Here’s Your Chance to Ask a Wedding Planner Anything

Wedding help, five cents!

So you recently got engaged (eee! congrats! 🎉), and reality is starting to settle in. Not just the reality of committing to your partner forever, but of making all those wedding ideas actually happen. Or maybe you’ve already bought a couple of books, and have poked around the archives, and you’re starting to get a bit of a handle on your plans, but you have… questions. Questions about your wedding, which are the kind that never quite make it into the generic stuff that gets covered on the Internet.

In the #APWPlanner, I talk about how it can be really helpful to find a (rational, cool) wedding planner in your area and book an hour-long consultation with them at the beginning of your planning process. This means that if you can’t afford a planner (hi, me, when I was planning my wedding), you can still get solid advice. Once you have good guidance, you can do the work of executing the plans on your own, but at least you have some confidence that you’ve really picked the best-for-you (or hell, most affordable) option.

So we bribed captured tricked asked a wedding planner who we’ve worked with for six-plus years if she’d be up to doing a Reddit AMA–style thread where you guys could ask all your wedding planning questions and get answers in (more or less) real time, and she agreed. Happy 2018 to all of you planning weddings! So today we’re absolutely delighted to have Meg Hotchkiss, the founder and lead planner for LVR Events in New York City (and beyond), here to answer all of your questions. She’s dishing out kind but firm, smart, and possibly hilarious answers to your most pressing questions.

Let’s get to it!

What are your Pressing Wedding Planning Questions? Yes, you can ask all of them.

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  • EllieS

    Help me! Help me! I’ve been asked to be the day of coordinator for a family member. Though I planned my own wedding, I hired a pro for the day of, and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with the responsibility. Do you have any tips to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks or for communicating with the couple in a way that gets the information I need, but isn’t too pushy? I’m very organized/type A, and I don’t think they are. Anything else that I might not think of that I really should pay attention to?

    • topscallop

      Get as much info as you can ahead of time, and on the day of, feel empowered to put out fires that the bride and groom don’t need to hear about until way later, if at all.

      My amazing friend who acted as our DOC was managing vendors like our DJ who decided on his own to move his setup ONTO the dance floor, taking up about a third of it, and the rental company that didn’t deliver salad plates, and the shuttle buses that had very specific limitations about where they were allowed to park at the farm venue. If she wanted to check stuff with me she did it in a super low-key way, but most of it she just…took care of. Including roping people off from getting in our couples portraits/gawking, and moving our cards and gifts inside throughout the night. Seriously, this is an amazing gift you are giving your family member!

  • Rose_C

    Wow! Such perfect timing! We’re in the thick of choosing a day of coordinator for our wedding this summer and-like every vendor selection- I’m feeling anxious about locking in a huge expense. We have a venue and a pretty good sense of what the decor will be like (we will be DIY-ing it and handing off the last parts to a team of friends/the coordinator day of). I feel like I keep hearing the advice of choosing vendors-especially planners/coordinators- who share your vision or who you connect with on some chemical level. And it’s not really that helpful. I’d love to hear specific questions and conversations you have found essential to establishing a good connection between a couple and a planner.

    • Hi Rose! Congrats on your upcoming wedding – so exciting! So when it comes to choosing a coordinator – throw the vision component out the window. Honestly, I could coordinate a Monster Truck themed wedding (not my jam) just as well as one that speaks to me as a creative. I do think that the chemical connection is important though. Essentially, the vendors that you need to LIKE as HUMANS are your photographer/cinematographer & your coordinator. Those are the people that are going to be with you for the ride at peak emotional moments. You want to have an open & honest discussion about communication style. I think some of the best questions that couples have asked me in the consultation phase have been about communication – how do I handle it if they slack on deadlines? How do I bring problems/disagreements/etc. to their attention? It’s also important to be super upfront with regard to the dynamic of your planning relationship (i.e. my partner is Type A, I’m not – how do you deal?) as well as the family dynamic. It’s actually a (super awkward) question that I often ask at the start – are their weird family dynamics/problem parents/etc. Planner/coordinators definitely occupy this weird space as a professional providing a service that needs to be super personal. Short answer – hire a coordinator that you want to drink wine with that you would also trust to be your designated driver. LOL.

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  • Lexipedia

    Any dos/don’ts advice on decor? Like, are there things that are easy and surprisingly gorgeous, or any common mistakes you see regularly?

    • Hiya! Candles, candles, candles. Everyone looks lovely in amber lighting! Also an easy (& inexpensive) way to add a little something somethin is to opt for a colorful linen somewhere, whether it’s a gorgeous colored napkin or a sequin cake table cloth little areas that you inject color/texture/pattern into can have a bigger impact than you’d think. I’d say the biggest mistake is when couples get a little too extra/have to have all the things & start just looking for ways to shove that thing they saw on Pinterest or IG into the day. You don’t need all of it, at all.

      • Lexipedia

        Great! And if I am just using candles and a runner (like no flowers, just various heights of pillar candles) on a long table do you have any advice on how to calculate how many I should buy? They come in cases, and I have to send them to my hometown so I can’t see them first to test arrangements.

        • It really varies depending on how full/lush you want it to be + sizes of the vessels + length of the table. You can try it out at home using odds & ends like glasses, bowls, etc. etc. Make sure to account for any plates/drinking glasses/etc. that will be on the table too.

    • Katie

      Not a prof. planner (although intensively planning), but seconding candles. Also – SPRAY PAINT! I got a lot of cheap (like, 20 c cheap) vases, from plastic to glass, and spray painted them in bronze color.

  • LS

    This is great! We’re planning a wedding for late summer that will be at a big family campground. The venue includes enough cabins for our guests, and we expect many of them will want to stay on site (no cost to them – that’s part of our venue cost). We are providing: Friday evening bbq basics, Saturday basic breakfast, Saturday reception dinner/drinks/cake, and Sunday light breakfast. We’re asking guests (nearly all of whom are experienced campers) to bring: extras for the Friday bbq (salad, a special condiment, etc), and something for Saturday lunch. We’ll have beer and wine, but will probably tell people if they want harder stuff to just BYO. Are these requests feasible? Terrible/rude?

    Second/third related food questions: for the Saturday reception meal, we’re planning to do a buffet (probably two lines of the same offerings). Are there buffet tips we should be thinking about? And our seating arrangements are long/rectangle tables with benches. We want to go without a seating chart, but have heard terrible things. Are we setting our guests up for a dinner nightmare?

    Thank you!

    • LS

      Adding: the ceremony is on Saturday, and we’re hoping (but not expecting!) our guests will join for Friday night as well. The plan for Friday is loose, though, and there won’t be any “events” anyone would miss out on if they came on Saturday. It’s more just because we love camping, and so do most of our guests!

      • LC

        Wow! Just logged on and you and I are planning very similar weddings. Looking forward to the response =)

        • LCS

          Me too! Yay!

        • LS

          Yesss! I love hearing that other people are doing similar stuff. Happy to bounce ideas back and forth anytime!

    • PAJane

      Who are all these people having weekend campaway weddings, and how come I’ve never been invited to one??

      • S

        Same! I would LOVE to attend one.

      • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

        I had one! It was GREAT. To be fair, camping is a huge pasttime in my state, so we were able to find a summer camp for pretty cheap.

    • Hiya! Congrats (and yay for camping weddings)!
      It is not weird/rude/etc., especially considering that it’s a camping wedding! Go all in with that community vibe! I think it’s really just a matter of making sure that people’s expectations are managed from the start. Have a really detailed info page on your website. And maybe nominate someone to be in charge of the Friday BBQ stuff who isn’t you/your partner. ;) As for the beer/wine thing – I think it’s definitely a regional thing – I’d say that if you know that you have any VIPs who are hard liquor drinkers, you may want to stash aside a few bottles for them (i.e. mom’s a gin drinker – I think you can do her a solid and have some bottles, or if you have that one loud family member who might whine – may be worth it to have a placation bottle or two!). LOL.

      For the buffet – if they’re identical, put the plates in the middle (so that guests naturally transition left or right & don’t all bottleneck onto one end thinking that there are different things the whole length).

      I am a BIG proponent of at least assigning tables. It’s a favor for anyone who’s socially anxious or groups that are too big for one table, etc. Benches can also be tricky for people in dresses… so sometimes they don’t get full (i.e. if a bench seats 5, you may end up with 2 in dresses on the ends and 2 in pants in the middle. Just a heads up on that.

      • Rose_C

        Very similar planning thing for us. We are thinking we will do one big batch cocktail for the beginning of cocktail hour and then maybe have a couple bottles of vodka around that people can spike soft drinkable with? My mom is dead set on hiring bartenders, even for wine and beer so that process might be easier.

        • Love the batch cocktail – and bartenders will make your life so much easier! Even for wine & beer. :)

        • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

          We did both- we bought all the ingredients for batched cocktails, and then had beer and wine, too, and hired a couple bartenders so they could keep an eye on guests and make sure no one underage was drinking or no one got too tipsy. I recommend it, because then you don’t have to worry!

      • LCS

        I was a bridesmaid in a wedding where the brides parent’s weren’t able to find a seat together because the bride didn’t do a seating chart OR table assignments and they ended up sitting next to people they didn’t even know. Disaster. Assign tables!

        • NIGHTMARE!

          • Legally Sparkly

            Ooo yikes. I was wondering whether it was worth it to assign tables or seats and now this has me convinced!

        • Hannah

          At a friend’s wedding without a seating plan, my wife and I got back from the buffet to find our seats had been taken! We were at a table with a lot of family members, and more relatives swooped in while she and I were up. I can’t blame them for wanting to sit together, but it was certainly awkward looking for new seats with full plates in our hands, especially since most of the tables had filled up by then! We ended up wedged together at the corner of a table and had to track down fresh place settings from the kitchen.

      • LS

        Thank you for the advice! this is all incredibly helpful. Thanks for all the time you put in answering everyone’s questions!

        • :) You’re so welcome! I hope it helps!

        • My husband’s brother had his wedding at a park, with long bench tables. It worked out ok without assigned seating because there were A LOT more tables than people. It was a big pavilion, so people could spread out as much as they needed. If you have close to the same number of people as seats, you really do need assignments or it becomes a scramble.

      • Nora

        We had open seating, and it worked great. We labeled several tables as family tables, so all the grandparents were taken care of. We didn’t really have anyone who was there without knowing anyone else, so social anxiety stuff wasn’t much of a problem. Also, we had more than enough seating for everyone. If you’ve got a relatively chill group of guests, open seating can work!

    • quiet000001

      I would ask people who bring food to also include a note with recipe/ingredients so you don’t have any rude surprises where someone eats something that doesn’t agree with them. My mom has a big issue that way with people putting cheese in things. Also ime people are more willing to try things if they have SOME idea what it is, which helps prevent anyone from feeling bad because their contribution got ignored.

      (If you want you can present it as wanting to gather together recipes as a memento of the weekend.)

    • KitBee

      Random side note, but will there be refrigeration for the food supplied by the guests (for Friday BBQ and Saturday lunch)? Either way, the guests should know in advance so they know what type of food to bring and where to put it.

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  • Kalë

    Oh, I have a FEW!

    – Trying to make a giant greenery wreath for our ceremony backdrop. I’ve got the circle part covered with pvc pipe or possibly a giant hula hoop, but how do I make it stand up on its own? (Pic attached for reference)
    – We’re having a buffet, but I want to set the tables. Is that weird? Will people know to take their plates up?
    – What stuff does my (nonprofessional but extremely organized) DOC need to know? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b8784a8c82761a88449e4dcce6cb837b52276bad2227e9b93ca8d875207cb5cf.jpg

    • Lisa

      Not the DOC, but to me, it looks like there are support posts and a base underwater at the bottom (look between the couple’s shins). You could use two thinner, spray-painted pieces of PVC to connect the hoop into/onto a base.

      This looks like it would be gorgeous!

      • Ha – I was just typing a similar response!
        I think you’ll need to play around a bit, but definitely hit the PVC section of your local hardware store! One thing that no one ever thinks about is WEIGHT. Make sure that the hoop is sturdy enough for the weight of the greens & doesn’t sag. Also, make sure (ESPECIALLY if this is going outside) that the bottom is heavy AF. You don’t want this falling down mid ceremony. :) Good luck – it’s amazing!

        • Lisa

          Yes, I was reminded of some of the early APW ceremony backdrop tutorials. They almost always involved a bucket of cement to keep the things from falling over!

          • Yup! Sandbags are also great & easy to cover with moss type stuff for a lower profile.

          • quiet000001

            Tip: Check film equipment rental companies in your area if you’re thinking you’ll need anything elaborate for set up. They rent all sorts of stuff including nice heavy-duty sandbags (they’re used to secure tripods and lights for filming) that are neater looking and easier to handle than the hardware store type. (I doubt it’d be worth it for a couple of sandbags only, but if you’re getting into lighting for safety in bathroom/parking areas and heavy duty extension cords and the like, you’re probably in the ballpark of a reasonable rental.)

            Also often they will give you a deal on weekends where you get an extra day free because they aren’t open for returns on Sundays, so that can give you extra time to clean up.

          • YES! Just make sure you have somewhere to store things until Monday rolls around!

    • Greenery Hoop discussed below. But here’s my thoughts on your other q’s!

      Honestly, I wouldn’t fully set the tables for a buffet. I’d do a pretty napkin fold & a menu card (if you’re so inclined) where the plate would be. The silverware and any glassware, bread & butter plates, & other peripheral stuff can go on the table, but the plates themselves I’d put at the buffet.

      Your DOC should know EVERYTHING!!!!! I ask my couples to CC me on all vendor emails starting 1 month out, and as I mentioned to Ellie below, you should all review the full day-of file!

      • Engaged Chicago

        Just agreeing that a set up of a “partially set” table WILL look really nice. Don’t make people carry their plate up. You could also always preset plated salads and do main course as a buffet (what we did).

        • Exactly. If you really want plates on the table, you could do decorative chargers, but there’s always the risk that people will carry them up to the buffet (and they’re not always food-safe).

  • I just did my hair and makeup trial for my destination wedding in Arizona. As much as I tried to ask for what I wanted, neither my hair nor my makeup turned out in a way that I’d want to wear it for my wedding day. I think the artist could feel it because he was saying things like “on the day of, we’ll do it more like this…” The whole experience left me feeling zero confidence that he can execute on what I’m looking for, and I also want my bridesmaids and mom and new mother in law to have a good experience. I’m getting married in 2 months though, and I won’t be able to fly back in for a trial with someone else between now and then. Should I cancel with him and risk not having a trial with another hair and makeup artist, or just deal with an artist I’m not confident in?

    • HabibidelaFlor

      Not the wedding planner, but this happened for my sister’s hair & makeup trial. The “we’ll do it more like X on the day of” did not instill confidence! That’s what the test is for… to see how they’ll do your hair and makeup on the day of! We ended up using another vendor for hair & makeup without a trial. They had good reviews and a decent portfolio of their work. It worked out pretty well. The bride definitely got what she was looking for. Remember to have everyone bring detailed photos of what they’re looking for!

      • Thanks! That’s what I’m leaning toward doing.

    • Oooooh, that’s a tough one. I’ve had brides go either way in situations like this. Here’s the thing that I think is MOST important. Are you going to see this stylist on your wedding day & be like “UGH NO” and feel unhappy? Cause that’s not worth it. The day of is so emotional to begin with – you don’t need to add in more feels. One thing that might at least give you confidence in “winging it” the day of is to hire 2 stylists (one for you, one for the rest of the crew) and give yourself ample time for a restyle if needed. Also, if you’re having a rehearsal/welcome dinner, etc, you can use that as an opportunity for a trial.

      • HabibidelaFlor

        That really sums it up nicely! And nice idea for using the rehearsal dinner as a trial

      • Thank you! I feel totally validated in wanting to find a new stylist. I’m so nervous about coming off as a bridezilla that I had a hard time speaking up about this one, but you’re totally right, I don’t want this dude to be a part of my wedding day experience.

        • Cut him loose & don’t look back! It’s 100% not bridezilla to not hire someone who is not a good fit!!!!

  • HabibidelaFlor

    Hi Meg… we’ve just today decided to have a small private ceremony and a big reception party in the barn on my parents’ property the next day. What’s your best advice for hosting the reception at your own venue? I know it will be a lot of work in that we are coordinating everything ourselves. We’re planning on having food trucks as the catering, but that’s about as far as we’ve gotten!

    • theteenygirl

      Not DOC but I did my wedding at a “DIY” venue (basically a big AirBnB where we had to bring everything ourselves) and the #1 thing we were told was to have enough portapotties. We had a very small wedding so we just had people use the bathrooms in the house, but I know that wouldn’t have worked for more than 30 people.

      • HabibidelaFlor

        Toilets are a recurring theme here! We’ll be around 100… definitely going to need porta pottys for the sake of the septic tank!

        • Jan

          If you get the kind that “flush” just be sure to make a sign explaining how to do it. I found out afterward that people couldn’t figure out that you had to step on a pedal thing.

          Also, maybe put an air freshener in and, if it’s dark out, add a little light.

    • Hiya! Congrats – super exciting!
      As mentioned below: TOILETS! TOILETS! TOILETS!
      Also important things to think about for an at home party – lighting (people need to be able to see their way to those toilets), power (for the toilets, for the lights, DJ, etc.). Back up power in case you blow a fuse, and did I mention toilets? And little things (like toilet paper) which magically restock at venues that are staffed. I’d suggest if the budget allows for it, to hire a restroom attendant to look after those toilets. It’s also super helpful if you have some hired hands to look after things like trash, and general upkeep throughout the event. Food trucks don’t always provide bussing of tables & such. Also, keep in mind the clean-up operation the next day!!!!!

      • topscallop

        LVR Meg covered it all but I’ll just chime in with my experience with the portapotties – we sprung for the fancy trailer kind and people raved about them – it was a funny experience I guess to use fancy portapotties. But it cost $700 to rent them for the day, and we had to book them SUPER early. They provided plenty of extra TP but it was hidden in a compartment we had to go looking for. Depending on where you live availability of the fancy kind might not be an issue, but just putting it out there. Agree that cleanup, trash, and lighting are super important to figure out!

        • HabibidelaFlor

          This is very helpful insight… thank you! Can I ask where you coordinated staffing for cleanup of bathrooms & venue, etc? Was thinking it would just be through a cleaning service (since we are getting food trucks, not a caterer)

          • topscallop

            So our venue was literally just the venue, and the venue owner who helped us coordinate our vendors. We had to (got to) find and book all our vendors, including renting the tent, tables, chairs, plates, everything. The caterer we used prepares their food in a food truck, and they served it family style. They had extra staff to serve and clear, and they left all the plates and everything they cleared for the rental company to pick up the next day. We were responsible for clearing the trash, folding up the tables, etc., and we did that ourselves with friends and family who pitched in. I don’t think anyone cleaned the portapotty during the night, and the company that rented it to us came and hauled it away the next morning.

            We considered paying some local kids to help out with some things like moving chairs from our ceremony site to the reception tent, directing parking, etc. for $50 and dinner, but couldn’t find anyone and no one complained. My friends volunteered to move the chairs, and the DJ actually helped too.

            A cleaning service is a good idea if you don’t have a lot of free labor like we did, or your vendors can’t/won’t hire some extra staff to help out during the event like our caterers did.

        • Jan

          I second all of this, and especially want to highlight the need to plan early for set-up and clean-up. We hired friends of friends as bartenders and assistants for changeover during cocktail hour, and they tore down chairs at the end of the night. But, first thing the next morning my new husband and I were at the site completing our tear-down because we had forgotten to make other plans for it! (We married in a friend’s back yard and wanted to clear out ASAP, plus the rental place was coming to get all their stuff back.)

          Also, LIGHTING. Lights everywhere. All the lights. We rented cafe lights and rigged a lighting system using metal pipes that we sunk into the ground, and I wish we had set up 3x the amount we did.

      • HabibidelaFlor

        Thank you!!! Toilets- got it! We are definitely getting the nice porta-pottys (to save the septic system!). That’s great advice to have staffing for restroom & clean up. Do you recommend using a cleaning service for this type of staffing?

        • For the toilets, a lot of the companies that rent them offer attendants as an add-on service. For the general staff, I’d suggest contacting local staffing companies who are able to provide things like bartenders, bussers, sanit (the person who dumps & racks rental glasses), etc.

    • Lawyerette510

      I’ve been to four weddings at homes/ properties. They were all really different, but the thing they all had in common that helped to make them successful was 1. good advanced planning 2. designated contacts for the day of (either by a paid coordinator or one or two very organized friends who acted as DOC) and 3. bathrooms that were clearly marked as the ones to use and appropriate for the formality of the event (for the two dressier weddings they had the nice bathroom trailers that are like full bathrooms, for the two less formal they had nice porta-potties and a sink outside of them).

      • HabibidelaFlor

        I appreciate your insight!

    • suchbrightlights

      Our wedding was at my mother’s home. The catering company set up in a barn on the property with full electrical and its own dedicated circuitry. We also had dedicated circuits for inside power and outside power (inside = the house where people were getting ready and using the restrooms; outside = the reception tent.) It turns out that although the DJ and the experienced folks setting up the lights knew the draw of each, we still had problems powering both at once, and some of the lights went out a few times while music was playing. I think my mom is the only one who noticed and it was not a big deal, but don’t underestimate your power draw and have a backup plan.

      Parking and mud – I hear “barn” and think “parking in an open field.” Which is great until it isn’t. Do you have a plan for this? Likewise, wet grass or soft footing can make it challenging for people to get from point A to point B, particularly those who use assistive devices. If this is a consideration for your guests, you might want to consider laying rubber matting or another surface along the paths.

      If “barn” means “livestock,” consider that drunk guests may not make good decisions with respect to the animals and do things like go in the field with your cows and try to take selfies with your horses. My horse is a selfie professional but not all animals have his sense of humor and it should be made very difficult for guests to get themselves hurt.

      • quiet000001

        My friend has your horse’s girl twin, fyi. :D

        • suchbrightlights

          My horse has appeared in an inordinate number of selfies taken by barn staff and other riders. He’s handsome, he’s charming, he’s clever, he’s kind! And he will eat your sandwich.

          One of my riding friends offered to coordinate the horse’s presence at my own wedding and while it was a kind offer, I said no on the grounds that 1) he had already been barred from Mom’s property after eating her gardens and 2) he would crash the buffet and probably also the bar. He would have been down to hang with the guests.

          • quiet000001

            All parties are his party! My friend’s mare is like that too. But she also steals hats. And would probably steal babies if she could figure out how.

          • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

            I want to be friends with this horse.

          • quiet000001

            She wants her own baby sooo badly. Any time someone brings a small human to the barn she tries to follow them around. We went to visit and my SO has a 12 year old and that’s a little old for her but she was still mooning after him the whole time, it was hilarious.

          • suchbrightlights

            Your friend’s horse and my horse truly should never meet. The world would not be safe.

            My first horse (no relation) stole baseball caps. I gave him one of his own to get him to stop, and he carried it around like a security blanket.

          • quiet000001

            Horses can be such odd personalities. Security blanket hat. :D

  • Diane Payes

    I’m recently engaged and we’re planning a small wedding (50 guests) and need a little guidance to pull this off! We have a modest budget, which makes this even more challenging. Right now we’re trying to find a venue that can accommodate both ceremony and reception. Any tips would be truly appreciated!

    • theteenygirl

      Have you looked at VRBO or AirBnB (for AirBnB you can filter by “allows events) sometimes they have cool places you can rent that will accommodate both.

      • Diane Payes

        I have been but so far nothing that fits our needs :(

    • Katie

      Or try Peerspace! That’s where I found my awesome and affordable venue. It’s like airbnb but for venues.

      • Diane Payes

        I found a couple and am hoping they work out!

    • Hi – congratulations on your engagement! :)
      Aha, sometimes trying to find a venue can feel like you’re hunting unicorns.
      Aside from the sites that others mentioned below, sometimes for an event your size, you’ll find the best bet for the budget at a restaurant or an inn rather than a traditional event venue. Also, might be helpful to look into spaces marked as “rehearsal dinner” venues or “bridal/baby shower” venues in your chosen locale. They’re typically smaller & accustomed to doing events. I also find that if there’s a foodie message board for your area, sometimes that’s a good place to look. I.e. in the NYC area, I often check Chowhound for recommendations.

      • Diane Payes

        Thanks for the suggestions! I would’ve never thought to look at those places!

    • Lisa

      We did a restaurant wedding, and it was the best decision. Most of them have event spaces that will accommodate the number that you’re expecting. You could try reaching out to some of your favorites in the area you’re considering and asking if they ever do catered events!

    • littleinfinity

      We are planning a wedding with 50-60 guests and we landed on a restaurant that has a private dining space. We’re doing the actual ceremony on the beach and then walking ~10 mins to the restaurant, but depending on the venue (especially if they have a balcony/ patio or other outside space), you could totally do the ceremony there as well. (To give you a sense of cost, we’re in LA and our venue is $6500 including appetizers, tacos, champagne, and 2 hrs open bar.)

      ETA: LA as in Los Angeles, not Louisiana (where I’m sure it would be cheaper, lol).

  • Em

    What a treat! My girlfriend and I are in the middle of planning a small, DYI, destination style wedding in May. I’m starting to think about the timeline of the day and wondering if you have any tips. What should we remember to think about? All guests will stay on location from check-in 2h before the ceremony until the next day. I’m mostly concerned about keeping people entertained while we take photographs and avoiding awkward pauses…

    • Congrats! Sounds like a great time!
      Don’t stress yourself out trying to keep people entertained. Most of your guests will likely be grown-ass adults who can handle a few hours on their own (especially in a new destination). Give them info in advance (website, welcome letters, etc). and let them choose. It’s a big tendency that couples have to try to manage the whole guest experience, but like, sometimes people want to check-in, take a nap & shower. ;) As a alternative, if you really want to plan a formal activity, you could designate family members to host (i.e. lunch with Em’s Sister or whatevs).
      General timeline stuff – just make sure that you manage your transitions & review with a guest’s eye (i.e. avoid making people sit/stand/dance/sit/stand 20 times in 10 minutes). And budget extra buffer time for getting ready/photos. :)

  • Rose_C

    There’s a quote about restaurant work that people attribute to Jean Georges Vongerichten about “being a swan.” Which is looking like you are gliding along the surface effortlessly, but underwater, out of sight, paddling wildly. It’s a real balance and certainly necessary in any hospitality situation.

  • Kaitlyn

    Ideas for sweetheart table? We actually have two (we have to bounce between two dining rooms) and we do have gold sequins tablecloths. But other than that, I’m stuck! I also describe our wedding as elegantly nautical and we have lots of navy, white, and gold everywhere.

    • Hi! Sounds so pretty! My biggest suggestion is to keep it LOW. You & your partner are the biggest feature at the sweetheart table(s)! Sweetheart tables are a great place to reuse bouquets if you have a wedding squad. Or reuse your cocktail hour arrangements!
      Otherwise, load those suckers up with candles & some small decorations.

    • jem

      I think it partly depends how big the table is? We had a round 30” table and I put my bouquet in a vase in the center of the table along with two little bride & groom rubber duckies and our table was soooo crowded with our plates & glasses that we couldn’t have fit much more.

      • Yes, I usually suggest upsizing to a 36″ – somehow that extra 6 inches makes a world of difference. I also usually lay the bouqs down so that they face the guests.

    • Engaged Chicago

      We used a block wood letter initial, champagne flutes, shot glasses, seat signs and tons of greenery.

      • I’m a huge fan of having greenery for days.

  • RadNurse

    Cool! Thanks for doing this! I’m getting married in October at a hopefully lake side ceremony. I have three things I’m struggling with I’d love feedback on!
    1. Do you have access to any good scripts for self ublniting ceremonies? We are getting married in PA with one of these and I’d love to see detail about how others structured this type of ceremony
    2. Any guidance/examples/ideas/pictures about how to add a tree planting ceremony into a broader ceremony structure?
    3. Any examples of how people have arranged wedding attendants that aren’t specifically brides/grooms attendants? We’re having one joint wedding party and I’m not sure how to have them stand in relationship to us/our arbor

    Thanks again for any advice you have!!

    • Congrats! So, I did work with a couple that did a self-uniting ceremony once (though in NYC they went to city hall to make it legal). They had roughly 50 guests and something that was really lovely was that they opened the floor to people to give them encouragement/wishes/advice (we passed a candle & whomever had it spoke). I think the most important thing is to make sure your guests are aware of WTH is going on. Particularly if you don’t come from cultures/communities where this is common. A program is a key way to get this info to people. And you may want to consider appointing someone as a Master of Ceremonies to kind of guide you & your guests through the whole process. As for the tree ceremony, just incorporate it in as any other ritual would be done (but remember to have something handy to wipe your hands afterwards. For the joint wedding party, you can split them on either side of you arbitrarily or by some visual signifier (i.e. height, outfit color, whatever) or by length of time they’ve known you, or anything. It matters less where they are than who they are & that they’re up front sharing your day. :)

    • Fance

      Hi! We just (2.5 weeks ago) did a self-uniting ceremony in Philly! We wrote the ceremony, and my brother-in-law was the MC. It ran something like this:
      1) BIL did a greeting, and explained what a self-uniting ceremony was, and why we were choosing this option
      2) Reading – Judge Margaret Marshall, MA marriage equality ruling (talks about why how marriage is one of life’s important and defining acts)
      3) Affirmation of the Community – BIL explained that no couple exists in a vacuum, and we are supported and shaped by our community and we support them in turn. He asked if they would love and support us and they responded “we will”, and then asked if we would support our family and friends through our love, we responded “we will”. Also included a moment of silence for those that could not be there in person / had passed
      4) Reading “To Love is Not to Possess” by James Kavanaugh
      5) Exchange of vows – we wrote our vows together, and spoke the same ones to each other. For a self-uniting ceremony, the bit that’s important to say is “I take you as my husband/wife”
      6) Reading “Blessing of the Hands” – Unknown
      7) Exchange of rings
      8) Signing of the license – we had our moms come up and be our two witnesses
      9) Celebratory kiss! Since BIL was not “pronouncing us” he said “you are now husband and wife – celebrate!”

      Hope this helps!

    • Rebecca

      I was just in a wedding where we mixed up the bridesmaids and groomsmaids because we mostly all knew everyone anyway and they wanted us to look more cohesive. They had the ring bearer next to the groom and the person responsible for making the bride’s train look nice next to her, and after that we were arranged by a mixture of height and outfit – the groomsmaids were all in navy and the bridesmaids in a mix of tonal colors and prints so we mixed things up a bit, made sure we had some print on each side etc.
      And as a cute addition the celebrant started out with a hilarious introduction of all of us that none of us knew was coming, so that the guests knew what they were looking at (not that that’s required)!
      In relation to the arbor we just fanned out from the couple at a slight angle, and we came down in pairs from the outside in (dancing, as it happens).

  • Maggie Cress

    I’m getting married at the end of summer at a concert venue in a downtown area. The venue is perfect except they ask that everyone leaves for 90 min between the reception and the ceremony. We could have researched this better before booking but we didn’t :/. I want my guests to feel happy and welcome, but I also am weary of setting up and play planning an extra event to keep them a lot more money to keep them entertained between the wedding and reception. Is it appropriate to give them a list of places to go on their own in the interim? Would it be better to host a hang out at a park shelter at a nearby park? (The wedding vibe is v casual and my city has flexible alcohol laws in parks so I could see this working). We are going to have somewhere in the ballpark of 140 guests.

    • Amy March

      Can you have the ceremony somewhere else?

      • Maggie Cress

        Already put the deposit down. It certainly would have been wiser to not underestimate this as a problem, but oh well I guess :/ (everything else is great though, so I guess this headache is okay:) )

        • Amy March

          It’s such a strange requirement- any room to push back? Like, if it’s to rearrange seating could you offer to have the ceremony in the reception set up?

    • Lexipedia

      Do they regularly do weddings? If so, ask them WTF other couples have done in the past. If not, and it’s a room flip thing, there are lots of options for ceremonies where the guests sit at their tables, instead of in rows.

    • Wait… WHAT? Why??????? Seriously, I’m dying to know the reason behind this break! (Mainly so I can help you figure out how to get out of it!).

      You can definitely give them a list of places to go between events (treat it like a Catholic Gap). But be forewarned, that people will find it strange that they show up to a place & then have to leave that place and come back later, and it might be hard to literally get everyone to vacate. Is there a nearby bar that you could buy one round of drinks at? One thing that I had a couple do (in a different situation where we had time to kill) was to hire a tour bus for a city tour. Also, a good way to get people out of your space is to maybe invite everyone to be in one giant group photo at a nearby park. With alcohol. LOL. Or have a parade (NOLA style)!

    • KitBee

      I would suggest planning *something*, but it doesn’t have to be super elaborate. I like your park hangout idea! Maybe just tell people to gather there, provide a keg (now it’s a low-key cocktail hour!), and call it a day.

    • Rachel

      Honestly I think the “informal cocktail hour at a park” sounds so awesome. As a guest I would be all about that!

  • HabibidelaFlor

    Oh I have another question… what should I look for in a day-of-coordinator? I don’t have many friends that have gotten married recently (especially not in the area), so referrals aren’t too helpful. I want to make a good decision on this one :)

    • As I mentioned below in one of the earlier comments – you want someone that you’d like to drink wine with but would trust to be your designated driver! :) Communication style & general demeanor are really key. And don’t be afraid to ask for references!!

  • TN

    My fiancé and I are having my 2 sisters and his 2 brothers as our bridal party, but I have a few close girlfriends that I still want to get ready with me (if they want to!) and be in “bridal party” style pictures. How do I arrange that or ask them about it? It just feels super awkward… “heyyy I know you’re not a bridesmaid but do you wanna hang out with me while I get ready (and get ready with me) and be in some group pics..?!

    • topscallop

      My situation was slightly different than yours because we didn’t have a bridal party at all, but my husband and I both had our closest friends and our siblings and parents get ready with us, all of which was captured by the photographers. I just told my besties that I’d love for them to get ready with me at the venue, where there was plenty of room for everyone to do their thing while I was getting my hair/makeup did and putting on my dress, if they wanted to. I love the pictures of them reacting to me in my dress, and my husband’s dad helping with his collar. Also one of my friends is a talented theater costumer and was clutch in the last minute with a shoe mishap I had.

      • Love this!! :)

      • angela

        I did this too! I was a little nervous about it but it worked great. Plus my photographer got to know who my BFFs were and she made sure to get photos of them throughout the night (in a similar way that I think photographers tend to make sure they get good photos of the wedding party). I highly recommend!

      • Jan

        We did this too. It was great! I have a large-ish core group of friends and five sisters, so I just sent everyone a message along the lines of “We aren’t doing a bridal party but you are very special to me and an honored guest of ours, and I’d love to get ready while spending time with you.” People came to where I got ready, and then traveled to the site with us for formal pictures.

    • That’s awesome – all the fun of being in a wedding party with none of the pressure/stress/group outfits! :) I think your friends will love the idea. Just ask – tell them hey, so you know how we’re just having siblings in the wedding party? Well you ladies are my zen/my squad & I want you with me on the day. Organize brunch & ply them with mimosas!

  • Joyce

    How would you suggest inviting couples with babies under the age of 1? I don’t mind if they bring their baby, but my expectation is that they would hold them in their lap (or have them stay in their car seat) during the reception dinner. Is this typical/acceptable?

    Say I am inviting a couple with an infant. Here was my plan as far as RSVP: I was only planning to reserve 2 seats in their name for their RSVP card. If they are able to get a sitter for the baby, great! If they ask about bringing the baby to the wedding, I’d tell them the above (go ahead and bring the baby, but they’d have to stay on your lap).

    My reasoning behind this is that I’m not counting the baby as a “head” in the catering (and therefore seating) count. Should I be planning on adding high chairs to my counts? Not sure how this all works…

    Thanks for your help!!!

    • Hi! Congrats! I’m certain that your friends with babies will think you are the loveliest person ever for even thinking about this!

      So, there’s a distinction between tiny infant (doesn’t sit up), and like a 10 month old who might be chill in a high chair. For the itty bitty ones that are like people nuggets, I think it’s expected that the parents will bring some form of baby containment device (stroller, carseat, etc). It’s those wiley ones in between that you have to watch out for. ;) I’d ask the parents to confirm if they need a high chair or not. But a 10 month old in a high chair should NOT count towards your catering count. They’re typically not getting a meal. Check with your caterer where the line is. Many caterers allow for kids under 2/3y as free (even with a high chair). Then they bump up to “Kids Meal” between the ages of 3-8y (again, just a rough example), and then anyone from 9/10+ is considered an adult meal (but minus the cost of alcohol).

    • jem

      For us highchairs didn’t count towards headcount. Also “do you need a highchair?” was a great way to find out whether they were planning to bring the baby or hire a sitter.

    • Leah

      As both someone with a one year old, and someone who planned a wedding where babies & kids were present, a couple thoughts:

      • kids under ~1 totally don’t need any accommodation from you – they aren’t eating much if anything and don’t really need a high chair. As long as you make it clear to the parents that babies are welcome, they can take it from there (though I’m sure their parents would appreciate you checking in their needs).

      • 1-2 year olds are the most high-chair-relevant group, so if you have a couple high chairs available, offering them would probably be appreciated, but they still totally don’t need to be counted as far as your caterer is concerned.

      • kids from about 2-5 or so don’t necessary really need a chair either, depending on your space, as they’ll mostly just mill about. We had maybe 5 kids b/w 2-5, didn’t count them in the headcount, and I asked one of my local parent friends to bring some snacks for the group – she brought a plate of cheese sandwiches and some fruit, etc. We set it up on a small table off to the side and the little kids could just wander by and graze.

      •I think the youngest person we counted as a ‘head’ was 8 years old.

  • littleinfinity

    Hi Meg! Our ceremony will be on a less-populated spot of a public beach, and I’m trying to figure out what to do for seating. We will have about 50 to 60 guests, ranging from 4 years old to mid-70s. One option is to do festive blankets on the sand, but I’m worried that might be uncomfortable for the older generations. Another option is to rent chairs or benches and have someone set them up – but because we don’t have a well-defined venue or “space” (i.e. we’re just setting up on the sand), I’m not sure how to arrange setup, especially because our ceremony is at 4:30 and we can’t have the chairs sitting out there all day unattended, so the setup would need to happen while we are getting ready and taking pre-ceremony photos. Would a chair rental company be able to handle something like this? Do you have any thoughts or tips? Thanks!

    • Hi! Sounds lovely!
      I’d go with benches (try to get 8′ – 10′ long ones which will seat more, thus requiring less benches) – and for sure you can ask the rental company to set them up (sometimes they will do so for a small fee). You can definitely also do a combination of benches/blankets so that the older generation has a place to sit while keeping the beachy vibe. You could also either designate this setup to friends/family who want to help. Also, if you have a caterer, you could ask them for a staff member to hire for ceremony setup/breakdown. :)

  • PAJane

    Ohman, I wish I’d known this was coming so I could express my concerns in coherent questions. We’re having our ceremony and reception all at one location. It’s a fine dining restaurant in a really interesting, rambling building that people will be excited to explore, and the rooms where people eat and dance will be connected but somewhat spread out, so it will be hard to have everyone in the same room at the same time. Weather permitting, the ceremony will be outside, in the gazebo in the sculpture garden, 3:30ish. A cocktail hour will happen in the same garden from 4:00-5:00ish (obviously they’ll have to take all the ceremony chairs away), during which the chef will present the cake, my mom will be offering a prayer, if anybody elects to have speeches they’ll happen then, and we may do our first dance as well. (See: Hard to get everyone in one room, including the intended dance space.) Then inside for a long, luxurious multi-course meal, and theoretically dancing.Concerns:–We’re doing formal photos in the afternoon before the ceremony, because we would like to enjoy cocktail hour, and things will be happening then. Our photographer wants to take portraits at the golden hour, which falls roughly between cocktail hour and dinner. Do we sneak out for the last 15-20 min while people still drink dranks, or do we send people inside to find their seats and look around while we go off on our own? Will people think we’re rude either way?–Dinner at this restaurant on a normal day takes 3 hours, thus the early start. The chef said they can try to make it go a little faster, but this is her art, and I don’t think it will be easily rushed. Is anybody going to want to dance after a 3hr dinner? How do we facilitate that? Are they going to just want to sit there and drink coffee and then go home? If we decide to add a 2hr photo booth to our photo package, when the heck do we fit that in?–Have you ever had a bride who wore a style of dress she just could not figure out how to walk and dance in? What do you do about that?–Have you ever had a bride who had her makeup professionally done and then, I dunno, blew her nose too much or whatever and then it was all messed up, and the makeup artist long gone? What do you do about that?I’ll probably think of other questions as I’m trying to fall asleep tonight.

    • PAJane

      Do people really get upset if you don’t have a cake cutting, because they don’t know they’re allowed to go home now?

      • Amy March

        No. Like, maybe one auntie but really don’t worry.

      • Leah

        I honestly had never thought so, but at our wedding we hadn’t really planned a cake-cutting ceremony into the evening and were having so much fun on the dance floor that we didn’t realize it was starting to get late and at one point my mom had to come over and was like ‘sorry sweetie but you need to go cut the cake because your grandmother wants to go to bed and thinks she can’t leave until you do it!’
        But she was 100% the only one who cared! In retrospect we should have told her in advance what a good cue would be for her to be able to leave and go to sleep. So: don’t worry about it, but maybe warn your grandma.

      • I mean, if I’m being 110% honest (which I always am), eff those people who can’t decide to go home when they want. LOL, except grandma. ;) A lot of times, I suggest that my couples cut the cake immediately following dinner, before the big dance party starts, because, TBH, you don’t want the “wait for cake to be cut” crowd at your dance party anway! LOL.

      • I mean, I get a little upset about it but I wouldn’t complain out loud to anyone but my husband, but I’m weird. Also because I’ve been to weddings where the dessert was just out all night and there was no official start serving and I really wanted some cupcakes but it was unclear at what point it was acceptable to start eating them.

        I know that I had many people who also thought the same thing (but we had a lot of grandparents and grandparent-aged people at the wedding (10ish), so that may be a know-your-people thing) and so it was necessary for me unless I had a really strong opposition to it.

        However, I think all of these people (including me) would also count serving of dessert as a clear sign that it is ok to leave even without an explicit cake cutting.

        • 100%. Do not leave dessert foods out all night if you’re not doing a cake cutting. People are going to have drinks and pilfer your cupcakes or just sit there longingly staring at those delicious treats waiting for the OK to enjoy!

        • Lisa

          Ha, on the desserts. My cousin left all of the cupcakes out on a table at the end of the buffet line at her wedding so people started picking them up. Then some coordinator came over and started yelling at us to put them back because they were the wedding cake, and we weren’t supposed to eat them until after the bride and groom “cut the cake.”

          Oops.

          • I have spent half of a dinner at one wedding staring longingly at a cupcake display that I was pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to start eating yet, but at no point in the wedding was there an official start-dessert stage, so I just went in once I realized about half of them were gone. Also… I like knowing when the dessert has been served because it gives you a better guide about when (timewise) you can start going back for round 2 of dessert. (Because I don’t want to take other people’s cake, but if there is lots of extra cake, I am very willing to help with that problem.)

        • PAJane

          Orrrrrr we could not officially cut it, and just have the staff serve it. Problem solved! Eat cake when they give it to you, and take the hint. Ha!

          • YES! That also is a solution. And that counts to me as cake cutting, even without an official cake cutting ceremony. (Because the cake is still being cut, just not by you.) Honestly, I just want the cake.

          • PAJane

            Same! Also, if the DJ plays that “Honey, sugar sugar, you are my candy giiiiirl!” song, I may strangle him.

      • jem

        We didn’t have a cake cutting because we didn’t have cake (we had cobbler, which I missed completely so I’m not sure when it was served…). I think not having a giant wedding cake on display is a cue to people not to expect a cake cutting and to decide on their own when it’s ok to go home.

        • Jan

          Agreed. We did individual tiramisu and creme brûlée and as it was being set onto the dessert table my partner and I got on the mic, said thank you, invited people to have dessert, and made it clear the rest of the night would be time for bonfires and raucous dancing.

        • PAJane

          Well, the chef just makes a cake. We weren’t planning on having one, but she told us, when she does a dinner she makes dessert, and she makes a great cake, and she’s going to make us one. So there will be one, presented with flair. So maybe we’ll have to cut it after all.

      • quiet000001

        This is one of those things where word of mouth helps a lot – tell key people who aren’t in your wedding party you’re skipping the cake cutting, so they can spread the word as things start to wind down. Not so they make formal announcements, but so they can mention it in talking to people at their table, on the dance floor, in the restroom, whatever. People who are outgoing and will talk to anyone are particularly good for this.

    • Katharine Parker

      I’m not the professional, but re: dinner–I would still want to dance after dinner! I would also have the photo booth after dinner (assuming that you’re going to have dancing/music for at least two hours afterward) or during cocktail hour, but since cocktail hour seems busy, after dinner is probably smoother. Alternately, I’ve been to weddings where each course is interspersed with dancing, so that could be an option. Does the meal take 3 hours because it’s a nine-course menu, or for another reason? Do you want to dance at your wedding?

      Re: dress, regular practice? Second dress for after dinner? What exactly is the dress like?

      Re: makeup, have your makeup artist make a little sample palette of foundation for touchups. I’d recommend buying the lipstick she uses–I wear my wedding color most days now, and I love it.

      • Amy March

        If dinner is from 5-8 I think yes definitely to dancing, and also dancing while courses are being changed over?

        • Katharine Parker

          This schedule seems made for dancing between courses. I’m particularly imagining being at the wedding and not knowing many people at my table–being together for 3 hours without a break is a long time. But getting up to dance is fun!

          • PAJane

            Good point about it being a long time to sit there with potentially strangers!

      • PAJane

        She does soup, pasta, seafood, sorbet, a break to settle and be less full, main course, dessert, coffee. At least, when there are 2 people in the restaurant. I imagine it’ll change somewhat when we have 115. At the wedding you went to, how did they explain to people that dancing was a between courses thing? Did the DJ announce it?Still pondering the dress situation. I’m torn between two very different styles, one of which is a mermaid, and I’m not confident I’ll be anything other than a klutz wearing it. So maybe I wear it for the ceremony and photos, and switch to the other one, which has zero constriction from the waist down, after dinner.

        • People will be drawn to the dance floor by the music. Typically an announcement isn’t needed, but the DJ can say something along the lines of “ladies & gents, the dance floor is open”. Also, you lead the charge. People naturally want to be where the newlyweds are – so if you’re on the dance floor, they will come to you.

          • PAJane

            I have never in my life been where everyone in the room wants to be. That is so weird.

    • Hiya! Congrats – sounds like you’re planning an amazing day!
      1. Golden hour – split the difference. It will take people some time to move to their seats, and it’s easier for staff to move guests if you’ve disappeared. Not rude – no one will think twice. Also, if there is tableside ordering and wine being poured, that’s going to take a few minutes too (exactly how long depends on staff/guest ratio).

      2. As others have mentioned, dance between courses! You can use special moments as transitions to make it feel seamless – i.e. guests seated, orders taken, you have first course/salad, then music picks up for those who want to boogie for 20ish minutes while the staff picks up the salad and serves out the next course. Slow the music down when next course is ready, lather rinse, repeat.

      3. Photobooth – have it towards the end of the event (people are more inclined to use after a few drinks, anyway). Just bear in mind that setup may cause a disruption/distraction.

      4. Ohhhh, don’t let the dress own you. Practice, ask the seamster for advice, and definitely consider a costume change. You don’t want to be miserable for 6 hours.

      5. I mean, at the end of a good party, every bride is a sweaty mess (in the best possible way). Have a touchup kit ready to go & have a close friend/MOH be on the lookout for touchups. And definitely as mentioned below, buy the lipstick!

      • PAJane

        Sincerely, thank you for lending your expertise. You are the absolute best.

        • Awwww….blushing. You’re very welcome!

  • chartreuse

    What a great idea! Thanks for helping us out here, Meg!

    — What are some of the best ways you’ve seen to encourage an unplugged ceremony, and also put a lid on other obnoxious photographer-distracting behavior (especially preventing people from coming up behind the photographer during posed family portraits to take their own shots and start distracting the people in the portraits to get them to look elsewhere, as happened at a recent wedding in our family)?

    — What are some of the best ways you have seen to accommodate and welcome family members and guests who are neuroatypical, or have intellectual disabilities? One family and wedding party member has some fairly severe physical and intellectual disabilities (he will have an aide with him) and we are also inviting a couple of autistic guests who may need some quiet time at points.

    • Hey, so regarding the quiet spots, I’m autistic and this is what I have found most helpful at weddings:

      Having multiple spaces where things are happening. I think this is the number one thing that helps me at a wedding. Some weddings that I have been too are essentially all one room, which can be really hard for me, especially during the dancing-music part because everything seems so overwhelming and large. It’s nice if there are some places where the music isn’t super loud but also aren’t just completely leaving the party. Even somewhere like a lobby would be better? The best I’ve been to have been where there are just extra rooms like with a couch where some people are having quiet conversations, or if you can sit down in the entrance where the guest book is or something. When the only quiet space is the bathroom, I feel bad spending so much time there away from people. (Also, some weddings I have been to, the bathrooms have not been quiet.) Likewise, I’ve also gone and sat in the car for a while to chill out at weddings, and that’s also not always the best (also depending on the area and season, I might not feel comfortable zoning out in a parking lot in the dark).

      Not playing music loudly during dinner. This was also appreciated by my grandparents who don’t have the best hearing so they could actually have conversations at dinner. Also getting food at a reasonable time (not specifically autistic-related, but I have so much more trouble dealing with noise when I am also hungry and waiting indefinitely for food).

      Also, I personally hate hate hate all flashing lights (like during dancing) and find it extremely difficult to focus when that is going on, but not everyone has that particular issue.

      • You literally said this all SO much better than I ever could. Thank YOU for your honest input on a super important topic.

    • Hiya! No problem!!! :)
      If you’re really wanting an unplugged ceremony there are a few things you can do:
      Hit people with the double whammy – signage AND an announcement by the officiant before they start. Triple play would be a note in the programs. I’ve also had couples set up charging stations for people to “check their phones in” prior to the ceremony (but honestly, people are loathe to part with devices). But ultimately, you’ve got to let go a little and know that aside from confiscating devices or literally stopping the ceremony to shame that person with the ipad in the aisle, people are going to do what they want. (Shaming that person in the aisle with the giant old ipad is the stuff that wedding planner dreams are made of, lol).

      As for guest accommodation – 100% to everything that sleepwakehopeandthen mentioned below. I think the biggest thing for quiet spaces is making sure that they feel/are intentional. Not just like, oh, hey, here’s a quiet closet if you need to get away. Make some advance prep, have a comfy place for sitting, maybe a few cocktail tables if the space can’t accommodate lounge furniture. I’ve also had couples set out games, books, adult coloring books, and other activities so that the quiet zones are more welcoming. I think the best thing to do is to have a discussion with people and their families about what would make your wedding awesome for them.

      Regarding physical accessibility, make sure that anyone who requires mobility assistance is given priority when determining your seating layout. You’ll want to make sure that they have an easy path into the space to seating & an equally clear path to the accessible restroom. Let your caterer know where they will be seated & discuss any concerns you have with your venue as soon as you can. Not sure what your specific venue setup is, but things that may need to be thought out are uneven floor surfaces (ie. outdoor ceremony on gravel/grass), elevator access, ceremony row spacing, etc.

      • Also, sorry – for the people unofficially photographing the portraits, I’d suggest trying to do the group photos slightly away from the crowd if at all possible. Otherwise, the best thing you can do is tell your photographer about certain family members & give the photographer authority to politely deal with having an unhired 2nd shooter. ;) Most photographers will be OK with letting Uncle Jim have a crack at the portrait grouping after they’ve gotten their shots. Just do the photog the favor of a heads up.

    • Not Sarah

      For your first question about family portraits, we had that problem! It was a pain – my in-laws way prefer the aunt’s photos over the photographer we hired and there are so many photos of people looking the wrong way in the official photos. We did our photos at a location that was a few miles from the venue, and then immediate family came by at an agreed-upon time. We thought that would get around the extra photographer problem except an aunt and uncle came along with the immediate family! They proceeded to take terrible photos that I hate and they love them! So my suggestion is (if possible) keep the family portrait location only for the people in the photos and that would help.

  • Leah

    Hi Meg –

    Can you provide some recommendations for how to make a first look feel not cheesy? We’re into the idea for logistical purposes, but feel pretty silly when we think about doing the hand-over-eyes reveal type thing. Is it weird if we just…show up at the same time?

    • jem

      Nope! That’s what we did. The pics are great

    • LOL. It won’t feel cheesy when you’re in the moment – it will feel exciting and really good to see your partner. You can skip the literal hands over eyes and just have one of you face the other way. Just be honest with your photographer about how you want it to feel as informal as possible.

    • Jan

      We got ready at my in-laws house (me upstairs, him downstairs) and our first look was literally just me coming down the stairs with him already in the foyer. The peek-a-boo thing would have felt super silly to us. The pictures came out great and it was a really sweet moment (and the only part of the day that made me nervous).

  • Anne

    Hello and thanks for doing this! What are your best tips for a couple in the the earliest early days of planning (just got engaged 2 days ago!), who are aiming to have a short (~6 months) engagement? Pretty much everything I have seen so far online assumes that you have a 12 month timeline. Any advice for finding a venue for a reasonably large (~150) wedding on a shorter timeline. Is this even possible? I want to believe!

    • Katharine Parker

      I planned a wedding for about 150 in 7 months! It’s definitely possible. What helped me initially was flexibility with the date–we wanted to get married over the summer, so we were open to any weekend in June, July, or August. We had a specific church for our ceremony, so we got all their open dates for Friday or Saturdays (at 7 months out, this was like 5 options, so not a ton, but workable) and discussed it with our families. We picked the best date and looked for a reception venue from there. Not everywhere was available, and as we planned some other vendors were booked, but it all worked out. You can always pick up availability through other people’s cancellations!

      Good luck, and congratulations on your engagement!

      • Katharine Parker

        For finding a space, I had my wedding at a country club, so I have no experience for more unconventional sites, but looking at local wedding photographers’ blogs, local wedding magazines, and wedding venue review sites are always reasonable places to start. Ask your friends if they’ve gone to a lot of weddings. You’re probably going to have to call a bunch of places to ask about availability, so good luck!

    • Congrats & BELIEVE! You got this!
      One year is baloney – I constantly tell couples that it shouldn’t take longer to plan a wedding than it does to gestate a human.

      As Katharine said, flexibility will be your key to making this happen. As long as you are open to dates, and don’t have your heart set on a specific venue, you shouldn’t have an insanely difficult time of it. From there, being decisive will be the most important thing. I swear that most couples who operate on a year’s timeline spend 1/4th or more of that time second guessing or changing their minds, so just don’t plan on doing any of that!

      The other key thing to do is to book your vendors strategically – you should start with the vendors who can only do one event in a day (coordinator, photographer, band/dj) and then move on to the people who can do multiple events in one day (cake, flowers, lighting, whatevs). You may have a hard time initially finding photographers who aren’t booked 6 mo out, but if you find ones you love who are booked, ask for referrals. Also consider importing photogs (there are tons of APW sponsors who travel for little/no cost). :) Good luck!

    • Leah

      I’ve seen a lot of venues offering discounted rates for the dates that aren’t already booked up in July/August 2018. If you happen to be in New York, I know a few good ones if you want any ideas.

      • Anne

        Hi Leah. Thanks! I am in fact in New York and would love to hear your ideas/suggestions.

        • OMG – yes, July is kind of the off peak break during wedding season in NYC. Things tend to slow down (and you can usually find spaces/venues available) in the last 2-3 weeks of July & the first 1-2 weeks of August.

        • Leah

          I saw both the New York Botanical Gardens (my venue!) and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens have a lot of dates available and some discount rates. I also went to a wedding in long island that said they had some kind of special – it was called East Wind. New York is the mecca of all inclusive venues, which I think helps the quick planning a bit.

          • Love the gardens!
            In Brooklyn, The Green Building & 501 Union have availability calendars on their websites. I believe they both still have some summer Fridays/Sundays open. If raw spaces are your thing, check in with the people at BK Venues (they own a few loft spaces – Dumbo Loft, 26 Bridge, etc.). Knowing that you’re in NY makes me 1M% positive that you’ve got this. There are TONS of spaces that can handle 150 and lots and lots of vendors in the area!

          • Herekitty

            This might be an uncouth question, but I’m so curious to know the rates if you remember ballparks off the top of your head! We are in NYC thinking about August 2018. Edit: And open to Long Island too!

          • Stephanie

            Don’t know if you care, but the NY Botanical Gardens are literally my very favorite place on the planet. Like, I will make the train, plus bus, plus walk trek up there for just an hour or two if I’m having a bad day. It could not be a more perfect wedding venue!!!!! I’m feeling dreamy now, just thinking about it!

  • Leah

    I have a reception timeline question – we basically want to spend as little time sitting down and as much time dancing as possible. We’re having a plated 2-course meal (following a cocktail hour), and we want to do first dances, parent dances, and cake cutting – we’re unconcerned with speeches and if I’m honest the cake cutting is no biggie to me either – but I think I’d like to do it if pressed.

    We’re a greek/jewish couple and probably have about 15 minutes to spend on traditional dances (the hora and its greek equivalent) – what do you think is better – basically everyone does the dances between courses and then sits down for dinner, or it opens the dance floor after dinner concludes? I’ve seen it both ways – when dancing and courses are interspersed I feel like there’s more dancing, but it also makes me feel REALLY annoyed by dinner and just wanting to get it over with. When it’s done where all the ceremonial stuff is upfront and then dancing starts all at once (TBH I’ve never seen it done this way at a jewish wedding, which tend to be a bit more lavish in my experience), I feel like it’s not enough dancing and we’re just held hostage for so long.

    What’s the best way to set up my reception timeline? I’m so obsessed with our band and just want them to spend as much time as possible playing dance music and getting the crowd going, and as little time killing time while we perform a bunch of rituals. But also, our food is good and we want people to enjoy it.

    • Hiya! Since you have a live band, I’d suggest following the dancing between courses path. Live musicians need (and appreciate) a few breaks throughout the evening.
      Exact timing will depend on whether or not your guests need to place dinner orders & if there is tableside wine pouring happening when guests sit down, but I’d say something along the lines of:

      Sit the guests, have orders taken/wine poured. Followed by first dance. Invite guests to join you and have a short dance set while first course is prepped. Sit guests (do any toasts while people eat first course). Move into parent dance(s) as 1st course winds down. Move into the hora & kalamatiano after parent dances, followed by another short dance set while entrees are being readied. Sit everyone down for entrees (budget 30 minutes to give your vendors a break for dinner too). After entrees, use the cake cutting as a transition to the remaining dance party. I usually suggest using the cake cutting as a time for couple remarks if you/your partner want to say anything. Don’t sit guests back down for the rest of the night. I’m a big fan of passed/stationed desserts so that those who want to partake can, while everyone else dances their faces off.

      • Leah

        This is extremely helpful! Thank you for your tips – most of the sample timelines I see online don’t account for cultural dances and have like a 2 hour slot at the end for dancing. Also, thank you for knowing the name of the Greek dance – it briefly slipped my mind (my fiance is the Greek one). Our venue offers dessert tapas and we’ll have a cake – I have to explore more if the tapas are passed or stationed,but I don’t think we need to sit guests back down at all!

        In a similar vein – how do you engage people in a cultural dance like the kalamatiano that they may have never seen before? Half of the guest list is Jewish, and the Greek half, just by function of being new yorkers, are probably familiar with the hora, but this will be my family’s first Greek wedding. Should I just expect the Greek side to take over the Jewish side to take a lil break? Our friends come from various cultural backgrounds, but I feel like they’ll probably be more comfortable joining in on the hora which is a bit more culturally prominent and people will get amped to lift us up in chairs. Should I basically just expect people to end up doing the hora to greek music for awhile?

        • :) For sure. If I remember correctly, at NYBG the dessert tapas are brought out to the dinner tables, but that works too with the layout of the room.

          I’d start with the hora – it will get everyone up and more guests will be familiar with it. Then lead directly into kalamatiano, which the Greek guests will naturally lead on. Kalamatiano is, as far as cultural dances go, not difficult to pick up on, and your guests should fall into the circling fairly naturally!

          • Leah

            Woo love that you know my venue! I feel like I literally found the best venue in the world and I’m so excited and proud of it.

          • It’s an amazing venue!

        • Kari

          I am not in any way coordinated or blessed when it comes to dancing but the kalamatiano isn’t too difficult to master. And getting it a little bit wrong is part of the fun!! (A mix of the hora and the kalamatiano sounds AWESOME.)

    • Engaged Chicago

      It might not work for you but we did:
      – 7 guests find seat after cocktail hour then come to dance floor
      – 7:05 bride and groom announced
      – hora and dancing for 30 min
      – 7:35 salads and parent speeches (and blessing on food)
      – 7:50 family dance but alternatively could do mom/dad dances
      – another song or two
      – 8:10 cut cake
      – dinner for 40 min
      – 8:50 moh/bm speeches
      – 9 bride and groom “first dance” right into dancing for another few hours
      – 9:30 dessert out

      Those are about the rough times but I can dig back if you want. It sounds like you Don’t love that set up and that’s ok too! It did work pretty well for us since we gave our guests and vendors what felt like a long time to eat (I think this part ran long and people were still eating at 9) and there was still lots of dancing for our guests who left after dinner. Lmk if u want more info!

      • Leah

        This is definitely helpful! I just always wish there was more time and hate feeling rushed around with lots of starts and stops BUT I also hate feeling like I’m sitting for 2 hours waiting for the fun part to start. It’s hard to balance!

        • Engaged Chicago

          Definitely! I think it’s possible to strike a balance – good luck! Your band might be a good resource too. Also tbh I was ready for our first dancing break 😂

    • Amy March

      Sounds like you want interspersed dancing! Go for it!

  • Duke Alum

    Hello! I have questions about food. I live in the South, where love is shown with food, and I’m petrified we will not have enough. 5pm ceremony. I’m planning on starting the ceremony with champagne and/or sparkling water. 5:30-6:30 cocktail hour with 3-4 pieces of h’ors doevures per person. Simple salad, entree, and wedding cake. The wedding ends at 9:45. Open bar. Do you think we need more food?

    • Hi! Showing love with food is my favorite part of the South. ;)

      I feel like a salad, entree & cake are pretty solid for the dinner/dance portion of the evening. You’re looking at a 3 hour dinner/dance portion of the evening, so I don’t even think there’d be time for more food (i.e. late night bites) once you’ve moved into that phase of the night.

      You could have some bar snacks, as a nice little added touch – gourmet spiced nuts, fancy popcorn, etc.

      The one place I’d amp up (if budget allows) is cocktail hour. I’d plan on 8-12 bites per person (though the # varies based on what you’re serving – heavy/larger bites you can go on the lower side). Another great option is to add in a grazing station of some sort – like a cheese/charcuterie display, or a Mediterranean station with hummus/dips, veggies, crackers, breads, etc., a raw bar, or a station of some of your favorite Southern style apps that can be served room temp. Oh, now I’m hungry. :)

      • Duke Alum

        Awesome, thank you! Also, do you have recommendations on numbers of servers/bartenders per guests ? (Seated dinner, passed food during cocktail hour). I think we may be understaffed but hard to find good guidelines!

        • You’re welcome!
          For servers, you typically want one per table (8-10 guests), plus people to bus/work sanitation. If you’re planning on having wine service with dinner, you’ll need a few people to steward that in addition to the waitstaff. For the bar – the ratio is usually 1 bartender per every 50 guests, but I would also add a bar-back – especially if you foresee the bartenders making a lot of specialty cocktails/mixed drinks. You’ll want a floor captain to spearhead all the staff, and depending on what the logistics are for changeover and/or distance to the kitchen, you may want a few extra hands on deck. I’m always a proponent of spending the money on staffing & cutting back on other things. Guests will typically not remember if you upgraded your invitation paper but they certainly will remember if service was slow.

          • Duke Alum

            Thank you! So helpful. Our caterer usually does 1 per 20 guests, and then upped it to 1 per 15 when I requested wine service. She hasn’t said anything about bar backs or bussers. 2 bartenders (125 guests) and a banquet manager. I thought it sounded like too few of hands – I’ll circle back with her on staffing!

          • You’re so welcome! I really like it as a guest when my table has a dedicated server, and as a coordinator, the biggest thing that can throw a reception off the rails is understaffing (long waits for food + long lines at bars = very few people’s idea of a good time). I’m sure your caterer is confident in her staff’s ability to get it done, but I think if you just stress that it’s really important to you & you’re willing to pay for it, increasing the #s shouldn’t be a problem. Also, to keep things on the reasonable side, not everyone has to work the full 12+ hour shift! After dinner, your caterer can cut some of the staff loose & go down to just the original 1 per 20 for the dance party/breakdown.

            Also, if your caterer gets sensitive about the guidance on how to do things, sometimes the best thing to do in situations like this is to throw your planner or your parents under the bus when requesting. ;) You can tell her you had a consulting session with me & I said so! LOL.

  • Fabio Radaelli

    Really very good article! I like your work for your client

  • AMM

    Just in the beginning stages of planning — wanting kind of a moody intimate vibe, but fiance wants his somewhat rowdy family all there. I like his family A LOT but I want kind of a quieter vibe. We’ve considered a weekday wedding, and possibly a very early in the day ceremony with a reception lunch instead of dinner, and we’re hoping that that will get people to tone down the crazy. Any other good ideas?

    • littleinfinity

      I think the venue you pick (for both ceremony and reception) will really help to set the mood. If you guys are religious or spiritual at all, you could try to find a small chapel/ etc for the ceremony, and that will automatically communicate a certain serious or quiet vibe. Same with reception – choosing a small sit-down restaurant with plated meals will create a different feel than having a buffet, for example. Good luck!

    • PAJane

      Chill music?

    • Hi, congrats! People are generally more sedate at a weekday/lunch event, so that’s definitely a good start. If you focus on finding a venue that lends itself to the moody chill vibe, your guests should (hopefully) take their cue. Someplace with more lounge furniture and a plated meal, backed up by dim lighting and low key music will help. Think boutique hotel. Obvs you want to make sure that your fiance feels represented too. FWIW, when I got married, I wanted to elope & my husband wanted a more traditional wedding. We did a compromise & had 2 events – an intimate city hall ceremony + a lunch followed by a rocking dance party the next night. This way, we both got what we wanted. :) Good luck striking the balance!!

  • Em

    If you’re still answering questions, I’d love some guidance on ceremony / reception timeline. We’re getting married at a national park, where the plan is (assuming weather behaves itself) for the ceremony to be in a secluded clearing about a 2 min drive / 10 min walk (but not over great terrain) from the reception site. The road between the ceremony and reception site is pretty narrow and the parking lot behind the ceremony site is also fairly tight – so we think it’ll take some time for people to get out of the parking lot and onto the road back to the reception venue (where they’ll park, etc). The plan right now is for a 3:30pm ceremony, which I’m guessing will be no longer than 20-30 mins (so expecting a 4pm finish, then post-ceremony drinks and canapes at the ceremony site 4-5pm, and then starting the cocktail hour at the reception venue after that. We’ll do at least some family photos during the post-ceremony drinks, and then our photographer wants us to do some bride + groom photos during the “golden hour” light around sunset (which is about 5:15pm).

    So – a couple of questions:
    – How long should we leave between the post ceremony drinks and the reception starting? (ie to accommodate 100 odd people moving from site to site?) 15 mins? I don’t want people getting to the reception site early and then finding that there’s no food / drink yet…
    – is effectively 2 hours of drinks + canapes too long? Will people be sick of mingling, etc? There will be some seating at the ceremony site, but at this stage I think most people will be standing at the ceremony and ceremony site (our package includes seats for 30, which we’d reserve for family / older guests), but then once they get to the reception site they can sit down at their table, etc as a break from mingling. The meal is a three course seated meal after the canapes, if that changes anything.
    – does the answer to the above change if the weather is bad and we have to have the ceremony inside the reception venue instead? (and how do you recommend advising guests of this on the day of?)

    Thank you!

    • Jess

      In order, (Note, I am not a professional, just a person who attends weddings)

      1) I would expect that your food and drinks will probably be set up about when your ceremony ends if the locations are close together. 15-20 min is pretty reasonable for the people in fancy attire to move from one location to another.

      2) 2.5 hours is a lot of *standing only* time, but not necessarily mingling time especially if there’s food. However, if you’re including the move to “cocktail hour” in that 2.5 hours, you’re probably fine!

      3) Not much change, although the lack of good weather may change some of your photo timing and accelerate the timeline a bit. You may want to delay the start of the ceremony a little in case people went to the original location and need some extra time to change spots.

      4) How do you notify guests? Phone tree that up. Assign aunties and uncles and chatty friends to send out messages. If you have e-mail addresses for people, send out a group thing. Include signs at your original location to say “Due to rain, we moved into SHELTER Y. —->”

    • Hey there! Congrats!
      So, moving people typically takes a little bit longer than people think… I’d budget 20-30 minutes for the people moving portion of the event. I’d also encourage carpooling (spread the word via your wedding website).
      I’d say the following timeline should be a good framework:

      3pm-3:30pm Guests arrive @ ceremony site
      3:30pm – 4pm Ceremony
      4pm-4:40pm – Congratulations, family photos, cocktails & canapes @ ceremony site
      4:40pm – have someone (your officiant), invite guests to migrate to reception site
      4:45-5:15pm – guests migrate
      5:15pm – Cocktail hour (you’ll arrive after golden hour photos)

      Ask your reception caterer to be prepared (with at least bar) by 4:30. Typically, we are ready for early arrivals 30 minutes before go-time, so it should be fine.

      Typically, cocktails & canapes are most people’s favorite part of weddings – so I don’t think it’s a problem to have an extended cocktail hour. People will rotate in and out of those 30 ceremony seats.

      If the weather is uncooperative, I’d start the ceremony 15 minutes later than advertised & cut 15 minutes off of the post-ceremony canapes, essentially doing 1.5 hours of cocktails & canapes. In terms of letting people know – set up both a phone tree & an email chain. Delegate a captain for each different group – your family, your partner’s family, Friend group A, friend group B, etc. Pre-write the message, and ask the captains to set up a group text + email. *Note – some national parks have poor cell service, so make sure that won’t be an issue in advance. Also, signage at the ceremony site (just make sure it’s weatherproof!). I’d also suggest having a “it’s kinda meh out but we’re going for the outdoor ceremony anyway” message ready to go too. For instance, if the morning is rainy but % for clear skies later looks good. Guests might assume rain plan is enacted just because the morning is gross. If that’s the case, just be aware that your post-ceremony cocktails may end up being shorter.

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  • LL

    Thank you so much for doing this! I’m attempting to strike a balance between a small wedding where I won’t be anxious the whole day and celebrating with the people. We’re having a family only ceremony/dinner this June (16 total as of now) and then a larger (probably 100ish) celebration later in the summer with extended family and friends. The celebration will be pretty casual with a BBQ on the beach. I have two questions:

    1. I am having a tough time predicting numbers for the party. I feel confident that local friends will come, but how far will family travel for something that isn’t a “real” wedding? We both have out of state family, some of who I know will travel for a wedding, but I’m not sure what to expect for what is basically a party.

    2. What is the best way to deal with a registry? I am leaning towards making one because there are some family members that I know like recognizing events with a gift, but if I’m not inviting people to the actual wedding, I don’t want to seem gift-grabby. I plan on putting a disclaimer on the wedding website that we don’t expect gifts etc. What is the polite way to navigate this??

    • Hey there LL – congrats!
      Predicting RSVPs is the WORST. There’s sadly no magic formula that I can give you. There will be some people who will be miffed that they weren’t invited to the ceremony, and will skip the party, and there will be others who are psyched for a stress-free celebration. Time of year, school schedules, work commitments, flight prices and a million other things will play into their decisions too.

      I work with a lot of couples who have smaller weddings in NYC and then head to wherever they’re originally from for a local celebration too (or vice versa). One thing that a lot of them do is a simple vow exchange at the party, so that guests feel like they got to be part of a wedding. It’s a lot less stressful to get married again (so that should help with anxiety), and it definitely doesn’t have to be a full on wedding party walks down the aisle scenario. When I had my larger 2nd wedding celebration, we did a ceremony, and I’m really glad we did – it was such a nice way to bring our families and community together, and guests were happy to see us get married (even though it was already done)!

      This kind of also solves the gift issue, since technically, it’s wedding #2! Even if you don’t decide to have a simple 2nd ceremony, you can just preface the links to the registry with some verbiage about how all you really want is their presence at your celebration, but if they are so inclined, you have registered at XYZ….

      • LL

        Thank you so much! I hadn’t really thought about another vow exchange. I’ll have to look around for examples of that :) It’s so reassuring to get a professional opinion!!

    • Not Sarah

      We did the private ceremony and then larger party later. We invited 180 people to the party and ended up with 80 in attendance. We were really surprised by some of the friends who didn’t make it and a lot of people didn’t RSVP no until the RSVP deadline. But, we were also pleasantly surprised in the other direction by people who did come! Lastly, there isn’t much you can do about the last minute cancellations of people with their own extenuating circumstances. I would make it clear on your website that there is no ceremony at your big party if there isn’t, to help guests make an informed decision.

      We thought about the pieces of a wedding that are important to us and we did those. I wore a white dress to both events (different dresses, partially due to changing sizes and partially due to having more time to pick the second one out), we did a cake cutting and a first dance at the party, our parents and two friends each did toasts, and we did a toast ourselves as well, to counter the no ceremony. We did a grand entrance, just like you might at a “normal” wedding!

      I learned as we planned this that so many people separate the legal wedding from the party and just don’t talk about it. The difference was that we talked about it.

  • Legally Sparkly

    Yay! This is awesome!
    So our venue is a Japanese modern art gallery with one long gallery space and a smaller glass room in back. I LOVE it and was hoping to hold our ceremony in back and then reception up front in the larger space, but fiance really wants the larger space for our ceremony and then flip the room. So the concept now is – ceremony in big room, cocktails in smaller room in back, reception dinner in big room, dancing in smaller room in back.
    Two issues: I’m kind of a control freak and want to know what the reception looks like before the ceremony, but maybe it would be doable to have the reception tables pushed out of the way during the ceremony probably? And the way the gallery is set up, we’ll be getting married right in front of a double door leading to the back room. I really want to have some sort of back drop behind us that covers up the doors, but it can’t take up much room and it can’t be too hard to move because our staff will be flipping the room immediately after. I really don’t like the look of drapery, so that’s not an option I’d consider. All the ceremony backdrops and arches I find seem to be see-through, which defeats the whole purpose for my situation. Any suggestions?

    • Hi! Congrats – that sounds like an amazing space!
      1. You’re going to be super busy & probably care a lot less than you think about the reception room once all the feels & loved ones are around. That said, depending on specifics of the space & staffing and the centerpieces (some are hard to move once set up on the tables), you may have your tables set in the wings, but they’ll either be visible to guests or need to be hidden behind draping.

      2. For ceremony backdrop, perhaps a giant canvas (or wood) painted (hi art gallery) and on wheels for easy movement later? Look at photobooth backdrop ideas since that will solve the see-through element!

      • Legally Sparkly

        Ooo, I had thought of like an old wooden screen before but hadn’t actually thought of a canvas or painting it like that. Thank you!

  • Hey everyone! I think I got all of the questions – hopefully didn’t miss anyone! As much as I would love to live here in the comments, the kind folks at APW are releasing me back into the wild! :) It has been such a pleasure talking with you all – thanks for giving my brain a good workout! I hope the advice I shared was helpful. I’m 100% convinced that you will all have amazing weddings & I wish I could be at all of them cheering you on! I will be, in spirit, for sure! Feel free to follow me on social media. Occasionally (and more regularly in the future), I’ll answer planning questions via social media – so ya know, possibly more advice for you! Cheers & happy planning! XO.

  • everwoods

    Hi! Are you still answering questions? Thanks so much for volunteering your time, even if you can’t get to mine.
    I have found a venue that my partner and I love, for an excellent price. However, it’s a 3 hour drive from my home, and 3 hours from our families’ homes (which are three hours from our home; think of it as a three hour triangle). We’ve been warned by our families that this will make planning very difficult and expensive, due to our many trips out there. They think we should do it in their city or our city (both big, popular cities, while the venue is in a little touristy town).
    Do you think it’s going to be a serious issue? How many meetings do we realistically need to have with vendors? Can we mitigate this by having a day-of coordinator? (We’re not sure we can afford a full out planner, and I will admit to being a tiny bit of a control freak.)
    We’re making our decorations/flowers ourselves because the venue is pretty enough not to need much, the food will be something simple (food truck or mobile wood fired pizza) and we aren’t doing live music. The only vendors that I think we’ll have in the venue, the rental furniture, food, and the miscellaneous pre-wedding stuff, like hotels and hair/make up artists if we choose to have them. Our photographer is already chosen and she’s located almost dead center between us and the venue.
    Am I being naive to think the distance is not going to be that big of an issue?

    • Lisa

      People plan long distance weddings all of the time. I’d say you’ll probably have to count on taking a few days off work to go out and visit venue options and to meet with potential vendors. However, you can typically stack all of these meetings on top of one another to maximize your time in the location. If it’s a touristy place that is used to weddings, the vendors will probably be used to working with out-of-town couples.

      We spent the most time with people right at the beginning of our planning, and many of them we didn’t see again until a month or so before the wedding. You’ll be fine!

    • graceplace0104

      I am planning a similar wedding and we got a day-of coordinator which I HIGHLY recommend. You need someone who knows the people there. She is already paying for herself with the savings that we get by having a connection to the best vendors and wholesale flowers, and the piece of mind we have from working with her is priceless. All in all we will make a total of 4 trips to the wedding venue in the course of planning the wedding, and they have all been fun engagement weekends that we have enjoyed while seeing vendors at the same time. I say go for it!

  • Emily

    Augh! I was going to ask this question to the happy hour crowd, this is perfect. We are getting married in late May 2019. We have our venue 6-10 (we can and may add hours, but only after 10). We want to incorporate a pre-ceremony cocktail hour (which we will be present for having already done photos), a relatively short ceremony, then a processional that will lead into a half mile hike around the property, then dinner. I am VERY aware that rule one of parties is to feed people on time, but if we to do heavy appetizers during our cocktail hour, would this schedule work?

    6-645: cocktail hour
    645-8: ceremony, short hike
    8: dinner, dancing, etc

    THANK YOU!

    • Amy March

      I think you have people hiking at prime dinner time, and also unless it’s extremely casual people may not have any interest in hiking in festive clothes. If you did Your ceremony first you wouldn’t run into that issue so I’m curious what the background is?

    • Hannah

      Could you do ceremony first, then hike around the property with refreshment stations along the way? It could be a fun motivator for everyone – a sort of “moveable feast”, if you will!

      Be sure to tell your guests they’ll be walking, so they can choose their footwear accordingly. And maybe have a nice hangout option for anyone who’s not inclined or able to hike.

      But I love the idea of incorporating a group procession into the celebration! Maybe there could even be some music or singing along the way.

      • Emily

        Thank you both! So helpful. I agree the only way to get this done is to have the ceremony first, then do a cocktail hour/optional walk (hike is probably the wrong word for a paved trail that I believe is wheelchair accessible) and have dinner earlier. Cheers!

        The background.. it’s migration season and I’m a birder :)

        • Hannah

          Oh! That sounds magical. Maybe you could call it a sunset stroll or a just-married procession instead. :-)

          It sounds like this is really important to you, so I think you should try to make it happen!

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  • Allie

    Hi there! Question about the numbers of a bridal party.. or rather the Maid of Honor role in particular. My sister and I are not close (nor are we particularly fond of each other), yet it would hurt my parents for me to demote her to “bridesmaid” rather than MOB. Have you ever been a part of a wedding that has had 2 maid of honors? What I’d like to do is have my best friend as a co-MOB and that way I can argue it’s for the benefit of both that they can split the tasks, less pressure on both, etc.
    Are there any other non-conventional ways you’ve seen brides deal with the not-so-close sibling dilemma?

    • RNLindsay

      I was a co-MOH once! I was the longer friend but the other was a best college friend. She gave a toast at the rehearsal dinner and I did the reception toast. She stood next to the bride during the ceremony but I held the bouquet. We just split up some of the important roles

  • Alex Steininger

    Silly question here, I am planning centerpieces for 14 foot rectangular tables that are a combo of multi-sized vases, geode candle holders, and greenery. We will also be serving dinner family style, so I need room for platters as well as place settings. Any direction on quantity of each to have? I don’t want things to look sparse but also don’t want to run out of room for food (the most important thing on the table!).

  • Shhhitsasurprise

    Hi, I am having party that I would like to turn into a surprise wedding. I need suggestions on how to engage the guests 30 mins before I arrive without arousing suspicion and make sure they get there on time. Do you have any suggestions on interactive games/entertainment? I also want to know if you can suggest a cool way to make a room change/setup from a party to a wedding. I know that’s a lot, any ideas would be very helpful.

  • Jessica

    I recently hired a hair and makeup service that doesn’t have a brick and mortar boutique since they do only events. Their prices are a little ridiculous for my taste, but my mother, who is paying for the hair and makeup on the wedding day, is fine with the price – though I have to take care of the trial, which is more than I would be regularly willing to pay. I’ve been having issues trying to schedule my trial with this vendor due to what seems to be lack of communication. I finally pinned down an exact day I want to do the trial (the day of my bridal shower) and asked her to come in the morning of the day. The shower is on a Saturday, so I understand that there would be other events that she would have to do, but she has plenty of people that work for her. She essentially told me that I have to schedule my trial during a weekday and she can’t do any weekends for the trial at all. I am incredibly frustrated at the fact that I can’t do my trial when I want and that communication is already breaking down between the two of us. I’ve actually already tried reaching out to other hair and makeup vendors due to my frustration, but I would eat the cost of the deposit that my mom doesn’t feel comfortable giving up. Do I just suck up having the trial on a weekday and pay almost $300 to wash it all off and keep her for my wedding, or do I ask for a discount since it’ll be a weekday, or do I just eat the cost and go with a new vendor?

    • Em

      I have no advice about practicalities or money, but if you’re frustrated at her personally, is she someone you want around the morning of your wedding?

    • Amy March

      That’s pretty normal. Anyone who does special occasion hair or makeup is hopefully busy on weekends.

  • Martha Sivertson

    My oldest, politically conservative, brother is making it very difficult for my young, liberal daughter to invite to her wedding. He has two daughters himself to which she and a guest were invited. My brother used to keep his opinions to himself but, now 70, I guess he feels he needs to impose a “conversion” process on his siblings and extended family. Most of us more liberal members ignore it. My daughter has been ignoring him as well but, in trying to pare down her list due to venue constraints, he has risen to the top. No bride needs more stress. Any thoughts?