How to Handle the Guest List

Ok, so you have 200 slots and about 500 people you wish you could invite. There are people who you are obligated to invite (oh family) and there are some of those obligatory invites who you’re sure won’t be able to come. Like you’re PRETTY sure that Uncle Billy won’t be able to make it because he hasn’t traveled beyond the grocery store in the past 5 years. But what if he CAN make it? What if he decides to make the trip? How on earth will that work with numbers on the guest list?!

Photo of Guest Seating Decor from The Wedding Lens

First: Breathe. Remember that your wedding day is about a celebrating your relationship with your friends and family.

Second: Start listing. List everyone. All 300 people. Everyone you might possibly want to invite or wish you could invite — even though there’s the possibility that you won’t be able to in the grand scheme of things.

Third: Of those people on the list, make a separate list of the absolutely 100% non-negotiable people who you WANT to be at your wedding to celebrate. This includes: Your best friend, your second best friend, and your college roommates. This does not include: Your parents’ friends who you feel obligated to invite. Got it?

Fouth: Check the numbers. Say now you have 150 of the 200 people you can invite. That leaves you 80 people left to invite. Huh? 80? But Natasha, you say, 200 – 150 = 50! Ah yes. BUT statistically a guest list of 200 people or LESS, there will be 15-20% of folks who do not come. With a guest list of 200 people or MORE, 20-25% won’t come.

Now, I have to forwarn. Not everyone is going to RSVP in a timely manner and some of those 15-20% or 20-25% won’t drop out til the last minute. But I assure you that you can safely invite 15% more than your highest number and you will be a-okay.

So this gives you a little more room to play with. You’ll have 80 people you can fill in with obligatory invites — be it your Uncle or your parents friends who have known you since you were born — and (gasp) anyone else you can/want to invite.

Fifth: If you are just stuck with those extra 80 people and how to handle them. I really recommend using a ranking system. That sounds awful, of course, to rank your friends and family. But it will make you feel better. ‘Cause if Uncle Billy really doesn’t come, then maybe you CAN invite your old buddy who you haven’t seen in five years. Maybe.

If you use a tier/ranking system, use an EARLY RSVP date so you have time to fill in the people who say no and you can (with tact) follow up with those you have not heard from so you can fill in their spots. And if you do the tiers, DO NOT print the RSVP deadline on the invitation. Do not. Otherwise either you have to print a whole new set for the new invitees OR you look like… someone who totally forgot to invite the guest until the last minute. Nice.

Here are some tips on how to cut down the guest list and how to handle the guest list when you’re not paying for the wedding (in other words — when other people are adding to YOUR guest list) and more guidance on wedding invitations (including how to tell people they can’t bring a date and/or their kids)

And here, my friends, is how to address these invitations!

Hope that helps! If you have any questions, just email me at natasha@theweddinglens.com and I’ll help ya out. 🙂

Good luck!

~ Natasha

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How To Pick a DJ

Photo from The Wedding Lens!

So let’s say that you’ve read my blog on “all about wedding music” and decided that you really do want a DJ at your wedding reception. That’s great! A DJ can provide a variety of music and usually is a bit less expensive than hiring a band. Remember, whoever you hire, you need to tip ’em, so more band members = more tips. (That said, bands are more eco-friendly… so I’m not pushing one or the other!)

When selecting a DJ, you should still follow all the guidelines on hiring any vendor: talk to people, check out reviews, find out price, ask them questions, and check references. (Incidentally, if ANY vendor does not answer the phone or return your call or email within 24 hours, ditch ’em. It demonstrates how unprofessional they may be — not to mention irresponsible… which is something you shouldn’t have to worry about among everything else!)

 That said, DJs are a special breed because sometimes you might not realize all the questions you should be asking! Here are some questions to ask:

  • Will you personally be the DJ at the wedding reception? Or do you have someone else who you will send?
  • How many weddings have you DJ’d?
  • Have you DJ’d at the venue before? What did you like or not like about it?
  • Will you also act as an Emcee for the reception? (In other words, introduce the couple, the speeches, & make any other announcements)
  • Do you have a wireless microphone (or any microphone) that can be used for the speeches?
  • Do you also provide dinner music?
  • What kind of music do you play? (Be sure to ask about specific bands, types of music, songs, etc to make sure the DJ has it! It might be helpful to ask to see a song list, if he/she has one)
  • How many songs are in your library? Are you open to purchasing/obtaining any additional songs or music?
  • What format is your music in? (ie records or mp3s)
  • How much time before the reception do you need to arrive to set up your equipment? Do you need any specific equipment to be at the venue already? (A tablecloth for a DJ table? A DJ table itself?)
  • Do you have backup equipment?
  • Do you use special lighting effects? Can you?
  • What do you usually wear as a wedding DJ? (You want to be sure that the DJ doesn’t show up in jeans and a t-shirt if you don’t want him or her to!)
  • What is the fee? Does it include tax and gratuity? Do you require a deposit? Are there any additional charges?
  • Will you need a meal during the time you’ll be DJing? How many breaks will you need?
  • Ask to see the terms of the contract to make sure everything is as you agreed!

Obviously some of these questions are more detailed — but they should all be asked before you sign the final agreement. There’s nothing worse than committing to a vendor who isn’t the one that’s right for you!

Got other tips?

~ Natasha

How to Address Wedding Invitations

A reader recently asked me about how to address his wedding invitations. He and his fiance are not formal by nature, so while I would have said “just address it any old way” I thought it might call for a blog post!

photo from The Wedding Lens

When you’re starting to write out your invitations, there is an “etiquette” of sorts to addressing the envelopes. Obviously, address the invitation to who you want to come! That means, if someone’s kid isn’t invited, don’t put the kid’s name on the invitation!

Now, there’s an outer envelope that’s more formal than an inner envelope. The chart below should help clarify what I mean. The tradition is to handwrite the envelopes, despite what you would think! Nowadays, I would recommend using a printer; it’s faster and easier to handle.

The general rule is to address by alphabetical order when there are no titles involved and there are different last names. For children, list them in the order of oldest to youngest.

You can write “and Guest” on the inner envelope to invite your single friends who can bring a date of his or her choice.

For relatives, the outer envelope should be formal, but the inside envelope should be what you call them. For example, write “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” on the outer envelope and “Uncle John and Aunt Jenny” on the inner envelope.

  Outer Envelope Inner Envelope
Single Man Mr. Michael Smith Mr. Smith
Single Woman Miss/Ms. Jennifer Johnson Miss/Ms. Johnson
Divorced Woman, using married name Mrs. Jennifer Smith Mrs. Smith
Divorced Woman, using Maiden name Miss/Ms. Jennifer Johnson Miss/Ms. Johnson
Married Couple Mr. and Mrs. Michael Smith Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Married Couple, Wife with Maiden Name Mr. Michael Smith and Mrs. Jennifer Johnson Mr. Smith and Mrs. Johnson
Married Couple, Wife is a Doctor with Maiden Name Dr. Jennifer Johnson and Mr. Michael Smith Dr. Johnson and Mr. Smith
Married Couple, Wife has a title, Same last name The Honorable Jennifer Smith and Mr. Michael Smith Judge and Mr. Smith
Married Couple, Husband is a Doctor Dr. Michael and Mrs. Smith Dr. and Mrs. Smith
Married Couple, 2 Doctors with Same last name The Doctors Smith OR Drs. Michael and Jennifer Smith The Doctors Smith
Married Couple, 2 Doctors with different last names Dr. Jennifer Johnson and Dr. Michael Smith Dr. Johnson and Dr. Smith
Gay Married Couple with same last name The Messrs. John and David Smith The Messrs. Smith
Gay Married Couple with different last names Mr. John Smith and Mr. David Johnson Mr. Smith and Mr. Johnson
Lesbian Married Couple with same last name The Mesdames Jennifer and Judy Johnson The Mesdames Johnson
Lesbian Married Couple with different last names Mrs. Jennifer Johnson and Mrs. Judy Smith Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Smith
Unmarried couple who lives together Miss/Ms. Jennifer Johnson and Mr. John Smith Miss/Ms. Johnson and Mr. Smith
Unmarried couple who doesn’t live together Ms. Johnson (closest friend of the two) Ms. Johnson and Mr. Smith
Family with Children Mr. and Mrs. John Smith Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Walter, Winifred, and Wendy

For people with titles, here’s another chart:

     
Elected officials (Governor, Mayor, Senator, Etc.) The Honorable Jennifer Johnson and Mr. John Smith  ORGovernor/Senator/Mayor Jennifer Johnson and Mr. Smith The Honorable and Mr. SmithGovernor/Senator/Mayor and Mr. Smith
Judge The Honorable Jennifer Johnson and Mr.  John Smith Judge Johnson and Mr. Smith
Priest Father John Smith Father Smith
Rabbi Rabbi and Mrs. John Smithkowitz Rabbi and Mrs. Smithkowitz

That should about cover it. Have somone I haven’t covered? Just ask!

~ Natasha

Planning to Get Married in Vegas?

AS I mentioned last week, a friend of The Wedding Lens is planning to get married AND in Las Vegas! Not because they’re getting married quickly, but because the couple has family the Vegas and wants to be close to the family. So the question is — if you’re not trying to get in to a quick Elvis wedding, what do you need to do to get married in Las Vegas?

Wedding Ceremony (not necessarily in Vegas!) photo from The Wedding Lens!

First, there are lots of convention centers and hotels, of course. But there are tons of churches and restaurants too — that are OFF the strip! Check out some of the romantic wedding locations that are just off the strip and provide beautiful scenery. There are also a whole slew of “Off the Beaten Path” suggestions to look at that might give some good ideas.

Second, know the legal requirements: Once you get your venue, get a marriage license! Appear together at the Marriage License Bureau (201 Clark Avenue, (702) 671-0600). You can download a marriage license application from the web and learn more about the legal requirements at http://www.accessclarkcounty.com/depts/clerk/pages/marriage_information.aspx.

Third, keep in mind a few things:
  • If you get married in the summer, remember that it’s hot. Don’t just remember this because your guests will want to be indoors and air-conditioned, remember this because your cake will melt. Seriously.
  • Book early. Many people want to hitched in Vegas, so places fill up quick — especially if you want to get married on the strip. Yes, even by Elvis.
  • Make sure caterers are allowed at your venue OR that you like the food that the venue serves. That’s always true, but sometimes it’s harder to find venues that allow outside catering. Just make sure.

For everything else, it’s about the same: find the florist, the other vendors, you know… plan your wedding and be sure you keep in mind our tips for the day of your wedding & for staying calm!

Got more questions? Just ask!  Email me at natasha@theweddinglens.com.

~ Natasha

How to Word Your Wedding Invitation

When you’re writing your wedding invitations, sometimes the wording can be the hardest part! Here I’ll break down the invitation into parts so we can put it together. Everything that I’m posting is the traditional etiquette. The modern rules are more lenient – and pretty much you can do whatever you’re comfortable with! I will cover the modern ideas on invitations in another blog post.

 General Wording Etiquette

  • No punctuation, except after titles (Mr., Mrs., Ms., and Dr.)
  • Capitalize the beginning of the sentence, proper names, and titles – and nothing else.
  • The number of the date is spelled out; it follows the day and precedes the month (eg. Sunday, the fifth of June).
  • Spell out the year (eg. Two thousand and ten)
  • Spell out the times and refer to the clock (eg. Half after four instead of 4:30 p.m.; Four o’clock in the afternoon instead of 4:00 p.m.; Eight o’clock in the evening instead of 8:00 p.m.)
  • Use third person instead of first person (eg. “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” instead of “we”).

 Sample

Just to give you an idea of what the final product will look like, here’s a sample. I’ll take each line separately:

Line 1: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith

Line 2: request the pleasure of your company

Line 3: at the marriage of their daughter, Jennifer, to Mr. Michael Johnson

Line 4: on Saturday, the fourteenth of September, two thousand and ten at four o’clock in the afternoon

Pine Street Lane Park, 123 Pine Street, Los Angeles, California

Reception to follow.

 Line one: Who hosts?

The host of the wedding is usually the primary financial contributor to the wedding, but this is not always the case. Traditionally, the bride’s family hosts. So line one would say Mr. and Mrs. Bride’s Father’s Name (eg. Mr. and Mrs. John Smith).

 Line two: How to invite?

The second line can be done a number of ways depending on the place of the ceremony and your personal taste.

 If the wedding is held in a religious place of worship, use “request the honor of your presence.” If the wedding takes place elsewhere, use “request the pleasure of your company” or “request the honor of your company.”

 The most formal traditional invitations do not use “your” in the wording, but leave a blank space to handwrite the name of the guest. For example, “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith request the honor of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Murray’s presence. . . .” This is rarely done now, however.

 Line three: Who is getting married?

Obviously this should be the easiest part, but there are still a few ways to do this. Since it’s the bride’s parents who are hosting and inviting, the wording would be: “in the marriage of their daughter, Jennifer Anne, to Mr. Michael Johnson.”

 Line four and onward: When and where? What else?

Time goes first, then location. Then you can add in a line about the reception – but a reception card will be separate.

 So, bringing it all together:

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith

request the pleasure of your company

at the marriage of their daughter, Jennifer, to Mr. Michael Johnson

on Saturday, the fourteenth of September, two thousand and ten

at four o’clock in the afternoon

Pine Street Lane Park, 123 Pine Street, Los Angeles, California

 Reception to follow.

 What about the reception information?

The reception information will be on a separate card. The only information that you need on the invitation is that a reception will follow.

 If you do not want children in attendance, instead of writing “Reception to follow,” specify “Adult reception to follow.” 

 Again, these are the traditions, not necessarily applicable to your particular situation.

~ Natasha

How to Plan Your Wedding: When To Do What (Part II)

The last blog post I wrote was all about how to plan your wedding — from moment of engagement until the final steps. What I didn’t include were things to know for the day of and miscellaneous things that come up whilst planning your wedding. That’s what I’m going to do here!

For the Day

  1. Put other people in charge! Your wedding party and friends and family should be able to help you with some last minute things that need to happen. Also, be sure that you don’t forget any of the top 5 things people forget! This means that you should make sure you have things like safety pins, bandaids, and tissues. But also make sure someone takes care of your personal stuff (like your camera).
  2. Someone will need to: set-up the guestbook, give money to vendors (and be sure to tip the vendors!), transport flowers, hold emergency items, put out the favors, and place cards with the info on your online photo album website!
  3. Remember to EAT during the reception!
  4. Clean-up & Recycling. Make sure you put people in charge of cleaning up and/or recycling. This should be planned for in advance, but someone in the wedding party should make sure it gets done — especially if it’s not something the venue does for you. By the way, consider donating leftovers to a foodbank.
  5. Stay calm, have fun, and enjoy the moments! Here are some tips for staying calm & tips to make sure you enjoy every moment.

Miscellaneous Wedding Planning

I referred to some of these aspects of wedding planning in the Part I, but here’s everything compiled:

  1. Children-free weddings:
    1. whether to have children or not
    2. how to tell your guests that their children may not attend.
  2. Registries:
    1. what to do about wedding gifts (generally – for both you & the guests)
    2. tips on the gift registry
    3. how to tell people where you’re registered
    4. how to ask for gift cards or money instead of gifts
    5. how to deal with anonymous or unlabeled gifts
    6. what to do if you need to return or exchange a gift
  3. Wedding insurance
    1. All about wedding insurance
  4. Showers, Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties, Rehearsal dinners, Afterparty, Honeymoon: While this blog focuses on wedding planning, it’s important to think about these aspects of the pre- and post-wedding. Some families and friends assume that all five will take place. Others don’t find them necessary! You should do what YOU want!
  5. Staying together the night before: Consider whether you want to stay together the night before the wedding or not. Tradition says you should stay separately, but some couples find it more soothing to be with the love of their lives on one of the most stressful nights.
  6. Thank you notes
    1. when to send thanks especially when gifts come before the wedding date
    2. tips on writing thank you notes!
  7. Being charitable: How to get married AND be charitable at the same time!
  8. Wedding photos: Many times, the best part of the post-wedding is seeing the candid shots that your friends and family took. But a lot of times they’re all over the place on different websites. Make sure all your guests’ upload their photos into ONE online photo album! Give out the website info at the wedding, sign up in advance so The Wedding Lens can send reminder emails, and write the info into your thank you notes! Either way, make sure your photos are easily accessible, viewable, and downloadable!

Remember to check out our Green Wedding Tips and our Cheap Wedding Tips to help save your wallet & save the environment!

Still have questions? Email me! natasha@theweddinglens.com

~ Natasha

How to Plan Your Wedding: When To Do What! (Part I)

So you’re engaged… now what? That’s the beginning of the wedding planning process! A friend of The Wedding Lens recently got engaged and was asking questions about time frames. So here we go!

Because engagements take place for different lengths of time, I’m not going to specify how long before the wedding date you should do each action. But this is generally the ORDER of things. Where possible, I’ve linked to other related blog posts on the topic! (And here’s just a list of things to do for wedding planning, if you just want that) Also, be sure to check out our Cheap Wedding Tips and our Green Wedding Tips, both of which have great ideas to help you out during different stages of the planning process!

First Steps

  1. Create a budget! This means taking a list of everything that you know you’ll have to spend money on and deciding how much you can dedicate to each portion. Check out our Guide to Creating a Wedding Budget — which specifies which costs are fixed and which depend on the number of guests.
  2. Pick the wedding party. This seems early in the process right? True! But the wedding party can help you with the tasks that you’ll have to do. Pick early, they’ll help early!
  3. Divide tasks! After reading the rest of this blog post, you’ll get a full picture of everything there is to do: from marriage license to centerpieces.  Once you have that list, divide up the tasks however you see fit.

Things That Shouldn’t Wait

  1. Marriage license.  Every state has different rules on the time frame needed to apply for a license and to get married. Make sure you know what you need to do before you get too close to your wedding date!
  2. Find a venue, date, and officiant. This is sort of circular because you need the venue and the officiant to be available on the same date. But keep in mind that you may have to pick two venues — one for the ceremony and one for the reception. Just be sure they’re both available on the same date! Here’s how to pick a wedding date. Also, make sure you look at how to find a venue AND the questions you need to ask each venue. With officiants, think about whether you will have a religious officiant or a friend. Find out any state requirements if you want a friend or family member to officiate.
  3. Create the guest list. Sometimes it’s hard to limit the guest list, so consider having A lists, B lists, and C lists. Here are our tips for the guest list. Also, be sure to decide whether you want kids to attend or not.
  4. Themes/Styles/Colors. The earlier you select any themes, styles, or colors, the earlier you can get started with some of the other aspects of planning. After all those three aspects will impact the dress selections, the flowers selections, etc. Here’s some help on how to pick your color scheme.
  5. Wedding dress. The wedding dress should be purchased earlier in the planning process because it might need to be fitted several times. Depending on how long your engagement lasts, this should be done ASAP. Plus the bride will want her dress before the bridesmaids get theirs! Here’s how to choose  the right wedding dress and some ideas for colorful wedding dresses.
  6. Save the Date.  The save-the-date (or STD) should tell guests when & where you’re getting married. When should you send the save-the-dates? It depends on when you’re getting married, but generally, send them as soon as possible. If you are ordering save-the-dates that you want to look similar to your invitations, there are companies that give you package deals. Here is a timeline of when to send save-the-dates and when to send invitations. Here are some creative save the date ideas and how to address the save-the-dates.
  7. Order your online photo album from The Wedding Lens. By ordering your online photo album from The Wedding Lens early, you can start telling your guests where to upload photos AND you can include your engagement photos in the album or any other older photos to share your memories with your guests.
  8. Wedding website. Obviously put as much information on here as you can, but here’s what to include on your wedding website.
  9. Find vendors. This means finding vendors for everything you might want. Here is how to find the right vendors for you (and each category that follows links to a blog post that will help you narrow down what will be best for you in that area). Photographer (engagement photos and day of), videographer, florist (selecting flowers), caterer, DJ/band/music, bakery, wedding planner or day-of coordinator. Any other kind of vendors you might want (eg if you want to have wedding entertainment such as a photo booth, cigar bar, or silhouette artist) can usually wait a bit longer in the planning process.

Stuff That Can Wait a Little Bit

  1. Invitations! What goes inside, when to send, how to tell your guests that no kids can come, RSVP cards. Remember, there are specific rules on how to address invitations, so make sure you check those out (yes, there will be a blog post coming!)
  2. Attire: Groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen. Here’s everything related to helping you select wedding attire!
  3. Hair & makeup for the bride and bridesmaids, if you would like.
  4. Rings! Dont forget you both need to exchange rings on the day of the wedding. Here are some green tips on picking the rings.
  5. Decorating: flower arrangement (or alternatives to flower bouquets), centerpieces, plates/napkins/glassware, guestbook, favors, place cards, menu cards, cake toppers, chair rentals/chair covers, other entertainment)
  6. Guest-related: Accomodations, transportation, and out of town bags!
  7. Get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens. If you haven’t done it yet, now is the perfect time in the planning process to get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens! When you share the information on accomodations & transporation with your guests, you can also share the link to the album and remind people to bring their digital cameras to your wedding. Plus people can start uploading old and new memories of you & your fiance(e)!
  8. Menu planning: buffet vs sit-down meal; alcohol – open bar, soft bar, signature drinks. Here are all things food & drink related to help guide you through this!

Final Steps

  1. RSVPs
  2. Ceremony planning: walking down the aisle, vows, readings — and whatever else you want to take place.
  3. Seating chart: who will sit where during the reception? Here’s how to create a seating chart!
  4. Music (song) selections for band or DJ, both during the ceremony and reception.
  5. Remind your guests to bring their cameras to your wedding day so they can capture memories for your online photo album.
  6. Planning the timeline: This means planning the timeline of who arrives where at what time, what order things occur, and who transports what where. It’s meant to be distributed so that everyone is on the same page about what’s going on.
  7. Programs: This lets your guests know what is going to happen & when! Here’s the information on writing your programs.

So that’s everything you have to do…. Next blog post will cover what comes up on the day of and any other last minute things and miscellaneous things you should be aware of! (Like gift registry, thank you cards, wedding insurance, things people forget, staying calm…. all coming up!) 

Good luck! Remember, if you have questions – email me! natasha@theweddinglens.com.

~ Natasha