The Chief Homemaking Officer

More Than "Just" a Housewife

Make This Your Best Day Ever!

Planning a wedding can be a fun and stressful time in a woman’s life. I remember having so much fun going through Pinterest to find inspiration for my own wedding one minute and then stressing out over budget the next. My mom and I planned my wedding in about 10 months with only a little bit of help from some close family friends. My husband was in a different state for a lot of the wedding planning and nearly all our guests were coming from out of town.  So, it made for an interesting time.

I learned a lot about the process when planning my wedding. My wedding day went rather smoothly and I do not regret any of my decisions. However, looking back I would probably want to handle a couple of things a little differently. Even though the 2019 wedding season appears to be coming to an end, I know there are still a lot of brides out there in various stages of their wedding planning out there and I hope this helps them.  

Our Big Day

Couple on their wedding day
My hubby and me during our first dance.

My husband and I got married in July 2012. I wanted a rather low-key wedding. I wanted something truly Texan and rustic. Our ceremony was held at the chapel on Lackland Air Force Base and our reception was at John T. Floore’s Country Store. We had a buffet style dinner filled with all kinds of Texas BBQ favorites. It was a more casual event. The men wore jeans and the ladies wore cocktail length dresses for the ceremony and changed to jeans for the reception. All our flowers came from HEB and they were gorgeous. We were on a tight budget, but we made it all work. You can in fact find coupons for weddings!

Planning For Your Wedding

2 Things to Always Keep in Mind

This blog post is going to offer quite a few suggestions. However, I believe there are two key principles you need to stick with when planning your wedding.

Stick to a Budget

Regardless of who is paying for your wedding, you need to have a budget for it. My parents paid for a majority my and my hubby’s wedding and honeymoon. My amazing father-in-law chipped in with flowers and paid for the rehearsal dinner. My parents gave me an overall dollar figure to stay within and we allotted each section a certain percentage of that figure. If we needed to, it allowed us some flexibility to move money from one section to another. For example, we did not spend as much on flowers as expected because my FIL helped, so we moved what we saved over to money for our wedding cakes.

Wedding budget: jar of coins
Photo by Pixabay

The budget is important when planning for the wedding. This keeps you from wasting money and allows you to prioritize what is important for your big day. If something you want breaks your budget, maybe you need to think a little creatively and find a less expensive option or do without elsewhere in the wedding. If not, you may think again whether you really NEED it for the wedding. Breaking the budget is okay in certain cases though. But, if you are not paying for the wedding, you must run it by the person cutting the checks!

My Experience with Budget

 I will admit that we did go a little over budget for the wedding. However, I am not to blame for that one! My dad kept finding things he wanted to add to the wedding. I think our wedding guests left with at least six different party favors. There were paper fans with our names and wedding date printed on them, tubes of bubbles, and decks of cards all ordered because my dad felt they were necessary. I was the one having to remind my dad of the budget. I’m his only daughter, so he felt like going all out. But, that shouldn’t have meant throwing the budget out the window.

Do What YOU Want

Your wedding day is about you and your fiancé. Do not do something for the wedding that you do not want to do. You are going to get a lot of recommendations from friends and family on what to do for your big day. Some may even judge your choices. But, if you are within budget and not doing anything that could cause harm to you or to others, just do what you want. If you and your fiancé are paying for everything and only want to invite 10 people, that is fine. If you want your wedding close to Christmas, DO IT!

Be reasonable though. A Thursday morning garden wedding in the middle of November in Montana might be a bit rough for people to make. It also might not be the most practical for your budget to have an off-seasoned theme as well. If you want a large wedding, it would be ideal to plan something around the majority’s schedules. If a Spring garden wedding is what you want, it would probably be ideal to have your wedding in the Spring. Be sure to plan the theme around your wedding date, especially if the date is important to you.

When In Doubt

During your entire wedding planning process, be sure to return to the two previous sections. Does it fit in the budget? Is it what I want? Is it what my fiancé wants? If you don’t say yes to those questions, then you probably shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about it.

Again, you will have people offer advice or recommendations or ask, “Why won’t you do it this way?” It will happen. Someone will have a critique to your big day. It is inevitable. Some people might even have their feelings hurt because you did not take their advice. Just be nice to them, thank them for their input and let them know that you are just doing what you think is best for you and your fiancé.

Plan Ahead

Most weddings take quite a bit of planning. I highly recommend you have about a year to plan your wedding. I know that sounds like a long time, but you will see why it is a good idea to have that long to plan every detail of your wedding.

Must Haves Before Planning

Before you start planning for your big day, you should have a few things figured out. First, you really need to be engaged before you start calling vendors and scheduling venues. Once you have that ring, you need to talk with your fiancé about a date. Be sure the date is far enough out for you to be able to schedule all the vendors you want for the wedding. You also need to have a budget put in place, so you know what you are willing to spend on the venue and for food. Having a rough idea of a theme is important as well.  Finally, about how many people do you want to attend your wedding? You don’t need an exact number from the get-go, but a ballpark range is necessary when talking with venues and caterers.

Attend a Bridal Event

Right after I got engaged, I found the San Antonio Bridal Extravaganza. I highly recommend you see if your city offers an event like this. This event allows couples to meet with all kinds of vendors in the city. Couples can find options for hair and makeup, alterations, registries, caterers, ceremony sites, lighting, florists, travel agents for honeymoons, dresses, etc. The San Antonio Bridal Extravaganza offers 500 Bridal Bucks to all brides. Those Bridal Bucks can be used during the day of the event to put towards vendors they book. Some brides put all 500 Bridal Bucks towards their venue while others split them between several vendors.

Wedding dresses
Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd.

This event is held at the convention center and there is a lot to take in. But, it is a lot of fun. You get to sample cakes and foods from caters, watch fashion shows with the latest wedding trends and collect coupons from vendors to use later. There are discounts when scheduling with vendors the day of the event, but the coupons can be used as well if you don’t want to decide on that day. There are also raffles throughout the day. Some brides win money towards their wedding dress while others could win a honeymoon trip.

When I attended in 2011 I was able to get into the event for free and my mom and her friend paid for their entrance to the event. I was given Bridal Bucks and we used them towards the DJ and cake. We also got discounts for all the vendors we used for our big day. So, the $30 investment was worth it!

Venue

For a lot of couples, the venue will take the largest chunk of the wedding budget. I highly recommend you select and book a venue before booking anything else. The venue choice will tell you what you will need to do next. The venue sets the theme and in some cases dictates the color scheme of your wedding. Some venues have rules that you would need to follow. If you want to use a separate caterer, you will have to choose a venue that allows that. Do they allow alcohol to be served? If a dry venue is a deal breaker, then it is important that you figure that out before booking it and other vendors.

Wedding venue
Photo by StockSnap

Are you going to have the ceremony and reception at the same location? Does the venue have the space for that? Once the venue is selected and booked, you can move on to other vendors. If the venue has catering and flowers included in the price, you may not have to do too much more planning with other vendors. Some locations have everything included and you will just need to meet with them a few times to select a menu and make choices on center pieces and other decorations for the big day.

Food and Drink

If the venue you booked does not offer food, you will need to find a caterer for your reception. First, you will have to decide what you will be serving at your reception. This is another area that will eat a lot of your budget. If you are having a reception, it is necessary to at least serve heavy appetizers. Be sure the food goes with the theme of your wedding as well as the attire you expect your guests to wear. If you are having a black-tie wedding, it is probably a bad idea to offer a buffet style dinner for your guests. Meals that are heavy or extra saucy may not be a good idea either when people are in their best dress.

Wedding Reception
Photo by Nathan Cowley

Many caterers charge a certain dollar figure per person. My husband and I had a buffet style dinner and was Texas BBQ. Our food was catered by the venue we booked with. We were charged roughly $18 per person for dinner. That price had several options for protein, sides, dessert and non-alcoholic drinks. The buffet was also all you care to eat. So, we were happy campers. BBQ was the only thing my hubby wanted at the wedding. Many caterers will have different menus for different budgets. Just be open with caterers about how much you are willing to spend for food and be accurate with the number of people attending your wedding.

Allergy Friendly Options

It is up to you if you want to accommodate food allergies. There are so many different diets out there these days that it can be hard to accommodate everyone. But, if you come from a family with several people with the same allergy (e.g. gluten intolerance) it would be a good idea to have some allergy friendly options on the menu. This could affect your choices in caterers as well. Some caterers can guarantee no cross contamination while others cannot. If you have allergies, be sure you are upfront about it with your caterers. If you want to have a very simple menu, be sure to inform your guests that there may be allergens in the food and offer recommendations of places to stop on the way to the reception to pick up something to eat.

Keep in Mind
Adult beverages
Photo by kaicho20

If you want to serve alcohol at your wedding there are a few decisions you nee do make. If the venue does not offer bartending services, you will need to hire an outside vendor. You will also probably have to pay a fee to the venue for additional security at your event. This fee is for liability reasons for the venue when alcohol is being served. For my wedding, we paid $100 fee for the police and we made sure to feed them as well.

Then you will need to decide if you are going to have a cash bar or an open bar. If you are on a tight budget, I recommend a cash bar. For our wedding, bartending services were included with the catering at the venue. My parents paid for 100 beers and any alcoholic drinks above and beyond that were cash options for our guests.

Photographer

Booking a photographer is very important for wedding planning. There are a lot of events that are going to happen leading up to the wedding you will want to have documented. Photographers can be very expensive though! Be sure you do your research and read every little bit of fine print with photographers. Some photographers have wedding packages that will suit several budgets. Some packages are only for the day of the wedding and reception while others will take photos at the bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, etc. They may even have some discount packages if you book your engagement portraits with them.  Again, read all the fine print though. The dollar figure they give you may only be for their services on the day of the wedding, but not offer any prints or digital copies of your photos in that package. Purchasing your pictures can get rather expensive quickly. So, be sure everything is laid out before you sign a contract with them. It is also important to know who has the rights to those photos and what the photographer intends to do with them later. Some photographers will want to use them for their business later.

Couple on their wedding day
Photo by Bryan Schneider
My Photographer

I was rather lucky with my photographer. We came across her through friends and she ended up becoming a close friend throughout the whole process. She did our engagement portraits, my bridal portraits, rehearsal photos, rehearsal luncheon photos, getting ready photos the day of, as well as ceremony and reception photos. She even “hired” some students to take photos as well. We were able to have a camera in both dressing rooms as we were all getting ready and had a camera facing the alter during the ceremony while another the guests. Everything was documented.

A Must for Photographers

One thing I would change about my experience with the photographer would be to have a list of wants when it came to our photos for the big day. I had a lot of hopes to get really sweet/romantic photos with my hubby while we were still in our ceremony clothes. Unfortunately, the woman who held the keys for the chapel kicked us out of the location while we still had more than a half hour left at the venue. We never got the chance to take those photos. We spent all the time after the ceremony taking photos with family members. This was something that could have been done at the reception. Be sure to let your photographer know exactly what you want accomplished in the photoshoots. Most of the time they are more than happy to accommodate.

The Dress

Once you have the date set and the venue selected and theme, it is time to find the dress! This might be most brides’ favorite part of the wedding planning! Before stepping foot in a dress store, be sure to do a little bit of research. Learn about the different silhouettes, fabrics, and patterns there are for bridal dresses. Find some designers you like and see what fits your budget. Give the entourage going with you some ideas of what you are looking for. You should even get a little bit of input from your fiancé in what they would like to see you in.

Wedding dresses
Photo by Pixabay

The dress needs to be purchased early in the planning process. This is because in many cases, the dress is ordered and will take up to six months for it to get to the store. Then, if it needs to be altered, it could take 8 weeks for all the alterations to be completed. So, you need to be sure you have enough time for the dress to get here and to be sure it fits perfectly.

Be Strict on Budget

I have watched so many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress and I must agree with Randy and the other consultants. Never, never, never try on a dress outside your budget. Just don’t do it. There are so many amazing dresses out there. Just do not try something on that you cannot afford. You will probably love it and become heartbroken that you cannot afford it. Or, you breakdown and buy it and it takes away from something else important in your wedding. I do not recommend doing that. The dress is important, but I do not feel it is important enough to break the budget. This is a dress that will be worn once. It should be special, not so expensive that you go without elsewhere.

Listen

When shopping, listen to others when they offer critique on the dress. More often than not, they are looking out for you and want the best for you on your big day. However, ultimately, it is up to you on what you wear. Be mindful of your theme and attire you want your guests to wear. If you want a black-tie event, it is probably not a good idea to wear a dress for a casual beach wedding. If you have a hard time making decisions, don’t sweat it.

I recommend you not decide on a dress on the first shopping trip. Check out several stores that offer different designers and try on several dresses in each store. Take pictures in each dress and look at the pictures later to see if you still like the dress after the excitement fades. Then, go back and try the contenders again to make a final decision. I did this and when I finally made my decision, I knew I would not regret it. It was about a three-week process to choose my dress. But, it was very stress-free.

Choose the Right Color
bride in wedding dress
My dress was ivory. It worked so well for my skin tone.

Not all shades of white are created equal! If you want to wear white on your wedding day, just understand that there are almost 500 different shades of white out there! I doubt there are that many options for bridal gowns, but there are still a lot of options, nonetheless. My wedding dress was ivory. I am so pale that a stark white dress just was not going to work for me. So, be sure you get a dress that complements you in every way!

The Groom’s Attire

The groom’s attire is no less important in the wedding. However, his might not take as extensive planning. I recommend you not choose his clothes until you know what your theme and colors are and not until you have chosen your dress. You want to make sure his tux or other clothing goes with your dress.

For the Groomsmen, you want to make sure they coordinate well with the groom. If he is wearing a tux, the groomsmen should as well.

The Registry

The wedding registry offers couples an opportunity to ask guests for items to help them get started in their new chapter in life. However, today wedding registries are not just for couples to ask for fine China and kitchen appliances. Now, there are registries available to have couples request friends and family put money towards a honeymoon or even in an account to help put a down payment on a house.

Couple with Mickey Mouse
My favorite photo from our Honeymoon.
Honeymoon Registries

Asking for money for a honeymoon has gotten some nasty comments. I know this firsthand because my husband and I requested that if guests wanted to gift us anything it would be towards our honeymoon trip. I love all things Disney (you can read about that here) So, we went to Walt Disney World for our honeymoon and they even have a registry location for couples to use. Women of the internet had a collective meltdown when I mentioned it in a forum post before our wedding. My husband had already lived in an apartment of his own and had everything we would need for our first home.

Also, we would be living with my parents in the near future (at that time) and really had no need for anymore appliances or linens. We also made it abundantly clear to all our guests that we did not expect any gifts from them at all since they were having to travel out of town to attend the wedding. That in and of itself was a gift to us.  

Remember, Do What You Want

Some types of registries get looked down on by some people. But, if you request guests pay for your honeymoon, I honestly don’t see being any worse than asking for expensive China that might get used once or twice in your lifetime (or worse gets broken when you move). I just recommend that you are practical with your requests no matter what it is. If you already have counter appliances, don’t list the entire line of Kitchen Aid appliances on your registry. If you request guests help pay for a honeymoon, make sure it is a reasonable trip. Don’t expect guests to pay for you to go on a luxury yacht around the Mediterranean for two weeks. Also be sure to add items to your list that will suit several kinds of budgets. Of course you can ask for a couple of big ticket items, but be sure there are options there for people who do not have a lot of extra money but still want to give you something nice.

Your registry should be set up and easy to find for all your guests before you send out your invitations. All your registry information should be sent with your invites a few months before the wedding.

The Bridal Party

You and your fiancé need to choose the members of your bridal party early in the planning process. They will all need to purchase their clothing for the event as well as plan on making it to town prior to the big day if they are coming from out of town. Bridesmaids dresses could take up to six months to arrive for the bridesmaids, so they will need a lot of time to shop, order, and alter their dresses.

Bride and bridesmaids
Photo by Bryan Schneider

You can choose whomever you want to be in your bridal party and there really is no cap to how many people can be in it. But, I do recommend that you are practical with the number of people you ask to stand with you at the altar. It is supposed to be a special designation to be asked to be in a bridal party. So, if you have 15 bridesmaids, it might make it less special for all involved. For the bridesmaids, I let them choose the dresses that they liked the best as long as they chose one of the two colors of our wedding. I did make the mistake of not choosing a fabric though. I had one girl in satin while another was in chiffon. So, I would recommend you at least choose a fabric that you like for the girls to wear in addition to the color. Things will look a little more uniform that way.

Flower Girl and Ring Bearer

If you want a flower girl and ring bearer, those choices need to be made along with your bridesmaids and groomsmen. Some bridal stores have off-the-rack flower girl styles since the young ladies who fill the position can grow rather quickly. If you do order clothing for flower girls and ring-bearers, be sure you order larger sizes to plan for growth.

Don’t Cause Confusion
Confused woman
Photo by RobinHiggins

Regardless of who you want in the bridal party, you need to contact them as soon as possible so that they can plan to be there for you on your big day. If they cannot make it, they will be able to tell you in enough time so that it does not affect your planning. Also, do not assume that someone knows they are going to be in your bridal party. Make it special for them and formally ask them to be part of your big day. It does not need to be extravagant. You can get blank note cards and some ring pops and ask them that way. I sent a video to my matron of honor so that she could have it on file always. Formally asking each member will take away all confusion about who is included or not.

Invitations

 Once you’re engaged, you will be purchasing a lot of paper goods for about a year. Shortly after getting engaged, it would be a good idea to send a wedding announcement to everyone you intend to invite to your wedding. This should be sent out once you have decided on a wedding date. This will allow all out-of-town guests plan for the big day. We sent out refrigerator magnets with our wedding date so no one would forget it! 😊

Wedding invitation
Photo by mcmike

I did not spend a lot of time worrying about our invitations. But they needed to look nice, and I did not want to spend a lot of money on them. I used Vistaprint for all our stationary for the wedding. They have so many options. So, you will be able to find something that works for you, even if you are having an extravagant wedding.

Invitations should be sent about 3-4 months before the big day. So, you should order them at least six months before the wedding. Your invitations should include an invite to the ceremony and reception along with the addresses for each location, an RSVP card with a pre-stamped return envelope and information about where you are registered. Be sure you inform guests in the invite to respond by a certain date, so you have a head count for caterers.

Be sure to order some thank you cards with a similar design to your invitations. You will be sending those out after the wedding to thank guests for attending and for their gifts.

Limit the Number of Invitations

Be sure to limit the number of invitations you send out. Even if you want to have a large wedding with 300 guests, you do not need to send an invite to everyone you have ever met. We had 75 guests at our wedding. We invited about 130 people. If everyone came to the wedding that was invited we would have had closer to 160 people in attendance. You will also need to figure if you want to allow your single friends the opportunity to bring a guest. If you do, you will need to account for guests when giving numbers to vendors for food.

Write a list of people you would like to invite to your wedding. This may take a few days for you to figure out your initial guest list. You will have a list; your fiancé will have a list, and both sets of parents might have a list of people they would like to invite as well. My dad wanted to invite a lot of people he knew throughout the years that I didn’t even remember very well. You need to make sure your guest list is filled with people who are important to you.

You also need to be reasonable with your budget. If you want a special menu for the reception and your budget will only pay to feed 50 people, then you should not be inviting 300 to attend. Or, invite everyone you would like and make changes to the menu. Just because you invite someone does not mean they will be able to make it. So, not all 300 people will come to the wedding. However, until you start getting RSVP cards back, you will have to budget and assume every person will be in attendance so you have the funds to pay for their food and whatever else you will need to pay for.

Flowers

Flowers can have varying levels of importance depending on the bride. You do not have to go to a stand-alone florist to have amazing flowers for your wedding day. We used the HEB flower department for all our flowers for the ceremony and reception. I showed them some centerpieces I liked, and they were able to replicate them perfectly. My mom and I bought mason jars and tin watering cans for the centerpieces and dropped them off a few days before the wedding. HEB even delivered the flowers to both locations for us.

wedding centerpiece
One of our centerpieces.
Local May Be Best

I recommend going to your local grocery store and see what they might have to offer from their flower department. You might be surprised at what they can do! If you want to save money on flowers, be sure you know what flowers are in season at the time of your wedding. If you want something out of season, you will have to pay significantly more money for them because they will have to be shipped in from elsewhere. Having locally grown flowers will also help reduce cost. 

Your flowers should be ordered a couple of months before the wedding just so you are able to book delivery if you need to have them delivered to a location.

Cake

The wedding cake is another part of the wedding that may not always be very important to the couple. Some couples would be perfectly happy with sheet cakes while others want 12 tiers of extravagance. Nonetheless, cake tasting can be a lot of fun! Be sure you pick something that you and your fiancé both like and can agree on. If it is too strange of a flavor, you might want to pick a second more basic flavor option for all your guests.

When you come in for a cake tasting appointment, be sure you have an idea of what you want for your big day so the shop can offer you a quote on what your vision may cost. You can then make changes as you need to in order to fit your budget.

Wedding cakes
Our wedding cakes

Once you have a rough estimate of who is coming to the wedding, you can order your cake. I recommend booking a cake shop at least six months in advance. Some of the more popular shops book way in advance. Some shops can only make and deliver so many cakes a week. So, to be sure you have the cake shop you want, you need to book with them early! They will give you a deadline on when they need all the details for your cake(s) turned in.

Hair and Makeup

Hair and makeup are very important on the day of the wedding. You know you will more than likely pay to have your hair and makeup done so you look special on your big day and you have amazing pictures to look back on. But, will you also pay for your bridesmaids to have their hair and makeup done? Does that fit in your budget? This is something you will have to figure out a few months in advance. Then you will have to do research in what works for you and your party.

If you are going to have makeup artists and hairstylists come to the wedding venue, you will have to schedule well in advance because they can book up rather quickly. They may also charge extra in order to have multiple people there to work on the entire bridal party.

Ulta for the Win!

Ulta may be a great option for you and your bridal party. We went to our local Ulta Salon location to get ready for our wedding. There were 8 of us who needed hair and makeup done that day. We had 4 hair stylists and 4 makeup artists on hand to get us all done in about two hours’ time. We had the entire salon at that time. We had to book this well in advance to make sure we were able to get everyone made up in time for the ceremony.

Be sure to have some pictures of hairstyles and makeup to show stylists what you are hoping to achieve. For my situation, I could not be watching everyone, so the pictures helped to make sure everyone fit the vision well. I had several ideas for the girls to choose from. They were able to decide what worked best for them.

The DJ

Having a DJ is not required in order to have an amazing wedding. If you are expecting people to dance at your reception, it is important you have some way of playing music. This could be a job for a family member to be responsible for. If the venue has sound equipment to use, that family member should easily be able to play music for the party.

DJ table
Photo by Everson Mayer

If you do hire a DJ, be sure they are reputable. There are a lot of people out there who claim to be DJs, but do not have the proper equipment for the event. I have also heard the worst comments about DJs who just do not show up to the event. So, do your research. Many Djs will have a packet for you to fill out to let them know what you want for your wedding reception. One of the jobs of the DJ is to give announcements throughout the reception. So, they will need the names of the bridal party to announce when entering the reception. They will also ask for the music you want played during important moments of the reception (e.g. first dance, father daughter dance, cake cutting, etc.) It will also ask for genres and specific songs you want played during the dancing part of the reception. Our packet also asked if we wanted line-dancing songs.

What I Should Have Done

One thing I wish I had done was include some songs NOT to play at our reception. Our reception venue was a honkytonk. Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Elvis, Patsy Cline and so many others performed there. We wanted music that fit the venue well. The DJ did a great job at that until the end of the night when “Call Me Maybe” started playing. My husband still harps on that today as something that should have never been played at our wedding.

Officiant

You may already have your officiant scheduled if you are using your family’s place of worship. If you are getting married at another location, you will need to schedule your officiant separately. You may want a close friend or family member to officiate. But be sure they have all the necessary paperwork and certifications/ordinations to be able to legally marry you and your fiancé. If you are looking for an officiant, be sure you find who follows the same beliefs as your own. If you do not care to have a religious ceremony, you can hire a Justice of the Peace. Whomever you hire to officiate, you will need to schedule a few months in advance as they too can only perform so many ceremonies a week.

Accommodations

Hotel room
Photo by Malidate Van

If you have a lot of guests coming from out of town, it is a really good idea to find a couple of hotel options for them to stay in. You will need to find something close to the venue and have a couple of options at a different price points to fit different budgets. You can also call a hotel and ask them to hold several rooms at a discounted rate for your guests to book in. The discount usually stays for a short amount of time. If the guests do not book within that time, they may miss out on the rate. Information on accommodation options should be included in the invitations.

Rehearsal Dinner

The rehearsal dinner is a way for everyone to get together the day before the wedding. The dinner is generally held after the bridal party gets the chance to rehearse the ceremony. Everyone learns their spots and how they walk in and out of the ceremony space. The officiant may be there as well to give everyone a rundown of what to expect in the ceremony.

After rehearsal, the bridal party meets at the location of the rehearsal dinner. The rehearsal dinner is traditionally planned and paid for by the groom’s family. In our case, my father-in-law paid for the event, but we still planned it because he was coming from out of town and it was just easier for us to plan it.

Bridal Shower

Wedding centerpiece
Photo by TerriC

I did not have a bridal shower because all my family and friends were coming from out of town for the wedding. It just wasn’t going to work out. But, if you are going to have a bridal shower, just take a sigh of relief because traditionally, you, the bride, do not have to do anything for it! The bridal shower is usually thrown for the bride by her mother, future mother-in-law, or her bridesmaids. Bridal showers usually are thrown two months to two weeks before the big day.

Bachelor/Bachelorette Party

The bachelor and bachelorette parties are usually thrown by the bridal party. The best man plans the bachelor party and the maid/matron of honor the bachelorette party. The bachelor and bachelorette parties (if you have one) usually happen right before the wedding. That way you can wait for everyone to be in town to join in on the festivities. These parties can sometimes get a little rowdy. I recommend that everyone try their best to be responsible at these parties. The last thing you want is to have a hangover or any injuries the morning of your wedding.

Groom on his wedding day
Photo by Bryan Schneider

My hubby and I did not have a bachelor/bachelorette party. We had the entire bridal party join us at my parents’ house and we played games until it was time for us to settle down for the night. It was a lot of fun and helped us relieve some stress before the big day.

Bridal Portraits

Bride in wedding dress
From my bridal shoot

If you want to have bridal portraits done, you will need to let your photographer know. Some brides do some bridal portraits on the day of the wedding before the ceremony. It is an additional cost, but I do recommend getting bridal portraits done about a week or two before the wedding. You will need to schedule it with your photographer and may have to schedule a location for the shoot. You will also pay for your hair and makeup to be done for the shoot (yet another cost). But, having your hair and makeup done for the shoot will let you have a “dry run” of what you want for the big day. You will be able to talk with your stylists, so they understand completely what you want for the ceremony and then you are all done up for the bridal portrait shoot.

Additional Cost

It will be an additional cost to have hair and makeup done on a different day from your wedding as well as pay for a location for the shoot. But, I very much recommend doing this because you will be able to see your makeup and make changes without feeling rushed. You will also get all kinds of wonderful photos taken in your dress that you might not get during the day of the wedding. If your bridal portraits are done in advance, you will have more time to get yourself and others ready before the ceremony. It helps reduce a lot of stress the day of.

Gifts for the Bridal Party

Wedding gift
Photo by Kim Stiver

Giving a gift to each member of the bridal party is a very nice gesture. It does not have to be super extravagant, but it needs to be special for each person. My husband and I had a rustic wedding, so each of the groomsmen were gifted belt buckles. Each of by bridesmaids were gifted a pretty necklace. All those gifts were given just before the ceremony and they all wore them for the day. It is up to you what you want to get your bridal party, just make sure it is special and shows how much you appreciate you being there to support you.

Party Favors

Wedding Favor
Photo by mabelleimago

Party favors are not required but are a nice gesture for all your wedding guests. Be sure to take the time to think and find something creative and inexpensive for you do give to all your guests. For our wedding my mom and I went to a local souvenir store and bought a bunch of miniature horseshoes and tied a little notecard on each one with my and hubby’s name and date. We also had a sweets table where guests were encouraged to take a Chinese takeout container and fill it with all kinds of candies to take home with them. My dad also made sure we ordered decks of cards with my and hubby’s names and the date as well as fans and bubbles. Our guests were set!

Communicate

Planning for a wedding can be a very stressful time for everyone involved. If you do not communicate, it will become even more stressful. You need to be sure to be open and honest with all your vendors and to everyone who is helping you plan the wedding. If something is not coming out the way you would like it, you need to speak up. Do not just let it go and then regret it later.

Women talking
Photo by Christina Morillo

In those stressful times, you need to be sure to express any feelings you might be having to someone you trust. If it is getting to be just too much for you to handle, you need to let someone know. At that time, you might reevaluate whether you want to have a big wedding or would rather something much smaller and simpler. Or you might have to decide to have a wedding planner take over everything, so you won’t have to worry so much about all the fine details. Regardless of what you do, just do not bottle up your emotions. It is not healthy for you nor will it help make the planning an enjoyable experience.

Don’t Forget the Groom!

It is also important for you to check in on your fiancé and see how they are feeling throughout this whole process. A lot of the time the men can feel a little bit left out since so many people are focused on the bride and her wants. The two of you need to communicate with each other during this whole process so it is something that you both can enjoy.

Abstinence 

Couple in bed
Photo by sasint

In the ideal Christian marriage, both the bride and groom have saved themselves for marriage. If you and your fiancé have done that, then major kudos to you both. Not many people do that anymore. If you and your fiancé have not or you live together, that is okay. No one here is judging. But, if you have not waited for marriage, I highly recommend practicing abstinence for at least two weeks before your wedding. Abstaining from sex for an extended amount of time before the wedding will definitely help make the wedding night so much more special. I can vouch for that.

Plan a Honeymoon

I know that not everyone’s budget is the same, but I recommend you and your fiancé take some kind of honeymoon trip after the wedding. Taking a honeymoon shortly after the wedding will allow you to unwind after the weeks or months of stress you had just gone through. It also gives you the opportunity to spend time with your new spouse and let you adjust to married life in a calm and relaxing environment. If you are anything like my hubby and I, our honeymoon was our only opportunity for us to take a vacation just the two of us for over seven years. Right after our honeymoon I started a new job and hubby started school. Then I went to grad school and so on. I honestly believe if you do not honeymoon within a couple of weeks after your wedding, you may never get the opportunity to do so. So, I think it should be a priority to plan one. A honeymoon trip will help get your marriage started on the right foot and give you so many amazing memories to look back on.

Couple selfie
Waiting for our bus at WDW
Make it Special

A honeymoon does not have to be extravagant. But it does need to be a special trip you and your new spouse take together. If you both like the beach, find a nice resort on a beach. If you like hiking, there are amazing cabins and lodges across the country for you to go to. Traveling abroad may be more your cup of tea. Just find something that works for you and your fiancé and with your budget!

A “Zilla” Moment Will Happen

I have watched every episode of Bridezillas on WeTV. Before my wedding, I thought that a lot of the brides were just brats and I just could not understand why they were melting down so much. Then, after my wedding, I could understand why some of the brides would get upset. I want to believe that I was a very easygoing bride during the whole wedding planning process. The stress got very intense the last two weeks before the wedding though. That was when all the last-minute decisions had to be made and the first members of the bridal party were coming in from across the country. By the day of the wedding there were 16 people staying at my parents’ house. The house was only a 4-bedroom home, so there were a lot of people sleeping on couches and blow up mattresses.

Couple fighting on wedding day
Photo by Slobodan Josic

My Bridezilla moment was when my matron of honor told my mom that her daughter (our flower girl) might have had Strep Throat. She told us this after they had been living in our house for at least three days. I lost it! I love all of them so much, but I got irritated because Strep is not something to mess with. Our house was full of people and we had elderly family members coming in who had compromised immune systems and the best man’s wife was very pregnant. To top it all, my hubby and I were leaving for our honeymoon three days after the wedding. Strep was not something we wanted to deal with that week and my hubby and I were NOT going to be sick during our honeymoon! My matron of honor replied by saying we couldn’t live in a bubble.

Sure, we can’t live in a bubble, but it would have been nice to know that we might be exposed to Strep beforehand so more precautions could have been made. Fortunately, the next day she took her daughter to urgent care and it was not Strep. We dodged a bullet there.

No Hard Feelings

So, even if you are doing everything you can to make wedding planning a smooth process, you will still likely have a situation that will make you lose your cool for a minute. It happens. Just be sure you don’t say or do anything you regret later. Also, don’t let that one breakdown cause a damper for the whole event. Get over it quickly and apologize to anyone you may have snapped at and move on so you can have a great experience.

The Day Of

You may have been planning your wedding for just a couple of months, or a couple of years. But, now it is finally the big day! What can you do to ensure you have the best day ever?

Go With the Flow

Woman running
Photo by NastyaSensei Sens

It is the day of your wedding; you just need to go with the flow. You have spent months planning and preparing for the big day. There is nothing more you can do now but just have the best day of your life. If there are hiccups leading up to the ceremony, that is okay. Your bridesmaids are there to offer support to make sure everything gets settled quickly and easily. The only thing that matters on this day is that you and your fiancé get married. Be sure you have someone who can talk with vendors if a problem should pop up. For me, my mom and her friend dealt with everything that day. Fortunately, everything showed up when and where they needed to.

Hydrate

Woman drinking water
Photo by Daria Shevtsova

Do not forget to drink plenty of water while you are getting ready for your ceremony. You and everyone in the bridal party needs to stay hydrated throughout the whole day. It is unlikely you will get the chance to drink very much once you are in your dress as it may be rather difficult to make a restroom trip once its on.

Eat

Woman eating fruit
Photo by Adrienn

Be sure to eat a good breakfast and lunch before your wedding ceremony. My husband and I barely had the opportunity to eat at our reception. So, in order to avoid passing out anytime during the ceremony or reception, be sure you have eaten something that can hold you over until the next time you can eat.

Stay Sober

Beer Bottles
Photo by Tookapic

At the reception, you might feel the need to finally cut lose after being stressed out for so long. But I do not recommend you or your new spouse consume a lot of adult beverages. If you drink too much you will likely not remember a lot about your reception. It will also take away from your special wedding night. You do not want your first night as a married couple be ruined because you and/or your new spouse are ill from drinking too much.

Take it All In

Throughout the day be sure to just sit back and watch everything that is going on around you. When you and your bridesmaids are getting hair and makeup done, watch how the ladies are talking amongst themselves and laughing. Spend a couple minutes focused on each of those special women in your life. At the ceremony, look around the location whenever you get the opportunity to take everything in. At the reception, take a few minutes to sit at your table and just watch everyone else having a good time. They are all there for you to celebrate you and your new spouse and the adventure you about to take together. You will be so happy later that you took the time to soak it all in.

Wedding Sign
Photo by Pixabay

Don’t focus too much on taking pictures since you have a photographer there to do that for you. You need to live in the moment on your wedding day. Your wedding day will be over in a blink of an eye, so you will want to take in as much as you can so you can reminisce about it later.

Conclusion

Planning even a small, casual wedding takes a lot of work. But, it is so worth it in the end to see everything put together. Regardless of who is paying for your wedding, you need to sit down and come up with a game plan to get everything accomplished before the big day.  A wedding can be planned without a wedding planner, but if your budget allows for it, hiring one may take a lot of stress away from you and whoever else is planning the event with you. Planning will also help reduce a lot of your stress. No matter what, there are two major questions you will have to ask yourself when making decisions for your wedding.

First, is what you want within the budget for your wedding. Then, is what you are deciding on what you or your fiancé want? If you go beyond your budget or make too many compromises on what you want, you will not have the wedding of your dreams. Remember the wedding is about you and your fiancé, not anyone else. But, if you go bankrupt to essentially throw a party, it will not put you on the right path for your marriage. The goal of a wedding is to get married to the person you love. Anything beyond that is just icing on the cake!

Question of the Week

If you are married, what kind of advice would you give couples who are currently planning their wedding?

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