Dear Mrs. Know-it-All: I just got engaged, and I know that I want a traditional ceremony and reception, but I don’t know where to start. Help! —Deer-In-Headlights
Mrs. Know-It-All is so glad you asked. Because there is actually a pretty specific order of operations that, when stuck to, will make your life as a temporary wedding planner much simpler. Mrs. Know-It-All understands that when you first get engaged, you immediately want to run out and buy a dress. Because the dress is the thing, right? Right. Fight this urge! Rushing into the dress purchase will only bring you trouble. There are some things that need to happen first, and their order depends on your wedding priorities: Before you do pretty much anything else, you need to set a date, pick a venue for your ceremony and reception, and determine a general number of guests. These three things often need to happen in tandem, because your venue of choice will sometimes determine your guest capacity and narrow down your date options pretty quickly. Or vice versa. So you need to decide which is most important to you. Minimum 500-guest wedding? That limits your date choices. Emotionally attached to Krippendorf Lodge or French House? Those calendars fill up fast and the space will limit your guest count. And so on. Start by thinking of a general time frame and head count, and begin making some calls to the venues that strike your fancy. Once you have locations booked, then you can begin the fun stuff: dress shopping, cake tasting, bridesmaid casting, and flower selecting. These planning tasks will all fall into place once you have those big three decisions made. Bonus: You’ll end up with a dress that you love and that fits the venue. Because if you’re getting married at a park in July, then you probably don’t want to be wearing an 80-pound duchess satin ball gown that you impulse-bought the day after you got engaged.
Dear Mrs. Know-it-All: People keep asking me what the “theme” of my wedding is. Should I have a theme? —All Themed Out
Dear All Out:
The “theme” of your wedding is “weddings.” Your wedding is wedding-themed. Luckily, there’s a whole mess of stuff that goes along with the “wedding” theme (Flowers! Cake! A white dress!), so no one will confuse your nuptials with, say, the Calgary Stampede. If you must have a theme, and said theme handily presents itself, then by all means go with it. But don’t go nuts trying to manufacture one from nothing. You seriously have enough stuff to do (See above: Have you set a date yet?!). If you really want a theme and can’t think of one, just canvas some buddies for ideas, or consider the location or season of your wedding (“tasteful winter wonderland” is almost never a bad idea). Side note: Sometimes by “theme,” well-meaning commenters actually mean “colors.” Just say, “My colors are blush and bashful” in the best Steel Magnolias voice you can muster. If they get it, then you’ll become best friends for life. If they don’t, then you’ll be no worse for the wear. They’ll just think you really like pink.
Dear Mrs. Know-it-All: We’re planning a destination wedding to a yet-to-be-determined tropical locale. How much should we program the weekend? Do people actually want a bunch of group activities? —Out of Town
This is a tricky one. People are traveling for your wedding, so you don’t want them twiddling their thumbs all weekend in the lead-up to the big event, or feeling like they don’t know how they should be spending their time. And you definitely don’t want them lurking around, asking you what to do while you’re trying to keep it all together. But you also don’t want to treat them like summer campers with a by-the-hour itinerary (“Friendship bracelet–making class at 11 in the caf!”). A good happy medium is this: Plan some non-mandatory evening events, when people probably want to socialize anyway. Reserve tables at a restaurant, hunt down the best dance party in town, and so forth. Then leave the days open for sleeping in, beaching, and more sleeping. If you’re feeling ambitious, pull together a list of suggested daytrips or excursions and let individuals and couples make their own daytime plans. Because it’s your wedding, but it’s their vacation.
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