WEDDING NOTES: Wedding Planning Ideas That Will Save You Money.

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Let's be honest - there is a myriad of wonderful ideas for making your wedding talked about and memorable.  Many of them cost more than your budget will allow.  But there are some basic moves you can make in the planning phase that will help you produce a wonderful event without competing for your budget dollars earmarked for student loan debt repayment.

Have the budget discussion very early in the planning process.  Be clear about the source of your funds, the total you will spend and then make sound allocation decisions.  Consider these significant guidelines to help you manage the available funds.

1.  Think seasonal - Can you handle a wedding in the winter when every fiber of your being says "I want to be a June bride"?  Re-evaluate that dream and consider how much money you can save by being married in the "off" season.  Both ceremony and reception venue flowers "in season" are likely to be money savers.

2.  Remember that there are 6 other days in the week and various time slot options beyond Saturday night at 6 or 7 PM.

3.  Find a venue that is all inclusive - ceremony and reception in the same spot.  There is frequently economy of scale.

4.  Pare down your guest list.  The money saved on your reception will be significant.  Consider the per guest cost by estimating per person charges at the reception, the cost of invitations, reply cards and postage.  Will that work for you?

5.For your reception - consider a late morning wedding followed by a brunch reception.  The food and beverage costs differential is likely to be quite amazing.  And no one will expect a "mini party" after the big dance as couples who have huge evening weddings are funding.

6.  Rethink reception beverages.  Do you really need a champagne toast to the new bride and groom?

Couldn't guests simple stand and toast you with whatever they're drinking?  The toast will be no more sincere with an expensive champagne.

7.Carefully weigh the difference in cost between serving a plated dinner or serving buffet style.  Work with your catering site manager to explore the many options available.


The inventiveness and creativity of those who bake, continues to impress.

Obviously, the traditional wedding cake is still a strong and delicious presence in wedding receptions everywhere.  But more and more modern brides are choosing variations on this theme.  Wedding cake has been expanded to be wedding dessert and the options are gorgeous - and delicious.  Some of the most intriguing and stunning desserts are appearing at weddings all across the country.  

This is a list of just a few cake "replacement" ideas that we have seen and admired.

*Towers of frosted cake donuts.

*Towers of cupcakes with a small classic wedding cake starring on the top of the tower.

*Two tiers of rice crispy cakes frosted with whipped creme.

*Towers of whoopie pies.  Or small individual fruit pies.

*Three tiers of heart shaped cake and/or pie pops.

*Three tiers of stacked Oreo cookies.

*Tower of ten tiers of multi colored macaroons on a dramatic base filled with gorgeous fresh blooms.

*Five tiers of various flavors of Cheese cake.  (Each one with a tiny flag specifying the flavor)

*Four tiers of mini Bundt cakes in varying flavors.

*Tiers of various cake cups served in engraved glasses that become the guest favors.

*Towers of classic donut holes with tiny accents of flowers and greens.

WEDDING NOTES: Attendant Gifts

Instead of thinking of this as "just one more thing to do" as you prepare for your wedding, give it some real thought and appreciate the time and expense that your attendants have invested in your wedding.  They are doing it as friends and/or relatives and their presence and participation is a gift to you.

The selection of gifts you plan to give them as your personal thank you for your support and participation in this important day in my life needs some thought and care.

Here are some options that brides have chosen.

*Picture frames that may be followed by wedding photographs of you with your attendants.

*Eyeglass cases of leather embossed with the wedding date.

*Photo Albums

*The jewelry to be worn for the big day.

*Aromatherapy products (but be sure to check for possible allergies issues first)

*Gift certificates to spas and salons.

*Tickets to a show or athletic events

*Gift Certificates to local restaurants

*Gourmet food baskets

*Beauty products.

And be sure to accompany each gift with a thoughtful personal note of thanks for her role in this important day in your life.


If you are the father of the bride, the father of the groom, the best man, the maid of honor or other person close to the bridal couple, chances are very good that you will either be expected or asked to offer some words at the reception.  While the order and number of speeches requested/programmed for the reception are planned, not many of the invited speakers are likely to feel comfortable making that presentation.

Here are some guidelines offered from professionals.

1.  Make your speech personal - if not related, be sure to say how you met the bride or the groom.

2.  A touch of humor (note touch) is a good thing.  Don't make tasteless jokes or launch into a litany of "Have you heard this one?"  

3.  Be sure to thank everyone - who deserves it.  Don't make this list so long your audience drifts off.

4. You need a strong opening (attention getter) and a strong but memorable closing.  Look for quotes you can use, an Irish or other ethnic toast is appropriate.  Likewise - a strong closing is enhanced by a quote or catch phrase from a poem or a song.

5.  Watch out for "mike hogging".  The Ideal length of the speech is 2-3 minutes.  Too many participants who may have had a drink or two prior to their turn at the microphone get up to speak and fall in love with their own voice.

6.  Prepare and practice what you plan to say before the day.  Don't plan to wing it.

7.  Never make racist remarks, make fun of the family tree or culture.  Listeners will have zero tolerance for the use of profanities, sexual innuendos or remarks that may hurt the feelings of others.  Your goal is to make people feel good about themselves, their choices and their families.

WEDDING NOTES: The Seating Plan

Planning a wedding requires organization, decision making skills, and patience. It's a huge undertaking with absolutely wonderful results. All the work that goes into a wedding is worth it as you and the love of your life begin that life together. But one of the tasks is a difficult one, time consuming and if you are planning a sit down dinner for your reception - it is essential. It is the SEATING PLAN. It's also one of those things your wedding planner cannot do for you.

Some consultants would say it is not considered a necessity but most would agree that it is a courtesy and a convenience for your guests. Many guests - especially those who don't know many of the people at your reception - will feel more comfortable with assigned seating. If you are having a cocktail party reception or are not serving a full meal, a seating plan may not be necessary, but you will still need enough tables and chairs to accommodate all of your guests.

How do you create a plan? Start with a floor plan for the spot you've chosen for your reception. Lay out the room noting where the dance floor is, the bar, the gift tables, the guest book, the band and/or MC. Decide where the head table will be along with the parents table and if necessary another table for honored guests. Know how many tables will be needed - seating 8 or 10 guests each at a standard 60" round tables. Place guests by families, where you know them from guests with special interests. Once you've done the first draft, look at any special needs guests. Probably best not to seat your groom's grandmother next to the band's speakers. If you are planning a kids table, don't put it next to the head table. Think about wheelchair accessibility. Be prepared to redo this plan and adjust your first cut as you get feedback from an overseeing family member.

The best way to let guests know where they are sitting is to provide escort cards which will give them their table number. If you are assigning seats at the assigned table, then you will need to have place cards at each table as well. Most wedding planners have experienced guests who wander into the dining room before the event begins and who proceed to rearrange place cards at their assigned table. Fortunately, not many are that fussy, but be aware that it does happen. If you have a host couple filling in for your parents who are involved in wedding photos, the hosts should have a copy of the master plan. 


Weddings are celebratory times and for many couples the celebration is not complete without spirits (alcoholic beverages).  Consider your guest list as well as your budget when determining the style and type of beverages and/or bar service to offer your guests.

The only real no-no is a cash bar.  This is a party to which you have invited guests.  And if this party were in your home, you would not charge your guests for dinner or beverages.  That said, there are other options to consider when deciding what beverages to serve at your wedding and reduce costs.

  • You may choose to host a soft bar.  This includes nonalcoholic refreshments, beer and wine.
  • You may host a full open bar for a limited time and then switch to a hosted soft bar.  You may choose to offer house brands of alcohol rather than premium brands.
  • You may serve champagne served by circulating while gloved waiters or you may choose sparkling wine instead.
  • For the traditional toast to the new couple, skip providing champagne and simply have quests toast you with whatever they are drinking.
  • If you know that your guests are non drinkers or your wedding is in the morning when less alcohol is consumed, you may choose a consumption bar rather than purchasing the site's bar package.  If yours is a luncheon reception a fully stocked bar is unnecessary.  You can choose to serve mimosas, Bloody Marys or other light drinks.  You may elect to have a "signature" non alcoholic drink prepared, or have a juice bar or gourmet coffee bar.
  • You may ask the wait staff to only refill glasses when asked, rather than top them off automatically.  You can also ask staff not to clear glasses unless them are empty or have clearly been abandoned.
  • Be aware of corkage feesthat may be applied when you have chosen to bring in your own liquor.  This is a convenience fee for opening each bottle and also be aware that it may be subject to tax and serving fees.


Wedding styles may change with seasons, but one of the things about gowns that remains constant is the train. And the guideline is - the length of the gown's train (and veil) determines how formal the gown is. Traditionally long, cathedral-length trains are best suited for an incredibly formal evening wedding. Shorter chapel or sweep trains are appropriate for a less formal daytime or evening wedding. 

There are several train styles to consider when selecting your gown. Trains may be attached and may require a bustle for ease of movement at the reception. Others are detachable for the reception. Here is a description of the various styles you may consider:

Royal - dramatic and extravagant train that falls up to twelve feet on the floor behind you. 
Cathedral - very formal length that falls between six and eight feet.
Chapel - the most popular choice for most brides, falls three to four feet.
Court - less formal and falls about a foot on the floor.
Brush or Sweep - barely brushes the floor.
Watteau - attaches to the shoulders rather than the waist.


Very few couples are lucky enough to predict the exact number of guests that will attend their wedding and reception. The best they can do is give a reasonably accurate estimate to their caterer and keep their fingers crossed. Even with careful planning, printed RSVP cards and lots of online communication, the best most weddings can manage is an 85% rate of response. What's a bride to do? As awkward as it sounds, many brides prepare a B-list of guests.

Those couples who really want to nail down the exact number, begin to plan the guest list early in their engagement process. It's important to begin thinking about your guest list and who to include on the "A" list, the names of those guests who absolutely must be invited. The wedding wouldn't be the same without them. Once that list is complete, many brides are then assembling a list of potential guests whom they would love to invite if only they had the room. Many wedding planners suggest their brides begin building an alternative list once the primary list is complete. The suggestion is to order extra invitations with the originals and have them ready to go when the RSVP's begin to arrive.

It may mean adjusting the invitation mailing a bit - many suggest mailing A-list invitations slightly ahead of the 2 month mark but keeping a one month RSVP date.

Keep that B-list your secret. There's no need to broadcast its existence. You and your mom may know - and the groom, but no one else needs to know. And if possible, keep B-list guests as a group. If one guest from work is invited, place the others on the same schedule. 

WEDDING NOTES: Current Wedding Trends

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With the ever changing seasons during the wedding planning process, we see a few great trends popping up for 2017. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Mismatched Bridesmaids - The bride selects a color palette for her wedding and then gives her bridesmaids the freedom to choose their own style gown and their own color favorites within that palette. This can be a wonderful way for large wedding parties to create a unique look for the female members of the party. It also insures that each of the bridesmaids may, in fact, have a dress she will wear again and again. 
  • More than just cake - While wedding cakes remain reception favorites, we are seeing more and more dessert tables with a wide variety of offerings. Some of the most popular are tables of ice cream sandwiches, ice cream cones, cake pops, donuts, make-your-own sundaes and individual cakes as the centerpieces of each guest table.
  • Glamour and Red Carpet Gowns - While geography does play a role in the kind of wedding gown many brides choose, we are seeing a growing group of gowns which emphasize the bare look. Deep V necks - both front and back, sheer lace fabric with elaborate bead work, slit skirts and hints of bare skin are appearing in weddings - not just in magazine layouts. 
  • Brunch Weddings have become popular as a way to both save money for the couple and as a way of offering guests a unique experience. It works very well with a morning ceremony, and gives guests who have traveled out of town to attend a head start towards home. For brides who have a full day's activities planned for their guests, a brunch reception leaves time in the day for special events.
  • Sustainable Catering is becoming a favorite for many couples. This menu option works well for both indoor buffets and outdoor receptions. In fact, the focus on sustainable food options and environmentally sound locations make a true statement of what the couple values. 


Wedding styles may change with seasons, but one of the things about gowns that remains constant is the train.  And the guideline is - the length of the gown's train (and veil) determines how formal the gown is.  Obviously, you may do whatever pleases you but know that traditionally long, cathedral-length trains are best suited for a very formal evening wedding.  Shorter chapel or sweep trains are appropriate for a less formal daytime or evening wedding.

There are several train styles to consider when selecting your gown.  Trains may be attached and may require a bustle for ease of movement at the reception.  Others are detachable for the reception.  Here is a description of the various styles you may consider.

*The royal is a dramatic and extravagant train that falls up to twelve feet on the floor behind you.  Think the wedding scene from the Sound of Music.

*The cathedraltrain is a very formal length that falls between six and eight feet on the floor.

*The chapeltrain is a popular choice that falls three to four feet on the floor.

*Thecourttrain is less formal than a chapel train.  It falls about a foot onto the floor.

*The sweep train is less formal.  It falls about six inches on the floor.

*Thewatteautrain falls from the shoulder blades or back yoke to the floor.

WEDDING NOTES: Rehearsal Week

Some of the best advice we've heard comes from wedding planners who counsel their brides to have a special focus on themselves that last week before their wedding day. We like to think of it as the rehearsal before the big event. This week is a critical time and if you use it wisely, you'll have taken a major step toward a fabulous wedding day. Plan your time this week before the event as a way to insure that all goes well on that day.

  • Do your own Dress Rehearsal - Put on every piece of clothing that you plan to wear on your wedding day. Put it all on to be sure it fits properly, looks great, and feels comfortable.
  • Break in your Shoes - Wear them an hour or more every day and be sure to pack an alternate pair for "just in case". 
  • Double check with your wedding planner and cover all the bases. 
  • Send out schedules to your photographer, videographers, and other vendors.
  • Clear up any projects you have outstanding at your job. Wrap them up so you don't have to worry about any aspect of work while you are on your honeymoon.
  • Get more sleep.
  • Rehearse your vows out loud. Don't just run through them in your mind. 
  • Confirm who is making toasts and when.
  • Figure out who will be responsible for taking gifts from the wedding and where they are being taken
  • Call any key guests who have not sent in their RSVP. Or ask your maid of honor to do it for you.
  • Make sure to pick up the marriage license.
  • Double check the seating chart for any last minute adjustments.
  • Pack your day of survival kit. 

WEDDING NOTES: Make Technology Your Planning Partner

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In this day and age, we become tech experts in our early teens and continue to retain knowledge which, in turn, makes life a little easier and more organized. Our brides have shared a few of their best ideas on how to incorporate technology into weddings.

  • Consider 3D Printing as a way to personalize your cake top, place cards, and favors.
  • Create a custom Snapchat geofilter for your wedding day. YES, this is a thing! A fun custom filter is such a great personal touch to add to your guests overall experience.
  • Plan a live stream of your wedding. If your guest list includes elderly relatives, guests who live out of town or off exploring in another country, being able to view your nuptials in real time is terrific. They can watch the entire ceremony, see your first dance and watch the cake cutting in real time. Facebook Live is a great resource to use. 
  • If you plan to use a high tech photo booth at your reception, plan the use of an onsite attendant as well for any tech complications. They can include fun backdrops and props to spice up the activities, leaving guests with a great photo for keeps. 
  • Provide a few Instant Polaroid cameras here and there during the reception. Have a little basket for guests to drop off the photos they want to share with you. This is such a fun idea and a perfect addition for your wedding album.
  • Explore universal gift registries online. They frequently offer unique experiences, household items, group gifting ideas and even honeymoon cash.