Wedding Question: How to Help a Friend Budget

One of my friends is getting married in about six months, though she just got engaged. She hasn’t booked anything yet but she keeps talking about how she wants the perfect dress, amazing flowers, and a ton of food and alcohol. And she wants to have 500 people! I just don’t get how she can do that given that she doesn’t have money and neither does her family. How can I help her budget this in a way that makes sense?

a bride shares her big moment with her close friends! photo from The Wedding Lens!

Good question! Wedding budgeting is a bit overwhelming and it’s easy to just skip that part and get on to the fun planning parts! But budgeting is key!

Explain to your friend that you really need to work out a budget for everything. Some people think this means sitting down and deciding how much they have to spend on each thing. And that’s fine! But it’s a good idea to know what may be expected. So start by checking out our guide to create a wedding budget.

Help your friend by taking a look at the average cost of weddings in the locale where she’s getting married. The average cost of a wedding in the US is probably around $30,000, but it depends on where you are. Some regions it will be higher, some lower. If you can help her see that her idealistic dream is going to cost her a pretty penny, maybe she’ll either change what she wants OR she’ll find a way to afford it all.

Get an idea of what the expenses will be and how many things there are to plan and pay for. This will also help shed some light on a realistic budget.

The most important thing that you should do is help support your friend. When she realizes that she wont be able to afford what she’s dreamed of, she’s going to be pretty upset and sad. It may sound ridiculous, but it’s not and how she feels about her wedding is real. Be sure you make her feel good about the positive things — the friends and family who will be there to love her and share in the joyful occasion.

Hope that helps! And if she’s needs some good cost-cutting tips, check out our cheap wedding tips.

Got other wedding planning questions, just ask! Email natasha@theweddinglens.com.

~ Natasha

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Why Your Wedding Needs an Online Photo Album

Ok, I think I’ve done this before but I wanted to reiterate why oh why you need an online photo album and why oh why it should be on The Wedding Lens!

10. Your friends are bringing their digital cameras to your wedding anyway and they need a place online to upload their photos. Plus their photos are fun and candid… like this….

Photo from The Wedding Lens

9. Your friends can share their videos of the wedding on The Wedding Lens waaay before your videographer gets back to you….

8. You want you & your guests to be able to upload and download ALL photos and videos at full resolution.

photo from The Wedding Lens!

7. You want to use a photo sharing site that has incredible customer service with real people who respond to your questions and concerns. 

6. You want to use a site that your guests don’t have to register for in order to upload their photos!

5. Your friends like seeing each other’s photos and the one album will be accessible to everyone. They can print or download whichever ones they like and want.

Photo from The Wedding Lens!

4. The Wedding Lens takes care of emailing reminders to your guests – so you don’t have to think twice about it, or feel like you’re bothering your guests.

3. You think that the person who writes The Wedding Lens blog is incredibly witty, knowledgeable, and, well, cute! (No comments from the peanut gallery, please!)

2. You thought you wanted to put disposable cameras on each table, but you realized it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to ask your friends to upload all their own photos into your Wedding Lens album.  

1.  You really don’t want to have to go to 6 different websites to see all your friends’ photos of the wedding. It’s so much easier to have them all in ONE album online… on The Wedding Lens!

If that doesn’t convince you, let me know. I’ll work on it. 🙂

~ Natasha

Five Tips for an Even Better Wedding Reception!

Photo from The Wedding Lens!

Your wedding reception will be a great reflection of you & your partner’s style, musical tastes, and (most importantly) love for each other. But there are some tips that will make your reception even better — regardless of your personal style!

  1. If there’s time between the ceremony and the reception, give your guests something to do. I dont mean that you have to rent out a space for them, but suggest a place for them to go — a coffee shop, a bar, a museum, just something. I one time ended up sitting in a Quiznos for three hours because I was from out of town and didn’t know what else to do or where else to go.
  2. Let your guests know what’s going on — have a program and/or have the DJ/Band/Emcee explain what is happening when. People don’t like to feel out of the loop! Just letting them know that they’ll be eating their meals before the speeches will make people relax and enjoy themselves a bit more — except for maybe the speech-giver.
  3. You won’t be able to create a seating chart that makes everyone happy, but if at all possible, seat people who know each other together — even if one of ’em is single. Singles hate singles tables. It’s awkward! But if the person knows just one other person, try putting them together. It will put everyone at ease.
  4. If you’re not providing transportation for your guests have cab numbers readily available. People drink & they have to get home — make it easy on them!
  5. Take breaths,  enjoy every moment, and HAVE FUN! Your happiness makes everyone else happy. I promise.

There are LOTS of things that you can do to make your reception even better, but these are just a few things that I’ve taken note of over the years. As much as you want this day to be perfect to you, don’t forget that your guests are there for you and don’t want to be forgotten, taken for granted, or left out of the loop. They are there to share in the joy and happiness of the day! So let them! 🙂

Happy wedding!

~ Natasha

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

Roundup: All Things About Wedding Invitations!

Recently I have had a few posts about how to write invitations and how to address them. It occurs to me that over all this time, we have LOTS of information on wedding invitations. And here, my dear friends, is the roundup:

When to Send Save-the-Dates and Invitations

Green Wedding Tips: Invitations!

What Goes Inside a Wedding Invitation

How to Word Your Wedding Invitation

Invitations & Bringing a Date to the Wedding

How to Tell Guests That There’s No Plus One

How to Tell Guests That Kids Can’t Come

Do you have to invite someone because you were invited?

How to Address Your Wedding Invitations!

Did I miss anything? Need to know more about wedding invitations? Let me know! Email me at natasha@theweddinglens.com.

Happy inviting!

~ 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

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