the best man.
     
  • Make sure the bride and groom eat a good breakfast.
     
  • Have the bride go for her hair and/or makeup appointments three to four hours before the wedding.
     
  • Allow plenty of time to get dressed and arrive at the wedding site.
     
  • Coordinate with vendors on site, as appropriate.

Remember, these timelines are a guide. We’ll adjust them according to each client’s needs. The more specific your wedding timeline, the better. 

Budget Breakdown

Reception site/catering 40–45%

Music7–9%

Bakery3%

Photographer9%

Videographer5%

Wedding Attire10%

Flowers and decorations9%

Invitations and announcements4%

Ceremony site/officiant fee4%

Transportation2%

Rental items3%

Gifts3%

Parties2%

Miscellaneous2%

Personal Touches

Nearly every couple seeks to put a unique stamp on their wedding ceremony. There are countless ways to do this, and part of your job is to offer creative ideas for making ceremonies warm and personal (though, keep in mind that there is less room for adaptation and personalization in ceremonies where ethnic or religious heritage plays a strong role). Don’t be afraid to make lots of suggestions; most people appreciate having a variety of options to consider. Here is a list of ideas to help get you started.

  • Honor the people that the bride and groom are closest to, regardless of their gender, by having male “bridesmaids” or female “groomsmen.” This trend is becoming increasingly popular. Female “groomsmen” might wear dresses in the same style as the female bridesmaids (but perhaps in different color) or black skirt suits. Male “bridesmaids” might wear tuxedos with ties and cummerbunds in the same color as the bridesmaids’ dresses. To ease any awkwardness in the processional, have the attendants walk down the aisle individually.
     
  • Some couples might want to share attendants, rather than differentiate between “bridesmaids” and “groomsmen.” In this case, have attendants of both genders gather around the couple as a supportive “circle of friends.” This works particularly well when the bride and groom have many close friends in common.
     
  • Instead of having a receiving line after the ceremony, which can be time-consuming, have the couple greet guests as they arrive. (Keep in mind that this means forsaking the tradition that the bride and groom should not see each other before the wedding ceremony.)
     
  • Give the guests something to drink during the ceremony, such as water, champagne, or lemonade. Most churches will not allow this, but it is a nice touch at an outdoor wedding, particularly during the hot summer months.
     
  • Have the couple light a unity candle. This is an increasingly popular tradition. 
     
  • Have the bride’s parents and groom’s parents each light a candle on their respective side of the altar at the beginning of the ceremony. Later, have the bride and groom each carry their family’s candle to the center of the altar and use them to jointly light a unity candle, symbolizing the joining of the two families.
     
  • In lieu of a unity candle, have a sand ceremony. The bride and groom each get a container of colored sand that they then simultaneously pour together into a large glass container. This creates an attractive design and symbolizes their union. Couples may choose to use sand that’s dyed to complement their wedding color scheme.
  • For a lighthearted touch, have a beloved dog serve as the ring bearer. (This is only a good idea with an extremely well-trained dog that does well around groups of people.)
     
  • Have the bride hand a rose to her mother, her new mother-in-law, and/or other special guests. Or if the wedding is on the smaller side, have someone hand each female guest a rose as she enters the ceremony venue.
     
  • In places where strewing petals is permitted, have the bride walk down the aisle on a runner made entirely of fresh rose petals. A wholesale florist can order an entire case of petals and create a thick, solid blanket.
     
  • Print tributes to deceased parents or grandparents in the wedding program or ask the officiant to make special mention of loved ones who have passed away. Another way to honor the deceased is to light a candle in their honor during the ceremony.
     
  • Put small photos of family members and close friends in the wedding program with short captions that identify their relationship to the couple.
     
  • Have the bride and groom put a short message on the back of the program, welcoming the guests to their celebration and expressing gratitude for their attendance.
     
  • Have the couple chose a special poem, song, romantic literary excerpt, etc. and include it on the back of the program.
     
  • During the recessional, have the bride and groom stop at every row to greet their guests and thank them for sharing in the occasion.
     
  • As a touching surprise element, have the groom return after the recessional to escort his mother out of the venue.
     
  • In lieu of rice (which can be harmful to birds), have guests throw birdseed or blow bubbles at the couple as they leave. These are both environmentally friendly options, and the bubbles are a lot of fun for both children and adults.
     

Tip: We recommend forgoing the popular trend of releasing live butterflies as the couple leaves the ceremony. Butterflies can die from lack of oxygen as they wait to be released. Not a pretty or uplifting site!

 

Rehearsal Checklist

The following items should be addressed during your clients' rehearsal.

  • Instruct the family to stand up as the bride enters. The guests, who will be seated behind them, will respond to this cue and stand for the procession. Also, if you want people to clap after the bride and groom kiss, instruct the family to start that as well.
     
  • Tell the bride, her attendants, and the bride and groom’s parents that they should stay out of sight as people enter and take their seats. This will prevent guests from stopping to talk to them before the ceremony.
     
  • Practice seating important family members. Have a groomsman escort the groom’s grandmother down the aisle, with the grandfather following behind them. Then have the bride’s grandparents enter in the same manner. Next, have an usher escort the groom’s mother, with the groom’s father following. (If there is a stepmother, she enters after the groom’s mother.) The bride’s mother always enters last.
     
  • Always have members of the wedding party practice walking down the aisle with the correct music playing. In between the seating of the family and the entrance of the wedding party, you should signal for the musician to begin the processional music, just as you will at the actual ceremony.
     
  • Arrange the bridesmaids in such a way that the one on the outside walks down the aisle first. Work inward toward the maid of honor. The bride and her father (or other chosen escort) enter last.
     
  • If the male attendants will march down the aisle, line them up the same way. If they are walking in from a side entrance, recommend the following order: officiant, groom, best man, groomsmen. This, of course, will depend on the layout of the wedding area and the wishes of the bride and groom. (At the actual ceremony, you can save yourself some running back and forth by asking the officiant to direct the groomsmen to move at a pre-arranged hand signal.)
     
  • Tell the bride and her father that they should pause at the top of the aisle before proceeding toward the altar. This will be a good time for you to “fluff” the bride’s dress. The start of the processional music will alert the guests to stand and face the bride as she enters.
     
  • When the bride and her father reach the foot of the altar area, the father should be on the bride's right side (the reason for this is that he is giving his daughter away, so he should be between the groom and the bride). At the altar, he should step back and place her hand in the groom’s before sitting down with his wife. In some parts of the country, it’s customary for the officiant to say, “Who gives this bride away?” to which the father answers, “Her mother and I do.”
  • Instruct the attendants to find a “marker” point that will help them remember where to stand at the actual ceremony. The outermost bridesmaid and usher, in particular, must pay close attention to their positioning. Their placement will determine the spacing for the rest of the wedding party. If a member of the bridal party is unable to attend the rehearsal, have someone stand in for that person to ensure proper spacing. On the day of the wedding, take anyone who could not attend the rehearsal aside to bring them up to speed.
     
  • Tell the bride to hand her bouquet to the maid of honor, who will also straighten the bride’s dress and help her lift her veil at the appropriate times. If the bride needs her hands free, the maid of honor can hand the bouquet to the nearest bridesmaid.
     
  • Have the bride and groom practice facing one another while reciting their vows. If they prefer to face the officiant or their guests, that’s absolutely fine. Suggest that they do whatever feels most natural and comfortable to them.
     
  • Remind the bridal party that, if there are children in the ceremony, they must take responsibility for the children's placement and behavior. Suggest having the bride’s father escort the children to where their parents are seated, which should be close to the front. During long ceremonies, children should be allowed to sit. Be sure that they are placed on the aisle, so they can easily join in the recessional after the ceremony.
     
  • When practicing the recessional, have the bride and groom turn to face their guests. Tell the maid of honor that she should return the bouquet to the bride and straighten the bride’s dress if needed. Ask the bride and groom to rehearse walking down the aisle as if they were just married. Their pace will set the tone for how quickly or slowly the other attendants pair off and walk out of the wedding site. When the entire wedding party has exited, have a groomsman return to escort the bride’s mother, with her father following them. Then the groom’s mother leaves, with the father following her.
     
  • If formal photos are to be taken immediately after the ceremony, suggest the bridal party moves quickly away from the entrance so that exiting guests will not occupy them and cause a long delay. Ideally, there will be a room nearby where the bridal party can gather after the ceremony.
     

Tip: As the wedding planner, you run the processional, but not necessarily the ceremony itself. You must always politely defer to the rules of the house of worship or ceremony venue.

Ancient Rituals

So why do we do what we do at most weddings? Let’s examine some of the ancient origins of a few of the most popular wedding traditions.

  • Why do we throw rice? Throwing grains such as rice or wheat symbolized the desire for fertility. It also expressed the hope for a long life with good health, successful careers, and bountiful harvests—today, we call that financial security!
     
  • Why are marriage ceremonies usually held in religious venues? Words spoken in sacred places were thought to bring favor from a higher power. In many countries today, people consider a church, temple, or other house of worship the ideal place to call upon God to bless the union.
     
  • Why do we tie cans to the bridal couple’s getaway car? Ringing bells, clinking champagne glasses, and rattling tin cans are all noisy activities. The tradition of making noise is a holdover from an ancient desire to drive away jealous spirits that were thought to lurk at times of change.
     
  • Why does the bride have bridesmaids? In ancient Rome, a couple was legally required to have at least ten attendants to witness the marriage contract. Furthermore, in some cultures, bridesmaids were used to help confuse evil spirits who might want to cause trouble. The bridesmaids would all dress similarly to the bride so that the spirits wouldn’t know who to antagonize.
     
  • Why does the groom have ushers? For the same reasons that a bride has bridesmaids—they were thought to confuse evil spirits and prevent them from causing harm. In addition, “warrior groomsmen” helped the groom fight off anyone who wanted to steal the bride in the days of “marriage by capture” (the days when the groom kidnapped his chosen bride and carried her away).
  • What is the origin of the honeymoon? Under the “marriage by capture” system, the groom kept his bride hidden for a full month or “moon.” During this time, the couple partied and drank a honey-sweetened alcoholic drink to loosen up sexual inhibitions. Even amicable couples were encouraged to take this time alone to adjust to their newly married status and forget the worries of the world.
     
  • Why does the bride wear a veil? By concealing her face, a bride camouflaged herself so that evil spirits couldn’t readily identify her.
     
  • Why does the groom stand on the bride’s right side? In ancient times, men armed themselves with weapons at all times. To lay aside one’s sword during the wedding ceremony might expose the couple to danger from hostile sources. Standing at the bride’s right side made it easy for the groom to grab his sword with his right hand, which protected them from people who might want to do them harm. (This is also why we place a knife to the right of the dinner plate when we set a table. Ancient inns where meals were served were rough places, and travelers had to be prepared to defend themselves at all times.)
     
  • Why does the bride carry a bouquet? This custom originated with the ancient Roman belief that carrying bunches of fragrant herbs and flowers would ward off evil spirits. The ancient Greeks carried ivy as a symbol of unending love.
     
  • Why have a wedding cake? The wedding cake was once a symbol of fertility. Today, the cake serves the dual purpose of providing dessert for the guests and a photo opportunity for the couple’s wedding album.

Getting to Know Your Venues

Take notes as you get to know different wedding venues in your area. You’ll want to give your clients as many details as possible about their venue options so that they can narrow down their search.

Consider the following when you tour a new venue.

  • What feeling do you get when you walk into the room?
     
  • How formal or informal does the space feel?
     
  • Can you smell stale tobacco smoke or any other odors?
     
  • What is the official smoking policy?
     
  • How many guests can the space accommodate comfortably?
     
  • What equipment does the space provide?
     
  • Are there a sufficient number of electrical outlets for caterers and musicians?
     
  • Does the space provide tables, chairs, or linens?
     
  • Does the space provide catering?
     
  • Does the space provide cakes?
     
  • Does the space provide flowers or other decorations?
     
  • Are there any permanent decorative elements in the space (e.g. stained glass windows, columns, bright carpets)?
     
  • What are the restrooms like and how many are there?
  • Are there any special changing rooms for the wedding party?
     
  • Is there a separate room where photographs can be taken?
     
  • Is there a dance floor?
     
  • What are the rules about noise?
     
  • Is there a mandatory end-time for events?
     
  • What is the parking situation?
     
  • Is the facility adequately heated? Air-conditioned?
     
  • Are guests allowed to throw rice, birdseed, or rose petals? Can they blow bubbles?
     
  • Is there an outdoor area?
     
  • How far in advance does the space usually book?
     

Tip: The couple is under no obligation to pay for parking for their guests. However, if they decide to do so, this should be incorporated into their total wedding budget.

All the Important Details

Once the couple has narrowed down their venue options, it will be your job to address the nitty-gritty. The nitty-gritty is the list of small, but oh-so-important details about a space that you have to consider before signing a contract. Never move forward with a space until you have specific answers to all of the following.

  • What is the absolute maximum number of guests the space can accommodate, both seated and unseated?
     
  • What does the rental cost or site fee include?
     
  • Will a service fee be added on top of total cost?
     
  • Are cleanup costs included in the fee?
     
  • What equipment does the site provide and are there any additional charges associated with using it?
     
  • What equipment is not available?
     
  • Are there any restrictions on the use of the facility?
     
  • What are the exact times the facility is available?
     
  • Is there a required ending time? What is the fee if the wedding or clean up goes beyond that?
     
  • How early can vendors have access to the facility for delivery and setup?
     
  • Does the site provide flowers or other decorations, and, if so, is there an additional fee?
     
  • If the reception is planned during a holiday season, will any decorations already be in place?
     
  • Do you have to guarantee a minimum number of guests?
     
  • How far in advance is a final guest count required?
     
  • Are there any local noise ordinances?
     
  • What is the standard staff-to-guest ratio?
  • Does the site carry liability insurance in case a guest is injured during the reception?
     
  • Will the site’s insurance cover accidents resulting from DUI violations that occur after guests leave?
     
  • If there are multiple events taking place at the same time, how will the facility preserve the privacy and ambiance of each party? (For example, if there’s a dog show in the room next door, you don’t want to listen to barking all through your event.) What signage will they provide to make sure guests find their way to the right room?
     
  • How many cars can the parking lot accommodate? Is there a charge for parking?
     
  • Is valet service available? Are valet tips included in the cost?
     
  • Are guests allowed to leave their cars in the lot overnight if they decide to take a taxi home?
     
  • Will police or security be required (in some places, it’s customary for the police to be present at functions where alcohol is served)? If so, is the cost included?
     
  • What type of payment is accepted (cash, check, or credit card) and what is the payment procedure?

Once you have all these facts, you are ready to compare the pros, cons, and total costs of each venue on the couple’s shortlist. When discussing total costs, don’t forget to take into account rental fee, food, beverages, parking, gratuities, and setup charges, as well as the cost of all rental equipment, such as tables, chairs, linens, sound equipment, tents, and so on.

Sample Day-Of Timeline

This is a sample timeline courtesy of AaB in New York, NY.

Clients: Kevin Brown & Kylee Evans

Ceremony Venue/Time: St. Agnes Church, 4:00 p.m.

Reception Venue/Time: Riverview Terrace, 6:00 p.m.

Wedding Day Timeline

  • 8:00 a.m.: Hairstylist/makeup artist arrives at Kylee’s house. Begins hair/makeup for Kylee, bridesmaids, mother of bride, and mother of groom.
     
  • 10:00 a.m.: Trees and flower arrangements delivered to Riverview Terrace.
     
  • 12:00 NOON: Bridesmaids’ lunches delivered to Kylee’s house from Uncle Ming’s Noodle Bar.
     
  • 1:30 p.m.: Photographer arrives at St. Agnes.
     
  • 2:00 p.m.: Groomsmen arrive at Kevin’s house.
     
  • 2:00 p.m.: Videographer arrives at St. Agnes.
     
  • 2:30 p.m.: Kylee gets into her dress.
     
  • 3:00 p.m.: Limo arrives at Kevin’s house to pick up Kevin and groomsmen. Separate limo arrives at Kylee’s house to pick up Kylee, bridesmaids, mother of bride, and mother of groom.
     
  • 3:30 p.m.: Ushers, hostesses, readers, and musicians arrive at St. Agnes.
     
  • 3:45 p.m.: Kevin and groomsmen arrive at St. Agnes.
     
  • 3:55 p.m.: Kylee, bridesmaids, mother of bride, and mother of groom arrive at St. Agnes.
     
  • 4:00 p.m.: Caterer arrives at Riverview Terrace and begins setup. Ice sculptures arrive at Riverview Terrace. Bridal party lines up for procession at St. Agnes.
     
  • 4:05 p.m.: Processional begins.
     
  • 4:50 p.m.: Ceremony ends/recessional begins.
     
  • 4:55 p.m.: Bridesmaids pass out packages with birdseed.
     
  • 5:00 p.m.: Mariachi band arrives at Riverview Terrace and begins setup.
     
  • 5:10 p.m.: Bridal party and immediate family members go into churchyard for photographs.
  • 6:00 p.m.: Guests arrive at St. Agnes. Cocktails are served. Family and wedding party photos end. All leave St. Agnes for reception, except Kevin and Kylee.
     
  • 6:15 p.m.: End Kevin and Kylee photos.
     
  • 6:30 p.m.: Kevin and Martha arrive at Riverview Terrace.
     
  • 7:00 p.m.: Cocktail hour ends, guests move into dining area.
     
  • 7:10 p.m.: Guests are seated. First course of meal is served. Entree selections are taken.
     
  • 7:25 p.m.: Kevin and Kylee have the first dance, which segues into first dance set. Guests invited to come onto the dance floor.
     
  • 7:30 p.m.: Kevin and Kylee will visit tables and greet guests.
     
  • 7:50 p.m.: Toasts from parents and groom.
     
  • 8:10 p.m.: Parent dances.
     
  • 8:15 p.m.: Short dance set for guests.
     
  • 8:25 p.m.: Entrees served.
     
  • 8:45 p.m.: Toasts from best man and maid of honor.
     
  • 8:55 p.m.: Kevin and Kylee visit tables.
     
  • 9:00 p.m.: Dancing resumes.
     
  • 9:45 p.m.: Cigar roller arrives.
     
  • 10:00 p.m.: Kevin and Kylee cut the cake.
     
  • 10:15 p.m.: Dessert is served.
     
  • 11:00 p.m.: Ice sculpture vendor arrives to remove equipment.
     
  • 11:55 p.m.: Last dance.
     
  • 12:00 MIDNIGHT: Party ends.
     
  • 1:00 a.m.: Caterer load-out complete.

Getting Creative

One reason that people hire wedding planners is because they want suggestions from someone creative. This is where your personal artistry comes into play.

The following are a few fun reception ideas. Use them as a jumping off point as you begin to brainstorm for your clients.

  • Have each guest write down a favorite memory about the bride and/or groom. Leave paper, markers, and other art supplies so that guests can illustrate their memories on a special table.
     
  • Put the escort cards in tiny picture frames, and have the guests take them home as wedding favors.
     
  • Have personalized napkins, matchbooks, or votive candles made with the date and/or the bride and groom’s names on them.
     
  • Have a special activity table for children. Provide crayons and coloring books or other items to keep them occupied.
     
  • Have a station where guests can watch a chef roll fresh sushi.
     
  • Incorporate a theme. For example, if the couple loves hiking, suggest incorporating forest objects into the décor, such as pinecones or pine boughs.
     
  • Incorporate the couple’s hobbies. For example, if the couple takes salsa dancing lessons together, arrange for them to give a short salsa performance to really stir up the crowd!
     

Tip: For a while, it was popular to place disposable cameras on tables at the reception for the guests to use at random. While the idea behind this is fun, it costs a small fortune. And most guests don’t actually use the cameras—which means much of the film goes to waste.

Color Schemes

As we discussed in the Learning Sequence Dressing the Part, you’ll need to spend some time helping your clients select a color scheme. We recommend choosing between one and three colors (over three might make it look more like a circus than a wedding). It’s also important for the colors to complement one another.

If you have a good eye for color, you’ll be able to tell what works well together. If you’re unsure about your talent in this area, don’t be shy about soliciting opinions and encouraging your clients to do the same. Also visits websites like The Knot for wedding color suggestions. Keep in mind that using different shades of the same color is also an option.

There are several factors that should be considered when selecting colors.

  • Couple’s Favorite Colors. It’s important to feature colors that your clients find pleasing.
     
  • Color Schemes of the Ceremony and Reception Venues. It’s crucial that the chosen wedding colors don't clash or compete with the décor of ceremony or reception venues. Rather, the colors should match or complement any existing design elements. Take note of any carpeting, curtains, furniture, or wallpaper at these sites. If there are bold colors already in place, your clients may want to adjust the color scheme accordingly. When selecting a reception venue, it’s wise to inform your clients about any limiting décor in advance.
     
  • Time of Day when the Wedding Takea Place. Daytime weddings typically feature lighter colors. Evening weddings often feature vivid jewel tones.
     
  • Time of Year when the Wedding Takes Place. Spring and summer weddings often feature pastel colors. Autumn weddings typically have a more muted, neutral color scheme. Deep, dark colors are common for winter weddings, as are white and silver.
     
  • Level of Formality of the Wedding. Lighter colors are considered less formal, while darker colors are more formal. A very formal wedding might feature black and white, a combination that is becoming increasingly popular.
     
  • Complexions of the Bridesmaids. The choice of bridesmaids’ dresses is one of the strongest statements of color in the entire wedding. Shades of yellow and orange tend to be unflattering. Pinks, blues, and black are more universally appealing.