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Affordable Venue Alternatives

February 22nd, 2010 Posted in Planning

Six Suggestions for Ballrooms on a Budget

Hooray – you are engaged! Now, the search is seriously on. Besides setting the date, finding the venue will likely be your first big planning priority, and probably, the most stressful. Since every bride wants her wedding to be a perfect reflection of her personal style, be it classic, contemporary or romantic, it is important to find a room that just “fits.” However, venues that meet those requirements cost money – lots of it – and often, are just more than a couple can afford. Banquet halls and boutique hotels are seldom cheap, especially when they mandate the use of an expensive on site caterer. So, where is a girl to go? Read on for six venue suggestions that could very well lead to a ballroom on a budget.

Colleges

Many colleges and universities have both meeting space and student centers that can be reserved for a minimal cost. These rooms, though sometimes lacking a little in style, often have built-in electronic equipment, and even sound systems, perfect for your Ipod plug-in. Additionally, some facilities may also have a dedicated culinary department that that can offer inexpensive food options for your special day.

Community Centers

Almost every community in the country, be it a big city or a tiny town, has a center available for its seniors, students or the public at large. Many of these facilities, in addition to their indoor pools and aerobics programs, provide reservable meeting rooms complete with tables and chairs. Because of their reasonable rental fees, they can be great contenders for the couple on a budget, despite their distinct chlorine smell and of course, the sound of splashing.

Libraries

Libraries can be lovely venues; just think of Sarah Jessica Parker and “Sex and the City.” Although seldom as spectacular as the one in New York, they can still be charming, historic, and most importantly, cheap. Just be careful though, to find out about any open flame, food or beverage restrictions that may be in place to protect the books. There will be no refund of your damage deposit if you ruin a first edition of War and Peace during your wedding.

Lodges

The local Elks or Masonic lodge may just be the perfect place for your wedding. Most come   complete with a formal dining room and a full kitchen, and sometimes, even a stocked bar. The clubs’ actual meeting rooms also tend to be quite elaborate, with paintings, platforms and even rows of seats suitable for the ceremony. Rates for the rental can vary, but are usually less for members of the lodge and their immediate family and friends.

Parks

Any city, state or national park has the potential to be a nice wedding venue. Their great landscaping, lush greenery, and/or magnificent views make for marvelous ceremony backdrops, and their onsite pavilions, complete with picnic tables, can be cute reception tents. However, to secure your special spot for the day, it may be necessary to obtain a one-time park permit at a nominal fee. This will grant you and your guests exclusive access to the area, and prevent the casual public from crashing your wedding.

Restaurants

Is your favorite local bar or restaurant the right location for your wedding? With its neighborhood charm and cheerful décor (not to mention its china, flatware and free linens), it definitely could be. Many bars and restaurants have private rooms that can be booked for just this sort of event, and dedicated wairstaff that will work to ensure that everyone is happy. Best of all, these services are standard practice, so the price will likely be little more than the usual tab.

Bachelor Parties: Who Are They Really Planned For?

February 15th, 2010 Posted in Planning

A Scapegoat Grooms Speaks Out

Ah, the bachelor party – a time for beers, boys, and presumably, breasts. For hundreds of years, this raucous ritual has been branded as the bridegroom’s last hurrah, his final night of freedom with his friends. Just as the majority of the wedding will be “for the bride,” this day marks the groom’s moment to be doted upon, to be plied with drinks and nearly seduced by strippers. Clearly, this sometimes-wild soiree is coordinated entirely to gratify the guest of honor. Or is it? Read on for one bachelor’s revealing opinion about who the bachelor party is really planned for – i.e., his “boys.”

Bachelor Party

Bachelor Party

In the late spring of 2009, James Foster, 33, of Denver, Colorado had the great distinction of being the guest of honor at h his own bachelor party. Having been a best man twice himself, James was already somewhat familiar with the night’s normal format, and was thus looking forward to the debauchery that was doubtless in his future. A big fan of the 1940’s and 1950’s, James was captivated by the concept of the “Rat Pack” bachelor party that was being planned by his friends. The evening would begin with a scrumptious steak dinner prepared by one of his groomsmen, then progress to drinks at a local tavern. It was at this point in the evening though, that all of James’ jolly preconceptions about the event would change. Forced by his friends to remove his crooner-style suit jacket, James was then required to don a black bow tie and a ripped button-down. Clad now as a cheap imitation of a Chippendale dancer, his buddies demanded that he collect the signature of every single lady in the locale. For James, a relatively reserved guy who had long since abandoned his need for attention, the task was terribly awkward, and one that left him with the lingering question, “Whose party is this, anyway?”

For days after the deed was done, James continued to ponder this thought, and to evaluate his real role in the evening’s proceedings. He reflected on all of the bachelor parties he had both attended and thrown, and how he too had tormented the man of the hour. Soon, a revelation struck him. At each event, James noted, the bachelor had become the buffoon, made to perform mortifying feats such as downing a dozen consecutive shots or suffering through an agonizingly public lap dance. And to what end – his enjoyment? Possibly, but more probably, for the amusement of those attending. For them, this was just a good guys’ night out, complete with their own personal public spectacle. It was a viable excuse for them to be a little wild, to live vicariously for a couple of hours, and of course, to have a good chuckle at the groom’s expense. This epiphany led James to exclaim, “The bachelor party isn’t for the groom. It’s for the groom’s friends!”

So brides, take heart – your husband-to-be’s big night out may leave him feeling less like a single stud and more like a fool for your love. All bachelors though, beware! An embarrassing public experience is likely looming in your future too, and your best buddies are sure to be the culprits.

Second Marriages: Incorporating Children Into the Ceremony

January 27th, 2010 Posted in Planning

How to Make Children Feel Like They Are a Part of Your Marriage

With the rapid increase in the number of remarriages over the past few decades, the percentage of children who now belong to “blended” families has also risen. Each year, it seems that more and more children become witnesses to the birth of their own step families, an experience that can be fraught with worry and even dread. Just watching the wedding happen around them can often serve to distance and divide children from their new stepparents, rather than helping to draw the two closer together. Including children in the celebration though, can cement the foundation upon which good future relationships may be built. Many brides and grooms however, may be oblivious to their options when it comes to ways to incorporate their children into the wedding. Read on to find five touching recommendations that will truly make your children feel like they are a part of your marriage.

1. Ask them to be attendants.

One of the most charming ways to include children in your wedding is to ask them to be attendants. Making them members of the wedding party can afford them a pivotal role in the proceedings, and assign them a distinguished title too. Young daughters, aged four to seven, can be drafted as flower girls, while young sons are ready-made ring bearers. Older children may assume the roles of junior attendants, or even that of the maid of honor or best man.

2. Celebrate with a special ceremony.

Including a special ceremony in your wedding is also a wonderful avenue to incorporating children. Having them participate in the lighting of candles or the pouring of sand can help to solidify the concept of the new family formation, and gives children a good visual representation of their unique roles. Articles associated with the ceremony can later stand as happy symbols in the children’s home, ones that will remind them of the valuable and vital part they play in the marriage.

3. Encourage them to be escorts.

Another approach to including children in the wedding is to invite them to partner with the bride for the processional. Sadly, for many second marriages, the bride ends up walking down the aisle alone, or simply standing at the altar. A less lonely, and more lovely, option would be to have her children or future stepchildren escort her, and symbolically “giver her away” to the groom. The image is incredibly sweet, and one that will likely linger with both the bride and her escort forever.

4. Make family marriage vows.

The essence of any wedding is the exchanging of vows. To make children feel more important, incorporate them into the wedding by sharing special pledges with them as well. Promises to care for them and provide for their needs are completely appropriate, and may be mildly reassuring too. Naturally, there would never be any references to replacing a deceased or divorced parent, nor would any replies be required unless the children volunteer.

5. Present them with rings, medallions or other mementos.

The giving and receiving of rings is one of the most significant parts of a wedding, so why not present children with them as well? A simple, child-sized band can be a beautiful token, one that can be treasured for years to come. Similarly, a family medallion, inscribed with the child’s name and the wedding date, would be a special memento too. No matter what the gift actually is, the act of giving it will still be meaningful, both for you and for your children.

Theme Weddings: Cool, or Just Corny?

January 23rd, 2010 Posted in Planning

Honest Answers from Attendants, Professionals and Guests

Almost every wedding has a theme, be it a classic color palette, an important cultural influence, or a particular season of inspiration. Some weddings though, take the topic to an extreme, with a concentrated concept that can range from the amazing to the appalling. Although these marriages are certainly memorable, are they really a wonderful reflection of the couple’s unique sense of style, or just a creative whim gone terribly wrong? Read on to hear the honest answer from real attendants, professionals and guests.

Wedding Themes Gone Wrong

The fact is, theme weddings can be a real trill – when they are done right, that is. A bit outside of the box, they offer a unique opportunity for the bridal couple to create a custom experience unlike any other wedding that guests may have attended. Even a clever concept though, can turn out painfully corny, particularly when there are errors in its execution. As Sandy Bearden of Columbia, Maryland stated recently, “I think for a theme wedding to be successful, it needs to be ‘the idea of’ or ‘representative of’ the idea or the theme, and not so much of the actual ‘idea.’ For example would a princess really have a cake shaped like a castle? Probably not, she would most likely have a very elegant cake with the pattern of the lace on her dress.”

What a great insight, Sandy, though unfortunately, it looks to have been lost on some brides and grooms. For example, Reverend Bruce Byers of Albuquerque, New Mexico explained, “I’ve done ‘cowboy/western’ weddings that were great, from the bouquet (wild flowers) down to the spurs worn by the groom. And I’ve done a few that seemed to be someone’s idea of 1950’s Roy Rogers mixed with Toy Story, [ones] that had everybody wondering what was up?”

Naturally, this is not the reaction that most couples are seeking, but tragically, it seems to be a trend. At another wedding near Venice, Florida, attendants were befuddled by a paper cutout of a goldfish that the groom wore as a boutonniere. A deteriorating dolphin theme appears to have resulted in a strange mix of striped and multicolored fish, one of which landed on the groom’s lapel. As Avis Shiveler Brangan, Professional Bridal Consultant quipped, “This was not a wedding, this was a six-year-old’s birthday party put together with scissors and construction paper.” Yikes.

Wedding Themes Done Well

All these horror stories aside though, it is possible to have a simply superb theme wedding. The key is to really research and understand the topic, be it the American Revolution, Mardi Gras or even murder mysteries. Then, think about ways to incorporate that detailed knowledge into different aspects of the wedding, from the invitations right down to the specialty drinks. For instance, one inventive couple near Wells, Maine recently rented a local movie theater to fashion their fifties themed nuptials. The bride appeared authentic with period hair, shoes and a short dress complete with petticoat. Their getaway car was a restored classic, and even the groom looked the role. “I thought that it was very nice,” said Frankie R. Keefe, who attended the service. “The work that they had put forth produced something individualized, had special meaning to them and will always be a great memory. That is what really counts for the big day!”

When it comes to themes, Reverend Bruce Byers thoroughly agrees. “The main thing about a themed wedding is it should be reflective of things that are important to the couple.” In no case was this more clear than in that of an Ohio couple who were recently featured on Chicago’s local news for their football-themed nuptials. Held at an ESPN Zone, the wedding showcased the marriage of a Bears fanatic (the bride) and a Stealers buff (the groom). All the wedding party members wore their favorite team jerseys, with the female attendants in pink. Officiant Michelle Oxman of Evanston, Illinois recalls, “The ceremony included some football references, about playing whatever position was needed, helping the team recover from fumbles, and my favorite: do you willingly give up your status as a free agent and make the welfare of this team your highest priority? Lots of fun.”

Wacky, festive, and even just plain funny, weddings like these prove that themes really can be cool. So, go on, dare to be different and don that Renaissance dress, rock that Hawaiian hula, or spin that roulette wheel. Make your wedding memorable, with a theme that is thoroughly you!

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: Three Ways to Go Green for Your Wedding

January 8th, 2010 Posted in Planning

Eco-Friendly Ideas that Can Also be Cost-Effective

The truth is – weddings, by nature, are not eco-friendly, nor are they economical. Excess pollution and waste are big by-products of these expensive celebrations, from the fuel burned by the limousine to the aluminum cans and glass containers for the liquor. Despite the recent trend to “go green,” there are still very few resources available for earth-conscious couples, especially those with limited funds. Typically, options like organic catering and recycled stationery come with a steep price, one that may just not be feasible for brides on a budget. However, there are a few ways that your wedding can be both eco-friendly and cost-effective. Read on for a few tips on how to reduce, reuse and recycle on your special day – without spending a fortune.

Reduce.

Reducing waste is a great way to both minimize your wedding’s carbon footprint and save some extra cash. Begin by eliminating the things that are most likely to get thrown away, such as invitations, trinket-type favors and disposable flatware. Consider these cost-saving alternatives instead:

China and Flatware: Instead of using disposables utensils for your reception, or even renting more expensive, but reusable, china and glassware, go completely with finger foods. Have a cocktail-style reception, and curb waste while cutting expenses.

Favors: Instead of one small gift for each guest, consider making a lump sum donation to charity in the name of everyone you have invited. Doing so will allow you to better control the overall amount that you spend, and will eliminate excess waste as well.

Invitations: Instead of sending out traditional invitations, try using an Internet-based service such as Evite.com. Despite the haughty disapproval of many etiquette experts, this has recently become an acceptable alternative among more earth-conscious crowds. And one big bonus – it is free!

Reuse.

Reusing items for your wedding is a wonderful means of saving money, and of eliminating excess too. Consider these three eco-friendly ways to re-purpose old décor, dresses, and flowers for your wedding, and see how cost-effective going green can truly be.

Décor: Instead of shelling out a bunch of cash to buy new decorations, look for creative ways to spruce up your venue with objects you already own. Go for eclectic elegance with mismatched vases and votive holders, or even simple strands of holiday lights. The savings can be substantial, and because you are likely to need the items again, there will be nothing to throw away.

Dresses: Instead of a brand new gown from a bridal salon, consider wearing your grandmother or mother’s old wedding dress. This was once a time-honored tradition, and has recently gained back some of its former greatness in response to the vintage trend. Alterations aside, your attire will be free, and the negative environmental impact will be next to none.

Flowers: Instead of accruing a huge expense for separate reception, rehearsal dinner and even shower arrangements, reuse your centerpieces for every celebration. This cost-cutting technique tends to increase the singular “feel” of your theme by stinging the floral elements together, while also decreasing the amount of flowers that inevitably end up in the dumpster.

Recycle.

Since there will likely be some things for your wedding that you will just have to buy, such as accessories, alcohol and printed products, the only way to lessen the ecological effects (and recoup costs) will be to recycle. When thinking about ways to reduce excess waste – and expenses – for your wedding, remember these tips:

Accessories: Wedding accessories like flower girl baskets, ring beater pillows, and bridal toasting flutes can cost a couple a small fortune, just to end up in storage or the trash. Save your accessories from a similar fate, and earn back a percentage of their expense, by advertising them on sites such as craigslist.org or recycleyourweddin.g.com.

Alcohol: Stocking your bar with alcoholic beverages normally means that there will be a large number of leftover bottles and cans. Keep them out of the landfill and eve recoup a little of their cost by recycling the aluminum and glass. Ask your bartender and guests to assist you by not throwing their empties away.

Paper Products: A lot of paper can be wasted at a wedding, from the escort cards and menus to the place cards and programs. After the reception, recycle these items to reduce your wedding’s carbon footprint and help conserve the earth’s natural resources. There may not be a big monetary reward for your efforts, but the environment will certainly thank you.

Unique Alternatives to Unity Candles

December 29th, 2009 Posted in Planning

New Ways to Make Your Wedding Ceremony Truly Meaningful

by Cheryl Lynn Foster-Gerton, An Essential Event

Your wedding ceremony is without question the most important element of your entire day. Without it, there would be no reason for the dress, the fancy reception, or the flowers. It is the magic moment that that you have been waiting for, but ironically, most wedding ceremonies are decidedly dull. A traditional ceremony typically includes the reciting of vows and the exchanging of rings, but not much else. By including a special ceremony in your wedding though, you can really make it a moment to remember, and even add an aspect of personal style that may otherwise be missing. The unity candle is, of course, the most popular special ceremony, but despite its timeless and touching message, it has been more than overdone. Below are five options for other special ceremonies that go beyond the usual standard, while still capturing your heart

Blessing Stone Ceremony

Incorporating blessing stones into a wedding is a wonderful way to involve everyone in the ceremony. Prior to the service, each guest is provided with a “blessing stone,” such as a glass bead, marble or river rock. During the ceremony, the officiant asks the congregation to hold their stones and think about their prayers for the continued happiness, heath and prosperity of the couple. Then, using a basket, vase or other decorative vessel, the blessing stones are collected and given to the bride and groom as a token of their wedding and the good wishes of their guests. Often during the collection, a traditional Indian, Irish or other cultural blessing is read, or a particular song is performed. Other variations of this special ceremony ask guests to write down their thoughts on note cards attached to the blessing stones, or use pennies and a wishing well instead of stones and a vase.

Coin Ceremony

A coin ceremony is a Latin cultural tradition that typically occurs at many Mexican or Spanish-style weddings. As part of this special ceremony, the groom presents his bride with thirteen coins to represent his vow to care for, support and sustain her. In the mainstream version though, the minister usually pours the coins into the cupped hands of both the bride and groom as a prayer for their prosperity is repeated. In this variation, the ring bearer is sometimes given the special task of taking the coins in during the processional, often in a decorative satin or velvet drawstring purse.

Hand Ceremony

A hand ceremony is a beautiful way to represent the emotional bonds of a wedding through a time-honored physical ritual. This observance, which usually occurs right after the exchange of rings, begins with the bride and groom facing one another and joining first their left palms, followed by their right. Thus causes the couple’s crossed arms to form an infinity sign, a symbol of their lasting love. A blessing is then offered by the officiant, and sometimes, the spouses’ wrists are even bound with a colorful ribbon or cord. With the hands linked and the eyes locked, this ceremony is a lovely sign of the new union, and of the joining of two hears and souls.

Rose Ceremony

The rose ceremony is a touching addition to any wedding, and is typically placed just before the final prayer and/or the marriage pronouncement. During this ceremony, the bride gives her groom a single, long-stemmed rose to symbolize her first gift to him as his wife. The groom then does the same, sometimes as a reading of Robert Burns’ “[My Love Is Like] A Red, Red Rose” is performed.  The officiant then reminds the couple of the rose’s significance as a token or true love, and encourages them to exchange the flowers again and again for every anniversary.

Wine Ceremony

There are several ways to perform wine ceremonies, each with their own special meaning. In one variation, a single glass of wine is blessed, and both the bride and groom sip from it like a Celtic loving cup. In a second, and somewhat tricky version, the bridal couple drinks from two glasses, but with their arms interlocked. A third possibility is to pour a glass of both red and white, and then combine them to create a new rosé wine for the bride and groom to share.

Five Cost-Cutting Tips for Brides on a Budget

December 22nd, 2009 Posted in Planning

Weddings are a wonderful opportunity for brides to showcase their style, but not everyone has the budget to make their day match their dreams. Sacrifices sometimes have to be made, usually much to the dismay of the bride or the displeasure of her guests. However, there are several ways to whittle down costs without curtailing good taste. Below are some suggestions to help you think thrifty for your big day.

1. Avoid peak prices.

Every vendor knows that a Saturday afternoon in the middle of summer is the most popular time for a wedding, and thus, typically raise prices to reflect increased demand. Consider scheduling your wedding date on a Sunday, a weekday, or eve during a winter month to avoid these peak prices. This can often save you thousands, especially if you can take advantage of any off-peak or seasonal discounts. In many cases, being a June bride really is over-rated, at least when it comes to cost.

2. Edit out extras.

Ever heard of the expression “it is all in the details?” Well, when it comes to vendors, it is completely true. Details usually equal dollars, especially for things like white-glove service and top-shelf liquor. Edit out these extras in your contracts to reduce overall costs. Your guests will never notice that they are missing, and you can save the money that you would have spent for more important things, like your honeymoon.

3. Go green.

From vases to votive holders, purchasing everything new can be very expensive. To scale back a bit, try going green and buying “recycled” or second-hand items such as ring pillows and aisle runners. In most cases, these near-new accessories have barely been used, and are a great alternative for both the eco-friendly and the budget conscious couple. To find “recycled” items, try these resources: www.craigslist.org, www.ebay.com and www.recycleyourwedding.com.

4. Plan on double duty.

Decorative elements such as flowers can quickly become one of the biggest expenses for a wedding, particularly when the ceremony and reception are not held in the same room. To trim back your budget some, plan to make many of your arrangements do double-duty. Ceremony bouquets can easily be placed in plastic holders to adorn the cake table or DJ booth, and aisle and altar displays can be readily repurposed on the buffet. Have your maid of honor or wedding coordinator help you make the move, and cut down on finances, not on flowers.

5. Take time off.

Wedding days are a whirlwind of activity that can sometimes start very early and end very late. With a schedule that begins at breakfast and does not wrap until your last guest leaves the after-party, it is easy to hand over a huge amount. To save some additional cash, consider taking a little time off of your wedding day agenda.  Scale back the reception by an hour to reduce both you venue’s rental fees and your vendors’ service charges. Really, is a five-hour reception so much better than a four-hour one? The affordable answer is no.