How hard is it to drop a reply card into the mail? Top frustration of MOBs and brides!

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Yesterday I checked in with my friend Jamie, whose daughter is getting married in September. I asked her, “what is stressing you out the most RIGHT NOW?” This was one part shameless mining for blog material, and two parts that I really care because I know what she’s going through right about now.

Jamie’s response: “My biggest wedding worry right now, which is totally stressing me out, is people not responding to the invitation!” She went on to say that the responses were due a week ago, and they still haven’t heard from 20 people. We experienced the exact same thing, down to the numbers. So what to do?

First, when selecting your “respond by” dates, allow three weeks before the final count is due to your caterer. We allowed two, and it wasn’t enough. weddingwire.comsays three, and I would go with that. You want to minimize stress, not court it.

When the RSVP date comes and goes, get on the phone with the nonresponders right away— within a few days of your deadline date. Split up the task between bride, groom, moms, and even maid of honor, if she’s a pitch-in-and-help type. If someone says they’re not sure yet (yes, this will happen, believe it or not), politely tell them that it’s time for a final count, and the RSVP date has passed, so perhaps you can get together after the wedding to catch up. Use the old “it sounds like you have a lot going on right now, but our numbers are due now.”

Be ready too to deal with those who are not up on their wedding guest manners (because, oh, they live under a rock or something); these are the ones who ask if they can bring a child/new boyfriend/random date (whom you did NOT include on the invite).

Polite and firm. You’ll get the hang of it!

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Wedding flowers! Where to begin…..

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Our florist was hands-down my favorite wedding vendor; we were so happy with his creations! So, assuming you want some flowers on your wedding day, just where do you begin? Here are a few steps to get you started:

1. Look through magazines and gather looks you like in a folder. No, you can’t just snap pix on your iphone; you can do that too, but make a folder. Your florist will appreciate that.

2. Ask for recommendations. Chat up everyone in your area who has been a bride or mother-of-the-bride and ask about their florist. We heard one name three times, so we were on our way.

3. Get some idea of what things should cost. This can be done quite easily online. Learn about the “seasonality” of the looks you like. Some flowers that bloom in the spring may be very expensive for a late fall wedding. Do some homework!

4. Ask florists to show you their work. Ours had photo albums to show us. He also took the time to educate us and show us blooms in his shop. His pride in his craft was so evident, which tipped the scales in his favor. He also listened to my daughter, and even came up with a beautiful way for her to carry a special necklace in her bouquet.
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5. Know what you'll need and make a list. In addition to the bridal bouquet, you will need flowers for bridesmaids, boutonnieres for the groom, groomsmen, and fathers, and possibly flowers for the moms. Although my little bouquet was quickly abandoned, it did look pretty in our family photos. You may want arrangements for your chapel or church, and you should find out if your venue has its own florist, or if your vendor will also do those. Either way, be prepared when it’s decision time!

As with all wedding vendors, be prepared to strike a balance between asserting yourself when it comes to your vision, and deferring to their expertise and being flexible.

I found a great blog that gives you the Flowers 101 low-down. Just click on the link below, and start learning the language of flowers!
http://weddinglovely.com/blog/wedding-flowers-101-12-tips-for-finding-a-florist-choosing-a-bouquet-seasonal-flowers-and-more/

One year later: Top 5 memorable moments and just one regret

A year ago this weekend, my daughter was married, and as she and her husband celebrate this milestone, I am reflecting on my TOP FIVE memories from that special day:

1. Getting ready together in our suites…pure fun. We had three suites for the bridesmaids (and a hairdresser), my two daughters (and a hairdresser) and me (yep, hairdresser too). Add a friend doing makeup for all and a light brunch spread that included plenty of mimosas, and you have one good time for the gals.

2. Seeing my father-in-law’s first look at my daughter as a bride; this might be my favorite photo of all.
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3. Turning in my seat during strains of Pachelbel’s Canon to see my handsome husband and beautiful daughter framed in the chapel doorway. I remember my breath catching and my heartbeat in my throat.
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4. Watching my daughter’s face as her younger sister delivered a perfect toast with the most amazing combination of humor and heart. When she rehearsed it for me, I was delighted; when she stood in front of 150 people and spoke, I was filled with love for both of them, and for my new son-in-law.
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5. Finally relaxing with drinks at the after-party, dishing with my daughter’s friends, catching up with family, and watching my girls have the time of their lives.

The regret? Just one, which I’ve mentioned in previous posts– I wish we had the photographer take posed photos with aunts, uncles and cousins. Table photos would’ve been great too. We deferred to his “expertise” and shouldn’t have.

Happy Anniversary, Megan & Matt! Here’s to a lifetime of memories.

More on seating arrangements: helpful infographic

Thanks to Elegance and Enchantment for sharing this great infographic on head table seating (from Simply Bridal):

Seating 101 Infographic
http://www.eleganceandenchantment.com/head-table-101/

Do you need to rehearse? Read on and see why it’s a must-do

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The wedding rehearsal is more than just a reason to gather for another party. Done well, it can pave the way for a smooth wedding ceremony. If you skip it or race through it thinking the rehearsal dinner is the main event, you run the risk of a disorganized jumble that will stress you out and confuse the guests.

If you don’t have a wedding planner or celebrant available to take you through the rehearsal, consider the following:

1. The bride and groom should talk through the ceremony from beginning to end WELL BEFORE the big day. There will likely be a few “drafts” of the plan, so be sure to discuss this often. Also, be sure to discuss this at length with whomever is performing your ceremony. Once the sequence of the ceremony is set (procession order, readings, music, vows), bring your families and bridal party into the discussion.

2. Make a list of any “props” you’ll need for the ceremony. Do you want flowers there? Will you use an aisle runner? Do you need candles for any part of your ceremony, or a glass to break? You may also want to give out programs and birdseed or bubbles for the guests. After you make of list of these items, decide who will be responsible for getting them there and packing them up afterward.

3. Plan to go through the ceremony at least once ON LOCATION. If you don’t have a wedding planner or celebrant available for the rehearsal, designate someone to be in charge of the run-through, using your pre-prepared schedule.

4. Understand that the procession includes the parents of the bride and groom. If the bride’s father is escorting her, who will seat Mom? How will you handle seating when parents are divorced and/or remarried? Troubleshoot potential “situations” ahead of time, and then rehearse it.

5. Will your groomsmen arrive early with the groom? If so, where will they go? What is their role? Typically, the best man hangs out with the groom behind the scenes, and the others show guests to their seats.

6. Are you planning a “first look” moment between bride and groom? I don’t really get this, but it’s become a popular photo op. To me, there’s nothing quite so special as seeing the look on a groom’s face when the bride comes down the aisle. Think about this though, and plan it out logistically.

7. Figure out where everyone in the bridal party will sit or stand, and will they sit or stand? Will the bride and groom sit or stand? Where will family members be seated? Make sure the groomsmen are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to seating the guests. Traditionally, the bride’s immediate family sits on the left (facing the altar or officiant) and the groom’s immediate family sits on the right. If seats will be “saved,” decide ahead of time how that will work.

8. After going through each part of the ceremony at least twice, remember to rehearse the exit. Also plan out if and where the bride and groom will receive guests immediately following the ceremony. Decide too whether the bridal party and parents will be a part of this receiving line. Guests like to have a quick moment with the bride and groom immediately following the ceremony.

9. Programs are a nice touch and easy to print up with today’s desktop technology. Your program might include the names of your entire bridal party (including parents), and those who contribute to the ceremony by doing readings, playing music or singing. A simple “order of the ceremony” may also be included (readings, vows, songs, etc.).

10. Finally, if you do have live music of any kind (pianist, vocalist or a quarter), request that they attend the rehearsal, even if they don’t play songs all the way through, they need to be aware of cues and special instructions. They may charge more for this, but it’s worth it.

Remember, just like most things in life, practice makes perfect.

Who needs a getaway after the wedding? Hint: It’s not the bride & groom

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At our daughter’s rehearsal dinner, we were completely blown away when Megan and Matt presented us with a beautifully spoken thank you and a travel voucher that was creatively presented with guides to places we had expressed interest in visiting. I honestly hadn’t even considered the possibility that we would be thanked so generously; truly, planning her wedding was a labor of love. Nonetheless, our subsequent trip was the perfect ending to a year of planning and spending!

Brides and grooms out there, if your parents are at all helpful to you during the wedding process, consider recognizing them with a thoughtful gift. Nikki Stroud shares 10 excellent ideas in the BRIDAL GUIDE story below.

Click for full story and photos and get inspired. In addition to a getaway, my favorite by far is a registry of their own. What MOB hasn’t lamented, “I want a shower!”

http://www.bridalguide.com/blogs/real-brides-speak-out/wedding-thank-you-gifts

Seating arrangements: 10 things to consider before you finalize tables

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For the better part of a year, I dreaded this process, but with some time, patience and a little excel know-how, it all fell into place. Here are a few to-do’s when it’s time to arrange seating at your reception:

1.Make sure you have received all response cards. Decide if you will call/email/text those who haven’t responded. Yes, there’s an alternative to this; you can consider them “no’s” and if they respond late, stick them in no-man’s-land! When selecting the “respond by” date, build in week or two before you need to get a final number to caterer.

2.Ask the venue manager/caterer what the table configurations will be for your size reception (for example, four tables of 10 plus six tables of 12). Also ask if they have a template and room diagram for planning.

3.Decide with your fiancé and parents if you will mingle guests or keep bride’s and groom’s families separate. Also, will you mix up your friends? Or keep groups together? In my experience, guests enjoy partying with people they know and haven’t seen in a while. Don’t assume guests want to make small talk with strangers at your wedding; we want to catch up with family and friends!

4.Decide if you want head table or sweetheart table (just the bride and groom). A sweetheart table allows you to set the wedding party with their dates/spouses, which will be much appreciated.

5.Look at the room set-up when you decide who’s going where. You want to maximize the fun factor, so consider putting your dancers near dance floor.

6.Try to avoid a “leftovers” table (trust me, they will know). If you have a few people who really don’t know anyone, seat them with your most outgoing friends and family. Consider what your guests have in common. The more time and thought you put into this process, the better time everyone will have.

7.Use a seating arrangements program or app if you’d like, but you really don’t need one. Once we know the configurations, we created table lists on an iPad and easily moved “people” around.

8.DO leave enough time for this! It requires time, patience, and consideration. It’s kind of like solving a Rubic’s cube!

9. Don’t feel that you need to accommodate guests’ requests to sit with certain people. Politely tell them that you’re doing your very best to ensure that everyone has a great time.

10. For all guest management to-do’s, excel spreadsheets are your friend! Set one up with all guests (and addresses) early on, and create fields for responses, gifts, thank-you’s, meal selections, etc. Our caterer required a spreadsheet with table numbers and meal selections.

Finalizing the seating arrangements is a great feeling indeed. Relax, it’s going to be a great time!