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Planning Your Wedding

Updated on October 3, 2014
Bride's Dream Rose  (Source: Cheryl Rogers)
Bride's Dream Rose (Source: Cheryl Rogers)

Wedding Planning 101: The Basics

Congratulations on your engagement! This is a very exciting time in your life -- a time of great anticipation and joy. It also can be quite busy and at times stressful. This Hubpage will get you started in the right direction so you can make the most of this happy time. You'll find resources which can help you along each step of the way!

Photo shows a closeup of the lovely pastel pink Bride's Dream rose after a summer rain, by yours truly.

Engagement: A Time of Many Decisions

There is much to be decided between now and your wedding date: When to marry, where to live, how big a wedding to have, who to invite. Do you want the ceremony indoors or outdoors? Who will you ask to be your bridesmaids and groomsmen? Who will be your flower girl and ring bearer?

Then there's choosing clothes and lining up a church and/or hall, photographer, videographer, caterer and baker, florist, and limousine. How will you decorate the church and hall?

Don't let yourself become overwhelmed. This is your big day. It's not your future mother-in-law's wedding or even your mom's, sister or aunt's. So don't get talked into a big whoopla if you'd rather go to City Hall and marry before a Justice of the Peace. A wedding can cost big bucks. So you may want to decide first how much you'll be spending. If the bride's father is paying, he may set a cap to spending which you'll need to consider.

Whatever you do, plan ahead. You'll need to book early to be sure you have your church and hall, outdoor area or other venue. Invitations need to be ordered and sent early so your guests can plan to attend.

Unless you use a wedding consultant, you'll be hiring and contracting separately for the church and reception hall -- if you're not having it at the same place. You'll need to take time checking your options. Look at the baker's cake designs in a catalog. Look at the floral arrangements. Decide what kind of flowers you want. See samples of everyone's work and read the contracts so there are no surprises later. Then book well in advance to be sure your preferred business is able to accommodate you on your chosen day.

You'll need to decide where you'll go for a honeymoon and where you'll live. Don't forget to announce both your engagement and wedding in the newspaper.

The Wedding Checklist

What better way to begin?

Begin at the beginning. Get organized. Check out this master list and make your own -- with everything you can think of that needs to be done before the wedding.

You'll want to make mini-lists in certain categories like reception halls, florists, and photography -- every task which will require considering more than one business.

You likely will want to divvy up assignments, especially if time is short. So as you make up your list, you may want to pencil in the name of anyone you think may want to help with the job. For example, if the groom has a good friend who is a travel agent, he may want to at least make a preliminary inquiry before anyone invests a lot of time looking elsewhere for good deals.

Some of these little investigations can be fun to do together, but if time is short you may need to delegate. If you like, you also can delegate some of the jobs to willing family members. Be sure, however, that you don't lose control of the planning and decision making.

After the inquiries are made -- and all the seriously considered places and businesses are visited -- the bride and groom should sit down and review their options -- if they haven't done so already.

A list is not the most glamorous part of wedding planning, but it is essential. Organization is important if you want things to go smoothly.

So, here's the list.

Get ideas -- Do your homework. Read some bridal magazines and wedding planning books. Talk to some couples who recently were married. What businesses do they recommend? What would they do differently based on their own experience? It will help you decide what you want for your own wedding.

Make a budget -- Will the bride's parents pay for the wedding or will you? You will quickly learn a traditional wedding can be expensive. Make sure there is enough money for those things really important to you. Cut corners where you can. Remember to allow for tips -- for the one who performs the ceremony, the musician and other appropriate persons. Allow for favors/gifts for the bridal party.

Decide who will perform the ceremony -- Will it be a priest, rabbi, minister, chaplain, boat captain, or justice of the peace? When this is decided it may narrow your options about where the wedding will be performed. If you know the place and are willing to take potluck on the individual, that's okay, too.

Make a tentative guest list -- This will give you an idea about how large a place you will need for the wedding and reception. You can't count on everyone coming, but work on a realistic estimate with room for fudging.

Pick a place, or two -- You may want a church, gazebo, garden, reception hall, hotel conference room, whatever location is suitable for your estimated crowd. You may want a second location for the reception, preferably near where the wedding is performed.

Pick a date -- Find out when your place(s) are available and make a desposit, if necessary. You must secure the facilities before you can contract with vendors or print invitations.

Secure your wedding dress -- It may take six months to order your gown, so keep this in mind before committing to a date. If you want your wedding sooner, you can buy a gown off the rack and have it altered, if necessary. Or you can have the dress custom made by a seamtress who can accommodate you.

Decide who will be in your wedding party -- You pick the clothes. Make it clear who is expected to buy or rent them. And don't forget the shoes, cumberbunds, ties and whatever else you expect them to wear!

Buy favors/gfts for the wedding party, a basket for the flower girl, pillow for the ring bearer, champagne glasses for a special toast at your reception, a throwaway bouquet and your wedding rings, of course... If the hall staff or caterers don't do it, you'll be responsible for table cloths for the reception. You also may want small packets or rice or bird seed for guests to throw at you when you are leaving. Be sure to find out what the hall's policy is regarding clean up. You may get stuck with a fee if there are a few stray grains of rice left behind. Do you want to encourage guests to take photos? Leave throw away cameras on the table for them to use.

Order wedding invitations -- You also may want to choose special stamps, engagement party invitations, Save the Date announcements, bridal shower and Bachelor Party invitations.

Hire a caterer, florist, baker, musician or disc jockey, limousine, photographer, and videographer, or who ever else you'll want on your day -- If you hire a wedding planner you can leave the specifics to her or him, but you'll certainly pay for the privilege. Be sure to see samples of their work. You also may want to check references. Hiring reputable people will help things run smoothly. Expect to make a deposit or partial payment upfront. Don't forget about decorating the church and hall. If there are flowers in the church from another event, you might cut your costs. But you may not know until the last minute. Plan ahead. Check and double check to be sure you have arrangements for everything.

Decide where you will live -- Deal with leases, utility deposits, mortgages or whatever is necessary in advance. You'll want to have at least a minimal amount of furniture as soon as possible. Give notice to old landlords.

Plan your honeymoon -- Plan for a going away outfit, lots of sunscreen or whatever else you will need on your trip. Make sure you book in advance and do your homework to get the best prices. These are memories to treasure.

Set up one or more gift registries -- Registries are a great way to get what you want and avoid getting two or three of the same thing, unless it's china or flatware, of course...

Notify the newspaper of your engagement and wedding dates -- Complete forms and submit your photo, which may be included in your professional photo package.

Book a restaurant for your rehearsal dinner -- The cost of the rehearsal dinner may be borne by the groom's parents. Make sure those who are in the wedding party are invited, as well as any relatives or good friends coming into town from a distance. Get a good head count, so things go smoothly.

Plan for your hair, makeup and photos before the wedding You may want to host breakfast or lunch for the bridal party before the wedding. Your photo package may include photos of the bridesmaid and flower girl in a non-church setting, such as the natural areas of your apartment complex.

Announce your Wedding with "Save the Date" Cards - Get the word out early to family and friends!

Let your family and friends know the date of your wedding with a "Save the Date" postcard you can mail when plans are firm. You can check out some of my original designs at Zazzle. Be sure to look for a version with customizable options if you want changes.

Bridal Books from Amazon

You may want to begin by getting some great ideas. Take a look at these books from Amazon.

About Bridal Showers

You may find a few people who want to throw you a bridal shower. Don't get too casual about it. While it's not your responsibility to throw the shower, you'll likely be involved in putting together invitation lists, picking suitable locations, and even the menu.

One group may want to invite the men. Another may want the women to gather at a relative's home or tea room. Another party may be strictly for the crowd from work. Whatever you arrange, be sure to ask for RSVPs so no one goes through a lot of preparation for nothing!

While the engagement period is lots of fun, you want to be sensitive to your guests' feelings about gift giving. Too many showers and parties can be expensive and not everyone can afford it.

So keep a handle on plans and ask your friends to combine efforts if necessary for the sake of your guests, and yourself. This is a busy time and you'll need to schedule your time carefully.

Be sure any engagement party is well ahead of the showers. Then be sure there's another interlude before the actual wedding.

Source: Cheryl Rogers
Source: Cheryl Rogers

Deciding on your invitation

You may have a clear idea what you want, but trying to find it may be like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. It's times like that when you want a customized product, one made especially for you, just the way you want it.

Fortunately, technology has made that process simpler and cheaper than before.

The Wedding Program

You may be encouraged to put together your own wedding program. It you've already got too much to do, don't worry. It can be as simple as you like. It does give you an opportunity to suggest preferred parking areas for the reception, driving directions to the reception, a personal message from the bride and groom, a photo of the bride and the groom and the like.

The typical program includes the names of those in the wedding party and the sequence of events for the actual ceremony, including the name of the person performing the wedding. It may include specific songs and page numbers in the hymnbook.

Your program also gives you an opportunity to thank and/or recognize the bride and grooms' parents or significant others, musicians and singers.

When the proof is approved and the programs are finished, assign someone to bring them to the wedding AND ensure they are disseminated to guests as they arrive. They will then have time to read it before the ceremony begins.

Practical Tips for Gift Registries

You may feel like a kid in a candy store, shopping without money for everything your little hearts desire. While it's a good idea to coordinate glasses, china, flatware and other gifts for your home, don't lose sight of practical issues. In the long run, practical items will be used while frivolous ones will sit on a shelf gathering dust, if you keep them.

Here are some top considerations to make your gifts useful, not just beautiful:

* Can they be washed in a dishwasher or do they require hand washing? You may love a design so much now you'll think hand washing is no biggie. But 30 years and three kids later you may be suffering from hot flashes, dealing with aging parents and trying to hold a job. Washing that golden flatware is probably bottom on your to-do list. The same goes for those beautiful glasses with gold designs or that gold-rimmed china.

* Are they permanent press or are you expected to actually iron or steam it? Does it require dry cleaning? Dry cleaning bills can add up. You also may be a bit busy to drop everything and take that dress to the dry cleaners. Is that table cloth soil resistant or will every spill be a memory of Thanksgiving dinner?

* Focus on essentials, not decorations. While pictures and ornaments may be appealing, make sure you really really love them. Decors and styles change over the years. Thirty years from now will that painting look like a white elephant in your living room? Will you hate to get rid of it because it was a wedding gift or because aunt so-and-so gave it to you? If truth be told, through the years you'll be getting lots of ornaments for your living room. At some point, you'll have to say enough is enough and begin giving them away, or at least storing them in the closet.

* Cash is really good. Some folks will feel they should go through the effort of actually buying you a gift, but not everyone feels this way. Some folks want to give you a gift they are sure you can use, a gift that doesn't have to be returned because it doesn't fit. Cash is versatile and chances are you can use it right now. Consider registries which will allow guests to donate.

Gift giving is special and some folks will have their own ideas about what to give, maybe something creative with your wedding photos. Or maybe they want to donate for a sightseeing excursion during your honeymoon. Give them plenty of options when you set up your registry, but chances are you will not get them all. Instead, you'll probably get a few surprises, and a few distinctive gifts that will remind you of the giver through the years.

More about the Honeymoon

Your honeymoon is a very special time. You probably won't want it to end! So take some time to make it extra special.

Talk about where both you would really like to visit. Then scour for the right opportunity. You may find your perfect honeymoon is part of a destination wedding -- in Hawaii or the Caribbean. You may want to visit Europe. Or you may believe a drive to the beach in the next state is the most doable.

Before you make any decision, shop. You may snag discount pricing on a cruise. Fifty percent off just may make it doable! Maybe a relative or friend works for a travel agency or airline and can pass along a discount. Maybe you will get lucky and find a bargain on Ebay.

Don't say never before doing your homework. Be realistic. Don't spend money you can't afford to spend. But if opportunity knocks, you want to answer...

Cheryl Rogers
Cheryl Rogers

Meet the Author

Cheryl Rogers is a Christian author and freelance writer and photographer based in Tampa, Florida. She formerly ran a desktop publishing company doing typesetting for print shops -- that meant designing programs, flyers, stationery and other printed materials.

A former newspaper reporter and sometimes photographer, Cheryl currently writes articles for magazines and her own ebooks. She offers self publishing services to other authors.

Her books include Fast Track to Victory, A Christian Guidebook, a 40-lesson devotions book aimed at God seekers, as well as Just Like Jonah Wail Tales, a short story collection that teaches there is a price to pay when you disobey. I Can See Christian Storybook is book for families that helps dispel doubts about God that develop as children grow. Making Choices: Life is Like Acorns is a children's Bible study for children 5 to 10 years old that teaches things are not always what they appear to be.

At her website, she features announcements about new Christian books as well as book excerpts, a Bible-based living column, author marketing news and other features.

Her books are available from her website and other online retailers.

Save the Memories

Your wedding is a very special day in your life. You'll enjoy those precious memories through photos for years to come. Your photographer may provide you with some album choices or you can explore the options on your own. You may want to have two albums, one for the photographer's pictures and one for those your family and friend share with you, plus the ones you take while on your honeymoon.

This design of mine might give you some ideas.

Travel Websites

The World Wide Web is a great place to shop for travel options when you plan your honeymoon. Here are some websites to check.

© 2014 Cheryl Rogers

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