you're engaged, how exciting!
OK, you've got the perfect man and a gorgeous ring on your finger. Now what? Here is a handy checklist of ideas for budgeting, planning, and organizing gleaned from our years working with happy Brides. Please visit oureBay store and use the "Ask a Question" link on any page if you have specific questions on wedding planning or wedding etiquette. We love weddings and are always happy to talk to Brides about flowers, rentals, invitations, accessories, and planning.
(1) Don't tell anyone you are engaged until you tell your FAMILY.
Even if you SWEAR them to secrecy, telling anyone other that each other's families first is a bad idea. If word gets out, there will be hurt feelings. And, you may also be depriving yourself of a wonderful ENGAGEMENT PARTY thrown by your families where your happy news will be announced! Protocol for telling families is for each of you to tell your own family first, then traditionally the Mother of the Bride calls the Mother of the Groom to set up a time to meet (if the families have not already met). Then, the two families along with the Bride and Groom get together for an informal meeting. This is best accomplished at the home of one of the families so that all questions can be answered and any sensitive topics, especially MONEY, can be discussed in a private atmosphere. Before telling both families, the Bride and Groom should discuss between themselves any topic they think may come up so that they will be on the same page when they meet with the families. This should be a happy time, but be prepared if your parents start asking questions such as "what about college" or "who are you expecting to pay for this wedding?"or other topics you may or may not wish to discuss or be prepared to discuss. Be sensitive to your parents feelings. You may be an adult, but to your parents you will always be their little baby. A child getting married is a big transition for any family! If you do your homework before telling your families, and have discussed together how certain topics will be answered, then this meeting and announcement will be a happy and memorable time. Once families have been told, decide together how to announce the big news. An engagement party is a wonderful venue for announcing your intentions, and can be as informal or formal as you like. Traditionally, invitations are sent out by the Bride's family and tell what the event is (backyard picnic, dinner, appetizers & drinks, etc) and then say "...to meet John Smith". At the party, the parent(s) then get to announce the engagement. Gifts are not expected (good manners say you NEVER expect a gift), but are very common, so be sure to have a bridal registry set up or give your families some ideas so they can discretely tell any guests who inquire. A big no-no is to send out engagement party invitations with "cash preferred" or listing bridal registry information. This just turns the event into a GIFT REQUEST instead of a special time to share your news and joy with your friends and loved ones. Over the years we have helped many brides with their invitation orders, and this question comes up time and time again. NO! It is not good manners to list your gift wishes (bridal registry, money, etc). in your invitations or include the little cards the stores give you! Your guests will want to give your gifts, but you must not anticipate the gift or ask for it, and you MUST act surprised and delighted (no matter what it is) and you MUST send a thank you note afterwards. (One little bonus to sending thank you notes for shower gifts...if they have moved, you will get a new address so you can avoid having wedding invitations returned for bad addresses).
(2) Get Organized for a Stress-free Wedding!
Once you are engaged and everyone knows, planning and organizing will keep you from getting stressed and overspending. Time can be your best friend or your worst enemy when planning, and managing time and money must start immediately or you will find that your wedding will take on a life of its own! This is our favorite organizing set-up, and it is very cheap to start, and easy to use if you just keep up with it. Buy these items and put all of them together in ONE PLACE, even if that one place is a cardboard box.
(1) 3 ring binder
(3) package of 3 ring binder dividers with pockets
(1) package of pencils (sharpen all of them!) and (1) package of pens
(1) hole punch
(1) small stapler and STAPLES
(1) zipper caddy to put pens & pencils in the binder
(1) highlighter pen or marker
(1) package of clear page protectors
(1) recipe box (we like 5" by 7")and for it get (2) packages of blank or lined cards. Get one card color for the Bride, and one card color for the Groom.
Start organizing by putting all the divider pockets into the binder. Label dividers with each catagory of the wedding....floral, photography, music, ceremony sites, reception, etc. Everytime you encounter a new subject, start a divider for it and put any "handouts" or brochures you may have gotten into that catagory. Use the holepunch to punch regular size pages to put in the catagory, and use the divider POCKET to hold a smaller item. Take the binder with you to all vendor interviews, and take along your camera. Most vendors will graciously allow you to photograph items so you can remember them. As you need them, add the clear PAGE PROTECTORS to a catagory to hold receipts, estimates, photos, and other items you do not wish to holepunch. We suggest you start a catagory for each VENDOR you interview, and before you go to meet with any wedding vendors put a list of your questions for them in their divider pocket along with any photos you wish to show them in the clear page protectors.
The recipe box is for your guest list. Bride's guests on one color of card, Groom's guests on the other color. (You can add more colors if parents have their own list of attendees). A basic rule is that you DON'T invite anyone to a pre-wedding shower or event unless you are also inviting them to the wedding. On the front of the card put the guest name and address, and phone number. Spouse or children names are helpful as well as work phone number, and a brief note tellling "who" the person is.."Bride's aunt", for example. On the back of the recipe card, keep track of gifts from the person or events they attend. Unless they are a close relative, most people do not appreciate being asked to attend numerous wedding showers to which they may feel they need to bring a gift. AND...if you exchange a gift they gave you, make a note on the card and tell what you exchanged it FOR. This recipe box will serve you for years, because it can easily become your holiday card address file or a birthday file.
Now that you have talked to your familiies and decided on wedding costs, and you have started your two basic organization components (the 3 ring binder and a recipe box for guests), it is time to think about hiring vendors. But first....
(3) Don't spend any money or sign any contracts until your wedding date is firm!
Most wedding vendors will ask you for a wedding date and wedding and reception location before they will even talk to you because they have to check their schedule first to see if the date, time, and vicinity is available. Many vendors will then be in a big hurry to get you to sign up right then. Don't. Yes, in some instances NOT signing on the dotted line right then may make you lose out on getting to use that particular vendor (if they really are "almost fully booked"...)but ,more often than not, walking away without signing, or buying, will save you from impulse purchases or even losing money. In fact, as long as you are polite with the vendor, you will gain respect (and maybe a followup offer from then at a lower price) if you ask for time to consider their estimate. Here are some problems we have seen, over and over and over....
- "We booked a ......(fill in the blank, florist, caterer, photographer) before we paid the deposit on our ceremony site, and now we have to get another location/time/date and that vendor isn't available then and our deposit is nonrefundable". (Most deposits are for a specific date, time, vicinity and are not refundable, so be sure you understand terms before signing up or paying deposits. In some cases, vendors such as florists and caterers are more flexible and will be able to accomodate changes, but locations are notorious for not returning deposits until and unless they have a replacement booking for that time or date).
- "We ordered flowers for the reception, then found out the reception hall provides centerpieces". (Find out what a venue provides as part of their fee because they probably won't discount the price for anything included which you choose not to use).
- "We need to change the location (or date, or time) on our invitations because the church wasn't available when we thought it was". (If you make a mistake and signed the order form, expect to have to pay for more invitations to be ordered. If that is impossible, you will have to print and enclose little cards with the invitations giving the corrected information).
- "The venue won't let us use a vendor we have already booked because that vendor is not on their list and our deposit is nonrefundable".(Most deposits are nonrefundable. Ask what the vendor would need to do to get approved or ask the vendor to talk to the location for you. Usually, having a list of "approved" vendors doesn't mean they are the best ones, just that they are the ones that will give a commission on their fee to the location).
- "I bought a wedding gown but our wedding location has changed and a different dress would be better, and the store won't let me exchange it". (Most wedding items can't be returned).
My mom (sister, aunt, granny, etc) wants me to wear her dress, and I want to pick out my own dress! (Be gracious and try it on first. Many many times we have heard this, and most times when the bride goes to try on the dress it doesn't even fit, which solves the problem. Sometimes, the bride LOVES the dress and wants to wear it. If you try it on and it really is awful, you can always sweetly ask..."you don't mind if I (dye it, cut it off, etc) do you? " If you do plan to borrow a dress or buy a used gown, be sure you do two things, (1) take it to a cleaners to find out how much it will cost to dryclean it (and if it is borrowed, expect to clean it BEFORE and AFTER you wear it). (2) take it to a tailor and find out how much it will cost for ALTERATIONS. (If it is borrowed, get permission to alter it).
- Whatever is most important to you, reserve that vendor, location, or item FIRST and then make your other choices adapt. For example, if your heart is set on a wedding ceremony at a certain location, find out when it is available and reserve it. Depending on what dates it is available, you might have to change other vendors who are not available on that date.
Your wedding date and time will affect how much your wedding will cost, and who may be able to attend. If you have a wedding with a reception that coincides with a meal time, expect to serve a meal. If you have a Saturday night wedding with an evening reception, most guests will expect a meal AND entertainment...like a cocktail hour between the wedding and reception and a dinner & dance. If you don't want to spend for a dinner reception, consider a morning time and serve brunch, or an early afternoon time and serve punch and light refreshments.
(4) Decide "who pays for what" before making any decisions.
Money has a way of taking over a wedding, and sadly, some parents use "money" as a control tool. Don't put down a deposit and assume that a parent will step in and pay for the item. Talk it over first.
(5) Before setting a wedding date, talk to everyone who "must" be there to be sure they are available.
This is courteous, but also practical. If you have always wanted a certain relative to be at your wedding or to have a certain minister officiate, check with them first about the availability of the date. Keep this to a small group, though. If you start consulting all your friends and relatives you will never find a date that makes everyone happy. It doesn't hurt to call the local chamber of commerce and check civic events for that date, as well. Depending on your location, such events as parades, sports events, commencement ceremonies, or concerts may interfere with your wedding or reception location or parking, or even affect your guest attendance. We once did a wedding at a church that was having a teenage "lockin", complete with battle-of-the-bands, at the same time...
(6) If money is a BIG concern, think outside the box (or the chapel)...
Weddings tend to follow the same format. In some locales, a wedding isn't a wedding without an open bar, a band and dance floor, and a seated dinner at the reception, In some locations, a wedding in the church sanctuary followed by a cake-and-punch meet&green in the parlor is the norm. If you want your wedding to be the "biggest" or the "best", and "normal" weddings in your area follow an expected format, expect to be dissapointed. There will always be someone else with more money who can outspend you on a wedding, even if you go into debt. The point of a wedding is to get married. All that is required is that you meet the legal requirements and show up. Of course, this isn't your idea (or ours) of a wedding, but try to keep it all in perspective. You don't want to miss out on certain aspects you have dreamed about for years, but then again, you don't want to pay high interest and make payments on your wedding for years. So, think outside the box. If you are doing something entirely not the "norm" then nobody can compare your wedding to other weddings! If you can't afford a huge dinner-and-dance extravaganza, then don't have one! Consider other ideas for locations and consider a THEME wedding or THEME reception which may be much more fun and affordable. Check out local colleges (great chapels and reception areas and sometimes FREE for students), check out zoos, aquariums, museums, parks, and public buildings. Check out getting married at a civic celebration or an event (like a Renaissance fair or a bridal show) where you might get your wedding free. You may hear advice to "limit your guestlist" if the wedding is on a budget, but what about inviting everyone your know and love and "limiting the wedding?" You will be just as married, you won't hurt anyone's feeling for excluding them, and if you are doing something fun and different for a wedding nobody will notice how much money you are saving!
Another big pont about the DATE of your wedding is that the WEDDING DATE can affect how much your wedding costs. For example, if your wedding is near Mother's Day or Valentine's Day or Christmas, these are big flower holidays and fresh flowers will be more expensive. (Consider silk flowers, consider RENTING, or check eBay for great deals). If your wedding is on or near a holiday, reception venues may be unavailable or more costly. Weather conditions expected at certain times of the year will also limit your date selection or incur additional expense. Day of the week is also a consideration, because in each locale there are certain days of the week which are more popular, and it is very difficult to be trying to negotiate a better price when the vendor knows that there are lots of other brides who will be willing to pay their price to get a prime date or time.
The key is planning, and that means PLANNED SPENDING. Most wedding budget busters are impulse purchases (items which you may or may not end up using) or letting the wedding get out of control.
- Tell loved ones you are engaged FIRST, then tell friends and coworkers, and everyone else.
- Make a budget. Find out what everyone expects and wants and is able to contribute.
- Bride and Groom are in charge of making final decisions regardless of who is paying, but this will take some diplomacy.
- Wait 24 hours before you buy anything or sign any contracts so you have time to think it over.
- Get organized from the start, and set aside time each week to update your wedding notebook.
- Update your guest's card in your card file everytime they attend a function or send a gift. (And,,,don't forget to make a note when you send a thank you card!)
- Relax. Spend time with your fiance.Enjoy being engaged. Keep organized and keep your checkbook balanced. The whole goal is to BE married. The wedding is just one beautiful day in your new life together.