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

Questions to Ask Before Selecting a Wedding Venue

I recently wrote a blog post on how to find your wedding venue. I discussed a number of questions about the costs of the venue — which I think are important enough to reiterate! I also am adding questions to this list that you should keep in mind before actually signing any contract with a venue. If you’re looking to double check questions that you should ask, be sure and check out the Here Comes the Guide questions to ask when evaluating a wedding location.

Photo from The Wedding Lens

General questions on costs/facilities to ask

  • 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)

Specific Questions to ask yourself to make sure the venue is right — at the right time

  • Go to the venue at the time of day you want to get married to make sure the lighting is right and sufficient.
  • Is there sufficient lighting? Ask the venue if there is additional lighting available.
  • If it is outdoors, are there coverings or tents that can go up if it rains? Can you bring in umbrellas? (Are there charges for tents? What is the charge?
  • Do you like the people at the venue? Can you work with them?
  • If they require a certain vendor, is that okay with you? Do you like the vendors?

Questions to ask about the contract before you sign

  • What happens if one side or the other has to cancel? Do you still have to pay fees? Can you get reimbursed if it’s their fault?
  • Is there a contingency plan if it’s outdoors and it rains?
  • Are they requiring you to do something you do not want to do or incur costs that you dont want to incur?
  • READ it thoroughly! Make sure you understand it. Take your time, don’t feel strong-armed into signing it. If you can, have someone else who isn’t involved in the process read it too. They might see something you didn’t.

~ Natasha

Taking in the Moments of Your Wedding Day

A close friend of mine had nightmares in the weeks before his wedding. Not because he was getting married, but because he was scared of missing the wedding. And he didn’t mean “missing” as in “not showing up” so much as that he was afraid the day would pass by so fast that he would wake up married, without remembering the entire wedding day.

A couple enjoys the moment of their wedding day! Photo from The Wedding Lens

A lot of people have this fear. It comes up on big days when a lot of times the day passes so fast that the details are soon forgotten. What oh what can you do about this?

Set an alarm. My friend (with the nightmares) had a really great idea. During his reception (not during the actual ceremony!), he set his phone alarm to vibrate every 10 minutes. It would buzz in his pocket, and he’d silence it. Then he would take a deep breath and look around the room — and take in the moment. Obviously you dont have to do this every 10 minutes if you think that’s too much, but the idea is the same: remind yourself to take a moment to breathe and enjoy.

Prepare. One article recommends preparing to be in the moment. In other words, while you’re planning, take a minute and take in that moment. It will mentally help you get used to staying in the moment at your wedding.

Be prepared! Also, be prepared! If you have taken care of everything in advance, you won’t have as much on your mind and you can just be a guest at your own wedding! You’ll be able to enjoy so much that when your alarm goes off to remind you to take in the moment, you’ll be able to just breathe and do that.

Do you have other ideas? Share ’em!

~ Natasha

Wedding Roundup: All Things Food & Drink!

Plates & glasses ready to be filled! Photo from The Wedding Lens!

A lot of wedding planning stress stems from finding the “right” foods and drinks — among everything else. All of it relates to budgeting, passions, and tastebuds. In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought this would be a great time to roundup all the posts we’ve done on food!

Wedding Question: What Food and Drinks Should We Spend the Most Money On?

Picking Wedding Reception Food!

To Buffet or Not To Buffet: Food at the Wedding Reception

What To Do About Menu Cards

Choosing the Drinks!

How to Have a Dry Wedding

Do you have wedding food or drink questions? Email me!!

Til then, happy eating & drinking!

~ Natasha

Wedding Question: Is it common for venues to charge additional catering fees?

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

I just received another question via email: “The wedding venue that I’m looking at does not provide food, but they have a list of approved caterers we can choose from.  The problem is that the venue is charging an extra 28% over what the caterer charges.  Is this common practice?”

This is an interesting question! Many times venues have preferred vendors or caterers – that part is very common. The additional charges are, however, different with each venue.

Some venues charge you a certain percentage or amount if you do NOT use their preferred vendors. And if the venue offers catering, but you choose to use another caterer, they usually have high fees (like a corkage fee) to discourage that.

Some venues DO have a charge for vendors also, though they call it a “service fee.” The service fee can include a plethora of things, such as a cake cutting fee or, perhaps, a fee if your caterer needs to use their kitchen and facilities. BUT 28% seems really high for that kind of a fee — though it really depends on what services they are providing. Will they be providing the plates & utensils? Will they be serving the food? Pouring drinks? Even then, from my understanding, 10-20% is more standard for pricing. But find out what this includes before you sign (or don’t sign) anything!

Check out other venues in the area and see if they have similar practices & fees. That will give you a better idea of what to expect. Also, consider having the reception at a restaurant so you eliminate those kinds of additional fees that don’t get you much!

Hope this helps! Good luck!

Do you have a wedding question? Email me!!

~ Natasha

Share the photos of your venue and your catered food with a FREE online wedding album!

What Goes inside a Wedding Invitation?

I just received a beautiful wedding invitation. But, of course, it doesn’t just include an invitation telling me where and when the wedding is. So what DOES go in a wedding invitation?

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

First, the envelope addressing: Make sure you address it to who you want to go. Seems simple, but if you want your friend John to take his girlfriend, Jane, make sure you address it to both John and Jane. If you want Julia to bring someone, but you’re not sure who she’d like to bring, you should be sure to address it to Julia and Guest. Otherwise they won’t know and shouldn’t bring someone! (Remember my tips on invitations and guests!)

Second, the invitation: Include an invitation to the ceremony — date, time, and location. If there’s a reception following, say “reception to follow.”

Third, the reception card: If the reception is at a different location, add in another card that tells your guests where the reception is and what time it starts.

Fourth, the response card: This is the little card that you get back that lets you know whether your guests will be able to come! If you want (or your venue requires it) you can also put the menu options on the response card so you can tell your venue in advance how many of which dish you will need. You can also be creative with your response cards by sending, for example, blank cards that let your guests say what they wish. Be sure to include a deadline!

Fifth, optionals: If you want, you can include a map and directions of the locations. You can also put in ideas for accomodations (especially if you have a room block at a local hotel). And, of course, your website! The website can keep everyone up to date on everything.

Be sure that you do NOT include registry information, though you can put it on your website — so take that for what it’s worth. (No pun intended)

Did you include anything else with your invitations?

~ Natasha

What Information to Include on your Wedding Website

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

You have decided, for many reasons, that it’s time to start a wedding website, so you found the site you want to use and you’ve signed up…. now what? Of course, you know you need to put on your names, the date, and the location of the wedding, right? What else goes on your wedding website?

  1. Times and locations of both the ceremony and reception, especially if they are in different places.
  2. Hotel information (especially if you have room blocks!) and include a price, if possible so that guests have an idea of the variations of hotels.
  3. Car transportation or taxi phone numbers to get to/from hotel to the site of the wedding (and reception, if they’re in different places). Directions are also helpful.
  4. Registry information (though it can’t go on your invitation, it can go here!)
  5. Other event information (eg. rehearsal dinner, etc)
  6. A story of how you met and/or photos of you two! People love to read more about the couple.
  7. The wedding party – with brief description/bio – so that people know who’s in the wedding and how they’re affiliated. This will also be helpful if people have questions that they want to ask your wedding party but not you!
  8. Your link to an online photo sharing site (like The Wedding Lens!) so that people can post pictures before and after the wedding. It’s fun to share photos!
  9. You might also include an RSVP feature so that people can RSVP via the internet (and save a little paper!)
  10. Any other updates or information that you think guests should know about but that you may have been unable to include with the invite.

What did you include in your website?

~ 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?

How to Have a Dry Wedding!

Photo from The Wedding Lens
Photo from The Wedding Lens

Sometimes people need to have a dry wedding. If you’re wondering why, think expense, religion, or more importantly, alcoholism. Regardless of the reason, how do you have a dry wedding?

First, consider having a daytime wedding – followed by lunch or brunch. Most people aren’t interested in drinking alcohol at noon, so it makes it very easy to avoid having alcohol.

Second, serve a variety of nonalcoholic drinks.  They key is to have a variety, though. Not just iced tea and water, include coffee, soda, or something special. Try a signature drink, like this mint tea or cranberry punch. Oh! And use something like sparkling apple cider for the toast, instead of champagne.

Third, if you have an evening wedding, I promise you can get people to dance, assuming you want them to! Try using games, like Dance Dance Revolution or a hula hoop, or other competitions.

Also, it can’t hurt to tell people in advance that no alcohol will be served — and perhaps the reason if it is something like alcoholism. People will respect it and telling them in advance gives ’em a chance to get over it!

Did you have a dry wedding? How’d it go?

~ Natasha