article originally posted on Brides.com
While not for the superstitious, first look wedding photos have been topping the list of wedding must-haves for many couples over the past few years. It's still entirely up to you whether or not you want to uphold the idea of not seeing your soon-to-be spouse until the ceremony, but—if these sweet snapshots are any indication—a first look is a beautiful way to start off your married life.
The instant a couple first locks eyes on their big day is incredibly romantic—whether or not it's done in private before you say "I do," or as you make your grand entrance into the ceremony. But while they may not be a time-honored custom, first look wedding photos have become something of a new tradition amongst modern couples who opt to see one another before the ceremony, resulting in heartwarming, tear-jerking photos.
On the fence about doing a first look? Firstly, seeing your partner before walking down the aisle is a great way to ease any pre-wedding jitters. And if you're concerned about your partner's expression being any less excited when they see you walking down the aisle to exchange vows, don't be. Chances are, your love will still get teary-eyed in the moments before they say "I do." And since they've already seen you in your wedding dress, they can appreciate the crystallizing realization that you two are about to become the two luckiest people in the world even more so.
Chances are, you've been dreaming of your wedding gown since for as long as you can remember. If you want to make sure reality lives up to your dream, it's important to start planning and shopping for your wedding dress early on. Here, we've compiled a wedding dress timeline that leaves no detail overlooked. The average engagement length is just over twelve months, so our wedding dress timeline fits that length. If you're engagement period is shorter, this timeline still works — just compress it! (And if you're getting started wedding dress shopping with less than nine months to go, consider focusing on a finding an off-the-rack gown or a scoring a dress at a sample sale, which will spare you the wait time for custom-order dresses.)
Twelve Months to Go
It's tempting to dive headfirst into wedding dress shopping as soon as you get engaged, but you'll save yourself some potential headaches if you plan out a few things first and take the time to do some research. At the twelve-month mark, figure out the following details so you'll be ahead of the game when you start the actual shopping process.
Determine Your Wedding Venue and Date
It's important to know your wedding date before buying a wedding dress, because certain styles that would be gorgeous in a fall or winter wedding just won't work for a spring or summer affair. Nail down your date so you can plan accordingly. Similarly, knowing where you're getting married can also be a huge help. As with the wedding date, the venue will definitely influence your gown choices. What is perfectly chic at a boho beach wedding won't look quite right at a sit-down ballroom reception.
Alternatively, however, you can work backwards: If you've had your heart set on a certain style of wedding dress for as long as you can remember, you might want to disregard the following and let your dream dress influence your date and venue decisions instead. For example, if you've always envisioned long, lacy sleeves and a faux fur muff, you're probably going to want to pick a winter wedding date. Or, if you've always imagined a subtle look, with a simple flowing dress and a flower crown, you might choose the beach or a field as your venue. The sky's the limit, and it's entirely up to you — just make sure to coordinate the vision of your dress with the vision of your overall wedding!
Set a Budget for Your Dress and Accessories
It's never a good idea to start wedding dress shopping without a budget in mind. Imagine falling in love with a wedding gown that's way out of your price range? Figure out your wedding dress budget right off the bat — that way when you head out shopping, you can let your salesperson guide you to the dresses that fit your budget. Be sure to factor in the cost of wedding dress alterations, tax, and shipping (if applicable), as well as accessories including your wedding veil, undergarments and shoes.
Start a Pinterest Board and Figure Out Details You Like
Though you don't need to decide the exact style or silhouette of your dress before you start your search, you do want to figure out a list of things you like and don't like. Having a vision board, whether it's physical or digital, can be useful (and fun!).
12-10 Months to Go
Start Your Dress Search
You know those episodes of Say Yes To The Dress, where the bride-to-be brings her entire girl gang wedding dress shopping? It looks fun, but that can quickly get out of hand with all the opinions coming your way. Consider limiting the number of people you bring with you. Stick to your mother, grandmother, the person you're closest with on your spouse's side, and your most devoted and open-minded best friend. Everyone's viewpoint is not needed and can make the joyous moment even more complicated than it needs to be. You might even want to head out shopping on your own! Chances are you'll be making multiple trips, so you can also change up your shopping companions.
As you shop, evaluate fabrics and silhouettes to figure out what you're really into. What you loved on Pinterest might not suit you in real life. Keep your options open and at least try on different materials and gown shapes so you can experience them all. You might find your dream dress is even more magical once you try it on, but you also might discover a hidden gem in a style you never even considered.
9 Months to Go
Make a Final Decision and Buy Your Dress
The time has arrived to actually decide on the perfect dress and put in your order. And while nine months out might seem really early, it's actually not — unless you're buying off-the-rack at a sample sale, wedding dresses are typically custom-ordered, which means you've got to give the designer ample time to create and ship the dress, as well as leaving enough time for alterations, which 99% of wedding dresses will need.
6 Months to Go
Figure Out How Your Wedding Day Hairstyle and Choose a Wedding Veil
The perfect wedding hairstyle can either make or break your bridal look. It's best to know exactly what you want far in advance, especially as you've already selected your dress. Are you opting for a veil and any embellished hair accessories? Will you be donning an updo, sleek chignon, or loose curls? There are so many possibilities to consider, but you'll have more than enough time to get everything in order if you plan ahead.
Buy Your Wedding Shoes
Wedding shoe shopping will definitely be one of the more fun task of the entire process. Perhaps you'll want a custom-made pair from your favorite designer, or need to take time deciding whether you'll choose a pointed-toe pump or ankle-strap sandal. You'll also want to have enough time to break those bad boys in before you walk down the aisle. A few days of wearing them in the house will ensure you'll be ready to dance from sundown to sun-up. The six-month mark is a good place to get your shoes, because you'll need them before your first fitting.
Choose Your Something Borrowed, Something Old and Something Blue
For your big day, you might want the shoes you're buying at this point to be blue, or you might want to wear your grandmother's vintage clip-on earrings. These are the pieces that will make your wedding ensemble truly special, so you'll want to decide on them early.
Get Your Undergarments
You'll also want to have your undergarments with you once you go to your first fitting, so you'll need to take care of this detail, as well. You will need to pick up a specific kind of bra based on the style of your dress's back and neckline, as well as choose the proper shapewear for the occasion. You might also need a petticoat to make your dress fluff out. This is also a good point at which to order your garter belt.
Three Months To Go
The First Wedding Dress Fitting
If you were wondering when to get wedding dress altered, three months out is your answer! Sticking to your wedding dress fitting timeline is really important from here on out. You want to make sure your seamstress has ample time to perfect the fit of your dress. Timing is everything here and bringing your gown in too late may result in having too little time for alterations.
This is when you figure out if your dress needs to be taken in or out, as well as determining whether the hem length needs to be lengthened or shortened. The seamstress will also add bustle points to the dress so that dresses with trains can seamlessly transition during the reception.
You'll want to bring your jewelry, undergarments, shoes, and any other accessories you can to make sure everything will be flawless on your big day.
Six Weeks to Go
The Second Wedding Dress Fitting
Most brides have two to three fittings to make their dress absolutely perfect, so you'll head your wedding dress alteration timeline will require a trip back to the bridal salon. Most of the difficult work is done during your first fitting, thus the second is for more minor revisions to your dress — like smoothing out the hemline for instance. You'll want to walk around in the salon with your gown on to ensure you are happy with the length, fit, and any alterations that were completed since your first wedding dress fitting.
Two Weeks to Go
The Final Wedding Dress Fitting
This is where it all comes together! Make sure you wear waterproof mascara because you will shed a few tears seeing yourself so close to absolute bridal perfection. You'll want one person you're incredibly close to by your side — like your mother or maid of honor — to bask in the joy, as well as to take a couple of pictures for your scrapbook.
Find a Place to Store Your Wedding Dress for Safekeeping
You will not only want to keep your dress safe, but you'll also want to hide it from your spouse, so it will be a total surprise once you walk down the aisle. Keep in mind that if your dress is embellished, separate your veil so no rips occur. Place it in a bag that will allow for the fabric to breathe and examine it to ensure it's perfect. Alternatively, some wedding salons allow you to store your dress there until the big day, which, in some cases, might be easier!
One Day to Go
Gather Up Everything You'll Need
Your veil, jewelry, dress, and shoes should all be in one place, so you never lose sight and misplace a piece altogether. You'll also want to have a steamer and a bleach pen on-hand, just in case something unfortunate happens. Keep a needle, white thread, and clear fishing wire on hand, as well, in case there are any snags in any of the delicate fabric, or a bustle point comes loose. Pro tip: Pack everything (other than your dress) in a small suitcase so it's easy to haul around.
Give Yourself Ample Time to Get Ready
This is your moment! You'll need at least a half an hour to slip into your dress, so add extra time into the day. Wedding dresses take time to put on, especially those with multiple buttons, hooks, and intricate details. You should be relaxed and not rush for even a second.
Visit Brides.com for these beautiful Wedding Cakes
There are few things we appreciate more than a decadent wedding cake—both in taste and style. Dessert trends come and go, but nothing takes the place of a delicious cake that satisfies more than one of your senses. That said, we’ve rounded up 50 gorgeous cakes that promise to do just that.
Our favorite kind of wedding cake is the kind that makes a statement by adding to your wedding decor. For bohemian brides, we’re loving delicate flower wreaths, organically placed leafy vines, or anything with an earthy feel. If your style is more contemporary, a sleek, smooth finish and geometric details, such as a repeated tile pattern, hexagonal tiers, or triangular adornments, will always do the trick. If you’re more of a classic bride, traditional white isn’t your only option; hand-painted florals, watercolors, and subtle ruffles all evoke a timeless touch. And no matter the cake style, gilded accents and metallic foil always add a hint of glam and a dash of chic, while greenery, whether a topper of eucalyptus, cascading foliage, or wreath of ferns, brings organic beauty.
If your reception is outdoors, take inspiration from your surroundings. A festoon of fresh blooms is a natural way to infuse some garden whimsy, fondant oyster shells and watercolor blues bring in some coastal charm, and semi-naked cakes take cues from the naturalistic elegance of the woods. The seasons can also serve as a solid source of inspiration: Light pastel flowers are a standard for some springtime flair, fresh greenery or citrus serves up some summertime whimsy, rich, moody hues are ideal for an autumn affair, and icy blue and white details mirror the coolness of a winter wedding.
See more: Go Bare: 39 Naked Wedding Cakes
Published and seen in Brides.com
What's not to love about weddings from a guest perspective!? Dancing, great food, open bars, being surrounded by loved ones...the list could go on. But wedding party favors really seal the deal when it comes to leaving a memorable impression on your guests. Your nearest and dearest will fondly remember how much they loved the tunes at the reception or how beautiful you looked in your wedding dress, but take-home wedding favors for guests to pick up on their way out serve as their very last physical reminder of your nuptials (besides your future wedding Instagrams, of course). Plus, these gifts go way beyond a thank-you card in showing your friends and family how grateful you are that they attended your wedding. Moral of the story: Make your wedding favors count (and reusable!).
If you're at a loss for where to start, we've got your wedding party favor needs covered. Having a destination wedding? Treat guests to personalized luggage tags as a way of thanking them for their travels. Want to impart your love of food to guests before the wedding is over? Stock up on "Midnight Snack" paper bags to fill with your favorite sweet treats for friends and family to munch on post-wedding. If you're having an outdoor spring or summer wedding, take inspiration from your blooming surroundings and gift your guests seed packets. Foldable fans are another great option for 2019 summer weddings. They'll keep guests cool at the ceremony and reception, and also serve as a lovely keepsake from the day. Moreover, floral smudge sticks are also the prefect, trendy wedding party favors for 2019 weddings. Your guests can use them to banish negative energy from their homes after the big day. Only good vibes here!
The wedding favor options are truly limitless, so be creative and add your own personal spin. Choose gifts that reflect you and your spouse, but that your guests can also enjoy once the wedding festivities have died down. Shop our top wedding favor picks for your own nuptials, which will suit any wedding style without breaking the bank. Pro tip: After you've pegged the perfect guest gifts, pair them with an equally prominent display to ensure everyone remembers to pick one up as they leave. Happy wedding favor gifting
No Ugly Crying HandkerchiefYou'll want to give these wedding party favors to your guests during the ceremony so they can put them to good use during your tear-jerking vows.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $10
Let Love Grow Custom Seed Wedding FavorsYour guests can plant these seed wedding favors in their backyards or in planters, and will always remember your wedding when they catch a whiff of the resulting blooms.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $15 for 15
Jar of MatchesCelebrate the fact that you've found your perfect match by gifting your guests jars of matches. We love the brightly colored tips on these matches, as well as the cute included gift tag.
Courtesy of LaPasoBienPalm Personalized Hand FansHaving a summer wedding? Your guests will love these personalized hand fans! They'll help keep them cool and they're the perfect Instagram accessory, too!
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $8.50
Love and Riches Lottery Ticket Wedding FavorSlip a scratch-off lottery ticket in these favor bags and seal with the personalized sticker. This inexpensive wedding party favor might have a huge payoff for your guests!
SHOP NOW: Amazon, $8 for 20
WATCH NOWMeghan Markle Gets a Wedding Makeover
Rose Floral Sage Smudge StickRid your guests' homes of negative vibes and energies with these floral sage smudge stick wedding party favors.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $15
Ella Celebration Key Bottle OpenersThese vintage skeleton keys are actually bottle openers. Thanks to these wedding party favors, guests will always remember your big day when they open a cold one.
SHOP NOW: Amazon, $34.95 for 50
Flower Pressed Shortbread CookiesLori Stern's signature shortbread cookies feature edible (and not to mention, Instagrammable) handpicked flowers. Guests can grab 'em on the way out to munch on during their trip home.
SHOP NOW: Lori Stern Food & Cakes, $48 for a dozen
Courtesy of SALTEDDesignStudioWedding Hangover Kit BagsA wedding favor that your guests will definitely be grateful for come morning! Stash some Advil and mints inside these wedding hangover kit bags, and you're good to go!
SHOP NOW: Etsy, starting at $0.99
Love Is Brewing Wedding StickersBuy your favorite coffee beans in bulk and individually wrap them with these adorable sticks, and you'll have your guests' morning cup of coffee covered!
SHOP NOW: Amazon, $14 for 36
Pressed Flowers Botanical PrintsWe love pressed flower details at weddings! Pretty prints set out in frames on your escort card table would make the perfect wedding party favors.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $50 for six
Agate Slice Calligraphy Place CardsKill two birds with one stone with wedding favors that also double as place settings. What guest wouldn't love taking home a keepsake that's personalized with their own name in calligraphy?
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $4.50
Hot Chocolate in a Tube Wedding FavorPerfect for a winter wedding, these cute little tubes contain everything you need for the perfect cup of hot chocolate.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $2.56
Clear Macaron BoxesWhat's better than plain old macarons? Macarons paired with a clear box, custom sticker, and wrapped with a gold bow, duh.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $7 for 10
Pack of Assorted 2.5" CactusA take-home plant is just as on par with to-go food when it comes to wedding party favors, and friends and family will love having a bit more greenery in their lives.
SHOP NOW: Amazon, $69.99 for 20
Midnight Snack Craft Paper BagTreat your loved ones to post-wedding dessert served in pretty paper bags. Nothing says "thanks for coming" better than a take-home bag of mini donuts or cookies.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $15 for 20
Jam Jar Wedding FavorsTurn up the jams on your wedding party favors. Guests can reuse this spread and decorative jar long after the wedding.
SHOP NOW: Custom Love Gifts, $4
Wedding Favor Personalized Popcorn BagsFor another way to curb late-night snack cravings, create a station for serving on-the-go bags of popcorn.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $20 for 20
Let love glow! Your guests can use these tea light lanterns to add some flickering ambience to their homes for years to come.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $165 for 50
Mint To Be Wedding Favor BagsStock up on your favorite breath mints and stash 'em in these cute bags for an ultra fresh favor that will definitely come in handy after the wedding.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $0.80
Mini Champagne Label Wedding FavorEncourage guests to pop some bubbly in honor of your new marital status. Buy mini bottles of your favorite champagne in bulk, and attach this personalized sticker for the finishing touch.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $15 for 8
Luggage Tags Wedding FavorsIf you and your partner are travelers at heart, reflect your love of excursions through practical favors that might just inspire some wanderlust in your guests.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, $95 for 20
Concrete Planter with InitialsTake standard succulent wedding favors up a notch with a planter dedicated to you and your future spouse. Guests can work on improving their green thumbs while keeping your wedding day in mind.
SHOP NOW: Etsy, starting at $14.90
Pros of Having a First Look Contemplating a first look?
By The Knot
More couples are doing first looks—45 percent, to be exact, according to The Knot 2016 Real Weddings Study. Although nearly half of couples decide to sneak a peek at each other before walking down the aisle, the choice usually comes after a fair amount of deliberation. So what's the best decision for you?
Pro: You save time by taking the bulk of your photos together before the ceremony.Pair your first look with couple portraits (and wedding party shots) before your ceremony to translate that romantic feeling in photos and free up more time to enjoy cocktail hour with guests. Just make sure that whatever secluded spot you choose, it's one that's away from any guests to prevent them from seeing you.
Pro: A first look could ease any nerves before the ceremony. If you're an especially emotional person, or you know you're going to be jittery or nervous, a pre ceremony glimpse may be the way to go.
Besides doing your first look photos, you can also maximize this time to sneak in a few moments alone with each other that you may not get later on.
Pro: If you're worried about crying at the altar, you can get your tears out of the way before. It's every bride's dream not to sob at the altar with mascara all over her face (one glistening tear hardly ever happens), so if you know you'll likely turn on the waterworks during the ceremony, a first look could help get some of your feelings out beforehand. Your first look photos will be that much more emotional and moving, and you'll have plenty of time for makeup touch-ups before the ceremony.
Simple Tricks for Looking Thinner in Photos
We have all seen photos of ourselves where we simply weren’t happy about how we looked. It’s easy to be your own worst critic but it’s even easier to make small changes in how you pose for photos in order to look slimmer and more confident.
6 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Photographer
How to Decide What to Wear to Your Photoshoot
Top tips for getting the most out of your professional photography session.
If you are prepping for your first photoshoot you probably have a couple questions about what to expect. A common concern for people having their photos taken for the first time is what to wear.
7 Top Tips for Deciding What to Wear for a Photoshoot
The Top 20 Wedding Photography Mistakes Not to Make
Here's what not to do, according to the pros themselves.
by The Knot
Not to play favorites—because we love all vendors—but your photographer is one of the most important pros you'll have at your wedding. After all, they're solely responsible for the wonderful wedding photos you'll get to pore over, cherish and have as a keepsake forever.
And if you want those photos to be as perfect as possible, you're going to want to listen to what some professional photographers have to say. Read the biggest mistakes professional photographers have seen other couples make—so you can avoid them—below.
1. Not Finalizing the Wedding Day Schedule"
Talk to your photographer before finalizing the schedule for your wedding day. There's a lot to consider in terms of photographing and natural light. Certain times of day are more photogenic than others (midday sun casts harsh, unflattering shadows on the face while late-day sun casts a beautiful, warm glow on everyone).
2. Not Sticking to the Finalized Schedule"
Pay attention and respect the schedule you and your photographer to your wedding. Being an hour late can make or break your images. Don't just assume it only takes 10 minutes.
3. Letting Relatives Get in the Way"
We have a name in the industry for a guest who shows up with pro photo equipment and takes 'unofficial wedding photos'—we call him Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob may think he's doing you a favor by taking more shots for the couple, but usually he just gets in the way and makes us miss our shots. Tell Uncle Bob to leave the camera at home and just enjoy his time at the wedding without working."
4. Not Explaining How You Like to Look in Photos
"Beauty is really very subjective. I ask my clients to send a photo of themselves before the wedding that they like and one that they don't."
5. Focusing Too Much on Taking Photos"
A good photojournalist can capture the story of their day and some artistic portraits while keeping time away from loved ones to a minimum."--
6. Not Getting a Second Shooter"
Sometimes couples want to save a little money or feel it's too obtrusive for more than one photographer to be present on the wedding day. But consider this: The second photographer offers another unique point of view throughout the entire day that you would not have had photographed [otherwise]."
7. Not Getting Help Organizing Your Guests"
Designate someone [trustworthy who] knows your family and friends to be in charge of organizing people for portraits. That person can gather the people needed, direct them on what shots they'll be in, and then release them when they're done. It keeps things moving quickly, smoothly and enjoyably."
8. Trying to Make Things "Perfect""
Just have fun. Whether it's getting a little cake on your face or some detail didn't turn out 100 percent like you'd hoped, go with it, have fun and keep smiling."
9. Skipping the First Look
"[In my opinion], a first look is so much better than trying to rush couple portraits after the ceremony—especially if your ceremony runs a bit late, which most do. You end up trying to rush to get to the party."
10. Trying to Pose"
A good photographer gives direction for a reason: to get the best moments and shots from the day. The best thing to do is relax and act natural. Be in the moment. Be hopelessly in love with each other—the pictures will turn out [amazing.]"
11. Waiting Too Long to Book Your Photographer"
If you find a great photographer, book them! Good photographers book a year or more out and won't be available forever. Nothing is more frustrating than choosing a wedding photographer and then finding out that they booked your date a week prior."
12. Looking at the Camera All the Time"
Some couples want candid photographs, but they always feel like they need to look up at the camera and stop what they're doing. It could be an instinct, but remember—unless the photographer asks you, try to act natural for the best journalistic shots."
13. Not Providing a List of "Don't Takes""
Let the photographer know before the wedding if there are certain photos you don't like. It can be anything from 'I don't like the photos you took of us not smiling' to 'I don't like wide-angle close-ups.' It totally throws off a photographer's creative approach when a bride or groom spills their feelings while you're in the zone."
14. Asking for Too Many Shots"
If clients have done their homework and choose an experienced, reputable wedding photographer, then chances are that photographer doesn't need a two-page spreadsheet of every combination for family portraits."
15. Not Choosing a Photographer You Connect With
"Make sure we get along. I work with clients for sometimes two years or more. If we don't get along, it's going to be a very long and bumpy ride."
16. Skipping the Engagement Session
"Engagement sessions increase the confidence and comfort level of the couple in front of the camera and allow them to practice having their photo taken in a fun, no-stakes atmosphere. Ultimately, an engagement session will let the couple see why the photographer might tell them to do something funny, and this leads to wedding day comfort and trust in the photographer."
17. Not Hiring a Professional Photographer"
Choose someone who's a professional, not just anyone with a digital camera and a website. Make sure the photographer you choose has an education as a photographer, has apprenticed or interned with other photographers and paid their dues, or has the experience and ability to consistently capture the moments of your wedding no matter what situations may arise."
18. Falling for Photography Trends
"Too many times, to-be-weds fall for something trendy in photography. It's critical your wedding images stand the test of time and are valued for each following generation. Trends are fun but rarely last. Look for a photographer with a [generally] classic shooting style, and be wary of too much Photoshop and digital tricks and manipulations."
19. Forgetting the Details"
Think about spending a few minutes to decide what other elements are important to photograph. Did your sister make special wedding favors? Are you carrying important heirlooms with you? Bring an extra invitation and try to keep those special elements easily accessible for photos."
20. Not Smiling—All the Time
"Tell all of the individuals walking down the aisle to look up and smile. If they're too nervous to smile, they should at least keep their head up and stare down the aisle. This helps keep the face from the [unflattering angle] that happens when you stare at the floor while walking."
Engagement Party Planning Basics
Whether you're the hosts or guests of honor, read our engagement party primer for everything you need to know.
by The Knot
What It's For
People will want to congratulate you on your engagement, and let's be real: A party's a lot more fun than a phone call! It's also a great time to introduce key people from your lives who are going to be seeing a lot of each other (and possibly helping plan your wedding together) over the next year or so. "It's the first time you’ll have different groups of friends and generations really getting to know each other in a more intimate way," says celebrity wedding planner Jung Lee of Fête NY.
Traditionally, the bride's parents host the first official celebration, then, the groom's parents can throw their own party. A less traditional, but perhaps more appealing option, is to have both sets of parents come together to cohost an event. However, these days, more couples are tossing tradition aside altogether and throwing the engagement party themselves (just keep in mind that if you're doing the inviting, it's your responsibility to foot the bill too). Friends of the couple can also host (and may even volunteer to), but before you ask, be conscious of the financial implications.
When to Have It
The engagement party should fall within a few months of the proposal—otherwise known as the sweet spot between carefree, just-engaged life and the start of serious wedding planning. You'll want to give guests about a month's notice, so we suggest getting those invites out a couple months after the proposal.
Whose Turf to Have It On
The location really depends on who throws the party. If your hosts are local, you will likely be celebrating in your city, but if they live out of state, you may want to have it in their city. It comes down to discussing it with the hosts and figuring out the logistics to make it easier on everyone involved. Say you live in New York, but most of your family and friends live in Chicago: You may decide to have your party in your hometown (and enlist someone local to help you plan), host it in your current locale or even throw two parties. Just beware of tiring out your guests and bridal party with too many invitations before the wedding day is even close. Also, when picking the party location, consider where you plan to have your wedding—you may not want to ask guests to travel twice. “More of my clients are having multiple engagement celebrations because their friends and family are spread all around the country, but everybody wants to honor them," Lee says.
Where to Have It
Depending on how many people you want to invite, you can make an engagement party work almost anywhere—it's really up to the hosts. When choosing the venue, think about the vibe you want to create: If you like the idea of having a more elegant affair, you might want to rent out a private room at a restaurant, country club or wine bar. For something more low-key, a house, backyard or favorite local dive might be a better choice.
Whom to Invite
Etiquette used to state that you weren't to invite anyone to the engagement party whom you weren't inviting to the wedding, case closed. But now more couples live and/or host their nuptials far from their families and friends, and the formality of engagement parties is evolving, so expectations have changed. Engagement parties can now often include people who aren't invited to the wedding. If your friends want to plan an informal party at a neighborhood bar and email the invites a few weeks before, it's totally fine to include people you aren't sure will end up making the wedding guest list (coworkers, newer friends). And if your parents' good friends want to host a cocktail party at their home in your honor, let your parents invite mutual friends and business associates you might not have room for at your wedding.
However, if you two or your parents are hosting, the old rule sticks: When the wedding hosts send the engagement party invitation, it's considered part of the official wedding parties and guests assume they're invited to the wedding too. To avoid a sticky situation later, start working on your wedding guest list now. Then trim the engagement party list down to your wedding party, immediate family and closest friends.
How to Invite
Feel free to keep the invitations simple. You can even make them yourselves or send out a digital invite. If you've chosen your invitation designer already, see if they'll give you a special rate on engagement party invites. Don't worry if you haven't settled on a color palette or don't have a wedding date in mind yet—your engagement party invitations don't have to match the rest of your stationery. Also, make sure you have most of your wedding website done before the engagement party invitations are sent out so you can include the URL. The website is the easiest, and most subtle, way to spread word about your registry in case guests want to bring you a gift. You don’t have to have the whole site complete—just a link to your registry, a few photos and the story of your proposal (don’t forget to submit it to How He Asked!) will do.
What to Serve
There's no need to plan a five-course meal with a four-hour open bar. Anything from passed appetizers or tasting menu stations to a family-style buffet or casual cookout will work. Or get creative and serve up dishes that share something about you. "I had a bride and groom known for having Sunday Mexican dinners, so they had margaritas, mini fish tacos and great guacamole—it just made sense and was a genuine touch," Lee says. As for dessert, serve it if you'd like, but it doesn't have to be cake. Consider gourmet ice cream sandwiches, assorted baked goods or seasonal treats like candy apples or cotton candy.
How to Set the Scene
While of course it's fine for the décor and details to reflect your wedding colors and theme, like your invites, don't feel like you have to rush to choose them just so your engagement party can match. You might even consider picking a style and theme that are completely different from your wedding day to mix things up. If you're planning a formal ballroom wedding, go for a laid-back backyard party with vibrant colors and an outdoor setting to celebrate your engagement. Just a few small arrangements from your local florist can dress up any space (and it's a great way to try out a potential florist for the wedding). However, the real trick is not to upstage the wedding. So if you're envisioning a casual beach wedding with simple décor, a fancy cocktail party at a swanky hotel with over-the-top centerpieces might make that beach bash feel like a bit of a letdown.
What to Wear
Your wardrobe will depend on the setting of the party. For brides-to-be, aside from the obvious (don’t wear an evening gown to a backyard barbecue), keep it simple enough that you don’t outdo your wedding look, but special enough that you still stand out. As for the grooms, while you don’t have to wear a suit and tie or a tux, you should match your partner in formality. And if you have a specific dress code for guests, make a note of it on the invitation.
Crystal Vandegrift is a wedding photographer covering Virginia, D.C. NC and Maryland.
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