Wedding Planning 101: 7 Things I wish I could have told myself before the big day

1. Keep your husband-to-be involved, even in tiny details. He’ll tell you if he thinks you are getting annoying.
Correct me if I am wrong, but typically, women tend to do most of the thinking, planning, choosing and organizing for the big day, versus their husbands. I mean, we’re pretty good at it. We have a vision! But there were times when I was on the psychotic Bride roller coaster, and I’d accidentally leave my husband behind. Surprise, surprise – he wanted to be involved in it all! And why shouldn’t he be, it is his big day too. I hated thinking I was annoying him with tiny little miniscule questions or details that he didn’t care about, but truthfully, it’s better to over-annoy him and ask him to tell you when to back off, versus leaving him out of the rush and thrill of the planning. Mark socked it to me a few times when I didn’t run something by him, and it not only showed me that he did care about the details, but wanted the day to be an “us” project and not just a “me” project. Totally “Aww” worthy.

2. Things will not go the way you plan. Things will not go the way you plan!
bartending
Bartending on my big day with my pal Kristina, because the party was still raging, but my bartender was off the clock! Turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the day.

The wedding I had in mind is not the wedding I got. It was truthfully, much better. But you have to be flexible, and adjust your attitude at the drop of a hat. If you get hung up on expectations, then when you get something different, you will be disappointed, even if it isn’t necessarily “worse.” Your expectations should be: “To marry the person of my dreams in front of friends, family and God (if you’re into that).” And that’s freaking it.

3. Don’t be afraid to be a little bit of a Bridezilla.
When you get engaged, of course you feel like the happiest person ever, lounging about on Cloud 9, in a state of perfect bliss. But actually, you’ve just been hired on for a job that is painful, stressful, and requires a lot of work. Sorry guys and gals, but it’s true! Friends and family will have expectations of you to delegate, have a plan, and make use of their abilities. So try to focus on making decisions and doling out work. Your friends and family want to help you, so you’ll have to give them stuff to do.

4. Take moments during your wedding day to do nothing, but just soak it in, and observe.

Mark battling his way to me, during Capture the Bride. Many of our guests had boffer and latex LARP weapons and were ready to kick his ass!

You might be in such a rush to run around and enjoy the day, flitting about like a happy little freaking butterfly. You’ll be constantly talking, dancing, and scuttling about, like a crazed lunatic, that you’ll forget to focus on the moment. Take a moment (or several) to stop, sit down by yourself, people watch, take a mental picture of the guests, decorations, sounds, and smells… and then return to the action. These little breathers really became great mental photos for me.

5. Keep track of what you spend, and stick to your budget.
Well.. we WERE keeping track when we first started planning… right up until about 2 months before the big day. Then it all started going to hell. Things will get hectic, but create a spreadsheet and track every dime you spend! This way you can see what your budget was and where you measured up. It’s also good practice for post wedding financial planning and budgeting with your hubster.

6. Ask a bridesmaid or close friend to force feed you during the day.


Mark and I with our friend, Ibi, who is an ambassador for the United Nations.

You, or someone, paid a lot of money for that delicious food, and you probably won’t find time to eat. Ask someone to get you food on the day, before the big day. Then tell them to make you sit down for a minute, and scarf it down. Even if you aren’t hungry, the food is going to be delicious, and you will want to remember how it tasted!

7. Nothing will go wrong on the day.

My niece Maddie, as my flower girl, walking up the aisle with me. Primadonna.

Things are going to take on a life of their own on the day. One of your bridesmaids might get wasted-face, and sing a rousing rendition of “Don’t rain on my parade” by Barbara Streisand on the head table. Your crazy Uncle might take his shirt off, and spend all night hitting on the bartender. Or the 2 year old flower girl might refuse to walk up the aisle on her own, and instead walk up with the bride and father of the bride. But whatever it is, the mistakes and mishaps will make the day. It will be perfect. Remember: It’s your wedding day. Enjoy the shit out of it.

hunsinger-wedding


What advice would you give yourself pre-wedding? Leave it in a comment and let me know!

Wedding Planning 101: Knowing who to Hire.

Figuring out exactly who to hire for your big day is really tough. Some people try to have their friends do it all, to save money, but then their cousin Lenny ends up DJing and plays really offensive gangster rap all night, making your great grandmother uncomfortable, who in turn decides to throw her drink in his face, and it’s just a big ole’ mess. So who is worth hiring, and who can you manage without?

DJ or Musicians
London Ceilidh Band via www.belsizesquare.freeserve.co.uk

Music is pretty important at a wedding. From your first dance, to those cheesy group dance-along songs, you need good tunes! So, you can hire a DJ, bring in a live band, or pull out your iPod and hook it to some speakers. I could see why someone might want a live musician to play vs a DJ. If you and your hubby met at a concert or local show, for example, you might want their band to perform at the wedding. Makes sense! Or perhaps your grandfather is a bagpiper and he would love to regal your party with ‘Scotland the Brave’ as you walk down the aisle. But the other side of that coin is – do you want your grandfather to have to do ‘work’ on your big day, or do you want him and all your guests to relax and enjoy? If you must have live music and also want your guests to relax, than hiring is the way to go. Same with a DJ – you could have a friend do it, but then they can’t enjoy the wedding – they’re working for you. A DJ and a band can run anywhere from $100-$500 for the night, so make sure it’s in your budget if you choose to hire.

Mark and I chose to go without. Mark’s boss is letting us borrow his PA system for free (he is DJ) so that takes care of the sound system and microphone. But because there are so many other expensive things on our list that we must have, we chose to sacrifice hiring a DJ or musician. Instead, we’re going to compile all the music onto a flash drive or iPod and have one of our guests help out by pressing play, etc. We do not expect the chore to be that demanding, so we don’t think asking a guest to help us out with this is a big deal. We’re also sure our family and friends don’t mind announcing any silly little thing we’re about to do, like the cutting of the cake or the first dance. Give someone a microphone and they can make it happen!

What we chose: Do it ourselves.
Our cost: Free (compared to ~$300)

Chef/food staff to serve food
The Red Wedding... shudder
Wait, NO, not THIS feast…

PA Renn Faire via Abscond to Wander
That’s more like it
Having a sit down meal is another one of those things people assume you must do because it’s a tradition, but make sure you consider all your options and don’t be afraid to break tradition. If you must have a sit down meal, I highly recommend hiring a staff/chef or having it at a place that offers this service. Coordinating a successful sit down meal is not something you should have your guests try to do. It requires excellent timing, plenty of hands on deck, and lots of shuffling, serving, and clearing quick. It’s a mess, so hire people to do it for you.

When Mark and I were discussing having a sit down meal, most places we looked at were anywhere from $50 a head to $100 a head for the meal. Holy cow! With 100 guests, that anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for 1 meal! We quickly decided to go another route. It wasn’t just the cost that made us decide this though. For starters, a sit down meal is long and sometimes tedious, when most people just want to walk around and mingle. Being forced to sit at a table for 2 hours with people you might not even know is not that much fun. We figured people would rather mingle with finger food. So we decided on renaissance style finger food and no sit down meal. We’re going to buy a few turkeys, loaves of bread, cheese, fresh fruit and veggies and make it look like a Game of Thrones style banquet table!

What we chose: Do it ourselves.
Our cost: Cost of food purchased on our own, ~$600 (compared to ~$5,000) – plus the potential cost of plastic cups, napkins and plates if we do not find them for free.

Bartender
Via Charlotte Wedding Show

Bartender is one of those unique jobs that a friend could do. Sure, it’s work – but it’s social and fun. A bartender can mingle all night long with everyone and still have a good time, plus tips! But with a larger wedding party and lots of drink options, sometimes it can get hairy and it’s best to hire a professional.

Mark and I took the middle ground – we did hire a friend to do it, but she is also a professional. She’s done weddings before, so she has bartending experience. And she gave us a good deal, being a friend!

The other cool thing about it is, since we’re not having it at a typical wedding venue, we’re going to buy and supply all of the booze, and when the weddings over, whatever is left over we get to keep!

What we chose: Hire a friend.
Our cost: $100, plus she gets to keep her tips, plus the cost of booze ~$600.

Florist
Via Neatorama

Flowers are considered a wedding staple. Some people think you just can’t do a wedding without them, though I disagree. I’ve read online people budget anywhere from $500 – $5,000 for their flowers. It’s a big difference, but then again some people have $20,000 weddings or more!

For us, we’re skipping the flowers – they’re going to die in a week, and they cost way too much money. Perhaps we’ll get some fake ones from the Dollar Tree if we need to work them into our room design, and that will definitely be more affordable. We are considering live flower bouquets for myself and the bridesmaids, but I think my aunt and I can whip that up for $50-60 with some flowers from our local grocery store, Wegmans.

What we chose: For the most part, don’t do it at all.
Our cost: $50-60 to construct our own wedding bouquets from a grocery store.

Photographer

Photographers are expensive, no doubt about it. But the good thing about today’s day in age, is, if you choose not to have a photographer, you can absolutely have a friend (or several friends) snap photos on their digital cameras and they will probably turn out great. Camera technology these days is really good, and everyone is an amateur photographer. So doing it yourself can turn out fantastic, with the right camera and enough pictures taken.

However, for me personally, photographer was the one area I would not compromise. After all the rum is gone, and the turkey legs are just chewed up bones, and the sound of the music is a distant echo in our ears, our wedding photos will last a lifetime. We chose to hire a great photographer to make sure we can remember this day forever.

We chose to go with our friends at Knot Just Any Day Photography. Steve Husted, the co-owner, snapped my pictures for a style feature in the Weekender a long time ago, and his company also took my nieces beautiful 1 year photos. They have an artsy style that I can totally get behind. In the end it’ll cost us around $1,500 buckaroos, but for me, this expense is well worth it. Check out Knot Just Any Day’s website to see how great their pictures are!

What we chose: Hire a professional.
Our cost: ~$1,500.

Wedding Planning 101: Picking the Location.

So you have settled on a day when you think most people can make it. And you’re trying to find the perfect location that also works with the magic day. Make sure to ask your friends and family who have recently been married in your area what location they chose and why for some of the inside scoop, and here are my best tips as well!

Find a place that meets the needs you have.
Mark and I are having a uniquely themed wedding and not offering a sit down meal with wait staff service, so right there not only do we save a lot of money, but our options for venue open up exponentially. If you must have a staff that will serve meals, you know you’ll have to check out more traditional venues like country clubs.

disney-haunted-mansion-wedding
Sometimes you just have to have a Haunted Mansion wedding. From Midnight in the Garden of Evil on BlogSpot.

Consider how much it will cost your guests to get to that location, and potentially get a hotel room.
I know everyone says it’s your special day and you should have it whenever and wherever the fuck you want, but if none of my loved ones came to my big day,I would be sad I couldn’t share the occasion with them. That’s why I was happy to make a few concessions in the location department. Some people love the idea of a destination wedding to Hawaii, and while it sounds beautiful and breathtaking, I can’t ask my family to spend thousands of dollars on my big day. I’d rather take a honeymoon to a destination and have the big day somewhere that all my loved ones can easily and cheaply attend. Likewise that’s why I won’t have it at an expensive resort where out of town guests will have to check in to a $300 a night hotel room. I don’t want to pressure my loved ones to meet silly cultural obligations our Bridezilla culture has given us about the best of the best in locations. Have it somewhere that won’t bankrupt your guests.

Inside or outside?
The dilemma with an outside wedding not at a wedding venue is that you’ll have to accommodate people with a bathroom (maybe even a porta potty) and chairs. Who will be setting up all those chairs? Who will be waiting for the rent a john? If you don’t want your family members to have to do any work, better leave it up to a wedding venue to set all that stuff up.

disney-wedding-cinderella
A dreamy Magic Kingdom wedding. Photo by Randy Chapman

If you aren’t hiring a staff, see if you can rent a place for the entire weekend.
This is one of the best perks I can imagine about Mark and I’s location. Since we’re not having it at a traditional wedding venue or hiring a wedding staff, we’ll have to set it up all up. But our rental fee covers using the location Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! That means we can set up chairs, decorate, and move stuff in on Friday, have the event Saturday, and tear down Sunday. What a relief to not have to rush on Saturday, the day of the wedding!

wedding-disaster
Wedding Disaster by Gerard O’Connor

Wedding Planning 101: Picking the Date

Wedding Planning 101

Er mah sweet fluffy gerd! You just got engaged! And much like me, I am sure you feel like a confused mess. What the lump are you supposed to do now? Since I’m going through the chaos, I figured I’d blog through the chaos too. Here are my best tips and tricks for wedding planning as an engaged couple!

Step 1: Picking the date.

So what do you do after you change your Facebook relationship status, watch the “likes” and “congrats” roll in, and call your close friends and family to squeal with them over the news? You pick the date of course! Here are my tips for this giant detail.

  • If you want any part of the wedding, including pictures, to be outside, consider your local area and what might be happening outside during that time.
    Here in northeast Pennsylvania, it gets hella hot in July and August, and snowy in October and November. I really didn’t want to be all red and sweaty in my wedding pictures. I also really didn’t want to deal with it being too cold either. We settled on June 7, because we think it won’t be too hot or too cold. We also picked June because the beautiful flowers are in bloom, so they will make my outdoor wedding photos lovely. We opted not to have flowers at the wedding, because they are expensive and will die in a week, so this is a nice, cheap way to get some flowers in the pictures.

wedding-storm
Some people are weird and might want to get married in a downpour.

  • Run the date by people you have in mind for your bridal and groomal party.
    You probably have a special kid in mind for flower girl, or an old college roommate in mind for your bridesmaid. So keep in mind their schedules and run the dates by them – without telling them you’ve committed to having them in the wedding, just yet. I really wanted my 9 year old niece and 7 year old nephew from 3 states over to be the flower girl and ring bearer, so I chose to have my during the summer, when all my family members in school would be on vacation.
  • Consider other family members birthdays, holidays, and special events you may want to work around.
    Having your wedding the same weekend as your grandma’s 75th birthday might not be the best idea. You should check your calendar, and find out if it’s any kind of National Holiday as well. These might impact your guests travel time, or even give someone an extra day off that weekend – for example Memorial Day or Labor Day would give guests that Monday off… or *insert cultural holiday from whatever country you are from that isn’t the USA.* My sister had her wedding on Labor Day weekend, and the out-of-town guests loved having off on Monday to travel home, and get an extra day in with the family.

geeky-superhero-bridesmaids
If you have to have ALL THESE GIRLS, then make sure they’re ALL FREE. Man… that’s a lot of Bridesmaids.

  • Pick a date that could coincide with when you want to take your honeymoon (or how cheap you want it to be).
    If you’re looking to take a luxurious cruise or fly to Europe for your honeymoon, you can really save some money by traveling in the off season. So if you don’t mind getting married in the wedding off season, you’ll save a nice chunk of change by flying or cruising in the off season as well.
  • Some wedding venues offer super deep discounts for weddings on certain days or times.
    If you’re set on having it at a certain venue, but the price is making you ill, ask about having it on a weird day. Sometimes brunch or afternoon weddings can be half the price of a night time event, as well as a Sunday or weekday wedding. This funky day can help you pick a date that saves you a good couple of bucks.
  • Pick a date your priest or pastor can make it. If having a certain person officiate the ceremony is important to your or your religion, be sure to ask Pastor Joe before setting a date. Or if you don’t want a priest, just have a computer do it.

star-wars-wedding
They really wanted an Imperial Officer to officiate their wedding. From the Official Star Wars blog.


Stay tuned for more Wedding 101 tips, and feel free to leave a comment offering your best tip for choosing the big day!