Have A Wedding, Tips and Advice
Having recently gotten married, I figured that I would share advice on the things that I learned and did in preparation of and on the day of the wedding.
Invite Guests You Actually Talk To, Not Just Follow Online
In reading "The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner and Organizer" by Jessica Bishop, there were a number of suggestions made when it came to planning a wedding. One of which was keep your guest list to people that you have had real conversations with in the last two years. Initially I questioned it, but as I listed the people that I wanted to invite and then narrowed that list down per this suggestion, it significantly cuts down the number of people.
In this day and age, it is easy to remain connected to people through social media. Of those people that you are connected to through social media, ask yourself how many of them are you actually close with and have more than an online connection to. When you answer and visualize this question, you'll realize that your circle may not be as big as it seems.
The problem with this strategy is that people, including family, who think that they should be invited for whatever reason that they have, may not get an invite. Dealing with this on a case by case situation, some were extended an invite to attend and some remained excluded.
Number of Guests
When we set our maximum number of guests, we did not want to have a whole heap of people there, but did want to have enough headcount to include closest family and friends.
From talking with other people that have had weddings, about 20 to 40 percent of the people that you invite, will not attend. We set our original limit to 100 guests. When we made our initial list of guests, it was about 95. Of that about 80 said that they would attend. After doing the follow up, that number came down to about 68 before including the vendors. When you do the math
68 attendees / 95 invitations = 71.58 % attendee rate
Thus about 29 percent of the people that we initially invited, did not attend. There seems to be some truth to the 20 to 40 percent that will not attend. The reason that they do not attend will vary. In our case, some did not attend because they recently started a new job and did not have vacation time or because of the risk of COVID.
When counting your guests, be sure to include the vendors where they are needed. Reason is that the vendors will probably want to eat, especially the photographer and coordinators as they will be there before and after the wedding ceremony.
There were several guests of mine that were not able to attend for various reasons, but still wanted to see the ceremony. For this, we set up a Zoom meeting and shared the link with these people. I upgraded from the free to the paid plan. At the time of this writing, the lowest cost paid plan is $14.99 per month and allows you to have up to 30 hour meeting with unlimited participants and to be able to record the meeting.
We had a videographer that recorded our ceremony. However, I also enabled the meeting to be recorded so that we had another perspective of the wedding.
Follow Up on RSVPs
We sent out Save the Date and RSVPs about 7 and 4 months respectively ahead of the wedding and got responses. We did a follow up about 1.5 to 2 months before the wedding to make sure that those who had responded that they were attending would still be attending. For some, their situation had not changed and would still be attending. For others, their situation had changed (e.g. new job, financial set back, avoiding gatherings because of new COVID variant) and would not be able to make it.
By doing this last minute follow up, it helps to make sure that the number of guests that you are planning for is accurate as close to accurate as possible and that you do not have a lot of empty seats at your wedding. For my wedding, doing the follow up reduced the number of tables that were needed and the amount of food that had to be served.
Make A Decision; Avoid Analysis Paralysis
What nobody tells you ahead of time is that wedding planning mostly decision making. Here are some of the many questions that had to be answered when it came to my wedding:
- What wedding colors?
- What venue?
- How many in the wedding party?
- What's the budget?
- What centerpieces do you want for the table?
- What kind of food do you want to have?
- What song for the first dance?
Some of these questions, you actually need to give some thought. For example, when it came to the food, we knew some of the guests were vegan and some do not eat pork. Thus we included vegan options when making menu choices and having the meat for reception meal to be centered around chicken. However, other questions, I was tempted to go with the first answer that came to mind or flipping a coin to answer the question. Why? Because it was easier to answer with what you want than to debate on what you want and end up in an Analysis Paralysis situation.
We Gotta Pay For That Too?
We set up a budget in the beginning. It seemed to be reasonable budget per articles on the internet. As we got about a couple of months before the wedding date, we realized that there were still some things that needed to be purchased and that were not accounted for in the budget. Thus the budget was blown.
I believe that part of this was the cost of a number of items had increased in 2021 because of the COVID pandemic and inflation. Thus what we saw online as a reasonable number, ended up being below what everyone who provided that service was charging. To offset this, adjustments had to be made and the budget was revisited and revised several times during the planning process in an effort to make sure that we stayed on track or at least close as possible to on track.
Make A To Do List
Early in the planning process, I set up a Trello board that had all of the tasks that we needed to do. Based on the timeline, there was one item per week that had to be done. That way there was no rush to get things done and being overwhelmed in the process. Problem with this was that we did not follow the Due Dates that were set on each of the cards. Thus some weeks, multiple items were being worked on at the same time.
Since Trello allows you flexibility to do what you want with the boards, we had additional columns for other purposes. Here is the list of columns that we had on our board:
- To Do - What needs to be done
- In Progress - what is actively being done
- On Hold - what has been started but not actively being worked on
- Done - anything that is completed and does not require further action
- Articles and References - keeping track of ideas or suggestions
- Money Spent - track what has been paid by uploading photos of receipts and invoices
- Point of Contact - track the names and contact information for vendors that you have talked with; backup in case you lose their business card
- Contracts and Documentation - upload agreements made between you and vendors in case you lose the physical copy
- Gifts Received - track money or wedding gifts sent so you know who to send a thank you card to after the wedding
The bulk of the activity on the board was done within the first 4 columns. Within each card that was in the first 4 columns, a due date was assigned to the task. Having due dates on the task is important because you do not want to end up in a situation where you tell the caterer that you have 200 people, but when you reserve the venue, you find out that it has a max capacity of 150.
Enjoy The Experience
Ideally, you will only get married once. Thus make the best of the experience and most importantly enjoy it. I will admit there were several times that I had to ask "Why are we having to deal with this?" or "Why are we changing this after it has already been decided?", but you have to remind yourself what the ultimate and end goal is. By doing that, it helped me to remain focused on the overall goal at hand and not the short term goal and stress from the moment.
Do You Really Need A Wedding Coordinator?
Do you have to have a wedding coordinator? No. You can easily find the same vendors that coordinators use by going online and searching or by asking for recommendations from others that you know.
Does it demand less of you if you do have a wedding coordinator? Yes. One of the main roles the coordinator has is to line up vendors and make sure that each of the individual parts (food, music, decorations, lighting, etc) come together to make the final product great (the wedding).
In my opinion, a wedding coordinator is basically a project manager that has experience with weddings. Having gone through the process, I see why some people hire wedding coordinators for this and let them do it all. We chose not to have a coordinator because we felt that it was an additional expense that we could save on by doing it ourselves.
Who Does What? The Vendors
What I have found is that some of the vendors that we had, do what they do full time. Thus when you call or email them during a normal business hours, they'll respond almost immediately.
Some of them, do what they do part time, similar to the work that I do for my business. Thus they will be delayed in getting back to you or may contact you outside of normal business hours.
Regardless if the business is full time or part time, keep in mind that those who actually want your business, will return calls and make things happen.
Contracts and Payments
When it comes to having vendors, make sure that you have a written agreement that outlines what services will be provided by the vendor and how much you will have to pay for said services. Only make a payment AFTER you have a written agreement in place.
For example, my other half found a DJ on a business directory website where businesses can list themselves, similar to a Classifieds section of the news paper. He had good ratings and reviews. She reached out and shared what we were looking to have. After all those discussions were done, he stated that we needed to make a deposit before he would draw up the contract. Me being a business owner would not go for that. I told my other half to let him know that we would need the contract before making the deposit. Few days passed and we did not receive a reply. My other half went back on the website to contact him again, but his business listing was no longer active and never replied to us.
In my opinion, that meant one or more had occurred:
- He was probably up to no good and when he got called out on it, he ran.
- The reviews he had were probably not authentic. It is rather easy to make multiple profiles on a reviews website (like Yelp or Google My Business), leave several good reviews, and get ranked high
- That scamming is real and that some will do anything to make a quick buck.
- That he may have deceived someone else and was kicked off the platform
Regardless of what actually happened, things worked out because we had a DJ that did a great job and that was known by several other vendors that we talked to.
Friends or Family
If you have a friend or family that runs a business offering a service that can be used in your wedding, then consider using them for that service. In some circles, there is this stereotype of not supporting people that are closest to us, even though we have seen and like the work that they have done for others. Instead we will get someone that we do not know, to do a service, and in some cases pay more for that other person to do said service. I do not understand that line of thinking and do believe that it is detrimental.
When planning, I thought of those that knew who did what I was looking for. One example is wedding cakes. I knew a couple of people that make and design cakes. One I got a response from and one I did not. The one that did not respond, had apparently overlooked or missed my message and until was not until after I had set things up with the other friend that she had got back to me.
Those that are close to you should be willing to help your business and in return, you do the same for them. For example, since one of the cake decorator was a friend, I invited her to the wedding. Then when people came up to me and said how they liked the cake that she had made, I would point them to the decorator and tell them that they can share their thoughts with the decorator directly, to which most of them did.
Wedding planning can be fun, and stressful. The most important thing is to keep focused on the end goal and to enjoy your partner in the process.