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  • Maggie O'Heran

Wedding Planning Secrets

10 + secrets to wedding planning

In continuing my series on So, You Want to Plan a Wedding, I wanted to cover 10+ things that no one will mention to you when wedding planning. And while it may be a “numbered list”, they are in no particular order because they are all equally important.

1. Number your rsvp cards or envelopes discretely (and corollate it to your guest list)– it may sound silly, who wouldn’t write in their name on an rsvp?! But it happens more than you think! Having a number to refer back to on your guest list will help you when you receive an unnamed rsvp card. Each wedding I’ve planned has included unnamed reply cards. Alternatively, while it’s not my favorite idea, you could include an email address to rsvp to. That way, you can reach out to folks that don’t detail who will be coming (and save some $, but I am old school and enjoy paper, thus it’s not my favorite idea). And while the rsvp card trick may be discussed…a lot, it brings up another great tip – expect surprise guests. Whether someone tags along with a guest or a guest details 6 additional people on their reply card, it is bound to happen. Expect it, think about how to handle it, and communicate with your team what you think should happen. While you may want to save money by only having so many tables, an extra table or two (even if empty) is better to have preset than your vendor crew scrambling around while dinner is being served to make sure folks have a place to sit. That being said, there is one more thing to mention - don’t expect toddlers or infants to sit on parents’ laps – no one wants to eat while holding a kiddo. They will need their own chair, even if you don’t include them in the final headcount/they share a meal, they need their own chair and place setting. Go the extra mile and have a few highchairs on hand too (or see if your venue or caterer does). It will give your guests a better experience and while it’s your day, their experience also needs considered.

2. Keep your guest list & their addresses to kick off your Christmas card list (whether they attend or not!)– snail mail may be slowing down, but there is nothing like a handwritten card or note mailed to someone special in your life. Not only will you need all those addresses for your Thank You cards, but it’s also a great resource to begin your life together and keep in touch with all of the special folks you’ve invited to your big day. I am not sure how many times I have referred back to my personal guest list to snag their addresses and it beats asking for their address each time you want to mail them something. Just convert into your address book when the wedding is over and add in their (and their families) special dates, so you can surprise them with that handwritten note/card to let them know you are thinking about them.

3. You don’t need as many favors or programs as you think, but you do need more invitation suites than you think – generally, only 75% of your guests will take home a favor. While it’s natural to think that you need 1 per guest, it’s an extra cost that can really add up quickly. Same goes for programs; most of your guests will come in pairs or more and only one program is needed for them. Or you can throw that cost out all together and do one large program to display as guests walk into the ceremony. That being said, you will want 25% more invitation suites (at minimum, envelopes if you don’t want extra invitation sets) than you think you need. While it’s an additional cost, it’s good to have extras in case you mess up an address. You will also want a fresh set for detail shots and a fresh suite to have in your wedding photo album. Be sure to subscribe to be notified when blog posts on guest favorite favors & invitation best practices are posted!

4. Start with planning your ceremony before your reception - while the reception is what most are led to plan first, there is a lot you can flow into the reception from the ceremony. Plus, you can’t have a reception without a ceremony (even if they don’t happen at the same time ;-)). This way, you don’t put the cart before the horse and plan an amazing reception and run out of money for an amazing ceremony. Which brings me to another tip – when you are in the preplanning phase (as mentioned in my recent blog The First 5 Steps You Need to Start Wedding Planning) start with your guest list and budget breakdown before moving onto planning your ceremony and reception, those should come in your detail planning phase. Starting with your budget helps keep you in control of the costs and helps build a priority list of the details you want to include on your big day.

5. Remember: it’s always the coffee pot – okay, well not always, but this is something that stuck with me from a professor that has rang true more than once. If you experience a power outage on your big day but everything else seems to be in working order, check the coffee pot. It most likely tripped a breaker and the breaker needs reset to restore your big day. Most recent example – at an outdoor wedding where we had access to power, I tripped the breaker for the entire site (music, food, ceremony site, all of it) plugging in the coffee pots for the drink station. Luckily it was a quick fix, but it would have ruined more than just the coffee if I hadn’t remembered – it’s always the coffee! And yes, you need coffee on hand. It may be 10 pm before someone wants it, but someone will want it and it’s not an area to save money on (hey, another blog topic for me to write about :-D stay tuned!). Ask your catering team what options are available for coffee. Some are able to brew it offsite and keep it hot to serve during reception/desserts (eliminating the risk of tripping a breaker all together) and some are able to offer on demand services for coffee, so there is not a ton of waste at the end of the night. Either way, it's a must have for any event.

6. No one will notice the little things - if the placement isn’t perfect, if you’ve forgotten table décor elements, or your eyeshadow isn’t perfectly creased, no one will notice. On your big day, please don’t stress about the elements you are missing. Anything can be replaced, but your memories cannot. A meltdown is not a good memory for your guests to hold onto, because trust me, they won’t even notice something is missing or out of place. While there are must haves you need to include, the little details will not make or break the day for your guests. They will hold onto your smiling faces, fun atmosphere, and the love you two share, not the missing candle on Table 7. Like I said, there are must haves for your wedding day, but that’s a blog post for a different day, so stay tuned!

7. Bakers may hate me for this but...have a Styrofoam cake with a sheet cake in the back for serving – not only can you save money with your dream cake, but you also don’t have to watch it be hacked to bits by your caterer. Most bakers can make a layered cake with just the top tier as actual cake for you to cut in front of guests (and save for your 1st anniversary!). Or you can get that gorgeous 3-tiered cake with plenty to serve for your guests by having the top two layers as cake and the bottom as Styrofoam. You’d never know it but this cake from my recent Styled Shoot (De)Lite is all Styrofoam and I was able to return it to Two Son’s Cakery at the end of the shoot for her to use in shows. No one will know the difference except you and your baker, swear! It also adds a lovely visual appeal for your guests to be served a perfect slice of cake with just the right amount of frosting. Again bakers may hate me for this, but if this is something you want to consider, just talk with your baker to see if that is an option for you.

8. You need a coordinator – okay this one may be discussed quite a bit but even if Aunt Peg, Meg, and Jo are willing to help you on your big day, you need someone for them to go to with questions. Think of it as your personal assistant on your wedding day and trust me – you can’t be both coordinator and bride (or groom) and not be stressed on the day of. Your wedding should be a joyful experience for you and your spouse to look back on, not a day of “shoulda, woulda, couldas”. Save yourself the stress and hire a professional to give you the gift of time (and a timeline), so (like I always say), you can enjoy the memories you are making. Which brings up another tip - provide detailed instructions! Unspoken expectations can ruin a normal day, let along your wedding day, and having detailed instructions helps communicate your expectations to vendors, family members, and friends helping create your big day. It may seem over the top bridezilla, but it’s better to over communicate with anyone involved in helping with your big day rather than under communicate, so that we can make your vision a reality to the best of our ability. And having it in writing makes it that much better, promise.

9. You need to tip your vendors – you may be thinking, um, what?! I am already paying them an arm and a leg to provide a service! But, just like any service provider, tips are expected and welcome. No matter the vendor, the role they are playing, or the amount of time they are there on your big day, a lot of work goes into planning, execution, and wrap up. You wouldn’t go sit in a stylist’s chair for 10 hours and walk out without giving them a tip. Nor would you go have a meal that a server brings you each element of and not tip them for their hard work. Subscribe to be the first to view the blog post on tipping vendors that is coming soon!

10. And lastly, the most important tip of all – it’s your day! Do what YOU want to do. Don’t let traditions get you hung up. If you don’t want them, don’t have them. No one will say “oh my gosh, Becky, they didn’t have a father/daughter dance (or bouquet toss or cake cutting or <insert tradition here>)”. No, they will leave saying – “that was the most fun I’ve had in a while”, or “what a special day for them” or “it was tailored perfectly to them”. The list goes on. This is why planning your vision, goals, and objects (as detailed in my recent blog post) goes so far. Without those, it wouldn’t be YOUR day, just another wedding. It’s not about the décor or the flowers or the venue (unpopular opinion – it is kinda about the food, ha!), it’s about you, your partner, and the love you share. Having that shine through on your big day will be remembered, not the way the venue looked. So, write down that vision and the subsequent goals to obtain your objectives in making it YOUR day.

Cheers to you on your wedding planning, hang in there and keep going one day at a time. I love sharing my knowledge, so don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions, I love hearing from you!


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