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Expert Wedding Planning: Tips and Tricks

Planning a wedding is an exciting but stressful time. There is so much to do, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Every couple has their own style and approach when it comes to planning a wedding. Some couples are focused on creating the perfect venue, while others want to spend time selecting every last detail of their big day.

No matter what your approach is, there are many ways to be savvy about saving money and making sure you get the most for your buck!

As you prepare for your big day, it can be hard to know where to start. Wedding planning can be daunting and overwhelming, but luckily, many great resources out there will make the process easier.  From expert tips on how to save money on your wedding dress or what vendors to hire, we’ve got you covered.

When planning your wedding, some things are nice to know, and there are things you need to know—advice so essential any bride who’s lucky enough to hear it thinks, “I’m so glad someone told me that!”

If you’re wondering whether there’s something you may have missed (or even if you’ve got everything under control), check out our indispensable planning secrets below.

We’ve gathered some expert tips and tricks for you from our experienced planners that will help make your planning process easier and more enjoyable.

1. Guests Come First

Get a grip on the approximate number of guests you’ll invite before settling on a venue. This will ensure there’s ample space for your crew. As a rule of thumb, allow for 25 to 30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot, but it’s really not if you count the space you’ll need for the tables, bustling waiters, the band and a dance floor.

Make sure you know approximately how many guests will be attending your wedding before choosing your venue.

2. Investigate Wedding Blackout Dates

Know ahead of time if your wedding date falls on the same day as a trade conference, charity walk or other local events that could affect traffic and hotel room availability. Here’s a handy list of potentially problematic wedding dates coming up in the calendar.

Before finalising your date, make sure there are no major events in the area that will disrupt traffic or book up hotel rooms. These might be anything from charity walks to trade conferences.

3. Listen to Mother Nature

Heed the weather and other potential annoyances. Guests have been known to skip out early from hotter-than-hot summer tent weddings and improperly heated winter loft receptions. Bugs (gnats, deer flies and mosquitos) also swarm in certain areas during certain seasons.

Pay attention to the weather and other implications it may bring; guests won’t want to be sat in a hot marquee on a sweltering summer day.

Also, think about bugs! Gnats, mosquitoes and horse flies are a nuisance anyway, let alone at a wedding. Consider giving guests bug repellent or hiring a pest control team.

Consider renting pest control tanks to alleviate the problem or including bug repellent in guests’ gift bags. And if you want a sunset ceremony, make sure you know when to say your vows by checking SunriseSunset.com. Oh—and always, always have a Plan B for unexpected weather snafus.

4. Check Your Credit

Take advantage of the high cost of weddings and sign up for a credit card with a rewards program.

Whether it gives you airline miles or great shopping deals, consolidating all wedding-related purchases to this card will help you accumulate thousands of rewards points (which could be used for your honeymoon).

Weddings cost a lot, so why not turn that into a positive! Sign up for a credit card company with a great rewards scheme, and put all the wedding costs onto this card. In no time, you would’ve accumulated thousands of rewards points, which can be put towards whatever you like.

5. Pay It Forward

Let one vendor lead you to another. Your wedding photographer can tell you which florist’s blooms really pop, and your reception manager should know which band consistently packs the dance floor.

6. Lighten Your List

The best money-saving trick is to cut back on your guest count. Half the wedding expenses go towards your guests’ food and drink, so even eliminating ten people from your list could be saving you thousands.

The easiest way to trim your wedding budget? Cut your guest list. Remember, half of your wedding expenses go to wining and dining with your guests. If it costs you $100 per person, eliminating one table of 10 can save you $1,000.

7. Ask and You Might Receive

Before signing contracts with vendors, don’t be afraid to ask for a little extra, such as an extra hour of cocktails. Most businesses would rather secure the booking than be super frugal.

Request an extra hour for cocktails or for your band to throw in that Frank Sinatra sound-alike before you sign on the dotted line.

Most vendors would rather secure the reservation than nickel-and-dime you early on (which might turn you off of them). Later on, though, they may be less inclined to meet you halfway.

8. Make a Meal Plan

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Another unforeseen expense? Feeding your wedding day crew. Before you sign the contracts, make sure you’re not required to serve the same meal to your vendors that guests will receive.

Your wedding vendors have to eat too! But giving them the same food as the guests can be incredibly expensive, so choose a substantial and tasty meal for the wedding professionals and be sure to let your caterer know how many meals will be needed.

Otherwise, you could be paying for 20 additional lobster tails. Choose a less expensive (but equally hearty) meal for them instead. You will have to let your wedding caterer know a couple of days before the wedding exactly how many vendors you need to feed (don’t forget photography assistants and band roadies) and what you want them to serve.

9. Get Organizationally Focused

In a three-ring binder, compile all your correspondences with vendors, notes you make during meetings, and photos or tear sheets from magazines you want vendors to see.

Make sure to keep a folder with all your wedding correspondences. Setting up a specific email address for your wedding can also be helpful to make sure you don’t miss any important updates!

Set up a special email address dedicated to your wedding, and store important vendor numbers in your cell phone.

10. Tend to Your Bar

Typically, you need one bartender per 50 guests to keep the line at a minimum. But if you’re serving a signature cocktail that cannot be made ahead of time (or in large quantities), consider adding an extra server designated to this task.

11. Leave Some Room in Your Wallet

Put aside about 5-10% of your budget for any surprise expenses or extra things you want at your wedding.

Your wedding budget should follow this formula: 48 to 50 per cent of total budget to reception; 8 to 10 per cent for flowers; 8 to 10 per cent for attire; 8 to 10 per cent for entertainment/music; 10 to 12 per cent for photo/video; 2 to 3 per cent for invites; 2 to 3 per cent for gifts; and 8 per cent for miscellaneous items like a wedding coordinator.

It’s essential to allocate an extra 5 to 10 per cent of your money for surprise expenses like printing extra invites because of mistakes, additional tailoring needs, umbrellas for a rainy day and ribbons for the wedding programs.

12. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Your wedding vendors should be your go-to, most trusted experts during the planning process. When working with them, you should feel free to explore what you want—maybe it’s serving a late-night snack instead of a first course or doing a bridal portrait session rather than an engagement session.

Good communication with your wedding team is key to ensuring your day is as perfect as it can be! And don’t be afraid to ask about different options, such as late-night snacks or a portrait session. It would be best if you were honest with them about everything you want, and they can see what they can do within your budget.

The bottom line is that you should feel like you can have an honest conversation about what you want. Their job will tell you what you can and can’t make work given your wedding budget.

13. Wait for a Date

Sometimes, last-minute planning can work in your favour. The closer your date, the more bargaining power you have.

Most couples book six months in advance, but if you leave it later, say two months, or so, you’ll have far more bargaining power, even saving up to 25%! Friday and Sunday weddings also cost about 30% less than Saturday celebrations.

Since most people book their wedding venues at least six months in advance, calling for open dates two months before your desired time can save you up to 25 per cent. And, Friday and Sunday weddings should cost about 30 per cent less than Saturday weddings.

14. Manage the Mail

Of course, you want the perfect stamps for your wedding invitations. But not all stamps are widely available at every post office, especially in large quantities. So save yourself scouting time by ordering them online at USPS.com.

Ordering stamps online can save you a lot of time, and remember to weigh your invitations and any other paper products, so you get the costs right.

And be sure to weigh your invitation and all the additional paper products before you send them out so you can attach the right amount of postage. Ask your stationer about the need for additional postage for oddly shaped envelopes.

15. Prepare for Rejection

Around 10-20% of people you invite won’t be able to attend. This number is usually higher with destination weddings and depends on how many of your guests don’t live locally.

Know that as a rule, about 10 to 20 per cent of the people you invite won’t attend. Naturally, this depends on the location of your wedding (destination weddings are harder to attend), how many out-of-towners are on your list, and the timing of the event (some guests may have annual holiday plans).

16. Make a Uniform Kids Policy

To avoid any hurt feelings, it’s best to establish your policy on children in the early stages of planning. You can either welcome children, have a strict no children policy, hire a child care service to provide daycare or only include immediate family.

You have four choices: You can welcome children with open arms; you can decide to have an “adults only” wedding; you can include immediate family only; or, you can hire a child care service to provide daycare either at the reception space, in a hotel room or at a family member’s home.

To prevent hurt feelings, it’s wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others (unless, of course, the children are at your bridal party).

17. Prioritise Your People

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If you’re struggling with cutting down the guest list, then make a list! Start with your immediate family and close friends, and write everyone down to your parents’ friends and coworkers. This way, if you need to cut the guest list down, start from the bottom.

Pare down your guest list with the “tiers of priority” trick. Place immediate family, the bridal party and best friends on top of the list; follow with aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends you can’t imagine celebrating without.

Under that, list your parents’ friends, neighbours, coworkers and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.

18. Take It One Step at a Time

Put together a wedding planning schedule and do things one by one, in a logical order, so you don’t take on too much too fast and end up with everything snowballing around you.

Don’t hire any vendors before you’ve confirmed your date; don’t design your cake before you’ve envisioned your flowers; and don’t book a band before you’ve settled on a space.

A lot goes into wedding planning, and at times it can seem overwhelming. Don’t take on too many things at once and instead do everything logically; this avoids a lot of chaos and stress!

19. No Ring, No Bring

If your guest list is bursting at the seams, assess the plus-one scenario. Do a faux seating chart in your mind, and imagine whom your single pal would sit with.

If it’s a table of singles that she knows pretty well, then you’re all set. However, if it’s a table of couples (making her the odd one out) or if it’s a table of singles where she won’t know anyone, consider bending the rules.

If asked why you’re not allowing single friends to bring guests, size or budget constraints or your parents’ never-ending guest list are always good reasons.

20. Release Rooms

As soon as you’ve picked a date, start to look for hotels in a wide variety of price points. Many hotels allow you to reserve rooms for guests under a special wedding block and at a reduced rate.

You can reserve a block of rooms at a reduced rate for your guests, and any empty rooms can be released back to the hotel.

You can then release any unbooked rooms a month before your wedding. If the hotels you contact insist upon contracts with cancellation penalties, say no—you don’t want to be responsible for rooms you can’t fill.

21. Provide Accurate Driving Directions

Keep your guests informed on the best and quickest ways to get to your wedding venue. Ask your venue for recommended driving routes and email these to your guests.

Make sure guests know where they’re going. As easy as online map programs are to use, sometimes the directions are wrong, or there’s a quicker, less traffic-prone route to take.

Ask your ceremony and reception sites for printouts or digital copies of recommended driving directions and even test out the routes yourself. Then include the best suggestions on your wedding website or email them to your guests to print out if they’d like.

22. Keep a Paper Trail

If you’re ever uncertain about something, never assume, instead email the respective vendor and get a confirmation in writing.

Get any nonstandard changes to your agreements in writing or send the vendor a confirmation email saying, “Hello, just confirming that you’ll keep the venue open until 2 a.m. versus midnight.”

Don’t just assume everything’s all set—sometimes, by the time the actual day rolls around, your contact for certain may no longer be working there to vouch for you.

23. Schedule the Setup

Make sure you leave plenty of time for the setup and decoration of the venue. If you’re bringing in outside help, be sure to ask the venue when they can start the preparations. Check to see if the setup can be done the day before or on the morning of the wedding.

You must make sure there’s ample time for setup. If you’re renting a venue and bringing in outside help, ask what time people can come in to start setting. See if they can do it the day before, or at the very least the entire wedding day, before the event begins.

24. Learn About Marriage Licenses

You can check your state’s license requirements online but confirm with a call to the county clerk’s office to see when they’re open.

Marriage license requirements change from place to place, so be sure you have all the relevant information.

Even if it’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they may issue marriage licenses only during slower times like Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. So give a copy of your marriage license to your mom or your maid of honour (just in case you lose yours during the final days before your wedding).

25. Go Over Ground Rules

Be prepared—ask the manager of the house of worship or the site where you’ll be married for the list of restrictions (if any).

Be sure to check with your venue or place of worship if there are any rules you and your guests need to keep in mind. This could be anything from bare shoulders to flash photography.

For instance, is flash photography or bare shoulders prohibited? Or, if you’re exchanging vows outdoors, are you allowed to plant tent stakes in the lawn (which is often not allowed)?

26. Classify Your Cash

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A great way to organise your wedding budget is ordering everything from 1-3, reflecting its importance.

For example, you might classify your wedding dress and the food as the most important, therefore number 1, and florals and stationery as least important, number 3. This way, you know where you want to spend your money and where you want to cut costs.

Wedding budgets are all about balance. So start your budget planning by making a checklist of the crucial details, like the music, your wedding gown, the invitations, the flowers and the photographer, and assign a number to each—one being the most important and three being the least.

Invest your money in all your number ones and cut corners on your number threes. (But everything can’t fall into the number one category!) For example, if a designer gown and fabulous food are what matters, you may have to choose simple invitations and smaller floral arrangements.

27. Help Guests Pay Attention

Make sure your guests can both see and hear from their seats. Consider renting a mic and a riser if people are seated farther than 15 rows back from your ceremony altar or podium.

Ensure that all your guests can see and hear from their seats, regardless of where they’re sat in the venue. If there are more than 15 rows at the ceremony, consider hiring a microphone.

This could range anywhere from $50 to $100, depending on the equipment used. You’ll need to coordinate the delivery and setup with your ceremony space, so put your wedding planner or best man in charge of this task.

28. Write Down Your Digits

Keep an emergency contact sheet or phone with your vendor contacts on you on your wedding day—it may come in handy in case your limo driver gets lost, or you decide you’d like your photographer to take some behind-the-scenes shots.

Keep a list, or a contact sheet on your phone of the contact details of all your vendors. This is a great go-to place should you have any problems on your big day.

29. Call the Fashion Police

It’s best not to go wedding dress shopping on your own- all dresses start to look the same after a while! Instead, bring family and friends who you know will give you an honest opinion.

Don’t go dress shopping on your own—all the gowns will start to look the same after a while, and it will be harder to recall which style you loved.

But be careful about who you bring. If your mom or sibling can’t make the trip, ask a truly honest friend. This is the time when you need to know which dress looks best.

30. Be Realistic With Your Time

When it comes to the last month before the wedding, you’ll feel like you have thousands of things to do. So look at your to-do list and cross off at least three things that you can avoid doing (make sure they’re not super important things, of course!) You’ll be so much more relaxed about it.

When it comes down to the last month of your planning (and when you’re particularly harried), look at your mile-long to-do list and cut three things.

Yes, cut three things. Not crucial things you don’t feel like doing, such as picking a processional song or confirming final details with all of your vendors.

Eliminate only the over-the-top tasks like hand-painting “Just Married” signs or baking cookies for all of the welcome bags. Cross them off and pledge not to think about them again.

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