originally posted by Brides.com
Whether you're hiring a wedding planner or not—it's no secret that wedding planners know a lot about planning a wedding, from setting a budget and managing the guest list to designing the flowers and décor.
Wedding Coordinator vs. Planner vs. Designer: What's the Difference?But, even if you don't have the budget for a full-service wedding planner, don't stress. To help you kick off the planning process—and, more importantly, enjoy it!—we called on our wedding industry friends (27 of them, to be exact) and asked them to share their many, many years of experience and wisdom with you.
From money-saving tricks to stress-reducing tips, read on as some of the country's top wedding pros reveal the secrets their clients pay to hear!
Be Honest With Your Opinions“Be as clear as possible when communicating your needs and desires to everyone working on your wedding. Remember it’s just as important to share what you don’t like, as well as what you do, so a distinct picture emerges.”—Sofia Crokos, owner and creative director, Sofia Crokos Events & Lifestyle
Start With Your Budget“Before you make a single decision about your wedding, you need to determine your ‘must-have’ guest count and then your target budget. We see frustrated couples who start the process by booking a venue that simply does not fit into their budget. You have to consider the total cost of your celebration before anything else.”—Lynn Easton, founder, Easton Events
Focus on the Ceremony“Couples focus much of their energy and time on the reception. But without the ceremony, there is no reception. I tell my clients to put more energy into the vows, the actual ceremony, and how to make it unique and memorable. This is what will set the mood for the whole experience of the day.”—Mindy Weiss, owner, Mindy Weiss Party Consultants,
Trust Your Gut“Follow your gut and do your research when it comes to choosing vendors. Don’t settle. Make sure the people you surround yourself with are looking out for you and your best interests versus just trying to sell you something you don’t really need.”—Nicky Reinhard, owner, Nicky Reinhard Events
Appreciate Wedding Planning“A wedding is a micro vision of the larger macro vision of life. The time couples spend wedding planning allows them to decide how they want to navigate familial traditions, cultures, expectations, and needs as they transition into their new lives as their own family. It’s important to see this time can be an adventure, rather than a stressful experience!”—Elizabeth McKellar, owner, The Nouveau Romantics
5 Bonding Moments Every Couple Has During Wedding Planning
Practice Self-Care“Planning a wedding can be an entire year of your life or more, and it can make or break your wedding experience. Practice self-care during your engagement period. Have date nights where you make it off-limits to talk about the wedding. If things get stressful, remember that the wedding comes and goes in six hours, or in a weekend, and then it's over. It's one of the most amazing things to have everyone you love in one place. Relax and enjoy it.”—Alison Laesser-Keck, owner, Alison Bryan Destinations
Keep the Day Personal"A wedding should be personal and reflective of the couple—their stories, shared interests, family backgrounds, personal styles and travels—versus something built on recycled ideas from other weddings. I encourage couples to draw inspiration from the stories of how they met, what they did on their first date, and how they became engaged. It’s easy to find a few details from those stories that naturally translate into fun and unique elements on the wedding day. For example, for the couple who got engaged on a mountain one snowy night in Colorado, we decided to feature a snow machine at their reception. Guests were showered with snowflakes as they left the venue at the end of the night, and everyone loved how the moment was a nod to bride and groom’s engagement story.”—Allison Jackson, owner, Pineapple Productions
Prioritize Your Guests“It’s important to keep the total guest experience in mind, especially for those traveling to the wedding. When choosing your date, be sure to do your homework on what is happening in and around your destination town or city. Parades, graduations, and city-wide conferences will impact hotel and transportation rates.”—Emily Butler, owner, Karson Butler Events
Save Money on Invites"Choosing a rectangular wedding invitation over a square format will save you money on postage, as the USPS considers a square envelope an ‘odd-size’ shape they can’t pass a square envelope through their machines. They call this ‘nonmachineable’ and as such, these envelopes result in an additional $0.15 per envelope. That’s on top of the postage required for the weight and dimensions of your envelope! BTW, it’s perfectly acceptable to forgo an actual RSVP card and envelope, and provide an email address for guests to respond to instead.”—David Stark, chief creative officer, David Stark Design and Production
Repurpose Your Flowers“I always suggest couples donate their flower arrangements to local charities after their wedding. The florals will brighten up someone’s day, and as a couple, they can feel better knowing the money they spent on a large budget item is going to be appreciated a second time around. We repurposed the florals from Julianne Hough & Brooks Laich’s wedding and created over 450 small arrangements that were delivered the day after the wedding by Full Bloom, a company that recycles gently used flowers to local hospices, hospitals, and nursing homes. It was magical.”—Troy Williams, principal and event designer, Simply Troy Lifestyle + Events
Make Your Guests Comfortable“Focus on the touch points that allow guests to be present throughout the weekend. For instance, if your ceremony has the possibility of being too hot or cold, make sure to address those issues with blankets, fans, and water. For the reception, always make sure you have enough servers and bartenders. If guests aren’t able to get a drink or wait too long for their meal, it doesn’t matter how beautiful or fun your wedding is. Guests will be focused on their needs not being met and they won’t be able to enjoy the celebration as you’ve intended them to.”—Beth Helmstetter, creative director, Beth Helmstetter Events
Make the Marriage Your Priority“In the rush of planning, don't lose sight of the big picture. Nothing about a wedding is as important as the marriage that will follow. A wedding is a beginning, not an end in and of itself. There will be different points of view, and perhaps even disagreements, as you plan your wedding. Always make your marriage the priority, the details of the wedding become just that, details.”—Bronson Van Wyck, owner, Van Wyck & Van Wyck
Wait To Say Yes To A Dress“Don't buy your wedding dress before you've decided on a location or date—you’ll want to choose one that fits perfectly with the venue setting and the time of year.”—Rebecca Marin Shepherd, owner, The Wildflowers
The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Shopping
Don't Sweat the Small (or Big!) Stuff“Everything won’t go according to plan on your wedding day. Keep perspective and remember your marriage is the most important part of the process. Surround yourself with people you can lean on, so you don’t sweat the small or big stuff. Soak in every detail because the wedding day will go by quicker than you can possibly imagine.”—Betsy Krug, co-owner & event director, Rebecca Rose Events
Okay, they're not really secrets—just awesome ideas we encourage you to steal.
originally published by The Knot
While your wedding ceremony is both special and crucial (it's when you'll actually get married!), the reception is probably what you and your guests are most looking forward to—who doesn't want to eat, drink and dance? The best celebrations incorporate personal, fun and unique touches to keep guests smiling and talking about it long after the last dance. Get inpsired by our favorite reception ideas, from simple planning tricks to wow-worthy entertainment below, and by taking our fun Style Quiz. Then start planning your party here.
1. Arrange Seating Thoughtfully
It sounds obvious, but don't discount the importance of a solid seating arrangement. Place guests with people they'll know and get along with. It might seem like a great idea to play matchmaker, or force your guests to sit with strangers to make new friends—but at the end of the day, they're there for you, and to catch up with their own farflung pals. Put another way, a well-thought-out seating chart leads to great conversation, which leads to a great dance party, which leads to an unforgettable night. So seat your tween cousins with other kids their age and let your college friends sit together.
2. Hand Out Awesome Favors
Wedding favors should be the cherry on top of a fabulous reception. Let your guests know how much you appreciate having them there by offering a take-home treat (think: doughnuts, hot cocoa mix and marshmallows, a bag of your favorite coffee beans or jars of local honey), a cute succulent plant or a pair of sunglasses branded with your initials and wedding date.
3. Keep Toasts Short and Sweet
Wedding toasts are all about quality over quantity, so ask anyone who's speaking to make sure their toasts are no more than two minutes. If they have any longer anecdotes, they can feel free to share at the rehearsal dinner.
4. Have a Plan for Kids
To keep the little ones entertained throughout the night (and to give their parents an opportunity to hit the dance floor), give them their own designated area. In a separate room, arrange for a babysitter to set up and oversee movies, games, crafts or a kid-centric dance party. You can also set up a few tables topped with coloring books, crayons, games and small toys.
5. Shake Things Up for Your First Dance
All eyes will be on you during your first dance—it's the perfect opportunity to wow your guests with a fun surprise. Start with a romantic dance to "At Last," or other classic first dance song, then suddenly switch gears to a energetic Latin dance or break it down to Bruno Mars.
6. Offer an Interactive Food Station (or Two)
Great food makes for a great celebration, but offering dishes that everyone can customize to their liking is even better. Interactive food stations, from a mac-and-cheese bar to a sushi-rolling setup, where guests can create their own ideal bites will leave you with happy, well-fed friends ready to have a good time.
7. Rethink Dinner
Instead of a typical three-course menu of salad, entrée and dessert, stretch out dinner over four or five smaller courses (but don't stretch it too much if you're still hoping to get everyone on the dance floor). Plan small surprises between dishes, like a short toast from your hilarious aunt, a sweet poem from a lifelong friend or a professional performance, like a vocalist or dancer. It'll give your guests the experience of a fun night out, complete with dinner and a show.
8. Change Into Something Comfortable
Let's put it this way: You won't have a good time at your reception if you can't take two steps without snagging your train, right? So after the first dance, brides can swap the veil and bustle for a fabulous little white dress or jumpsuit, and grooms can change to a more relaxed suit. If you and your new spouse are comfortable enough to move freely, you'll dance more, chat more, laugh more and eat more cake—that'll rub off on your guests.
9. Plan Surprise Entertainment
Sometimes the best parts of a reception are what guests don't see coming. Surprise your loved ones with unexpected entertainment during the cocktail hour or reception, like a magician, mariachi band, aerialists or a salsa dancer.
10. Make Sure Your Band Has Great Break Music
Everyone's been to that wedding before: Just when the dance floor starts heating up, the band takes a break—and the party seems to as well. To make sure this doesn't happen at your wedding, ask potential bands how they plan to handle breaks before you hire them. Some bands will rest in shifts and split off into a smaller two- or three-piece band, while others will turn on filler music. If yours is planning on the latter, ask whether you can provide the playlist, or at least check and approve their picks before the party.
11. Find a DJ Who Gets You
Okay, this is a little more obvious, but we have to mention it because music is a major reception fun factor, and has a lot to do with how long your guests will stay. The last thing you want to see is your dance floor clear out when the DJ plays obsure songs that are hard to dance to. Talk to your DJ about your do-not-play list upfront.
12. Play Music Everyone Can Dance to
Whether you've hired a band or a DJ, if you want to keep the dance floor packed, plan a playlist that will please the whole crowd, not just you two. You may love obscure indie rock, but now isn't the time to show off your discerning taste in music. Sure, mix in a few of your favorites, but don't leave out the past and present hits, otherwise you risk an empty dance floor.
13. Have a Lounge Area
If your site and budget allow, set up comfortable lounge chairs and couches in your reception space. Instead of having your guests sit around the same tables all night, even after dinner's over, a change of environment will promote conversation, give your energetic dancers a resting area and keep your nondancing guests entertained. It's also an elegant and comfortable way to let elderly guests relax and chat while others take to the dance floor. Look into renting or borrowing couches, chairs and other furniture to create stylish, cozy vignettes complete with pillows, flowers and votive candles in your wedding colors.
14. Hire a Day-of Coordinator
You may have a ton of fun ideas lined up for your reception, but no matter how organized you are it's much more difficult than you'd think to keep each of those plans and moving parts in check. If you already have an event planner, you're all set. If not, look into booking a day-of coordinator to oversee the details (trust us, it's worth it). Check out the different types of planners you can hire.
15. Roll Out a Tasting Station
A full bar is a must-have for a great reception, but take it up a notch with an interactive drink experience. A wine, beer or whiskey tasting lets guests sample different drinks and learn a few tasting notes. A hand-rolled cigar station also fits the bill, as does a make-your-own margarita bar—who could say no to that?
16. Create a Nice Flow Within the Space
One of the less obvious keys to a succesful celebration is movement. The best parties encourage lots of dancing, with mini breaks for mingling and snacking. For maximum dimension and circulation, divide your reception into distinct areas for dancing, drinks and chatting, and coffee and cake. Arrange a few cocktail tables near the bar, offer outdoor seating or set up a table of desserts or late-night bites.
17. Serve Good Food
It doesn't get more 101 than this. Ask yourself what you'd want to eat, both as a wedding guest and in general. Love spaghetti bolognese, dim sum or tacos? Chances are your caterer can find elegant, creative ways to serve it to a large crowd. Another option is to skip the sit-down dinner altogether and pass hearty, satisfying hors d'oeuvres with cocktails.
18. Don't Let Your Guests Get Hungry
Want a guaranteed all-night crowd? Arrange for the catering staff to bring out late-night food like French fries, pizza or doughnuts after midnight (or before, if you just can't wait). Offer a DIY coffee bar complete with flavored syrups and toppings to keep them on their feet. If you stick with low-key favorites, your friends will never want to leave.
19. Plan a Fun Surprise
Here's a secret for you: Keep guests celebrating by planning a surprise for the end of the night that everyone can look forward to. You and your new spouse can perform a song with the band for the last dance or prep a memorable reception getaway like a fireworks send-off.
20. Host a Welcome Dinner
Okay, this tip isn't technically for your reception, but it'll make the reception more fun. A casual event where all your guests can meet and mingle the day before the wedding means everyone will have already gotten to know each other, and old friends will have had a chance to catch up, so when reception rolls around, your guests can skip the pleasantries and get right down to celebrating.
Crystal Vandegrift is a wedding photographer covering Virginia, D.C. NC and Maryland.
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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
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