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Wedding Tips: Things I Learned From My Wedding
UPDATED WITH NEW MATERIAL JULY 24, 2010
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Having A Wedding? Things You Should Know
I was recently married in a small town with what started out to be a very small guest list. One of the first things I noticed, which I had not planned upon, is that the original list somehow kept growing and growing from its original form. We started out with trying to keep it to under 20 guests and ended up with over 100.
I know quite a bit more about weddings now than I did prior to marriage, and would have done things a lot differently if I'd known what to expect. Most of what I learned, I never really wanted to know in the first place. I decided that I might as well put my knowledge to good use by writing down what I have learned and passing it on. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you out with your own wedding planning.
1. Your wedding will probably NOT start on time. As much as we liked to think that we had everything planned out beforehand, last minute glitches and unexpected circumstances always seem to plague weddings, ours in particular. We ended up starting the ceremony 15 minutes later than originally planned. Don't sweat it. Most weddings don't start on time! Your guests will almost certainly understand. I wouldn't push it much past 30 minutes or so though.
2. Wedding cakes do not travel well. Take my advice. Put the cake together as close to on-site as possible. Wedding cakes are a disaster magnet. So, unless you have it catered, be sure to plan out how to transport your wedding cake far ahead of schedule.
3. People don't send back RSVPs, and if they do, they often don't show-up anyway. We had a surprising number of people who never returned their RSVPs. Even though the list only contained our closest family and friends, a surprising number never responded at all. From what I've heard, this is normal. The #1 excuse seemed to be that the person never got the invite in the mail. That excuse accounted for about 10% of the total invitations we sent out. About 20% were never returned. Of those, about 50% of those who did not RSVP let us "unofficially" know whether they would make it or not. Even so, the number of RSVPs who claim they will be there is not a true indication of how many people will actually show-up. Of all the confirmed RSVPs we received, nearly one-third of these either canceled out at the last minute or simply no-showed. Even people who swore just a few days earlier that they would definitely attend found excuses not to come. Why? I haven't quite figured that one out yet, but the numbers speak for themselves.
4. You will most likely wind-up with a lot of wedding food, decorations, etc. left over. Why? Because most couples and planners buy way too much "stuff" to begin with. The main problem is that we tend to take people's word when they go through the trouble of mailing an RSVP and promising to attend. Even if you send out invitations 6 months ahead of schedule, you will likely still run into the same problems and hear the same excuses. If you are on a budget, don't overdo it, or you'll be stuck with a lot of leftovers.
5. Don't hold your wedding outside. There are just WAY too many things that can go wrong. Wind. Rain. Bird poop. Ants. Unruly children running around. Leaves falling in the punchbowl. Kids getting lost. I could go on and on. Just don't do it!
6. Never plan a wedding during a national sporting event. Sounds obvious, but you might not know a year in advance exactly which day the Superbowl is going to be held on. So, steer well clear of any major sporting events, just to be safe. As a guy, if I had a choice between attending a wedding or watching the NHL playoffs, I'd pick the latter every time.
7. Don't invite people just to be "nice". Let's say you have 100 guests. Most of them get along with everyone, but you have this nutso aunt who is always starting fights, arguments and generally makes other people miserable. Do NOT invite them! This is YOUR wedding, not theirs. Even if they are family, you want to have a harmonious wedding and reception, not 99 people complaining about a single person ruining the entire event. Sure, you may hurt their feelings. You could be doing them a favor in the long run by pointing out the problem. If they can't accept it... tough. This may sound like harsh advice, but in the end, it is more important to keep 99 guests happy than 1 miserable person "happy". Don't invite them. You can live with the guilt. You'll never live down what will happen if they ruin your wedding day though.
8. Karoake and alcohol do NOT mix!
9. Keep it short. Believe it or not, most men do not enjoy attending weddings. Keep all essential parts of the wedding/reception to a time frame of no more than 90 minutes.
10. Delay the honeymoon. You will have friends and relatives attending from all over the country. Many, you haven't seen in years. Some, you will never see again. My advice is to choose a specific hotel to stay at that is close to where you are getting married and book a room there for the weekend. This will give you a chance to catch-up with all those people you haven't seen in years. If your wedding is on a Saturday, wait to take off on your honeymoon until Monday. You shouldn't have the feeling of being "rushed" through the process to get out of town. Enjoy spending time with your friends and family.
11. Give the kids something to do, or get a volunteer to watch them. Kids with a lot of free time on their hands and nothing to do equals trouble. Have a "kids table" with crayons, coloring books, video games, etc. Anything to hold their interest just long enough to keep them from running around and destroying the place.
12. Keep receipts. Buying a few dozen bottles of Champagne at Costco and only half of them get used? You'll be glad that you kept the receipt. Same goes for foods that you buy in bulk. Many can be returned, if you don't use as much as you thought you would.
13. Avoid buying food that goes bad quickly. You will probably end-up with a lot of leftovers. Do yourself a favor and don't get stuck with a bunch of highly perishable foods that you will never be able to eat in time. Chopped fruits and salads won't last long. Deli meats are a much safer bet.
14. Keep in close touch with friends and family before the wedding. Believe it or not, a lot of the people who had RSVP'd their intent to come are not actually planning on coming. They just weren't going to bother to tell you. Make a lot of phone calls in the days leading up to the wedding. You will have a much better idea how many people are actually going to show-up. You will still have people claiming they will be there who will no-show, but you can at least cross-off some people who you didn't know planned on not attending.
15. Try on your wedding clothes well BEFORE the wedding! Whether it's a rental, or something you had custom made, people grow, pants shrink, moths destroy jackets. Make sure everything fits and is intact at least 1-2 days before the big date.
16. Never, ever postpone a wedding. No one will take it seriously the next time they are asked to attend. Would you?
17. Be sure to include at least one vegetarian dish, if you are serving food. Chances are, some of your friends, family, or more likely their spouse/dates will be vegetarian. Don't set yourself up for complaints. You have enough to worry about already.
18. Do your wedding photography BEFORE the wedding. You will be busy enough on your wedding day without posing for pictures. If you are having formal pictures taken, have them done at a dressed rehersal the night before, instead. It will give you one less thing to stress over during your wedding day.
19. Don't trust family or flaky friends for important help. What can I say. People are flakes. If you know that it will take at least 3 people to help set up things before the wedding, ask six people to help out instead. Always leave plenty of margin for error, when it comes to things working against you. It's much easier to forgive people if your wedding is not compromised due to their lack of ability to carry through on something.
20. Find out well in advance if anyone attending the reception (assuming that you are serving some type of food) has any special food requirements or allergies. Some groups to take into consideration are: Diabetics (find sugar-free drinks or snacks), religious (many Jews and Muslims either require foods to be Kosher or not include specific ingredients, such as pork. Look into it.) and those who have severe allergic reactions to certain foods (there are almost and endless variety of food allergies out there. Some of the more common ones are to shellfish or peanuts. If you have slight amounts of these ingredients in any dish, be sure to clearly label them!).
21. Don't trust the ring bearer. Before the wedding, my priest made it known under no uncertain terms that kids used as ring bearers are NEVER allowed to carry the actual rings. Why? They lose them. In a traditional Catholic wedding, both rings are usually held by the groomsman until asked for by the priest. Ring bearers are often given "dummy rings" purchased from a gumbball machine prior to the wedding, and they are usually somehow physically attached to the pillow, so that they can't fall off. In some cases, ringbearers may "freak out" at the last minute, after finding out that they will have to walk down an aisle in front of dozens or hundreds of people, which is another good reason not to let them carry the actual rings.
22. Have someone responsible to watch for wedding crashers and thieves. Yes, they exist. They are usually there to mooch free food. Find one of your friends or family who "knows everyone" to keep track of things at the reception hall, and NEVER, EVER leave it unlocked or unattended prior to the reception, while the wedding is going on. People will not only steal food, but presents, cards with money in them and even entire wedding cakes. It could even be that shifty boyfriend of one of your guests who is responsible. It could be someone who just walked in off the street. It's a sad fact, but that's the way it is these days at weddings.
23. Expecting a ton of gifts? Don't. Besides the fact that a LOT of people who RSVP'd and/or swore they would be at the wedding only days earlier turned out to be flakes, you will also find that most of thee no-shows also won't bother to send you a card saying "congratulations", let alone buy a gift. Whether it is a sign of the tough economic times we are living in, or you just have a lot of cheap friends, you shouldn't count on your wedding to provide any kind of windfall, insofar as gifts are involved. Yet another annoying trend... Friends and family who claim that they somehow "lost" your gift, the gift is in the mail, etc. Sometimes, it is genuinely due to UPS and/or incompetent mail-order companies. A surprising number of guests just never bought you a gift to begin with, and are just stalling though. I guess they expect you to forget about it eventually. If you don't get a card or gift from someone before or during the actual wedding day, there is about a 75% chance you will never get one from them. The trend seems to cross all economic lines. Many of my "poor" friends got us gifts, or at least a card, while many of our well-to-do friends not only no-showed after promising to attend, but didn't even bother to send a card.
24. Trying to set up seating arrangements ahead of time in not only time consuming, but futile as well. People are going to sit wherever they want to sit, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. Unless it is a full house, there are going to be awkward looking gaps if you decide to do things this way. The only place settings I would recommend would be during the reception... places for the bride, groom and the most important people you want to sit next to. Maybe a kiddies table as well.
25. Never underestimate the universal appeal of cheese.
26. Keep a WRITTEN schedule. It is going to be a busy day, and there are a lot of traditions that go along with getting married. I'm a semi-traditionalist, so I wanted to do some of the old-fashioned traditions that go back awhile. The problem is, you will be so incredibly busy during the actual wedding day that a lot of those little things you had planned on doing will just slip your mind until it is too late. The best way to prepare for this would be to keep a written list of things to do, and what order to do them in. We never did, and we completely forgot about things like throwing the boquet, the traditional toast to the new couple, setting out little gift baskets my wife had made up for everyone that attended, etc. You will never get a "do over", so be sure to get it right the first time!
27. Batteries. Remember to charge the batteries on your digital camera, cellphone, etc. the night before the wedding.
28. Turn off your cellphone!!! Do you really want your cellphone ringing the second before you are supposed to say "I Do"? At least turn the ringer off. Leave it on "vibrate" if you expect some kind of emergency to happen. Make sure that the others in your wedding party have done the same thing.
29. Rent It. Like you are ever going to wear that tuxedo again, or a wedding dress, for that matter? You might be surprised at the number of things you can rent to use at the wedding and the reception. Do you really need to buy a new set of 100 dishes? Probably not. You can even rent stuff like cookware, tables, dinnerware, games for the kids, gazebos, chairs, etc. You probably won't have room in the garage for all that junk anyway, so just rent it instead.
More Wedding Planning Tips?
Well, you've seen mine. I'll keep adding them if I can think of any others. In the meantime, please use the COMMENTS section towards the bottom of the page to post your own, practical wedding tips. The more, the merrier!
Useful Wedding Planning Links
- Google Product Search
Great way to comparison shop for wedding items by Google.
- Weddings and Wedding Planning
Lots of useful information about weddings and wedding planning.
- Amazon.com Wedding Registry
The perfect online bridal registry. Include not only products from Amazon.Com, but from almost any other online merchant as well. Hands down, the best way to register for your wedding.
- Cheap weddings that look like a million bucks
Great tips for running a wedding on a budget.