What Do You Wish Someone Else Would Decide For You?

We help you make up your mind about that (damn) wedding decision.

One of the things I hear most often from the couples I work with is, “This is my first time planning a wedding! I don’t know what I’m doing!” This line usually precedes or follows a conversation about which parts of wedding planning are indeed necessary. Because for as much as we talk about ignoring the WIC ‘s expectations and doing what’s meaningful to us, it’s not always as cut and dried as, “This is meaningful to me, and this is not.” Sometimes things aren’t important enough to have a pre-formed opinion about, and we end up somewhere on the fence.

For example, I recently had a conversation with a couple I’m working with, who weren’t sure about whether or not they should have favors for their wedding. Do they need them? No. Do they want them? Maybe? Is the work of procuring said favors worth it? Only they can know. But it was nice to be able to weigh in as someone who has been around the block a few times to add a layer of experience to the conversation. (My conclusion? Favors are worth it if you enjoy buying/making/giving them, and if you don’t think they’re going to get left behind on tables. And if you’re still not sure, make it the last project you work on, so it becomes easy to veto in the eleventh hour.)

That conversation made me realize that there are probably tons of you who are on the fence about things are sort of important, but not important enough for you to have a hard and fast opinion about them. And while not everyone around these parts is a wedding professional (though if you are, stick around and help a sister out?), there are tons and tons of readers in the APW community who have gotten married, and who have their own stories about what ended up being worth it and what didn’t for their weddings. So today we’re open up this thread to help sort out those nagging will-we/won’t-we coin tosses. So give it to us. What are you on the fence about? Is there anything you secretly wish someone else would make up your mind about? Married folks: lend your experience and expertise. APW might not have its own big book of lists, but that doesn’t mean we won’t do our best to help you cross things off anyway.

Photo Hart & Sol West

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  • M

    Oh, this is perfect. We’re getting married in 10 days and don’t have programs. I was supposed to design and order them a month ago, but I just….didn’t. I wanted to make them into fans because our ceremony is outside (under a pavilion) in the South at the end of July. The thing is, I don’t really care about the program part of it. I hardly glance at those at other people’s weddings and throw them immediately in the trash. So here are the questions:

    1. Do people actually want/need programs? We’ve thrown around the idea of writing everything on a chalkboard instead for people to look at as they walk in.

    2. Will people be ok without fans? We’re definitely providing cold water, and while the ceremony is outside, it’s covered and the pavilion has two ceiling fans. Plus, it won’t be longer than 30 minutes.

    • Programs are nice, not necessary. And they aren’t very effective as fans. If you’re on top of the cold water thing, and have an easily accessible chalkboard, I say skip the programs!

    • ANI

      In response to #1, I have used programs as a way to kill time before the ceremony, but smartphones (or, you know, actual conversation) can easily fill that void. It is nice to know what to expect, but writing that on a chalkboard could serve that function easily. Do you want to put the time in to make programs? Or do you just feel like maybe you should have them just because? Part of me tends toward going with the chalkboard plan, because that cuts out a few more pesky decisions to make this month. The wedding sounds super fun!

    • carrie

      I pretty much always pitch the program after the wedding. Our wedding (two years ago today!) didn’t have them either, and it was fine.

      We got married on the beach, bayside, sun in everyone’s eyes with no fans. It’s was an 83 degree day, and everyone was fine. Water was appreciated and will be at your wedding too.

      My vote is to skip them both. And congrats! Happy wedding!

      • Honestly, for a 30 minutes ceremony I’d say it’s not something to worry about.

        • Copper

          This. If your ceremony is long and complicated, with multiple readings, people you want to celebrate, and you want to honor your departed grandparents or have something in there people might not understand without some direction/context, then programs! If it’s simple, reading-free (i.e. if people will already naturally know what to expect), then no need.

    • They’ll be fine without fans. They all leave the house regularly and survive, you know? I only think programs are necessary if it’s a service (such as a religious one) which requires responses from those attending. If it’s just to say who people are, and the order things are happening in, skip it, and don’t feel guilty about it.

      Have a great wedding!

    • Carolyn

      People said I needed programs for my long/religious ceremony where the order of events wasn’t clear, and to acquaint everyone with the wedding party. AND YET, I couldn’t be bothered. And everyone lived to tell the tale.

      I’d categorize it as Maddie did for favors. Only do it if it is fun and meaningful to you. Which it isn’t. So forget the programs. Regarding the fan aspect? They’ll live.

    • Cleo

      As a frequent wedding guest, I appreciate programs, as I like having something to read before the ceremony, but have found they’re only really necessary in 2 circumstances:

      1. If the wedding does not follow traditional western (read: Christian or secular) order of events and/or there are certain traditions that require further explanation beyond the officiant saying — “And now we’re going to do X, which symbolizes Y.”
      2. If there’s a part of the wedding that requires the guests to sing/say something/etc. — it’s nice to have the words in front of you.

      And I want to echo what Kelly said: “Programs are nice, not necessary. And they aren’t very effective as fans. If you’re on top of the cold water thing, and have an easily accessible chalkboard, I say skip the programs!”

    • LMN

      We ended up having programs by accident. We wanted a beverage menu for each guest so that they’d have time to decide which drinks to order before going up to the bar. So I designed a detailed beverage menu, then decided, “What the heck? Might as well fill this extra space with something.” I formatted everything as FAQs, answering anything I thought that people might be wondering about the schedule and flow of the evening. I ended up with a tri-fold brochure that I printed on regular 8.5×11″ white paper and folded by hand. People used the programs for reference throughout the evening, but I’m sure they got recycled after that.

      If you think that programs would be useful and you have the time/energy/desire to make them–go for it! Although I’d say maybe something simpler than a fan, since you’re so close to the big day (I like the simplicity of the 8.5×11″ sheet, or whatever is standard in your neck of the woods). If you don’t make programs, no one will miss them. I think that the chalkboard sounds like a great idea. Best of luck to you, and I hope you have a fabulous day!

    • Laura C

      I like programs, but I’d say the times they’re genuinely helpful, as opposed to simply interesting, is when either you have people from so many different parts of your life in attendance that most people aren’t going to know who’s who in the wedding party, or there’s a fairly detailed religious ceremony. I’d be lost at a Catholic wedding without a program. I’d survive, but I’d understand a lot less of what was going on.

    • KE

      Sounds like I’m in the minority here, but I really like programs. I like knowing what to expect and being able to estimate how long the ceremony will be. If it’s a large wedding or one where I don’t know many people, I like to look at the names of the wedding party and families and try to see how everybody fits together. Firmly pro-programs over here.

      Fans, eh. Nice to have them, but if it’s covered everybody will be fine.


      I agree that the programs are nice but not necessary, especially for a 30 minute ceremony. I also want to add that if you really want fans or feel they’ll be appreciated (as I’m certain the water will be) then you could just get fans and stick them in a basket where the programs would normally be, or if you had ushers/greeters who would normally hand people programs, they can offer people fans instead. You can get them pretty cheap here:

    • Rosie

      1. My feeling as a guest is that I really like to have programs so that I know what is happening next, and what to expect from the ceremony overall (in terms of timing, pace,etc). And if the couple prints out the readings or little tidbits, then its a nice thing to have before the ceremony. But I never keep them, so when I got married, I bought some thick paper, used MS Word to make some basic pages, and printed them at work. So I had them, but I really didn’t put a ton of effort into them (no design to speak of). I think, if you wanted to make fans, then there are some templates already out there.
      2. I’ve never been in the south in July, so I don’t feel qualified to comment. But it sounds like people would be fine.

    • Anne

      If your guests are participating in the ceremony in any way (have to sing something, give responses longer than “yes!” etc.) or you think parts of your ceremony will be unfamiliar, it’s a nice way to make people feel comfortable. It can be difficult to go to a friend’s wedding, where you really want to be present and engaged with the ceremony, and spend most of the time confused about what’s going on.

      But if there’s no participation and it’s a short service, people will probably be okay following along.

      Oh, one more thing. If it’s outside and it’s not amplified, then you should really put something together (it can be incredibly difficult to hear outside) — even if it is just writing on a chalkboard.

      • I definitely agree with Anne. A program can help orient people to what’s happening. I thought programs were important because I don’t trust that 40 years from now I’m going to remember the song we walked down the aisle to, or what poem was read. Plus, programs can be really simple. I literally typed something up at work, emailed it to Office Max, and picked them up the next day. We folded them in half and voila!

        I’d say fans aren’t worth the effort. People can fan themselves with a simple piece-of-paper program. :)

    • C R

      They’re not really necessary, but I like them. For our wedding a couple of weeks ago, I just bought some shimmery ivory paper from Staples and printed my own programs at home with my mom three days before the wedding. They were just half sheets with the basics — order of events on one side, and who’s who on the other. We really tried hard to include our family in everything for the ceremony, so we wanted people to know who was involved since it was important to us. They turned out great — I stuck ’em in a basket that I had lying around the house and called it good. It’s amazing what some pretty paper and nice font will do!

      Doing our own simple programs also gave us a chance to write a small message from my hubby and I — a thank you for everyone’s love and support. I had lots of early Pinterest-type ideas on how to do this (cards on everyone’s place setting, photoframe/chalkboard note as you walk in, etc), but I frankly ran out of time for those extras. This was a simple way to include a more personalized message too!

    • CPM

      We made programs, primarily because we were including a Quaker-style element in our ceremony where we opened the floor to anyone who wanted to say something. We wanted to include a few words of explanation so guests would feel encouraged to participate, and it worked out wonderfully! We didn’t put a lot of heartache into making them, though– they were black & white, no images, and we literally formatted them in MS Word. Our local print shop ran them off on cardstock for us– we spent less than $50 total.

      70% of the programs somehow got packed up with the rest of the wedding decor, so I guess a lot of people left them on their chairs. Made me feel better about not spending too much time or money on them!

    • Edelweiss

      I agree with those above that say you don’t need programs, but a chalkboard would be nice – however I would add that you should request a photo of the chalkboard to help you remember the ceremony in the distant future.

      I made my programs (and by “I” I mean my sister-in-law’s mother-in-law – this is a great thing to delegate!) more for me than anyone else. I have a terrible memory and I wanted a keepsake that would help me remember what the readings were and who did what 5 years from now. My “5 years” might be a normal person’s “25 years”, and a photo of the chalkboard would suffice, but I do suggest having some sort of long-term document that captures the ceremony outline.

    • Martha

      I like programs, but they are definitely not necessary and can definitely be done on the cheap. Mine was an 11×4.25 (so have of a traditional 8.5×11) one sided simple cardstock – it was also leftover paper from my hand-made invitations, so it definitely wasn’t something I struggled with or “spent” money on beyond the ink from my printer. The whole thing was text I made in word and then I used a cute stamp my mom had used on the shower invited to “dress it up.”

      I definitely agree with other commentators that many people just through it away – my mom desperately wanted to apply burlap and a bow to the program (since we used that on the invite) but I quickly vetoed that idea and we are both glad I did.

      • Martha

        I just re-read this comment and noticed all of my spelling and grammar errors. Good grief, what is wrong with me today?!

    • alyssa

      I was dead-set against programs, but my dad felt very strongly about having them “So people would know who we are!” (which, hello?). I ended up having programs because it made him happy, and it was easier at that point to do them than to not. I tried to make it extra useful by putting directions to the reception location on the back of the program.

      However… I’m so happy we had a program! Now, it is one of my favorite keepsakes from the wedding. I have it in a frame, and I love reading about each of the people who were part of the day, being reminded of the readings our pastor spoke, seeing the titles of the music, etc. It is an unexpected blessing to have a program from our wedding.

    • jashshea

      Programs aren’t necessary. Chalk board it up! I did a 20×24 poster welcoming people (we had a short, secular, no-wedding party ceremony, so there wasn’t much to explain) that was maybe $40 to print up at Fedex (on hardboard).

      Is the ceremony 30 minutes or the whole shebang (the time they sit down, to you walking in, to the recessional, etc)? I always feel bad for the guys in full suits sitting outside in the heat. Water is a great idea and the pavilion fans are awesome. I assume Southerners’ll be ready for the temperature.

      Good luck! Congrats!

    • Lindsey d.

      Programs are something I don’t particularly care for (although I’ve already designed our favors!), so I probably would have just omitted them. BUT, I’ve only been engaged for a week and a half and my mother has already mentioned programs, so it’s probably one of those things I’ll do to make her happy and hopefully distract her from the 20 other things I’ll do in our wedding that will probably disappoint her. :)

    • I’m doing the programme fan thing, because I want to, and I have the time right now to do it.

      I know most will be left behind, and that’s why I’m just abusing the work printer to photocopy them, so no charge, other than special paper.

      I like the little details at the wedding, and that’s what I’m on now. Everything I do from now out is bonus (wedding is Aug 3, 2 WEEKS!!).

    • Vera

      Being from the South I expect it to be 90-100 degress and steamy this time of year. However if you’re having a lot of non locals/people not used to this sort of weather, they might really appreciate a fan.
      But the bottom line is no one is going to walk out thinking “The wedding was lovely. If only it had fans…”

    • E

      I like programs, but I don’t think they are necessary. I also think people will be ok without fans.

    • Lija

      We’re doing programs, but only to include translations because we are including a reading in my father’s native language (Latvian) that probably 10-15% of guests will understand. And one in my FIL’s native language (French) that more, but not all of the guests will understand. My sister got married in Cuba (in Spanish) and the English side of the family was totally lost, so I hope to keep everyone happy by ensuring they know what’s being said.

    • irene

      Just to add for point one – we had programs, and the order of events described did not happen! it was rather OMG aahhhh whatever, at the time.

      Although, I enjoyed making mine. I did it in Office, took to Office Max, 100 copies and folded for like $10.

    • Glen

      We did program fans — printed out our program and wedding party list on 2 pieces of card stock then glued the pieces together around a large popsicle stick. We tied on a ribbon bow and used paper edging scissors to scallop the corners. It took 2 people one Sunday afternoon to make about 100 of them. Unfortunately, our ushers (my nephews) forgot to hand them out, so only a few people got the fans.

    • At my best friend’s wedding they forgot the programs. They were all printed out and ready, groom was supposed to bring them, and forgot. No one noticed!

    • Rachel

      I chose not to do programs- and was going to write everything on the chalk board at our venue, but ended up not even having time for that! It didn’t matter one bit.

  • Emilie

    We’re on the fence about hiring a live musician for our brunch wedding reception. We were thinking about getting a jazz guitarist, possibly a trio depending on our budget. Our coordinator says the typical rate is $100 an hour at our time slot and venue. I feel like it’d be really nice to have some live entertainment since we won’t have dancing. I’m anxious about what everybody’s going to do for 3-4 hours besides eat breakfast. I also of the strong opinion that live jazz and brunch are just meant to be together. At the same time, I could easily play Pandora’s jazz station for much cheaper.


    Also, how long should they play? Just cocktail hour or the whole event?

    • Cleo

      To me, it sounds like you really want a jazz trio but for the cost. I say go for it if you can afford it! Brunch and jazz sounds super classy and fun!

      As for what people will do — they’ll talk, maybe dance on their own, and eat. Sounds like a great party to me! :)

      If you’re looking to cut costs and still have live music, try to find a group through a local university’s music school. Student groups will be high quality, but cheaper because they’re still in school.

    • KD

      Have them play the entire time! If they stop early guests will think the event has ended! Live music really adds some life to the party though, and I think it would be a great addition if it’s in your budget!

    • LikelyLaura

      Not quite the same, but we ended up hiring a pianist for our ceremony at the last minute. It was totally worth it for us, and definitely created a different vibe than just having the DJ play the songs. Also, there are a lot of musicians in our families, and it was sort of a good compromise after we ruffled feathers by hiring the DJ for the reception.

      But, also remember you’ll probably want to tip them. So it will add a bit more.

    • If you check out local music schools in your area you might be able to find some talented musicians who are willing to work very cheaply since they’re just starting out!

      • Bonnie

        We did the local schools thing and found a great group. Many of the schools (music specific or not) have a gig board you can post to and then potential groups can contact with you quotes. We saved a lot that way.

      • I went this route when I wanted live bluegrass music at my 30th bday bash. Turns it it was the day after the department’s big end of year show and the students would have been brain dead, but the program chairs, who are professional musicians, offered to do it for a reasonable price. So I definitely recommend going that route!

        It sounds like you really want to do this, so I say yes if you can afford it! If not, Pandora will do in a pinch for sure.

    • Rebecca

      I would think of this as a treat for you (and your husband, if he is equally enthusiastic). Does your budget have $400 for you guys to treat yourselves? If so, I say go for it- it sounds like fun. If it’s simply too much money, then pandora station it is.

    • Carolyn

      Live music feels fancy and luxe to me. If you want it, I think it’s worth it.

    • It sounds like something you are excited about, and the cost seems very reasonable. It also sounds heavenly, as a guest! I say go for it. If you can budget it for the whole time, go for that. What a nice treat.

    • Leslie

      Live music was one of my Really Important Things for the reception, because I think it just makes such a difference. It sets up a certain kind of energy that I love. Plus, although hiring musicians can be pricey, I felt really good about supporting their careers. Making money in the arts is hard! I think it’s money extremely well spent.

      Also, bands are flexible! At our reception, my husband and I gave short speeches thanking our families. Right after, I went to go hug my mom; she was so overtaken by emotion that she started to dance with me, and the band totally rolled with it. Our band was definitely a reception highlight.

      • Louise

        Amen, sister. I have tons of friends who are professional musicians and most of them are just barely paying their rent despite gigging regularly. Being a musician is tough. If you can afford it, you’ll be doing a lot of good for someone else by hiring them to play for you instead of streaming Pandora.

    • Samantha

      I’m having a brunch reception in January, although I hadn’t gotten to the music part yet, I assumed it would be I-Pod based… I’m a little anxious as to what everyone is going to do during the reception besides eat brunch as well. Although I’m anticipating it being only 2 hours or so.

      • Leslie

        I, too, wondered what people would DO for an entire wedding reception if we didn’t have things FOR them to do. It turns out, though, when you get a bunch of people together, they like to talk to one another! Your side of the family will want to meet your partner’s side of the family. Your cousins will reconnect. Your college friends will want to catch up. If you just make space for people to be together and visit with each other, it will be great. I thought there was no way our reception was going to be longer than 2-3 hours because we didn’t have dancing, or anything like that, and people just stayed and hung out and enjoyed each others’ company until we had to kick them out because we had to leave the venue.

    • A friend of mine had a brunch reception with a live swing band. It was definitely way cooler than a simple DJ would’ve been, and for those who didn’t want to dance, just watching the band was entertaining enough.

      At my ceremony we had a guitar/violin duo, and it was fantastic. I agree that live music just gives a special vibe. We didn’t use them for our cocktail/reception only because they already had another commitment. They were fantastic and people still remember the music they played!

    • Another Kate

      A little late in my responses, but I think a jazz trio would be well worth the cost. I think live music is a really great touch that kind of ups the “specialness” factor by quite a bit. We had a jazz quartet at our cocktail hour (one of our groomsman is a trumpet player and it was his group), and we got a lot of nice comments from guests. We couldn’t afford a band for the whole reception, so having a little jazz for cocktail hour was a nice compromise for us.

    • Bri

      I’m biased since I work as a professional jazz musician, but I think live music is a really special touch at any event. I think it sounds warmer and more inviting than just playing an iPod. Plus, if the musicians you are hiring are nice, professional people (which they always should be!), you get the added benefit that they’ll be able to interact a little bit with your guests!

      Paying for live music can seem expensive, but in the grand scheme of wedding budgets, I don’t think the cost is unreasonable if it’s something that is important to you. Just think how much more expensive the catering, photography, venue cost, DJ, etc can be in comparison to a few hundred dollars for live music. If you’re looking at hiring a jazz group, you can always ask the leader about different configurations to cut down on cost: a soloist or a duo of something like guitar and bass is going to cost less than a quartet or trio, and it will still sound really nice if you’re hiring skilled musicians. Bonus: smaller groups require almost no setup time!

      Also, I never expect a tip for playing something like a wedding. Occasionally a client will throw one in, and it’s always a nice surprise, but it’s certainly not expected. I’m just happy if the band gets paid in a timely manner, gets reasonable breaks during the gig, and maybe a little food and drink.

  • Tali

    Are welcome bags for out of town guests worth it? (Almost all of our guests are out of towners, as it’s basically a destination wedding (Evergreen, CO). What about printing out day-of timelines for the wedding party?

    • Tess

      Ooh, that was my question! And my wedding is also essentially a destination wedding in Denver :)! Our DOC suggested putting local microbrews as a Colorado treat in welcome bags, which I am definitely doing if we do it.

      • LMN

        A couple weeks before our wedding, I created a timeline for each person who was involved in the big stuff: anyone who was attending the rehearsal dinner, setting up or breaking down for the ceremony/reception, expected to be in photos, taking part in the ceremony, giving a toast at the dinner, etc. For a couple people (like, say, the groom), this was two pages, but it was under a page for most.

        Depending on whether the person would have a smart phone with them, I either emailed them a copy or printed one out for hand delivery when they arrived in town. It was a lot of mental work, going through the day from each person’s point of view, but it was totally worth it. (And mostly I did a lot of cutting and pasting addresses.) Everyone knew when/where to be, and what to do, and no one was asking me or my husband-to-be questions about such things on our wedding day. That was my true motivation as I made the itineraries. ;)

        We also had a day-of coordinator to stage manage things at the ceremony/reception site. Even for our relatively simple and small event (secular ceremony, 70 guests), she was a lifesaver. I can’t say enough good things about wedding stage managers!

    • carrie

      I emailed timelines to the wedding party. They promptly ignored it, mostly. Just be sure to have a trusted friend/family member (probably IN the wedding party) on standby to round folks up day of.

    • Maddie

      I love welcome bags for when I’m coming home tipsy and remember that somewhere in my hotel room is a snack. Otherwise, I wouldn’t miss ’em.


      I was a guest at an out-of-town event recently and we received a welcome bag. The most useful part was a timeline of events including transportation (they provided a chartered bus to and from the reception) and directions with pictures. Otherwise, the rest of it was just nice – two bottles of water, some Emergen-C (for a potential hangover, one assumes), some candy, and a handwritten card thanking us for coming.

      • KD

        Exactly! This is the number 1 thing –

        Gift bag or no – it’s really nice to do a welcome letter to review all the details (time, addresses, etc) for the guests.

    • Bonnie

      Before you do welcome bags double check with the hotel to see whether they will hand them out at check out for free. We are going through hell and back to convince the hotel we are using just do that (which I think is ridiculous given we calculated we are giving them about $40K in business all told). Definitely something I did not realize would be a problem at all until we encountered it and had I known I probably would have gone with a less frustrating hotel. In general I dont think welcome bags are necessary but I’ve alwasy really appreciated them as a wedding guest (especially if they contain useful info like a map to the venues, or the schedule for the buses, suggestions on where to eat locally). But so far they have been a lot of work to put together so I’d make it a last minute project you can ditch if you don’t have time.

      Also I’m planning on giving our wedding party a paired down version of the timeline. I don’t think they know or care about many minor details but I think it will help for them to know the approximate order of things. And if they don’t want to know they can just not read the email!

      • Bonnie

        oops meant check *in*!

    • I’m British, and welcome bags are not much of a thing here yet, so take this with a pinch of salt – but I personally would not really appreciate one. Sorry to sound ungrateful! But I’m fussy about food, yet hate wasting it, so I feel bad having snacks I don’t really want to eat. I don’t want flip flops that will likely hurt my feet, I don’t like most brands of toiletries widely available… Ugh, writing that out I sound horrible! But it’s just that for me, ‘gifts’ like this become a kind of… burden. I don’t want to throw the stuff out… But it’s probably not what I’d chose and therefore the money is kind of wasted.

      Now a welcome ‘thanks for taking the trouble to be here’ note? LOVE.

      • Laura C

        I’m with you. Not on being British, but on feeling like most welcome bags I’ve ever gotten have left me feeling more like “how am I going to avoid wasting these things I don’t really want” than excited.

      • Edelweiss

        I love Welcome Bags, so I’m biased, but I think we came up for a nice solution about waste. We included a small paper bag and a note. The note invited guests to use or keep everything included, but if they didn’t want any items to put them in the paper bag and bring it to the post-wedding brunch. We donated all the unused stuff, folded in the bags to a local youth shelter to use as care packages (and the shelter was very appreciative).
        That being said – I’m sure there was still some waste, and you definitely don’t HAVE to do them.

        • Jo

          Great idea!

    • Carly

      I love welcome bags, and multiple guests told me they loved getting ours! With that said, they’re obviously not totally necessary. But I think you can do them cheap (get bulk stuff from Costco) and they are a nice touch. Re: the timeline: email everyone the timeline and maybe give the MOH and BM (or someone responsible) a print out. Nothing else needed.

    • Liek she said in the post, if you enjoy making them (welcome bags) and I’d add, if the budget fits then I’d say why not? But personally as a guest; I was invited, I was fed, I had a good time…that’s enough for me :)

    • Laura Lee

      Chiming in to enthusiastically recommend that you DO give your wedding party printed day of timelines. If there’s really nothing for them to do other than show up 30 minutes before the ceremony, it’s not really necessary, but if you’re coordinating hair/makeup appointments, eating, pre-ceremony pictures, post-ceremony pictures, etc. everyone really needs to know where to be and when.

      I emailed detailed day of timelines out to the wedding party, but no one (except for me) printed theirs, so they knew basically what they were supposed to do, but kept asking me for the specific times they were supposed to be everywhere ALL DAY. It really got to be a pain, but if I’d given them printed copies that morning, it would have avoided a huge chunk of those questions.

    • Concetta

      Tali, I was married in Evergreen this past May and did welcome bags for anyone staying there more than two nights. I almost let them make me crazy (er) and they still weren’t done the week of the wedding. So, I thought about what would really be helpful, and skipped all the fun “ooh, this would be cute!” stuff that required time/specialty stores. I did one bag per adult couple and one kid bag per room if they brought kids. I stuck in broad weekend timelines and included a list of everyone’s phone numbers so they could call each other. Colorado musts: Sunscreen, lip balm, calming lavender lotion (’cause, you know – family is stressful), water, snacks and some walking maps of Evergreen. There are some great groupons available for the paddleboats on Evergreen Lake – we stuck some of those in, too. They were a hit, and I’m glad I did them. I’m also glad I dropped the fantasy vision and relaxed about the silly bags, already!

      • Rebecca

        Was totally going to advocate for including sunscreen, if you choose to do welcome bags. People used to living at sea level rarely realize how much stronger the sun is when you’re missing that extra mile+ of atmosphere.

    • KE

      Welcome bags are always a thoughtful touch, but I don’t think they’re worth it. Too often it’s a random mash-up of local items I’ll never use and don’t want (seafood seasoning?) and snack things I’m ambivalent about (gold fish are nice enough, but I could easily get some myself).

      Items I always appreciate:
      -Bottled water (one bottle per person in the room, please)
      -A schedule with addresses
      -Info about shuttles (or taxi numbers if there aren’t shuttles)

      • This was going to be my comment exactly – I really appreciate shuttle information/other details, plus bottled water, MAYBE a special local or homemade treat. But I don’t do much packaged/process stuff, so the bags of chips/granola bars/candy/etc. go unused.

    • I wanted to do this (we had about 60 guests from out of town) but ran out of time. In the end I think it didn’t matter.

      I did make sure that I put a lot of information on our wedding website, though. Suggestions for sightseeing, things close to the hotel, etc. But people will figure it out.

      If I had the time I would have liked to do this, but I don’t regret not getting to it.

      • Submitted too soon!

        We DID have day of timelines though, and those were super helpful (mainly because our friends and family were helping us with set up/take down).

        • Genell

          We are having ours clise to home in Virginia Beach, but most of our guests are from out of town so I guess its kind of a destination. Love the idea of putting all the “things to do / where to eat” on the wedding website.

    • C R

      Timelines are key — especially if you have out-of-town wedding party people…I love spreadsheets, so I also included a tab with a vendor list with names, addresses, and phone numbers of whatever I could think of. That way even people from out of town knew exactly where to be, whether it was the salon or the flower shop. Though not everyone in the party used the itinerary, most of them appreciated it — and I think my groom loved it most of all, since it helped him delegate the “to-do” list on the day of.

    • If you have a wedding website you can put a lot of the welcome bag info there, like maps, things to do and places to eat locally.

    • I’ve toyed with the idea of welcome bags, and was leaning away, but now I’m not so sure. My main question is, how do you keep track of where people are staying? We have a list of suggested hotels and one with a room block, but when the time comes, how do I keep track of where our 65ish% out of town guest list actually stays? And what about people who stay with relatives who are in town?

      • Bonnie

        We asked out of town guests to let us know where they are staying seeing as we have several suggested hotels and a contract rate at only one of them.

    • Gina

      I don’t have anything helpful to say about welcome bags, but OMG I live in Evergreen! Beautiful choice for a wedding, but I’m biased ;)

    • HolidayJen

      My Bride POV: We had a destination wedding in a small Vermont village with 100 out-of-towners. We skipped the welcome bags, but did do a short note with a timeline of events and things to do in the area. For me it was more about giving them that little welcome upon their arrival, making sure everyone knew where to be and when, and what to do during downtime. I would have loved to stock them up with maple syrup, cheese and alpaca wool socks, but it just wasn’t in the budget.

      My Wedding Guest POV: Who doesn’t like gifts!? Of course I love getting a bag full of local treats upon check-in, but I just got back from an out-of-town wedding that also skipped the bags and honestly didn’t even think about it until reading this today.

    • CPM

      We had welcome bags for our out of town guests, but I literally never saw one. My MIL wanted to have them, so I let her put them together! We had a summer wedding in DC, and I think she included water bottles, fans from Oriental Trading, a map of the DC Metro, a snack of some variety, and ibuprofen. I gave her contact info for the hotels and she managed all the logistics.

      We didn’t do printed timelines for the wedding party, as our day-of was pretty simple (getting ready, portraits, ceremony and reception all immediately following one another at the same location). If you have moving parts, it might be a good idea to give something on paper… assuming that they’ll remember to bring it might be another story. We did email everyone with a schedule of where they needed to be and when, and what they needed to bring with them.

    • Sarah

      We got married three weeks ago and I was surprised how many people commented on our out-of-town gift bags. They were easy and relatively cheap — one of those items that without them people wouldn’t have noticed but having them made a big difference. We discovered the majority of our guests did not go to our website full of details and barely read the details on the invitations so having a state map, the timing for the day and turn-by-turn directions from the hotel to the rehearsal and the ceremony site were much appreciated. We were married in Baltimore so we threw in some Baltimore-specific items, hard candy and water. My take away — if you have the time go for it. people won’t miss them but are greatly appreciative if they have them.

    • MDBethann

      Our wedding last year was “destination” for our friends from Maryland/DC but most of our family lived in the area. I toyed with welcome bags but didn’t do them. Instead, I made sure that our wedding website had a list of local attractions and I provided hotel information as well in case people chose not to stay at the hotel where we had a room block.

      I do think a timeline so people know where they have to be and when is a good idea – some people might not bring their invitations with them (which I found rather surprising, but it happens!)

    • Stephanie

      I second the “make sure the hotel will hand them out”. My cousin did great bags for her guests, and even though we all checked in as there for the wedding, with a wedding rate, they never handed them out. At least 10 of us didn’t get bags, so the employees got drinks and snacks I assume.

    • Ann

      I’m a bit late to the game, but I did welcome bags and my guests said they were GREAT. And I spent approximately $3 per person on them.
      For each person there was:
      -A bottle of water
      -A granola bar
      -Pita chips
      -A couple of small chocolates
      -Map/timeline/suggestions of things to do (I typed and printed this, map was Googlemaps with my annotations done in Skitch).

      Far and away, people most appreciated the granola bar and pita chips. They were big fans of having snack food right when they arrived.

      I bought everything in bulk (inspired by what was on sale) and put it in uber cheap gift bags (also on sale). It took me and my mom about 15 minutes to bag them all. The biggest hassle was getting them to the hotel. 100% worth it, though. And it didn’t matter that I did things super cheaply.

    • Vanessa

      This was an eleventh hour project for us. I bought big circle stickers for cute goodie bags of sorts to put in the hotel rooms of visiting guests (since I had a groupon for other stickers that I did use). But all the hassle in thinking of logistics of putting together bags, getting them to the hotel AND meeting up at the airport to pick up family/friends got in the way. Bags were never made – info was all on our website anyways and the stickers collect dust.
      Thing is though – all our OOT guests loved exploring the little Quebec town where we wed without knowing everything on offer. And no one missed having a water bottle/candies or some such thing.

    • Tamar

      Am I the only one who had no idea that welcome bags were a thing? I’m going to try to block that revelation out and pretend I still haven’t heard of them, just so I don’t have to stress about it.

    • k corbeau

      Okay, the majority of weddings that I have attended as a guest (90%) were either out of town or destination weddings, and I did not even know Welcome Bags were a THING until I read this post. So I think you will be fine if you decide not to do them, I bet your guests, unless they have been to many more weddings than I have, will not even notice.

      That being said, it would have been really nice to get something like a welcome bag – if not the little gifts or food then at least a map with all the key venues and times on it, or a card. Also include – contact info in case your guests are unfamiliar with the area and become very lost. This would have been useful for me personally on multiple occasions, I am embarrassed to admit. (The time I got most badly lost, the only cell phone numbers I had were for the bride & two bridesmaids – none of whom had their phones with them at the time.)

      Basically, think more functional – what would out of town guests need? If they will be there for a night before or after your festivities, suggest local restaurants or places to check out. Let them know if Google Maps is often wrong about which route to take, or if there is new construction between their hotel and the venue that will cause a 2 hour jam.

      And, to the person upthread who suggested adding local microbrews to welcome bags, I love you. I would go to all your weddings & be an awesome guest.

    • Anon

      I’m a little late to the party, but I’m also an Evergreen native who had a mostly-destination wedding (although we ended up having our wedding in Denver because we were too late to book the Lake House for the weekend we wanted). We put together gift bags for the guests staying at the hotel where we had a block of rooms, plus a few who we knew were staying with family. We included:

      – Chapstick (We got nice, cheap, personalized chapsticks here: http://www.lipbalmexpress.com/index.php)
      – Bottled water
      – Tips on avoiding altitude sickness
      – A few cheap snacks (I don’t remember what we put in – whatever was on sale at costco)
      – Sun screen
      – Info sheet with basic wedding info (when, where, shuttles, etc.) and nearby restaurants

      People really appreciated the altitude tips (drink lots of water, watch your alcohol consumption, wear extra sunscreen) and the chapstick.

    • Genell

      I probably won’t do guest bags for everyone but was thinking about putting some essential bags together for my mother and my fiances mother and probably my moh. Last minute stuff you never think you’ll need like safety pins, sunscreen, aspirin, tissues, travel size stain remover, etc.

  • For me the favors! Honestly now i look back, every other thing (coasters, key chains) all unnecessary. The only favors that were not left behind were the jars of hersheys kisses..I guess I should have known that and saved myself some $$. Also invitations too…let me explain;

    I have a friend getting married and she is a budget bride, she mainly comes to me for advice and consultation since I’m her friend, a wedding blogger and also someone that has been there. She told me she had an invitation fro me and the first thing i said was “give it to some other person..I think an email is just fine for me”. Not that I hate invitations but I feel her money could be tucked somewhere else and since I’m not the kind that would get crazy about not getting a physical invitation and I’d obviously throw it away, why ask for one?

    Point being; I have learned to be that “understanding” guest since I have been there before. I just think some guests (especially friends) need to learn to be understanding sometimes and not throw a fit if something we expected wasn’t done at the wedding.

    • I don’t think favors are necessary. I’ve never been to a wedding without them and thought “Where are the favors? Damnit, Britney, you are the worst bride!” That said, I’ll never say no to a jar of Hershey’s kisses/cookie/other food favor.

    • Favors! We are skipping them and some people are shocked and all I can think is, “You honestly wanted a dollar store mesh bag filled with M&Ms with our faces printed on them? I mean, REALLY?” Instead, we made up business cards with some info about 2 of our favorite local charities and are giving our guests the chance to “vote” for one or the other and for each vote the charity gets we are donating $2. Because a $2 favor per guest is some cheap thing they will never use, but collectively we can collect a lot of money for some organizations we love.

      • I love that idea Kate!!

      • Daisy6465

        Such a good idea! I have seen the “We have donated in honor of our guests” route and this is what we were planning on doing but I love the voting idea.

    • I’m not sure about favors either. Full disclosure: my parents are generously paying for a big chunk of the wedding. That said, my mom is of the opinion that favors are a necessity and I don’t really care. I have enough tchotchkes in my life and feel like most people do too. And I don’t want my parents to spend an extra couple hundred bucks on something no one will appreciate. So to have favors or not? Is there a middle ground here?

      • Anne

        You can make them something useful, if you want. We got tote bags printed with our wedding date and names, and we use the ones we had left over all the time. I hope our guests still use them, too.

      • MDBethann

        I am not a fan of things that sit around gathering dust or that just get shoved in a box somewhere. Yet I wanted something tangible for my guests to take with them. I also wanted centerpieces that wouldn’t break the bank. So, since our wedding was in May (2012), I picked a favor that did triple duty as centerpeices/favors/escort cards – small pots of annuals & perennials that were a few dollars a piece at a local greenhouse. I got a bunch of those florist tridents (the things they use for the cards in bouquets) from the florist who did our ceremony flowers, bought card stock at Michael’s, and voila! I did 1 per couple (or single guest) because I was afraid the tables would get cluttered, but I could have done 1 per guest and still had plenty of room, even with the candles provided by my venue. And EVERYONE took their flowers home – the only ones I got were the extras we used at the cake and card tables.

        I had a bunch of kids at the wedding, so since it was Cinco de Mayo (and even though we aren’t Mexican), I got cheap maracas at a party store and gave each child a pair for their favor/escort card and they all had fun dancing with them (elementary school age children were also given crayons & seated at a “kids table” covered in art paper; younger children got coloring books at tables with their parents).

      • Copper

        A middle ground could be telling people they can take some flowers/leftover beer/centerpieces/whatever home with them.

      • I was originally going to do something like a very small potted plant. At Target they sometimes have tiny pots in the dollar section with herbs or flowers. Or there are plantable papers that have seeds in them, so you could print something on them about how you want your favors to be useful, and then they take take them home and plant them. I love food favors or things that are actually useful, or “things that go away”, like a candle you’d burn, or food you’d eat, or something like that.

    • Sara W

      We weren’t going to do favors b/c we were on a budget, but I found a way to combine our centerpieces and favors. My inspiration for the colors was “apples” and we were having a fall wedding, so I did baskets of apples as centerpieces on each table. Got the supplies on sale at Michael’s, bought apples from a local produce market, and had little lunch bags at each place setting with a sticker saying “Before you “leaf” please take some apples for the road”. So, our centerpieces got eaten and guests got to take home edible, disposable favors.
      If we had gone another route with centerpieces, we wouldn’t have had favors. Your guests are mostly grown people who don’t need to get a present for attending a party.

      • Rachel

        GENIUS. HEALTHY FOOD! I love everything about apples as a centerpiece.

    • i love favors! also, we didn’t have them. and i’ve never noticed when a wedding didn’t have them.

      but – i love that i can look around my house and see the handmade vase from a friend’s wedding, and that my beer glasses are from another. i love the daily reminders of people i love. so there’s that. but then, most favors don’t really fall into that category (i think it is relevant that the ones i keep and display are personal, but not personalized – i love remembering your wedding, but i don’t really want “jack and jill 10.10.10 <3" all over my house).

      we didn't have favors and we also didn't have a wedding party, but we did buy gifts for a lot of people more along the line of what you'd get your wedding party – it felt important to us to acknowledge our people in some way (and picking out ties based on personality? best part of wedding planning).

    • We are forgoing favours, too.

      We are doing a lump donation to our local Humane Society, and putting a couple note cards at each table saying so. 2$ per guests at 120 guests is 240$ the kitties can use, not our guests in custom wrapped chocolate bars.

      • Jen

        This is *Exactly* what we did for our wedding too and we got a ton of compliments on it. We wrote up a little card explaining why we were donating to the particular animal rescue charity (that’s where we got our puppy from) as our favor. Plus it was our way to incorporate her into the wedding without having her there.

    • Del678

      Let them eat cake!
      Maybe I missed some historical significance, but I do not understand why guests are supposed to get favours? They aren’t little children at a birthday party where they need to get a consolation lolly bag to keep them quite while the birthday child receives a lot of attention and presents.
      They are getting free food, usually free booze, some amusing speeches and presumably great dancing opportunities. Those who have been actively helpful get an additional thank you in some form or another.
      Our guests will get boxes to take home cake (we have a dessert buffet so there will be loads of leftovers), happy memories and great big hug.

      • Iz

        We weren’t going to have favors for many of the reasons stated above, but relatively last minute decided we had enough money left to get small ones. So we just went with heart-shaped chocolates. Nice to have, fine if people left them behind…

  • Mikala

    I’m trying to decide on whether we need to do a seating chart or not. If we didn’t, I would reserve tables up front for the wedding party and their dates (we’re doing a sweetheart table instead of a head table) as well as family members like our parents, grandparents, and siblings. Anyone been there/done that? Suggestions? I just really don’t want to be switching around seating charts and making new place cards on the morning of my wedding because someone decided to bring a date at the last minute.

    • Laura C

      We’ve been to a wedding where the only people either of us knew were at assigned seats at the head table, the rest weren’t assigned seats, and by the time we got to the dining room (there wasn’t a very clear signal of when to go where), there were no seats together, not even at the same table. And to a wedding where we got seats at a table with many of our friends, but one person couldn’t fit at the table, the caterer wouldn’t let us squeeze in an extra place setting, and that person had to go off looking for a seat at a table with people he didn’t know. So I’m a fan of seating charts. But then, I’ve had a friend say she got seated at a table away from all her friends and it was upsetting, and I’ve heard of a case where one friend of the groom got seated with several of the groomsmen and someone else who *thought* he was just as close to the groom was seated off at the edge of the room in a place he felt was less prestigious and was annoyed.

      So…we’re doing a seating chart because the awkward things we’ve personally experienced point that way, but I’m pretty sure it’s one of these things where someone’s going to be upset either way.

      • Copper

        This. I’ve been to a wedding without seating charts where my fiance and I wound up not able to sit with people that we really wanted to spend time and frankly didn’t enjoy the wedding that much overall. We’ve also been to one where there were long tables and you were only given a table number—and he and I were seated at separate (but adjacent) tables! I suspect they did the chart the normal way but didn’t want to make placecards, so it worked in a seating plan but seemed ridiculous when we got table numbers and they weren’t the same.

        Seating is just a pain.

    • I say it depends on if you have seating room for more than your attendance number. If you have just enough, then people might be awkward about sitting next to people they don’t know, and are more likely to mill about. That and it’s more likely that single seats will be left at multiple tables, and then a couple might have to split up for dinner to get the only remaining seats.

      We had about 8 more spots than we had people, so we let it ride and everything worked out fine. Though, our tables were picnic tables and some people chose to squish 10 people onto a table just to sit together. People are weird.

      • Erin

        This. I hate seating charts, but if you don’t have one, you need to have some wiggle room. We didn’t do seating charts, but had 8 extra chairs (basically an extra table) to prevent the issues mentioned above.

        I’d also consider the makeup of your guests. Do most of them know lots of other people? Then it’s easier to not have a chart. Do most of them know only a few other people? It may be harder for everyone to be happy on a whim.

    • Laura Lee

      Definitely make a seating chart. It’s a pain, but it’s so awkward as a guest if there isn’t one.

      Think about it this way. It’s not an easy task for you to create a seating chart where everyone is with someone they know (or someone you think they’ll like if they don’t know anyone), and Uncle Harry is nowhere near Great Aunt Judith because they don’t get along, and all your family is in the same general area, and the older guests are in a quieter section, and the rowdier guests are not too close to them, and, and and….. you know. It’s complicated. But if you work on it, you’ll eventually come up with an arrangement that’s pretty darn good and most everyone will be comfortable with.

      If you don’t have a seating chart, you are leaving it up to your guests to come up with their own seating chart, but they don’t have all the information you have. Unless you have a very small crowd or they all know and love each other, you’re very likely to end up with some awkward pairings. You’ll have a group of 15 that all want to sit at the same table that seats 10, and a shy couple that knows no one and ends up sitting at a different table for 10 by themselves (ever been the new kid in high school with no idea where to sit at lunch in the cafeteria?). Grandma sits a table away from your fun-loving but foul-mouthed college friend and is deeply offended.

      And again, it’s possible you have an amazing group of guests that these issues just wouldn’t apply to, but I think that is very rare. Seating charts make things easy and comfortable for guests, though they are a little bit of a pain for the couple planning.

    • One of the first things my fiance and I decided in our wedding planning was to not do a seating chart. We’re just doing a free-for-all because, let’s face it, our guests are (mostly) adults and they’re perfectly capable of choosing seats and being social. But I really like your idea of reserving tables near your sweetheart table for the wedding party and family members, then letting the other guests choose their own seat. It adds a nice touch of “specialness” for your family/wedding party while relieving you from the stress of charts and cards and all that jazz. :)

      I think of it like everything else in the wedding – if it’s meaningful to you and worth your time, then go for it! For us, we just don’t care where people sit while they eat. We’re skipping most of the other reception activities and going for more of a casual outdoor summer fiesta so for us, it just wasn’t worth the time or stress (or the $$ to print up all the little name cards, table number signs, etc.).

    • ellie

      The one wedding I went to without seating assignments ended up being ok but only because we got there early and I zeroed in on a couple who looked like they’d be cool to talk to–luckily they were.

      Honestly it was one of the most horrifically anxiety-inducing experiences of the year! I was pissed off to no end when I realized there were no seating assignments. We knew NO ONE except the bride and groom! I know it’s a pain in the butt to make it, but it’s not for you it’s for your guests who aren’t family/related/friends with everyone else. In the end, I think it’s really quite rude and selfish to not do seating assignments.

      • p.

        I think saying that skipping seating assignments is “rude” and “selfish” is uncalled for. Whether or not to do a seating chart is just one of many, many choices a couple makes when planning a wedding, and not every guest is going to agree with every choice. I’ve been to plenty of weddings where the couple chose something that didn’t totally work for me – maybe it was the food, or the location was inconvenient or expensive to get to, or maybe it was where I had to sit during the meal — but I don’t think that any of this was rude or selfish. It was just a decision they made that didn’t work for me.

      • Tamar

        Yeah… Sometimes, it’s really impossible to do seating arrangements, and I don’t think that’s rude. I’ve actually never, not even once, been to a wedding with seating arrangements. Maybe this is a New Mexico thing, or a Hispanic thing, or a Catholic thing, or some other thing, but every wedding I’ve been to has been a free-for-all seating, buffet-eating, dance party extravaganza, and we’re planning on following suit. I’m not planning on sending out RSVP cards, because I know half the people wouldn’t send it back. They’ll come if they can, they’ll probably decide last minute, and we’ll have an overkill amount of food and seating, and it’ll be awesome. Everyone’ll jump tables to hang out with cousins and dance and there’ll be little ones hiding underneath the tables and teenagers hiding out being cool near the bathrooms somewhere, and there’s no way to plan out seating. It’ll just work out.


      As a bride, I’m assigning tables but not seats. Mainly because it’s what I prefer as a guest.Otherwise, I’m scrambling trying to find a table with room for my group, or trying to figure out who sits where. Just tell me where to sit and I’ll sit there.

      • KE

        That’s what I did, too, with the same logic.

        What I found is that guests want as little ambiguity as possible. That’s what I’m in favor of programs, seating charts, signage, and timelines in welcome bags. People enjoy themselves much more if they don’t have to worry about where to sit and where the food is and what happens next.

        I get the argument that they’re all adults and can manage, and that’s true, but it’s a more seamless experience if people have designated tables.

      • MDBethann

        Exactly what we did – with odd numbers of families and people with kids, knowing that there is a table for them to sit at together can be really helpful when parents are chasing little ones around.

      • Audrey

        This is exactly what we did for our wedding, and it seemed to work out. We were right around the space limit for the room (we had extra tables but they were outside away from everything else – other than that we had basically the exact # of chairs to # of people) and I thought it would have been too difficult for the guests.

        I actually found the seating chart piece strangely satisfying, too. It was like a puzzle to figure out how to get it all to work out and it felt good when I found a “solution”.

      • Jo

        Huh. I’ve never been to an event where exact seats were assigned, only tables. Is that really a thing?

    • I’m the kind of person who worries about big group dinner’s at a restaurant, b/c I never know where to sit & I’m always afraid of getting stuck away from my friends. A wedding without a seating chart seems like a social situation that would send my anxiety through the roof.

      We found that an easy way to do seating charts was to draw the table layout on a poster board, and invest in some post it notes. We wrote everyone’s name/each couple on a post-it note (we even color coordinated them by my fam, his fam, our friends) and shuffled things around easily, until we settled on the right combination.

      • Yep, colour-coded was how I did it, too!

        I played around with mine in Google Spreadsheets until I found a good blend. Then passed it by the moms to make sure I am alright with family and friend politics.

        It’s like a little puzzle, who can keep Aunt Michelle from going off on her negative tangents? Cousin Brenda! Oh and her husband David is always the life of the party, they can drive a conversation anywhere. Where to put the lone couple from my hometown who is making the trip? Put them with the other fun cousins who will warm them up no problem!

    • KC

      If you have definite and serious “it’s complicated” relationships attending the wedding (an longing ex of someone’s who will try to sit near them but who they desperately don’t *want* to be anywhere near, or family members who need to be separated for peace), then I’d go for seating charts (or recruit babysitters to buffer specific people).

      If you have people you think will be happier if you cluster them together so they can meet/interact, then seating charts can also be helpful, but there are potentially lower-formality, less locked-in ways of pulling this off (for instance, if you have The Astrophysicists, The Family, The Music Lovers, and The People From College as mental groups at your wedding, you could put a colored dot on each “place card” and specify a certain number of tables as “red” tables or “green” tables once you have the total number of dots/people in each group).

      Otherwise, I’ve been to plenty of weddings without seating charts (or which had seating charts that somehow got lost at the last minute, etc.), and it’s been totally fine. Even in the above cases, it’s generally going to be fine.

    • Anne

      I actually really enjoyed doing the seating chart for our wedding, so perhaps I’m not quite the best person to give advice. But.

      I think it can be really helpful, particularly if you have people coming who don’t know anyone else there, or only know a few people. As Laura said, it can be really difficult for people to grab a table with other people they know; if you do a chart, you can guarantee your one single college friend won’t feel really awkward when she ends up sitting at a table with your husband’s teenage cousins.

      A way to do it without quite so much effort is to assign people table numbers, but then let them pick their own seats — that might be a good compromise for you.

      • Concetta

        I ended up liking it, too, once we got started. This despite the fact that our wedding venue seats people on TWO levels (sort of a balcony upper level, so they can still see everyone). We put wedding party and parents close to the sweetheart table, and then at least one much loved sibling each on the upper level so people wouldn’t feel that was “B” group seating. We had four uninvited/unexpected guests show up, so a bit of wiggle room helped. It was fun putting our different groups together and helping to forge new connections among our loved ones.

    • KD

      Remember the anxiety of being in the lunchroom in middle school and not knowing exactly where you were going to sit… that as an adult is the reason why!

    • ooh thanks, while the idea of do a seating plan is daunting – having reserved seating for some and not others sounds like something I’d feel even more awkward about.

    • LMN

      I also vote for making a seating chart. It can take some time to do, but I think people really appreciate it. We used the free tool on WeddingWire where you can upload an Excel file of your guests’ names, then drag & drop them at tables (really fun!). We just did escort cards on a table near the entrance, but no assigned seats at the tables; guests took their escort cards to their table and picked whatever seat they wanted. This seemed to work well.

      If someone decides the day of your wedding that they’re bringing a guest, I don’t think you need to change your seating chart or write new name cards for them. I think they’ll understand that you’re busy. :) Your day-of coordinator can take care of it, or the guests can just figure it out for themselves. I think people who bring a date at the last minute understand (or at least they should understand) that they’ll need to be flexible about seating.

      • I second the endorsement of the WeddingWire seating chart tool. I started playing with it one night just to get an idea of how it works and if we might want to use it and before I knew it, I had almost our entire guest list seated. We don’t even have invitations out yet, but I have a basic plan of how we’re separating the strained family relationships, “difficult” family members, and shielding conservative grannies from our *ahem* less conservative friends.

        • LMN

          So easy to drag and drop guests to their tables and have their names appear on their seats! It took a little while to get all the guests’ names entered, but once that was done, I just started playing with it. I had 70 people seated in about 20 minutes, and I was like, “Wait…wasn’t that supposed to be awful?” I actually felt guilty for a second. My fiance took a look at it with me later, and we made some adjustments, and that was that! The website also offers nice export features (you can export a JPG of the chart with everyone’s names on their seats, or a list of people by table number for doing your escort cards, etc.). Highly recommended.

      • MDBethann

        The Knot has a similar tool that I used and it was wonderful – you pick the table shapes & sizes and how many people go at each table. You can customize it by table too so not all tables have to be the same shape/size.

    • I like when you’re assigned to a table, but not a specific seat. That way you have some flexibility with where you sit and who you sit with, but you also know you have a place reserved!

    • LMN

      P.S. We had a sweetheart table, and we loved it! We also added two additional chairs across from us with signs that said “Stop by and say hi” on the back, and we wrote in the program that we wanted people to come visit us during dinner. This worked out so well! We had a steady stream of visitors to our table, and we still got to sit down and eat while we visited.

    • Teresa

      Do a seating chart! The one wedding I attended without a seating chart was super awkward–all of the guests were just wandering around uncomfortably trying to find a place to sit with enough chairs for their group. I hated making our seating chart–it was seriously annoying–but I remember how weird it felt at that wedding and I soldiered on! If someone brings a date last minute, then they don’t get a place card!

    • Mikala

      Thanks everyone, I’m really kind of a control freak type of person so I actually want to do a seating chart, I’m just afraid I’ll stress about it more than I should. I’ll probably end up doing one (I soooo feel you guys on the awkward “Where should we sit” moment, I hate that). Plus I have a super cute idea on how to display the place cards that I don’t want to ditch…Thanks for the advice!!

    • kmc

      I’m a big fan of seating charts — I’ve been to 2 weddings without them and it just added more stress for your guests. They come in to the reception space all happy from the ceremony and then there’s this mad, confusing dash for the seats. My experiences were both at big family weddings, so different subgroups of the family were all trying to gather their siblings/cousins together at different ends of the room. It makes it even harder when you have guests with disabilities/trouble standing for too long (my dad) and he had to try and “hold” his seat. Honestly, even if I’m not thrilled with the people at my assigned table, I’d so, so much rather have a set seat, instead of scrambling to find one. Yes, making a seating chart is stressful,but in my view it’s just part of wedding planning.

    • Brenda

      If you’re having a sit-down meal and everyone will be sitting and eating at the same time, then yes, assigning at least tables probably makes sense.

      We had a buffet with an indoor/outdoor space, and not enough seats for everyone to sit at the same time. Some people ate, some mingled, some sat outside, some sat inside, and it was fine. But we only had 75 people and it was a buffet with disposable plates.

      So I’d say if you’re going to be more formal about it, do a seating or table chart. If it’s more a of a smaller, informal, buffet style meal with a flexible space, you can get away without it.

    • CPM

      We assigned tables (not seats) and it honestly took less time than I thought it would. I think we spent half an hour arranging 95 people at 12 tables. At first we weren’t going to, but then I had a nightmare about that high school cafeteria moment when you roam around the tables and nobody wants to sit with you… We also had one big chart instead of individual escort cards. Huge time saver.

    • HolidayJen

      I need to add my voice to chorus of PLEASE DO ASSIGNED SEATS OR TABLES!!

      I went to a very upscale wedding in New York City many years ago where the bride & groom chose not to do one and it was the most awkward situation ever.

      My husband and I and our friends were having so much fun during the cocktail hour that by the time we realized that the dining room was open and people were seated, there were only single seats left at various tables scattered across the room. Not about to sit alone with a table full of rowdy cousins or random co-workers, the 4 of us pulled up a nearby cocktail table to sit at, which made an awkward situation even worse for the wait staff, who didn’t know what to do with us since we had no place settings, etc.

      I know it’s an arduous no-fun task — and the week before my wedding I was definitely cursing that friend who swapped out his date at the last minute — but unless it’s a super relaxed picnic or a small reception where everyone knows everyone, it really is better for the comfort and stress level of your guests.

    • I’ve been back and forth on this for some time. We also have a lot of large groups coming (families) who will want to sit together. The problem is that if each large group starts to take up a separate table, some people will end up divided. Our venue isn’t large enough (nor do I want the expense of decorating) extra tables.

      • I think this is even more reason to do a seating chart. That way you can look at the list and plug the big groups into tables and then slip the singles, couples, and groups of three where they fit instead of having three tables with one seat left and a family of three out in the cold.

    • Teresa

      I was going to skip the seating chart since most of the people attending are mutual friends who know each other and it seemed strange to assign them to sit with these people they know instead of these other people they know, but now I’m thinking maybe I should make one. If someone is going to be angsty about seating, it should be me, not my guests.

    • I guess ultimately it depends on the type of event your having and the personality of your guests, which only you and your partner know. As a photographer, I’m at weddings almost every weekend & I’ve definitely seen both ways work. I’ve seen guests ‘choose’ to sit at a different table than what they were assigned on the chart simply because they liked those table-mates better or their assigned table was too far away from their friends’ table – that just mixed everything up! I’ve also seen weddings with no seating charts but everyone knew at least a few other people there so it wasn’t hard to find a table with a friend or two. And I’ve seen a casual backyard wedding with some dinner tables set up, along with hay bales set as tables, picnic tables, and vintage lounge furniture/coffee tables. They did not have a seating chart and guests seemed to love the random mix of sitting wherever they wanted and moving around to mingle during dinner.

      As I mentioned before, we’re choosing not to do a seating chart. I should clarify though – we’re having a very small, immediate family only ceremony on our 5-year anniversary (a weekday) followed by a big party for friends and extended ceremony on a Saturday later in the month. It really is just meant to be a big celebration, not a traditional wedding reception, with yard games, a photo booth, and a buffet dinner so for us the casual no-chart approach seemed to fit in with the vibe we’re going for. Plus, we’ve gone over our guest list quite a bit and luckily there are no awkward relationships to deal with and the guests all fit into groups (the college friends, the law school friends, the Chicago friends, etc).

      Only you and your partner know your guests’ personalities and the feeling you’re going for with your wedding. Seating chart or not, it’s going to be fine no matter what. Your guests will still have a blast and, most importantly, you’ll still end up married by the end of the day!

      • Tamar

        Just want to second the “know your guests” thought. As I mentioned above, seating charts are just not part of the vocabulary in my loud, gigantic, Hispanic, Catholic family, and I can’t imagine how uncomfortable they would make everyone. I always saw it as sort of elitist if the wedding had a special table for the wedding party only (by elitist, I mean, I thought it was horrible that my mom wouldn’t let 8-year-old me snag the extra cool flowers and candy they had at their table).

        There are some situations, I’m sure, where they are necessary, but there are absolutely circumstances that make them impossible and unnecessary, too.

    • I guess ultimately it depends on the type of event your having and the personality of your guests, which only you and your partner know. As a photographer, I’m at weddings almost every weekend & I’ve definitely seen both ways work. I’ve seen guests ‘choose’ to sit at a different table than what they were assigned on the chart simply because they liked those table-mates better or their assigned table was too far away from their friends’ table – that just mixed everything up! I’ve also seen weddings with no seating charts but everyone knew at least a few other people there so it wasn’t hard to find a table with a friend or two. And I’ve seen a casual backyard wedding with some dinner tables set up, along with hay bales set as tables, picnic tables, and vintage lounge furniture/coffee tables. They did not have a seating chart and guests seemed to love the random mix of sitting wherever they wanted and moving around to mingle during dinner.

      As I mentioned before, we’re choosing not to do a seating chart. I should clarify though – we’re having a very small, immediate family only ceremony on our 5-year anniversary (a weekday) followed by a big party for friends and extended ceremony on a Saturday later in the month. It really is just meant to be a big celebration, not a traditional wedding reception, with yard games, a photo booth, and a buffet dinner so for us the casual no-chart approach seemed to fit in with the vibe we’re going for. Plus, we’ve gone over our guest list quite a bit and luckily there are no awkward relationships to deal with and the guests all fit into groups (the college friends, the law school friends, the Chicago friends, etc) so I feel pretty confident it’ll be okay. Ultimately only you and your partner know your guests’ personalities and the feeling you’re going for with your wedding. Seating chart or not, it’s going to be fine no matter what. Your guests will still have a blast and, most importantly, you’ll still end up married by the end of the day!

    • Hannah

      I was in the “yes to seating charts” camp because we had a reception venue that was going to be a tight fit. Luckily, it seemed to have worked–people who RSVP’d actually came, and we didn’t have a bunch of unexpected people, and by and large, we were able to put together people who mostly knew each other. Recently, we went to a wedding that didn’t have a seating chart, and honestly, it was a little awkward finding a place, etc.

    • Jacquelyn

      Great question. And what about family-style seating? We’re having rows of rectangle tables, at least 4 or so connected in a row, with nearly 200 guests. Seating chart for this type too??

      • Anne

        Ours was about half your size, but we used really long rectangular tables too, and we did do a seating chart. I actually really liked it because it meant I could put my mom’s whole, giant family at one table.

        • Jacquelyn

          Awesome. Thanks! Yeah, I think the family will be easiest to seat since there is no drama on either side. I’m just wanting to be sure the friend groups, who may not know any one besides us very well, are comfortable.

          • Molly

            I went to a wedding recently that was set up like this – but the couple used alternating colors for the tablecloths so each table had a beginning and end and put a table number on each separate table within the row so you could tell where to sit.

      • Emmers

        I went to a wedding like this recently– big long rows of rectangle tables. There were no seating charts, and it worked fine for us. I was with my love and a couple of his family members, so it might not have worked as well if I was alone.

        That said, for our wedding I was considering doing the same thing– mainly because we’re planning to invite our small church, so there will be some fluidity with who comes. We also have meals each Sunday after church, so that crew at least is very used to sitting whereever & chatting (though they’ll probably just be 1/4 -1/5 of the guestlist).

        I really appreciate the advice in some of the earlier comments, however, about making sure there are extra chairs around so people can rearrange, since I wouldn’t have thought of that.

        Another thing I’ve thought of is doing a moment during the ceremony when the officiant explains that there will be open seating, and we’d really like for people to introduce themselves to those they sit with and chat with them a bit. I’d like to promote a communal vibe.

        But all these strong comments about pro-seating charts are making me doubt myself!

        • Jacquelyn

          Loving these thoughts. I was pretty set in not doing a seating chart but now I’m seriously on the fence… The announcement by the officiant is way better than not saying anything at all for sure. So we’ll be waffling between that and a full-blown seating chart :)

    • Laurel

      Assign tables! I used to think they were silly, but it’s tough being at a wedding and scrambling for a place to sit, and then your group isn’t the same size as the table, or maybe you don’t know anyone and you feel like the last kid to get picked for kickball.

      It took us probably 45 minutes to make the table groupings. Totally worth it. Easy enough to write up the names on a big list somewhere near the entrance to the dinner.

    • Seating charts are wonderful for your caterer. If you are having a plated meal, they need to know how many at each table is getting what meal, and where the dietary restrictions are (silly celiacs, making everything complicated).

      If you are doing a buffet, assign tables, not places if you want some order.

      Or do a have-at-er and let people site where they want. Most guests know that the closest tables are reserved for immediate family. No one is going to deny G-ma her unblocked view of your smooches.

    • Lindsey d.

      My part of the country doesn’t do seating charts. In fact, I’ve only been to two weddings ever that have had seating charts and at one, everyone ignored the chart because no one thought to even look for it! Most weddings in Louisiana are buffet style, so that may play a part.

      But I think if you are having a sit down meal, you need a seating chart, especially if guests are given a choice of entree.

    • We are planning on not doing a seating chart, but think we can get away with it by making the dinner a little less like a straight-up sit down affair. Self-serve pizza buffet with very portable sides, and tables spread throughout the venue, to encourage people to walk around and enjoy the space (it’s a children’s museum). I’m just hoping that it is relaxed and doesn’t somehow turn into a clusterf*ck.

    • Abbey

      I’m struggling with the seating chart as well. We’re having a very small destination wedding with only 26 guests. We have to split everyone up into 3 tables; one will have the bridal party. We’ve talked about just reserving that table and letting everyone else figure it out on their own. At that point everyone will have spent 3 days together. I’m not sure if they’d rather sit with their own family or if it would be more fun to sit with people they’ve gotten to know. Maybe it would work if I added a couple extra chairs so people can move around?

      • Laurel

        With 26 people who’ve just spent 3 days together, I think you’ll be fine. No one is going to get stuck not knowing anyone at their table.

        • Emmers

          And they may want the chance to chat with new friends! I know I would!

      • Sam A

        Where I hail from (South Africa) guests expect a table plan AND place cards (so, assigned seating, as well as tables). I was not going to stress about eho was sitting next to or not who… so, we opted for escort-style cards that literally said, go to x table, and once there people could sit where they liked. This caused some consternation, because it wasn’t the ‘way it is done’ but, people sorted themselves out in no time. I’ve also been at a wedding where every table had 2 extra chairs – ostensibly for the bride and groom to ‘visit’ each table and chat to guests, which is a lovely touch if you have the space and hiring ’empty’ chairs isn’t an issue.

    • omg please do a seating chart. I ended up at a table with the most awkward people b/c we got there after our friends did and the tables filled up fast (we were on time, just later than a few others). A seating chart would have allowed us to sit with our friends. At another wedding, the parents of the groom didn’t get a seat.

    • Del678

      Can I add, if you seat people who don’t know each other together, please, PLEASE do NOT seat them together just because their job is in the the same field … unless they’re both like something particularly unique like penguin trainers. My dad thought it would be great to sit me and my fiance next to this man and his wife because his wife is an accountant, and I’m an accountant. ew no!
      I’m planning on sitting people who are more like both secret hipsters, or love to dance, or are crazy about gourmet food.

    • Rachel

      I think it depends on your table/chair situation. We had our wedding at a restaurant, which stayed set up as a restaurant so a seating chart was impossible. There were mostly 2 tops and 4 tops all over the place. I think with larger tables it might be a little difficult for guests who don’t know many people to find a place they are comfortable.

  • Perfect timing!! My question is about having someone videotape for the day!

    We are getting married in 11 days, and almost everything is set and squared away. One decision remains: videographer. We have two extremely talented video editors (my cousin and also my bff) who have said that, if we were to provide them with raw footage of the day, they will each make a wedding video for us. They do not want to video tape for the day, nor do I want them too, because they are VIPs of the party.

    A few months back, I emailed with someone who runs a small production company for a living and had posted a call for work on craigslist. He has a nice website, and I saw some samples of his work, and when I asked him if he was up for taping for the day and turning over his raw footage, he said sure thing, and sent along a quote of $500.

    Because of email confusion, we haven’t officially booked him, although I just checked in with him and he’s still available. In my mind, $500 is very reasonable and I think I’d regret if we didn’t have some video from the day. My partner thinks it’s too much money for someone who he is concerned won’t do a good enough job. He suggests we offer his cousin $200 to tape (who is an aspiring video production kid) but then I assume the whole video will be just of my partner’s family.

    TL; DR. Is it worth having someone record the day on video? Will I regret passing up on the opportunity to have *two* unique wedding videos, edited from the heart? Or is this just one more WIC thing that we’re feeling obligated to throw in at the last minute?

    • Anne

      We didn’t have a video, but that was a conscious choice — neither of us wanted it. If you really want a video, do it, because you’ll probably wish later that you had one. If you’re not really sure, then forget about it. It sounds like you’ve been thinking about having a video for a long time, so that might suggest that you do really want to have one.

    • As an aspiring video production kid in a past life I ran video for my uncle’s wedding and produced a sweet DVD for them. Was it perfect, no? But they treasure it.

      Actually having someone record our ceremony isn’t something I’ve considered. I don’t think we will, piecey memories and beautiful photos will have to do. :)

    • Cleo

      Adding my perspective:

      I was once one of those aspiring video production kids, as were my friends in high school. While I don’t know your partner’s cousin, if (s)he is serious about video production, I strongly doubt the video will be just your partner’s family.

      I remember asking people to allow me to film anything I could. And when they said yes, I wanted it to look super professional because I could use it for my reel which would (and did) help me get jobs.

      Also, you can meet with him/her before the wedding and tell them exactly what you’re looking for. If they’re serious, they’ll deliver. I would ask to see his reel so you know what you’re getting as well.

      One thing though:

      I would try to get a second shooter (have them ask a friend to join). An editor can fix a lot of things in post, but one thing that can’t be fixed is the awkwardness of cutting around a bad angle if they don’t have the footage to do that.

      Also, if you get a second shooter, they should be using the same brand of camera and have it on the same settings. Otherwise, you could get a very choppy looking video.

    • 500 is a really great deal. If his other work checks out it would be worth it. Perhaps see if you can contact any of his former clients for references. Find out what kind of equipment he shoots with, as that is often a sign of professionalism (although expensive equipment doesn’t necessarily mean a great videographer, it does mean that person is dedicated to the art enough to drop some cash).

      Maybe you can work out a slightly lower price for him to just shoot the ceremony, and a little bit of the reception. You certainly don’t need him there for the whole reception, since it’s hard to take good video when the atmosphere is dimly lit anyway. I’ve shot a few friends ceremonies (not a professional at all BTW!) and I always try to go to the rehearsal so I can get a feel for where to stand to get a good shot. I would suggest having him show up for an hour for that, and then having him arrive when you’re getting ready so he can shoot you getting into your dress and arriving at the church. Shoot the ceremony and during your formal portraits and then rely on your photographer to tell the story of your reception. That would be my suggestion!

      When I shot my cousins wedding my favorite shots were of them goofing off at the rehearsal, of her maid of honor lacing her dress, and of her coming down the isle.

      Anyway, 500 sounds great!

    • Angie

      We chose not to have video taken at our wedding because I was of the opinion that I would never watch it and it was just unnecessary. That is the one decision I wish I could have back because my sister-in-law gave the most touching toast off-the-cuff that we can never reproduce & I would love to have the video of my dad dancing with me & my brother singing the first dance song for me and my husband. I would pay someone outside the family to get the footage so you can have those videos – even if you only watch them once or are just touched by one part, they are still something you can hold onto long term.

      • Ah, I hadn’t even thought about these sorts of unexpected moments. That is a really good point!

    • Erin

      We didn’t hire anyone to video, and at the last moment my cousin’s long-term boyfriend just brought his camera and… did it.

      And I’m so grateful. I haven’t watched it a /ton/, but I have watched it, especially in the weeks after, because the wedding is kind of a blur. I actually really wanted to hear the small sermon my brother gave (he officiated) because I remembered so little of it and people kept mentioning how lovely it was.

      I don’t have thoughts on $200 vs $500, but I do know I’m glad I have even a crappy copy of video.

      • Good to know you’re glad to have it now! I think that’s how I feel: no matter what, I will be happy to have it, and I will regret not having it. I just need to find a way to express that to my partner so that he doesn’t feel bulldozed.

    • alyssa

      We decided a videographer was out of our budget and I asked my video-talented cousin to film our ceremony. When he asked me if I wanted anything specific, i said, “a close up of G’s face as I walk down the aisle”

      And you know what? He got that close up. For the whole procession. Mothers being seated, my bridesmaids walking down; there isn’t even a shot of me and my dad with my dress. Was I not specific enough? sure. Is it hilarious? Definitely!

      Do I wish I had hired a professional? ABSO-EFFING-LUTELY.

      • Hahaha. That is hilarious!! Okay, yeah, an extra $300 really doesn’t seem so bad now.

        I think my partner’s concern is that we’ll get that kind of work from the $500 professional, since he’s not a wedding professional, just a photo/video professional in general. I think we’ll just have to talk about it tonight.

    • Beth

      We had my cousin tape our ceremony and I am really really glad that we have that. I kind of wish the camera had gotten passed around during the rest of the night, too, because that’s the only part that was recorded. Is it perfect? No, she flipped the camera vertically for a short while (thank goodness she flipped it back before our vows), but while our pictures are really wonderful, being able to see everyone walking in and hear our friends speak really is something I’ll be happy to have in 10-20 years.

      • Cynth

        I have watched our wedding video a ton- there’s something so great about having live footage. Though honestly I love the trailer more than the full video. I can’t watch our vows without crying. Plus having toasts on video? irreplaceable. I just think about how I’ll be able to watch my dads toast after my parents are no longer with us. Sad but true. And 500 is an amazing deal.

    • Jacy

      My husband and I had a very low key, planned in 3 months wedding, a video of the wedding was not even on my radar! BUT he of the technology mindset handed his little video camera to a really good friend (that knew no one at the wedding) and captured just about the entire night for us. Was it professional? No. Will I treasure it forever? Yes. We have only been married 8 months (today!) but we already can’t remember most of the night. Whether you pay for it or just hand it off to the aspiring videographer family member, it will be something you’ll really enjoy having. If not to just watch it days after the wedding and be in awe at how much was a blur.

    • Vanessa

      My husband and I didn’t care to dedicate money to this. My dad was adamant that we had a videographer (bc he’s seen it a lot on TV apparently as the thing to have at weddings nowadays). So he researched it, paid for it, and gave us a DVD copy. His reasoning – so that my cross country grandmother could watch it (because of health/age, she can’t travel). She never has, my parent’s haven’t watched it, and my husband and I still haven’t taken it out of the sleeve.
      My advice, know what you love. I love love looking at photos, and I’ve pulled out our album a lot, as have visiting friends. And we still rave about the food (and gone back to the restaurant since). We’re just not video people, and clearly that shows.

  • EmeeS

    I have already decided that I will be walking down the aisle by myself. My father and I do not have a “close” relationship by any means, and doing all the normal father daughter stuff on the wedding day: walking down the aisle, the dance, his toast, etc. just doesn’t feel right. A couple months ago after not having talked for almost 6 months, I called him up and asked if he even wanted to come and he adamantly said yes. Despite our always rocky relationship and his less than stellar dad skills, he is a man who expects tradition when it comes to these kinds of things. I am now struggling with when and how to tell him that he is not walking me down the aisle or any of the other typical father of the bride wedding day things.

    Do I tell him now (with 3 months to go) and run the risk of him not coming at all or wait until a couple days before the wedding (maybe even the day before, depending on when he gets to town), which feels rudely last minute?

    • KD

      Now!! Give him time to process.

      Don’t make it about him though. Say you want to walk yourself down the aisle, and you don’t want him to take offense, but you’re an adult and no one is “giving you away”!

      • Copper

        I had this conversation in a way that put it like I just expected my dad to know I wasn’t a walked-down-the-aisle sort of girl, and you understand that’s about me and not you, right? My dad is the only one I *didn’t* get shit over that decision from.


      If I were in that position, I would give him some time to deal with that before the wedding. Maybe a month or so before? Then he can work through any baggage he has about it (which he might if he was planning on walking you down the aisle) and be ok at the wedding.

      Good luck!

      • Mikala

        You could put a fingernail polish (maybe one you’d like them to wear for the wedding), a small bottle of remover, some cotton balls, a small, cute nail file, and other manicure stuff into a mason jar. My friend gave us each a metal water bottle with our name etched into it , that was nice too. Or you can go around to vintage shops/thrift stores and look for little hand bags/clutches that fit each of their personalities and would work for the wedding. Good luck!

        • Mikala

          Oops responded to the wrong comment. Sorry!

    • If you wait until the last minute, this will hang over your head until then. Also, you increase the likelihood that he will react badly and it will bleed into the wedding itself, because he won’t have time to process it. Rip off the band-aid and tell him now.

    • Please, please, please do not wait until the week of the wedding to tell him this. As a planner, I have witnessed this happening and it is not pretty. Give your dad (and mom, because often, moms are even more upset about this than dads) plenty of time to process their feelings on it and get back to a “we’re so happy you’re getting married!” place before you walk down the aisle without him.

  • Don’t Hassle the Haf

    So this is not really on the fence since I know I’m definitely going to do it but more of a how/execution. I paying for my bridesmaids hair and makeup but I also want to get them a gift but have no idea what to get them. They are all travelling so I don’t want to get them something that would be a pain to bring back but I have 0 ideas. Oh and the wedding is in like 17 days so I feel like I need to make a decision soon but it’s the one part of planning that I keep getting stumped on.

    • Anne

      I was just in a wedding where the bride bought us short black silk robes — they’re pretty awesome. You also have a little time, so if there are things specific to each of your ladies (as in, one loves to cook, or another plays soccer), that can also be a good way to go.

      • Bonnie

        I’m also doing robes. That way me + the bridesmaids can wear them while we get ready/hair/make up so at least I know they’ll get some use out of them.

        • Anne

          I guess I should specify — ours were short, sexy, wear with your significant other robes, rather than hanging out with your friends robes — so you can go either way with this gift.

    • KD

      What is your budget per girl?

      • Don’t Hassle the Haf

        I have 7 bridesmaids so I would like to keep it under $40. I really would like to get them something practical, something that they’ll actually find useful.

        • KD

          Maybe some cute short and top PJs you can monogram for each girl. Bonus – you could wear them for the getting ready pics.

          The robe or jewelry thing is always good. Doesn’t have to be for the wedding.

          A clutch filled with some goodies (lip gloss, nail polish, etc)

          More than you wanted to spend, but was thinking a massage gift cert in their home town so they can get pampered post wedding/travel craziness. (could maybe do a mani/pedi or something else)

          A cute pair of flats or sandals that they can put on once their feet start hurting.

          5 years ago I got a nice pashmina in a basic color that went with the awful colored BM dress, but the scarf is something I still use to this day.

          and my ridic suggestion – A really nice bra for each lady, because you want to return the favor for all the “support” they’ve given you…hahaha

        • Emmers

          I’m considering doing sassy aprons for about this pricerange.

        • Rachel

          I also paid for my bridesmaids hair as a gift, but wanted to give them a little something. I ended up getting all of them a makeup bag filled with makeup remover, cuticle moisturizer, nail file, eye shadow, set of lip gloss and some other stuff I can’t remember right now- and they all loved it! I ordered everything from E.L.F. because they have the best prices ever and don’t test on animals. The gift looked more expensive than it was and was under your budget. The girls still tell me they use the stuff all the time.

    • I got my bridesmaids each a necklace to wear to the wedding, which also served as a gift. Jewelry is usually small and not difficult to pack.

    • One of the best bridesmaids gifts I’ve received for being part of a wedding was very simple jewelry the bride gave us to wear on the wedding day. We each got something different and personal to us (I was given earrings, another bridesmaid was given a necklace, another a bracelet, etc.). They were small enough that traveling wasn’t an issue and they were still very sweet and thoughtful. I’ve definitely worn the earrings again since then so it wasn’t a just-for-the-wedding day gift. :)

      I’ve also seen personalized tote bags, pretty silk kimono robes, and ballet flats (for the dancing portion of the night) as bridesmaids gifts. All were very thoughtful and easy enough to pack for those that had to travel.

    • I am getting each of my bridesmaids a different gift, kind of a birthday-style. I still have 3 to get, and only 11 days, so I need to get on that, but I’ve really enjoyed the process of shopping for each of them individually.

    • SamiSidewinder

      Jewelry is the easiest and because of that, super common. We got all the people on both sides hydroflasks (they are awesome). Also etsy has cute clutches and toiletry bags that you can customize. Or maybe a hair clip of some kind?

    • Magster

      Had the same general issue and landed on these if they are any help to you: small beach totes (all the gals love the water), small not-for-the-wedding necklaces from etsy (just thought they were cute), and “vintage” style magnets from this site http://annetaintor.com/ because I think they are hilarious and they were an inexpensive and small way to personalize each gift. Good luck and happy wedding!

    • AG

      I’m planning on giving my bridesmaids some gold bangles that they can wear (or not) on the wedding day as part of my gift to them. The ones I’m leaning toward are Kate Spade – they have “Heart of Gold” written on the inside which I thought was cute. And less than $40!

    • mimi

      I’m giving my girls earrings and a necklace to wear for the wedding, and probably pashminas (haven’t bought them yet, though). As a bridesmaid, I’ve typically also received something similar (jewelry and a pashmina at one, jewelry, a pashmina, and a Vera Bradley purse for another). At my best friend’s wedding, she gave each of us jewelry and a little “survival” kit with a mini bottle of champagne, tic tacs, flip flops, etc.

    • The bridesmaid gifts I’ve gotten are jewelry and a pashmina that matched my dress.. I never wear the jewelry, but I use that pashmina all the time. My brothers were my bridesmen and got ties and fun socks. My wife’s bridesmaids got matching clutch purses and fold flat shoes for the day of.

      Can you buy them all pedicures that morning? That’s a nice extra that doesn’t take up room in the suitcase.

      • Cynth

        I went with necklaces (simple initials), that hopefully they will wear in “real life”, and pashminas in the wedding colors (which hopefully they will wear at future weddings! And of course a heartfelt note. That’s the most important part!

    • Megan

      If you live near a Coach outlet, their wristlets and clutches can be quite reasonable (surprisingly so). I feel I can never have enough of those small bags for going out at night, especially in fun colors. So that would be a gift I would definitely appreciate.

    • Carolyn

      I know I’m in the minority, but I think a gift stops being a gift if you expect the girls to wear it specifically at the wedding. It could totally be rewearable/their taste/awesome/thoughtful, but it’s not a gift, it’s part of the uniform.

      • Stephanie

        Yes to this!!

      • Anne


      • Emmers

        Yes– when I’ve been in weddings, typically the jewelry I’ve been gifted hasn’t been to my taste. The pashminas have been better (one I like & use, the other I just gave to the thrift store, since it wasn’t a good color on me)

    • Stephanie

      My only comment is that while I wear jewelry almost every day, I have never worn a necklace (and I have 3 or 4) given to me as a BM for the wedding day again afterwards. It’s always stuff that’s fancy looking but also inexpensive, in different colors, and looks like something you’d wear to prom. It’s in that weird category of too fancy to wear everyday and not fancy enough to wear when you’re not already gussied up in a BM dress with flowers. I wish they hadn’t wasted their money and I feel terrible not wearing them. Just my two cents!

    • Mikala

      You could put a fingernail polish (maybe one you’d like them to wear for the wedding), a small bottle of remover, some cotton balls, a small, cute nail file, and other manicure stuff into a mason jar. My friend gave us each a metal water bottle with our name etched into it , that was nice too. Or you can go around to vintage shops/thrift stores and look for little hand bags/clutches that fit each of their personalities and would work for the wedding. Good luck!

    • MDBethann

      I gave each of my bridesmaids a gift of time. I picked out something that we like to do together one-on-one: a “grown up” tea with my flower girl/niece, dinner out and massages for my college roommate (the massages ended up being separate days but there were scheduling issues with the facility), a MLB baseball game with one of my other roommates, and a yet-to-be-taken winery hopping day with my BFF (because we both love boutique wineries). Our ring bearer nephew got a video game day with his uncle, which thrilled him to no end. And our “best woman” (my DH’s sister) and her husband got a free weekend of babysitting so they could celebrate their anniversary. For my MoH/sister, I got her a camera, but it was because she really, really needed one, or I would have done some sort of outing with her too.

      I figured it was a way for us to continue to spend time together with our wedding party AFTER the wedding, since we’d spent lots of time together beforehand. I also figured the best gifts you can give anyone is time.

      (The ladies all got lotion or a little something symbolic of their outing, like a doll tea set for my niece and a bottle of wine for my BFF).

  • E

    We don’t know if we care about boutonnieres. The wedding party is all men except for one woman on each side (also, my dad, who is walking with me, doesn’t seem to care). If the guys all have boutonnieres, then it seems like the two women maybe should have corsages or something. But these women might be doing things where dealing with wearing/holding flowers would get in the way. I guess they could just set a small bouquet wherever before and after the ceremony.

    Also, I don’t think I care if our wedding party has matching suits or tuxes (we had already planned to ask the women to just wear any black dress they wanted). We’re thinking of just seeing if they all already own a black or charcoal suit and just having them wear that. Anyone with a crystal ball know if that is something that I’ll care about later? Pretty sure they would all look better in whatever they already have assuming it fits properly.

    Now that I wrote all that, these seem like not-important things but they are still things that someone needs to decide. I also don’t know/don’t care what to do about centerpieces, but maybe the florist will be able to help aka sell me stuff to put on tables.

    • Anne

      My husband’s groomsmen all wore their own suits (gray and black, I think), and they looked awesome.

      As for boutonnieres, depending on the fabric of the women’s dresses, they might be able to wear them too.

    • I think as long as they’re in the same color family, mismatched suits look great.

      I’ve seen creative ideas for boutonnieres like quirky broaches or a tassel pinned to the lapel. There are lots of ways to go! Or even a colorful pocket square! As for ladies, I don’t think they really need anything at all, although it’s nice to have something to hold when you’re walking down the isle so you know what to do with your hands. ;)

    • Teresa

      You probably won’t care, unless you see a look you all of a sudden love and then you’ll need to make it happen (as I did with our cake topper–do I really need one, nah! and then OMG, THIS IS THE BEST CAKE TOPPER EVER!). The reason I think you might like to have boutonnieres and/or corsages is that it sort of makes the wearer stick out as an important person in your wedding. Since you aren’t doing matching dresses and tuxes, that could be a nice (and fairly inexpensive) way to set those special people apart. You can also do matching ties, which will pull all the dudes together, without them having to spend $$$ on a new suit.

      As for centerpieces, you may know someone who cares (both my mother and MIL said I HAD to have them), and then you can hand that decision off to them. Or the florist–they’re pretty good at that!

    • If you don’t care now, you will not care later. I’d bet money on that.

    • alyssa

      As a bridesmaid, I can tell you it is super nice to have something to hold when you’re standing up in front of all those people. If I didn’t have a bouquet, I’d be feeling SUPER weird about what to do with my (probably nervous-sweaty) hands! And I’m terribly graceful, so… ;)

    • Erin

      I wish we’d just gone with suits and maybe rented matching vests. I feel like the tuxes were a waste of money, honestly. And my husband could have a really nice suit now instead!

    • Beth

      The guys in our wedding all wore their own suits in varying shades of grey and black and it looked fine. It may have been weird if there was a brown one in there. All the ladies wore their own dresses as well and it looked lovely.

      We did not do boutonnieres and nobody cared, but I did have very simple bouquets for the girls to hold.

    • Concetta

      If you don’t care now, you probably won’t care later about the suits. My new husband (happy sigh) and his guys all wore gray suits in different shades/styles. One was excited to buy one, the rest had them. As their gift, they were each given a gorgeous purple patterned tie to provide some consistency to their overall look. My new husband wore a solid purple tie. The different colors look nice in photos, too. One piece of advice: Make sure they all know what “charcoal or dark gray suit” means to YOU. Our best man wore a gray suit that was a very, very light gray. It ended up working because he was the best man, after all.
      We borrowed lots of stuff from our florist (after declining to work with one who wanted to charge us for borrowing centerpiece items) and he was great about providing ideas for practical centerpieces.

      • Cynth

        We went with Pocket Squares instead of Btn… and gifted them to the groomsmen. Two birds with one stone!

    • I asked my husband if he wanted to wear a boutonniere, he said not really, so none of the men got them. And I really didn’t care. So you definitely don’t need them if you don’t care much about them.

  • SamiSidewinder

    The Name Game. Oh MY GOD it is literally making me question the whole marriage right now.

    I like and do want a family name. Though I am not tied to it (I love the post that mentioned the Canadian woman saying that names don’t make families, love does). I was originally going to take his name. But the more I sat with it, the more I felt uncomfortable. I can’t bring myself to settle into Sam HISLAST. It feels so foreign and … just not ME. It feels dictated and lord knows I won’t do anything I’m told to. I want to be joined WITH him, not TO him. Is that so wrong?

    And yet any version of the equation that even suggests that he is no longer EXACTLY the same as who he is now is emasculating and horrifying. To him that is.

    So at this point there is no more conversation to have. I stay the same and so does he. And then the fight come back full circle when it’s time for kids. Because we both feel that it would be horrible to have a kid with the other last name.

    One of my biggest stumbling blocks is my degree and my career. I have a Masters degree that I am FIERCELY proud of that was earned with my name. It somehow in my head becomes somewhat diminished with the name change.

    So where do we go from here? Can I find a way to love this new version of me? Or is there someway I can help him to see another course? Or should I just run away!? Kidding. Kind of.

    • ellie

      My mom didn’t change her name. M< middle name is her last name. as an adult now, I feel connected to both sides.

      This is in no way perfect, but it's the compromise we've come to: all our children will be named
      FirstName MyLastName HisLastName

      No other middle names for any of them. It's not ideal (I want them to have my last name), but it's not a fight that's worth it for us and our relationship.

      Also, he's changing his name so that his middle name is my last name. I will be the only one in the family w/o his last name, and we're both ok with it. And as a kid who grew up in a similar situation, it was never ever once an issue of any kind, so I don't buy it when people worry about the kids.

      Just one thought… Good luck!

    • no advice on the making a decision front (2 years later, i still stumble on my “new” hyphenated last name) – but i wanted to chime in on the “family name” front. not that there is a right or wrong decision, but my experiences both as a kid and with kids is that…no one cares about family names. i mean, obviously *you* do, but not as far as “navigating the world.” my mom had a different last name from the rest of us, and i don’t remember it ever coming up except for the occasional assumption that she was “ms. ourlastname”, which always sounded so alien to me that i thought it was hilarious. perhaps more importantly, as a foster parent i obviously have a different name than my kids, and no one ever questions it – there’s none of the “are you allowed to make that decision, etc.” stuff that i had sort of expected/worried about (especially adding queer parents into the mix). so, just a perspective (no actual help, sorry).

      • Alyssa

        Glad I’m not the only one who fumbles over our shiny new hyphenated last name. It irks me when others insist on just going by the last part of it, but I figure I’m probably not helping the situation any by presenting it so awkwardly.

    • Carolyn

      Well focus on the short game for a second. You don’t have to decide right away. Just reword anything in the ceremony/introductions to be first names only. i.e. “and now for the first time as husband and wife, Leo and Sam!”

      • SamiSidewinder

        I am told I do have to worry about the long game now. A friend who recently married said that when you get the marriage licence (at least in Oregon), you decide then and there if you are changing your name. If you want the free, streamlined name change option, you have to decide to do it before you get married. Otherwise it’s the expensive legal name change.

        • Carolyn

          Good point. I think it was the same for me. I *did* do the streamlined name change at the time, but continued to go by my maiden name. Two years out, I’m still a hodgepodge of using one, the other or a combination. Certain situations I just feel better using one or the other (like you, receiving my PhD with my maiden name felt right to me). All legal documents are now switched over (with my maiden as a middle name), but email, FB, socially, is much more fluid. And I don’t feel badly AT ALL that I haven’t committed yet.

        • ANOTHER MEG

          She’s correct (according to the internet). The legal name change procedures for your state (at a time other than marriage or divorce) look like a pain in the ass, but think of it this way- how important is it to you? How important is it to know in your gut you’re making the right decision?

          You can always change your name when you get married and change it back if you start to feel you made a mistake. However, I can promise you it’s an easier conversation with your husband if you’re taking his name later instead of going back to your maiden name after the wedding.

          • ANOTHER MEG

            I should add that I didn’t change my name, but I might when we have kids. We’ve kind of dropped the subject until it’s necessary because I don’t really want to change my name, but I’d like for us to have a family name.

            Kicking that stone down the road.

      • HolidayJen

        Exactly. Unless you have to decide when you apply for your marriage license (which I know some states require) don’t even worry about it until afterwards.

        It’s been 9 mos since my wedding and I haven’t decided yet. Sometimes I “try out” using his last name, like RSVPing for weddings or magazine subscriptions, just to see how it feels. :)

        My cousin has been married for almost 10 years and just changed hers last month!

      • Brenda

        This is exactly what I’ve done. I think I do want to change my name, but not right now. You don’t have to decide forever right now. You can leave it for now and change it later if you become more used to the idea, or leave it for now and never decide to change it.

    • Teresa

      Nearly a year after our wedding, I am still thinking about this. I didn’t change my name and my husband didn’t want to change his either–not because it would emasculate him, but because he just didn’t want to (and neither did I!). When we applied for our marriage license, we hyphenated our names to MyLast-HisLast (which was our original plan, to both change our names to the hyphenated name, until we both confessed that we really didn’t want to change our names!) so that if we every changed our minds, we would have an easy way to do it.

      Mostly, I’m fine with our choices to not change our names, but sometimes it feels hard. Like, when older relatives address cards to Mr. and Mrs. HisFirst HisLast and it sends me into a rage. Or when the front desk girl at his office turns away a package with my name on it “because I didn’t know your wife had a different last name than you.” Even the receptionist at my gynecologists office was confused–when I was looking over my form and told her only my marital status had changed, should I just cross it out? her response was, a confused look and “you didn’t change your name?”

      If we choose to have kids, I know it will bring this up again, but I know that we made the right choice for ourselves. I also know that those choices might change down the line. I just keep talking with my husband about it and we get more and more used to the idea that there are lots of options to choose from. Keep talking about it and follow your gut. You don’t have to change your name now (or ever) if you aren’t comfortable with it. You should keep talking to your partner about it because he needs to understand why it is important to you. Good Luck!

    • I’m struggling with the same thing and ultimately decided to just add his name onto mine. I wanted to keep mine for professional reasons (earned my law degree with that name, started my business with that name) but I’m not really attached to it personally. It’s my dad’s name and he left when I was a year old, never to be heard from again. I was all set on getting rid of it completely until I found a way to make it my own (i.e. professionally). Now I don’t want to lose it!

      One little anecdote about the kid/family thing – I used to be a nanny for a family where the mom kept her maiden name after marriage but the kids had the dad’s last name. So the kids and the dad were all “Smith” but the mom was “Collins.” The only time I ever recall it even coming up in the three years I worked for them was after the older kid learned to read and he saw a piece of junk mail addressing his mom as “Mrs. Smith.” When he saw it, he said, “My mom is Collins, not Smith! We need to make sure they don’t make that mistake again.” He was proud of his mom’s identity as Collins and wanted to make sure even the senders of junk mail knew that!!

    • Anne

      We didn’t change our names, but we’re still pretty stuck about what we’ll do if we have kids. I don’t like the idea of automatically giving them my husband’s last name, but it also seems unfair just to give them mine. (Due to what our names sound like together — that is, horrendous — using both isn’t an option).

      It sounds like what’s bugging you, though, is that you have been willing to meet him halfway (you were considering changing your name), but he is unwilling to do the same (won’t consider any solution where he has to make a change). Maybe talking through that will allow you both to understand how and why the decision is so difficult.

      You can decide later to change your name if you change your mind — it will be a big hassle and expense, but it’s certainly possible. But don’t do it now if you don’t think you want to — changing it back can also be difficult.

      • Cait

        My partner similarly doesn’t mind what I do with my surname but wasn’t enthused about discussing any possibility of him changing his. He’s great at listening to my concerns, but I think it’s too deeply culturally embedded that men don’t do that, or something, for him to want to think about changing his. Dunno.

      • Rebecca

        Because we are cruel, evil people, (who are also planning on having multiple children), we are planning on splitting our last names between our prospective offspring. I actually grew up with a friend whose family did that, and honestly it was only confusing once, and then it was just what their names were.

        Plus after all sorts of divorces and remarriages and adoptions and first marriages and what not in my family, out of all of the people I am related to I only share a last name with my dad, my adopted brother, and most of my dad’s siblings. Not with my mother, my stepmother, my sister, most of my aunts, uncles and cousins, or any of my grandparents, with whom I share a much closer resemblance. So I consider the family name thing mostly unnecessary.

        As a postscript, my entire justification for keeping my name is “it’s mine and I’m keeping it.” You don’t need some earthshaking reason if you don’t want one.

        • MaineGirl

          This is how my family did it. My parents never married so I got my moms last name and my sister got my dads. No one cares and we always thought it was a cool story. It’s what I’m planning on doing for my kids.

    • nikki

      I’ve grappled with this same decision. I’m getting my doctorate (which I’m fiercely proud of) and don’t want to change all my professional life to a different name. I’ve opted to go with Mylastname-Hislastname, and plan on having it be Dr. Mylastname and Mrs. Hislastname. Our future children will be spared the long last name and just have our shared Hislastname. This seems like the most sensible compromise for me, and I’m fine with our children having Hislastname.

      And honestly, I’ve lived my whole life with a professional name (Nicole) and a personal name (Nikki), so I don’t think a last name, other than for legal documents which will be hyphenated, would change that much.

      • Cynth

        I changed my name- but at work I use both MyLast HisLast, to preserve that continuity of the relationships I’ve build under my name. BUT my husband ALSO took my maiden name as his middle name, so now we are BOTH MyLast HisLast. It was symbolic to me that we both meet in the middle, even if most of the world still sees us as HisLast… and I have to say a bit more than a year later, when I see my name without HisLast it look strange- I transitioned mentally a lot faster than I thought. Whatever feels right, go with it!

      • Mira

        I love this solution!

    • mira

      In the end, I took my husband’s last name (I’ve now got four: MyFirst MyMiddle MyLast HisLast). There were lots of personal, practical, and symbolic reasons that this was the right choice for the two of us. However, the reason it ended up being the right decision for ME came down to what we were able to communicate to one another in all the terribly-exhausting discussions ahead of time.

      I know the endless hashing-out gets old, but I’d like to offer another perspective: for me, when all was said and done, the discussion ended up feeling even more important than the final decision.

      My husband wouldn’t call himself a feminist — so part of what those conversations facilitated was some old-fashioned consciousness-raising. As we discussed things, I realized that what I needed most of all was for him to really, truly understand the deep unfairness of the whole situation — that I was forced to make a decision society would never, ever force him to make. I needed him to see the real hurt that subtle pressure does to a person that he loves, just because she happens to be a woman. Once it was clear that he got it, I felt less conflicted about whose name comes last (and btw, once he got it, he also decided to take my last name for an extra middle name. So we both have to wait in the stupid DMV lines!)

      • SamiSidewinder

        Mira, I think you are 100% spot on. For me it was getting him to understand my point of view, but also getting him to see that he was more worried about what other people thought than what I thought and felt. And how that made me feel that who I am and how I love wasn’t enough, he needed a name too.

        Over lunch, just now we came to the same place you and other commenters (btw, thanks!!) have gotten to. He will add my name to his middle name. I will take his and keep mine as a middle name. All I really wanted was some kind of compromise.

        • Carolyn


        • Mira

          double yay! so glad to hear you guys were able to talk it through

    • Amber

      It’s taken me a while to come to terms with changing my last name. My fiancé briefly considered changing his to mine (his mom and I have the same maiden name, so it’s still a family name…), but he didn’t want to be disrespectful to his father. The big deciding factor for me was that when we have kids, we both want our kids to have the same last name as us. But, I too just finished my master’s degree with my maiden name since we’re not married yet. I’m planning to just tack his last name onto the end of mine so my name will read like this: my name, my middle name, my last name, his last name. I know it seems long and a bit drawn out, but I didn’t want to get rid of my last name completely for professional reasons. I plan to use both last name professionally, but not hyphenated. It’s definitely a tricky decision. I’m not crazy about it, and it really bothers me that culturally it is just assumed that women are the ones to changes their names, no questions asked. But, in the end, changing my name to his felt like the right choice for us and our baby family. Good luck to you in your decision making process!

      • MDBethann

        Amber, good for you. That’s pretty much what I did, since I’d been publishing under my solo last name professionally 9 years before we got married. I legally changed it to a double last name, sans hyphen, so I can choose whatever last name works for me in a given situation. On all legal docs (checks, etc), I’m HerLast HisLast, but socially I often go by Mrs. HisLast and at work I’m still often just HerLast, though in print it is all HerLast HisLast.

        It can be a bit confusing, but I’m used to it and both last names are there so I can use whichever I want. Better me than our future children!

    • Rachel

      Ditto to everyone who is saying you don’t have to decide now. Just wait and see what makes you feel happiest. Its really not hard to change your name. All you need is a copy of your marriage certificate, and the only thing that costs money is renewing your drivers license. Sometimes the worst thing about making a decision is feeling like you are forced into a timeline. There is no timeline! I know a woman who has been married two years and is just changing her name now. You can do it any time. My mom never changed her name, and I, of course, never felt like she was any less a part of our family. I thought I would never change my name, and then realized the idea made me happy, so I did. For now, just enjoy your partner, and your wedding. It will work itself out.

    • A

      If you do decide that changing your name is the best option for you, I think you can totally “find a way to love this new version of yourself”. I never thought I’d take my husband’s name – maaaaybe hyphenate, but never only take his – for many of the same reasons others have mentioned. And then I entered a binational, biracial relationship, and learned that between immigration headaches and having children that may not look like one of us, we really needed a family name.

      Once I accepted that this was just what was necessary to make life easier (and in some cases, safer) for our baby family, it didn’t seem as important that the name on my masters degree is different than the name on my passport. None of my fears came true – I’m not a new person. He doesn’t own me. I’m not less connected to my birth family. I’m just farther down the alphabet, and I simplified the green card process.

      Granted, its an extreme situation, and it was easier for me to come to terms with taking his name when I didn’t have a viable choice – no one can accuse me of giving into the patriarchy! The immigration officers made me do it! – BUT I was able to come around to loving my new name. Good luck with your decision!

    • Kate

      I decided to go with Kate MyLastName HisLastName, and in a more formal situation I would prefer Ms. MyLastName HisLastName. I like my LastName, I’m atttached to it (although it really hurt to give up my middle name), and I’m not super fond of the hyphenation. I try to treat it as two last names, although it is hard sometimes because people aren’t used to having someone with two last names that aren’t hyphenated. They tend to gloss over and just say Kate HisLastName. It feels like I constantly have to remind coworkers and such that I have two last names, and often it gets overlooked in professional correspondence (grrrr).

      My husband has kept his name the same. We haven’t figured out yet what will happen if we have kids, since I want to continue with MyLastName and perhaps give our kids two last names but he doesn’t want to be the odd one out (having the same last name is really important to him).

      It’s not a solution that I’m very happy about, but we’re still talking about it (twenty months of being married later). We’ve also tossed around the idea of him taking my last name socially, to be HisFirst MyLastName HisLastName, but so far that hasn’t happened. It turns out that I’m not entirely happy with my last name in the middle, because it gets overlooked, but right now he’s not at a place where he’s comfortable changing his name. Basically, we got married and then I changed my mind about what I wanted in terms of names, and we still haven’t found a solution that we’re both completely happy with.

      One thing that I wish we’d done differently was attacked the name change together. I did all the name change paperwork myself (SS, DMV, bank accounts, credit cards, etc.) and it was emotional every. single. time. I would have felt better if my husband had been standing in line at the DMV with me, because it would have felt like something we were tackling together, instead of a big, hard, scary, stressful thing that I did all by myself.

  • Recently, I’ve been on the fence about the type of bachelorrette party experience I want to have. Part of me wants something kind of traditional (drinks at my apartment followed by going out dancing), but then another part of me wants to do something less traditional, like an outdoor movie night with s’mores.

    In general, I can’t help feeling so much guilt about the whole thing. I feel like I should pay for the whole thing because my bridesmaids are already spending so much money just to come to the wedding. I also keep scaling it back because I’m worried about people spending money. I’m also not doing a shower (again guilt about people having to get me ANOTHER present) so this party is one of the only additional parties I’m doing.

    Anyone else feel so much guilt about money surrounding additional parties? Also, what types of bachelorette parties have people done and found to be the most meaningful & fun?

    • ellie

      I think it’s important to remember, as Meg and others repeatedly say, that your people are adults who make decisions of their own. If someone can’t afford it, she won’t do it! Trust that money spent is spent out of love and good will. Have the party you want while checking in with your ladies to see if it sounds reasonable/good/happy/feasible.

    • I was concerned about additional cost for sure, since my bridesmaids and MOH are all younger and aren’t in established careers/have lots of expendable cash. I insisted no shower, but I did find that when I tried to pose restrictions on the bachelorette my girls weren’t having any of it. The way my MOH feels, it’s like this is her single biggest responsibility and she is just so excited to give me this great gift of her time. She wants to plan the whole thing herself and it’s all a secret. I’ve just had to surrender the night to her! It feels great not to worry about it. :) Perhaps your bridal party just wants to bless you and you should see what kind of event they want to throw for you?

      • That sounds amazing! I definitely don’t feel supported in the same way.

        Part of the problem is my MOH is my sister, and she has says she wants to be in charge of the bachelorrette party. If I tell her what I want (If I knew what I wanted), and it’s expensive (and by expensive I mean costing more that $100), my Mom will probably lay a pretty intense guilt trip on me about it. Also, my sister has almost no money.

        My other bridesmaids *might* be able to help, but my sister doesn’t get along with one of my two bridesmaids that will be in town and able to help put this on.

        I’m paralyzed with indecision, and my sister doesn’t really seem to want to do the party that much.

        Part of me regrets making her the maid of honor, a decision influenced by the fact that my Mom wanted me to.

        Aw, the joy of family drama!

    • Meg

      We went out for food/drinks, them went home for movies and sleepover, which worked really well for my friends (most were still in college/grad school) because it was cheap but fun. I felt that the important thing about the bachelorette event wasn’t getting smashed or being hit on, but simply taking a break from wedding planning to spend time with some wonderful ladies. You can definitely do something cheap that fills that role.

      • Mira

        this. exactly, exactly this.

    • Carolyn

      I cancelled my bachelorette party before anyone was committed because each of the bridesmaids would have had to fly to get anywhere, and we were just a little to broke to justify it. I kind of mourn not having some frilly girly weekend, but it was definitely the right decision at the time. We instead spent the night together before the wedding and it was lovely.

    • I felt a huge amount of guilt about the bachlorette party, and convinced myself that I really just wanted something suuuper low key and inexpensive and easy for everyone. And you want to know a terrible secret? I was really disappointed by it.

      The truth is, I wanted it to be a bigger deal, even though I didn’t want it to be a big deal in a bridezilla/plastic penises kind of way. And more importantly, my best friends wanted to throw me the kind of party I really wanted. If I had been honest with myself and in turn honest with them, it would have been a bit different. It’s a big regret of mine, not that I didn’t have a certain kind of party, but that I didn’t let people take care of me the way they wanted to and also the way I wanted them to.

      Don’t feel guilty. People are so excited for you and they really, really love you, and they want to honor your friendship with them and the commitment you are making. Let them.

      • Yes! This is exactly what I’m worried about.

        If I’m honest with myself, I want something awesome. I don’t want to be practical and low key. I want to do something ridiculous like rent a limo. Because when else would that happen? Also, my wedding has been pretty darn practical, and I feel like this might be my only chance.

        However, if it isn’t practical/possible for my bridesmaids to do the type of party I want (only one of them really seems interested in this, and she isn’t my MOH) what should I do?

        • It doesn’t have to be your MOH who plans the party! Deputize your friend who’s into it, have a frank conversation about what you’d love and why you’d love it, and then give her permission to find the middle ground/improvise from there. Or plan it with her! Or email her and your MOH and say: this is what I want, and have enthusiastic party planner help your MOH.

          No matter what, be honest with yourself and banish the guilt! Good luck!

          • Thank you for this advice! After hearing this, I have officially put the one bridesmaid who is the most excited in charge. And she’s thrilled! I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Now to tell my sister, which will be hard, but I think it will be worth it.

          • Oh, yay!! This is great. You’ll have an awesome time!

        • ANOTHER MEG

          Who is your best friend? Someone in the party? Even if only one person is interested in planning, maybe they can take over. Your MOH doesn’t have to be in charge of this, especially if she doesn’t want to plan it. Let her off the hook (gently) and tell her another bridesmaid wanted to plan it. Or whoever the person is who you’d trust with a night the world has packed with so many expectations. If you have a person like this, rejoice. Because one of the difficult things about this whole thing is that you have to trust someone else to take care of your night.

          • This is exactly what I’m going to do! In fact, after posting this I had a chat with my BFF, and she is super excited to take over. I’m going to talk to my MOH tomorrow about the fact that she’s no longer in charge. My BFF suggested maybe letting my sister do something like a brunch the day after.


        Oh hell yes. It took me a really long time to just let go. I let go of the guilt and the anxiety over being the center of attention. I let my bridesmaids (well, the ones who were in town) and my other friends do what they do best- they made it awesome. It was low key and fun and SO GREAT.

    • Teresa

      I insisted that I didn’t want one because I hated the idea of anyone spending any more money. My sister and one of my bridesmaids really wanted us to do something, so I finally agreed to go out for fondue the night before the wedding. Everyone was already in the same place, since the wedding was at 11am the next morning and we had just been at the rehearsal dinner. So my bridesmaids, a couple of close friends and my aunts and my mom all went to a little fondue restaurant and had a glass of wine and dipped stuff in chocolate. No one spent more than $25 and it was a really relaxing and fun way to spend time with my most important people the night before our wedding.

    • CPM

      I had 3 bridesmaids: one is a law student 5 states away, one is a full-time student with a 30 hours/week job, and one is 15. So… I didn’t have a bachelorette. Gasp!

      I did have a sleepover with my sister (the student with the job) one night a few weeks before the wedding, right when she was about to break up with her boyfriend. We ate pizza and ice cream and watched Pitch Perfect. It was fun, totally low-key and exactly what I would have wanted from a bachelorette, if I’d had one.

    • KE

      If the guilt is general and not based in knowledge that your friends are low on cash, please try to let yourself off the hook. Like Ellie said, your friends are adults who will make decisions out of love and good will.

      And as the bridesmaid of a bride who keeps trying to tone things down out of guilt, damn it, I want to throw her a party! I want to make a big fuss over her and show her how loved she is and how excited we all are. I bet your friends feel the same way.

      Anyway, I might be off base there. :)

      • You were totally right. After talking it over with my BFF (who is a bridesmaid, but not a maid of honor) she is totally stoked about throwing a party. And she’s unemployed. I’m just going to have to put her in charge, and let my MOH down easy.

    • SamiSidewinder

      I did have one and I cannot tell you how much love I felt. I did not invite just the brides peeps (esp since I hadn’t decided on all of them yet, I did mine many months out for sanity’s sake). I invited all kinds of friends, including the female parts of his groom’s peeps. We did a weekend rental in Palm Springs (which was close for a lot, not so much for me). We made our own food, hung out in the pool, took a day trip to Joshua Tree and had one night out after we made dinner. All in all I tried to ask for a splurge on elements that were important and do it cheaply for the rest to compensate. We rented one house for the weekend, which was cheap if you compare it to a hotel, but not if you add in the cost of flying there. We made our own food and occupied our time with laughing and enjoying each other instead of spending money on fancy dinners and exotic excursions. Also, there is an economy of scale (for some things, esp if they are paying for you) if you invite more of your special people and then more people get to feel special, WIN WIN!
      That’s my two cents!

    • Anon

      I had the same issue – I felt guilty about asking my bridesmaids to pay for another party on top of the costs they were already incurring for the wedding. In addition 2 of them are pregnant and understandably not up for a night of dancing. I combined my bachelorette and shower into one gathering where we all went for “high tea” – fancy tea with tiny sandwiches and scones. I asked each person at the event to pay for her own tea (~$45) instead of purchasing any gifts for the shower. So the money spent went towards a great memory we all have together, and it checked off the boxes for the bachelorette and shower. Hope this helps!

    • Leah

      I recently hosted a “bachelorrette brunch” for a friend who thought she wasn’t interested in having a bachelorrette party. We did mimosas, coffee, fruit, strata and kugel for the food. The theme was “It’s a Love Story” and we asked everyone to bring her a book for her library with a great love story in it.

      For activities we did wedding mad libs, a friend re-wrote a children’s book to be about the couple and we did the Newlywed game comparing her answer’s to the groom.

      Calling it a bachelorrette brunch made it feel more lighthearted than a wedding shower and it was a hit. She wore a tiara, we drank, but it wasn’t a big night out.

    • I don’t know if this is something you or your friends would like but it’s my new favorite bachelorette/shower idea and I need to share:

      Have a photoshoot. Hire a local photographer, get all dressed up and your hair did and makeup done, and snap pics of you and your friends at a park or something.

      Years ago I realized the only really good (read:professional pics) of me and my friends were from my first wedding. It kind of sucks that the only great pics I have are of me in a wedding dress. Last year my girlfriends got a couple of casual, professional pics taken and it was soo much fun. And now I have great pictures of us (not in matching dresses).

      Your mileage may vary, but it’s a really fun way to pass time and a great keepsake for you and your friends.

    • Cait

      I was thinking of doing one night out dancing and a second night at a cabin or house with mellower hanging out, and that way my friends of both persuasions can choose one or both nights to join in, which might help solve your problem, too?

    • Rachel

      Oh my goodness! This was me 100%. The bachelorette was causing me more anxiety than the wedding. What ended up working for me was I put the planning in the hands of two good friends: my MOH, who was out of town, and my coworker. I told them they could plan anything just don’t tell me about it! Putting it out of my mind was so nice. I didn’t have to worry what people would say, or if they would be angry they had to spend money, because the responsibility of planning wasn’t on me. They wanted to help, and in the end (and because they are great people) they planned the perfect night. It was exactly what I wanted, even if I hadn’t been able to articulate it before hand. I am sure you have a friend or two who are itching to help, and would be so happy to know they could alleviate your anxiety. Let them plan it, and then don’t think about it again until they pick you up on the night of.

    • Emmy

      Yes to the guilt. I asked my friend about a million times if I could please contribute to my bachelorette party. She kept refusing me!

      Also, I actually had/am having two bachelorette parties. I had one low-key one with all my girl friends—we went to a tearoom and had tea and scones and mimosas and made crafts. It was awesome. But I also have a bunch of really close dude friends. They’re taking me out to a steak dinner and the strip club later this month.

      So I get the calm party AND the crazy party! My friends are awesome. And I’m finally (slowly) getting used to accepting their kindness.

  • Ariel

    Do we need actual plates/flatware? “Nice” looking plastic stuff from Costco is substantially cheaper than renting everything. Is it worth the extra money to get real plates and stuff. Would you be weirded out if you had a wedding (buffet) meal on plastic plates with plastic flatware?

    • ellie

      the reason we decided to rent proper flatware was for ecological/environmental reasons. didn’t want to just throw away all the plastic ware. that said, if your budget doesn’t allow for it, then use the plastic. if the food’s good, no one cares what they’re eating off of.

    • znna

      Definitely would not be weirded out! There is some really nice plastic ware out there these days!

    • I think general reactions would depend on the venue and food being served. BBQ or clambake in a loft/warehouse/less formal space or outside? Sounds like a perfect fit! Seems fun and relaxed to me.

      Plastic plates in a formal wedding ballroom with traditional wedding food might seem slightly more dissonant to me, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be offended or give it a second thought. I might think “Huh, I wasn’t expecting this plate.” and then I would promptly forget and dig into the delicious food.

      • Ariel

        A little bit more about what we’re planning:

        (Hopefully) outdoor reception followed by an outdoor cocktail hour with lawn games. Reception is at the same location, inside a social club (not terribly fancy looking – it is what you make it – we’ll have paper lanterns. Food will be a buffet, but we don’t know what type of food yet, probably Italian. No DJ or band, but we’ll have speakers and an iPod or computer.

        • Lady, your wedding sounds seriously AWESOME. Rock those plastic plates.

        • ANOTHER MEG

          There are lots of alternatives to plasticware that are about as cheap and are compostable/burnable/recyclable and generally less garbage, if that is on the radar.


          They also have biodegradable utensils.

        • Brenda

          Good quality disposable plates and cutlery. We had a similar vibe to yours, low-key and informal, with pulled pork and macaroni and cheese, and our caterer (a well-known food truck) provided high quality disposables. They were sturdy, worked well, were much cheaper and there was no cleanup.

        • Kate

          I second all the comments saying to go for something disposable. We had an outdoor reception in a tent with a buffet (tacos and sides), and bought those plates from Costco (I think the white with silver rim) and matching silverware, and it was fine. I would just make sure that the plates are sturdy (I’ve been to some potlucks with super flimsy plates, and those are a pain).

    • KD

      My one comment is when people get the fake silverware (meaning it’s plastic but appears to be metal until you touch it) it does become a novelty thing. “wow, this plastic silverware really looks like real silverware!! Hey Joan, did you see this plastic silverware is so nice!”

      It totally calls attention to the fact that it’s not actual flatware where if you use other nice disposable people don’t really even notice.

      • Ariel

        Mm, good call on the metal-looking plastic stuff. I did see that at Costco the other day and hadn’t thought about all the comments that would happen focused on the fact that it is, indeed, plastic.

        • ANOTHER MEG

          Actually, I had those at a wedding we went to in January, and we were all impressed. No one could tell until we picked up our “silverware” to eat (also barbecue, which was awesome) and the comments were more like, “this is great! I had no idea!”

          But really, I forgot about it after the food was gone and until this moment haven’t thought of it since.

        • Concetta

          I use them for all my parties at home (who has that many forks in real life?) and people always comment/draw attention to it – if only to ask if they should toss it or wash it.

    • SamiSidewinder

      I don’t LOVE that we are doing it, but we are. Compostable plates and forks and cups. Because it fit with our values. Even if I think it will look a bit crappy. Also, we are having tacos. So it’s not exactly like we are having a steak dinner.

      Also, from the ecology standpoint (re: @Ellie), the traditional flatware isn’t necessarily better as they are forced to wash everything twice for ‘safety’ and the transportation of it, etc. On that front you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Do what you want.

    • Beth

      You definitely don’t need it, but I would double check that your caterer is okay with that. We had caterers who were fine with us using compostable stuff, we had some who told us, “Oh, you don’t want to use that, this is your wedding!” and we had one who flat out refused to serve food on paper plates. We obvious went with a caterer who didn’t give a crap what kind of plates we used.

      We had paella so it wasn’t super fancy and the only problem we had was that a few of the forks broke when people tried to stab meat with them, so if you are having a utensil heavy meal, take that into consideration.

      I would do it again in a heartbeat, though, because it saved us hundreds of dollars (hundreds!). We used Branch and it was easy: http://www.branchhome.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=36&zenid=g934sqajc3teenfie6eb8oh2i0

    • Moe

      I nearly cried when my budget got so tight that I would have to use the plastic plates the caterer was providing. (We hired a taco guy to come grill on site). I thought the wedding would look cheap and ugly. I had no choice though and I sucked it up and moved on.

      The day of the wedding arrived and I didn’t care. (or even notice). My guests ate to their hearts content and didn’t care about the plate the food was on, only that there was food.

      If you need to buy your own check out http://www.smartyhadaparty.com The prices are pretty cheap and delivery is free after a certain amount. They often have sales and sell value packs.

    • Some of the nicer plastic flatware looks so much like the real thing. I think it even works in the fanciest of situations. I didn’t go this route for eco reasons, but I definitely wouldn’t be put off if I went to a wedding that did do it. I went to a wedding the summer before last, and they used paper plates. You know what, no one noticed (except for me because I was in pre-wedding mode). The plates matched her color scheme, which I thought was really cute.

    • http://www.greenmunch.ca

      We are going with plates and cutlery from here for our Welcome BBQ and the Day After Brunch. Durable, can hold a lot of food, and you can just toss them in your compost pile afterwards! The colours will go well with your calm garden party feel.

    • Genell

      Our caterer is a BBQ joint, its buffet style and they provide the plastic plates and forks. We’re doing such a low key outdoor at a farm that I don’t think it’ll matter.

  • znna

    On the fence about seated dinner versus buffet. They will cost about the same, turns out. The caterer seems to lean towards seated dinner, but we had always thought of having a buffet because it gives guests more of a chance to mingle and get to know the other guests.

    • Ariel

      A buffet also gives your guests the opportunity to try more than one thing! I went to a colleagues wedding two weeks ago with a seated dinner, definitely did not like my dinner choice, and would have loved to change it for something else, but no dice.

      • LMN

        A good friend of mine said one of regrets in wedding planning was choosing a plated dinner over a buffet, although I think that mostly had to do with the price difference for her. I think it also depends on how big your wedding will be. If you’ve got a really big guest list then I’d choose plated because the caterer should adjust the serving staff to be appropriate to the number of guests (at least I’d assume they would). A lot of guests trying to get to a buffet could potentially cause an annoying backup.

        • Emmers

          or if possible having multiple stations. because LMN is right, they do back up! not a terrible thing (since it can give folks time to chat), but just something to know.

    • What vibe do you most want for your wedding? Buffet tends to make things more casual, while seated dinners are more formal. Do you and your partner have a preference either way?

      Also, how big is your wedding going to be? Buffet lines can get backed up, and we were warned away from one for our 175-guest wedding.

      Bonus of a buffet: You don’t have to tally people’s meals as the RSVPs come in!

      • Laura C

        On the other hand, I’ve been at seated dinners where there were still people being served their meals at the time I was finishing mine, because the service was so slow, so it can get backed up either way.

        But then, as a person with some dietary restrictions, I really appreciate buffets, because I have a better chance of putting together a plate of food I can eat. So I tend to be especially attuned to the downside of seated dinners.

    • Martha

      If it’s the same price, go buffet!!!!! I wish, wish, wish I could have done this (says the girl who just below this comment said I didn’t regret anything. Ha!). If you do a buffet you don’t HAVE to do a seating chart or tally meals for the caterer.

    • KD

      Seated = more formal feel.

      Buffet = more options and people eat what they really want, but they get antsy seeing different tables get dismissed.

      If you want mix and mingle have you considered a cocktail style event with food stations?

    • Erin E

      We’re going with a buffet. I kind of felt like the seated dinner seemed more stuffy and old-fashioned, whereas the buffet style seemed a little more laid-back. It will also give our guests more options food-wise, which I liked, and will let them go back again if they’re still hungry. I’m big on “what will be the most enjoyable for my guests” as a planning guide. I can see how a buffet might be too casual for a formal wedding setting, though, so go with what seems right for your party style. I also had to talk my Mom into the buffet idea, as it seemed like a less-classy option in her mind.

    • KE

      How good are your people at RSVPing? We did a plated dinner over buffet because buffet logistics would’ve been awkward. But holy hell, it was a major pain to get people to fill out their dinner preferences on the RSVP card correctly. Lots of phone calls and emails. Still worth it, but if you know you’re fighting an uphill battle to get people to RSVP at all, a buffet might be easiest.

    • Anne

      Will your caterer do something in between? We had what’s called “family style,” where everyone was seated (so no one had to wait in ridiculous lines), but all the food was served on passed platters, so people could take exactly what they wanted. It was fantastic for us, since it gave the advantage of seating (no long lines, or some people being done with their food before others have even gotten any), but the choice of a buffet (you want only salad? Great! Your three-year-old wants only bread? Fine!).

      • Phoebe

        Yes! We did family style and loved it and so did our guests! It is a bit easier on the caterer than plated, no lines like for a buffet or coordinating which table should go next, the food gets served much more quickly (stays warm), it encourages people at the same table to interact (if they don’t already know each other) and people get to try whatever they like.

        At our wedding, the caterer had already set out the salad and bread ahead of time so people sat down, and had something to munch on while waiting for the rest of the food to show up. For any dietary restrictions they just brought a smaller portion of the dish for that person. Oh and if a table really liked or ran out of one dish they just asked one of the servers for more.

      • Carolyn

        Yes! Family style! We had it and loved it.

      • Emmers

        Cool idea!

    • Meg

      Buffet! I barely ate anything at my wedding, or the one I went to last weekend. Both were buffets. I would have felt terrible throwing away whole plates of food. Plus you have an excuse to get up to talk to people on your way to food (or avoid people, if you want).

    • Laurel

      What about family style? Buffets are kind of a hassle if you have a lot of people; family style gets people passing food around the table and interacting with each other in a way that neither buffet nor individual plates does.

      • Laura

        Another vote for family style! We wanted the reception to feel like a really festive dinner party so that was part of the appeal to us, but I also liked that people still had some choice to take from a dish or not.


        My sister is doing this for her wedding and I’m really excited about it!

    • Sara

      We’re doing a different style of service for each course: plated salads, family style mains and sides, and dessert buffet (because who doesn’t love having several little desserts?!).

    • znna

      Thanks for all the feedback! This was super helpful. Definitely going for the casual rather than formal vibe. But we will have a pretty good-sized group (up to 150), which could lead to a long buffet line . . . So maybe family style is a good middle ground!

  • Martha

    Oh boy, what a great post!!!!

    Overall I don’t think there is anything I truly regret/think was a waste of time and or money. I think it’s just important to make sure you’re enjoying the time it takes and the task itself, much like Maddie said.

    To specifically address favors yes, we had them. We made a spice rub for grilling and it was super easy and meaningful (key component of a successful favor). We both really enjoy grilling and BBQ so it was a good bet for us – and something I think is somewhat unique and actually useful. I think candies etc. is silly, you’re already feeding people cake (or some kind of dessert). I don’t think you should do a favor just to do one. If you can’t come up with something meaningful/clever/personal, skip it.

    And I know that makes it seem like I’m pressuring the greater universe to come up with a good favor idea, I just mean I think there are better ways to spend your time/effort. Maybe you love flowers! Maybe you really like a live band! Maybe you are going to re-watch your wedding video (something we didn’t do) over and over every anniversary. The important thing to figure out is what about the wedding will feel special to the two of you and then devote your resources and effort to those things, than you won’t feel like anything was a waste.

    (clearly, I can say all of this in my post-wedding-Zen state. It took some time to get here).


      For our reception we’re doing a donation in lieu of favors. I couldn’t think of anything meaningful and frankly, it’s less work. Our people are traveling for it anyway, so this way there won’t be something else to pack. We both have causes we’re passionate about, so we’re using some of the budget to make a larger than usual donation and we’re putting a note by the guestbook or something.

    • Lindsey d.

      Ooh! I love the spice rub idea! My fiance already makes his own spice rub and loves to grill, which everyone knows. This could be awesome and relatively easy to pull off….

  • Michelle

    We’re on the fence about having a “first song” instead of first dance. We know we don’t want to do a traditional first dance in front of everyone, as we’re not the most coordinated :)

    What we’re considering is playing/singing a song together as a “first song” instead. He plays guitar and I sing, which we’ve casually done together at small family gatherings or get-togethers with friends. Would it seem self-centered or anything like that? When you think about it, it’s not that different than dancing in front of everyone, right? We’re thinking possibly Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love” or writing our own that’s sort of a thank you to our guests or something.

    Thanks for any advice!

    • KE

      Aww, I LOVE that. (And I lean heavily on the traditionalist side for most wedding things.) It’s in the spirit of a dance, but more meaningful. Do it!

    • CPM

      That’s a fantastic idea! I sang a folk song with my dad instead of the traditional father-daughter dance, since we always used to sing together at church (and he’s not huge on dancing). We did it a capella, and everybody seemed to like it! If you wrote your own song, I think that would also be super sweet. My husband and I danced together, and my husband also danced with his mom. It wasn’t weird to switch from dancing to singing to dancing.

      Whether singing or dancing, though, I would suggest keeping the song around 3 minutes or less… attention spans are only so long!

    • Omg, I loooooooooooove this idea. I would die to see this at a wedding. How sweet!

      • Cynth

        Love it! And love that you will sing in front of people but dancing stresses you out. If you are worried about the “self-centered” part- that’s all about how you introduce it- this sounds like a perfect time to thank everyone for coming and being supportive, and dedicating the performance to your guests, your parents, whoever couldn’t be there, etc!

    • Phoebe

      This is a great idea! Any it does not seem self-centered at all. If the song you end up performing together is dance-able (and really you can sway to just about anything) you could maybe ask people to join you for “the first dance”. Or ask a few special people (parents, siblings, wedding party…) to help you celebrate?

      • Phoebe

        Sorry that should read “And it does not seem self-centered at all.”

    • Tess

      we are totally planning on doing that!!! we both play guitar and instead of a first dance we are getting up on stage and going to play our hearts out for everyone!!! self centered? I don’t think so… the first dance is already so “look at us” so whats the difference really??
      we’ve been practicing for months!!! no one in my family knows!!!! its one of the things I’m most looking forward to at the wedding…
      now i’m just wondering how we are going to get both of our guitars to the wedding site without our family noticing :)
      i say…. GO FOR IT!

  • Bonnie

    Originally I kind of wanted a photo booth but its not a top priority. Also our wedding is in a super expensive east coast city and on one of the most popular wedding days of the year so even if we decided it was in our budget most professional options aren’t available now.

    Has anyone done a DIY photo booth? Was it worth it? How did you pull it off?

    • We did one. And it was before I became an actual wedding photographer. What we did was get a remote for our digital camera so that guests would be able to take the photos themselves. Then we just put the camera on a tripod and hung the quilt our friends made for us as the backdrop. You can certainly get more complicated but this is simple and will likely achieve what you want (fun pictures of your guests not taken by your photographer). If you want props party stores are great for one-stop shops for all sorts of silly props.

      • Yup, you can easily, and cheaply DIY a photobooth with some cloth for a background, a tripod, and a digital camera set on automatic + some props. I wrote a tutorial (and there are some of our guest photos) at he end of this post.t
        It was a huge hit! (And you can use the tripod for future travel occasions)

    • We did one. Digital camera on a tripod, thrift store funny hats & a chalk board, background screen from the caterer. Worked great and some of the photos are awesome. We didn’t announce the photobooth and it was in the corner, so I don’t think everyone saw it, but otherwise good. If you can find a good digital camera with a timer, that helps. And make sure the tripod is adjusted for tall people – we had 2 6’7″ wedding guests (unrelated!) and after they took their photos, everyone else was on a bit of a weird angle.

    • I’m not doing one, but I went to a wedding last summer that had one. And you know what, we never actually made it over to the photo booth. At another wedding that had one, older people (who aren’t up on wedding trends) were a bit confused by the idea.

      I will bet some people will use it, and you will appreciate the pictures, but not everyone will use it.

    • SamiSidewinder

      We are doing one. Same idea as the rest. DSLR, tripod, some kinda background (haven’t dealt with that yet) and remotes. We went on ebay and bought like 5 remotes that work with my uncle’s camera. They are like a buck each. So I don’t have to worry about someone losing his or people misplacing them. I even have a SD card that can wirelessly transmit the photos to an ipad so our guests can see them right away. I’m not sure if I want to use this option though, I’m afraid of drunken mishaps.

      • Katelyn

        SD card transmitting to iPad? What is this witchery? (And how do I get my hands on it?!)

    • Daisy6465

      In regards to the other posters: how do people get their pictures? I thought the whole fun behind a photo booth was having the photo strips to put on your fridge later. Did you have a way for guests to print them out?

  • Alyssa

    I’m on the fence about a wedding band. I LOVE my engagement ring, and if I were to get a wedding band it would be the slimmest plain white gold band I could find. I don’t want my finger to feel clunky with two metal bands on it. So before I got engaged my boyfriend asked if I would be willing to go without the wedding band altogether and just wear engagement ring as my wedding ring. I was open to the idea at the time, but now I feel on the fence about it. I think I’m mostly just worried about the ring-exchanging at the wedding ceremony and other people thinking I’m just engaged, not married. Does that even matter?

    • LMN

      I’m planning on skipping the wedding band and a friend was absolutely mortified when I told her. “But how will people know you’re married???!!!” I figure my friends will already know and the who cares what strangers think? *I’ll* know I’m married and that’s good enough for me. I also figure for the ring ceremony we’ll just use my engagement ring.

    • CII

      I was in a similar situation — I was super excited about the engagement ring, and we spent more of our $$ on it, but I never had any conception of what the wedding ring would look like. I got a very slim, plain platinum wedding ring. My other half is super excited about his wedding ring, and I am equally excited about exchanging rings. So you may want to think about whether “exchanging” rings is important to you, even if it’s just your existing ring being gifted to you again as one ring that says everything.

      I’m not married yet and I’m debating whether after the wedding I will wear both, or just the wedding ring (or maybe even just the engagement ring)–which was another reason we didn’t go all out on a wedding ring–so I don’t know what to say about post-ceremony wearing.

      • Alyssa

        Yes, my situation is similar to yours! My fiance splurged a bit on the engagement ring because I was looking for something a bit specific and he had it custom made. So, the thoughtfulness of the engagement ring means a lot more to me than the plain metal band I’d get to go with it. We’re getting married at my alma mater, so I can wear my class ring on my right hand and hopefully just use the engagement ring for the exchanging at the ceremony.

      • Blimunda

        A friend of mine and her husband did something similar. They had a civil ceremony just with immediate family for emigration purposes (or she couldn’t have followed him to the country where he would be working for years to come) and exactly a year later they had the religious ceremony, where they simply exchanged again the wedding bands (plain matching gold bands, as it is traditional here) they already had been wearing for a year.

    • Anne

      I have a super thin band, and if you do want one, don’t worry about it feeling clunky or heavy — you won’t notice at all. It was a much bigger adjustment for me to wear the engagement ring (since otherwise I don’t wear rings), and I barely felt the change with a wedding ring.

      My advice would be go for it. You can always decide later not to wear it, but it can be nice to have a plain band in case you’re ever doing something where you don’t want to wear an engagement ring (I almost never take mine off, but if I’m gardening or doing something particularly rough with my hands I’d rather not have to get my engagement ring crusty).

      But if what’s putting you off is others judging you or thinking it’s weird, but you actually don’t want a wedding ring, then don’t get one. Plenty of women only wear one ring (or even none at all).

      • CII

        This is what I was thinking about trying. I don’t wear my engagement ring for gardening or playing outside or cooking, but I was thinking that a super simple flat wedding band might be able to stay on for such activities…..

        • MDBethann

          I went with a simple thin wedding band that has a slight design to it – not enough that dirt, food, etc. will get caught, but enough to give it a nice look if/when I wear it without the engagement ring (like when I travel – my ring is a fairly simple sapphire, but I still don’t want to risk losing it).

          Weight-wise, I barely feel it. In fact, on the days when I don’t have my engagement ring on, I keep checking to make sure my wedding band didn’t slide off!

    • Laura

      My engagement ring turned into my wedding band. I wanted a sign of our commitment to each other but I don’t wear jewelry very often so the thought of going from zero to two rings seemed silly for me. I found a simple gold band that I loved and wore it until the wedding, then I took it off before the ceremony and then put it back on again for the ring exchange. There were a few awkward conversations with people who were expecting to see a more traditional engagement ring and seemed confused by the concept of “now it is a plain non-diamond engagement ring but later it will be a wedding ring” but ultimately it worked for us.

      I think you should do whatever will make you feel most comfortable, whether that be having one ring, getting a simple wedding band and moving the engagement ring to the other hand to not feel clunky, or wearing both together. Plus, if you really regret it, you can always change it up. My MIL didn’t have an engagement ring and then about ten years after they were married she saw a diamond ring she really liked, they bought it, and it became her ‘engagement ring’.

      • Cynth

        “On the Fence” sounds like you want the band, but feel bad changing your mind. What other people think doesn’t matter- few people will notice if you don’t exchange rings as part of the ceremony. But if you want it, speak up! There are so many decisions that you are making right now, it’s ok to change your mind!

    • KC

      My opinion: if you don’t want an extra band and it’s not meaningful for you, you almost certainly don’t need it. If you particularly need to advertise “married” for some reason (scummy guy hitting on you, explaining relationship in a situation where you do not share a language with your interlocutor, too many people asking when your wedding is), one can often turn an engagement ring around briefly to indicate a “standard” wedding band. So there’s that.

      I think the ring-exchanging ceremony could be done with your engagement/wedding ring. There’s nothing that says you have to have different rings to get engaged with and married with, really (it sort of makes more sense to do them both with the same ring, actually?). I mean, you’d have to give the engagement ring back to him briefly, but that seems like it should be okay as long as it doesn’t get lost?

      Also: a friend of mine, well after her wedding, purchased several cheap-cheap generic wedding rings to stash around (one in her vehicle, one in her purse, etc.) because she’s not great at remembering to put on rings when she gets dressed in the morning and she gets hit on a lot without a ring, so this was how they solved the problem. So that might be an option, too; only buy an “in case ‘I’m married’ advertisement is needed” ring if it turns out to be a problem for you, and then wear it just if/when you need it.

      Good luck!

    • Rachel

      I just have one ring. I loved my engagement ring , and we didn’t feel like it was worth the money to buy two rings. The ring exchange wasn’t weird, I just took off the engagement ring before the ceremony, and when I put it on again, it was a wedding ring! You could always have your engagement ring engraved to add something special to commemorate your wedding.

    • Brenda

      I wear my engagement ring on my right hand and my wedding ring on my left. It keeps me from having a clunky two rings on one hand, and also my engagement ring is vintage and an odd shape, so they don’t fit together. I think there’s something really lovely about a single plain wedding band, but also my engagement ring is beautiful and I want to wear it always.

  • Concetta

    Freshly married here – less than two months! Bit of a long response, but this post hit home for me. Matt and I started off knowing our Big Must Have Things (the right partner, rocking photographers, food/bar, and pretty venue) and Things We Don’t Want (garter toss, printed cocktail napkins, chair covers). Never, never talked about all the stuff in between, which led to some surprises along the way. Our favors ended up being one of our favorite things about the wedding (we made homemade jams and jellies from fruit and herbs in our backyard). We ALREADY loved to can jams and jellies and I can’t stand useless favors, so it was easy and practical. Although it took ages (about a year to slowly make them all), it was worth it because we had so much fun making them and anticipating people’s enjoyment!! I dang near killed myself making photo scavenger hunt cards (pretty) that were ignored because people were having too much fun. I should have remembered that guests do not need to be entertained at your wedding – they already want to be there.
    Things I was surprised that I was expected to have an opinion about:
    Flowers (more not prepared – I am clueless) and what kinds of arrangements
    Napkin colors (at the rehearsal dinner, too), table linens
    Bread and butter plates – did I want them? Or not? I didn’t know! Was there a pro/con list? This is where I started to hyperventilate… was I supposed to know?
    What kind of jewelry would I wear? I dunno – something pretty?
    What kind of cake display are you imagining? Um.. I just want to eat it!
    And this one nearly sent me over the edge:
    What are your thoughts regarding the font for your Ampersand on the invitation? I have never in my life considered the Ampersand in depth, much less the font!
    Once my sweet husband pried me off the proverbial wall, we realized this very important lesson:
    These vendor partners are the experts and have spent lots of time with these very questions. They ask all the questions in case you do have an opinion. It is ok if you don’t – it really is! Find good partners you trust, share your budget with them and let them BE the experts. We gave them free rein and just… let go. My flowers were lovely, inexpensive and abundant. I have no idea what most of them were, but my flower angel knew my colors and had my trust. My invitations are so pretty; I loved them way more than I thought I would. They suggested ways for us to save money by having postcard RSVPs and ended up inspiring the tagline of our wedding. I still have no idea what font they used. Our cake was beautiful and delicious and I can’t remember a thing about how it was displayed. I didn’t know so what so many things would look like because I trusted the people I partnered with and took a giant leap of faith. People who know me still can’t believe it! Really, though, I’m only doing this once. They do it all the time, so leverage that expertise. Let them help you make up your mind (or even choose). Two months later, I’m pouring over the photo proofs. I see the pretty stuff, and it just doesn’t matter the way I thought it would (except the jams – they still make me smile!). Don’t let it make you crazy. Truly, as long as you have your Big Must Have Things, you’ll be happy. The rest is just… stuff.

    • I swear if anyone asks my opinion on bread & butter plates, that may just be the moment I snap a la “Oh for pete’s sake, just set the damn table!” This makes me glad I’m getting married in redneck country. The cows may outnumber the people, but the people sure don’t over think things too often.

      • Del678

        Our venue asked HOW I wanted the napkins folded. Really?! I agreed to the most elaborate silly one they offered… sails with the place card perched on the front… that’ll learn ’em. How many people will notice that my napkins looks like the opera house, zero, how long will it take the venue to fold their silly napkins, too long!

    • LMN

      “What are your thoughts regarding the font for your Ampersand on the invitation? I have never in my life considered the Ampersand in depth, much less the font!”

      As a graphic designer and self proclaimed font snob, I’m in the opposite situation :) I’ve spent the last 3 evenings scrutinizing fonts and embracing my love the ampersand. If you’re like most people and don’t have an opinion on fonts, that’s why you get someone else to worry about the invite design.

  • Tess

    i am completely on the fence about wearing a veil…
    and not in a fashion sense
    i like the idea of the veil in that its super bride-y and if i am ever going to wear one, it will be on this day
    but i don’t like any of the reasoning for why we wear a veil on our wedding day…
    can anyone offer a reason i can stand behind?
    or tell me why you did or did not wear a veil?

    • LMN

      I’m not wearing a veil because I think I look ridiculous in them. I’m going to rock a fascinator instead. Yeah, I’ve got nothing on the reasoning behind a veil since I nixed the idea before I thought that far.

    • I’m not planning on wearing one because it won’t look good with my dress haha but sometimes I think they are really beautiful and if you like them for the beauty and “bride-yness” of it then I say go for and have it mean whatever you want it to mean for yourself.

    • Moe

      I didn’t want to wear a traditional looking long veil. I can’t even express why, I think perhaps that I thought it was something a younger bride should wear. (I’m 40). I think I kept imagining myself fussing with it and the veil getting in the way. Plus, I knew I wanted my hair pulled back and fancy. A veil would have covered it.

      I like things on the glam side and flashy is my style. I opted for a small white birdcage veil and the hair stylist attached to the side of my head so it only partially overed my face. I left it on the whole day and would gladly wear it again if I could find an occasion for it.


      I looked through Wikipedia and here is my favorite sentence in the veil article:

      Roman brides, for instance, wore an intensely flame-colored and fulsome veil, called the flammeum, apparently intended to protect the bride from evil spirits on her wedding day.

      Evil spirits. Everything else made me sad and angry in turn.

      • Cynth

        I wore a fingertip length veil. I’m not a hat/fascinator/headband girl, and for me, it just fit. I didn’t cover my face or anything deeply symbolic, but it made me feel like a bride. And when else can you wear a pretty filmy headpiece? The great thing about it, is it is easy to pass down- my wedding dress is highly unlikely to fit my future children/best friend/sister- but my veil? Definitely. I’ve had lots of friends use veils as a symbol of continuity in that way. And frankly with all the fit issues and stress and cost of The Dress, the veil was just simple and pretty.

    • mimi

      I’m wearing one because I like how it looks. I am choosing to ignore any negative connotations it could possibly have. :)

    • Concetta

      I wanted to wear one, because, really, when else can you? It was a super bride- y pretty, sparkly two layer veil and I loved, loved, loved it. I did not wear the blusher part that covers your face because I didn’t like where that tradition came from. Plus, I wanted to see the people, darn it! After that, the veil was just a very pretty part of the bridal outfit. I also wasn’t “given away” but rather escorted by dad.. Living proof that you can tweak any traditional element to fit YOU.

    • ugh, I’ve got nothing useful to say, but I share your feelings. I was morally opposed to wearing a veil. My fiance was disappointed because he thinks they look pretty. The ladies at the bridal store put one on me and I was like WOW those are pretty. So now I’m wearing a veil because, well, because they are pretty. There go my morals. My mom says don’t think of it or call it a veil. Just call it an accessory. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, I suppose.

    • Carolyn

      Try some on with your dress. Pick what you like. Nothing, fascinator, headband, tiara, veil. Whatever. It only has meaning (or bad juju) if you want it to.

      I wore a chapel length (super long, past my feet) veil because I thought it looked pretty with the lace dress and big old gaudy church. That was basically it. It looked pretty. And my mom made it for $8.

    • Del678

      I am morally against veils in the historical sense (hide the bride in case he doesn’t like her, by the time he sees, it’s too late/ general modesty) but will be wearing one (I look good in a veil) but overcoming the bad history factor by having my fiance lift it back before the ceremony so it’s clear we’re going in eyes open, as equals, nothing to hide. :)

      • Alyssa

        Interesting that you worked around it with, what in my background at least (Jewish), is the traditional way to do things. I actually was always uncomfortable with it because of it’s origins in the Jacob-Leah/Rachael story, where Jacob was “tricked” into marrying the wrong bride…first because it seems so crazy to marry someone you don’t recognize if they’re veiled (I know, different times, and thicker veils, but still), but also because he was pretty much pissed only because she wasn’t as pretty as Rachael.

    • Elizabeth

      I’m wearing a veil because it looks pretty with my dress. I want something simple that accents my dress: single tier, minimal embellishments. I’m adamant about no blusher. I tried some on and just thought they looked silly on me and I didn’t like the connotations. With a simple single tier and no blusher, it just looks pretty, and not like I’m hiding my face. :)

      • Tess

        thanks everyone…. im international which is why i posted to get feedback and then fell asleep and didnt get to weigh in again! thanks for your advice… sounds like most of you are wearing a veil, even those of you who might have some of the same hesitations that I do….
        maybe wearing it but not covering your face is a good compromise for feeling bride-y but not feeling hidden away….
        I like what DEL said… going in eyes open, as equals, nothing to hide….
        fortunately, I have a veil I am borrowing from a friend, and I almost intend to be on the fence about this issue until the morning of my wedding (end of sept!) and then trying it on and making a last minute decision!

        • Brenda

          I agree with you, I think if you just wear a veil on the back of your head but don’t cover your face, then it’s just a pretty accessory. I also find the covering your face / lifting the veil bit a bit discomforting. I didn’t wear one because it didn’t work with my dress and just felt weird to me.

          I think if you want one, wear it, but just don’t do the covered face / unveiling bit. You’ll look beautiful, and everyone will see your veil AND your face.

    • Another Kate

      honestly, I LOVED my veil, even more than my dress. I didn’t cover my face, and in all the weddings I’ve been to, I’ve never seen a bride cover her face. I wore a floor length veil and it got a little cumbersome as the night went on, which is why I took it off for dancing, otherwise I think I would have worn it all night. Loved it.

    • Dayana

      I didn’t wear veil coz having a short hair. During the ceremony i had a bird cage and for the dinner a fascinator, which blends very well with my hair style!

    • MDBethann

      I was indifferent to the whole veil thing too – I loved my dress without one and was borrowing a really lovely headpiece from a cousin, so I didn’t feel a veil was necessary. But when my mom & MIL came to visit and help me address invitations, they insisted I needed a veil and took me veil shopping. It ended up being my birthday present from my parents. Since my dress was strapless, it was nice to have something going down my back a bit in addition to my shoulder-length hair. I got a veil that just went down the back and my hairdresser made this fantastic little pocket with braids at the back of my head for the comb to sit in. It looked great at the ceremony and the photography session afterwards (we had a nice little breeze) so in the end I’m glad I had one, but I was really indifferent.

      There was definitely NO WAY I was doing a blusher – I was 33 for pete’s sake – and wasn’t hiding from anyone.

  • I’m not sure if I should have my dad walk me down the aisle or not. I don’t have a really close relationship with him cause he was kind of a turd when my parents got divorced. Even if he does nobody is giving me away. He won’t be paying for any of the wedding. My mom thinks I should walk alone, my older sister thinks I should have him, and my younger sister really didn’t want him to walk her down either but he called her crying the week before her wedding. I honestly want to walk down with my dog, not him…

    How do you tell someone you don’t want them involved like that? It’s gonna kill him but really if we never talked again because of it I wouldn’t care.

    • Moe

      My dad passed away a number of years ago so for me there was never a question of what I would do, I always knew that I would walk down the aisle alone. To me, there was no one else who could take my dad’s place.

      What was weird though is that so many people ASSUMED that I would ask one of my brothers to walk me. It felt totally wrong to me. I don’t have a deep brotherly connection to any of my brothers (oh there’s four of them still living, how would I choose just one any how?!!??) none of them “fathered” me, and I’m not a child or teenager that is being handed over to someone’s care. I’m closer to menopuase than puberty!

      So when I hear variations of this question asked I kind of always think the same thing: you’re a grown woman who’s getting married, if you can make an adult decision like that you can tell someone they will not be walking you down the aisle. At some point you just have to do what is right/true/authentic for you, and others will have to handle the disappointment like grown ups.

      Perhaps this conversation, as uncomfortable as it is, is also an opportunity to talk about the relaity of your relationship and what can (or sometimes can’t) be done to make it better.

    • anona

      I wanted to walk alone. But I knew it would break my Dad’s heart (we have a good relationship), so I had both my parents walk me. My Mom was touched to be included in the ceremony and it was closest approximation to my principle of not being “given away” by one man to another.
      Why not have your Mom walk with you if you don’t want to walk alone? If you have no particular relationship with your Dad it shouldn’t matter what he thinks.

    • Genell

      I’m with you on this one. My Dad and I do not have a close relationship ( having seen him only twice in 18 years). He will be invited but just as a guest and really as more of a courtesy. I know I will be walking down the aisle myself, but I can pass that off as we’re just not being super traditional. My issue comes in with the dances. My fiance and his mother expect to do a mother son dance. So everyone will be expecting a father daughter dance. I don’t feel like he has played any kind of role in my upbringing to warrant being a part of my wedding. How do I get around this gracefully?

      • MDBethann

        My husband doesn’t like being the center of attention so he was very adamant about not having a mother/son dance, even though he’s close to his mom. My dad and I very much wanted a father/daughter dance, and no one seemed to care that we had one and not the other. My husband did agree to dance with his mom during another song, just not as a spotlight dance and our photographer got some very nice pictures of the two of them dancing together.

        So you could do that – dance with him like you would with another male guest, but not a spotlight dance.

  • Violet

    Just a general suggestion for those early on in the planning stages, to avoid as many fence-sittings down the road as possible:
    Before researching anything, sit down and write a list of all the things you’d think you need to make a decision about for your wedding. Go over said list (or create it from the beginning with) your partner, deciding generally how you each feel about those items (eg: don’t even want this element, “Oooh, want to make myself!” vanilla, need it logistically but don’t care about the specifics of it, needs to be blue, etc). That way, when down the line someone asks you to decide on an element that never even made it onto this list, you’re ready with your answer: you don’t really care! Go with whatever’s easiest, cheapest, fastest, means more to the person who does care about it, most practical, and the like.
    This won’t work for everyone, but I found it really helpful when months into planning, someone would bring up something I didn’t even know existed, or knew about but obviously hadn’t cared enough to even think about.
    (Added bonus- for the elements that have a cost associated with them, you can use this list to create a projected budget for each item, then cross check that with what you actually spend… anyone else an Excel nerd?)

  • Becca

    I’m on the fence about flowers (non-bouquet). Not because I’m not sure if I want them, but because they seem to cost so darn much, even wholesale, and I’m trying to keep our budget from spinning out. It doesn’t help that both my fiance and I prefer quite expensive flowers (gardenias for him, antique hydrangeas for me). I do kinda want flowers and sometimes daydream about how beautiful they would look, but would I regret dropping the money on them when things come down to the line?

    • Kestrel

      I guess the question to ask then would be ‘what will I replace the flowers with?’

      If you can think of some decorating idea that you both like that isn’t flowers, I don’t think you’ll miss them at all. For example, my SO and I are making little cardboard houses to look like the houses from Up! and then tying balloons to them. Even though I love flowers, I love this idea so much more that I won’t miss them at all.

      • Rowany

        OK, #1 the UP houses sound awesome!
        Becca- what about coffee filter flowers? Both your favorite blooms could be replicated that way I think.

    • If you decide you want flowers and it’s just your budget holding you back, you can find ways to scale it back. Take a look around your venue and see how much decoration it really needs. If it has a good aesthetic on its own, a few floral accents, even in a more expensive flower, could be a great option and probably fit into your budget. Otherwise, you can primarily go the non-floral route for the majority of your decor (branches, candles, etc), add in less expensive filler flowers, and supplement them with your favorite flowers.

      • Susan

        Agree! We got hanging glass vases from CB2, put interesting flowers and ferns inside, and hung them with pretty ribbon. This helped a smaller amount of flowers have more visual impact.

    • Rachel

      If I was doing everything over, the one thing I would not even worry about is the decorations. I spent so much time on centerpieces, and cute decorations, and in the end no one really cares and they just get thrown out. For us, the amazing parts were the people, and the dancing, and just having everyone around us (as I am sure you have heard a bajillion times already). I would say, since you are on the fence, nix the flowers and spend the money on more booze, food, or music.

    • Rebecca

      You could probably get away with an arrangement that’s maybe 20% flowers with the balance in greenery- especially the gardenias- hydrangeas you might have to experiment with types of greenery. Of course, I like a lot of greenery in a floral arrangement, so I’m probably biased. Deep dark greens really set off the creamy colors, though. Not sure how this would price out, though.

      I’m on team flower- I got married in the spring in part so I could have daffodils and tulips.

    • Emmers

      There’s an earlier APW post that doesn’t seem like it uses too many flowers (since there are candles too)– that’s what I’m leaning towards.


    • SamanthaNichole

      We aren’t doing flower center pieces. We are doing candles in jars and doing a LOT of them bunched on each table. Flowers are expensive, but if you can think of something else just as beautiful then you won’t miss them. :)

      • Emmers

        So cool! Are you doing different shapes & sizes and colors, or just all the same? And are you putting one candle in each jar, or multiple? And are the jars recycling kind of jars or ones that you’re buying somewhere? So many questions :)

      • Genell

        I’m doing something similar. I went to a bunch of thrift stores and bought small glass vases and mason jars and I’m doing a mix of wholesale cut flowers and candles (we have to use LED) and just going to disperse them around the tables. If you want to add color to the candles they have these water pearls that come in different colors that you can set the candles in, you can also use them for the flowers.

    • MDBethann

      Small potted annuals and/or perennials. We used them as escort cards/favors/centerpieces. Everyone took them home and they all cost less than $2/piece. We bought them from a local greenhouse and we got a quantity discount.

      The extras that we got to decorate the cake and card tables now reside in my garden. Win all around!

  • Lea

    My fiance and I hadn’t planned on decorating our ceremony site at all, because it’s a park and it’s totally beautiful on its own, and also because our wedding is at 11am and I’m worried about asking our friends and relatives to arrive early and set up while trying not to get sweaty in their dress-up clothes (it’s a public park, very small wedding, we have not hired coordinators, almost everything is being done by friends. Chairs are being set up by hired chair people, but that’s it.)

    But… People keep telling us things like “Oh, you’ll want to have a guest book!” or “It’ll look weird if you’re not standing in front of any type of arch or garland or ANYTHING.”

    My fiance and I are pretty comfortable ignoring these types of comments and going ahead with our vision, but I’m wondering if any of those are elements that I really will miss. Do I need to have a guest book? A chalkboard schedule? Some type of altar decoration? Will I really, actually need those things or miss them if they’re not there? Help.

    • Cynth

      We got married on a dock looking out on a lake- so, like you, we figured we didn’t need any alter decoration. My aunt thought flowers were necessary to highlight the area, so I let her run with it. She got to contribute, it looked great, and I didn’t stress (much) because it really wasn’t an important element to me. I told her to keep the flowers in our wedding colors, and go to town. If someone cares about something more than you- delegate! You still get to ok/approve, but let them put in the work if it matters to them. (and we didn’t not have a guest book, and totally don’t regret it).

    • KE

      I vote yes on guest book, no on everything else. I was happily surprised to realize that most guests wrote little notes in our guest book instead of just signing their names. I’m so happy to have that as a keepsake. Besides, you can get a guest book for <$30.

    • Kestrel

      I have not heard one person after a wedding ever mention the guest book. And, if you want to, you could totally put the guest book at the reception for ease (I’m assuming you have access to tables at the reception!).

      I will suggest, however, to get a music stand or a small table or something for your officiant. While they likely only have a little book or something, sometimes you need to set things down (particularly if you’re doing a prayer or something similar) And if you get a music stand, do the officiant a favor and get a real one, not the metal fold up ones. Those blow!)

      I think the chairs will do fine in order to create a focus point, and once you’re up there, you’re the focus point!

    • CII

      From a practical perspective, what about flower petals scattered in a circle around where your ceremony will be? Or a ribbon that does the same thing? That would help demarcate the space and give you somewhere to stand, is unfussy, would take like five minutes to set up, and could maybe be left (flowers) or cleaned up easily (ribbon) after the ceremony.

    • Glen

      We stood in front of a cactus garden on the side of a mountain for our ceremony. We didn’t do any other decorations for the “altar” area as that view was spectacular enough. The only aisle decorations we had were a couple of rosettes designating the reserved rows for family. We thought about flower petals, but the rules at our site included removing all decorations after the wedding ceremony and reception, and I really couldn’t envision our wedding party and us picking up 100s of petals at midnight.

      We had people “send” us postcards in lieu of a guestbook. (We just collected them in a papermache mailbox created by his aunt, but I’ve heard of having the MOH send them to the couple after the wedding.) Not a lot of people filled them out, but we love the messages from those who did.

    • Rachel

      No! You won’t miss any of that. We definitely didn’t. And if you are having your wedding outside there will be a ton of beautiful shrubbery etc that you can stand in front of, next to etc. etc. People say that kind of stuff all the time because that’s just what they expect. On the day of, they won’t even notice that the traditional decoration stuff is missing because they will be having a great time, and you won’t notice it either.

  • Kestrel

    I’m on the fence with having a wedding bouquet. On one hand, I’ve never seen anyone get married without anything, and I generally do really like flowers.

    On the other hand, I’m planning on walking in with both my parents and I’d feel a lot more comfortable if I could just hold hands with them, one on each side. The whole, arm in arm thing is just awkward. Also, we’re not planning on any other flowers so that would just be something else we’d have to worry about.

    • Moe

      you could have your parents escort you and a bouquet could be waiting for you at the altar for you to pick up and take with you.

      • Cynth

        I was ambivalent about a bouquet as well, so I made one myself. It looked good in pictures, but really? I held it for less than a minute total walking up and down our short aisle. Totally could have skipped. Wasn’t worth the stress. I say ditch it!

    • Kestrel

      Oh, and I don’t have any bridesmaids, so no one to hold it during the ceremony either (although I’m sure I could just hand it to my mom).

    • Beth

      I was kind of ambivalent about having a bouquet at first but decided to go for it. I walked down with both my parents and my bouquet and, to be honest, I was not really aware of how our arms/hands were configured at the time because I was so overwhelmed by emotion and just trying my best not to lose my shit. I don’t think it was until I saw pictures that I realized that I was holding hands with my mom on one side and was arm in arm with my dad on the other side (the side that had the bouquet). It was fine! The important thing was having them both next to me as we walked in.

      I was kind of happy to have the bouquet during the ceremony because it gave me something to do with my hands without having to think about it.

      Also I made my bouquet myself and loved how it turned out, so I enjoyed getting to look at it and be proud of it all day (plus it looks great in the pictures!).

      I guess I am pro-bouquet now, haha.

    • JB

      I’m also walking down the aisle with both parents – not having a bouquet because it would be awkward to hold and hold their arms/hands. Not a big deal I don’t think! Plus my dress is pretty intricate and I would rather people got to see that, then have it hidden in pictures behind flowers (that really bugs me in other people’s photos).

    • Carolyn

      Unless you think you want it for portraits before or after the ceremony, it sounds like you’ll look great without it.

    • Rachel

      I got a beautiful bouquet, walked down the aisle with it, and then was so overwhelmed during the ceremony I completely forgot to walk out with it and my bridesmaid had to carry it out. No one noticed that I didn’t walk out with it, and no one will notice if you don’t walk in with one. You can totally get away with it and it won’t look weird.

  • Megan

    I’m on the fence about readings during the ceremony. We agonized for weeks, and finally picked two poems that spoke to us. Then, when we thought about who might read them, we couldn’t think of anyone who “fit” those poems. Mainly, I’m hoping to have my grandmother read something at the ceremony; the issue is that she is traditional and religious, while our poems are secular and modern. I’m worried she won’t even *like* the poems, let alone want to read one of them. So… which is more important, what is read, or who reads it? Or, does anyone have suggestions for poems or readings that are secular but still might speak to a grandma? Who did readings at your weddings? Thanks all! Loving this open thread!

    • Tania

      Our celebrant who wrote our ceremony with us suggested that we could pick three people for readings – one for me, one for him, and one for both of us. So it’s my sister, his cousin and a mutual friend. We choose a mixture of secular and religious readings. And both the reading and the reader have been equally important! I’m sure your grandmother will feel honoured regardless of the reading!

    • Amy

      WHO READS IT matters more than anything. My grandmother is gone and won’t be at my wedding, but I’d let her recite the Hail Mary twenty times straight or talk about Jesus for days if it I could have the chance to have her there.

      Maybe pick a third reading, something religious that you can feel okay with? Or maybe your grandma has a favorite reading that she loves to hear at weddings? I can only speak for Christianity, but there are a TON of Bible readings that feel pretty secular.

      I promise you this: you won’t regret having your grandmother read, and when she’s gone someday and you’re thinking back on that day, all you’ll care about is that she was there playing an important part in your wedding. You won’t care if the reading spoke to you or defined you as a couple, or if it had the words “God” or “Jesus” in it. You’ll remember that she was comfortable with the reading and she was THERE.

  • Katie

    I’m on the fence about champagne for our wedding at the end of August. We are hosting beer (2 microbrews that we love and 1 “standard” for those who don’t have our taste) and wine all night. I don’t necessarily care about people being able to toast with champagne, and I thought Elizabeth’s advice here http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/01/calculate-alcohol-for-wedding/ to serve it at the bar and let people toast with whatever they like made a ton of sense. However, our catering setup would mean we’d pay the “hosted” package all night for beer and wine, then pay per bottle for champagne (and have to decide upfront how many bottles). We can afford it, but just not sure if guests will enjoy it enough to make it worth it. I like champagne ok and would appreciate a glass or two, as would our parents, etc, but I’m afraid if we only get enough bottles for, say, everyone to have one glass, the champagne-guzzlers will have finished it by the end of cocktail hour and my Mom or Aunt will be disappointed when she tries to get a glass at dinner and it’s run out. I know that people are adults and will get over it, I’m just not sure where to land on if we should have it at all and how much to get if we do. Thanks for your advice!

    • Lea

      I just realized upon reading this that I can’t remember the last time I went to a wedding where they’ve served champagne. Truly, every wedding I can think of has served beer and wine, and maybe a signature cocktail too, but not always. If you want it, get it, but I don’t think anyone would really miss it if it’s not there.

    • Rowany

      Why not get just enough for everyone to get one glass (your vendor can probably figure it out with an approx guest count), and ask the bartender to hold the champagne until the end of cocktail hour, then announce that cocktails are available if people want them for toasts. If there’s champagne left over (there will be) after the toasts and dinner, the guzzlers can finish it off.

    • Jess

      The *only* time I’ve ever noticed a lack of the champagne toast is the wedding I attended when the waitstaff handed me a glass and then took it back announcing that it “was for the wedding party only”. I’m not doing one either because I am always the one finishing my friends’ glasses champagne because no one really likes the taste except me.

    • Another Kate

      I wasn’t planning on doing a champagne toast, just having it available at the bar for those that wanted to drink it, everyone else could toast w/ what they were drinking, but we ended up being a few thousand bucks short of our food & bev minimum due to lower than expected attendance (we rented out a restaurant), so we had to pick some “extras” to bump up the bill, since we were paying for it anyway. Even after that I still thought the money could be better used for some extra apps, second dessert, etc., but when I informally polled a bunch of friends, they ALL said to add the champagne toast. So thats what we did. I still think personally don’t think they’re important, but I guess people really do??

    • MDBethann

      We had our reception at a microbrewery and didn’t have anything bubbly for a toast. We used whatever was in our classes. My husband and I had the special seasonal raspberry beer, which was delicious.

      No one seemed to care that there wasn’t bubbly.

  • Rowany

    Why not get just enough for everyone to get one glass (your vendor cannprobably figure it out with an approx guest count), and ask the bartender to hold the champagne until the end of cocktail hour, announce that cocktails are available if people want them for toasts. If there’s champagne left over after the toasts and dinner the gutters as finish it off.

  • Danni-Elle

    I’m on the fence about venues. For the last couple of years I have always pictured my wedding as being outdoors, with a marquee for the reception. However, my partner and I are both young, and are paying for this thing entirely ourselves, and therefore have a small budget. We are currently considering the hall in the small country town that he was living in when we met.

    The price difference between these two ways is astronomical. I’m talking $2500 – $3000 for the marquee, $1000 tops for the town hall counting what else we’d need to hire.

    My question is would I regret changing my venue and vision to save costs, or will it not really matter in the end?

    • Molly

      I say it’s more important to have the wedding that you want than have it in the place that you imagined. If the additional cost for the outdoor reception and marquee means that you can’t invite all of your friends, will have to skip on details that are important to you, or will be stressing about money, then it probably is not worth it. Also, think about why you are so drawn to an outdoor wedding and whether, if you don’t go there, you can recreate those qualities in a different venue.

      I though my venue was fine but a little dull when I booked it, but on our wedding day it was beautiful to me because 1) everyone I loved was in it,, 2) I was getting married, and 3) a bit of candles and flowers can make a plain room beautiful.

    • Sarah

      I’ve had to change my venue and “ideal” wedding location multiple times during the planning process because of budget. I slowly came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter where my wedding was, I was marrying the man of my dreams surrounded by our family and friends and for us that is enough. That’s exactly what we wanted. So in October, we’re getting married and having the reception at the church I grew up in. Definitely not my first choice, it was actually my very last resort of a venue, but I am no less excited for the wedding than I would be if it was in a beautiful garden that cost $5000 just to rent. Think about what is most important for you to have on your wedding day and do what your gut tells you to.

    • Bella

      I had the same dilemma – my parents got married in the garden with a marquee and I always imagined I’d have the outdoorsy/marquee type wedding too.
      When my man and I got engaged we started down the marquee planning route and after a few months realised it was just too expensive for us (we also are paying for our wedding).
      After much budget revising and fence sitting we decided on a community hall and are getting married on the beach near-by. The beach is satisfying the outdoorsy need, and we can serve drinks and nibbly-food on the lawn outside the hall during the cocktail hour.
      While it’s still a few months until we get married I’ve definately come to terms with the hall wedding and feel at peace not having a marquee, it wasn’t “the” wedding I’d always dreamed about but it will be OUR wedding :-)
      I remind myself that we just can’t have “all the weddings” I’ve ever imagined and that’s helpful to me.

    • MissStumptown

      I really don’t think you will regret not getting married in your “dream” venue. I am freshly on the other side of wedding planning (we got married June 30!) and I was faced with a similar situation as you. We chose to go the cheaper route and it was just amazing. I’m sure going the more expensive way would’ve been great as well, but the bonus was we didn’t clear out our bank accounts in order to have a beautiful wedding. Honestly though, I was so blissed out and happy to be married to my love and around all the people who support us, that we could’ve gotten married just about anywhere and it would’ve been perfect.

    • Genell

      When I first got engaged I was envisioning a plantation wedding with gardens and flowers and a giant marquee too. And like you came across budget issues. We looked at the local plantations, the botanical gardens, and the other historic houses in the area, but they were all too expensive. Even a hotel ballroom was pricy and would mean spending more on their exclusive catering than the BBQ I want. They were our entire budget or more. Browsing some blog about local wedding venues someone had commented on one of the local farms. They do hayrides and haunted corn maze and stuff. I looked into them and found they had a cleared out greenhouse covered in flowers and ivy that they had just started to rent out for weddings. Its a really reasonable price (about $2000/ our budget is $8000). It fits the outdoor garden feel and I fell in love with it when I saw. So look into places you wouldn’t typically think of for a wedding, sometimes they’re just trying to get into the wedding business and want pictures to promote more business and will do some deals.

  • Jess

    One of the things that I really *do* care about is letting my 3 bridesmaids select their own dress. My plan was to just have them all (a variety of ages and sizes) select a black cocktail dress that they liked. But now my mom has found her MOB dress, which is also a black cocktail dress. No one’s going to confuse the MOB with my sister or anything, but I’m not sure if I care that it will be too much black. I love black. My bridesmaids are people, not decorations, right?

    • Pippa

      I think the only time it could possible look like too much black is if they’re all standing next to each other. And aside from maybe a photo or two (which can easily be rearranged) I doubt that will happen during the day. So, I say go for it! People are going to accidentally colour-coordinate all over the place, don’t worry about it :)

    • Michelle

      I think it will be fine. I think you’re honoring that people are adults and you’re right to focus on the fact that bridesmaids are people, not decorations.

      At least that’s what I’m telling myself, too, as we’re having the same issue. Except our bridesmaids picked their blue dresses first, and then my mother and his mother were so excited that *surprise! * they both picked blue dresses for themselves too. At first I was cringing a bit, but then I figured what the heck, if that’s what makes them comfortable and happy, then so be it. Photos might be a bit strange, as Pippa pointed out, but maybe give your photographer a heads up and I’m sure they can think of some creative arrangements.

  • Kathleen

    I’m on the fence about save-the-dates. Our wedding will be around 100-125 of our nearest and dearest. I feel like there is no need to send out save-the-dates when we could just spread the word (a lot of family and close friends). Is this a mistake? Is this sloppy?

    • Pippa

      Save-the-dates are a recent invention. If you can effectively spread the word, then do it. The only reason I’m umming about them is because ours is a destination-type wedding and people need notice to book accommodation. If I were in your shoes, I’d leave them out.

    • We’re doing them. We could use word of mouth since it’s mostly family, but a large enough group will be traveling that we want to get accurate information out well in advance. We’re also using them to get the word out about our wedding website and our new address that we’re moving this fall. I don’t think they’re 100% necessary, but they’re something we decided were worth the cash for the convenience factor.

    • Bella

      We opted for an email save the date – no extra postage and kind on our environment. It gives people time to book accomodation and arrange for travel if required etc

    • nikki

      We’re sending ours out with Christmas cards, it will save us the extra postage. But I definitely second the emailed ones! Paperlesspost has some adorable cards that could work and still seem impressive!

    • Another Kate

      Definitely not sloppy, skip em! We did, and it was totally fine. I figured anyone who was a VIP (important family, most friends) already knew the date well in advance just from talking to us/others. The important people are going to know your wedding date, I would think (people asking about it constantly!) My wedding was about the same size as yours.

    • Daisy6465

      My mom is actually strongly of the opinion that Save the Dates are rude because you should not ask someone to set aside a date so far in advance. For example, she and my dad have started going to Europe every year in October and our neighbor sent out an STD in January for an October wedding, thus making it impossible for may parents to plan their trip this year (I know rich people problems).

      That said, most of my close friends will have to fly so I want to give them at least 6 months notice. Buuuut, at the same time, I talk to everyone I am inviting so I have told them all. We will invite about 130, so similar to you. I am spreading the word now and I will probably do a Paperless Post or other email-type STD around November for our May wedding.

    • MDBethann

      We did save the dates and our wedding was only slightly larger than yours, but for me, I felt it was a nice way to share a photo from our engagement (we got engaged on a family trip through Greece) and introduce ourselves as a couple to our extended families, all of whom we hadn’t met yet.

      I got a great deal on postcards from Vistaprint and used my favorite picture of us from the trip. We got married over a year ago (the postcards went out nearly 2 years ago) and I think they still hang on people’s fridges.

      I also liked it because I have some friends and family who are kind of bad about committing to things or over-scheduling themselves, so with a save-the-date, there was NO WAY they could claim they didn’t know about our wedding. So for me, it was a bit of knowing my guests too.

  • Pippa

    Okay I’m the most indecisive person in the world so I have a few issues I need help with.

    Firstly, we are having a circular ceremony as we love the idea of the power of the magic circle etc. This means two rings of chairs, and some people will have a better view than others. Is it too much to put a name on every chair so that there is an organised seating arrangement? I feel like this would prevent most of the problems that could arise, so that immediate family can be seated in the inner ring, and placed appropriately so that they get a good view of their daughter/ sister, or son/brother. But is it too controlling?

    Also, the post and comments yesterday had me thinking about the guest list. There are people in my life that I could see in my future – I care about these people and want to honour our potential future relationship (and how I feel about them now) with an invitation. But I don’t want to freak them out as I highly doubt they feel quite the same way about me and we aren’t super close. We’re only having about 50 guests so it’s not a huge list they can get lost in. Help?

    • Emmers

      Could you just rope off the section of chairs for family? you could run some ribbon through that section & tie bows on the ends to help designate that area, and perhaps have an usher politely shoo people away from the area if they don’t get the message. Then you don’t have to assign seats for everyone, but your family still gets priority.

      • Pippa

        That’s a good idea, I could do that. Only now I’m having niggles that we have 2 sets of divorced parents, and their partners and not too many are on speaking terms… should I trust that they’ll be able to sort themselves out? I don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable.

        • Emmers

          You could have different reserved parts on different parts of the circle or something?

        • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

          You could use cards to indicate assigned seats on the ribbon chairs. If I didn’t know messy family details, I’d assume it was just a more explicit way of saying, “These seats are special.”

    • Brenda

      We assigned seats for family in the front two rows only by putting cards that said “This seat reserved for XX” on them (made them myself, and did a diagram of where they went for the people doing setup). People expect that immediate family are in the front or “best” seats if there isn’t a front. You can assign these seats for your parents, grandparents, and/or siblings and leave everyone else to sit where they want.

  • Pippa

    Another one – I’ve been saving glass jars for a year now in anticipation of filling them with candles/flowers on our wedding day. Well, now we’re having an outdoor daytime wedding so both candles and flowers feel a bit pointless! But it feels like such a waste to have these great jars here going to waste. Does anyone have any magic ideas??

    • Moe

      Sell them on Craigslist or one of the recycled wedding sites. It will be a tremendous help to a bride who is frantically trying to collect them.

      • SamanthaNichole

        If you are in the Hudson Valley, NY area let me know and I’d be interested in them. :)

    • Rebecca

      I think there was a lazy girl tutorial on APW a while ago where they filled jars with colored water and used them as centerpieces- they looked really pretty in the sun. So that might be an option.

    • Brenda

      Candles might be strange in the daytime, but you can definitely still do flowers!

      For my friend’s wedding we made terrariums with cacti and succulents. If the jars have wide openings that might be an option. It was fun to make them and they looked great.

  • Laura

    One on the fence issue of many-assigned seating charts? We are having a reception at a reception hall, buffet style. My thought is to have assigned seating to better facilitate conversation between disparate groups. Groom and I are from different states, live in a third state, and are having the wedding there. Most people will not know each other. My mom begs to differ and thinks people will have more fun if they are sitting only with people they know. Who’s been there?

    • Samantha

      My thoughts on this: whenever I go to a wedding with assigned seating, I dislike not being seated with my friends. I don’t see any reason to try to “force” conversation among groups that are separate. Although, I do understand wanting there to be some mingling and bridging of the groups, but for me I wouldn’t try to achieve this by seating friends away from each other. For my wedding, if we do a seating chart, we will make seating decisions on who know will most enjoy sitting together.

    • To be fair and kind to your guests, I would say seat everyone with people they know, at least to the extent where, in a table of say, eight, three people know each other, and the other five people know each other if you can’t make it totally even. People who want to mingle and meet-and-greet will, and those who are uncomfortable doing so will appreciate knowing their table-mates. I have social anxiety in regards to these things, and while I’d wing it like a champ once seated, surrounded by strangers, I would stress out for days leading up to the event agonizing not knowing my table-mates, and would probably end up at another table with people I know after dinner anyway.

    • JB

      definitely seat guests with people they know – your wedding table plan is not a time to force awkward introductions, people will mingle before and after dinner. During the meal they want to relax and chat with people they know, seriously!

  • Anon

    I’d love to get thoughts on only having a cash -bar. We have a pretty small budget and have concluded we don’t have room in it for alcohol. Neither of us are big drinkers, so I feel great going totally sans alcohol. My fiancé would like the option for people in a cash-bar. I’ve never been to a wedding where alcohol was served that had only a cash-bar. Is that done? Generally, it feels to me, that if you offer alcohol at all there is usually some amount offered for free (either for a specified time or type of drink) and then it can change over to cash after. But for us, our only options are no alcohol or a cash-bar… nothing in between. Any recommendations?

    • Kats

      I think given what you’ve said that it will feel better to you not to have a cash-bar. I think you can do something really lovely that doesn’t involve alcohol and still feels special – was it Meg who had the great idea about using agua fresca as a base either for cocktails or for non-drinkers? You can do something that feels special and you’re still not charging your guests to attend.

      • Pippa

        I can’t edit my post, but I agree with Kats, it does sound like you’d be quite happy to not serve any alcohol though. You could do something similar to us – we’re having a drinks station with yummy (as yet undecided) concoctions but all non-alcoholic. Still fun and tasty but muuuuch cheaper.

    • Pippa

      I don’t personally see any problems with a cash-only bar, as long as people have some notice so they can come prepared. But then, I’m not really one to talk as we’re having a dry wedding :)

    • Ashley

      People have very strong opinions about cash bars, and they are considered bad etiquette. But ultimately I really think this comes down to knowing your guests. Almost every single wedding I’ve been to in my region has been a cash bar, maybe an hour open, but not always. The only two I’ve been to that were full open bar, the bride in one and the groom from the other grew up in a different region where you just don’t do cash bars.

      I’ve never minded cash bars personally. But if you’re having a daytime wedding, there’s certainly wrong with a dry wedding. Even at an evening wedding, it’s not required, though it’s usually expected.

      • Sara

        I would prefer a dry wedding to a cash bar.

        • Ashley

          Like I said – know your guests. I, personally, would prefer a cash bar, but I’m used to cash bars and don’t have a problem with them. I know they’re bad etiquette though, so if you chose to have a dry wedding, I’d be cool with that too, even if I would rather the option to buy a glass of wine.

          • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

            And part of the trick in any case may be letting the guests who will want to drink know what to expect. So that they can bring cash or a flask or whatever they want.

            FWIW I’m all for a dry wedding myself. The only alcohol at any of my parties is what guests bring. Why would a wedding be different? I guess that’s less knowing your guests and more being known by your guests.

  • Laura

    What about dance lessons? Right now, they are feeling like a burden-my fiance’s an engineer, and I can easily see this becoming a competitive endeavor of “I must remember all of these steps or else!” Of course, mother is regularly reminding me that we need to do that.

    • Pippa

      If it’s feeling like a burden then drop it, I say. I’ve been to only one wedding where the couple had had dance lessons, and they just box-stepped around for the whole song. Not much difference to the usual shuffle really. So if you feel like it’s not authentic and it’s causing some stress, don’t even worry about it.

    • SO not necessary. Going back to the idea we reiterate all the time – your wedding isn’t (…unless it is?) a stage show. You don’t need to worry about entertaining all your guests at every turn. If dance lessons are something you’ve looked forward to, and something that you and your fiance would really like to do together (they CAN be totally fun! an ex and I took swing dancing lessons way back when, and it was SUPER awesome) then by all means go for it! But if it’s more of a hassel, and is adding stress to an inherently stressful situation, I say skip it!

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      When I read the first line of your comment, I thought you were going to have someone give your guests dance lessons. Cause I went to one wedding where the bride’s brother gave a swing lesson and that was a fun way to get a group that doesn’t dance much onto the dance floor. Totally not necessary.

      I agree with Elle on your actual question. I love to dance and have fun with lessons. But totally not necessary for anyone. (Though I do like the post on why nerds should learn to dance.)

  • MJ

    Two things…

    I have my one ring – we got it together and it’s a simple band that’s functioning now as my engagement ring (I wear it daily) and will then become my wedding ring. I’m thinking of just dropping that whole part of the ceremony and not acknowledging rings (he will not have one at all) and just wearing it per usual that day. Thoughts?

    And, we’re having a buffet… and from what I can tell from people I talk to not from my home community and on APW… people assume that tables will be called. The place we are having the reception has a few big parties a year and about a fourth of our guests are from my home community and go to these parties…. These parties have buffet dinners and no one has ever called a table… so I’d like to do the same (and, by my parents’ example, even when they do try to call tables people just go whenever they want anyway). My fiance says “your people will just go and get their food and sit and mine will be waiting and won’t get the food they want boohoohoo”.
    To me it seems obvious — the cocktail hour will be in a very close but separate area from the dining area and the buffet. A dinner bell will be rung (literally a big old bell) and someone will announce dinner is served and people can go up anytime. At this point no one will be sitting at their tables so I don’t think it’s too confusing…
    In the other parties people just self select — some want to get good and eat pronto while others like to hang out at the cocktail area longer and people just keep an eye on the line.
    I guess as I write this i’m kind of settled on it… but ways to make it go more smoothly?

    • Emily

      Make sure there are plenty of cocktail appetizers, and I think not calling tables is fine. I went to one wedding where they didn’t have enough appetizers and everyone rushed at the buffett– which meant long lines and unhappy guests.

  • Daisy6465

    Hope this isn’t too late. Most things I either have strong opinions about or care so little about that I am comfortable letting someone else with a strong opinion take over.

    The one thing that I am seriously on the fence about though is kids in the wedding. I have twin 12 year-old cousins who are really stylish and outgoing and would make perfect Jr. Bridesmaids. He as similarly adorable and outgoing cousins who will be a 5 year-old girl and 3 year-old boy at the time of the wedding (hello flower girl and ring bearer!)

    We are trying to have a relatively low stress, low fuss wedding. My mom is adamant that we do not have kids in the wedding because it will add too many more things to manage (and, I suspect because she still holds a grudge against the twins’ mother, my aunt, for not having her as maid of honor). I do want the wedding to be as low key as possible and not the kind of grand event I picture having a flower girl, I also don’t want rose petals in the aisle b/c then someone has to clean that up.

    These kids will all be invited regardless of whether they participate in the ceremony. They will be the only kids in attendance. Any thoughts? Is there a way I can include them without making it a big deal? I thought of having the 12 year-olds as de-facto ushers by passing out programs at the back of the church.

    • Daisy6465

      Also, without prompting from any adults, the 5 year-old girl has already started talking about being flower girl. How can I disappoint her?

    • Amy

      We are not having attendants, since we’ve been planning the whole shebang not thinking it would be legal, but I wanted my 6 year old god-daughter to have a role in the wedding, and my partner has some special kids in her life to incorporate too. So the 6 year old is our “ring deliverer” she’ll be sitting in the congregation with her family – and when our officiant asks for the rings she’ll bring them up front. We’re still working on ways to incorporate the others – but they’ll have some sort of role – and everyone will get their names in the program.

    • VIOLET

      Hi Daisy! As long as you’re okay with whatever they tell you, you might try asking the kids if they pictured themselves involved in the wedding. (The five year-old, you already know her answer.) If they say yes, then you move on to how they can be involved. As Amy points out, there are many options, and you can find something that fits into the scale you’re imagining for your wedding.
      For what it’s worth, being a flower girl does not have to mean dropping petals on the ground. I remember being SO Excited to be my aunt’s flower girl when I was little. I was so worried I’d run out of petals by the end of the aisle, I think I literally dropped two. But I felt no less the flower girl. So your five-year old can hold flowers, or hand them to guests in the aisles, or have flowers in her hair, or wear a a flowered print dress, or any other thing that makes her feel special!

    • MDBethann

      Daisy, our niece was 9 when we got married last year and served as our flower girl. I asked her if she wanted a basket of flowers or a bouquet like the bridesmaids. She chose the bouquet so she could be like the other girls in the wedding – no muss, no fuss. Her 6 year old brother was our ring bearer, so in neither case did we have management or organizational issues because they’re older and well behaved kids. However, our nephew did get bored towards the end of our religious service and was ready to go play video games with his uncle the groom when the wedding was over. He had a near-meltdown when he realized he had to wait a month for his video game day ;-)

      I think the 12 year olds will be fine and with the really little ones, you can have them walk down the isle holding hands and then they can sit with their parents during the ceremony, just like they would if they weren’t in the bridal party.

    • Sharon Gorbacz

      I’m stuck with having kids (about fifteen between 2 and 12) at my wedding because my fiance’s family always allowed kids at their family’s weddings. Ah well, hopefully they behave.

  • ktan

    I am on the fence about walking down an aisle. I mean in a church, in a barn, in a green space, any aisle! We are not religious and so a church wedding is definitely out, and the idea of a huge procession on display, and being given away by my father gives me the heebie jeebies. It doesn’t hurt that I am not particularly close to my parents (but also really don’t want to offend anyone by not asking my dad to walk me down said aisle.) The easiest solution is to not walk down an aisle at all, but then what do we do? I have rallied pretty hard for a simple courthouse wedding, but my SO isn’t interested.
    Can we have a ceremony without a procession? Will my guests think we are ridiculous? Will our families be offended? Has anyone done this before?

    • Samantha

      Here’s an idea I saw recently (on a blog): the bridal party and family did the procession, when it was time for the bride, the groom walked down the aisle and met her and they walked back together.. but I guess that’s still a procession for you..
      Another idea: you don’t have to walk down the aisle, you can just appear from the side like the groom does.

      I was wigging out over the thought of walking down the aisle on display. Then we cut our guest list in half and I’m much more comfortable with it. Only our nearest and dearest will be there now, and I’m okay being vulnerable in front of them, but when the list was at 100, it was overwhelming in a bad way.

      • KTAN

        Thanks for the ideas!!

    • Genell

      I saw a blog mention a different kind of procession, where people came in from the sides at the same time.

    • Sharon Gorbacz

      I’m walking down the aisle, I’m just debating on whether I want to walk with my mom, my brother, or alone.

  • Genell

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to do an ‘honorable mention’ for a few people. My fiances father passed within the past 5 years, he is still very emotional anytime his Dad is mentioned and for the most part avoids the topic specifically. How do I honor ‘those who have passed and cannot be there’? On the same subject we both have family, who are still living, who are either too sick or cannot afford to come, how do we ‘honor/think of’ them at the same time?

    • Margaret

      Are you doing programs? Could you put something in there about them? That way you honor them but your fiance doesn’t have to really hear his dad mentioned. Or you could do some sort of photo table and have pictures of all the people who can’t make it. That might work well next to a guest book (if you’re planning on having one). Another possibility would be having your officiant say something about honoring the people who support you both who aren’t in attendance. We had a friend pass away shortly before our wedding and my husband quoted him in his speech but didn’t mention him by name. It was enough for those of us who knew the friend but not so much that we ended up overly emotional.

    • Sharon Gorbacz

      Our minister is mentioning grandparents, parents, aunts & uncles who have passed, without specifically naming any.

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  • crazy mom

    My daughter and I are at odds and I am asking for some objective advice. She wants a private ceremony with only a few immediate family and I understand this. she recently popped on us that it is in 3 weeks. She is our only daughter and wants the fairy tale per say. She is frantically looking for wedding dress and doing the photographer, flowers, etc. For less than 20 people? BUT she wants the reception in August after she is married in Feb. I am upset and told her it is not ettiquite to do this. I can understand celebration a few weeks after although not 6 months later. I am not sure of her reasoning (not pregnant, has own job with insurance). Her celebration becomes a party, not reception. Doesn’t she forfeit her shower, reception with gifts and such? We are willing to pay for her wedding although we wont pay twice and I wont pay for “summer” party. Am I wrong? Her JP said she “sees this all the time” although left out the fun of reception and that her turn out will be 50% because it was done so long ago, people will be offended. I would appreciate any input because I think I am too old fashioned or have missed some through through the years. If she can put off a few weeks, we can do the full reception with private wedding earlier.

    • Sharon Gorbacz

      Friends of mine got married in a small ceremony in FL in June, and had a brunch in NJ in August. What’s a few more months?

      • Emily

        I’m a bride who ultimately opted for the full-wedding extravaganza, but seriously thought about doing a private ceremony and big party afterwards. My mom recently made a comment to me that she thought it was offensive to guests etc. etc., so that is one point of view.

        My fiance and I wanted to take the pressure off, and make the ceremony more personal, and focused on marriage, rather than being nervous about speaking in front of tons of people. But, we still wanted to celebrate with family and friends, after having some time to adjust to actually being married.

        I know several people who have done this successfully– especially some couples who chose to have a ceremony/reception abroad, but chose to get privately married in the US months earlier. I think this is becoming a more and more common trend.

        I’ve realized through this whole process that there a lots of hopes/dreams/assumptions on either side of any argument, and that the best way to deal is to be completely honest and figure out where the heart of the conflict is coming from– etiquette only matters if you give it meaning. For my mom, she would tell me ‘this is how it’s done’– but she was actually saying ‘I would be embarrassed if…’ or ‘I’ve never thought about that before and it’s scary.’ Try being as open-minded as possible and remember that maintaining a relationship with your daughter and supporting her marriage is more important than etiquette.