Wedding Planning 101

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra

Planning a wedding isn’t rocket science, but it definitely requires thought, patience and, probably most importantly, a sense of humor! Wedding planning can be a lot of fun. It can also be a real challenge, and like all challenges, it can be stressful. You should assume in advance that parts of the day just won’t go as you’d like them to, and plan for every eventuality you can think of. The key is to stay organized, stay within your budget, and allow plenty of time to get it all together.

First of all, you should decide on what type of wedding you want to have. This will depend on how much you want to spend, how many guests you want to invite, where and when your ceremony and reception take place, and how much formality you want your wedding to express.

A Formal wedding usually conforms to strict traditional rites both of the church and of secular society. Generally, a formal wedding is larger both in size of wedding party and number of guests , and features more elaborate decorations, attire, invitations, and reception arrangements, than a semi-formal or informal wedding. Formal weddings generally take place in a church or dedicated wedding venue.

Semi-formal weddings usually also stay with tradition (more or less), but everything is slightly less elaborate and more flexible than a formal wedding. Semi-formal weddings often happen at a private residence or at a senior or community center.

An Informal wedding often includes a simple ceremony where you let your imagination go to work. Informal weddings normally have a smaller wedding party and fewer guests than formal or semi-formal weddings.

You should start making appointments to meet with potential vendors (including Wedding Officiant) as soon as possible after you set the wedding date and confirm the venue. You choices should have long experience working at weddings – lots of great photographers turn out to be disappointing as wedding photographers – and they should be able to answer any questions you may have concerning the style, length and content of your ceremony. They can often guide you in the selection of music, wedding customs and rituals, special vows or other non-traditional elements you would like to include in your wedding ceremony. They may also be familiar with the venue and provide insights into the best ways to decorate, where to place flower arrangements, etc.

You may decide to have your wedding ceremony in a hotel, private residence or activities club. Keep in mind that many of the items you will need probably won’t be supplied, so you will have to buy or rent them. Always check with the venue to see which items they’re willing to make available.

A home wedding can be formal or informal. Be realistic about the number of guests that your home can comfortably accommodate. Don’t move all the furniture out just to make more room or you will lose the “homey” atmosphere you were probably looking for in the first place.

If you plan an outdoor ceremony, keep in mind that the weather may not always cooperate and have an alternate location readily available. This is especially critical in Washington state weddings, where a beautiful morning can segue into a rainy afternoon with virtually no advance warning. If you’ll be getting married in a public place, such as a park or arboretum, be sure to pick a quiet spot without much auto or foot traffic or ambient noise (such as landing planes passing overhead constantly because you’re smack in the middle of the airport’s approach path!). Other things to consider: how accessible is the site; what facilities exist for guest parking and seating; and again, what equipment is available.

Work or school schedules, convenience for families, and your honeymoon plans should all be considered when you’re finalizing the date and time of your wedding. Saturday is traditionally the most popular day for weddings. Any day will work if schedules permit, but there are some good reasons to get married during the week (Mon-Thurs). More venues are usually available and vendor fees tend to be lower for weeknight weddings.

The only way to be sure all goes well is to rehearse the ceremony, but it’s not always necessary to schedule a separate day/evening for rehearsal. For small wedding parties, rehearsal an hour or so before the wedding usually works fine (and saves money). It is helpful to include the processional and recessional music if you want the pace of their steps to be timed. The ushers should also be briefed on their duties. Everyone should become familiar with the venue: where will the ceremony will be held, exits in case of emergency, rest rooms and dressing rooms for men and women.

If you do decide a separate rehearsal is necessary (for your peace of mind and to get everyone in the wedding party familiar with their function), try to schedule it for the evening before the ceremony. Allow at least an hour, and make it fun. This allows you to relax and be assured that everyone knows their job for the big day.

A rehearsal dinner often follows, and this is traditionally paid for by the groom or his family. Try to schedule it to start and end early in the evening if possible. You should be cheerful and alert on your wedding day – you don’t want to miss anything!