Your Wedding Planning - The First Five Decisions Who, What, When, Where and How (Much)? WHO: Assuming you already know who the bride and groom will be, the 'who' here refers to family and guests. How many people do you expect to invite to your wedding? Is your family large or small? Are you close to them or barely know them? Do you and your family know everyone in town or are you from a large city where your circle of friends are mostly neighbors and co-workers? Start on your list. Have your families work on their lists. Then be prepared to be brutal with the red mark-out pen! Once you begin your list with input from your families, you will have a better idea about the size of the wedding. You can set some parameters such as 'real friends' only, not acquaintances, no cousins you have never met, definitely no stalker ex boy (or girl) friends! Family issues can be touchy, of course. Remember if your parents are paying for the wedding and reception that they are going to have the last say about budget and are going to want some input on who is invited. Try to find middle ground if you disagree. Just remember that your parents quite rightly want to share your happy day and their pride in you with their friends as well! WHAT: Now that you have your guest list started, it is time to refine the style of your wedding. What will it be like: formal, informal, church, commercial wedding venue, your home town, your current residence, or a fantasy destination? There are many choices. Your guest list will provide some guidance in your selections. Where do the majority of people that you want to invite live? What about grandparents and great grandparents? Are they able to travel? If you are close to your grandparents, you need to take them into consideration. If you haven't lived in your hometown in 10 or 15 years, you might choose to have the service where you are now established. Consider accommodations for out of town guests when you are choosing a location. You can consider a wedding at your fantasy destination. Just keep in mind that if your guests are on a limited budget, they may not be able to afford to attend, no matter how much they love you. That is when you must decide if the destination is more important than the people. WHEN: Depending on your 'what' your 'what' is, you will have a great idea about which season will work with your style of wedding best. For instance: You live in the Deep South. You desire a formal wedding, which assumes that the guests will be 'dressed-up' rather than dressing down. You visualize a garden reception, with dinner and dancing outside under a tent. If you pick a June, July, August or even September wedding date, the only thing that your guests will remember is how miserable they were with sweat running down their personal crevices like rivers. You must decide what is the most inflexible aspect of your wedding. In other words, if the date is the most important thing (which can often be the case because of work, school or even military schedules) then imagine that you are a guest at your own wedding. What will the experience be like for them? Your memories of how well your reception turned out will be partly dependent on how much fun your guests have. If they enjoy the celebration, you will as well! That said, if a summer (or fall, or winter, or spring) date is a must and formal is important, rethink the garden setting. The more inflexible you are in one area, the more flexible you will need to be in others. It is a great practice for married life: the fine art of compromise! WHERE: Get creative. Make a list of all possibilities: church halls, homes, private venues, parks, lakes, farms, ranches, community centers, restaurants, and hotels. Now chart out the amenities and costs including catering, beverage service, the need for rentals like tents, tables, chairs, linens, serving pieces if not provided by caterer, parking and service staff to give you the bottom line of comparable expenses. The chart will help you decide if the 'bargain' venue is actually much of a bargain after all. Don't forget about dÃ©cor. The plainer the space, the more it takes to create your vision through decorations. Keep in mind that if you desire a Hawaiian theme, hosting your reception in a Louis IV ballroom will create a most mismatched mess of decorations. Matching theme and venue will create a stunning effect. While you are visualizing your lovely reception, make a list of possible 'worse case scenarios'... rain, distance, cold, heat, snow. Prepare for the off chance problem and your feathers won't get ruffled if it actually happens. You will have a backup plan. As a matter of fact, it is a good idea to think about as many 'oops' moments as possible and plan accordingly. While you cannot possibly think of everything that might go wrong, this exercise in creating a Plan B will give you the confidence to be able to come up with a solution to most problems quickly. And if there is no resolution for a particular issue during the middle of the event, the only thing to do is: LAUGH! It is the boo boo's in life that make the greatest stories! HOW: How? As in How Much? Be realistic about your budget and what your limits are. How much of the planning can you do yourself? Budgeting for a wedding planner can be a real life saver, especially on the wedding day when you want to make sure that everything is stress free. Wedding planners are also adept at trimming a budget while creating the look and feel of your dream wedding. What are the big ticket expenses? Location fees, flowers, cake, food, beverages, rentals (tents, chairs, linens, etc), music, service people (wait staff, bartenders, valets, etc) all add up quickly. Always ask how much something will cost. Get a written estimate if possible. Create an outline budget keeping in mind that you can augment funds in one area when another comes in under budget. Prioritize your expenses. Is it worth it to serve ice water only at the reception so that you can purchase an over the top wedding dress? The little extras that you do can be the most memorable for your guests. Welcome bags filled with things to make your out of town guests feel more comfortable such as water bottles, a split of wine, snacks for the midnight munchies, maps and brochures of local attractions, an agenda of the weekend's activities. Table favors at each place setting, piled on trays or in baskets will remind guests of your special day. Waiters greeting guests at the curb with trays of ice cold lemonade on a sweltering summer day will start the party on a great note. We will discuss theme planning in another article, but keep in mind that a cohesive look without crossing the line into 'theme park mania' will set the mood for your wedding. Once you begin this process, the wedding will become much easier to organize and much more fun. Congratulations, best wishes and above all, have a wonderful life together! Â© Marilyn Lewis, 2008 About the author: Marilyn Lewis is a professional Interior Designer with over 27 years of experience. an event planner, and owner of the online retail shop http://www.LovedTheParty.com which features favors, decorations, invitations and gifts for parties and events. Marilyn has been been planning, designing and executing weddings, fundraisers, debutante parties, birthday and corporate events for her clients for more than 20 years.
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