Wedding Checklist: Your 12-Month Plan

December 28th, 2010

It’s T-minus how many months and you still don’t have the cake picked out? And you did call the county clerk to find out what you need to do to make things official…right?

If not, don’t despair: all it takes is a little knowledge of what’s to come. Let’s get organized (we promise it won’t hurt a bit).

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If your talents lean more toward the cheerfully last-minute than the hyper-organized, it’s likely you look at “to do” lists as, well, a bit of a chore. On the other hand, if you have your stationery drawer at home divided into seasonal categories and you can choose a favorite book by either author or title alphabetically on your bookshelves, lists almost certainly delight you.

But wherever you fall on the organizational spectrum, do make a wedding countdown checklist. Print ours out and stick it on your fridge, copy the info onto a file on your desktop or set alerts on your Outlook or phone. (You can also choose an online tool like this one.) Here’s the scoop on what to do and when to do it so your wedding goes smoothly.

Twelve or More Months Before the Wedding

  • Announce your engagement (you can do this both formally — i.e., in the local newspaper — and informally before you have your date set).

    12 months before: Make it a date.

  • Decide upon a suitable date for the wedding and reception.
  • Decide how may guests you’d like to invite. Be realistic — sit down together and make a list. This is only a rough draft, which you’ll finalize later, but it’s a necessary step which will directly impact your budget.
  • Set a wedding budget.
  • Start looking into wedding venues. Make calls and find out how far in advance you’ll need to make reservations.
  • Decide who will pay for what (this is VERY important in order to avoid disagreements and tears later).
  • Assign task lists to you, your groom, your parents and his parents.
  • Start calling wedding planners and setting up interviews if you will be using such a service.
  • Call the wedding ceremony cite to make sure the date you’ve chosen won’t conflict with other plans or events it may be hosting at the same time. Reserve your date immediately if possible.
  • Call and formally ask friends and/or family to be your wedding attendants. The bride should ask her maid of honor and bridsmaids; the groom should ask his best man and the ushers.
  • Bride: start looking into wedding dress styles. Set up appointments at wedding salons to try on gowns.

Ten to Twelve Months Before the Wedding

12 months before: Start scoping out a photographer.

  • Officially reserve the reception venue if you haven’t already.
  • Start researching wedding photographers or videographers, caterers, florists and musicians or DJs. Find out how far in advance you need to book each.
  • Meet with the wedding reception site to discuss the wedding and any pre-wedding steps you’d like to (or need to) take.
  • Bride: order your wedding gown.

Eight to Ten Months Before the Wedding

  • Book your musicians or DJ.

    8 months before: Find a great caterer.

  • Hire a caterer.
  • Hire a photographer/videographer.
  • Reserve the florist.
  • Establish gift registries (these can often be done online).
  • Choose and order the bridesmaids’ dresses.
  • Begin browsing wedding invitation catalogs.

Six Months Before the Wedding

  • Mail save-the-date cards or magnets.
  • Secure rentals of tables, cutlery, etc. if necessary.
  • Call the county clerk in the area where your wedding will take place to determine requirements.
  • Order invitations and envelopes.
  • Start researching bakeries for your wedding cake.
  • If you’ll be hosting out-of-town guests, book hotel accommodations for them at this time.
  • Start looking into honeymoon destinations and packages.

    4 months before: Book your honeymoon.

  • Reserve your limousine or other wedding day transportation.
  • Sit down with your videographer, florist and caterer(s) to begin arranging details.

Four Months Before the Wedding

  • Book honeymoon travel arrangements and the honeymoon location.
  • Apply for passports if you’ll be needing them.
  • Finalize the guest list.
  • Begin addressing invitations.
  • Order your wedding rings.
  • Bride: make appointments for you and your bridesmaids to have your hair and makeup done on the morning of the wedding.

Three Months Before the Wedding

  • Bride: have your first dress fitting.
  • Order your cake.
  • Have a wedding shower.
  • Make rehearsal and rehearsal dinner arrangements.
  • Groom: make arrangements to rent your and your groomsmen’s tuxes and be sure to get a fitting date and a pickup date. If you’ll be buying your suit, do it now.
  • Order your wedding favors.

Two Months Before the Wedding

2 months before: Order gifts for the attendants.

  • Buy postage for the invitations and the RSVP cards.
  • Print driving directions to enclose with invitations.
  • Mail invitations and RSVP cards.
  • Meet with your officiant to discuss your vows, the music and the wedding program.
  • Buy gifts for your attendants (the bridesmaids and groomsmen, maid of honor, and best man).
  • Have your formal portrait taken.
  • Bride: go for your second gown fitting.
  • Submit song requests to your musicians or DJ.
  • If you plan to change your name, secure the proper forms.

Six Weeks Before the Wedding

6 weeks before: Try out your 'do (remember to bring your headpiece and jewelry).

  • Have your final dress fitting.
  • Print wedding ceremony programs.
  • Send a wedding announcement to your local newspaper.
  • Pick up the wedding rings.
  • Have a “trial run” with your hair and makeup stylists. Be sure to bring your wedding headpiece, veil and the jewelry you plan to wear for your wedding.
  • Start arranging your wedding reception seating plan.

Two Weeks Before the Wedding

  • Apply for your wedding license.
  • Have blood tests done if required by your state.
  • Submit final lists/head counts to your caterer, photographer and videographer.
  • If you think they might attend, call guests who did not RSVP.
  • Best man: Write the toast for the wedding reception.
  • Confirm your honeymoon reservations and plans.

One Week to the Day Before the Wedding

  • Bride: Have your bachelorette party.
  • Groom: Have your bachelor party.
  • Have your bridesmaid’s luncheon.
  • Have a guy’s day out for the groomsmen.
  • Give schedule to attendants.
  • Give verses/text to people who will be doing readings at the wedding.
  • Pick up wedding gown.
  • Pick up tuxedo/suit rentals.
  • Pack for the honeymoon.
  • Confirm details with: limousine; photographer/videographer; caterer; florist; bakery.
  • Give cake knife and server to the maid of honor to bring to the wedding.

Day Before the Wedding

  • Place fees inside envelopes; label each.
  • Mail your wedding announcements.
  • Bride: Have a manicure, facial and massage.
  • Attend wedding rehearsal.
  • Attend rehearsal dinner.

Day of the Wedding

  • Groom: Give wedding rings to the best man.
  • Give wedding fee envelopes to the father of the bride or groom.
  • Bride and bridesmaids: Have your hair and makeup done.
  • Enjoy — the best day of your life is about to begin!

Accessories Galore

December 17th, 2010

Accessorize your way to the wedding of your dreams.

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Planning a wedding involves so many large-scale choices — such as the reception venue, the band, your menu and your gown — that it’s easy to forget the little things.

But when it comes to choosing wedding accessories, little things really do mean a lot.

Your cake topper is an accessory, too. Try some gorgeous wedding cake jewelry.

And they add up to a big impression.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t. Accessorizing your wedding so it’s truly “you” (and your husbster-to-be) is easier than you think. My advice: pick a theme and go with it. Having observed many couples over many years, I’ve found the ones that had a theme in mind, even if only loosely, had an easier time making choices and, perhaps more importantly, agreeing on them.

Your theme can be loosely structured, but keep it in the back of your mind as you choose your wedding accessories. We’ve been big on winter themed weddings in recent posts (of course), so let’s choose that as an example. What does winter mean to you? Is it sparkly, like the first snowfall of the season highlighted by nighttime stars? Is it luxurious, with awesome feathered boas and warm faux furs? Perhaps it’s uber-sophisticated and super smooth, like delicious satins.

A wedding theme makes your choices easier.

To me, wintertime is sparkly, magical and smooth. I’m thinking satin, pure white colors, and big festive shiny bows.

What’s really grabbing me about that collection? The part about the bows. So I would look for bows and ribbon embellishments that would work for the wedding album, bridesmaid’s gifts, the flowergirl’s basket, even ties for the backs of the chairs at the reception and at the altar during the wedding.

Of course, there are more places big, satiny, sophisticated bows can go. What about kitschy, fun bow die-cut decorations on the wedding invitations? What if the groom and his guys wear knotted ties? How about wedding favors wrapped up in big, pretty bows? A row of tiny blue bows on your garter? And don’t forget your cake topper and centerpieces.

Fill some cute vases with your own creations for a great centerpiece theme.

Here’s another example: a Victorian wedding theme. This idea is becoming hugely popular, and it’s easy to see why. Alongside retro themes, vintage/Victorian clothes are just oh so wedding…and oh so sumptuous. (Thanks to Donna Storey for sending in the image below of our Victorian wedding garter–click on the pic for more info.)

You can take Victorian to every accessory your wedding includes, from jewelry to the cake topper to the tablecloths and place settings at your reception.

Victorian: always in, always chic. Photo: Donna Storey.

Thanks, Donna — for the image and for the inspiration. As for our readers: Let us know what theme you come up with, and which accessories really make your wedding pop. Happy accessorizing!

Little Extras That Make Your Winter Wedding Huge

December 10th, 2010

Winter can be wonderful for your wedding ceremony and reception. Here are our favorite ideas for tying the knot during this beautiful and very special season.

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Don't be afraid of a little color.

There’s no doubt about it: winter has a special beauty all its own. Yet many brides- and grooms-to-be steer clear of the coolest time of year when it comes to arranging their wedding, foregoing the idea in favor of spring, the most common time of year to tie the knot.

We say: Why not winter? There are choices aplenty when it comes to saying “I do” in the wintertime. Here’s how to grab the magic of the season and create a unique day for you, your fab fiance and all your guests.

At the Wedding

Winter is perfect for making a grand entrance. See whether there are any horse-drawn carriage rentals in your area (you may be surprised). This gorgeous seasonal touch can be budget-friendly too, so check out yellowpages.com to see whether anyone offers this type of service close to the wedding venue. (Always be sure to get references when renting a carriage, limousine or other wedding transportation.)

For winter wedding favors, silver is the perfect choice.

Have your wedding spot decorated with seasonal flowers, such as poinsettias, amaryllis, carnations, Queen Ann’s lace, pepperberry and garlands that include cranberries and evergreen sprays.

Go sophisticated and uber-gorgeous with your winter wedding wear. Choose a gown in a true white (rather than, for example, ivory or antique white) and provide eye-popping contrast with a dash of color. Some suggestions for great winter colors include red, emerald green, royal purple or navy blue.

Look for a dress that includes one of these hues at the waist, or place a colored flower or two in your headpiece arrangement. (The groom should wear a matching boutonniere.)

Cupcakes AND damask? How delicious.

A shrug, jacket or even a bola can all work for your winter wedding gown.

Winter makeup can also be a bit more daring than for other seasons; try a blush of plum or true red for your lips and don’t be afraid to choose striking eyeshadow colors. Be dramatic and fabulous…it’s your wedding and it’s your chance to shine.

At the Reception

Make use of already-existing winter scenery at your wedding, or create your own gorgeous backdrop with a few simple, striking ideas.

You can winter-up your wedding anywhere, but it’s even easier (and lovelier) to have the party at an inn, chateau or chalet (yes, they have these in the U.S., too — check out possible venues that are described in these ways). A fireplace is, of course, the piece de resistance at your winter wedding; a venue that has one as a backdrop for the dining and dancing is a perfect choice.

If you’ll be holding your reception in the mountains, by a wintry lake or woods or anywhere that experiences a snowy, pretty season, look for a venue that has a lot of window glass overlooking the magical scenery.

Brownie pops are gorgeous at the place settings for your reception.

One obvious must-have for your winter wedding reception is an ice sculpture. Commission either a specialty-made ice sculpture for the center of the buffet table if you’re having one or at the entryway to the affair for a “wow” effect as guests walk in.

Ice sculptures are also perfect for punch or champagne. A simple tier style will be dazzling in operation at the reception, so go for it!

For favors and reception table centerpieces, go glittery, sparkly and showy. Classic silver favors will be welcomed by all; everyone loves this very special metal that’s perfect for a wintertime celebration. Winter themed sun catchers are gorgeous, too. Go bold for your centerpieces: glittery is apropos here, particularly if yours will be a late afternoon or evening wedding.

Another take on place setting decorations and favors is to go for something really warm (and really delicious): edible wedding favors guests can take home and prepare themselves. Gourmet cupcake and other mixes, cocoa with pretty mugs and pre-made yummies (like brownies or brownie pops) are the yum (and very on-trend).

There’s so much you can do with a winter wedding theme that it’s become one of our favorites. Start planning now…and have a happy wedding.

A Bridesmaid Dress She’ll Wear More Than Once (Really!) – And the Best Bridesmaid Gifts

December 3rd, 2010

Dress: www.jcrew.com

Yes, there is such a thing as a great bridesmaid’s dress. Here’s how to be the bride everyone loves by helping your posse choose a gown, jewelry, accessories and bridesmaids gifts they’ll actually like – and will reach for again and again.

Rule One: Make it Flattering

A corset-style bodice is going to make a less endowed bridesmaid cringe, and your pregnant maid of honor will be dying inside as she stands in her mushroom-style dress that makes her feel like a, well, mushroom, but they’ll never let you know it. After all, you’re the day’s honoree.

That’s why it’s up to you to assess (honestly!) your wedding party’s various shapes and find a solution that will fit everyone.

Instead of matching dresses, have the gowns follow a theme (pastels are shown here). Photo: www.alfredangelo.com

One idea that works well for any wedding – and is ultra-modern – is to have bridesmaids choose from one group of complementing but not necessarily exactly matching gowns. A matching color but various dress shapes (empire waist, accented/sashed waist and strapless, for example) or a theme (like all pastels) can also be fab. Get creative — today’s wedding has your signature stamp on it, not a cookie-cutter copy of everyone else’s.

Offering variety within a theme you’ve chosen is the easiest way to please your bridesmaids and maid or matron of honor while continuing to stay true to your own wedding vision.

Rule Two: Make it Comfortable

No matter how great the dress looks, the bridesmaid will be stuffing it into her closet after the big day if it pinches, rides up, itches or is too long or short for comfortable wear. So look for styles that flatter while leaving some flexibility of movement for the wearer.

It has her written all over it: Give your maid of honor a personalized gift she'll continue to wear.

Your bridesmaids should be able to move around easily without worrying about a pulling feeling at the arms, waist or neck and should feel comfortable, seated or standing, with how the skirt falls and where the waist is placed.

Have your girls do a little dance in their prospective digs at the bridal shop; if they feel they can dance at least semi-casually without worrying, you’ve found the right attire.

Rule Three: Make it Versatile

Prom dress-style bridesmaid gowns (you know the ones we’re talking about…circa 1987) won’t get more than one wear. Period. Need we say more? Okay, we will: Go for a gown that’s wearable and chic for a semi-formal or formal night out or to a special event. Your bridesmaids will LOVE you for choosing gowns they can wear again.

Thanks for being there: Choose great gifts.

Rule Four: Find Great Mates

…for the dresses, of course! Choose great accent pieces, such as a personalized necklace or pretty bracelet, that complement the dress beautifully and will work well with other outfits in the future.

You can have the accessories double as bridesmaids gifts, or choose a personalized present each of your girls can (and really will) use later. Picture frames, photo albums, spa/night robes, makeup holders and organizers are all great ideas. Think about what you’d really love to have, and choose gifts for your girls based on that.

Rule Five: Be the Voice of Reason

Although all of the above rules stress keeping your girls’ feelings in the forefront, don’t forget: it’s your wedding. If you’ve already bent over backward to find the perfect attire for your wedding party and you’re still hearing complaints, gently but firmly put your foot down. At that point you’ll want to give two options – just two – and say these are what you’ve narrowed the choices down to. This will let the bridesmaids feel they are having a say without allowing them to really go crazy with a basic style that should match the bride’s, not their own, ideal (they have their own weddings to look forward to for that!).

For more info on bridesmaid gifts and accessories, click here.