30 Essential Wedding Planning Tips and Tricks
Cover all your wedding planning bases with these expert tips no to-be-wed should be without.
by The Knot
When planning your wedding, there are things that are nice to know, and there are things you need to know—advice so essential any bride who's lucky enough to hear it thinks, "I'm so glad someone told me that!" If you're wondering whether there's something you may have missed (or even if you've got everything under control), check out our indispensable planning secrets below.
1. Guests Come First
Get a grip on the approximate number of guests you'll invite before settling on a venue. This will ensure there's ample space for your crew. As a rule of thumb, allow for 25 to 30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot, but it's really not if you count the space you'll need for the tables, bustling waiters, the band and a dance floor.
2. Investigate Wedding Blackout Dates
Know ahead of time if your wedding date falls on the same day as a trade conference, charity walk or other local event that could affect traffic and hotel room availability. Here's a handy list of potentially problematic wedding dates coming up in the calendar.
3. Listen to Mother Nature
Heed the weather and other potential annoyances. Guests have been known to skip out early from hotter-than-hot summer tent weddings and improperly heated winter loft receptions. Bugs (gnats, deer flies and mosquitos) also swarm in certain areas during certain seasons. Consider renting pest control tanks to alleviate the problem or including bug repellent in guests' gift bags. And if you want a sunset ceremony, make sure you know when to say your vows by checking SunriseSunset.com.
Oh—and always, always have a Plan B for unexpected weather snafus.
4. Check Your Credit
Take advantage of the high cost of weddings and sign up for a credit card with a rewards program. Whether it gives you airline miles or great shopping deals, consolidating all wedding-related purchases to this card will help you accumulate thousands of rewards points (which could be used for your honeymoon).
5. Pay It Forward
Let one vendor lead you to another. Your wedding photographer can tell you which florist's blooms really pop, and your reception manager should know which band consistently packs the dance floor.
6. Lighten Your List
The easiest way to trim your wedding budget? Cut your guest list. Remember, half of your wedding expenses go to wining and dining your guests. If it's costing you $100 per person, eliminating one table of 10 can save you $1,000.
7. Ask and You Might Receive
Request an extra hour for cocktails or for your band to throw in that Frank Sinatra sound-alike before you sign on the dotted line. Most vendors would rather secure the reservation than nickel-and-dime you early on (which might turn you off of them). Later on, though, they may be less inclined to meet you halfway.
8. Make a Meal Plan
Another unforeseen expense? Feeding your wedding day crew. Before you sign the contracts, make sure you're not required to serve the same meal to your vendors that guests will receive. Otherwise, you could be paying for 20 additional lobster tails. Choose a less expensive (but equally hearty) meal for them instead. You will have to let your wedding caterer
know a couple of days before the wedding exactly how many vendors you need to feed (don't forget photography assistants and band roadies) and what you want them to serve.
9. Get Organizationally FocusedIn a three-ring binder, compile all your correspondences with vendors, notes you make during meetings, and photos or tear sheets from magazines you want vendors to see. Set up a special email address dedicated to your wedding, and store important vendor numbers in your cell phone. For on-the-go planning that keeps everything in one place, download the The Knot All-In-One Wedding Planner app to keep all of your planning info digitally on-hand at all times.
10. Tend to Your BarTypically, you need one bartender per 50 guests to keep the line at a minimum. But if you're serving a signature cocktail that cannot be made ahead of time (or in large quantities), consider adding an extra server designated to this task.
11. Leave Some Room in Your WalletYour wedding budget should follow this formula: 48 to 50 percent of total budget to reception; 8 to 10 percent for flowers; 8 to 10 percent for attire; 8 to 10 percent for entertainment/music; 10 to 12 percent for photo/video; 2 to 3 percent for invites; 2 to 3 percent for gifts; and 8 percent for miscellaneous items like a wedding coordinator. It's essential to allocate an extra 5 to 10 percent of your money for surprise expenses like printing extra invites because of mistakes, additional tailoring needs, umbrellas for a rainy day and ribbons for the wedding programs.
12. Don't Be Afraid to AskYour wedding vendors should be your go-to, most-trusted experts during the planning process. When working with them, you should feel free to really explore what it is you want—maybe it's serving a late-night snack instead of a first course or doing a bridal portrait session rather than an engagement session. The bottom line is that you should feel like you can have an honest conversation with them about what it is you want. Their job will be to tell you what you can and can't make work given your wedding budget.
13. Wait for a DateSometimes, last-minute planning can work in your favor. The closer your date, the more bargaining power you have. Since most people book their wedding venues at least six months in advance, calling for open dates two months prior to your desired time can save you up to 25 percent. And, Friday and Sunday weddings should cost about 30 percent less than Saturday weddings.
14. Manage the MailOf course you want the perfect stamps for your wedding invitations. But not all stamps are widely available at every post office, especially in large quantities. Save yourself scouting time by ordering them online at USPS.com. And be sure to weigh your invitation and all the additional paper products before you send them out so you can attach the right amount of postage. Ask your stationer about the need for additional postage for oddly shaped envelopes.
15. Prepare for RejectionKnow that as a rule, about 10 to 20 percent of the people you invite won't attend. Naturally, this depends on the location of your wedding (destination weddings are harder to attend), how many out-of-towners are on your list, and the timing of the event (some guests may have annual holiday plans).
16. Make a Uniform Kids PolicyYou have four choices: You can welcome children with open arms; you can decide to have an "adults only" wedding; you can include immediate family only; or, you can hire a child care service to provide day care either at the reception space, in a hotel room or at a family member's home. To prevent hurt feelings, it's wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others (unless, of course, the children are in your bridal party).
17. Prioritize Your PeoplePare down your guest list with the "tiers of priority" trick. Place immediate family, the bridal party and best friends on top of the list; follow with aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends you can't imagine celebrating without. Under that, list your parents' friends, neighbors, coworkers and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.
18. Take It One Step at a TimePut together a wedding planning schedule and do things one by one, in a logical order, so you don't take on too much too fast and end up with everything snowballing around you. Don't hire any vendors before you've confirmed your date; don't design your cake before you've envisioned your flowers; and don't book a band before you've settled on a space.
19. No Ring, No BringIf your guest list is bursting at the seams, assess the plus-one scenario. Do a faux seating chart in your mind, and imagine whom your single pal would sit with. If it's a table of singles that she knows pretty well, then you're all set. If it's a table of couples (making her the odd one out) or if it's a table of singles where she won't know anyone, consider bending the rules. If asked why you're not allowing single friends to bring guests, size or budget constraints or your parents' never-ending guest list are always good reasons.
20. Release RoomsAs soon as you've picked a date, start to look for hotels in a wide variety of price points. Many hotels allow you to reserve rooms for guests under a special wedding block and a reduced rate. You can then release any unbooked rooms a month prior to your wedding. If the hotels you contact insist upon contracts with cancellation penalties, just say no—you don't want to be responsible for rooms you can't fill.
21. Provide Accurate Driving DirectionsMake sure guests know where they're going. As easy as online map programs are to use, sometimes the directions are wrong or there's a quicker, less traffic-prone route to take. Ask your ceremony and reception sites for printouts or digital copies of recommended driving directions and even test out the routes yourself. Then include the best directions on your wedding website or email them to your guests to print out if they'd like.
22. Keep a Paper TrailGet any nonstandard changes to your agreements in writing or send the vendor a confirmation email saying, "Hello, just confirming that you'll keep the venue open until 2 a.m. versus midnight." Don't just assume everything's all set—sometimes, by the time the actual day rolls around, your contact for a certain may no longer be working there to vouch for you.
23. Schedule the SetupYou must make sure there's ample time for setup. If you're renting a venue and bringing in outside help, ask what time people can come in to start setting. See if they can do it the day before, or at the very least the entire wedding day, before the event starts.
24. Learn About Marriage LicensesYou can check your state's license requirements online, but confirm with a call to the county clerk's office to see when they're open. Even if it's open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they may issue marriage licenses only during slower times like, say, Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Give a copy of your marriage license to your mom or your maid of honor (just in case you lose yours during the final days before your wedding).
25. Go Over Ground RulesBe prepared—ask the manager of the house of worship or site where you'll be married for the list of restrictions (if any). For instance, is flash photography or bare shoulders prohibited? Or, if you're exchanging vows outdoors, are you allowed to plant tent stakes in the lawn (which is often not allowed)?
26. Classify Your CashWedding budgets are all about balance. Start your budget planning by making a checklist of the crucial details, like the music, your wedding gown, the invitations, the flowers and the photographer, and assign a number to each—one being the most important and three being the least. Invest your money in all your number ones and cut corners on your number threes. (But everything can't fall into the number one category!) For example, if a designer gown and fabulous food are what really matter, you may have to choose simple invitations and smaller floral arrangements.
27. Help Guests Pay AttentionMake sure your guests can both see and hear from their seats. If people are seated farther than 15 rows back from your ceremony altar or podium, consider renting a mic and a riser. This could range anywhere from $50 to $100, depending on the equipment used. You'll need to coordinate the delivery and setup with your ceremony space, so put your wedding planner or best man in charge of this task.
28. Write Down Your DigitsKeep an emergency contact sheet or phone with your vendor contacts on you on your wedding day—it may come in handy in case your limo driver gets lost or you decide you'd like your photographer to take some behind-the-scenes shots.
29. Call the Fashion PoliceDon't go dress shopping on your own—all the gowns will start to look the same after a while and it will be harder to recall which style you really loved. But be careful about who you do bring. If your mom or sibling can't make the trip, ask a friend who is truly honest. This is the time when you really need to know which dress looks best.
30. Be Realistic With Your TimeWhen it comes down to the last month of your planning (and when you're particularly harried) look at your mile long to-do list and cut three things. Yes, cut three things. Not crucial things you just don't feel like doing, such as picking a processional song or confirming final details with all of your vendors. Eliminate only the over-the-top tasks like hand-painting "Just Married" signs, or baking cookies for all of the welcome bags. Cross them off and make a pledge not to think about them again.
Wedding Planning 101
First comes the proposal then comes the wedding planning. There are dozens of decisions that need to be made before it’s time to walk down the aisle, which can be overwhelming for brides and grooms.
To help make it less stressful, these tips from Macy’s can help couples through the entire wedding-planning process, from on-trend apparel and accessories for the entire wedding party to all the essentials to create a perfect registry.
Dressing the Ladies
When it comes to bridesmaid dresses, the mix-and-match approach is trending in popularity. Start by deciding on a color palette, such as lilac, champagne and petal pink. Then have each bridesmaid choose her favorite style within that range of hues. Bring it all together by choosing a uniform look for makeup, shoes and accessories.
There is no better time to thank the ladies than the morning of the big day. A few thoughtful gifts can go a long way, such as matching robes, tumblers to stay hydrated throughout the day and cosmetic cases to stow makeup essentials.
Dressing the Gents
Similar to bridesmaid dresses, groomsmen attire can be dependent on the venue and overall event aesthetic. While a suit can fit the bill for a country club wedding, a city affair may call for the sleek finishes of a tux. Tuxedo accessories, such as cuff links or bow ties, make great groomsmen gifts and are classic pieces they can use time and time again.
Creating the Perfect Registry
When building a registry, it’s never too early to start. People want to give gifts as soon as they know a couple is engaged. Start by taking inventory of what you already have, what you need and what you want to upgrade. It’s also recommended to update the registry regularly so there are enough gifts to choose from, especially if there is an engagement party and bridal shower coming up. To get started, some popular registry items include stand mixers, craft beer glasses, Dutch ovens, bath towels and vacuums. For extra guidance, couples can speak to advisors who can help with the full registry building process at Macy’s stores.
Whether you’re in the middle of planning your wedding, newly engaged or just beginning to discuss marriage with your partner, it’s never too soon to be on the same page about your finances. Marital discord is often attributed to disagreements about money, whether it’s a partner’s spending habits, accumulated debt, or financial philosophies. It’s important to discuss financial goals with your partner to help prevent conflict throughout the marriage.
According to a Suntrust survey, only 51 percent of Americans actually discussed how they would handle finances before getting married. In fact, nearly 60 percent of couples reported they didn’t disclose their own salaries before marriage, and only 36 percent revealed their debt.
When you begin considering getting married or before you walk down the aisle, set aside intentional time with your future spouse to create a financial plan to position your wedded union for success.
Be open and honest about personal debtIn your vows, promising a lifelong devotion to each other, such as for richer or poorer, means all of you – even debts like credit card bills or hefty student loans. It’s important to be sure your partner knows all about your finances and financial values before the big day.
Because most romantic partnerships are built on trust, it’s important to be open and honest with your future wife or husband about your personal finances, including any debts you may have.
Consolidate your debts
Most likely, you both have some consumer debt from credit cards, medical bills, or student loans; debt consolidation can help you get your finances in order. Sit down together and make a list of all your personal debts, then decide if you should consolidate your debts individually or jointly with a personal loan. This process involves combining several debts into one, which can help you reduce your monthly payments and pay less in interest, ultimately helping you pay off your debts faster.
Personal loans are ideal for persons who have moderate debt and good credit scores who want to simplify or accelerate repaying their debts. If you or your partner qualify for a personal loan with manageable rates and have an active plan to control your spending and reduce your debt, you can quickly knock out high-interest debt by consolidating your debt with a personal loan.
Borrowed from a bank, credit union, or online lender, a personal loan is borrowed money that doesn’t require collateral and can be repaid in fixed monthly payments. Personal loan rates are largely determined by your credit score, though your annual reported income and the amount you want to borrow are other factors that determine the final loan amount.
Between gathering documents, checking credit scores, and signing paperwork, consolidating your debts can be a lengthy process. As you and your spouse make preparations, be sure to get an accurate report of yours and your partner’s credit scores and evaluate your debt to income ratio.
Evaluate your credit standing
If one of you have a low credit score (300 to 629), take steps to build the credit; don’t consolidate debts into a joint account, as it can lower the higher credit score.
One way to build credit is with a credit-builder loan, which is a forced savings program that reports your timely payments to credit bureaus. Other ways to increase your credit score include reducing and managing debt, receiving credit for paying rent on time, and research payment options and protections for repaying student loans.
Calculate your debt to income ratio
Calculating your debt to income ratio as a couple is key to making a financial plan moving forward. It is calculated by dividing your monthly debt payments by your monthly gross income. Lenders use this percentage to decide how well you manage your monthly debts and if you are able to afford a loan repayment.
This ratio is often used by lenders when applying for a mortgage, car loan, or home equity loan, so it’s important to keep it below 36 percent. For example, if your total annual income for you and your spouse is $55,000 and you have $22,000 in credit card and student loan debt, a lender may deny your application.
Choosing between joint or separate accounts
You might be sharing a closet and the television remote now, but you don’t necessarily have to share a bank account. Together, you and your partner should decide if you want to combine your finances or keep them separate.
Should you and your partner decide you want to pay bills from a joint account but have individual spending and savings accounts, you’ll want to be sure to move the money to the joint account as soon as your direct deposit hits so you aren’t scrambling at the end of the month when the electricity bill is due and the joint checking account is low.
To reduce monthly recurring expenses and eliminate overlapping bills, like gym memberships and cell phone bills, consider selecting a family plan that provides savings when more than one person is on the account or contract.
If you and your partner do decide to combine your finances, be sure to sit down with a trusted financial advisor who can help you and your partner determine which assets to hold jointly or separately.
To prenup, or not to prenup
Considering a prenup can be a tricky conversation to have with a spouse. But a prenup, or prenuptial agreement, is a legal document that sets expectations for the division of assets should a couple divorce – and it can be very beneficial for some couples. For persons with substantial premarital assets, an expected inheritance or family wealth, or massive debt, a prenup can protect an individual from financial ruin in the event of permanent separation. To be valid, each partner will need to have their own attorney to draft a prenup.
Though the agreement has been historically rare, millennials are increasingly drawing up these contracts to protect their wealth. Now that couples are getting married later (according to a United States census, women were getting married at age 27 in 2010 compared to age 21 in 1950), individuals are accumulating more assets and debt than ever before.
A prenup can include protection against a spouse’s debt, protections for family property and estate planning, and detailed spousal responsibilities. A prenup cannot include custody arrangements, waivers of rights to alimony, or deeply personal (rather than financial) information. Prenups can be created based on how long a couple has been married and can be nullified if the original document states the prenup will expire after a certain amount of years have passed.
Financing the big day
Discussing how you and your partner will pay for the wedding is another conversation and expense to consider ahead of time. It may be tempting to splurge on floral bouquets or to treat your guests to an open bar with signature drinks, but wedding costs can add up faster than you can say “I do.” The average cost of a wedding in the United States in 2018 was $33,931, according to a survey on TheKnot.com. The table below highlights the average costs of a few major wedding expenses:
Average wedding costs
Flowers and decor$2,411
Many couples who don’t have enough savings allocated for wedding expenses opt for a personal loan to cover the cost of tying the knot. The key to sticking to your original budget – whether big or small – is saving every penny you can and setting priorities. Some couples delay their wedding by having a longer engagement period, which gives them more time to stash away cash for the big day.
Non-traditional options to save money
If you and your spouse would rather spend your earnings and savings on a honeymoon to the Maldives or a down payment on a new home, there are several ways to cut wedding costs.
Sending electronic invitations instead of paper invitations, using in-season blooms, and selecting a store-bought cake are some of the ways you and your partner can create savings. You can also implement non-traditional approaches, like having your wedding on a Thursday afternoon or hosting it in a brewery or beach house, to keep costs low.
Happily ever after
Now that you and your partner have made big decisions about consolidating debt, combining finances, creating a prenup agreement, and allocating dollars to wedding expenses, you may get the impression that your financial preparation is complete. But the wedded bliss – and joint financial decisions – is just getting started.
Together, you’ll want to decide how to conquer large or unexpected expenses and choose what to save for, such as a home, car, or the next vacation. To ensure you and your partner are financially protected, create a family budget and consider setting up an emergency savings account and a plan for unforeseen expenses like unemployment, natural disasters, or medical bills.
With a financial plan in place, your money habit and philosophies and the melodic tune of the wedding bells can chime in perfect harmony.
Put More You into Your Wedding Day
A wedding day is filled with symbolic tradition, from varied religious customs to the never-ending circle reflected in the rings and the types of flowers accentuating the celebration. Even with all the traditional rituals to consider, nearly every bride and groom can find ways to give their special day some unique touches that reflect their personality and love.
Music sets the mood for every wedding, and it’s an easy place to put your own spin on the celebration. Whether you forgo the traditional bridal march entirely or simply look for an arrangement that gives an updated twist to the classic version, let guests know this isn’t your average wedding by setting the festivities against a soundtrack that lets your true character shine.
The wedding party is intended to be a collection of those nearest and dearest to the bride and groom, who help ensure the day goes off without a hitch and who lead fellow revelers in celebrating the start of the new couple’s life together. That being said, there’s no reason this group must be limited to women on her side and guys on his, or even that it’s limited to humans – a beloved pooch can make for an adorable ring-bearer, after all.
Photography is an essential element of your big day, but think beyond the images you’ll capture throughout the wedding and reception. Photos lend a personal touch, no matter what your color scheme or theme. Integrate photos of the two of you at various stages of life, together as a couple and with loved ones (perhaps even some you’re honoring in memoriam). You can display these at a table with the guest book, as part of the table centerpieces, or even on the gift table. Or take things digital and load all your images into a slide show set to music.
Make favors meaningful. Forgo more common items like bubbles and chocolate, and instead send a little of yourself home with your guests. Maybe it’s a memento from a place with special meaning to you both, or a bottle opener shaped like a bicycle to represent the way you met. Just think about the moments and things that define you as a couple and do some searching online. You’ll probably be surprised by how quickly the options pile up.
Serve up a menu that shows guests more about your life together. Your loved ones can order basic beef or chicken anywhere. Instead, give them a glimpse into you. Make your main course the same food you enjoyed on your first date or during another monumental moment in your courtship. Or plan the entire menu around a region that you hold close to your heart.
Weddings are filled with traditions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your own touches on the day for a special event filled with memories that are uniquely your own. Find more advice for life’s special moments at elivingtoday.com.
Marriage Requirements for the Cayman Islands
Residency Requirement: None
Necessary Documents: Passports; birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); return or ongoing tickets; proofs of entry (Cayman Islands International Immigration Department pink slips or cruise-ship boarding passes); letter from authorized officiating marriage officer
For More Info: Cayman Islands Government Information Services, (345) 949-7900, or caymanislands.ky
Crystal Vandegrift is a wedding photographer covering Virginia, D.C. NC and Maryland.
Interested in being a guest blogger on our site? Contact us below!
We love Instagram! Check out our feed below and follow us!
Pictures were one of my top priorities for my wedding. I spent a lot of time reading through photographers and even contacting some. I was also pretty nervous, I had never been professionally photographed before. Crystal and her team were SO easy to work with and immediately took away the nerves. I trusted her completely and I am so happy I did. Cannot recommend enough! Ellen - Yorktown VA
If you're looking for an amazing photographer who is relaxed, has experience, and knowledge look no further. Crystal took our engagement and wedding photos. Not only were her photos amazing, but she is extremely responsive to messages and will even help you when planning your big day. It was important to us to work with a photographer who has experience with same sex couples, and Crystal and Casey did a great job capturing everything for my wife and I. We couldn't have asked for a better experience. - Emily - Nellysford, VA
Read more reviews here.