Questionable trends: The over-the-top bachelorette weekend

Trends that should maybe stop being trends, or at least need to be more thought-out than many realize – Part one in a (possible) series:

Trend #1 The “let’s all spend a fortune to rent a house for the weekend” bachelorette party trend.

I get the whole bachelorette party thing, I really do; why should a let-loose night of fun with friends be the domain of the boys? I’m not sure, however, when this whole thing morphed into a multi-day extravaganza that’s a potentially huge expense for the bridal party.

If you are in a wedding, and you won’t listen to your mother, maybe you’ll consider these considerations from me:

1. Are you SURE you want to spend an entire weekend together? Would one afternoon, an overnight and a great brunch maybe serve the purpose? If everyone’s all hung over after the first night, you really might spend the next 24 hours waiting for it to be over. Takeaway message: think it through.

2. Who exactly is doing the planning? One person? A bunch of you? Is the bride involved, or is it largely a surprise for her? Make sure there’s a point person who knows the bride’s wishes, and is a GOOD COMMUNICATOR in addition to being organized. You can’t pull this off in an ongoing group text (or cluster-you-know-what).

3. If you decide to forge ahead with your well organized point person who is a good communicator, get FIRM COMMITMENTS from everyone you hope will come. Firm commitment means GET MONEY from them. It’s really easy to say “I’m in” over a group text, and it’s equally easy to bail when you haven’t put money down (“I just realized I have to go to my cousin’s shower that day”).

4. Be creative and tap all your resources. You can’t know what resources people have to offer if you don’t TALK with each other! Does someone have a relative with a rental property or time share? Would your aunt at the beach consider moving out and giving you the house for the weekend? Would it be just as fun to stay in the bride’s cousin’s New York apartment but spend on a limo for the weekend?

5. Remember “in season” is WAY more expensive than off season for rentals. A house in The Hamptons will be untouchable in July, but in April you have a pretty good shot at affordability.

6. If you go for the weekend in __________ (fill in the blank Nashville/Vegas/AC/New Orleans), keep an eye on your bride, please. I spent the better part of a night in Nashville worrying about a trashed bride-to-be whose friends were nowhere in sight. Have a plan, people! There are predators out there just waiting for groups of gals like you.

7. Once you have the date and the place, plan out every detail. Who will make the itinerary? Lock down all reservations, know what things will cost, and decide who is paying for what. Planning a bachelorette weekend requires serious event planning, or there may be misunderstandings, disappointments, and unforeseen expenses.

Good luck and have fun, but remember, for the bridesmaids this is just one of many expenses required when one agrees to be in a wedding party. If the dress is a fortune, the wedding requires a hotel, and you are expected to pitch in on the shower, there is no rule that says the bachelorette party has to be scaled to reality TV proportions.

Here are a couple of additional resources:

http://www.bustle.com/articles/23348-11-things-you-should-never-do-at-a-bachelorette-party

http://wedding.theknot.com/bridesmaids-mother-of-the-bride/bachelorette-party-ideas/articles/bachelorette-parties-planning-checklist.aspx?MsdVisit=1

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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!

Worth it or waste? Top “totally worth it” picks and 3 things you can do without

Make no mistake about it, weddings are BIG business. Pinterest and The Knot have shown us just how “magical” your big day can be, but all those details can really add up. Every bride (and bridemomma) that I’ve talked with has had ideas to share about which wedding elements were totally worth it, and which were something of a waste.

SO worth it:

1. Music! Everyone seems to agree that it’s worth it to get the best music you can afford. If you can’t afford the best dance band around, then hire the best DJ. Many of the wedding details will wind up being forgettable, but everyone will remember the great time they had on the dance floor.

2. A “day of” wedding coordinator or planner. Everyone I know who hired help for the day itself puts this in the “totally worth it” category. And those of us who didn’t, regret it! No matter how organized you are, MOB, you can’t and shouldn’t be in charge on the wedding day– enjoy it instead.

3. A great photographer is worth the money, but ONLY if he or she is open to your being a vocal partner when it comes to the shot list. Memories fade, but the pictures last forever.

A bit of a waste:

1. Save-the-dates — send it digitally or skip it all together! Those closest to you will know the date just as soon as it’s set, and the others, well, let’s just say you don’t want EVERYONE to save the date. You really don’t need to spend on this.

2. Ice sculptures and fancy cakes — yes, they can be stunning, but for what they cost, no one will miss them if they are not there. Put the money into music!

3. Favors — Those cute little theme-driven favors can cost you a bundle, and many will just be left behind. Why not make a donation to a favorite charity instead? Everyone wins– the charity and your pocketbook, because even with a generous donation, you will likely spend less.

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?

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.

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!