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

Wedding Question: When to Send Thanks?


A Sample Save the Date from Wedding Paper Divas!

 I am getting married later this year, but we’re already getting some of the gifts we registered for! Should we send thank you notes now, or wait until after the wedding?

Good question! First of all, thank YOU for writing thank you notes!

The “rule” is that you should send a thank you note as soon as you receive a gift. That way, there’s not a lot of time that passes between the gift giving and the thanks — which is very much appreciated by the gift givers! Plus, this will make it so much easier on you. You won’t have a billion thank you notes to send at one time if you stay on top of the thank you cards.

Also note: you should handwrite the cards! Don’t use pre-printed thank you cards. It’s not thoughtful and it shows less gratitude.

Remember to check & re-check who sent the gift; the last thing you want is to thank the wrong person for the gift!

Also, if you’re looking for what to write in a thank you note: greet the guest, express gratitude for the specific gift, give an example of what it will be used for, and thank them for attending or for thinking of you. Wedding Paper Divas suggest that if you do not like the gift, say something like “Thank you! I will think of you everytime I use it.” Just remember, someone spent money on you and that is very kind!

Hope this helps!

~ Natasha

Exchanging Gifts on Your Wedding Day

After doing the poll the other day about whether you will exchange gifts, I decided to look into the tradition myself.

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Do we have to exchange gifts?

It turns out, gift exchange on the day of your wedding is not a required tradition; it’s completely optional.

When do we exchange gifts?

You can exchange gifts the night before the wedding, the morning of the wedding, or after the festivities are over. But really, it’s your call — it’s your wedding and your gift exchange!

What kinds of gifts should we give?

Anything! Some people like to give something that the other can wear on the wedding day — such as cuff links or jewelry. Other people like to give gifts that are applicable to the honeymoon — swim or snow gear, sunglasses, etc. But you should give whatever you like!

One person suggested exchanging letters with the gifts and having the MOH or BM deliver them on the day of the wedding. Sweet, right?

Or how about an online photo album filled with ALL of the guests photos? (I had to!)

~ Natasha

What To Do If You Need to Return or Exchange a Wedding Gift!

I was talking with a friend about a recent prominent political figure who had to return some gifts that were given to her and her husband. And the question came up: what do you do if you have to return or exchange a wedding gift?

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Here are the etiquette rules related to gift returning — and when it is appropriate.

  • DO return the gifts if the wedding never takes place (as in, if it’s called off)
  • You do NOT need to return the gifts if the wedding takes place, but the marriage doessn’t last (even if the marriage ends within only a few weeks or months)
  • You MAY return gifts that you do not like or receive in duplicate or are broken — which is the area that gets a little dicey — that returning gifts that you don’t like or receive in duplicate, right?

If you receive something you do not like or something in duplicate (or something that’s broken)….

You may return it, but you should be sensitive to the gift giver — especially if it’s a family member! You are NOT obligated to tell the individual. Be sure that when you write your thank you notes, you thank the gift giver for the original gift!

If you registered for gifts and received a duplicate, you can probably exchange with the store, but you still do not need to tell your gift giver of the exchange. Unless, of course, you need their help with the exchange!

If the gift is broken & it was mailed, see if there was insurance so that the post office can replace the cost of it.

Did you have to return gifts? How’d it go? Did you tell the gift giver?

~ Natasha

How to Tell People Where You’re Registered

Despite all of the blog posts on gift giving and gift etiquette that I have written, I just received word that I never explained the best way to ask for these gifts!

Photo from chatiryworld

Photo from chatiryworld

So here’s the scoop. The old tradition is not to put the registry information in the invitation. But it IS okay to put it in the invitation to a wedding shower. I’m not clear on why it’s ok for one, but not the other. Either way, some people still feel uncomfortable with including gift info in the invitations and some people do not have wedding showers. If you do not want to include the registry information with the invitation, here are some options!

  1. Website. Create a website for your wedding. (I’ll write a post on this soon — but The Knot has free wedding websites). List the website on your save the date or invitation. For example “for more information, check out our website…!” Then, on your website, list the places you are registered. This is also where you can let guests know you prefer cash or gift cards, by writing something like “no boxed gifts.” Or, you can tell people not to get you gifts or that you’re prefer that they donate to something in lieu of gifts.
  2. Word of mouth. When people are ready to get a gift for you, they will ask someone else where you’re registered, especially these days. Your long lost cousin might ask your aunt — and hopefully your mom or dad will have told your aunt where you’re registered. Basically, make sure everyone close to you knows.
  3. Question & answer. Just because you can’t volunteer that information doesn’t mean you can’t answer the question! When Uncle Andy asks you where you’re registered, tell him!

So what if no one asks or you dont have a website or your guest doesn’t have access to the website? Well, I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do if you’re not including the info with the invitation. Truth is, if someone wants to get you something from your registry, they’ll ask and they’ll find out. If they have something else in mind for you, they will probably get you that instead. And, if they’re at a complete loss and don’t feel like asking, then maybe they will end up giving you cash or a gift card — so you can go out and get what you want from the registry!

Regardless of what you end up receiving, be sure to say thank you!

Good luck!

~ Natasha

Round-Up: All Things Gift Related

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Because I’ve written so much about gifts and gift-related things, I thought it might be nice to put it all in one nice little blog post for easy access! AND if you, dear readers, have questions I didn’t cover, ask me! and I’ll cover it ASAP!

How to Ask for Gift Cards or Money (instead of gifts!)

Tips on the Gift Registry

What To Do About Wedding Gifts (for both the couple & the guests)

Green Wedding Gift Ideas

Gift-Giving Etiquette

Etiquette on Giving Bridal Shower, Wedding Shower, AND Wedding Gifts

Gifts for the Best Man

Maid of Honor Gift Ideas

Out of Town Gift Bags

How To Deal with Anonymous or Unlabeled Gifts

Writing to Say Thanks!

Did I miss anything? Wanna give the gift of an online wedding photo album?

~ Natasha

Wedding Question: A Reception That’s Weeks After the Ceremony?

We just received this question from a reader….

My husband’s nephew is getting married this October. Only 20 people are invited to the ceremony (we are NOT being invited). We were advised they will, however, be holding a large reception two weeks after the ceremony, to which we ARE invited. My husband feels that the only reason we are being invited to the reception is to give a gift, and does not want to either attend or send a gift. Since his nephew lives in another state, I am tending to agree with him about not going to the reception – it would cost us several hundred dollars in travel expenses. Are we obligated to either attend the reception and/or give a gift? Is it common practice to not be invited to the ceremony, but be expected to attend a later-date reception?

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

First, you are not obligated to attend and you are not obligated to give a gift if you do not attend — contrary to popular belief. It is common practice to give a gift if you do not attend to show the couple that you are supportive of them. It’s completely understandable that financial limitations might restrict your ability to attend the wedding.

Second, although it is not common to have a separate ceremony and reception, more people are doing that these days. People want to do a simple, personal ceremony and then they want to celebrate with their family and friends. While I don’t know your family dynamics. I’m guessing that you weren’t invited just for a gift — more likely you were invited because you’re family! In fact, if you were just wanted for a gift (and not to celebrate) they could have just invited you to the ceremony and not the reception since the reception generally costs a lot more than a ceremony. (Note to couples reading this: do NOT invite guests only to a ceremony and not to a reception)

Hope that helps!! Good luck!

~ Natasha

Need to give a wedding gift? How about an online wedding photo album so that the couple can collect all the photos from their guests?

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

What’s your favorite The Wedding Lens Blog Post ?

~ Natasha

How to Get Married and Be Charitable

In the course of my blog, I have made suggestions here and there about things that you can do that will give back to the community and the globe. It turns out that there are quite a few ways that you can give back during the wedding planning process. Here’s a list… But please don’t be intimidated! Even doing one thing on the list helps….


  • Go Green: See our list of 50 Green Wedding Tips that range from creating green invitations to ensuring that leftover food doesn’t get wasted. The list also includes using seasonal flowers — which, thank goodness, we just explained in another blog that details which flowers are in season when (according to the color flowers you want!).
  • Ask others to give:
    • If you don’t really need more STUFF in the house, ask guests to give to a charity of their choiceHere’s a list of all charities, written by the Better Business Bureau.
    • Or set up a scholarship fund at the university/college/grad school you went to and have people donate to that fund. I read an article recently about a couple that met in college and they set up a scholarship fund. They asked their guests to donate to the scholarship fund — or any charity — in lieu of giving them a gift. Sweet, right? If you do want to set up a scholarship, here’s an article about how to do it.
  • Give back: In lieu of favors, give to a charity! The reality is that people want to remember your wedding day, but they dont need to have a trinket to do that. One of the most memorable favors I “received” was a card sitting on my plate that said that in lieu of favors, the bride and groom had donated to the American Cancer Society. Instead of spending the money on the cards at each place setting, donate that money and have the DJ announce the favor/donation.

Do you have other ideas of ways to give back to the world during your wedding? Share ’em!

~ Natasha

Bridal Shower Gifts, Wedding Shower Gifts, Wedding Gifts… Oh my!

We recently received a question from a reader, asking if she needs to give BOTH a wedding shower gift and a wedding gift. While I completely understand why that can be confusing, the general etiquette is: yes. You’re supposed to give gifts for everything. Gets expensive, right?!

photo from The Wedding Lens

photo from The Wedding Lens

That said, if you are engaged and you have NOT planned to have a bridal shower or wedding shower or both, then etiquette dictates that you do not have to! In fact, as you may have gathered from my blog on alternatives to bridal showers, I think it’s only appropriate to have any of these showers if you are doing so to celebrate… and I think it’s important to emphasize to your guests that they are not obliged to give gifts. (Having been in the “broke” + “invited” category a number of times, I have a lot of sympathy for people who just don’t have the money to give gifts, but want to be there to celebrate with everyone!) But maybe that’s just me!

What do I give? For all three occasions — bridal shower, wedding shower, wedding — the gifts should be intended to help the couple start their lives together. The only big difference is that it is NOT appropriate to give cash for a bridal shower or wedding shower gift.

What about a theme? Bridal showers and wedding showers sometimes have themes to them. If they do, then the invitation will indicate this and should let you know if the gift should be along the theme’s lines.

Invitees? If you are the one planning the showers, then note that it is inappropriate and will offend guests if you invite them to the shower and not the wedding.

If you’re looking for other gift giving advice (like timing of when to send, how much to send, and what to do if you can’t attend), check out our blog on gift giving advice or what to do about wedding gifts. We also have blogs on best man gifts, gift ideas for the maid of honor, how to ask for gift cards or cash, or tips on the gift registry.

And don’t forget to share photos of your gifts with a free wedding album!

~ Natasha