A to Z Wedding Planning

I'm a big believer in planning and making lists. I don't like playing anything by ear, especially when it comes to an event that should be planned down to nearly every little detail that you can think of, like a wedding. Regardless of popular opinion over the past few decades, there's no real plausible reason why it should take an entire year to plan a wedding. I can understanding setting the date for your wedding a year after officially being engaged for a plethora of reasons, and I can also understand taking a while to save up the money for your wedding if you have a specific vision in mind for it, but there really isn't any excuse that someone can come up with for taking months to get their plans together except that they're scatterbrained. Planning your wedding is one thing, but executing the plans is quite another. Checking off everything on your list will take at least a few weeks, that's a given, but it doesn't take an entire year to get things in order unless you're planning a destination wedding and/or one that costs over a hundred thousand dollars or something like that.

There are times when I wonder what kind of priorities some people have when they're planning their weddings. When I saw a woman on a show a few years ago that said she quit her job to plan her wedding, I didn't know whether to laugh or feel sorry for her. For most people, yes, weddings are special, but it's one—maybe two days—of your life. Hardly anyone will stop everything else in their life for six months to a year to have a ceremony and a reception over the span of five to eight hours.

Besides, most of us can't actually stop working to plan our weddings—normal everyday people can't afford to do anything of the sort. Also, we're usually on tight budgets. Why do you think they run sales on bridal gowns for $99 if most of us had $10,000 budgets? That's because most of us don't. We have to work with what we have after we buy our wedding bands, and if our fiancé bought an engagement ring for us. Not everyone has an engagement ring, you know.

Look, if the most you can afford to dish out, or that you want to dish out, for your wedding is twenty to fifty bucks, I say skip the damn wedding, just get your license, and have someone officiate it. I was at a wedding like that years ago and there comes a point when you, as thinking adults, have to realize there are some things you just can't do (or you just shouldn't do it). If you're just going to have a $15.99 store-bought cake that could have doubled as a five-year-old's birthday cake, along with a bottle of Ginger Ale, and you borrowed someone else's wedding dress they used two months before, don't send out invitations and invite people to your wedding; I'm not kidding, someone actually did that.

This hub is for people that just need a starting point and/or an outline of how to go about with the planning. If you use this list, you can add or take away whatever you want, I'm just lending a hand. All of these things on this list should be figured out within the first two weeks of your planning so that you have a general idea of where you're headed for your big day. They're not necessarily concrete plans, but they give you something to work with.

After you've set your wedding date, there are these factors to take into consideration:

Preliminaries

1) What is the size (number of guests) of your wedding?

2) Who's paying for it, and figuring out the limit of what you intend to pay.

3) Is it a religious, or nonreligious, ceremony?

4) Who's in your wedding party?

5) Are you using a wedding planner or are you doing it all yourself?

6) Are you having an engagement party?

7) Are you putting a wedding announcement in the paper?

Getting Down to Business

1) Venue (for the ceremony)

2) Reception Hall

3) Bathrooms/porta potties

4) Cleaning service/cleaning crew

5) Colors/Theme

6) Ordering the Invites (and Thank You Notes)

7) Flowers

8) Centerpieces

9) Dishes and silverware (monogrammed?)

10) Wine/Champagne glasses

11) Menu/Caterers

12) Are you going to have a bar at your wedding?

13) Are you factoring a tent into your budget?

14) Photographer

15) Videographer

16) Wedding Cake

17) Music

18) Limo

19) Registry

People Involved

1) Maid/Matron of Honor

2) Best Man

3) Bridesmaids

4) Groomsmen

5) Bridesmaid dresses

6) Shoes (heels or flats?)

7) Tuxes or No Tuxes for the Groom, Best Man, and Groomsmen

8) Hair stylist(s)/Barber(s)

9) Makeup Artist(s)

10) Manicures/Pedicures/Waxing

11) Flower Girl/Ring Bearer

12) Parents

13) Including siblings and/or other close friends

14) Seating Arrangements

15) Emcee/Speeches at the Reception

16) Gift Bags/Favors

17) Bachelor/Bachelorette party

18) Vows

19) Order of Ceremony* (Rehearsal Dinner)


The Bride

1) Wedding Gown

2) Bouquet

3) Jewelry

4) Garter

5) Tanning/Weight/Hair dyeing

6) Giving Away*


Preliminaries

1) What is the size (number of guests) of your wedding?

For most people, this is the biggest thing to get out of the way because you're planning the size of the space you're using for your ceremony, reception, and even your budget around the answer to this question. Even if it's just both your sets of parents and siblings, you still need a number to go by even if you're just going to eat. If you're inviting only twenty to forty people, although the number sounds small, you'll still have to decide whether you're just going to sent text messages and emails as invitations and wait for your possible guests to RSVP that way, or if you're going to order invitations and mail them out. More and more people are sending out e-vites to their events because not only is it "green", it can possibly save some money. Regardless of how tacky some people think it is, if they can save a hundred dollars or more by sending out emails rather than paper invitations, plenty of people would rather send the e-vites.

It's best to have a number to by, even if the initial number dwindles or expands. Whether it's forty, seventy-five, or two hundred people, you should have a number to work with in the beginning.

2) Who's paying for it, and figuring out the limit of what you intend to pay

Plenty of couples pay for their own weddings now. Their parents simply don't have thousands of dollars saved up for a wedding after probably dishing out thousands of dollars for their children's educations. You have to take into account the way the economy has been this past decade. A lot of people are still trying to build up their savings accounts, and parents no longer have their retirement savings because they were forced to live off of it these past few years; most parents aren't even getting the opportunity to retire anymore.

Sometimes the budgeting is being done around couples already having their own children or already having combined their incomes in certain ways in instances such as they live together. This isn't 1950; there are many different factors to consider when thinking of a budget.

Firstly, you should have a concrete budget before you write down the cost of anything. Budgeting shouldn't start halfway into the planning; it should be second number on your list after the proposed number of guests, if not the very first item on your list. You should also look at that number as ironclad, not flexible. If you're already looking at that number and thinking you'll probably go over the projected amount before you even scratch the first thing off your list, you need to get your priorities straight. If you're looking at that number as interchangeable, you need to ask yourself if you plan to be in debt after your wedding or having a fight with your fiancé before you even get married. Come up with a number and stick with it; that's the entire point of having a budget. And if you don't have the amount of money for your wedding that you want, or you don't know if you'll be able to get it before the date, don't count on that additional money. Your long-term financial stability should matter more than your wedding. In fact, in terms of your marriage—you know, that other person you're spending the rest of your life with—the wedding is a blur in time saved in pictures. Your marriage means more than the wedding, so does your credit score, and you should remember that.

3) Is it a religious, or nonreligious, ceremony?

If you're both of the same faith, but in different sects of the religion, this could be your first real test as a couple and your ability to compromise if you're having trouble over which building to hold the ceremony in. Some couples forgo anything religious and go for a nonreligious setup for their wedding ceremony altogether, which probably ends up saving a lot of people headaches in the long run.

If you're of different faiths altogether and you're having trouble compromising, I can't help you there, bub. Even if you try going the nonreligious route, you still could upset some people, so you're on your own with that one.

4) Who's in your wedding party?

Regardless if you've narrowed your guest list down to what you want it to be, deciding who will be in your wedding party, and what size it's going to be, should be the easiest part since these people will likely be with you during the planning process. Most people don't even have to jot down the names of those in their wedding parties because those are their best friends or siblings, although this, too, can sometimes cause conflict. There are times when the groom may want his sister or female cousin or a very close female family friend in the wedding party to join in with his fiancée and her festivities and his future wife may not like that female, and vice versa. That's simply another test the two of you as a couple will have to deal with during the planning process to see how you work out conflict.

Also, as the bride, you have to figure out how big you want your wedding party to be. I've seen wedding parties that were sometimes just as packed as the gaggle of wedding guests. I've seen brides that had more than one maid of honor, half a dozen bridesmaids, junior bridesmaids, two flower girls…you get the picture. Then again, there are brides that don’t want a big wedding party at all; all they want is their maid of honor and they want their groom to have his best man and that's it. The standard is typically a maid of honor, less than a handful of bridesmaids, and the same number goes for the groom's side. But there's no real set standard for this, it's up to the couple, but my only advice would be to choose a handful of people that get along well, if you're going that route. Unless you're a bride that loves drama, as we've all probably seen from those Real Housewives franchise shows as well as Bridezillas, it's wise to choose a good group of girls that are going to help you get ready for your big day and support you rather than having to deal with all kinds of sour attitudes and in-fighting. Men don't usually have this problem during the wedding planning process (hell, they don't have this problem in life in general) because their bride usually tells them where to go, what to do, and what time to do it.

Whether your wedding is big or small, your wedding party should be other people who will share in your joy, not create conflict—that is, unless you want conflict.

5) Are you using a wedding planner or are you doing it all yourself?

When you hire a wedding planner, the first thing you should realize is that you're not paying someone, handing them a list, then walking away and showing up on your wedding day and everything is done. It doesn't work that way. A wedding planner is hired to help you get your ideas together, not put your entire wedding together while you sit back and do nothing, and I don't care what you're paying them.

What exactly is a wedding planner? To put it simply, it's someone you're hiring, you're paying them a fee, you're going to give them your budget and explain to them what you want for your big day (in detail), and they're there to help make it happen. Keep in mind, though, you're not hiring David Tutera—not by a long shot. And the only way you're going to find someone that's even close to Tutera is if you're paying them big bucks. The good ones don’t come cheap.

Even with a wedding planner's aide, you'll probably run into some problems, but wedding planners can't snap their fingers and make them all go away unless they're superheroes with special powers. Note to readers: They are not superheroes with special powers. And don't think a wedding planner won't quit because of your bratty attitude. If you're extremely difficult to deal with, they will drop you, and if you try to sue them for services rendered just because they didn't carry out their entire tenure of being your wedding planner up until your wedding day, be prepared to possibly lose your case. They could keep a part of the fee you paid them or all of it, depending on how their contracts work. With most planners, you pay a nonrefundable deposit after you hire them after your consultation. Nonrefundable means you ain't gettin' it back, but some people don't understand that. If they were doing their job for three months and two months before the wedding they quit or you fire them, they earned their money fair and square, and a judge will probably tell you the same thing. No one is going to work for you for weeks or months without you paying them anything, that's just absurd.

If you intend to use a wedding planner, go by reputation, but sometimes that's no good either. While they might have been great working with your friend, or two people from your job, the two of you may clash. It's not foolproof.

Most people use wedding planners if they have the extra cash because they're working and they simply can't do it all on their own and they need someone other than their maid of honor to lend a helping hand with the setup. Other people hire wedding planners because they really don't know what to do at all when it comes to putting a wedding together and they need guidance from someone who knows what they're doing.

6) Are you having an engagement party?

Same as a baby shower or a wedding announcement in the paper, people usually do this to show they're happy for someone or a couple. You don't have to do this. You can save money on not doing this and use it for the wedding if you're on a really tight budget. This is mainly for people to toast the upcoming nuptials, etc. Better yet, use the money you would've spent on an engagement party and put towards your house. I don't care if it's a few hundred dollars; a little goes a long way sometimes.

7) Are you putting a wedding announcement in the paper?

You're going to do it, a loved one is going to do it, or no one is going to do it, it's as simple as that. There's no rule that says you have to do it, it's just something people have done for years to announce that their child or grandchild is getting married and they're happy about it. A lot of people do it now to show off. Do it or don't do it, it's up to you.

Getting Down to Business

1) Venue (for the ceremony)

Depending on your faith and if you're choosing to have a religious ceremony, choosing your venue for the ceremony could be a temple, church, or a mosque. Do not assume you can just use any religious building for your wedding and begin your planning around anyplace without asking permission first, because you may be informed that you can't use it on the day you want to use it or you can't use that particular building for the wedding at all. Ask first, get permission, if there's a fee, pay it, and then begin planning around that place for your ceremony.

This may seem silly to mention, but you should be sure that your venue is able to hold all of your guests—that's what having the number of guests is for, usually.

Also, if you're having an outdoor wedding, most people opt to have a tent available regardless if they know whether it's going to rain, but it may be a good idea if you don’t hold your outdoor wedding during a month that you know is typically rainy or windy in your area. It wouldn't be the brightest thing to do.

I've been to two wedding receptions that were held at the house of one of the parents of the bride and groom; at one, the entire wedding was held outside along with the reception and with the other one, it was just the reception held outside. Both were very nice and there was nothing extravagant going on, but they'd set up everything well. People save money that way, but be sure that there's enough space for everyone and everything at the house where you intend to have it. Having enough space is the main thing to consider. You don't want your guests to be uncomfortable or have to stand during the ceremony or reception, that's not cool. Also, you should establish up front whether or not people are allowed to go into the house at all during the reception. That is a big factor to consider and letting your attendees know up front.

2) Reception Hall


If the venue you use for the ceremony has a space that you can use for your reception, it could possibly be more logical to use it rather than have your guests move to another space, inconveniencing everyone. Sometimes it's necessary to change venues, sometimes it's not and the bride or groom simply wants to use another place for the reception; it's up to that couple to decide what's in the best interest for the two of them and their guests.



3) Bathrooms/porta potties


In both venues, check out the bathrooms beforehand, and be sure if there are any people on your guest list with physical ailments or disabilities that could use special treatment. If you invite someone to your wedding and they RSVP that they're coming, it's up to you to be sure that they have adequate accommodations.



4) Cleaning service/cleaning crew


With some venues, they have cleaning crews on-site that you can hire, or you can hire your own separately. Don't ask your guests to stay behind and clean up. Someone that I know did that. It's not cool and it's beyond tacky. In fact, it's rude. Your guests are coming to see you get married, more than likely they bought you a gift (and in some cases gave cash), they wished you well, and wanted to see you off into your new wedded life. It is offensive to ask your guests to clean up the reception hall, and it's sad that I have to mention that.



5) Colors/Theme

Most people choose a color scheme so that they'll have something to go by when they're choosing their bridesmaid dresses, bouquets, flowers, and cake decorations. You don't have to choose a particular color scheme; it simply makes the flow of decorations prettier and harmonious. Some brides choose overall themes for their weddings. When Shanna Moakler married Travis Barker, I believe she had A Nightmare Before Christmas theme, and I loved her dress and the suit he wore. They didn't show their wedding ceremony or reception on TV, but from the snapshots they showed on TV, I loved the way it was put together.

If you are going with a color scheme or an overall theme for your wedding, think classy/classic—not an eighties prom. If you are going with one particular color, you don't have to make it overpowering. You can do accents of the shade in the main venue's area that you're using for the ceremony and reception hall, like using flowers that have petals that contain the main color scheme you're using or you can use roll-out carpeting in the place where you're having your reception that use that particular color scheme. If you're using purple, EVERYTHING does not have to be purple from the napkins, the flowers, the bridesmaids' dresses, down to the icing on the cake, the tablecloths, the runners, draping, and the lighting in the reception. That makes me woozy just typing it.

The thing with themes is you have to consider your budget if your theme requires you to dish out more money than you intend to spend on your wedding. Consider changing your theme or using certain elements from the theme rather than going all out if you find out that it's going to eat up a lot of your savings.

6) Ordering the Invites (and Thank You Notes)


Most people still do this the old-fashioned way and they order physical wedding invitations and mail them out. There are a few people who choose to go with e-mails, but traditionalists will always say that is tacky, as I mentioned before. Besides, sending out paper invitations is a lot more personal than an e-vite. The same way most people still go the old-fashioned route and order invitations and mail them out, they handwrite the address and maybe put a personal note inside the envelope they send out. A lot of people send out a photo of the couple within the invite as well.


Sending out handwritten invitations takes a lot of time, but in my opinion, when it comes to a wedding, it's worth it. You can save money by sending e-vites out to your guests, but personally, I'd rather spend the extra dollars and send out physical invitations. I prefer physical invitations, but I also don't have anything against e-vites. Although wedding invitations can get pricy (can be in the low to mid hundreds at time, sometimes if it has elaborate designs, textures, and other elements, the low thousands), it's up to you to be wise and choose within your budget. It also depends on how many people you're inviting. If you're only inviting between twenty and fifty guests, you could go with the more elaborate designs and it won't cost you too much because you're not ordering seventy-five or a hundred of them or more.


Along with the invitations, people usually order a stack of Thank You notes to send out to those that gave them gifts, or even just attended their nuptials.


One thing I've seen and I feel a need to comment on, is typing up invitations to your wedding and printing them out at home is tacky and ghetto and I don't care who is offended by me saying that. Doing that is a thousand times worse than sending out an e-vite in my eyes. People know you're just being cheap, not creative. Trying to save time and money is one thing with e-vites, but printing out low quality typed invitations to a wedding, shows that you'd rather spend about fifty dollars on ink rather than spending the same amount on official invitations.



7) Flowers


Not everyone likes flowers. In fact, a lot of people are allergic to flowers. If you're having a spring wedding and you find out most of your guests have severe seasonal allergies, ask yourself if it's worth it to have a roomful of sneezing, coughing people with runny noses and headaches that drown out the recitation of your vows.


Getting back to everyone not liking flowers…


Every woman isn't into gardening and plant life or knowing every species of flower. The bride-to-be may not know a thing about flowers, but all she knows is that people are supposed to have flowers at their wedding…or else.


You don't have to have flowers at your wedding if you don't want.


Not too long ago I saw a very cute outdoor wedding where the bride used balloons instead of flowers. That may sound tacky to some people, but I assure you, the way she did it came out very adorable. I've seen people that have tied ribbons at the end of the pews in the church they used instead of having flowers placed at the end of them (it looked very nice, the way they placed them).


You can replace flowers with all sorts of things. For example, as the centerpieces on the tables at your reception you can use lit candles (looks especially pretty during an evening/night wedding). You can tie couples teddy bears together with the bride and groom's names on them (personalized professionally, by the way) and let the guests take them home. If you have a candy themed wedding, your centerpieces can consist of a tier of sweets. Even if the theme of your wedding isn't candy you can have a tier of sweets as your centerpiece if you can find someone to arrange them nicely. I don't think anything is wrong with using flowers, I'm just saying there are many alternatives to using them.


For those people who want to use flowers, remember they can get rather expensive for a wedding because of the amount some people use. Also, be sure to choose a really good florist. Don't think your flowers can't show up already wilted if you're not careful of the person you choose to do your flower arrangements.



8) Centerpieces


As I mentioned under the "Flowers" portion, there are many alternatives to centerpieces. The thing about centerpieces that most people like to do now is personalize them in some way or have them be unique. Don't get me wrong, plenty of people still go with good old-fashioned flowers in the middle of the table, but other people want to make a statement of their coupledom, and as far as they're concerned, their centerpieces should represent them in some way. Whether it's to go with the theme of their wedding, or it's about something one—or both—of them are fond of, most people want to make it special.



9) Dishes and silverware (monogrammed?)


As with a few other things I've mentioned, you can do this, but it's not necessary. It's traditional for a lot of couples to want to save their monogrammed silverware or dishes same as they do their cake topper, but for some people, as long as there are utensils available, who cares.



10) Wine/Champagne glasses


Glass or plastic? Classy or tacky? Those are questions only you can answer for yourself. If you don't want to use glass, don't. It's for one day, and depending on how you are as a person, there may be nothing to ever use those glasses for again.


Depending on the caterer or bar service you use, they'll probably provide those glasses and take them back with you, but that's for you to discuss with them and make a decision. Do what's best for you.


11) Menu/Caterers


People make this part seem so hard, but it doesn't have to be. Deciding on the menu is one of the reasons you should have a roundabout number to go on from the beginning and even if you haven't completed your guest list you should have an idea of who you're going to invite. This isn't the 1940s where, as the bride, you're sitting back and your mother and father are inviting a whole slew of people that you don't even know. You should know at least seventy-five to eighty percent of the people on your guest list, and that number includes those from your soon-to-be husband's side. You should know if you intend to invite two families that follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, and you should also know about certain allergies people in your own family have and things you shouldn't put on the menu at all. In this day and age, nearly EVERYONE has some kind of food allergy to work around whether it's gluten intolerance, dairy, or shellfish. And if you don't know, ask somebody.


If necessary, have two different places cater; one can cater a small portion of vegetarian meals to your guests, while another does everything for everybody else. Someone on your guest list may have a peanut allergy that you're not aware of, so YOU need to be aware of all the ingredients they're putting into your food so that no one gets sick at your reception. And don't blame the person who gets sick either if they asked you beforehand and you weren't forthright about certain things or you didn't properly check. If your guests, and their safety, are important to you, you will find these things out.


There are certain communities of people that when they get married, there's no question about who's catering or what's cool on the menu. If you know the majority of your guests are cool with Greek food and they love the menu choices from two particular places in your area, then you'll probably have an easier time than some. If you're Muslim and/or 90-95% of the guests are coming are Muslim as well, they expect the menu to be halal. Same goes when we're talking about Italian, Mexican, or Jamaican menu choices and whether or not those nationalities reflect the bulk of your guest list. Now, just because there's a certain group coming doesn't mean you don't have to deal with allergies. It doesn't matter a person's race, nationality, or religious background, they're all people and more than a few of them probably have allergies to something. Find out who does and what they are; you know, so their throats don't close up and maybe, well—and I know this is an awkward thing to bring up—but perhaps die at your reception. Imagine looking back on your wedding day with that on your mind.


I know a lot of people who've gotten fast food chain chicken joints to cater their weddings. That's not always good, but it's always funny. I don't exactly recommend it, but if that's what the majority of your guests like—as well as yourself—then go nuts.


There are alternatives to having your wedding catered by professionals. I know plenty of people that go the old Soul Food route and some of older the women in their community get down in that kitchen like it's a holiday. They pay for the food, pay the women, and it's all good. In those cases it's not tacky like having your guests clean up the reception hall; I can't really explain it, but it's different. I saw an episode of Bridezillas years ago and the night before her wedding a bride was in her kitchen with two of her cousins, her sister, and her mom, I think those were the people in there with her, and they were stressed, but they weren't having a bad time. In fact, it kind of looked like they were enjoying it in a way. As a woman who's had that experience with other women in my family, it can be the same way as preparing the dinner for a holiday meal. Most brides would probably say, "Hell no! It's my day! I'm hiring somebody else to do that!" But if your family is like that family on Bridezillas, or like mine, and everybody can cook and all of you know everybody loves the way you guys cook, maybe you could go that route. I wouldn't suggest that sort of thing if you're having a lot of guests. I'd say that if your guest list is around thirty or forty (or somewhere in that area) then cooking most of the food yourself could be an option. Not every bride thinks of herself as the untouchable queen who is above doing anything just because it's her wedding. Some women wouldn't have a problem getting in the kitchen the day before their wedding if she can cook a certain dish really well and some of her guests might be looking forward to it. There's nothing wrong with doing that.



12) Are you going to have a bar at your wedding?


Everybody does NOT drink, but just because the bride or groom doesn't drink doesn't mean they don't have alcohol at their wedding reception. Then the biggest question is presented and that is: Are you having a cash bar or an open bar? A cash bar is where your guests pay for their alcoholic drinks same way they would at a bar. The other kind of bar is—you guessed it—free liquor. Well, "free" for your guests, but whoever is paying for your wedding is going to have pay for the bar.


For some people, they don't drink and they don't care which of their guests want to get sloshed, they're not going to have alcohol served at their wedding, and I'm one of those people. If you don't drink and you don't approve of other people drinking or getting drunk, there's no rule that says you have to have a bar or alcohol served at your reception. Whether it's for religious reasons or it's a personal choice, it's up to you.


13) Are you factoring a tent into your budget?


This is for people that are having an outdoor wedding and/or reception. I would say that if you're not having a wedding during the summer when most of the days are clear, then a tent should be factored into your budget. I also know that tents don't come cheap at all, but that’s the risk you take when you're having an outdoor wedding/reception, especially during the spring season when freak showers frequently occur or autumn when the winds can pick up and make people uncomfortable. There's no way to be one hundred percent certain of the weather months in advance, but again, that's the risk you take when you're having an outdoor event.


14) Photographer


There was an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer years ago and I thought they gave some of the coolest wedding photography advice. The suggestion was the buy disposable cameras and put them on each table at the reception. The idea is to let your guests take their own photos of your wedding from their perspectives and then dropping them into a basket at the end of the night so that the couple can develop them later and have their memories from varying points of view. While I think that is a good idea, I don't suggest letting this method take place of having a professional photographer in charge of your official wedding photos, nor would I suggest having your guests take pictures with their phones and emailing them to you. The only way this method would work is if your guests used disposable cameras and let you develop them yourself. That way, it's almost a surprise what was captured, and having no idea who took what pictures. Having your guests try this with their person cell phones isn't a good idea at all. It would be too complicated having them sending the pictures to your phone or email later for you to pick through them, besides, you might end up getting a couple of their photos that you're not meant to see.


Hiring a professional photographer can be a pain in the butt, but it could end up being worth the headache of having to deal with them. Usually, a legit (not mention experienced) photographer will have albums of photographs for you to look through when you get to their office to help you decide if you like their work or not. I don't care how highly recommended someone is, no photographer should be cagey about you seeing their previous work. They should be eager to show you; you shouldn't have to beg to see what they've done before. In fact, most of them offer. I'm not saying it's wrong to give someone with a little less experience than others to shoot your wedding, especially if you like the work they've done even if they haven't shot any weddings before, but these are going to be photos of a very special day.


Great wedding photographers don't come cheap. Their packages tend to start in the thousands (for example, maybe $1700, or something like that). If you live in the sticks and there's a photographer charging you $250, don't expect the same quality as a photographer that charges in the thousands. Don't look at someone else's pictures that paid someone between $1500 to $2700 and then telling the $250 photographer that you expect those same quality shots—that's not going to happen. And yes, some people will do that. Don't do the same thing.


I'm not saying that an expensive photographer will automatically be better, but you have to check this person out beforehand. If they're really expensive and they didn't come highly recommended, that could be the price they charge simply because a few of their photos have appeared in national or international magazines or they're popular in different places, but it may not mean they'll be good at your wedding. A lot of people charge a lot for their services because of their name alone, but that doesn’t mean they're really good at what they're doing.



15) Videographer

Some people are happy with their photos alone and they don’t hire a videographer. However, if you want a recording of your wedding, same as with the photographer—or perhaps even more so—you want to get someone with experience and a decent reputation.


If you have your heart set on a recording of your wedding, don't ask a relative or just any random person to record it because they may not do a good job at all. You might think, "It's pretty hard to screw up holding a device up to your face and recording a marriage ceremony." But for some people, it's harder than you might expect. One of my uncles was supposed to record my niece's graduation from her childcare center. I was shocked when I saw the footage. I think my niece was in the frame for about a minute, maybe less than that. The rest of the hour was a chair and the floor in front of him with small intervals where he aimed the camera at the stage—not filming my niece, mind you—and then he filmed random parts of the seated audience. I was like, "What the hell is wrong with him?" Just because it sounds easy to you, and you would think that aiming the camera at the couple and also getting parts of the venue in frame as well as other pivotal parts during the wedding, doesn't mean that another person's brain will compute what seems to be common sense on what to film and how to film it.


If you want a recording of your wedding, hire someone. Don't just ask random cousin Moe to do it, even if he asks to do it.



16) Wedding Cake


You can get a wedding cake made at Piggly Wiggly or Bi-Lo, and I'm not talking about a sheet cake either, I'm talking about a three-tier wedding cake. The problem with getting a cake from a grocery store is you just don't want anyone to know you got the cake from a grocery store because people will think it's tacky. In actuality, I've been to bridal cake shops in the area where I used to live and their selection wasn't much better than the one at the grocery store—actually, the grocery store's cake tastes better.


When people have the money to buy the more expensive cakes for their weddings (I'm talking about the ones that cost in the thousands), they're usually going for the "look" of the cake, the decorations…not the taste. That's up to you to decide what you want based on your budget and your taste.


If you've never been to a shop that specializes in wedding cakes before, I'll tell you one thing, the cost of a cake adds up very fast. Every little element that you see on those cakes cost money from the topper, to the design of the cake, to the little details like edible pearls or whether you want sugar flowers or an edible "ribbon" design wrapped around each tier.


Along with the wedding cake, people are now doing groom's cakes since the wedding cake is meant to be all about the bride. If you do a groom's cake, it should reflect his personality. If he loves basketball, maybe you'll want to get one in the shape of a basketball or a hoop. Keep in mind though that the groom's cake could end up costing more than your wedding cake if you go overboard with the details and designs.


If you can afford a thirty-five hundred dollar cake, by all means, go for it, but if all you can afford is one that costs a hundred and fifty dollars or less, stick with that and don't let anyone try to talk you into anything else. Don't go broke buying a wedding cake. You still have a dress and shoes to purchase.


17) Music


This isn't really a head banger (no pun intended), but sometimes it can seem that way if the bride and groom have extremely different tastes when it comes to music. Your choices are usually hiring a deejay, a live band, no music, and if we're going there—hooking up a mixed CD to a sound system and letting it play. Don't laugh, people do that (okay, alright already, you can laugh 'cause it really is funny).


When you're hiring a deejay, you're either giving them a list of specific music you want played or you're just giving him a genre to go by and you're kind of giving him free reign. Some deejays come cheap, but with others, you have to dish out a little more change to get them to play at your reception. As with your photographer and any other people you're hiring to service your wedding, it's probably a good idea to be acquainted with their work before you dish out a deposit, sign any contracts, or make any verbal agreements. You could end up hiring a deejay that usually only plays in clubs and you don't want that sort of mix at your wedding reception where in the middle of the song he's blending it with another song, stopping it altogether, or changing the song. You need to be clear about what you want.


One huge thing you need to remember about hiring a deejay, same as hiring anyone to do anything else: You get what you pay for. Don't expect high quality when you pay a low quality price, unless the person is high quality and you know for a fact they're cutting you a break.


As far as live bands go, if you've heard a couple of great ones, it should be easy to narrow them down, especially after asking what they're fee is for a live performance at your reception.


If you're having elderly people or those you know will be easily offended by swearing or lewd lyrics, be sure to leave those songs off your playlist, please. You shouldn’t only care about what your crowd of thirty years and younger thinks about your musical selection, but how ALL of your guests are going to feel about it. As I've stated before, it all boils down to respect. You will care how your guests feel if you respect them, and if you don't respect someone and you don't care how they feel at your wedding, you should leave them off the guest list.


If you and your groom to be are having a hard time deciding on the music you're going to use, here's a suggestion: the both of you need to make two separate lists of music. If he mostly likes rap and you like alternative and pop, you need to come to a compromise. After you two have made your two separate lists of songs you like, come together and start going through them one by one. Some of them may not even be suitable for a wedding reception. But you also need to be fair to your husband-to-be. Don't approach his list with an attitude because you don't want to include any of his music on the playlist; that is called selfishness. I don't care what you've been told, or made to believe since you were four years old; it's his wedding, too, not just yours. Be fair to one another during this process. If a song is on his list that you know and it could be included on the list, don't keep it off just because you don't like it. If it's doable at a reception and you know he and his boys like it, it won't kill you to let it play for three or four minutes. However, if his list actually is filled with songs with only lewd lyrics and profanity, one suggestion may be to see if the deejay you hire has the edited version of a few of those songs. Usually they have edited versions if they're popular enough.


Marriage itself is about compromise, and if you can't even compromise on the music you want to play at your reception, you're not really getting off on the right foot as husband and wife, are ya?


18) Limo


Limos aren't a necessity, but for some people it's what is expected of them. Depending on where you grew up and where you live, you know if those who are attending your wedding will think you've gone nuts if you don't rent a limo from a service or not.


Though they aren't necessities, a limo could come in handy for the bride and her bridal party. You're talking about a bunch of women in very nice dresses, and a bride that could use a good bit of space to sit down in a possibly larger than life dress. Some brides want to dress at home—their place or their parents'—and then make the trek to the place where the ceremony is being held, which is where a limo can come in handy. I always say, if a bride can get dressed at the place where the wedding ceremony is being held, it's all for the better.


First of all, using a limo service isn't always reliable, especially if the driver that is assigned to you on that day is also driving for someone "more important" and you don't know about it. They could have you late for your own wedding, and I don't care how highly recommended the company came to you. A lot of couples think that hiring a limo service is foolproof, but it's not. Another reason hiring a limo could backfire on you is the company could accidentally send you the wrong car. What does that mean? They could have thought they sent you one that was clean, or they may have made a mistake and thought the one being driven to was already cleaned, but you get one that's still messy inside. The bride and her party may not notice any stains in the seat before they get in, but they'll probably notice them when they get out—especially the bride. The limo service could be a very good one, but there could have been a mix-up in the paperwork or they could have been having a very hectic day with their cars and it was an honest mistake. However, that won't help a bride who gets out of the limo and her dress is stained because she sat in something that had been spilled in the seat by the people who had previously used the car. Most limo services would probably assure you that they clean the cars as soon as they get back from being used, but I wouldn't believe that if I were you; maybe I'm just overly cautious or just plain skeptical, but I don't believe anyone—individual or company—is infallible no matter what they claim. And if your clothes do happen to get ruined due the fault of the limo company, they may still demand that you pay them, depending on the attitude of the manager.


My thoughts on using a limo service is use them at your own risk. Even if they have a good reputation with the people you know and they seemed nice when you were handing over your deposit in their office, they could still end up majorly disappointing you.


But it damn sure looks nice to show up in a limo (or better yet, a horse-drawn carriage), I have to admit that.


19) Registry

Don't be a jerk when it comes to your registry. Do NOT go to department stores scanning items for your wedding registry knowing that most of the things you're scanning are out of the price range of 60% of your guests. That is, don't do that unless you not only want to disappointed, but you don't mind most of your guests talking behind your back saying that you think a lot more of yourself than you should—or that any of them do. Be practical, and being practical is synonymous with being realistic. If the majority of your guests are blue collar folks, working from paycheck to paycheck or they're perhaps only a step up from that, don't go overboard, scanning a load of expensive things that even you can barely afford.

Your wedding registry is not meant to double as your Wish List in Life. This is not your chance to scan every single item you've ever wanted. Some brides-to-be, unbelievably, will go through stores scanning outfits they want or toys for their kids if the store allows them to go in any department they want with the scanner. If some people see that all of the items on your wedding registry are plain outrageous or impractical for the event being held, they will (wisely) conclude that you don’t understand the point of the bridal/wedding registry and they will either buy you nothing at all or they will buy what they believe is more suitable for the occasion, rather than bending to what you want.

Your wedding is not your birthday party. The point of getting people gifts for their wedding is to get them things that will aide them in their new married life. Meaning, your guests are supposed to get you things that will be helpful for you and your new husband in your home; that is the general idea. The original notion for this came about because after a couple got married, then they would move in together, and the guests at their wedding were buying them gifts so that the couple wouldn't have to buy certain things themselves. Here are items that used to make perfect sense: coffee maker, bed sheets, toaster, waffle maker, a full set of dishware, a set of pots and pans, and possibly even full camping gear if guests knew that the groom-to-be loved to go on hikes and they knew he'd need more gear if he planned to take his new wife along after they were married. Now? Most couples have already moved in together and they have most of those things I've listed above, but that doesn't negate the notion behind the original idea. You should still only put things on your registry that the two of you could use in the household or as a couple. The things you put on that registry are ultimately up to you, but think of it like this: If you were using the registry for a baby shower, you would only put things on the list pertaining to things you'll need for the baby, not just what you want in general.

Wedding registries are tricky in this day and age, but to put it simply, if you know most of your guests shop for their own home items at places like Wal-Mart and Target, and sometimes Belk and JCPenney's—and they go for affordable merchandise—don't go to Nordstrom and put a $375 bowl on your registry. In other words, don't end up looking silly in an attempt to be bourgeois.

As for guests, I don't care how crass it may seem—cash and gift cards are sometimes the best way to go.

People Involved

1) Maid/Matron of Honor

This person is usually very close to the bride in her everyday life, which is why she was chosen to be the maid or matron of honor. She's there to help with the arrangements, but she's not supposed to take on the role of a free wedding planner. You can lose a friendship if you're too much of a bitch to her, and as the bride, you could see a side to your so-called best friend that you never thought you'd see and you don't like it. This person is meant to be happy for the bride. She's supposed to be sharing in the bride's joy. She's supposed to be there to pick up the slack when the bride can't and run errands for the bride, but she is not a dog. You could have a helpful maid/matron of honor at first, but you could be too demanding and cause the rift. If you know she's working and/or has kids and a boyfriend or a husband, just because you're getting married does not mean that she's supposed to put her entire life on hold and push all of her other loved ones on the backburner to satisfy your wishes. If you, as the bride, know your maid/matron of honor's routine, do not expect her to change her entire life's schedule so that it revolves around yours while you're planning your wedding.

This is meant to be a happy time for all of you. The person that you give this title and position to should be happy for you and supportive. If she is not, then she shouldn’t be given the title and position. If it seems that she isn't up for the responsibility early on, dismiss her. This may be uncomfortable for both of you, or just you, but if it has to be done, it has to be done, and it's as simple as that.

2) Best Man


Brides, just because people call this your day doesn't mean you should get to dictate everything. The groom should be able to choose his own best man, same as you chose your own maid/matron of honor. If he chooses his best friend to stand by his side on that day and you can't stand his best friend, deal with it the best way you can, but don't start bullying him about choosing your brother or whoever—that's not your call.


You have to understand that calling a wedding the bride's day is a tradition of man (a rather recent tradition, I might add), not set in stone in a holy book somewhere.


3) Bridesmaids/Bridesmaids dresses


Bridesmaids are there to lend a helping hand where they can, same as for the maid/matron of honor; they're just usually not as involved as the maid/matron of honor. However, when it comes to the dresses, the final word on what they're going to wear comes from the bride—but the bridesmaids have to pay for it themselves. It's supposed to be an honor to be chosen to be a part of someone's wedding, but for most bridesmaids it ends up feeling more like a burden. It's almost a tradition that the bride chooses ugly/unflattering/tacky bridesmaids dresses for the women in her wedding party. The idea behind that concept, if you've never figured it out, is that the focus is meant to be on the bride, not her bridesmaids; therefore, the bride is supposed to be wearing the prettiest dress, not her "maids". I've always thought that was the pettiest idea anyone could have ever thought of, and yet, so many brides have adhered to it over the past few decades.


You can choose to hold fast to that theory as they do or not.


For starters, you should always choose dresses that you know your bridesmaids can afford with no problem. That is basic, common sense advice. Do not find a set of dresses that you know, for a fact, is out of the budget of even one of your bridesmaids if you do not intend to chip in and help her pay for it. There is also no rule that says you can't chip in for a certain bridesmaid's dress, or all of them, if the one(s) you want them to wear is a bit too expensive for them.


Same as you shouldn't expect your maid/matron of honor to rearrange her entire life to be your minion, you shouldn't expect her or your bridesmaids to spend more money than they can afford for a dress to be in your wedding. There are brides out there that would expect the people in their bridal party to take out a loan if they have to in order to pay for the dress and shoes she chose for them if it doesn't factor into their budget. Why would a bride expect that from the people in her bridal party, you ask? Because she is a selfish, spoiled brat, who thinks the world revolves around her and people should bend to what she wants. I'm not saying there aren't women in a bridal party that wouldn't keep their mouths shut and simply do whatever the bride wants, especially if she sees that the other women are going along with what the bride wants and if she says anything, she'll feel embarrassed, but that doesn't make it right.


I don't know how much of the events on the TV show Bridezillas is staged, but the bottom line is, the brides are usually unattractive a-holes seemingly on a rampage against everyone in mankind and any female that agrees to participate in that onscreen circus is nuts. On one particular episode a young bride wanted her "best friend" who was supposed to be her maid of honor to buy a bus ticket (or some kind of travel ticket), to not only make the trip to her wedding, but to also help her with the preparation of it. The problem was, her maid of honor couldn't afford the travel expenses and on top of that the dress and shoes to come to her wedding; it wasn't a secret that the maid of honor was also a single mother with a young baby to take care of. The bride-to-be had a tantrum in which she claimed it was her day and if her maid of honor cared about her, she would find a way to not only be at her wedding, but to help her get ready for it. In the end, the maid of honor dropped out of the wedding altogether. You may even recall that episode yourself, and it aired a few years ago and that's when I saw it so I could be wrong about a couple of things in that, but that was the outcome. It doesn't really matter how much of that was true, what mattered is that's the way people see her as a person afterward (and they all usually deny that we saw the real them on TV when everyone calls them a bitch). And whether it was true or not, real people should learn a valuable lesson that. You have to think of other people's situations, not just what you want.


As I said before, plenty of brides think their wedding is a free for all where they can treat people any way they want. Perhaps she'll get away with it for that particular event, but that doesn't mean those people will remain friends with her after her wedding day. As the bride, you should ask yourself how much the people you have in your wedding party mean to you, because there are some that if they see your true colors come out during the preparation for your wedding they won't want anything to do with you after the fact. Some people, after seeing your poor attitude, could drop out of your wedding party during the preparation period. Moreover, if your attitude is, "I don't care if they don't talk to me anymore, they'll do what I want them to do or they don't have to be in my wedding," then you know what, you don't deserve them in your wedding and you probably never deserved their friendship because you don't value it.


4) Groomsmen (Tuxes or No Tuxes)


This is one matter where the bride needs a say-so because when you're dealing with most straight men their fashion sense, especially at formal events, can be rather questionable. If you're opting for a tux, it's probably a no-brainer, all you have to do is be sure he gets to his fittings on time and everything fits him properly. Depending on what kind of tux he's wearing, there are some pieces that could go with it that may be optional, or that he doesn't want to wear. The question is whether or not you want him to wear it or not. Some brides are flexible on this matter, some are not, it all depends. With the wedding attire, I'm not going to tell the bride to be laidback because if you're too laidback on this issue, your groom and his best man and other groomsmen could show up looking like clowns. Don't give them too much leeway on this or you could end up wanting to smack all of them.


Some couples opt for different attire for the males in their wedding and it mainly depends on their tastes. Some couples go for a casual look and the groom shows up jeans. Some have custom made tuxedos or other kinds of suits. Most of the beach weddings I've seen, the groom was dressed in khaki pants and a linen shirt. The main part is that you both agree on this matter and everybody is accordance to what they're going to wear on the day. You don't want half the men showing up casual from the waist down and the other half in formal wear.

I'm making it sound as if the majority of grooms-to-be want a say-so in wedding preparations, but that's not really the case. However, some grooms do (in certain areas). You, as the bride, know what kind of husband-to-be you have—or at least, you should know what kind of man you're marrying. Some grooms may not care about anything except if there's going to be good food at the reception and where you want them to stand, and you should be grateful for that. For those who have grooms that want to be in on every part of the pre-wedding preparations and they are getting on your last nerve and fighting you along the way…you have my sympathy.


5) Shoes (heels or flats?)


Not every bride wants to wear heels. There are brides that wear sneakers, flip flops, and even cowboy boots with their wedding dress. You don't have to wear heels; you can wear flats.


I love heels, stilettos to be exact, but as the bride you have to take into account the length of your ceremony and reception, and if you'd be comfortable wearing a new pair of heels for that entire day. You're not going to be very joyful if your feet are killing you. Besides, you can break in those new heels all you want, but you're still going to be in heels for probably a few hours and if you don't normally wear heels (especially if it's usually only for special occasions) they'll still end up hurting your feet like crazy. If you're not used to wearing heels—but you can walk in them—maybe you can wear one kind of heels for ceremony and a different pair for your reception, especially if you change dresses. If you're wearing a wedding dress for the ceremony that will completely cover your shoes, wear a more practical pair. They can be cute, but they don't have to be so high or the heels so thin if that's the kind of thing you think will look better.


When it comes to choosing shoes, you have plenty of options. Some brides will be flexible, but some brides will not be.


There are brides who if they find out one of their bridesmaids, or even their maid/matron of honor, had something beyond their control happen to them like a foot injury or if they had foot surgery and can't wear the shoes she wants at her wedding, she will drop them out of her wedding party. What's the reason for that, you ask? Because of her pictures. Usually, when the full wedding party has their pictures taken by the photographer at the wedding everyone's feet will be included. The bride may not want the one person in a different pair/kind of shoes to have her feet photographed with everyone else. Of course, you may think there are many ways around this; perhaps that one person could be photographed out of frame or the image could be photo shopped, but that may not be enough for some people. If the bridesmaid has trouble walking and she can't make the trip with the groomsman she's paired with or she can't stand up during the ceremony, that's a different cause, but if the bride really wants that person to remain in their wedding party, they'll even deal with that issue somehow. People have to keep in mind that in the case of a wedding, they could find out a lot about the bride-to-be and her pettiness that they never knew about her before, and in the case of the shoes, that could be one of them.


I'm not trying to judge anyone, and while I don't want to police what's petty behavior in certain instances, it's hard not to, but I also know when it's my opinion. There are other women who would agree with the bride who drops the female from her wedding party with the hurt foot that can't wear the shoes she wants her to wear because they think it will ruin their wedding photos. Personally, I think it's petty. If due to a physical ailment she can't participate in the wedding, that's different, but if it's about aesthetics, it could reflect the type of person you are, as the blushing bride.


6) Hair stylist(s)/Barber(s)


Men don't usually have this problem because they either usually go to the barber they've always gone to, or they just go to whoever their bride sends them to on the occasion for whatever reason she has; it's not as if he's going to have to go through a major styling session like his bride.


Brides, you should NEVER venture into a salon and let a hair stylist do anything to your hair a week or two before your wedding and under no circumstances should you try anything like that a few days (or the day before) your wedding. That is wedding hair suicide. Most times, the only time a bride will do this is because this other person was recommended by someone else and it's a specific style that they're told this stylist is especially good at executing. I know some people don't want to believe this, but I know it firsthand: Women are jealous of one another and if the woman that suggested this salon/hair stylist to you very close to your wedding she may be trying to sabotage your day. She may know that the stylist isn't good at the hairstyle and could possibly mess up your hair and she's doing it on purpose. You may not see her smirking in front of you, but that's why people go out of eyesight and earshot when they're being mean or saying mean things. Many people are good actors/actresses, but they will never be up for an Oscar because they do all their acting in front of the people they know in real life. When you get back from the salon with a botched 'do, she may seem as outraged and upset as you, feigning ignorance, but inside, she's triumphant. It's sad that people are like that, but a lot of people are.


Figure out the hairstyle you want WEEKS or better yet, MONTHS in advance, and then go to a salon you can trust and see how it will look on the day and explain to the stylist that you want them to do it for you for your wedding if you love it. No one is telling you to walk around for an entire day or more with the hairstyle you intend to wear on your wedding day. This is what setting aside a part of the budget is for. After you've seen the style and you approve of it, wash it out and go back to normal. It's just a test run to be sure you have everything in order.


7) Makeup Artist(s)


The same thing I said concerning your hairstyle goes for the makeup artist you choose. Don't rely on their reputation or other people's suggestions without seeing the person's work for yourself. Also, don't go by credentials alone. Just because someone has worked for a magazine and they boast that credit to you upfront does not mean that they're a good makeup artist.


In one of the very early issues of SHOW magazine, the editor-in-chief had a horrible makeup artist making the faces of their models. Why do I think the artist did a terrible job? Well, the first reason is because I saw the photos of the girls in the magazine. I don't know if the makeup artist was jealous of the models and that's why the job was subpar, or if she really didn't understand cool, warm, and neutral shades and how to use the correct color palettes for certain complexions. The girls in the mag with darker complexions had on makeup that obviously wasn't flattering to their skin tones; girls with medium complexions were wearing shades that either made them look washed out or some of the colors she used were too bright for their skin tones. I'd seen the cover girl in various other photographs with her makeup done by other artists and she always looked beautiful—except in that particular issue. And it was all the makeup artist's fault. I don't know if that particular makeup artist still works for that magazine or if that magazine is still in print, but I hope if they got someone else, he or she does a better job.


Don't go by credentials alone. That could be a huge mistake.


If you don't like the way you look after you let a makeup artist do their trial run on your face, ask them to change the look to suit you or don't use them at all. Don't let a makeup artist try to tell you that something looks good when it clearly doesn't to you. When I was much younger, probably fourteen, I was playing with some makeup in the bathroom. I loved the way I'd done one of my eyebrows, but hated the way my other one looked. It just so happened that was when two of my cousins dropped by my house. These two cousins were like the two evil stepsisters from Cinderella, they were just two-faced, so it was easy for them to put on smiley faces all the time. When they saw my experimental makeup job I could tell they were trying to hold back their laughter and one of them went, "Ooh, I like the way you did that eyebrow," they said, pointing to the eyebrow that I believed I'd botched and not the one I thought looked good. I never would have went anywhere with my eyebrow looking the way that the one looked that I thought I messed up, but they lied and said it looked good. Go by your instincts and your own eye, what you'd feel comfortable going out with, not what anyone else says, regardless of their "expertise" in the area, especially when it comes to a makeup job. You know when something looks good to you and when it doesn't.


I feel so sorry for bridesmaids in this instance because at the end of the day, it is her call and it is her wedding. If she likes a makeup job and you detest it, more than likely you're going to have to go along with it. She could be using a separate makeup artist for herself and hiring another for everyone else, and she doesn't want your makeup to look better than hers. I know some people who are reading this could be tired of bringing up "pettiness", but that's simply how things are.


Getting off the subject of makeup a little…


If you've never been a part of a wedding before and this is your first time participating in one and being a part of the wedding party, you should be prepared for a few unsavory things. For instance, if the bride has her sisters in her wedding party along with other people, she may give them special treatment that could make the other women in her party jealous. I know you may say they're her sisters so you're wrong for getting jealous, but jealousy is a part of human nature no matter how logical the counter-view is. I've been around girls/women like that. They include other people in their activities, but they are obvious when they give other people preferential treatment and it does have a tendency to hurt other people's feelings regardless of what's right or wrong in the situation, or what's fair.


Although, that could include the makeup part. The bride could have a professional do the makeup for her and her sisters' and leave her other bridesmaids to do their own. It may sound overboard and unfair, but it could happen. If it does happen, count your blessings if you're good at doing your own. If it happens and you're not good at doing your own makeup, try not to break anything, cry, curse anyone out, or run around screaming at the unfairness of it all. Should you be in the party of a bride that expects you to do your own makeup and you don't want to show up looking worse than everyone else, either find someone you know that can do your makeup or hire someone on your own with your own money. most brides will hire a makeup artist, or more than one, for herself and her party, but not all of them will.


8) Manicures/Pedicures/Waxing


This is mainly for the bride-to-be. Get your mani/pedi and waxing done only a day or two before the wedding so that it's all still fresh for the day, but only if you're used to being waxed. Don't get a wax done for the very first time only a day before your wedding because you may have an adverse reaction to the wax, the strips used (an allergic reaction), or you could be burned by the wax. Some salons let their wax get too hot, believe it or not, and it ends up hurting their customers. Know your esthetician well, how your body reacts to waxing, and how fast your skin goes back to normal after a wax. After a wax, some people's skin can be extra sensitive, as well as a little sore, for anywhere from a few hours to a day or two. However, after you've gotten used to being waxed regularly over a certain period of time, your skin goes back to normal faster and you're more acquainted with the routine.


If you've had laser hair removal done on every part of your body from the nose down, get an all over body scrub (exfoliation) a day or two before your wedding, but no more than that. If you've never gotten your skin buffed before you're in for a painful treat (although I would think that a woman who has gone through laser hair removal would be acquainted with procedure).


On one hand, having your skin scrubbed doesn't feel good; if you've never experienced it before, imagine having all of your skin rubbed raw with wet grains of sand. It's not painful while it's being done, it's more painful in the immediate aftermath. You will feel as if the top layer of your skin has been ripped off, because ultimately that is what just happened to you. You can go to a salon and have this done, or you can do it at home, but either way you need to have very good moisturizer on hand. The reason people go to a salon to have this procedure done is mainly because they feel they are in much more competent hands than their own if a professional is doing this, and they're using the proper products to yield the best results. If you don’t moisturize properly after being exfoliated, your skin will become extra dry. On the other hand, your skin will be GLOWING after you've been properly exfoliated and moisturized, and I'm not exaggerating. If you go to a salon and you've never had it done before, ask the esthetician for her suggestions on what you should use as a moisturizer when you get home.


9) Flower Girl/Ring Bearer


Typically, very cute children have these jobs. It's rare, but it happens, that adults take on the role as the ring bearer and there may not be a flower girl; and if there is anyone trailing petals behind them, it could be a grown woman. I'm not exactly sure where this custom came from to use children in these two roles, but it's not something set in stone that you have to do. Some brides don't even want children at their wedding, and that's one thing that I can say isn't exactly petty no matter what anyone thinks. I don't care how cute kids can be at times, these days very few parents discipline their children; their children tell them what they will and won't do, not the other way around. It's kind of hard to expect your friend's two kids to do what they're told at a wedding if they don't even follow their mother's instructions at home. Not only that, but lots of parents that skimp on at-home discipline don't want anyone else to tell their children to behave outside of their home either. It's not that all brides-to-be that bar children from their weddings are child-hating monsters, they may know a lot of kids with behavioral problems and they don't want that mess ruining their wedding or reception. If a couple is paying close to, or over, a thousand dollars for someone to record their wedding and possibly parts of their reception, they don't want a crying baby interrupting parts of their ceremony or children that can't sit still or be quiet screaming out during the ceremony with the adults around them hissing that they settle down. No bride wants her reception ruined because there are kids running around and misbehaving, and possibly spilling something on her dress; don't think it can't happen, because it can. And I don't think I'm wrong for saying any of this. There are times when you allow children to be present at your wedding at your own risk. If you have ten different couples you intend to invite and all of them have infant or toddler age children that they will probably bring, unless you have a childcare area set up in a separate room for them while the ceremony or reception is taking place, you need to let it be known that you do not want children in attendance at your wedding.


Some people get angry if a bride (or the couple) added in their invitations that children weren't allowed, yet they have two children as flower girl or ring bearer, or maybe some of their close relatives' young children are at the wedding. The truth is, it's none of your business. I know people don't like to hear things like that, especially when they took the time to RSVP and attend, probably found babysitters for their own kids, and then bought the couple a nice gift, but it's just a fact. Those kids participating in the wedding, or who attends, are more than likely closer to the bride (or the couple) than your kids are, and that's just the way things are sometimes. It could be the kids of the couple that's getting married, their nieces or nephews, younger sisters and brothers (or stepsiblings), or very close cousins. If you can't claim the title of best friends to either the bride or groom nor does your kids fit under any of those categories I mentioned, maybe you should sit down and simmer down. Not all kids were created equal in everyone's eyes. It may sound bad, but if it bothers some people too much, usually the couple will hear about it. They can choose to respond or choose to keep their reasons to themselves, but it's their wedding—YOUR wedding, if you're a bride or groom reading this—and those other people can talk and judge all they want, but it's your choice, and they simply have to deal with it.


10) Parents


Parents have their roles at their children's weddings, and they usually aren't that big as far as the other attendees are concerned, especially since most of their work goes on behind the scenes. Of course, the father traditionally walks his daughter down the aisle and gives her away, and then he has his dance with her at the reception (again, tradition), but other than that, the dad pops up twice and the mom gets prime seating. Everyone assumes that the mother of the bride is probably exhausted because she's been fussing over her daughter and trying to make sure everything is running smoothly for all of them. Why? 'Cause she's the mom, that's why. Other than pointing out what she wants, most brides even expect to hand over the reins to her own mother when things are getting too stressful for her and she needs someone with more wisdom to take over. Presumably, a mom's there as her daughter's rock. She's proud of her daughter, and everyone's there because she gave birth to the bride. The dad actually does most of the "work". Mainly, parents are there to look good, smile, and be congratulated. And if they're footing some of the bill, or all of it, maybe they're there to tip the vendors. However, If you want your parents to play a bigger role, it's up to you. Most times, though, they just get the executive seats and executive treatment 'cause they birthed you and raised you. They probably deserve them, too.


11) Including siblings and/or other close friends


A lot of people include their siblings or close friends in the wedding party or they get to the next-to-executive treatment, right after the parents of the bride and groom. Giving a male the role of an usher tends to be an honor in some people's eyes, like a step down from one of the groomsmen, but depending on how close a guy thought he was to the groom, he could be insulted by that status. People think men don't have feelings or they don't give a second thought to their friendships, but plenty of men do. Some men wouldn't mind, but lots of others might. Sometimes a person could think they ranked higher in your life until you have your wedding and they find out not only are they not a part of the wedding party in any way, but you ask them to be a part of the "service" at your wedding. That actually ruined my friendship with someone once. Granted, she did openly confess once that she didn't have any common sense (that should have given me a HUGE clue then), but after I went with her to look at wedding dresses and a cake, I didn’t expect her to come up to me with a big smile on her face and ask me to help clean up the reception hall after her guests. I was a teenager when this happened, maybe sixteen, and she was in her late twenties, and when one of my aunts heard what she asked me to do she went, "What the hell?! I don't care what your mama says, if you take your butt to the wedding as a guest and clean up ANYTHING, I'll beat your behind myself." I'd already felt bad about the fact that she'd asked me to lend janitorial services to her occasion after I attended the ceremony and ate, but I didn't know what to do. To be honest, I hadn't even wanted to go to the wedding after she asked me. However, I went to the ceremony, but skipped the reception altogether. I felt bad about both things. I felt bad when she asked me to do it, and I felt bad for not doing it, but at the same time, I felt that she shouldn't have put me in that position. If someone invited me to their wedding today and asked me to pull double duty as a custodian, I would tell them no for both things, but back then, I considered this woman my "friend" and she'd put me in an awkward position.


Even if you don't get along with your siblings, don't try to demean them in some way with your wedding. I understand not getting along with a sibling, but don't try to use your wedding as a means to venting some of your frustration because that could backfire on both of you, especially if most of the guests already think your family is crazy.


If you cherish a friendship, don't let your wedding be the conduit to its ruination. Don’t invite someone who's a close friend and if they want to approach you to give you a hug and a kiss you ignore them or treat them like dirt just because it's "your" day. People are meant to be there to wish you well, to offer words of kindness and love and to give gifts to you of what they deem your blessed union. You shouldn't treat your wedding as if it's your time to be treated like a celebrity and to look down on everyone else (though some brides have absolutely no qualms about using it in that manner). Use your wedding to celebrate both your love for your groom and those who came to wish you well; there's no need to look back on your wedding with ill feelings because that was when you caused a rift between yourself and one of your siblings or one of your closest friends.


12) Seating Arrangements


This is simple enough. During the ceremony, the groom's family and friends are typically on one side of the venue and the bride's family and friends are on the other. Most couples have a few mutual friends that could go on either side, but there's nothing wrong with using that basic plan with having separate sides for the bride and groom. If there are more people on the bride's side than the groom's, then it's logical to use some of the seats on the groom's side for the bride's people in that instance. It would look very silly to have some of the bride's people stand during the ceremony because her side is full, yet there are empty chairs on the groom's side. No one should be that much of a stickler for the basic seating arrangement unless there's something a little wrong upstairs and someone is a few cans short of a six-pack.


As far as the reception seating goes, it's always the easiest to seat the bride and groom, their parents, and their wedding party. Usually, the more important the people to the couple are seated closest to them and then all the other guests sort of trickle out everywhere else. The importance of seating chart at the reception is putting guests together that know one another and get along. If a bride knows two people don't get along, there's no sane reason why she would seat them at the same table at her reception. It's as simple as that.


13) Emcee/Speeches at the Reception


The emcee is usually someone the couple knows is a good speaker, and the people giving the speeches at the reception are typically the best friends of the bride and groom. If someone is obviously too drunk to make their speech, don't let them. If the speech is going on too long or it's too crass, stop them. This isn't rocket science, people. Only characters on TV shows and movies let those things go on and on while all the guests are murmuring uncomfortably. I don't care if you have to throw something at them to make them shut up and sit down, do it. The reception is so that people eat and have fun—it's a celebration. There was probably enough talking during the ceremony, so unless a certain speech is making everyone crack up like crazy, they shouldn't be that long.


14) Gift Bags/Favors


Some people go large when it comes to giving their guests favors for the occasion, while other couples go small. Some couples don't give any gift bags/favors. For the couples that don't give anything, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they were being cheapskates; it's just that some people don't even know it's customary to give their guests a small token of favors. Not everyone is acquainted with wedding etiquette and random customs, yet there are guests who are offended when some customary practices are left off the to-do list.


If a couple chooses to do this, many give favors that represent them as a couple. Same as when I mentioned the centerpieces, your guests could be given something simple like sweets with custom wrappers (usually with the bride and groom's names or initials on them), tiny satchels of potpourri tied with cute little ribbons, pictures of the bride and groom added onto something creatively…you can do a number of things. As a person who is craving sugar cookies right this second, I say customize cookies with the bride and groom's names, throw some sweets in there, a silly photo of the married couple attached to something like a card or a small (lightweight) plaque with a funny romantic saying on it…whatever. Make 'em laugh, make 'em choke up a little with how cute you two are, but the bottom line is, to remember the day with those little tokens at least for the next few days. The picture will make the memory last longer.


15) Bachelor/Bachelorette party


Lots of couples have joint bachelor/bachelorette parties now—everybody gets lap dances and everybody's happy. I forgot exactly where this custom originated. It was either so the groom could get laid before getting married so he'd know what to do with this bride on their wedding night or so the father-in-law could "test" his future son-in-law to see if he would cheat on his daughter (although I'm sure that was based on a joke or something). The bottom line for a bachelor party (or "stag" party as it's called, depending on where you're from) was so that the groom could have sex with another woman before his wedding night. Everyone should know that bachelorette parties are relatively new; not too long ago, there was no last hurrah for the bride at all; it was strictly for the male.


Some brides are totally against their groom-to-be having a bachelor party, while others are more open to it. Many women don't mind their boyfriends going out to strip clubs, so when they have their bachelor parties with strippers there, they set certain rules (if you're an adult reading this, I'm pretty sure you can figure out what those rules entail).


Plenty of men that act as if they have no clue why their fiancées are so "uptight" when it comes to them having a bachelor party—you can't be that stupid. In case I have to spell it out for you, she doesn't want you to cheat on her with a random broad a few hours before your wedding, that's why. Although, there are women that just don’t even want their man looking at a half naked (or fully naked) woman too long, and even though that's not how I am, I can understand her point.


Some people break up hours before their wedding because of something that took place at a bachelor or bachelorette party, while others end up divorcing right after if one party happens to find out something wayward took place. There is the theory that subconsciously a person sets themselves up at a bachelor party because they're afraid to go through with the wedding. I'm no psychologist, but that does sound right on some level. If a person is truly in love with someone, I doubt they'll cheat on them hours before they're supposed to pledge their lives to the other person forever.


I'm not against bachelor/bachelorette parties, but I'm also not against the bride or groom that isn't gung-ho about them. It's up to the couple.


16) Vows


I think some people feel pressured to write their own vows, but you don’t have to. You can let the officiate say the words and be happy with it, or you can choose to come up with your own. If your fiancé isn't good with words, I would advise you not to force him to come up with his own vows. Just because you're a writer doesn't mean other people are.


17) Order of Ceremony* (Rehearsal Dinner)


I've been to long weddings where I ended up bored (I've also seen a few recordings of those and I want to yawn just thinking about them), I've attended short weddings that were sweet and to the point. Sometimes there are so many people in the wedding party walking down the aisle that seems to take more time than necessary (some of them seem to think they're in a graduation processional). Your wedding ceremony doesn't have to be so fast that your guests end up turning to one another and going, "Did they really just get married? I wish I could rewind that so I could be sure." And your wedding ceremony doesn't have to be so long that your guests start falling asleep or playing games on their phones because they don't know when the madness you put together is going to end. This is what the rehearsal dinner is for; you rehearse the routine that you're going to go through on the day. As the bride, this is perhaps when you figure out that things might go on a little too long and you should find some ways to cut corners.

Your order of ceremony doesn't have to be jam packed with things. Some people initially have a live singer, the officiate they're using doing most of the talking, and they do a few rituals that are traditional for weddings in general or culturally centered, but then other people butt in. Most times it's not always the bride that extends her ceremony, making it seem never ending; usually it's someone older who starts suggesting things. Be mindful of suggestions and trying to make your parents, grandparents, or older aunts and cousins happy by making additions to your ceremony, because even you could end up bored standing up next to your groom.

Listen, weddings aren't supposed to be painful they're supposed to joyful. The ceremony is supposed to mean something especially to you and your groom; this is joining you as man and wife. It's about you as a couple. Other people are involved, yes, but the two of you matter most. Your guests are there for support, not as the ringleaders, I don't care how close you are to them.

When you're planning this, remember these five words: Get married and have fun.

The Bride

1) Wedding Gown

The first thing that pops into the bride's head is to go and find her wedding dress. It's her day and blah blah blah…yadda yadda yadda. I say, after the bride has made a list of everything else she's done and she has a roundabout amount of how much everything will cost, then she should go and get her wedding gown and all those other personal bridal details down. I'm probably one of the only people that believe the wedding gown should be one of the last things on the checklist. I'm not saying I think a bride should wait until the last minute to look for her dress, not at all. what I'm saying is once she has everything else in order, and she's not stressing out about so many other areas of her wedding, then she can relax while she goes and tries on wedding gowns and choose the right one for her.

Here are some rules that you should abide by when trying to find your gown. Don't buy a dress that is too tight for you because you believe you will lose twenty pounds before your wedding day in six months. It sounds like great motivation, and perhaps there has been two women out there that managed to pull off something like that weight loss stunt, but don't bank on it happening for you. You might end up stress eating and gaining even more weight; don't think it can't happen, because it can.

Another rule when it comes to finding a wedding dress is making sure that you believe you'll be comfortable wearing it on the day you choose to get married. If you choose one that's too heavy, it could ruin your day. Ask yourself what you intend to do in this dress. Are you planning to dance in it at the reception? Are you going to eat with it on? Can you sit with the dress on and still be comfortable? A lot of brides change from the gown they used during the ceremony and they put on something very light, like a sheath-type gown that they can move around in freely. They still look formal, but they

2) Bouquet


Flowers are the most traditional type of bouquet I've seen, although I'm sure some people have thought of some creative and/or outrageous alternatives, but even the most eclectic bride is usually carrying a bouquet of flowers during her ceremony. Florists can usually help you with this as far as the little accents you can have, or you can simply look in various bridal magazines or other places if you want a nontraditional bouquet to carry on your wedding day.


3) Jewelry


Some women borrow jewelry on their wedding day from their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, or even high-end jewelers that they're acquainted (in that case they don't "borrow", they rent). Most of the time the main piece a bride will wear is a necklace, but then again sometimes the main attraction is the tiara attached to her veil. It's up to the bride. I find jewelry, in this case, optional.


For some brides, every piece of jewelry from the earrings they wear


4) Garter


You don't have have one, it's mainly just traditional. Do it or don't do it. It's up to you, your groom, and the traditional elements you intend to have/keep in your wedding.



5) Tanning/Weight/Hair dyeing


This is more for the bride. As a woman, I know how our weight can yo-yo up and down and put us on emotional roller coasters that are anything but fun. Don't stress out too much about losing weight or putting on weight. Buy a dress that fits, wear some spanks, and call it day.


I got a tan in my mother's womb, so this doesn't apply to me, but for those for whom this does apply, don't wait until the night before, or two nights before your wedding to get a spray tan or sit in a tanning bed. That's the main time you'll probably have trouble with the color you turn or peeling. Tan in a timely fashion; not too early and not too soon, so that you don't end up going crazy twenty-four or forty-eight hours before the day of your wedding or looking crazy on the day (or like Anne Hathaway did in Bride Wars).


Same as tanning, don't wait until the last minute to dye your hair because something could go wrong. And don't drastically decide to change your hair color a week or two before your wedding. We all want to assume nothing could go wrong, but even if you're dyeing your hair a darker color your hair could still dry out and end up frizzing really badly. Also, if you dye it too close to your wedding day, you could mess up your dress—it can happen.


6) Giving Away*


Sometimes this question bothers people because it's not always the father that gives the bride away anymore. Sometimes it's a brother, an uncle, a male cousin, and in a couple of cases, I've seen mothers give away their daughters. When you choose the person who's going to give you away, if it's not your father, remember that it's your wedding and no one else's, and you should be the one to choose who gives you away. Most of the women getting married now are in their late twenties, thirties, and forties. Most of us pay for our own weddings. If someone wants to argue, tell them to chip in and then maybe their opinion will matter. Until then, choose who you wish for whatever role you wish. Your wedding is supposed to be a good day. So enjoy.

Preliminaries

8) What is the size (number of guests) of your wedding?

9) Who's paying for it, and figuring out the limit of what you intend to pay

10) Is it a religious, or nonreligious, ceremony?

11) Who's in your wedding party?

12) Are you using a wedding planner or are you doing it all yourself?

13) Are you having an engagement party?

14) Are you putting a wedding announcement in the paper?

Getting Down to Business

20) Venue (for the ceremony)

21) Reception Hall


22) Bathrooms/porta potties


23) Cleaning service/cleaning crew


24) Colors/Theme

25) Ordering the Invites (and Thank You Notes)


26) Flowers


27) Centerpieces


28) Dishes and silverware (monogrammed?)


29) Wine/Champagne glasses


30) Menu/Caterers




31) Are you going to have a bar at your wedding?


32) Are you factoring a tent into your budget?


33) Photographer


34) Videographer


35) Wedding Cake


36) Music


37) Limo


38) Registry

People Involved

20) Maid/Matron of Honor

21) Best Man


22) Bridesmaids


23) Groomsmen


24) Bridesmaid dresses


25) Shoes (heels or flats?)


26) Tuxes or No Tuxes for the Groom, Best Man, and Groomsmen


27) Hair stylist(s)/Barber(s)


28) Makeup Artist(s)


29) Manicures/Pedicures/Waxing


30) Flower Girl/Ring Bearer


31) Parents




32) Including siblings and/or other close friends


33) Seating Arrangements


34) Emcee/Speeches at the Reception


35) Gift Bags/Favors


36) Bachelor/Bachelorette party


37) Vows


38) Order of Ceremony* (Rehearsal Dinner)


The Bride

7) Wedding Gown

8) Bouquet


9) Jewelry


10) Garter


11) Tanning/Weight/Hair dyeing


12) Giving Away*


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