Belles Buzz: So you’re planning a wedding

On June 10, 2016 by admin

Hi folks, it’s Jenn here. Wedding planning can be an overwhelming and stressful process, but I think I can help.  Working on my own wedding, and with countless brides over the years, has taught me some valuable lessons, and I’d like to share some of them with you today.  I hope these musings will help make your special day run as smoothly as possible, or at least make it easier to deal with!

Planning: What we’ve learned- Important decisions regarding the Budget, Wedding Date, Ceremony and Reception Locations, Bridal Party, and Guest List, should be considered early in the planning process. Get these items out of the way first thing so you can focus on the million smaller details that will certainly creep up.  Trying to order flowers before you’ve picked your colors or a hall doesn’t make any sense.  Also determine which things you want to handle as a together and which you’re each better off tackling alone.  In my experience there just aren’t too many Grooms who want much involvement with the details like dresses, color scheme, and flowers. But, if the guys want to be involved, try delegating a few things in their comfort zone like menu selection, beverages, and music.  Moms, sisters, friends, and family usually love to be involved in wedding preparations too. If they offer help, TAKE IT!  Unless you have channeled Martha Stewart herself, you can’t possibly do everything.  Trying to do so will only frustrate and exhaust you. Let’s face it; tired, cranky Bride is not a good look.

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Budget: What we’ve learned- Budget will be a HUGE factor in your planning.  Huge, I say!  Setting a reasonable budget that you, your fiancé, and your families can stick to is key.  This is a wedding, don’t over do it and spend your life savings on the one day.  Yes, your wedding day should be Fabulous, but you still need to afford to live the Happily Ever After part of this fairy tale, right??  Stay realistic, and start with a little research on the average costs of each of the wedding components so you will have a reference point.  Then make a list of “needs” and “wants” and see how they fit into your allotted budget.   What items require professional help and which can be done personally, perhaps less expensively?  Where can compromises be made?  Spend some time on this part.  Talk it out right from the beginning.  Make sure everyone is comfortable with the budget, and STICK TO IT.  You’ll be budgeting your life together; if you can’t manage this one event you’re in big trouble, sister!  It’s not a bad idea to make yourself a list of expenses to track deposits, balances and due dates.


Dates: What we’ve learned- When choosing your Wedding Date, there are a few things to consider. Dates near a major holiday will always be more expensive and Fridays and Sundays are usually cheaper than prime Saturdays.  Think about a Friday night ceremony with Cocktail reception or Sunday morning service and a Brunch to follow.  We’ve even seen a few unconventional brides that have chosen week nights that are a special date to them, such as an anniversary or holiday. Summer  and Fall months book up fast for catering, reception halls, churches, florists, etc.  Off-peak months, December-April, can often be easier to reserve and might mean considerable savings. Don’t forget what’s most important; pick a date that makes you feel good, whether it’s a July day for your dream beach wedding or the date you two first met in January.  My husband and I chose the date we starting dating back in high school.  It was easy to remember because we had already celebrated it for 10 years, and as a bonus it was a lesser expensive Sunday.

Also note* Flowers will always be more expensive near holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, as well as the winter holidays. But, florists aren’t overcharging you. When there is a heightened demand on a steady/low supply of flowers the price skyrockets, for everyone.  Try to avoid these holiday weeks and the few surrounding, if you can.  You don’t want to be stuck with the overpriced Valentine’s Day reject roses, do you? Think about work schedules, travel arrangements for out of town guests, and don’t forget to consider the seasonal climates in your desired location.
When you first imagine a wedding ceremony it’s in one of two places; a church, or not.  Traditionalists will certainly find an abundance of beautiful churches, synagogues or houses of worship to act as the setting for their big day.  But if a church isn’t your thing, don’t sweat it.  Use your imagination; people get married in donut shops for crying out loud.  Private property, community gardens, local attractions and even some retail spaces can all make great ceremony sites.

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Ceremony: What we’ve learned- Simply put, a wedding is a public declaration of love and commitment. How you choose to express this declaration is up to you, and only you.  Well, and maybe the groom too.  My husband and I are only vaguely religious, technically raised a Catholic and a Lutheran. We don’t often attend church, nor have a minister, so we felt most comfortable being married by a judge. There are also many other types of officiates outside of clergy; dear friends, a father or grandfather, a respected professor, or spiritual guides to name a few. These days Internet ordainment is growing quite popular, and allows close friends and family to take an active and meaningful role in your ceremony.

Now, let’s say you and your fiancée are of two very different backgrounds or religious upbringings. Ceremonies that blend both religions and family traditions will be most memorable.  Try not to worry about offending your guests with unfamiliar customs.   Take this opportunity to teach your guests about other cultures in a setting of love and fun.  Partake in the traditions that hold a special place in our hearts and omit those that don’t. These decisions might be best made with the input of your parents and grandparents, but ultimately this day is about you and your love for one another.


Wedding vows can be very personal, or very traditional. Religious weddings tend to have more traditional vows that are usually set by the religion or place of worship. However, when having a more nontraditional ceremony, you can often entirely customize your vows. Your Officiant should be able to help you get started writing your own vows if you choose to go that route.   The Internet is also a wonderful place to look for samples and examples. Speak from the heart in either case, that’s all that matters.

Bridal Party: Thoughts- I like to mix things up a bit, so when we chose our Bridal Party we opted for mixed pairs. Standing up on my side I had my brother as my Male of Honor, and my best friend/partner in crime Emily as my Maid of Honor, and Jeff had his sister as his Best Maid, and his best friend as his Best Man. The guys chose their own black suit, tie and shoes, and the girls could choose any dress under the sun, I only asked that it was blue. I think that plan went over well because everyone was able to wear his or her outfits again in the future. As girls we decided to choose coordinating but non-matching shoes. It made for a cute detail without being too matchy-matchy. Who says you have to have 6 clones on your left and him with 6 on his right?   No one, that’s who.  Include the people who are most dear to you, and it doesn’t matter which side of the aisle they are on.

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Guest List: What we’ve learned- When it comes time for you to write out that Guest List; I’ve always liked the notion that if you wouldn’t invite the person in question to your home, then you probably don’t need to invite them to your wedding.  Now, there will always be that Great-Aunt Tilly that your mother just insists you invite, fine.  But that guy and what’s-her-face that you met at your sister’s house those few times, you can skip them.  And it’s OK!  Consider all things.  How many people fit in your ceremony or reception space?  How much does it cost per person for food, drink, favor, flowers, etc? When you start adding up cost per person attending your event, don’t forget to let your budget help you to make some decisions.  While it would be nice to include the man who cuts your grass and his girlfriend, blowing your budget by hundreds of dollars won’t be a feel good in the end.  And the landscaper won’t mind, I swear.  Check with your parents and important guests and make sure there isn’t someone you’re forgetting.  I left someone off my list and ended up writing a letter of apology in the late invite. I felt awful.  Better to consider all options and make decisions, than to leave out some loved ones accidentally.  If you get some pressure to add to your list, consider this; if the one doing the pressuring is the one writing the check, maybe let them have their way.  If Mom wants to invite 20 of her work friends and she’s the one who’s footing the bill for dinner, then let her have her way.  What will it hurt?  There are bigger battles to be won, this is an easy compromise. And hey, the more the merrier, with added bonus of more presents!  If the major cost of added guests will be falling on your shoulders, stand up for yourself, and your budget.  Make all parties aware that the decision to narrow the list is purely a financially responsible choice and not an emotional one. There has to be a cut off point somewhere. Decide where and stick to it.

Pictures: What we’ve learned-  Take lots of them.  Lots. And then some more. You only have one shot at capturing this event, and though your memory is key in looking back on our special day, it really comes down to the photographs to conjure up those cherished moments. You can easily send and display photos, share them in ways you can’t with your minds eye.

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While I do have some beautiful and sentimental photographs from my wedding, I can’t help but to be a bit disappointed in the ones I DON’T have. Looking back there are numerous photo opportunities that weren’t captured. I don’t have any pictures of myself with my mother and the groom’s mother. I don’t have a picture of all of the siblings, or of the bride and groom with both sets of parents. There are also not nearly enough of the flowers, as far as I’m concerned. And there’s no going back to recreate those moments. So, I say again, Take lots and lots of pictures. Take way more than you think you’ll need. Too many is a better problem to have than not enough. Especially in a digital world, there is almost no limit to the number of images you can gather.  When choosing your photographer, make specific requests during your consultation, ask to see some of their previous works, and be sure to get digital files that you can keep and share for years to come.


Prepare yourself: What we’ve learned- Now, I’m no Boy Scout but I do live by their motto. Be Prepared. While I was in the planning stages of my wedding I gathered a lot of info, made several hundred lists, and a 4-foot color-coded calendar. I got organized early and really thought about how the day would go, and what I needed to do/get to make it as stress free as I could. I realized that I was having an outdoor wedding, on a hot august afternoon, in a garden with no shade, with elderly family in attendance. I had a nightmare about Grandpa passing out from the heat, and another about a downpour, but instead of freaking out about things that are out of my control, I just thought about how to remedy or prevent any disasters. I can’t control the sun, but I can try to make my guests as comfortable as possible. So, I made yet another list: Umbrellas for shade, a Cooler with refreshments, Fans to beat the heat, Tissues for dabbing tears or sweat. I gathered up these items well in advance, had them packaged for travel and asked a few family members to help put them in their respective places at the ceremony site. Nearly all of it was bought at local Dollar Stores; umbrellas, tiny battery powered fans, tissues, and even the water bottles and juice boxes. I must tell you, I was pretty happy to have that tiny cold juice box after the ceremony. On a side note: Personalizing these items or coordinating them with your wedding theme adds that extra bit of detail that makes the event really special, if you’ve got the time and patience for such things.
Next, I made a ‘just in case of rain’ plan. In the event the weather took a turn for the worse, I made arrangements with the ceremony and reception venues. My wedding venue did not allow tents, and even though it wasn’t feasible to move my ceremony to an indoor site at the same location, my nearby reception venue was able to accommodate us if needed. Check with your contact personnel and see what’s possible, and if there are extra fees attached. Chances are that since you took the time to make extra arrangements you won’t end up needing them. Either way it’s always better to be prepared…

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Psssst… No matter how prepared you are, things WILL go wrong! There is just no avoiding it. NO wedding will be as absolutely PERFECT like the ones in the movies. I planned, and planned and planned some more, had my rain plan, and you know what? Dumb stuff still happened. Look at my wedding cake. It fell over before I ever saw it. You know what else? IT’S OK! And do you know why? Because it’s just a cake. My Mother-in-Law made it with love, it tasted great, and it’s a funny memory that we’ll have forever. And for that, it was perfect!  On you big day, if things don’t go exactly as planned, take a few deep breaths and remain calm.  Just try to go with the flow. Ranting, raving, screaming and turning into Bridezilla won’t fix most things anyways.  If at the end of the day you are married to your true love, that’s all that really matters.

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Here are a couple more things I didn’t plan on….  Go ahead, have a laugh at my expense.  It’s OK…
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Can you spot my mistake in the picture above? Yup, I put his ring ON THE WRONG HAND! Must have been my excitement taking over, I have no idea how it happened, and I feel like a big dork. But again, IT’S OK. I can laugh at myself, and it makes for a memory that most brides can’t say they have. It doesn’t make us any less married. We started our new adventure with a good laugh and it still makes me shake my head with a smile.

Another thing I couldn’t control was that my wedding space was open and accessible to the general public. Getting married in a Chicago garden put us on display a bit, and while most people just smiled and waved and said sweet things, some passersby did get a little closer to the action. During the ceremony I didn’t even notice this gentleman, and it wasn’t until I saw the pictures that I knew he had joined us. He rode his bicycle down my aisle and watched the ceremony over Uncle’s shoulder. Now, I never saw that coming, but why get upset about it? He was quiet, respectful, nicely dressed, and just wanted to join in our fun. No harm, no foul.

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Don’t sweat the small stuff is what I’m saying in a long-winded way. Get as prepared as you can, but also be ready to relax and let things slide when every little detail isn’t perfect. Sometimes the imperfections are the most interesting memories.


Receptions: What we learned- On your wedding day, guests will spend the majority of their time at the reception site, so be thoughtful in choosing the location! There are many wonderful banquet halls whose all inclusive packages make the process easier by having everything you might need from chairs to linens, cakes to caterers. But, if you like to think outside the box, there are also many unusual wedding locations that might fit your personal style a little better. However, sometimes the unconventional locations might mean a little more work. Often you’ll have to rent your own chairs, tables, lines, and dishes.  What about bathrooms, and parking?  You’ll also have to find your own caterer, bakery, and bar staff. And your to-do list will be ever so long. Choose carefully by considering your convenience and that of your guests.

When designing the look of your event, keep the space itself in mind.  Don’t over-embellish an already elaborate or busy space.  Too many things going on in a confined area will confuse the eye and leave guests uneasy.  A plain space, on the other hand, may need a lot of interesting details to feel special and inviting. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Elaborate space – simple decor, Simple space – elaborate decor. You aren’t going to make a castle look any better by adding glitter to everything, and a plain white banquet room with boring white flowers might feel cold. Think about the space itself; work with your vendors to create a one of a kind look that’s tailored to your theme, tastes and overall vision.

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To really emphasize a theme and make a wedding feel like an event, pick a few key design ideas and repeat them throughout your day. Choosing colors, patterns or flower varieties are a good place to start.   Since we’re such movie buffs, our theme was Hollywood, and we used our favorite colors- orange, green, and blue throughout the space to tie all of the details together. The invites resembled award show envelopes, the reception was held in a theater with a marquee and a red carpet. We were even able to utilize the ticket booth in place of the escort card table; our guests were given tickets to the “show.” The tables were all named for our favorite movies, and cardboard cutouts of our favorite characters helped set the Hollywood scene on the dance floor.   We even tailored the music to include movie soundtracks, and brought in a photo booth and popcorn cart to really drive home the theme. Our wedding was truly an event, from start to finish. Now, I understand I may have gone a bit further in my planning than most, but you can do a lot with repeating patterns, or an abundance of lush, romantic flowers. Once you decide on a detail that’s truly you, figure out how to use it EVERYWHERE. It’s the details that make the difference. Not super creative? There are loads of magazines, websites and designers that are full of info and inspiration for your event. You have heard of Pinterest, right?

I could go on and on about the Table settings, Favors, Entertainment, the FOOD, but we will touch on those aspects at another time.   We’ve got some thoughts to share but I just wanted to touch on the basics for now. Hope this helped put things into perspective and made the process seem a bit less daunting.


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