Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wedding Planning: What the Magazines Don't Tell You

For the past decade, my career has centered on bridal magazines. From New York to California, I've launched publications, attended bridal fashion shows and worked on countless articles about color, table settings and hairstyles. I've spoken at industry events, selected real weddings for publication and sampled every type of wedding cake on the planet. Throughout all this, I felt pretty confident that I knew everything there was to know about wedding planning. I considered myself quite the expert. And then I got engaged.
The minute that ring went on my finger, I realized I was completely unprepared for the practical realities of wedding planning. So I thought I'd share some hard-earned advice I learned through the process of planning my own wedding. Hopefully this will make you more prepared for what's to come.

Somebody will get mad at you
Your engagement has now set off a chain reaction of heightened emotions from those around you. Perhaps your dad will grapple with the loss of his "little girl", your mom is thinking back to everything she didn't have at her own wedding or your cousin is reeling because her boyfriend hasn't yet proposed. What's more, you're forced to rank the people around you. Who will be invited? Who will be your bridesmaids? Whose kid will be your flower girl? The reality is that weddings set up a no-win situation where someone will get hurt. All you can do is check your ego at the door, be overly gracious, empathetic and appreciative of those around you and then accept what comes. You can't control anyone's actions but your own and only you can allow your day to be ruined by drama.

Money may have strings attached
When it comes to wedding planning, the biggest consideration is budget. In some cases your family may offer to pay and it will be all too easy to accept when the bills start adding up. You should talk to your family and see what their contribution really entails. If you're lucky, as we were, you may be offered help with no strings attached. Others may want more input on things like the guest list and venue. Every family is different and will have different expectations. To take money and then expect them to have no opinion on how it's spent may be unrealistic. So take the time to discuss your family's thoughts and then decide if the parameters they set work for you. If you feel they require compromises you're uncomfortable with then turn down their offer. It's entirely possible to have a beautiful wedding on a shoestring budget. You will just need some creativity, time and realistic expectations. So before you take that check, understand fully what you are committing to. Your sanity and family relationships are worth more than a Vera Wang and a few chiavari chairs.

Choose a venue for its staff
Trust me, no venue on this planet will look beautiful when your wedding is double booked, the wrong food is served or your bill is triple what you budgeted. I can't emphasize enough the importance of trusting the staff at your venue.

We had our reception at The Lido located at the Mandarin Oriental Elbow Beach in Bermuda. While it's certainly one of the most beautiful places on the planet, it's the staff that made the location memorable. The coordinator on site, Sophie Dier, helped us think through every practical detail from creating a custom menu to selecting rain contingency locations. She watched out for our budget to be sure we didn't go over all while making us feel like royalty. This is the level of service you should be looking for. Think of venue shopping as a job interview. Do you trust this person with the most important day of your life? Does she seem interested in you beyond the deposit you would leave behind? If not, then look for another venue. There is no view that's worth the consequences of poor service.

Don't compromise -- plan multiple events
For our wedding it was important to my family to have a Catholic ceremony in my hometown. My husband and I wanted a non-traditional destination wedding. After a few weeks of unsuccessfully trying to meld these two ideas, we decided to plan multiple events. We had our wedding in Bermuda, followed by the Catholic service a month later. Both events were beautiful and meaningful to us. This allowed our guests to choose the event they preferred to attend, prolonged our celebration and gave us two very special memories.

Don't use a wedding planner -- opt for a stylist
Unless you're Kate Middleton, a traditional wedding planner is probably an unnecessary luxury. Anyone with an excel spreadsheet and some common sense can manage an RSVP list and read a vendor contract. That said, many weddings are a relentless series of photo shoots and styling decisions. From choosing colors and fabrics to selecting clothing and gifts, the process of making these decisions is painstaking and often overwhelming.

For our wedding we hired the event stylist firm, Wish Social Events. Heather Cassady, the founder, gave us creative direction for all of the aesthetics. Understanding that we were a preppy couple getting married on an island, she created a theme of yellow chevron and turquoise that was incorporated into every part of our wedding. From custom runners branded with our monogram to Polaroid place cards accented with the chevron clothespins -- Wish thought of every detail. They worked with local vendors, like florist Flowers by GIMI, who perfectly wove in native flowers, and they helped select the outfits worn by the entire bridal party. Wish also styled all of our photo shoots from our engagement session to our wedding portraits. The result was that our wedding planning became fun and stress-free and our album looks like a feature in a magazine. If the overall look of your wedding is important to you, I strongly suggest searching out this type of service. It will be a major sanity saver and will ensure that you have a visually cohesive and impressive wedding.

Ditch traditions you don't like
Some traditions aren't for everyone. For example, if there are only a few single women at your wedding, perhaps you spare them the humiliation of the bouquet toss. Take some time to think through what traditions resonate with you and don't be afraid to do something completely different. At our wedding we did away with many expected traditions and instead opted to launch wish lanterns over the ocean. It made for beautiful photos and was much more fun and memorable for our guests.

Hire the right photographer
Beg. Cheat. Steal. Do whatever you need to in order to get the best photographer you can. You will have your wedding photos forever. Spend the time to find someone whose work you love, whose personality you enjoy and who is reputable and experienced. Don't limit yourself to searching just your immediate location; they are often willing to travel.

In our case we worked with Robert Evans, based out of Los Angeles. We chose him because we love his work. What we didn't realize before the wedding is that we would spend more time with him than each other on our wedding day. Robert was the first person who saw me in my dress and the last person I spoke to before I walked down the aisle. His laid back personality and sense of humor added so much to our day. Beyond that, his years of experience became vitally important to us when a memory card (with photos from our reception) got corrupted. Due to his long-standing relationship with the manufacturer, Lexar, he knew they could rescue the photos. They were saved without any drama when a less experience photographer might have lost them. Don't cut corners when selecting a photographer. Find the best professional photographer you can, and then schedule your wedding so that he or she can be at it.

Find a cool DJ, not a band
In my opinion, "Save the Last Dance For Me" just doesn't sound right sung by anyone other than Michael Buble. For this reason, I have to say that one of the best decisions we made was not having live music at our reception. We hired for DJ Scott Roy of LifeStyles Entertainment who's laid back attitude, good looks and delightful Bermudian accent added the perfect local touch for our event. A good DJ will set the tone of your event, help pace the evening and will ensure that every song sounds as it should. A DJ allows for the flexibility to have a wide range of music played rather than one style and is a much more affordable option.

Wedding planning is not fun
Contrary to what you may think, much of wedding planning is not fun. For many, it means spending a lot of money and deciding on a million things. It's budgeting and compromising and managing a wide range of emotions both within yourself and from those around you. What makes it worse is that there is this constant expectation that it should be fun while every moment is loaded with overwhelming sentimentality. When else will you cry just because you try on a dress? My advice is to accept that some things will be fun and most will not. Take the pressure and expectation off of yourself and go about it like it's a job. Then indulge in the fun happy moments as they come -- I promise you will have those too.

Most of all, remember that wedding planning is preparation for a party. Your marriage is what you're celebrating. Your day will be perfect because you will be saying vows to the love of your life and it will pass in a blur of elation that will still make you smile months later. So don't forget to take the time to emotionally prepare for marriage, enjoy each other and plan for your future together. No matter what drama you're facing now or how overwhelmed you may feel, what means the most on your wedding day is the person you love.

Monday, December 30, 2013

10 Tips For The DIY Bride (and Groom)


Raphael and I spent a month looking for the right venue; we wanted a quasi-industrial warehouse wedding. But despite all of the red brick in St. Louis, we couldn't find what we wanted. That's when, in a fit of genius, we decided to celebrate on the land where I grew up -- a centennial farm in Washington, Missouri.


A mile down the road, in 1928, my grandfather met my grandmother on the day she was born. It was 38 degrees below zero that day, the coldest temperature in Missouri's recorded history. They were married 20 some odd years later, after grandpa returned from WWII, and settled on the farm where they raised seven children. Years later my father built a small house adjacent to his childhood home. A field, our backdrop, separated the two properties. When my father died in 2001, we moved to town, and so we chose the farm in reverence as much as anything else.


The venue was as stunning as it was significant. And, from the springboard of our space, the details of the day began to emerge. The farm elements were pretty obvious: hay bales, field flowers and farm animal place cards were procured. Barbecue from the local meat shop was a must. But we wanted to "city" it up a bit, keeping in mind our original warehouse idea. Raphael is a writer, so ideas involving paper ephemeral started to crop up: save the date cards were made from a book my grandparents shared in high school, I crafted paper chains fashioned of old books and maps for our alter and typography emerged in all its varied and glorious guises...

He is the writer, and I am the visual artist. We make it work. Here are our tips for planning your DIY day, from the ground up:

1) Over-think the venue.
Choosing the venue proved cumbersome. We toured about 10 different spaces and ran into issues all over the place; some had spatial constraints, some were out of budget, and others booked more than one event in the same day, leaving a narrow time frame for use. Ultimately, I wanted to spend more than a day decorating, so that I could participate, and more than five hours celebrating. These are terms that most venues cannot accommodate. And more than any other factor, this is why we chose the field. We started setting up a week out, and the party could last as long as we liked. The field was also personal, so conceptually the party easily fell into place... While an alternative space was the perfect choice for us, one thing to keep in mind when planning: such projects become BYOV (build your own venue). From lighting and refrigeration to toilets and trashcans, we sourced it all. And the process was not any cheaper than choosing a standard, "a la carte" venue.


2) Dream in themes; capital "s."
People will create wedding themes about almost anything. Pick your poison, but be sure to pick more than one. We are inspired by letterpress, books and pops of color to name a few, so our wedding reflected this; people are layered and events should be too... One of the best "themes" we had was asking our guests to wear black and white cocktail attire. This helped them navigate the unfamiliar territory of a semi-formal outdoor celebration, while allowing for comfort and variety. Even bridesmaids wore their favorite "little black dresses." Not only did the black and white make for great family photos, it also highlighted any color we used to decorate, namely the bunting.


3) Bend your budget.
I looked at several different budgeting websites before dolling out dollars, and ultimately none of them made sense for us. Some websites suggested spending no more than one percent on, say, invitations. But, we wanted letterpress paper goods from our neighbors at the Firecracker press. Had we paid attention to the one percent rule, this would have been impossible... But, we made up for our awesome (and reasonably pricy) "paperwork" by having buffet-style barbecue and signature cocktails instead of a full bar. And instead of buying a $5,000 dress, I bought a Victorian period piece for $29 dollars and $5 shoes. After I did some repairs and my friend Carolyn capped the sleeves, it was the dress of my dreams. With half of that leftover cash, I collected over 200 pieces of vintage mix-and-match china, which I can now rent. So, bend your budget to accommodate your needs, not the needs of some formal (and probably antiquated) guide. We ended up having everything we wanted and more, while coming in way, way under budget.

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4) Do a little bit every day or at least every week.
Time will still run out. There will be a last minute crisis. And a meltdown is bound to happen. But, by starting early and doing a little here and a little there, the fallout will be minimized. Remember: when all seems lost, resolve the problem and recover quickly so that everyone can move on.

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5) Delegate until the cows come home, and enlist the oddballs.
My momma is not a craft-mama. She does, however, have the uncanny ability to follow directions with the acumen of a Navy Seal. With the help of a few tutorials, she went into craft-mission mania, making a "MR&MRS" marquee and a typewriter cake for my husband. What's more, she taught others what they needed to know. The day before the wedding, "handi-craft" mom was the one instructing our crew of family and friends as to how table runners are made of book pages... With mom as the foreman, my camo-clad uncles proved to be the best sweat-shoppers in the land.


6) Hashtag, hashtag, hashtag.
Asking tech-savvy guests to use an Instagram hashtag was an awesome multi-perspective approach to capturing the day, especially considering the two to four-week turnaround rate of some photographers. We even chose a friend's photo to use on our thank you notes a la Printsagram.


7) If you don't know your vendors, get to know them. Quickly.
Micromanagement only goes so far. At a certain point, you have to have reliable people tying the day together... Luckily, we had long term-relationships with almost all of our vendors: I went to high school with some of the Williams' Brothers catering family; Lynn Terry, the photographer, was a bartender at the restaurant where I work; Annie Brahler of EuroTrash is my mentor; and Tommy Hollaran has been playing music in the same scene as my husband for years. The only vendor with whom we weren't familiar was the rental company. But they were affable and weren't sucked into industry racket... We did run into one minor and unmentionable "bad seed" that day. But, having a first (or at least second hand) knowledge of your crew will greatly minimize any havoc exacted by careless participants.

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8) Make sure your filler is killer. And then, repurpose it.
Every detail should have a purpose and tell a story. If it doesn't, then take it for what it is, superfluous, and consider reconsidering. The same applies for bridal party gifts and guest favors. One surefire way to separate the necessary from the unnecessary it to think about how they object in question could be used after the wedding. Is it something that could become a decoration in your home? Could it be turned into another craft project? Or, as a last resort, could it be resold on a wedding-centric website? The latter I reserve for the last resort because, while you don't want to clutter up your house with wedding garb, I firmly believe that the items with which you choose to work should be personal enough to keep around. Unless the hassle of reselling your wares is worth the effort, décor is a big part of the budget so make it count both during and after the big day.

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9) Bring a jacket.
Unless you are getting married on a desert island, have a jacket handy. Jackets are under-appreciated, and often wholly necessary, accessories in the wedding world. The one I chose was cropped with black leather; two of our friends found it on the road and threw it in our breezeway a couple of weeks before the event, so I guess it chose me. Either way, though we were at the tail end of summer, the temperature dropped into the sixties that night, and I would have been uncomfortable without it.


10) Give up.
Being the bride and the wedding planner is tricky, particularly the day of when tables need to be set but one's hair has to be done. So at some point, give up. Put all frets aside, and enjoy the damn day.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

What Type of Wedding Ceremony Is Right For You?

In this new age of wedding ceremonies, anything goes!

Unless a couple chooses to be married in a religious ceremony that will follow a time-honored religious protocol, they can be as creative as they like. The range of options is vast.

Finding your personal style is a matter of deciding the type of ceremony most suited to you and getting a sense of which rituals, blessings, prayers, readings, and cultural or religious aspects are personally meaningful.

As an interfaith and non-denominational wedding officiant, I find it is all about blending. The first task is to assess the general type of ceremony that is right for each couple. The second is to seek ways to blend in the traditions they do like, with creativity, romance and personal touches.

These personal touches can be anything from aspects of their religions or cultures, to honoring and involving family, to including a humorous story about how they met or a poignant poem that captures their feelings. Or all of the above!

As a reference point, there are several types of weddings to choose from.

Traditional. These are typically faith-based and culled from the tradition the bride and groom were born into.

Non-denominational. A spiritual ceremony that includes reference to God, but does not adhere to any particular religious protocol.

Non-religious. Usually includes no reference to faith and typically does not mention God. (Some people call it a civil ceremony, but in fact a civil ceremony often mentions God).

Interfaith. This is a blending of two or more faiths, by including aspect of religion or religious rituals or readings that are symbolic of each faith.

Intercultural. This is a blending of cultures -- such as a Filipino veil ceremony with a Chinese red string ritual -- and yet can certainly also blend religious aspects.

Pop culture theme. This is usually a ceremony adapted from something that is part of popular culture and close to the hearts of the bride and groom. It may be a full ceremony dress as a knight and lady of the court, to including lines from Star Wars or Disney, to creating a ceremony based on a favorite romance novel or movie.

That said, from my perspective, you can do all of the above in one specially tailored ceremony. The biggest issue is deciding if you want to reference God at all -- some couples clearly do, but would rather not have religion, or clearly don't, and want to have something that is more about their love and relationship.

Here are some questions to consider about creating a personalized wedding:

1. Where does religion fit in -- or does it? Would you like to include an aspect of the faiths you were born into without the dogma? Do you want to include mention of God -- or would you prefer blessing upon your union without mention of Divine presence?

2. What kind of ceremony would be most suited to the two of you? Would you like something personal yet that includes aspects of your traditions? Would something romantic and offbeat be more your style?

3. What are your special needs? Think about the requirements you each may have. If you are of the same faith, is one of you more religious than the other? Since you hail from different cultures, how much do you want to honor your heritage and the traditions of your parents and family, etc?

4. What do you two truly want? Most importantly, be completely honest with one another (and then, your officiant). Make sure you are creating this ceremony for the two of you -- not just to please others.

Whichever path you follow, here's a mantra to help you create a ceremony that is all you own: "We will create our wedding ceremony our way!"

Thursday, December 26, 2013

9 Fashion Forward Looks For Only The Most Stylish Of Brides

By Kellee Khalil for Lover.ly

The runways of Bridal Market 2014 saw looks beyond the traditional A-line, trumpet, ball gown and sheath silhouettes and welcomed in a new breed of style that can only be described as fashion forward. Capes and coats, midriff-baring two-pieces and peek-a-boo lace bodices -- these were not your grandmother's wedding gowns!

While some of the styles were a bit out there, we've gathered up our top favorite frocks that are fashionable enough to turn heads, but still pretty enough for you to rock down the aisle.

From Munaluchi Bride on Lover.ly

From Munaluchi Bride via Lover.ly

From Munaluchi Bride via Lover.ly

From Temperley via Lover.ly

From Temperley via Lover.ly

From Hayley Paige via Lover.ly

From Rivini via Lover.ly

Modern Trousseau Couture Bridal Gowns - MOLLY CAPE
From Modern Trousseau via Lover.ly

From Delphine Manivet via Lover.ly

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

10 Things No One Tells You About Being Engaged

Sarah DeShaw Photography/The Knot

By Anja Winikka for TheKnot.com

No matter how long you and your fiancé dated or how many times you've been a bridesmaid in your friends' weddings, there are some truths you just don't find out about until you get engaged.

1. You'll have a big zit on your chin the day he proposes.
Okay, maybe you won't (or didn't). But the point is that whatever fantasy proposal you had dreamed up (at the most romantic place in the world, wearing the most perfect dress, with the best hair and complexion you've ever had) isn't reality.
Our Advice: Your proposal story -- whether it happened on the couch in your PJs with no makeup on or in the middle of the Caribbean in a hot swimsuit -- is more important (and special) than that fantasy proposal you might have had in your head. Why? Because it's your story and no one else's.

2. You won't be able to stop staring at your hand.
Maybe you went ring shopping together and picked it out yourself, or maybe it was a total surprise. Either way, there's a big difference between imagining it on your hand and actually seeing that brand-new shiny ring on your finger.
Our Advice: Everyone is going to want to see the ring, so get a manicure (and be careful gawking at your hand while driving or crossing busy intersections!).

3. You'll have to tell your proposal story a million times.
As soon as you get engaged, one of the first questions people will ask is how he proposed. Get used to it. Telling and retelling the story is part of the fun of being engaged.
Our Advice: To make it easier on yourselves, write down your proposal story (put it on your wedding website and in your online wedding planner) and send friends and family the link so that they can get the full details.

4. People will ask you about a wedding date and location before you've had a chance to even think about it.
You know how it goes: Everyone is excited. But before you've even had time to sign up on TheKnot.com and start your checklist, your family and friends are already asking for details.
Our Advice: If you have no idea where and when the wedding will be, come up with a blanket statement you can use whenever someone asks. Say something like, "We're so excited just being engaged right now. I'm sure there will be plenty of time to figure out the logistics in the coming months." They'll take the hint.

5. There might be a few sours...
There's usually at least one friend or family member who may not come off quite as supportive or elated as the rest of them. If this doesn't happen to you, be thankful, because you're in the minority.
Our Advice: A not-so-positive reaction to your good news is a reflection of that person (not you). Don't dwell on negative feedback. Focus on the positive -- you're getting married!

6. ...But your best friends will be there for you.
You'll know the people you can count on. They're the ones who post five-exclamation-point messages to your Facebook wall the minute you announce your engagement; they're the ones who take you out for drinks the day after you get engaged to celebrate; they're the ones who tell you they're ready to help you with whatever you need.
Our Advice: Lean on the friends who express excitement for you (and celebrate your newly engaged status often!).

7. Recently married friends will suddenly become wedding planning experts and give you (oftentimes unsolicited) advice.
There are plenty of reasons this happens. Some friends may be going through the post-wedding blues and miss the excitement of planning their own weddings. Others may just think they're doing you a favor.
Our Advice: If a friend offers wedding planning advice (like, "you shouldn't invite kids to your wedding," or anything else that starts with, "you should/shouldn't..."), take it in stride. Graciously accept it as a sign of their friendship -- there's no need to get defensive. If you agree with the advice, take it; if not, thank them and move on with your plans.

8. You'll watch wedding movies and TV shows differently.
Whether you've seen dozens of "Say Yes to the Dress" episodes, or you wouldn't be caught dead watching a cheesy wedding show, you might now find yourself a little (or a lot) more interested in wedding movies and shows.
Our Advice: Rent "Father of the Bride", "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Rachel Getting Married" -- and don't feel bad about sitting through and enjoying a TLC wedding special or two. This is one of those guilty wedding pleasures that you're totally allowed to indulge in while you're engaged.

9. You'll have a hard time not jumping into wedding planning right away and will find it difficult to just enjoy being engaged.
Sure, you recognize there's a long road ahead of you and there's plenty of time to plan a wedding. But after the shock wears off, the next natural step is to start working out wedding plans.
Our Advice: It's okay (and good!) to get started early -- just be sensitive to him. He more than likely just spent a lot of money and time planning out the proposal. So give him a little time to relax if he needs it. A few things you can get started on right away: planning out the guest list (at least your family and friends) and documenting your proposal story.

10. Your relationship will feel different (even if you've been living together for years).A marriage proposal is exciting, but it's also serious. You've just agreed to commit to one another -- for forever.
Our Advice: Work out the nitty-gritty details you may have only touched upon when you were dating. Decide what you'll do for holidays every year, whether you want kids, where you want to live long term. Make actual plans. Even if they change, it's good to know where you both stand on the big topics. If you're not required to through your church or temple, consider signing up for pre-wedding counseling, where you'll be led through the process by a pro. Having worked out hard-to-make decisions together will make the wedding ceremony that much more meaningful.

Monday, December 23, 2013

30 Unexpected Wedding Costs Brides Forget to Budget For

Sticking to your budget is one of the trickiest parts of planning a wedding — especially because there are so many hidden costs.

By: Kristen O'Gorman Klein
To help you out, we checked in with wedding vendors and financial experts across the country to uncover the top items that couples forget to think about when allocating their wedding finances.
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Photo Credit: Still Frames Photography

Pre-Wedding Costs

Asking Bridesmaids in a Special Way
For many brides, asking their nearest and dearest to stand up with them on their wedding day simply isn’t something that can be done via phone or text — or even just on your regular girls’ night out. Brides are popping the question to their ‘maids with creative gifts, personalized cards, or taking them out to a nice lunch or dinner, according to Plum Pretty Sugar. But remember that those little costs can add up!
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Photo courtesy of Pretty Plum Sugar

Beauty Treatments
You've already set aside money for your professional hair styling and makeup application on the wedding day — but remember that you may need more than one trial for each in order to feel fully comfortable on the big day. Also, keep in mind any pre-wedding beauty treatments you may want to indulge in, from a mani/pedi to a spray tan to a massage. “If there's a more expensive service you are dying to try, look for deals via daily deal sites like Groupon,” said Andrea Woroch, a consumer money-saving expert frequently featured on Today, Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, and more.

Your Bachelorette Party
Bachelorette parties today are bigger than ever; more and more groups are planning weekend getaways, like a Vegas excursion or a girls' beach trip. And even though the maid of honor and bridesmaids are supposed to pick up the tab for the party, many brides end up paying for their own airfare or part of the hotel bill to help alleviate costs for their girls — especially if the bride-to-be is the one pushing for an overnight exursion. “Stay close to home to avoid extra travel costs. You will have fun with your girls no matter where you go. Choose a luxe hotel or find a big house to rent near your home, and plan activities to keep the fun going,” said Woroch.
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Photo Credit: The D Spot

Marriage License
Don’t forget to make it legal! Your marriage license will typically cost between $20 and $100, depending on where you're getting married. And in most states, you won't automatically receive a copy of your marriage license after it's been filed — you'll need to pay for that, too.
If you’re having a destination wedding, keep in mind that you may need to fly in a few days before the wedding or even make a second trip to the locale in order to get your marriage license, depending on the waiting period, according to Abra Millar of Hopkins Bay Resort in Belize. This means incurring extra travel fees — more nights, more meals, and possibly a second round of airfare.

Paper Goods

Day-of Stationery
Don’t blow your entire stationery budget on your save-the-dates and invitations — you also need to think about programs, escort cards, place cards, menu cards, and any other day-of needs you may encounter. “We suggest adding a separate line item in the budget for day of stationery so brides can budget accordingly,” advised Wedding Paper Divas.
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Photo courtesy of Wedding Paper Divas

When choosing your invitations, be sure to weigh it carefully — if it’s more than one ounce, you’re going to need additional postage. Some invitations can set you back $1 or more in postage fees. Keep in mind that extra postage is also required for square invitations, regardless of weight.
Also, don’t forget that you also need stamps for your save-the-dates, RSVP cards, and thank-you notes. And try not to obsess over matching your postage to your invitation theme, which can sometimes lead you to choose a more expensive stamp just for the design — “No one will remember the stamps,” said Woroch.

Getting Ready

A Hotel Room the Night Before
If you and your bridesmaids are planning on getting ready in a hotel suite, pay attention to check in/check out times you'll often need to book the room for two nights in order to have the morning to get ready. “Many hotels will not guarantee an early check-in on the wedding date,” said Manhattan-based event planner and Palladium Hotels & Resorts wedding designer Karen Bussen. “To be safe, and especially if you have a larger bridal party, you might want to consider reserving your room for not just the wedding night, but the night before as well. This way, you can check in at your leisure the night before, sleep a little late, order room service, and invite the ladies to join you for a relaxing day of pampering and getting dolled up.”
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Photo courtesy of Wedding Prep Gals

Meals on the Wedding Day
Whether you’re getting ready at home or in a hotel, your bridesmaids will likely be with you every step of the way. Don’t let them starve! Keep it simple with bagels and fruit for breakfast and a platter of sandwiches for lunch. “And don’t forget the champagne!” said Damon Dietz of Absolute Media Productions.

Forgotten Items
“Wedding brain” can affect even the best of us — and if you’re not getting ready in your own home, it's far too easy to forget something and need a last-minute replacement. At one wedding Diane Warner, author of Complete Guide to a Traditional Wedding, attended, the groom didn’t realize he’d neglected to pack his dress shoes until he arrived at the ceremony venue; “This required a hasty trip to the closest shoe store,” she said. We recommend starting your packing list at least a week before your wedding, and have a trusted loved one look it over as well to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.
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Photo Credit: Still Life Photography


Unless you’re extremely lucky, your wedding gown is going to require some alterations, whether that means hemming the gown, taking it in (or letting it out), or structural changes (like adding straps). Some salons offer a flat fee, while others will charge you for every alteration. This can run you several hundred dollars, so don’t blow your entire fashion budget on the gown.

Undergarments and Accessories
Also, save room in your fashion budget for the extras: Your veil, shoes, undergarments and/or shapewear, and jewelry, which can set you back $200 to $500 or more. You can cut costs by making your veil or jewelry your "something borrowed."

Pre-Wedding Party Attire
Another forgotten fashion item: Cute dresses for your pre-wedding events, said Woroch. From the engagement party to the bridal shower to the bachelorette party to the rehearsal dinner to the day-after brunch, you’ll be celebrating all year long with your nearest and dearest. Save money by re-wearing dresses you already own — you don’t need a little white dress for every party just because you’re the bride.
bridal shower

Photo Credit: Dez and Tam


Transportation for Guests
While you’re generally not responsible for how guests get to and from your wedding, it becomes your concern if a guest gets too intoxicated to drive home. “If you can’t recruit a friend or family member to provide the necessary transportation, you’ll need to pay taxi fare,” said Warner.

wedding transportation

Photo Credit: Azelle Photography

Unexpected Guests
Inevitably, a guest who RSVP’d “no” will turn up anyway, a clueless friend will show up with an uninvited plus one, or your cousin will bring her kids even though you specifically said no kids were invited. “As rude and upsetting as this may be, it should be anticipated by planning ahead for a couple extra dinners and place settings,” said Warner.

Welcome Bags
While these are certainly not required, gift bags are a lovely touch if you’re hosting out-of-towners. “They may include handwritten welcome notes from the bride and groom, fresh fruit or flowers, disposable cameras, bottled water, a schedule of events, brochures for local attractions, and a city map,” said Warner.

wedding welcome baskets

Photo Credit: Marie Labbancz Photography


Presents for Parents and Other Family Members
You already know that you’ll need gifts for your hardworking bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, and ring bearers. But don’t forget about your parents! Consider an engraved frame, an IOU for a parents’ album after the big day, or even a second honeymoon package. “It doesn't have to be costly — the emphasis should be on remembering them. But if you calculate these costs, you won't be surprised down the road," said photographer
Elisa Bricker. Some couples also opt to give small gifts to other family members, like grandparents and any siblings not included in the bridal party. “Purchase these gifts early in the planning process so the expense doesn’t hit you at the last minute,” recommended Warner.

Favors can cost anywhere from $3-8 (or more) per person, according to Ann Taylor of A Chair Affair Inc., which can make a sizable dent in your wedding budget depending on the size of your guest list. A few ways to cut costs: Opt for one favor per couple rather than per person; go for a DIY option if you’re feeling crafty, or skip favors altogether — they’re definitely not required, and most guests won’t even notice if you don’t have them.

winter wedding favors

Photo Credit: Jan Michele Photography


Day-of Coordinator
So many DIY brides decide at the last minute that they'll need a little help on the big day. “You really don't want to be stuck taking calls from your florist and band on your way to your first look, do you?" reminded Woroch. Enter the day-of coordinator, which can run you about $500 to $2,000. “It's best to plan this into your budget ahead of time. Then, if you feel you got it all under control, that's just extra cash in your pocket."

wedding planner

Photo Credit: Ian Wilkinson on Polka Dot Bride via Lover.ly

Vendor Meals
Your photographer and videographer will be with you for 8+ hours on the wedding day; they’re going to need some fuel to keep making sure you look your best all night long. “Vendor meals are usually much cheaper than guest entrees, but depending on the size of your band, number of photographers, videographers and coordinators, you may be looking at a few hundred dollars extra,” said Woroch.

“Couple often think they don't need a videographer because photos will be enough,” said Dietz. “Then they come to the realization the month of the wedding that they have made a big mistake. Trying to squeeze in a major vendor like videographer without properly budgeting for it can be a cause for concern.” Fees for videography can vary wildly, from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re wishy-washy on video, set aside the money anyway — then, if you decide you really don’t need it, you can reallocate the money later on.

wedding videography

Photo Credit: Fotowerks Custom Photography


“A simple addition of up-lights around a reception area can cost around $1,000, so it is best to plan ahead,” said Stacey Lynn of
Stacey Lynn Design. Other popular lighting options: Pin-spotting (to highlight centerpieces or accent areas, like the cake display), a wash (general room color or dance floor), and a custom-designed gobo projection, such as a monogram. But lighting isn't just an “extra” — if you're planning an outdoor wedding, it's a requirement. Consider hanging bistro lights, chandeliers or lanterns to create the perfect rustic-chic space, said Stacey Lynn.
wedding reception lighting

Photo courtesy of Stacey Lynn Design

Having an outdoor wedding? Invest in a sound system if you want your guests to actually be able to hear your vows. “It doesn't matter if you're only having 50 guests without a sound system, your guests will struggle to hear your ceremony, and that means they'll miss out on the heart of your wedding,” said event planner Amy Kaneko. “And if you've hired musicians to play as you walk down the aisle, they also need to be amplified, or those songs you've so carefully chosen will be wimpy instead of powerful. Spend the money on a sound system, even if it means you need to trim elsewhere.”

Décor Beyond the Flowers
The majority of your décor budget will likely be allocated to flowers, but set aside $25-30 per table for the non-floral elements: “Candles, glass hurricanes, mercury votives, specialty linens, flatware and even how you will identify your tables are all important details that can drastically change your budget if you have not accounted for these details,” said Lindsey of
L. Brook Events. And if you're looking to add additional elements like lanterns or vintage décor rentals, you may want to save as much as 40% of your total décor budget for these pieces.
Also, always overestimate how many items you'll need. At one wedding Warner attended, the couple planned an elegant candlelit wedding ceremony. “However, as friends and family members began decorating the ceremony venue, they realized they needed at least a hundred more candles to provide enough light at the front of the chapel,” said Warner.
wedding reception decor

Photo courtesy of L. Brook Events

Including Yourselves in the Final Count
Sorry, the bride and groom don’t eat for free at the wedding. “I always have to remind my brides and grooms to include themselves in the table count!” said Douglas Hoagland, director of catering at
SLS Hotel Beverly Hills. “I have had seen it too many times where the couple forgets to include themselves when making their table arrangements.”

A Backup Plan
You know that if you’re planning an outdoor wedding, you should have a tent on stand-by in case of rain. But even if you luck out with sunshine on the big day, the previous day’s weather can become an important factor. “At one wedding, it rained hard the previous day, which left the grass soft and soggy. The last-minute solution was to add a wooden floor to the cost of the tent rental,” said Warner.

"If there is the slightest issue with bugs or any dew or moisture on the ground (let alone an actual rainstorm!), your whole event could be ruined," said Bussen. "I suggest planning a floor with your tent from the beginning." For a more budget-friendly option, opt for an interlocking plastic floor, which is typically covered with carpet or Astroturf. The more spendy option is a sub-plywood flooring, where the tent company builds a floor and covers it with your choice of coverings. "It's more expensive, but the advantage is this type of floor is level and polished."
black and white dance floor outdoor wedding

Photo Credit: Abby Jiu Photography

Money Matters

When you’re already paying astronomical costs, it can feel downright painful to add a tip on top of that — if you didn’t budget accordingly. Poppy & Plum Events recommends allotting 5 to 10% of your overall budget to gratuities. The general rule of thumb is that if your vendor is also the business owner, a tip is not required (though it’s always a welcome bonus). Also, some vendors (like your venue or caterer) may already include gratuities in your quote, so check your contracts carefully. According to Bobette Kyle, author of
Dream Wedding on a Dime, some of the often-forgotten vendors include bartenders, servers, valets, coat check attendants, officiants, makeup artists, hair stylists, the cake delivery team, and limo drivers.
money clip

Photo Credit: Groomstars via Lover.ly

Sales Tax and Service Charges
Check over your contracts carefully to ensure that sales tax is included in the quoted price; otherwise, you may be in for a surprise when you receive your final bills. ”It may sound insignificant, but when you're talking amounts the size of a reception bill, the taxes can add up,” said Kyle.

Also, service charges are not the same as gratuities; “Sometimes, for example, a private club will just charge an 18-22 % service charge for administering the wedding," explained Bussen. "This money is not distributed to tipped employees and gratuities may be left to your discretion, which could double the money you need for 'service.'"

Additionally, the “plus plus” can make a huge difference. “If a caterer quotes you $110 per person ++, that means that you will also need to add service and tax on top of that quote,” explained Kaneko. “Those two tiny plus signs can add as much as 30% on top of the base cost. In this scenario, that miscalculation would equal $5,000 of unexpected catering costs for a 150-person wedding.”

Overtime Costs
Whether your wedding runs over the allotted time because you got a late start or because you choose in the heat of the moment to extend it, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for any time outside of the contracted time. “When you're in party mode, it's easy to say, 'party on!' But be sure to know ahead of time what the overtime charges will be,” said Dietz. “The venue usually has an option to extend — for a price — but don't forget your other vendors, such as DJ or band, photographers and videographers. They will also have overtime fees and will most likely need to be paid on the spot to continue.”

wedding guests dancing

Photo Credit: Matt Andrews Photography

Post-Wedding To-Dos

Sorry, but your wedding costs don't end after “I do.” Unless you want to be spending your wedding gift money on thank-you cards, cleaning and preserving your gown, and making prints of your favorite wedding photos, set aside that money ahead of time. “Consider adding a few hundred dollars to your stationery budget for printing pictures and thank you cards,” the events team at the Shade Hotel recommended.
just married sign

Photo Credit: Whitney Lee Photography

When it comes to preserving your gown, Bussen advised: “Try to book in advance — it may save you money if you reserve to preserve early. And your bridal retailer may have discount deals or coupons to share.”

The "Other"

Already included all of the above items in your budget? Congratulations, you budget-savvy bride! But regardless, every bride should set aside 10 to 20% for “the other.” Lara Goldman of RomanticTravelBelize.com explains: “’Other’ is when the flower delivery got stuck in a storm, and you have to hire a local florist to use local flowers. ‘Other’ is for when the power suddenly goes out and you have to go buy 200 candles. ‘Other’ is for the 'dear friend' who cried that she and her new boyfriend weren't invited, and you have to lie and say her invitation got lost in the mail. ‘Other’ is for the broken nail that broke so low you have to get a full set of acrylics at the last minute so your hands don’t look like a ditch diggers'.” If you prepare for the unexpected ahead of time, you won't be left scrambling to come up with extra cash at the last minute.