Pre-Engagement Wedding Planning

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Photo from bridalguide.com

Here’s a question I fielded recently:

“I’m not engaged yet, but I’m pretty sure I will be soon. Is it weird to start having conversations with my boyfriend and with my mother about the kind of wedding I’d like to have?”

No, not at all. In fact, the more communication that goes on before you’re engaged, the more joyful and stress-free the engagement period will be.

Most couples start talking about their future life together long before “the proposal,” and that’s a good thing. Once you start having those conversations, you will likely start to share your wedding thoughts with each other, and maybe even with your mom. This is good! The more communication that goes on before you’re engaged, the more joyful and stress-free the engagement period will be.

It’s especially helpful to open the line of communication about money so you can dream within a budget. Some questions to ask your parents: Have you thought about what kind of wedding I’ll be able to have? Will you host a wedding for me or should I plan to help financially? I’d like to start planning; is there a budget I should have in mind?

If you’re reading this as a future mother-of-the-bride, you know it’s just a matter of time until your daughter is engaged; otherwise, why would you be on this site? If you’ve been observant, you can tell it’s coming, so now is the time to have a conversation with your husband, or your daughter’s father.

Some things to discuss: Are we prepared to pay for a wedding? How much can we afford? Will we share this expense with our daughter and her fiancé? Be prepared when the happy day is announced so your daughter’s announcement isn’t received with a look of blind panic.

What I’m getting at is that if engagement seems inevitable, now is the time to start thinking about the financial aspects of a wedding.

The best advice at this stage is to communicate openly, honestly and realistically about money. When parameters are set and expectations are clear, everyone’s happy!

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Setting the Wedding Date

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photo from getwed.com

How do you begin to pick a wedding date? You (or your daughter) probably have some idea of the time of year you would like to be married, but the time of engagement may dictate whether or not that will happen. For instance, dreams of a June wedding may not be realistic with a January engagement—not enough time for THIS June, and too much time til next.

When looking at the suddenly daunting task of setting the date, the bride and groom should sit down together and ask themselves these preliminary questions:

1. What kind of wedding do we want? Religious or nonreligious? Large or intimate? Sooner or later?

2. How deep is our faith? Is a religious ceremony important to either of us?

3. Where will we do this? The bride’s home town? Where we live now? Our college chapel?

4. Who will pay? Are we OK with parental control, or do we want this to be all ours?

As you can see, this will lead to some bigger conversations—make sure you have them! Regardless of how well you know each other and how deep your love and commitment, prepare to compromise.

Following this conversation, several possibilities will unfold.

You will either

*start with your place of worship and go from there, or

*decide on a religious ceremony but not in a specific place of worship. In this case, your phone call should be to a priest, rabbi or minister and see what the “rules” are. Or you may choose to

*decide on a nonreligious ceremony, in which case you can start with reception venues and let them know you will also have the ceremony there.

This is often the point where girlhood dreams get a dose of reality. This isn’t necessarily a negative.

My daughter dreamed of a beach wedding at a relative’s remote beachfront home. But she also wanted a fairly big wedding with all her college friends, which didn’t mesh with the beach dream. She moved on, and because she met her fiancé in college and shared so many friends, they were married in their college chapel. Lovely!

Happy planning!

Discounted Wedding Gowns: Could 2014 be the year of sensible thrift?

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Last month, an episode of Shark Tank featured entrepreneur Jackie Courtney, asking for a stake in her used wedding gown business (www.nearlynewlywed.com). The male sharks, not surprisingly, didn’t really believe in the market. I do. Now I’m wondering, are today’s brides open to purchasing a barely used designer gown, curated of course, for oftentimes half the price as new?

I have to believe that there are thrift-minded brides out there who approach the wedding planning project with a sense of challenge—how much can I save, so we can (a) have a better honeymoon (b) put a down payment on a house or (c) just because so much wedding spending is flat-out wasteful.

Newly engaged ladies, consider this. By the time your first issue of Brides arrives in the mail, it will begin to seep into your consciousness just how much the dream dress costs.

Here are some tips before you commit to a budget-wrecker of a dress:

• You will wear it ONCE, and then spend another small fortune “preserving” it. As my friend Jess said, “there’s not even a window in my dress box. How funny if it winds up not even being mine?”

• The odds of your daughter wearing your dress are slim to none. Styles change and bodies are different. Rarely happens. I know of just a few brides who have done this, and only one with success.

• However beautiful your dream dress may be, be patient….. there are others out there, just as gorgeous, for less money!

• At least look into a company like http://www.nearlynewlywed.com. Imagine that $7,000 dress for less than $3,000. Who the heck would know?

• Consider selling it back. The pictures will capture to perfection the vision of you in your dream dress.

• If you want to really embrace the Thrifty Bride idea, tell your family, bridesmaids and friends about http://www.renttherunway.com. Gorgeous designer frocks for rent. The best looking dress at my daughter’s wedding (other than my own daughters, that is) was worn by Cousin Val— a rented, and highly chic, black lace dress that drew the notice of every discerning eye at the wedding.

Have fun planning, but keep yourself from falling off the crazy-spending ledge!

As hosts of a wedding, are you responsible for transporting guests?

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photo from vailrides.com
If your wedding will involve a good number of your guests staying at a hotel, and the reception is at a different venue, consider arranging shuttle vans or a bus for your out-of-town guests.

We went back and forth on this, initially thinking that shuttling family would be the extent of our obligation. In the end, we decided to provide shuttle service for anyone who wanted it.

Whatever you decide, make this decision early on, and most importantly, communicate transportation logistics to your guests via wedding website, or in their “welcome” packets at the hotel.

If you’ve made the decision to offer transportation, here are some suggestions that I wish someone had shared with us:

1.Get a good estimate of the number of people you will need to shuttle, and check out the directions and mileage (including a realistic time it will take to cover that distance!). You’ll want to give accurate numbers to the companies you contact.

2.Shop around! Like so many wedding expenses, these estimates tend to vary widely. Be sure to ask about minimum and maximum time and mileage requirements. Ask if multiple vans or one large bus makes the most sense financially and logistically.

3.Remember to ask the hotel if they would be willing to provide shuttle service for your wedding. Most have vans for airport runs, so be sure to ask. If a hefty number of guests are populating their hotel for the weekend, they may work with you on discounted transport costs.

4.When you book the transportation, get everything in writing, including the schedule (departure times, pick-up times, staggered times if you are moving a large group of people, etc.). Put the plan in writing, and give someone – not you, MOB, that schedule along with driver contact information.

5.Type up all transportation information and put it on the wedding website and in welcome bags for hotel guests. If you are not doing welcome bags, print plenty of the itineraries and ask the hotel to give them to your guests as they check in.

6.If you decide NOT to take on the expense of shuttling your guests, arrange to have taxis waiting at the reception to transport any guests who does not want to drive home after your party. In this case, communicate to guests ahead of time that their will be taxi service, and give them some phone numbers as well.

This is a bit of a project, and not a small expense, but if a great party is your goal, you want to take care of your guests and keep them safe! One more thought: Sometimes when the groom’s family offers to “pay for something,” why not suggest transportation?

Wedding Day Emergency Kit

The wedding day emergency kit— there are more than a few lists for brides out there (Philadelphia Wedding had the best one I found), but this one is more specific to you, the Mother of the Bride.

While the bride may have her own idea of what an “emergency kit” looks like (usually just more makeup!), it’s your job as her mother to “have her back.” And not only will you be the go-to source for your own daughter, you will be the one that every young woman at the wedding runs to when there’s an emergency!

So, here’s my list of must haves for every MOB’s Wedding Day Emergency Kit:

Tampons (not necessarily for you, but believe me, at least two frantic girls will ask you for these)
Spot remover (Tide stick)
Emery board (the girls call them “nail filers”)
Safety pins and/or mini sewing kit
Two-sided (tailor’s) tape or toupee tape
Extra reading glasses
Mints
Your own mini-makeup bag for touch-ups
Static guard (cool weather weddings)
Imodium (the big day has triggered many an IBS episode)
Tums or Pepcid AC

Stash these items, and anything else that you or your girl may need, in a small tote in the bridal suite. Whatever your venue, your coordinator or catering manager will find a place for you to keep necessities.

Prepare for everything, and hopefully you’ll need nothing!

30th anniversary musings: Thinking back to the good, the bad and the ugly of my 1983 wedding

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I was married 30 years ago today , so before we start celebrating this milestone, I thought I would blog about my own wedding– what was good about it (and probably still makes sense today), and what was bad– or even downright ugly about it.

What was GOOD, even great, about my 1983 wedding:

1. My dress was $600, and I loved it! Love still how it looks in pictures. Unfortunately it just hung around, uncleaned in a closet until one day I just put it out with junk. My daughters have not cried over this. My veil was simple, and I was thrilled to lend it to a friend a year later. I don’t even remember where I got our flowers, but they were just fine.

2. We had 90 people at our wedding, which we primarily funded ourselves. I have no memory of agonizing over guest lists, and invitation choices were white or cream. Hand calligraphy though. I received gifts from people who were not able to come, which seems to be a point of etiquette that has gone out of fashion (though it shouldn’t).

3. The after-party (which I believe involved a keg and cups) was awesome! That’s all I can tell you. I do remember that a bunch of friends who were not able to come to the wedding had a great time at the after-party.

4. I really loved my shoes. Women just plain love shoes. I do wish I’d kept those, but I have no idea what I did with them. I bought them at Saks in the city, and had my wallet pick-pocketed the same day.

5. Opening our gifts and envelopes on our wedding night was a blast! We culled all cash to bring with us to St. Croix. We sent out thank-you’s in a timely fashion.

What was bad– even ugly– about our wedding:

1. Well, it was HOT and HUMID, much like it is right now in the East. I only put this on the “bad” list because, even though it didn’t bother us, apparently it bothered everyone else because I hear about it every anniversary on facebook — “Happy anniversary! Wow, that was a hot one!” Our venue was not air conditioned and we figured on a breezy, humidity-free September day. Don’t count on the weather! It did, however, make our event super-memorable. For years we talked about one of my aunts bringing drinks out to my uncle, who would not leave his air-conditioned car.

2. Bridesmaids’ outfits were hideous. I’m so sorry. It was the style (think Seven Brides for Seven Brothers). Again, I’m very, very sorry. Don’t make your bridesmaids spend a fortune, because 30 years later they will look at your pictures and think “hideous.”

3. The ice situation (see #1 above).

4. My wedding china. I did not give a hoot about china, so I let my mother bully me into choosing a pattern I have actually grown to loathe. Did I just admit that? Did I ever even NEED china? Is this an outdated concept? MOBs- don’t force your girls to register for china they don’t want.

All in all, it was a great memory that has given us all kinds of reminiscing pleasure these past 30 years. For all you brides and MOBs out there, RELAX; soon it will all be a wonderful memory. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Guest post from a mother of the groom: a good perspective for every bride and her mom

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Mother of the Groom (MOG)….ahhh! As the mother of two sons I didn’t really knew what to expect when the first son announced that he would marry. Would I be invited to be an involved MOG or would I have to wiggle my way in any time the window was haphazardly left open?

We mothers of boys do chat about these things, and believe it or not we do worry that we will be the odd woman out.

The first wedding for us would be out of town. What would we be asked to do? What would our involvement be? MOG’s are sensitive and do have feelings. Please share with us what you would like us to do. Solicit input. It will make us feel good. Here are a few more tips for brides and their mothers:

Be thoughtful when establishing the wedding date. If you have always dreamed of a fall wedding and the brother of the groom is a college football player, a weekend in the fall could be difficult.

Don’t assume! I have seen several “lists” stating what the bride pays for and what the groom pays for. Sit down and talk about it. We all know that sometimes, in some circumstances, bride and groom paying for things really mean parents are paying. Be open, realistic and open-minded when having these conversations with each other and with both/all groups of parents.

•Just what should the MOG wear? Again, have a conversation! If you know that your future MIL loves the Lily Pulitzer look and thinks it can go anywhere, anytime, reel her in early and make suggestions that would complement your color palette. Is it really detrimental to the wedding if she wears knee length or long? Must she wear her hair up? Let her know the most important aspects of what you are looking for and don’t sweat the small stuff.

•Traditionally the parents of the groom provide a post-rehearsal gathering. If you know your future in-laws well, and trust that they will do a nice job no matter what, then let them offer ideas and let them run with it. Being from Italian descent, our DIL suggested a nice Italian Bistro. Perfect!

Who attends the rehearsal dinner? We had budgeted this as one of our big ticket items. Since all of our family and friends were traveling great distances to the wedding we invited all out-of-towners from both sides of the family. We provided a wonderful dinner venue that set the stage for a special weekend.

•Don’t have wild expectations, but do be grateful. Several years ago, a MOG friend told me that the groom’s family pays for the honeymoon. Yikes! I had not heard that one before. So that we wouldn’t be caught off guard, we began saving for a honeymoon. Of course the couple planned the destination and we surprised them with the airline tickets and hotel. This was NOT expected, and I’m not sure it’s even really a “rule,” but the kids were very grateful.

Being the MOG was a special privilege. I learned so much about weddings and my DIL. What a blessing she is. I know that I will be better prepared for the next wedding as it too will be a travel wedding once again.

Thanks Bridemomma, for allowing me to post my perspective!

~ Ally V.