Wedding Planning Tips #1 through 10

February 18, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Wedding Tips #1 through 10

© Terry


These tips are FREE...  

Use them, modify them to suit your more specific needs, or just ignore those that don't apply to you or your circumstances. Our ongoing list of Wedding Tips are things most couples (and mom's & mother-in-law's-to-be) need to know, or at least be aware of.  


It's 'essential wisdom' gained from experience of multiple weddings and research; from paying attention, with the hope that any one reading these messages think, "I'm glad someone told me that!" We hope you will have the happiest day, the least stress, and the best wedding & marriage possible. We believe that prior planning promotes positive performance.  


Our goal is to tackle 1 or 2 new Tips (Tricks and/or Traps) that most couples experience in planning their wedding. There is no specific order, we address these tips as we think of them, have brides (or grooms, or their family & friends) experience them, and as clients ask us for advice and suggestions. Not only have we experienced many of these issues in our own wedding (which included nearly 300 guests, and a bit of chaos and stress), so we have firsthand experience. But, it's better than that, because we've sat through (and photographed) many more weddings... a variety of types & styles... and sizes. Like any good sponge, we tried to absorb as much information as possible, while helping when possible.


Feel free to email or call us if you have any questions or suggestions.  


We hope you both enjoy, and invite your friends thinking of a wedding in the future to join our monthly newsletter.    


NOTE: we are restating some of our past tips, both as a reminder, and with some edits & additions. Again, please skip those that don't apply to you... and share with your friends & family that you think might appreciate these Tips.




Think about the type of wedding you want--formal or informal, big or small--and the time of year you want it to take place. BEFORE your get fixed on any specifics, consider the planning - the weather, the guests travel needs, and the date.


Some dates are going to be more challenging, and require more prior planning than others. And few people want to drive through snow storms from out of state, hotels can get booked by other events happening at the same time, venues and professionals (bakers, caterers, planners, seamstress's, DJ's, and photographers) all get booked often months to years in advance.


We've already had to turn away people for dates that have been previously booked, and have a few bookings clear out into 2015 & 2016 already. So, PLANNING IS VITAL to making your wedding day the best it can be!



Tip #2 -Investigate Blackout Dates

Know ahead of time if your wedding date falls on the same day as a trade conference, charity walk, national holiday, or some local event that could affect traffic and hotel room availability. This is particularly important for 'prime times' - and weekend dates.


Not only do assorted services, such as caterers, musicians (DJ's), venues, and Photographers get booked months and sometimes years in advance, but so do hotels. You can make a few calls, and pre-book rooms in hotels near your venue for family & friends usually without any money down... just a credit card to hold the room. Double check the cancellation rules for each hotel, in case you over book rooms or change the date, or have some unforeseen circumstance. Most hotels have a ZERO CHARGE cancellation if you let them know 48hrs to 7 days before the date. Some will require a deposit, which may or may not be refundable, if you are booking 5 or more rooms. ASK, PLAN, and THINK ahead... KEEP A WRITTEN LIST OF YOUR COMMITMENTS... it will help make your special day the least stressful and happiest.


Note: Busy wedding photographers & venues are booked 1, 2 & 3 years ahead during PRIME TIMES (May through October in most US areas). So locking down YOUR DATE for all necessary people as soon as you are sure of it is important.


Next, understand that nearly 75% of the weddings involving guests are scheduled on a SATURDAY... and there are only 52 of those a year. In most communities, there is an average of 1 wedding for every 20 people in population, per year. So, a city of 400,000 will have  are an average of 20,000 marriages PER YEAR, of which about 10 to 15,000 weddings are likely to happen ON A SATURDAY (or Sunday). But there is also SEASONALITY to take into account, because in your common storm & snow areas, there are about 500+ weddings on any given Saturday from Mid-April through Mid October (prime time). So, while knowing the schedule of your most important guests is important, knowing what all else is happening on your special day... and the days directly before & after, are vital!


Personally Significant Days


Check your own calendar for college reunions, family weddings, anniversaries or other events, like big conventions or festivals in your city (call your local chamber of commerce), and any annual occasions that involve your family or close friends. It's also probably pretty important to try to avoid getting married on the anniversary of an important family members death. (Food for thought).

If you are interested in knowing the common 'Black-out Dates' Click Here...  


Your special date should be easily memorable, special to you (and your prospective mate), and not conflict with some bad memory or occurrence; as as a death or divorce of someone close, or debilitating accident.



Tip #3 - Really, Guests NEEDS MUST Come First

While this is YOUR SPECIAL DAY, it's vital that you bother to think of others. You'll really need to get a grip on the approximate number of guests you'll invite and that will expect to be attending - both the ceremony and the reception. The more people, the tougher the challenge for catering, hotels, reception, and yes... the photographer will also need to know, so they can plan accordingly.


Knowing the number of guests, availability of services, and expense up front will help you have the best day (and most important guests in attendance). While it is your special day, juggling everyone's schedule requires notice... and the more, the better; with polite reminders just in case. Prior planning prevents poor participation!


A general rule is to allow for about 20 to 30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot, but really it isn't... if you are counting space you needed for tables, servers, entertainment, and a dance floor. Knowing the number of guests that will probably attend will effect the space, food, wait-staff, and photographers. We figure 1 cameraman (person) for 1 to 20 guests, 2 camera's minimum is what we suggest up to 50 guests, with an additional camera-person for each 50 guests after that. You don't want to miss your special moments, nor those of the people you've invited to attend your wedding.


We have multiple trained and ready camera-people, ready, willing, and able to help capture your special moments, your family, friends, and guests. Our check list of shot priorities, and pre-wedding venue research, helps insure your wedding photographs will be the quality and heirloom memories you expect and will want to share for generations to come.




Tip #4 - INVITATIONS... (Edited & Expanded)

Consider YOUR GOALS... are you wanting guests, gifts, acceptance, acknowledgement, or something different?


Consider your budget... because guests WILL COST MONEY!


Consider the space available... outdoors obviously has more room, but still requires chairs, and some type of after-wedding reception. The church, or other ceremony options, may have limited seating. Knowing the boundaries will help you target your notice (invitations & acknowledgements) more effectively.


Remember, though it's YOUR SPECIAL DAY... inviting others, especially from out of the area, requires prior notice and planning on their part for stress free participation (and often a nicer gift).  


CONSIDER - if you have a great 'engagement' photo, it IS POSSIBLE to have YOUR PHOTO PRINTED ON THE STAMPS YOU USE TO SEND OUT YOUR INVITATIONS. They work just like regular stamps, but they have YOU PHOTO on them, which can usually gain you some additional attention and talk among your family & friends.  


Suggested Time Line (for the least amount of stress and best planning)

9-12 months

Start looking now... not only do you need to know HOW MANY, but you'll need to consider the audience. There are a variety of options, from generic to custom. From funny, to traditional. From expensive to inexpensive. Knowing how many is vital... agreeing upon a style is important. You'll need to know your date, roughly who & how many you want to invite, your budget, and also list who you want to invite that might not attend... BUT MIGHT BE WILLING TO SEND A GIFT.  


Once you've selected the above answers, TELL YOUR STORY! Not everyone will know it. Some will find it interesting, some stories spark the emotions, and people naturally want to help their family & friends off on the right foot (or at least in a positive way).  


Consider creating a wedding website... that allows you to share more information, with updates of plans and ideas... and allows you to engage your long lost relatives, high school & college friends, and distant family friends. It's really not terribly complicated. It can be your own domain, a blog spot, or even a facebook fan page. But the more you get your personal story out, and engage your potential guests, the more you'll know what to expect... and the more will be willing to participate in some form or fashion... even if only a gift or well wishes.


6-9 months

Save-the-date cards...  have them designed, printed, and ready... send them to your those guests you want attending.


4-6 months

Order your invitations; don't forget the RSVP cards and/or rehearsal dinner invites, to insert where necessary. Give yourself time, just in case there is a typo or some problem missed in the proofing. Besides, who likes rushing through filling out 150 to 500 invitations a day or two before you have to send them out? Avery Labels have programs that allow PRINTING envelopes & labels, and if you use a nice SCRIPT and 'BLUE' (maybe black) ink, they can appear to be 'hand written' - which will save your fingers a lot of stress and some callouses. Remember, you can avoid the stress with prior planning.  


2-4 months

This is when you want to send out the invitations. If lots of guests are booking flights or will need hotel rooms, you'll need to give them suggestions, and plan on giving them at least 8 weeks notice. This will also help you have a more exact count for your seating & catering needs list.


2-4 weeks

All RSVP cards should be back by now. Plan for about 10%+/- actually showing up... and notify those that need more exacting numbers to setup for and deal with things accordingly. Really, there is no sense in laying out the time & expense for tables, chairs, and preparing food for 150 people if only 50 show up... and accordingly, you don't want to be that bride that planned for 100 and had nearly 350 show - without seats, food, or preparedness.

Now, clearly, the above time line is for those weddings that are a year out. Many proposals to wedding dates are a matter of weeks to just a few months, so apply the above formula to your specific needs. And you might need to TALK WITH many (to most) of your most important guests. Always remember,




TIP #5 - TOP Wedding Cake Q+As


What is a 'cake-cutting fee'?

Say What? Yep, many establishments charge an additional fee to cut and serve slices of your cake. This is more common in venues weddings are commonly hosted at, and particularly when your cake designer is not affiliated with their venue. It's usually nothing more than an incentive for you to use their in-house baker which avoids the 'cut and serve' fee, but might well be more expensive or different on the cake costs. If you decide to have your cake made elsewhere, factor in another $1.50 or more per person... or at least KNOW TO ASK THE QUESTION, and negotiate the fees.


How big of cake is needed?    

Clearly that depends on the number of guests, size of slices, and whether it's served (controlled) or free-range (serve themselves).


Will the baker supply the topper?  

Most bakeries will have their 'stock toppers' available, and can order customs; however, unless wedding cakes are their specialty, they will likely either be reselling from a catalog or have a very limited selection. If you don't like what you see, it's perfectly fine to find & supply your own (which may or may not save you any money). Craft shops, florists, and baking stores usually have them, or can make suggestions for other options.


Are real flowers on the cake safe?

Any well established florist will be able to tell you which flowers are potentially dangerous, they really do exist; and which are perfectly safe for use. This is particularly important if kids MIGHT be around your cake. Since some pretties are edible, and some people might not know which things are just decoration and which are to taste, this is something more that you should be aware of. If you are have real flowers as part of the decor around your cake (and food). What might be obvious to you, won't be for everyone.




The Farmer's Almanac is a reasonable start, is another good resource. There are seasonal trends, think about them... plan around what is known, normal, and predictable. Guests tend to skip out on outdoor events that are too hot or too cold. They don't want to be in rain, ice, or snow... or melting humidity. Bugs can be a problem during certain times, so adding the expense of pest control can help everyone have a better time.


If you are planning a sunset (or rise) wedding (though the later isn't suggested for most guests), be sure to double check the exact time of the sun being where you want it... at that location, that date, and what the likelihood of clouds or clear sky will be. ( can help you with this).




Tip #7 = Meal Plan

Knowing the number of guests, and budgeting for that is common... and usual. However, another expense that needs planned for: feeding the wedding day crew.  


They will expect to eat, especially if they are 'on-site' for more than 3 hours. It is important to plan for how you will deal with feeding them. Before you sign the contracts make sure you aren't required to serve the same meal to the vendors that the guests will be served (or that you are ok with and can afford that). If you aren't serving caviar, lobster, tiger shrimp, fillet mignon, or some other high-end expensive foods then it might not matter... but if you are, then 15 to 40 staff/vendor's will ultimately be real happy, and you will be spending an extra $30 to 100+ on those people. So, this is an option to talk with your caterer about, and decide on with your mate (and/or who ever if footing the bill), before your wedding day. You'll want to do this at least a week before the cater starts buying and planning on the numbers to feed.

Be sure to know & plan for exactly who you'll be expected to feed. How many vendors will be eating? Don't forget, especially with the longer receptions, you'll have wedding planner/assistants, ushers, photographer's and potentially their assistants, catering staff & servers, and even a DJ or band members). You need to also think about WHAT and WHERE you want them to served.




Tip #8 - Smart Friends (and Vendors) PAY IT FORWARD...

This is probably your first wedding. Your parents were married decades ago. But your vendors - the Photographer, Caterer, Gown designer, etc. can probably make some suggestions for who & what else you should consider. Like this list of Tips (Tricks & Traps), these vendors have a few (to potentially hundreds) of weddings they've directly & in-directly experienced. Don't be afraid to ask, most will try to help... or tell you they don't know. Worst they can do is say 'No.'




Tip #9 - Organize & Focus

Get a note pad to pack in your purse, for when you think of something away from your computer. Like this List... USE YOUR COMPUTER... organize, and jot your notes down. Have your guest list ON COMPUTER. Not only can it help you with gathering and keeping all their names & addresses for the invitations, but with the seating charts, and assorted other needs without having to duplicate writing or typing their names multiple times (copy & paste will save you time, highlighting adds useful color coding to who is the bride's family, who are part of the groom's family... and who is each parties friends. Example: Medium Blue for the Grooms family, Light Blue for the Grooms friends. Medium Red & light Pink for the Brides. Use Yellow for those in question, Green for those you'd really like there. Color coding can help you with future planning.  


Get a 3-ring binder or enclosed folder, to compile all correspondences, receipts, and contracts with vendors. The folder, with dividers, also allows you to sort photos, magazine pages you've torn out for ideas, notes, etc. that you might want to show vendors. Having everything in the fewest places possible (the notepad, folder, binder, and computer) really helps.  


Also, set up a special email address (yahoo or gmail, or such)... so that the majority of your wedding emails COME TO ONE PLACE. This is particularly important for post wedding interaction. You aren't going to want to keep getting most emails (potentially not even these Tips & Tricks, unless you have friends or other family members that will be planning a wedding in the future). So, having an email that you can cut off, or only check once in a while - when you have extra time in the future, you'll thank us in the future.  


It should go without saying, but store your vendors PERSONAL & business numbers in your cell phone; AND BACK UP YOUR CELL, just in case it's lost or stolen.  


Understand that many of the vendors won't be able to 'just answer' when you call, so leave a message; and make sure you leave your phone number and the best time to call you back in your message, if they don't answer.  





Black-out dates were discussed in Tip #2 (above), but we've noticed that some couples haven't yet settled on a specific date for one reason or another. Many have a specific date in mind or even set. If you do, then skip this tip. If, however, you don't... then you'll soon LOVE US! 


Because, IF your wedding doesn't have to be on a Saturday, life could be a little easier... depending on your guests and prior planning, and a whole lot less expensive!  

Sometimes, it's possible, that last minute plans can work in your favor. With less busy vendors, the closer you are to a date they still have open, the more bargaining power you *MIGHT* have.  This is common place in key destinations, venues, and times of the year. More true in the off-season, and off-Saturday. Most people book their wedding venues & vendors, at least six to twenty-four months ahead of time. So, key spots (and vendors) will be booked, but cancellations do happen. You could ask to be on a waiting list, and cross your fingers. You could try to hold out with flexible dates, and try to see if something might open up; doing this *could* either be a let down (they are booked), or gain you a pleasant discount for a cash (paid in full) commitment. Remember, MOST deposits are NON-REFUNDABLE past a certain point. THIS is vital, because that business likely turned away clients because YOU BOOKED THEM. So, make sure you have your proverbial ducks in a row.


The challenge is to get all your needed vendors to have an open date ON YOUR DATE!  


In general, with most vendors, the Saturday wedding is a PRIME DAY... only 52 per year max, and those days are usually 20 to 50% higher priced. So, you could very probably negotiate a hefty discount on a non-Saturday, and at least a 10 to 20% discount (or extended show special) for any weekday.




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If you have any questions about photography, please feel free to ask. I might not know the answer off the top of my head, but odds are I can either help you find the answer or know someone that knows the answer. After nearly 45 years of playing with hundreds of different cameras, both film and digital, I probably don't know specific 'make and model' info... but I UNDERSTAND PHOTOGRAPHY, and the PRINCIPLES & CONCEPTS of capturing and creating good to great images.
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