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

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How to Find a Wedding Venue or Location

If you’re trying to plan your own wedding, one of the first things you will think about is the venue! One thing to keep in mind is that you should try to be flexible in selecting your dates. Your ideal venue might not be available on the particular date you want, but maybe it will be free the following week. You never know!

Wedgewood Banquet Center at Crystal Springs Golf Course in Northern California, Photo from The Wedding Lens!

Though there are a lot of things to keep in mind when you’re choosing your venue, the top three concerns are: 1) cost, 2) comfort, and 3) date.

Finding the venue

The first step in finding locations for your wedding is thinking about what you want and checking your budget. Do you want a beach wedding? A wedding in the mountains? A wedding in a restaurant? Or in a hotel? Think about what you want.

Get an idea of what’s out there. Start searching the web! If you’re in California, Chicago, or Washington DC, I highly recommend checking out Here Comes the Guide which lets you search by type of location (site views, site types) and by region or locale. You’ll note that the prices aren’t included — because, as The Guide explains, there are way too many variables to give you a specific number. If you’re not in those areas, just search for your location + wedding venue. once you start looking around, you’ll gather what you like, what each venue includes, and what is out there.

Questions to ask the venue

You should keep in mind your budget and what you want from your venue – but you might not know what it is you want. Here are some questions to ask and things that venues may (or may not) include. Getting answers to these questions may prove that the location is perfect (or absolutely NOT) for you! And, of course, Here Comes the Guide has another great list of questions to ask when looking at a venue!

When reviewing this, keep in mind whether the venue is for both your ceremony and your reception. Some of these questions apply only if you’re looking for a venue for both. Other questions (like about chairs & set up) apply regardless.

  • Seating/guests
    • How many people can they seat/fit?
    • How much is the deposit/down payment? Is it refundable?
    • Does the venue provide chairs? Do you need to rent chairs?
    • Do they charge for the chairs/setting up chairs?
  • Facilities
    • Is there a dressing area for the bride & groom?
    • Are there bathrooms accessible to guests?
    • Is it wheelchair accessible?
  • Food, drinks, & catering
    • Does the venue provide food, drinks, or other catering? Do they have preferred vendors?
    • If they have food & drinks for weddings, then find out a price range, you will select your final food/drink options later. Most venues give a per person rate. (Be sure to check whether each price option includes a buffet, a seated dinner, an open bar, limited drinks, etc.)
    • Can vendors use the kitchen facilities? (Are there kitchen facilities on site?)
    • Is there a per-person cake charge?
    • Is there an additional charge for linens and utensils?
    • Is there a service charge for serving the meals?
  • Music, Dancing, Flowers & Decorations
    • Does the venue have a dance floor? Does it cost extra?
    • Does the venue permit amplified music?
    • Is there a sound system? Can an outside DJ or band use it? Is there a cost
    • Do they permit decorations/flowers? Can you bring in decorations from outside or does it have to be done through the venue? What is the charge?
  • Miscellaneous
    • Do they charge for clean up
    • Does the venue require wedding insurance? (Check out the blog post on wedding insurance if you have no idea what this is!)
    • Are there restrictions on the site? (no confetti, etc)
    • Do they have any other costs and fees? (service charges, etc)

 Remember, before you accept anything, make sure that you check out the venue in person — and see if you can look at it during the time of day you want to get married. That way you can see if there is sufficient lighting or anything else you should know.

And, before you sign ANYTHING, make sure you read the contract thoroughly! What happens if one side or the other needs to cancel at the last minute? Do you have to pay all the fees anyway?

Good luck!

~ Natasha

Flowers in Season During the Fall

Not sure what kind of flower this is, do you know? Then I can tell you when it's in season! Photo from The Wedding Lens!

A friend of mine just got engaged (congrats!!!) and she and her partner have decided to get married next fall. They really want purple flowers, but they also want to be sure that they use flowers that are in season. Why? Because it’s a little more green: if flowers are in season, then they dont need to be transported from another part of the world where they’re being grown.  Here’s a list of flowers that are in season during the Fall, organized by color.

If you’re getting married at another time of the year, here’s the complete list of which flowers are in season when, organized by color! And check out our list of green wedding tips, if you think there’s something else small you can do that helps the environment AND doesn’t change your wedding!

Year Round Flowers

  • White: Baby’s breath, Bachelor’s button, Calla lily, Carnations, Delphinium, Gardenia, Gladiolus, Lily of the Valley, Orchid, Rose, Scaboisa
  • Red: Bachelor’s button, Carnations, Roses
  • Orange: Carnations, Roses
  • Yellow: Carnations, Roses
  • Blue: Bachelor’s button, Carnations, Delphinium, Eucalyptus, Roses
  • Purple: Delphinium, Orchid, Roses, Scaboisa
  • Pink: Bachelor’s button, Heather, Lily of the Valley, Orchid, Roses
  • Silver: Eucalyptus

Fall Flowers

  • White: Aster, Crysanthemum, Dahlia
  • Red: Marigold, Zinnia
  • Orange: Crysanthemum, Dahlia, Marigold, Zinnia
  • Yellow: Crysanthemum, Dahlia, Marigold
  • Green: Dried leaves
  • Purple: Statice
  • Pink: Aster, Crysanthemum, Zinnia

Hope that helps! Dont forget to share your photos of the flowers!

~ Natasha

Top 5 Wedding Centerpieces!

Some of my friends are planning their wedding. They have everything picked out, from food to linens, but they haven’t decided on centerpieces. They’re not sure that they want to have centerpieces at all or they want to reuse something (in an effort to be just a little bit green in their wedding planning!)

There are always some creative ideas for centerpieces but sometimes it’s nice to know what the most typical centerpieces are, right? Right. Here they are and here are some tips if you decide to use them!

  • Flowers! Obviously this is the most typical centerpiece. See if you can re-use the flowers that you have in the ceremony — saves you money and is a bit green. A warning on the flowers: If you want conversation around the table, don’t make the arrangements too big! It’s hard to have a conversation across the table if the bouquet is blocking the view.
Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

  • Candles. Candles can be incorporated with flowers, but they can also be their own centerpiece. They’re elegant and can set the mood (and create some dim lighting at the tables).
Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

  • Favors. Use your favors as the centerpieces — and people will take them at the end of the night. Double duty for the centerpieces! For example, my friend gave out these boxes of tea and stacked them in the center. We each had to take them away before dinner was served ’cause it was family style!
 

 

 

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

 

 

 

 

 

Photo from Modern Bride, Brides.com

Photo from Modern Bride, Brides.com

 

 

  • Glass bowls. The fifth most common centerpiece is a glass bowl — filled with something. Sometimes people use marbles, shells, stones (like those pretty irridescent ones!), water + flower petals, or water + fish (it’s true!). You can check out something like this:
Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Or even like this!

Photo from The Wedding Lens!

Photo from The Wedding Lens!

So those are the most common — but that doesn’t mean you should stop there! What kind of centerpieces did you have?

~ Natasha

Share photos of your centerpieces with an online photo album!

No Flower Bouquets: Alternatives to the Tradition

I recently saw this great article on alternatives to a flower bouquet for the bride and I thought it was so clever, I wanted you to hear about it too!

photo from The Wedding Lens

photo from The Wedding Lens

The long and the short of it is that you can save yourself some money and be a little more green (potentially) if you opt for some non-flower options — especially if you were thinking of using flowers that are out of season!

Here are some great ideas:

  • A candy bouquet with your favorite candies tied together
  • A fan – elegant!
  • Carry a parasole instead of a bouquet
  • Feather and feather arrangements
  • Paper flower arrangements

The great thing about these bouquets is that they are inexpensive, green, AND they can show off some of your personality! You can choose something you love and create a bouquet or hold it by itself. There are so many different options to choose from!

What will you do?

~ Natasha

Do something else inexpensive & green and don’t use disposable cameras! Instead, gather all your photos in one private, online photo album – for free!

Summer of Wedding Blog Posts

In honor of the 4th of July weekend (and just passing our first anniversary as a blog!), here’s the top Blogs Posts on TheWeddingsLens Blog — as rated by YOU! Well, okay, I’ll create a list of our favorites too. Since you asked.

  1. How to Choose the Right Wedding Gown  (which is actually right up there with Colorful Wedding Dresses!)
  2. 75 Cheap Wedding Tips
  3. How to Create a Seating Chart
  4. How to Write Wedding Vows
  5. Which Flowers are in Season for a Wedding
  6. How to Ask for Gift Cards or Money
  7. Photobooth at the Wedding Reception
  8. Creative Guestbook Ideas
  9. Invitations and Bringing a Date to the Wedding
  10. How to Pick Vendors for Your Wedding

The most read engagement story? Nicole & Kate’s Engagement Story (who just had a beautiful wedding and are using The Wedding Lens to share their photos with their guests!)

Our favorite blog post – aside from those above? Well, it’s tied, I think. Three ways. Or Four. I’d do five, but we’ll be here all day as I list through all the rest of ’em trying to decide. 🙂

  1. How to Plan Your Own Wedding (without a wedding planner)
  2. 50 Green Wedding Tips
  3. How to Meet Your Boyfriend at a Wedding (my personal fav!)
  4. Top 10 Reasons to Use The Wedding Lens (duh!)

Three things I notice — the “how to” blog posts seem to do a lot better than the others (generally) and we need you to submit more engagement stories! Email ’em to natasha@theweddinglens.com.

What’s your favorite The Wedding Lens Blog Post ?

~ Natasha

Will you use flower that are in season?

In light of our blog post the other day about which flowers are in season when, will you be using flowers that are in season? Remember it’s an easy, green thing to do! (But we’re not judging!)

Check out our real photos of flowers!