Thursday, May 29, 2008

Planning the Destination Wedding of Your Dreams

Planning a destination wedding is often much simpler than a traditional one however, there are some key steps you have to follow to make sure this wedding meets all your expectations.

1) Search the Internet, libraries, and travel agencies to determine where you want to have your wedding. You have the whole world from which to choose, but remember exotic distant locales can be cost-prohibitive and prove difficult for people to attend. You may be able to have your wedding somewhere closer to home and yet still maintain that exotic aura you are seeking!

Some popular places that cater to destination weddings are:
· Hawaii
· Mexican resorts
· Las Vegas
· Europe
· Bali
· The Caribbean
· California

2) Make certain you know and understand what legalities are involved if you marry outside the United States (even if you are both U.S. citizens – and don’t even get me started if one of you is from another country!)

When my cousins decided on a destination wedding in Punta Cana, Mexico, they got past all the issues of the marriage license, health exams, and blood tests in a foreign country by getting their license at home and being married in a quick civil ceremony by a judge so that their marriage was legal in the U.S.

3) Hire a wedding planner/consultant who specializes in destination weddings. Many websites, such as The Wedding Experience, as well as local travel or wedding planners can assist you in making all the right choices. The advantage to having this person is that the bride and groom don’t have to handle all the little details and a wedding consultant specializing in destination weddings has all the right contacts at the different locations. He or she even has access to a number of packages that will supply:

a. Hotel rooms at a group rate
b. Airfare specials
c. Ceremony sites
d. Cake and reception packages, champagne toasts, etc.
e. Excursion activities

4) Email all your prospective guests a Save the Date announcement with all details including the date, destination, and package amenities at least 4-6 months in advance of the wedding. They need to make travel plans if they can come (or enough time to notify you well before the event that they are not able to make it).

A nice gesture is to email all the guests before you finalize the date and offer them a couple of different days. Survey them: ask which day is better for them if you want to ensure they can come for the destination wedding week or weekend. One you have handled these matters, then you and your destination wedding team can set up a website for your guests to check on the plans.

You can also discuss all the amenities you are seeking and can afford, and you can let your planner follow your instructions to make this the most amazing day of your life.

The Destination Wedding -- It's Not Eloping Anymore!

As the bridal couple, your goal is to make your wedding day a unique, memorable experience. You want to do this without all the bother and stress that a traditional wedding places on you, your families, and friends. You want to exchange your vows in a spectacular setting that fulfills your wildest dreams.

What you want is a destination wedding.

Destination weddings are a growing option for brides and grooms who desire something out of the ordinary and yet significantly their own. These weddings can be as simple as a sunset ceremony barefoot on a beach, with only a couple of attendants, or they can be elaborate as the Eva Longoria wedding in France.

Aside from those multi-million-dollar Hollywood shows, most destination weddings are cost-effective and less expensive than the full-blown affairs at home. And they can be a more relaxing and pleasant experience for all involved. You can even send wedding invitations or save-the-dates via email and save more time and money!

Planning a traditional wedding is time consuming and difficult, because there are multiple factions – parents, friends, caterers, wedding planners, casual acquaintances, florists, and a host of vendors – that have to be consulted, and often appeased. It is not only expensive as far as funds are concerned, but it also has an emotional toll on the couple as well. Some couples thrive on this activity while others find it more taxing than an IRS audit.

In the old days, the couple would often elope to avoid all the problems associated with planning a wedding. They would opt for eloping for a Las Vegas wedding, or running off to a Justice of the Peace if one were available.

My parents actually eloped to avoid all the hassle that their mothers were causing them in the constant arguments over every little detail of the wedding. My grandfather gave them money and his blessing to go to Cincinnati with my uncle as witness to “get it over with.” By the time they returned on Sunday, the mothers had already had their wind taken out of their sails and several months later the parents all threw a party for the couple. However, my grandmother never let my Mom off the hook about eloping.

The “stigma” of eloping in the middle of the night has now given way to families and friends actually encouraging a destination wedding. In many cases, the families and special guests are in different locations so they would have to travel anyway to the wedding venue, so why not have the wedding where a mini-vacation can be enjoyed by all?

In fact, many couples party with their families and friends for a few days at the destination wedding site prior to the actual ceremony and small reception that culminates either a long weekend or week. Then the guests go home and the couple honeymoon for a while longer before returning to their new life together.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

You Signed What?

I know we keep talking about the wedding budget, but let’s face it - money makes the world go ‘round and the wedding go forward.

Let’s have a few words about contracts before we move onto themes and other more fun posts.

You will be going all over checking out wedding vendors – everything from wedding invitations to planners to flowers, to venues to wedding dresses. And each vendor is going to require a deposit and a contract from you.

Before you put pen to paper, you have to decide one very important thing. Who is signing the wedding contracts?

Seems simple right? Oh dear no.

You are the bride and the groom decides to let YOU be the one who signs the contracts – all of which state that the deposit is non-refundable and if the wedding is canceled within a certain time, you need to pay off all the balances. Nothing could go wrong, you trust the guy, he loves you, so you agree that you, as an independent woman will happily sign the contracts!

Everything is lovely, everyone is getting along, and then poof – 3 days before the wedding, the groom calls it off and runs off to Tahiti on YOUR honeymoon with the ex-girlfriend.

And because it was a family heirloom, demands the engagement ring back. According to law, since you are not in a legally binding marriage, the ring belongs to him if he paid for it (or you if you did) and you can’t sell it to recoup your losses or pay the balances that are due, since the wedding was canceled three days before the event. Yep, he is off the hook, since he didn’t sign a thing.

The best way to avoid this situation is to have BOTH the bride and groom sign the contracts. Just as the marriage will be a 50/50 split (yeah, right) it should start out that the wedding be a shared event. Act as a team from the beginning – it bodes well for your future as well!

Don’t avoid this issue – discuss it point blank from the outset. Even if your parents are paying for the event, make sure that there is an understanding from the very start that this wedding is a shared responsibility between the bride and groom.

A lot of money is going to be spent – even on the smallest of weddings, so make sure that you each know where each dime is going. And should the wedding be called off for any reason and you can’t get the money returned because the vendors can’t find another bride that can take over the day and the expenses, have the party anyway. You paid for it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Money Matters...Wedding Budget Part II

Back to the wedding budget. We already have a list of the general questions we want to ask in the previous post, now let’s get specific.

Let’s face it: weddings are expensive. So as you sit down and talk about the wedding of your dreams, you need to think about how to set up a system that will help you determine and track costs.

My first piece of advice? Make worksheets with everything attached to them. Set up a spreadsheet or Excel workbook. Name it "Wedding Budget" and then be prepared to add sheets to it as the need arises.

Go to the library and get a book or two that gives you some ideas of all the costs involved. Read a wedding magazine! With those ideas, make the wedding budget list as long as you need with as many categories as you can think of – and don’t be afraid to add – you are going to need to if you want to have some control over your wedding costs.

Be prepared to make up notebooks for each area that include budget sheets and have all your information.

As you are determining your wedding budget, you need to ask yourselves these questions:

How formal do we want our wedding (the less formal the less costly)?

Realistically, how much can we afford to spend? (Not dream spending, but really, how much do we ACTUALLY HAVE TO SPEND?)

What are our priorities (food, decorations, ceremony, reception, etc)? Where do we want to spend the bucks?

What are the potential incidental costs (calls, wardrobe, etc)?

Who will sign contracts?

How will we keep track of expenses?

What do we do if a friend offers his or her professional services?

Who pays for what?

Even before you make the wedding budget, go out and see what economies you can practice. That will make the difference in how much you can spend and what sort of extravaganza you can afford.

Can you rely on a friend to handle the wedding planning or will that be too much of a strain on your friendship? How about liquor? Will you be able to eliminate it as a cost or be able to bring in your own? Perhaps a visit to the local warehouse box store like Costco will help in defraying some costs as well.

There are many ways to set up that wedding budget so that it doesn’t mean you are still paying for the wedding on your 20th anniversary.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wedding Checklist I and the Budget

Making a list and checking it countless times...

Santa Claus isn't the only one who makes lists. Brides, their families, wedding planners and MOH's all do this. It seems to me that making several wedding checklists, each assigning tasks and "to-be-done-by" dates is essential to getting through the months leading up to the wedding as well as on the day itself.

The initial wedding checklists need to include:

1 )What is your budget?

2) What can you do to make your day more economical?

3) What kind of wedding do you want to have?

4) What is your wedding date?

5) Have you “booked” the church, synagogue, mosque or other venue for the ceremony?

6) How many guests are you inviting?

7)What sort of invitation and invitation language are you having? When should you order or buy them?

8)Where do you want to have the reception?

9)What kind o f reception do you want to have?

10) Are you having a theme wedding?

11)Do you need a caterer? Wait staff?

12)What sort of wedding dress are you going to need? When are you ordering it?

13)What will the groom and his attendants wear?

14)How many bridesmaids? What will they wear? When will you shop with them for their dresses?

15)Who is your photographer? Can you lock him into the date?

16)Are you having music? What sort? If a band, can you book them onto your date?

These questions are an excellent starting point and as we progress through this process, we will be adding more questions, more wedding checklists and more ideas.

Let’s take a look at the wedding budget. This is the actual starting point for all planning. You need to know how much money you are going to need for your day. (More importantly, who the heck is going to pay for it?!)

Traditionally, and this stems from the olden days of dowry and other payment plans , the bride’s family pays for the wedding. The groom’s family pays for the rehearsal dinner and liquor and beverages.

Bridesmaids pay for their dresses, Groomsmen for their tuxes and so on, but the bulk of the money comes from the bride’s family.

In these days, there are other permutations of paying...Brides and grooms split the amount with their parents, both sets of parents may help or the couple pays themselves.

When my cousin got married, he and his fiancée both had good jobs, so they paid for the reception venue, the liquor, bar tab, food. Her parents bought her dress and the flowers, paid the minister and hosted a day-after brunch for out of town guests. His parents paid for the rehearsal dinner. This way they all contributed and no one was unduly stressed over finances.

Next time, we are going to talk about some more about the budget in relation to the other questions in our wedding checklist and figure out the best, most economical ways to address them.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who ya gonna call - bridesmaids!

Let's say you have decided where and when you are getting married. That's excellent! Now you need to move on to the next step: the wedding party.

One of the first things you need to do is determine your bridal party attendants. Set the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen (or ushers) you are going to need. You probably have a pretty good idea as to whom you are going to select as Maid/Matron of Honor (MOH) and Best Man, but you need to determine how many other wedding attendants you require as well.

For example, I've been in a semi-formal wedding that had only a MOH. I also was in a wedding where there were two other bridesmaids. This seemed like a good size for a small formal wedding and we were all available in the same town to help with the planning and activities. Other brides choose to have HUGE wedding parties with all their BFFs and female family members and end up having 7 or 8 (or more!) bridesmaids.

For the most part, a well-composed bridal party can assist in many tasks leading up to the wedding. The MOH traditionally plans the bridal shower, and (in my family anyway) is assisted by the other bridesmaids and family members. Bridesmaids and groomsmen can assist in sending out invitations, recording RSVP's, choosing dresses and tuxedos or other attire.

So after you've decided who you want in your wedding, and before you select dresses, you need to consider:

1) How many bridesmaids do you want to have? Are you sure?
2) How many groomsmen to stand with the groom at the ceremony?
a. Also, do you need ushers who will seat the guests and are not part of the ceremony itself?
3) Will your asking a friend to be in the wedding party be a financial burden?
a. Can the friend afford to buy a dress or rent a tux?
b. Will there be excessive travel costs?
c. Can the friend be integral to the events and choices made?

Once you have decided all these factors, go ahead and set the bridal party. Then you can meet with all of them and discuss what you expect for your special day. And who knows? Maybe you will like some of their ideas!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pre-Wedding Planning

In the last post, I talked about deciding where and when you want to get married.

Now let’s talk about what kind of wedding you want to have. Making a determination if your wedding is casual, formal, or somewhere in-between will influence the type of wedding invitations you select, the wedding dress, wedding flowers and even the number of wedding attendants you have.

If you're getting married in a barn on the family farm and the annoucement was made on MySpace, you probably don’t want a cathedral train on your wedding gown. That’s pretty extreme, but you know what I mean.

Let’s say you are having a destination wedding. (We'll speak more specifially in later posts about the pros and cons of these). Since some of your family and friends might not be able to go to Punta Cana, you may want to throw a party or a second wedding reception at home at a later date. I mean the Eva Longoria wedding in the French chateau was lovely, but do you have millions to spend?

So before you sit down and make all your budget plans, make a list of the different types of wedding and receptions that interest you and what the budget for each would be.

Talk to parents and others involved in helping you pay for the event, and decide what is best for you, them and your comfort level. Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions, and are not supposed to drive you too far into debt. If you know your ideas and your limitations, then you can make the right determinations for YOU and not allow undue influence from others who have their own best interests in mind.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pre-Planner Planning

Weddings are huge events – even the smallest of them – that take a lot of organizing and expert precision. I once heard a mother-of-the-bride describe a wedding as a military operation with wedding favors and not bullets. (Not sure if we need to go that far...)

One of the things I want to do is examine how you make this important day manageable and exciting.

TV networks have shows that tout “Whose Wedding is it Anyway?" Or who can forget “Bridezilla?” Wedding planning has become big business and wedding planners persuade unsuspecting couples into lavish extravaganzas that are often budget-busters. I know it is a secret dream of every girl to have a Princess Diana wedding, but for many, that is totally out of the question!

If you are going to hire a wedding planner, it is important to have an idea of what you want to do, how much you want to spend and a general concept of the atmosphere you want to convey to your guests.

Now even before you sit down to figure out the budget for your special day, you have to get organized. There are a number of areas you have to consider even before you discuss it with a planner.

I suggest that you have some wedding ideas in mind before you and the parents (if they are helping defray the costs) sit down and brainstorm just the type and style of wedding you want to have.

Before we talk about a checklist (that will be in a later blog), let’s talk about some generalities:

Ø When do you want to get married? What time of year?
If you want to get married in the winter, you will have to take into account severe weather conditions if you live in a snowy region, or rain in other parts of the country. In the summer, you need to consider severe heat and nature's other furies if you plan to wed outside.

Ø Where do you want to get married?
Do you want to do a destination wedding? Are you interested in a Las Vegas wedding, replete with Elvis impersonators? Do you want a huge church wedding, a wedding chapel or a garden wedding at home?

Once you have decided on these general questions, you are also going to have to consider:

  • costs
  • attendants
  • wedding dresses
  • wedding decorations
  • wedding favors
  • a whole raft of other topic areas!

We will consider all of these and how to best incorporate them into your grand scheme in posts to come.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Wonder and Woo of Weddings

Weddings are a favorite topic of mine because I have been involved in so many over the years. My first wedding experience was at the ripe old age of three and I have to admit, I was the quintessential flower girl. I even have a cute picture of me smirking -probably the best picture of me ever taken!

Anyway, I love weddings and all the hoopla that accompanies them. This year alone I am going to several different types of weddings. One is a backyard casual affair, another is super formal with many events above and beyond the bridal shower, and another is a winter affair right after Christmas. I'm even going to a wedding where the ceremony is in a church on one day and the reception is in another city the next. Yet another is going to be a Las Vegas wedding affair. The list goes on and on. Frankly it is going to be a very hectic six months or so!

But sharing the different aspects of these events is going to be quite fun in this blog. We can talk about wedding dresses, wedding rings, wedding gifts and registering for them, wedding decorations, wedding invitations, and so much more.

Weddings are a cause for celebration, but they can be stressful and I hope that we can ease those stresses together with helpful suggestions and outlooks.

I am a real fan of the whole extravaganza, so even if a wedding is simple there are quite a few elements that are essential to making it a special day – wedding dresses, wedding cakes, flower girls, bridesmaids, and of course the bride and groom. Whether the wedding dress is a simple or complex, the cake is designed by the ultimate cake maker in the country or by the groom’s sister, the invitations are printed from home of professionally designed, a professional photographer is engaged, or everyone has a camera on the table to take shots, there is something special happening that will be remembered forever.

The most important thing I have always felt about weddings is that they should reflect the couple getting married. Here we'll discuss how to do that using the wonder of wedding woo, and how to make weddings memorable!