Do You Really Need a Rehearsal?

(Reposted from Wednet)

Your ceremony is the beginning of the most wonderful day of your life. It sets the tone for the entire day; it is the smile on his face, the lump in his throat, the look that takes his breath away as he sees you coming down the aisle. This is your day, your moment in time, a moment that will forever be cherished and remembered. As important as this day is, many brides neglect to give their wedding rehearsal the time and attention it deserves.

It is amazing there is so little information regarding the rehearsal. Beautiful ceremonies do not just happen. So often, you hear, “I wish I would have done this or said that” or “I was going to do, whatever but I wasn’t sure when to do it”. Unfortunately, actions may appear hesitant, awkward or sloppy; romantic words or gestures can easily be overlooked or bypassed because it is unclear when and how to proceed. The day of the wedding, nerves and emotions are at their peak and so many things are going on; this is not the time to leave things to chance.

Everyone from the bride and groom, their families and wedding party are expected to know exactly what to do, how to do it and when to do it and yet there is very little available on how to organize a rehearsal and what to include. Unless the bride has a coordinator to oversee the rehearsal, she is pretty much on her own. Even with a coordinator, the bride may only get the very basics, the seating of mothers, processional, attendant placement and recessional with no attention given to form or actual timing.

Some will argue that if you rehearse, the ceremony will not be fresh and the romantic gestures or words will not be spontaneous, which is a valid argument if you are attempting to rehearse every word and detail of your ceremony. However, the wedding rehearsal is not to practice dialogue, it is to block and stage your ceremony as if it were a theatrical production. In theatrical terms, blocking is directing the positions and movement of the actors; it is choreography of movement.

The choreography of the ceremony begins with the seating of family by the ushers or groomsmen and concludes with the bride and groom leaving the ceremony and may extend beyond the ceremony depending on the couple. Most people know the basics, it is the style and manner in which something is done that makes the difference. The attention to that type of detail is what will set a ceremony apart from all the others and it will show in both photography and video. If you are comfortable with what you are doing, you will be more relaxed and able to enjoy this wonderful time in your life.

Here are a few brief suggestions for your rehearsal:

When to Schedule
If possible, avoid scheduling a rehearsal for right after work. If your wedding party has to fight rush hour traffic, you can be almost certain the rehearsal will not start on time.
Wedding professionals including the minister, judge, photographer etc. whom you have requested attend the rehearsal may charge a fee and give you a specific block of time. Some professionals charge an additional fee when asked to stay longer than scheduled.
Rehearsals on weekends or holidays may be difficult for wedding professionals to attend and if they are charging you a fee, it may be higher.

Allow at least 1 hour for your rehearsal.
The rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner are two separate events. Schedule a time for the rehearsal and a time for the dinner. If the rehearsal and dinner will be held at different locations, make sure to allow for travel time.

Who Should Attend
Invite only those who will actually be in the wedding ceremony and parents of the bride and groom to the rehearsal.
Invite everyone else to join you later at the rehearsal dinner.

What to Bring
Bring the wedding music to the rehearsal.
If the bride will wear gloves during the ceremony then bring them to the rehearsal.
Bridesmaids should have the shoes they will wear for the ceremony with them, especially if your ceremony is outdoors.

Common Sense
Show up sober. You would be amazed at how many times the bride, groom or members of the wedding party have shown up drunk. The rehearsal should be fun but it does serve a purpose; if you want to party wait until after the rehearsal otherwise you are just wasting everyone’s time.

How Much is Too Much? Keeping Your Wedding Affordable

This terrific article was written by Neal Frankle. Neal is a Certified Financial Planner in Los Angeles, and founder of the blog, Wealth This post originated on Wealth Pilgrim.

As the father of three daughters, when you ask, “How much should a wedding cost?” my answer is simple: Less. A lot less.

Fortunately, there are dozens of ideas that will slash the cost of even the most ambitious wedding. It goes without saying that you should take it easy on engagement ring prices. But after you take care of that, keep on the money saving track.

The following tactics will deliver a world-class experience you and your guests will never forget – and keep you out of the poor house at the same time. Here are eight top cost-saving tactics you should consider using that can save you as much as $28,000.

The easiest way to realize significant cost savings is to erase some people from the invite list. Think about it. If you are paying $100 a plate, merely cutting out a dozen guests will save you $1,200. This step is cool because it doesn’t mean you have to change anything about the overall experience.

2. Shuffle Your Big Day: Savings $3,500

Most people wed on Saturday night. Mistake. It’s the most expensive day to tie the knot. Don’t do it. Think outside the box and get married on any other day. This alone will save you 10%.

If you strategically make it inconvenient, fewer people show up and that reduces your expense too. So if you’re wedding is going to be a $35,000, you can put $3,500 back in the kitty.

3. Beat the Clock: Savings $6,000

Again, by having your ceremony in the morning or afternoon, you’ll save a ton more. The food, venue and entertainment will be much less expensive. Also, most people tend to booze it up a little less during daylight. One caterer I spoke with told me that he charges 40% less because during the day, people normally don’t have appetizers.  So, if you figure 150 people are coming at $100 a plate, that’s a cool $6,000 you save.

4. Stonewall Your Caterer

Your caterer is a salesperson. Her goal is to put as much distance between you and your money as possible. Play hardball. Just because other people spend big bucks on food nobody is going to eat doesn’t mean you have to.

Simplify your hors d’oeuvres (or drop them completely) and main course. Drop the soup. Use the wedding cake for it’s intended purpose – dessert. You don’t need more than that.

Your caterer will try to shame you into spending as much money as possible. Don’t fall for it. You don’t have to do anything just because “that’s how it’s done.” Think about every dollar you spend and make sure it’s meaningful.

5. Let Them Eat (Less) Cake: $1,750

If you don’t go for the idea of using the cake as the dessert, get a small cake. Since nobody is going to eat it anyway, you might as well save the money. Don’t worry about the guests complaining. They won’t.

You can serve the guests “wedding cake” from a sheet cake in the back. That way you have a beautiful (small) cake for the ceremony and you’ll still have plenty of cake to go around. The caterer I spoke with told me that the average cost of a plated dessert is $15 a head. If instead you get a cake for $500, that’s another $1750 that stays in your purse.

6. Close The Bar: $2,200

Remember, you’re not staging the Mardi Gras. And you don’t need to liquor everyone up. You can offer just beer or wine. Or if you serve more, you can offer a choice between two cocktails on top of the beer and wine. These two moves will significantly save you serious cash.

My caterer pal told me this is where serious dollars are saved. Most places will charge you $20 a head at least for alcohol. Find a venue that will allow you to bring in your own booze and it will cost you a ton less. I just had a party for 150 people and used this little maneuver. I spent a total of $800 on beer, wine, cola, water and hard alcohol. Nobody went home thirsty and I saved $2200. I’ll drink to that!

7. Allergic To Flowers: $9,000

Choose flowers carefully. If you get married in a garden setting (preferably on an afternoon) you might be able to forgo the entire need for flowers. You can also select less-expensive flowers. Use a colorful theme to cut down the need to use flowers to add color.

You could spend $50,000 on flowers alone but please don’t. The average is about $10,000 and unless you absolutely demand it, cut it down to less than $1,000 for some well placed roses. Savings – $9,000 at least.

8. The Wedding Dress: Savings $4,500

Wedding dresses can empty your wallet – unless you are clever. Buy clothes that have been tried on before. You can snatch these up at huge discounts. Bridal gowns are often on sale in late spring and early winter.

You can also save a bundle by renting clothes and shoes instead of buying. A wedding dress could easily run $5,000. That’s plain crazy.  You’ll have no problem renting one for under $500. This will save you $4,500.

The total comes to a cool $28,150 savings.  This assumes you’re spending $100 a plate and inviting 150 guests. This is not extravagant in Los Angeles (where I live) but it might be in other parts of the country. But that’s not the main point.

There is no one step that will save you the big bucks, but as you see, little steps can add up to huge bucks that stay in your bank account. If you are paying for your own wedding (and especially if you are still struggling with college or credit card debt) does it really make sense to have a large wedding at all?

Pagan Weddings – What’s up with that?

Modern Paganism is one of the world’s fastest growing religious bodies. In its simplest definition, Paganism is a modernized recreation of the indigenous spiritual traditions of Europe — basically, it’s a revival of ancient pre-Christian beliefs and practices. However, this is the 21st century. Modern Paganism has been heavily influenced by modern values and ethics, such as feminism and environmentalism.

Don’t worry that you may witness an animal sacrifice at a Pagan ritual; many Pagans are vegan and strong supporters of animal rights!

There is a wide array of religions and spiritual traditions that fall under the Pagan “umbrella,” and yes, some are legally recognized faiths. The main three religions you will find within Paganism are:

  1. Wicca: A nature-oriented faith that focuses on the cycle of the seasons. One of Wicca’s main tenets is the Rede, which is summarized as, “An it harm none, do as thou wilt.”
  2. Druidry: A recreation of ancient Celtic practices, with a strong focus on poetry and storytelling. An example of a Druid wisdom teaching would be this Celtic triad, “Three things loveable in a person: tranquility, wisdom, and kindness.”
  3. Asatru: A reconstruction of ancient Northern European beliefs. Think “Vikings” and you aren’t so far off. Asatru has the Nine Noble Virtues, three of which are courage, truth and honour.

What is a handfasting, exactly?

A handfasting is a wedding or betrothal ceremony, and to be handfasted is equivalent to being married or betrothed, but before we get into the details, let’s back up a bit and have a quick history lesson.

In most of pre-Christain Europe, weddings were fairly straightforward affairs, and this was especially true for northern Europe and Celtic lands. Two families came together and they worked out a deal on land ownership and any trading of goods. Then, the couple would exchange gifts, clasp hands, and make oaths of loyalty to each other. Afterward their families and the community they lived in would throw a party and have a feast.

Going to the trouble of a full religious ceremony officiated by a Druid (or someone similar) was typically reserved for people of very high social status. For most people the transition from single to married was a do-it-yourself affair, with the couple’s community acting as witnesses.

As Christianity began to spread across Europe, the new Church lacked the resources to have a clergyman in every rural village and hamlet. As such, the Church would send circuit priests to travel to out-of-the-way parishes during the warmer months.

Obviously, this presented a problem to families who needed to make an alliance with another family or clan. It’s also difficult to ask young people in love to wait so long before they can make a home together. Especially if the young woman was already pregnant! Governments had a similar problem: it was too difficult to provide a judge or magistrate to every little village, let alone manage all the paperwork required for marriage licenses at a time when everything was handwritten on parchment.

So, folks looked back to the traditions of their grandparents and found a compromise. The couple would “self-marry” in the old style when it was convenient for the community. The union would later be formally blessed by the church when the circuit priest came around.

In the Middle Ages, handfasting-type rituals became popular as betrothal rituals. In some parts of Europe, e.g., Scotland, the word “handfasting” was used to say that a couple was engaged. It was more common to hear that a couple was “handfasted” than “betrothed.”

These types of self-uniting marriage traditions lasted well into the colonial era, when settlers in the New World faced difficulties due to long distances and lack of resources.

It was only a couple of hundred years ago that nations began to pass legislation requiring couples to be legally wed via a specific set of rules. In fact, in some parts of the world, self-uniting ceremonies are still perfectly valid and legal.

As modern Paganism began to truly grow in the early-to-mid 20th century, Pagans sought marriage rituals that had historical significance without strong ties to other religions.

Two fit the bill: the tying of hands in the handfasting tradition, and the jumping of the broom.

So is it a real marriage or not?

A Pagan handfasting can be several things, depending on the couple’s wishes. It can be a legal marriage. It can be a commitment ceremony for a common law or civil union. It can be a kind of trial marriage for a couple who wish to ease into married life. It can be a formal betrothal.

The ceremony can be led by an officiant, Pagan clergy, a friend, or be a self uniting-ritual. Sometimes, due to the small size of their religious body, it can be difficult to find a clergy member who is also a legal officiant. As such, Pagans who wish to become legally married will often “get legalled” before or after the wedding. They will have the legal paperwork and requirements taken care of at the local clerk’s office or other government-specified office.

What can I expect to see during the ceremony?

You may be surprised at how familiar much of the ceremony will be. There will be vows. You might see a bride in a white dress. You may see a wine blessing, or the sharing of a loving cup by the couple. You may see a bride wearing a veil; after all, this practice goes all the way back to ancient Pagan Rome, when brides wore brightly colored veils to protect themselves from evil spirits. You will probably see the couple exchanging rings or some other token of their love, such as necklaces. Rings and other jewelry have been used for the purpose of binding people to an oath since at least the Iron Age. You may see the lighting of candles, possibly even a unity candle ceremony.

Next: Pagan weddings: Things that could be unfamiliar to you.

Cheap Wedding Decorations

(Reprinted with sincere thanks to Casey Slide. (Originally posted in MoneyCrashers. ) Whether it’s in a big, elegant church, or a rustic, old garden, or at a white, sandy beach, the backdrop and decorations of a wedding ceremony can really make a lasting impression. And luckily, a pretty ceremony doesn’t have to cost a fortune. When it comes to ceremony decorating, less tends to be more. Additionally, you can save some money by being creative and keeping it simple. Here are some great ideas for cheap wedding decorations that will help you stick to your budget.

Saving Money on Ceremony Decorations at a Church

  1. Use Your Venue’s Decorations
    If you’re getting married in a church, see what decorations they have for you to use. Many have candelabras which can add sophistication to your ceremony. Also, you may not have to decorate at all if you plan to get married during Christmas or Easter time when churches are already adorned with flowers and greenery.
  2. Use Candles Instead of Flowers
    Candles are a lot cheaper than wedding flower arrangements, and can often be more romantic. Use them at the altar, to line the aisle (make sure they’re in fireproof bags or enclosed in glass to prevent fire hazards), or even in place of bouquets.
  3. Get Some Potted Plants
    In the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, they lined the aisle of the beautiful Westminster Abbey with big, potted trees creating an English garden atmosphere. You can do something similar by bringing some potted plants from home or borrowing a few from a friend.
  4. Buy Lots of Tulle
    There are so many fun things that you can do with tulle to decorate, but here are two of my favorites. The first thing you can do is create a canopy effect with the tulle. Have a few friends hang some from the center of the ceiling and then drape it down to the corners of the altar or stage. To complement the tulle canopy, use tulle to make bows to put on the pews or rows of chairs.
  5. Decorate the Altar Only
    If you have a beautiful wedding venue already, there is no need to go overboard with your decorations. Perhaps all you need is a simple arrangement at the altar.
  6. Decorate Your Own Unity Candle
    This is a fun and easy project that can be done in less than one hour. Go to a craft store and buy a plain, white candle that is at least two inches in diameter. You will also need to buy a ribbon (at least two inches wide) and some sequins. To assemble your own unity candle, glue the ribbon around the bottom of the candle and then glue the sequins on the front of the candle so that they spell the first letter of the groom’s last name.
  7. Go Shelling
    My parents live near the beach down in Florida, and my mom’s favorite activity is to go shelling. She goes at least once a week to look for beautiful and unique shells. It wasn’t long before my mom had collected thousands of shells, so many, in fact, that she didn’t know what to do with them all. If you have access to free shells, put them in clear vases or hurricanes to be used as wedding decorations. Although shells would be a great addition to a wedding near the ocean, they would also be a beautiful added surprise to a landlocked wedding as well.
  8. Throw Down Some Flower Petals
    Even if you do not have a flower girl, you can still throw down some flower petals along the aisle. This can be done as part of the decorating process before the guests arrive. Flower petals are inexpensive to buy compared to actual flower arrangements, so if you really want flowers but don’t want to spend the money, this is a great way to add them into the decoration of your ceremony.

Saving Money on Ceremony Decorations Outdoors

  1. Pick a Naturally Beautiful Setting
    Outdoor garden, beach, or mountain weddings are already decorated for you. For example, if you’re getting married at a farm, throw down some hay bales for seating and you’ve got a rustic, but romantic aisle to walk down. If you want a garden wedding, make sure you get married in the spring when all the flowers are in full bloom.
  2. Have a Focal Point
    There needs to be some sort of focal point that you and your spouse-to-be meet at to be wedded. The focal point will act as a frame around the event. Some of the most common options are arches and gazebos. First check to see if you will have one provided to you by your venue. If not, you can buy one, rent one, or make one. Unless you are a carpenter or a handyman, you should probably opt to rent one. I suggest renting an arch since they are typically cheaper than gazebos and look just as nice.
  3. Hang Some Christmas Lights
    If you are getting wed in the evening, white Christmas lights are a must. And if you’re renting an archway, it would be the perfect place for the lights. Also consider hanging lights in some of the trees if you will be in an outdoor setting.
  4. Mow the Lawn
    This may seem obvious, but if you are getting married in a backyard, start working on the lawn early to ensure that it will be ready in time for the big day. If the yard is kept up with regularly, it will look better for the wedding. Also, start early to plan out what flowers and plants you want to feature. Planting bulbs months in advance will save you from buying more expensive flowers to plant the week before the wedding.
  5. Use a Theme to Guide You
    I went to a wedding not too long ago that had an amazing “Zen” theme throughout. Some of the decorations included paper parasols, lanterns, and bonsai trees. They even had rock gardens as the wedding reception centerpieces to complete the theme. What’s great about using a theme is that you only need a few elements to make a big impact on the overall impression of the ceremony.
  6. Light It Up
    In addition to white Christmas lights or candles, other ways to light up your evening are to use luminaries, torches, and lanterns. Use what is most appropriate given your particular wedding venue. Also, keep in mind whether or not children will be at your wedding and if it would cause any issues to have open flames.
  7. Blow Bubbles
    Although this may sound childish, bubbles can actually add an elegant touch if done correctly. If you’re going to use a bubble machine, make sure that the machine is out of sight and that the bubbles are not coming out too quickly or too slowly. Also make sure that the bubble machine is not too noisy.

The Last Word

The key to successful wedding ceremony decor is simplicity. Clean, elegant flower arrangements, a few strategically placed candles or some potted plants to add a little greenery are all you need to create a romantic and memorable ceremony. Less is more – which ultimately means more money for the honeymoon!

Writing Thank You Notes

When writing wedding thank you cards, it’s easy to get stumped on what to say, particularly when you don’t know the person well or when you just don’t like the wedding gift.  Don’t get tripped up on writing thank you cards. Planning the wedding – the hard part – is over. This is the easy part. There are a variety of thank you cards options to choose from. Pick a set of cards that best represents you as a couple or matches your wedding theme.

Here are some more tips to writing great thank-you cards for your wedding gifts (with thanks to Martha Stewart Weddings).

Getting Organized
Buy thank-you cards early (if you’re having them printed, it’s often cheaper to order them along with your other wedding stationery), so you have them on hand. Set up a log when you begin addressing your invitations to help keep track of the correct spelling of names, mailing addresses, and phone numbers. Use the list to record guests’ responses and, ultimately, gifts they give you. Store the information on a computer, in a binder, or on index cards.
Keeping Track!
When you open presents, immediately record who gave you what, either in your log or right on the gift cards, which you could keep together in a specially designated box. Despite your best efforts, a few gifts may become separated from their cards. If the gift was from your registry, call the store to see if it has a record of who purchased it. If not, you may have to try figuring it out by the process of elimination.
What’s the Time Frame?
Ideally, you should acknowledge every present immediately, but sending it within two weeks is also acceptable. The period surrounding your wedding is a busy time; if you fall behind, make every effort to send a thank you as soon as you can — but no later than three months after the event.
To ensure the task doesn’t become too overwhelming, write notes in small batches. Diane Warner, author of “Contemporary Guide to Wedding Etiquette” (Career Press; 2005), offers this strategy: “Set a goal of writing three or four thank-you notes per day. Don’t try to tackle them all at once, otherwise they may tend to start sounding trite.” She also recommends that both the bride and the groom divide the note-writing duties.
What Should Your Thank-You Notes Look Like?
For weddings, the most traditional thank-you cards are white or ecru and measure approximately 3 1/2 by 5 inches, with a top fold. They can be monogrammed or embossed with a motif you’ve used on other decorations. With a monogram, remember that it’s improper to adopt your married moniker until after the ceremony. You might combine the initials of your first names instead, or use different cards for thank-you notes that are sent out before the wedding date.
How to Save Money
You can save money by dressing up plain cards and making your own notes. Another alternative is to turn a photo from your wedding day into thank-you postcards. Your photographer may offer them (keep in mind that it takes time for him to produce them), or you can make them yourself (just be sure you have the photographer’s permission).
Who Should Write Them?
It is customary for just one person to write and sign each note, mentioning his or her spouse’s appreciation (“Karen and I want to thank you…. Love, David”). However, coauthored notes, signed by both the bride and groom, are also acceptable. One easy way to share the work is for the bride to write to her own family members and friends, and the groom to his.
What Should the Message Say?
You don’t need to write a lot — four or five sentences will suffice — as long as what you do express is heartfelt. Identify the gift, say why you appreciate it, why it has a personal meaning for you, and how you plan to use it. If the giver came to the wedding, especially from a distance, also include a sentence thanking him for attending: “Thank you for coming to our wedding. Your presence made our day extra-special. David and I love the coffee maker. We’ve used it every day since we got back from our honeymoon. Thanks so much.” For cash gifts, you need not mention the dollar amount, but it’s a nice touch to say how you plan to spend the money.
What Should the Sign-Off Be?
The sign-off should reflect your relationship to the recipient. “Love” is suitable for close friends and family; “with affection” is a slightly less intimate option; “sincerely” may be the most appropriate when you’re writing to someone such as your manager at work. You needn’t sign off with your full names with people you’re close to, but you may want to use them in thank-you notes to business associates and friends of your parents. Trust your instincts: If using your surname feels cold or stiff, leave it out. If your message sounds overly familiar without it, then include it.