It’s always such an honor to contribute to Martha Stewart Weddings. In the summer issue, we answered a reader’s question about discussing dress code and attire with your vendors. While most vendors follow the industry standard (black), not all do. We offered some tips on navigating that conversation. Here’s a little insta snap of the article. xoxo
One of the most important things to do once a budget has been established and blessed by everyone contributing is to map out a wedding agenda — as much of one as is possible at the beginning of planning. The agenda will give you answers to the basic questions you’ll need to answer as you enter the next phase of planning: hiring vendors. Do I need a photographer for eight hours or ten? How long should my band contract be? How much time should I allocate for photographs? Should I take photographs before the ceremony or after or both? When should hair and makeup begin? What time should the bus pick up my guests? etc.
But how do you start crafting a wedding agenda — where do you start? The ceremony time is generally a good starting point. Ideally your ceremony will begin just before “golden hour,” which is the time of day just before sunset when the light is dreamy and photographs look their best. Once you’ve determined what time your ceremony will begin and how long it will last, you can move on to thinking about how to structure photography before and after your ceremony.
In my experience, the trickiest part of crafting an agenda is in finding consensus around the photo/shot list. Since the posed photographs before and after the ceremony are driving timing to such a large extent, I would recommend tackling this first. Your photographer will most likely provide a suggested list of photographs.
Most couples schedule about an hour of photographs prior to the ceremony. This allows the photographer time to photograph the bride, bridesmaids and her family, as well as the groom, groomsmen and the groom’s family unhurried before vows are exchanged. You can decide if you’d like to do a first look then, too.
Once you’ve developed a list of pre-ceremony photographs, you’ll develop a list that will be taken after the ceremony. Then, you can easily back out time earlier in the day for hair, make-up, getting ready, transportation, and later in the day for your reception.
At the beginning of planning the most important items to work out on your agenda are: ceremony start and end time, posed photos before and after your ceremony, cocktail hour start and end time, reception start and end time. Once you’ve penciled in these significant time stamps, you’ll be in a great place to move forward hiring vendors and scheduling transportation!
1. Establish a budget.
2. Draft a guest list.
3. Book your church and celebrant.
4. Book a venue.
5. Draft the weekend agenda.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of being engaged and to immediately start venue (or dress!) shopping, especially if you’re engaged over the holidays and you’re with family who are equally excited to see plans take shape. Really, though, there is nothing better you can do to ensure smooth sailing until your wedding day than to sit down and get real about money before you step a toe inside a dress shop. A well defined budget will point you in all of the right directions, from which venues you consider, to what kind of reception you plan.
Organizing your day of deliveries is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for your wedding weekend, especially if you’re hosting a large event with lots of moving parts. When we work with clients, we create a detailed production spreadsheet; that sheet lists each and every item that is being delivered for the ceremony and reception, along with all pertinent details (who is delivering, when, how to operate, etc). For smaller events with less production, you don’t need an elaborate spreadsheet, but you do need to communicate who is responsible for all items during their life at the reception so there is no confusion during installation or at the end of the night about where the item came from and where it is going.
We also can. not. live. without clear containers labeled with a photo label and a descriptive label that notes the items’ destination and the quantity (something we manage for all of our clients — it’s crucial!). Within those containers, all items are “table ready,” meaning that as much packaging as possible has been removed to make set up go quickly and smoothly.
One of the questions I’m asked most during rehearsals or just before ceremonies by a bride or maid who wants to make sure she’s getting it just right is, “how should I hold my bouquet?”. Just remember the belly button rule: hold your bouquet lower than you think it should be — usually at or around your belly button. Bouquets look best carried lower than you think they should be!
photo by Jodi Miller Photography; bouquet designed by Courtney Spencer of Merriment Events
There’s just nothing quite as wonderful as seeing film from a client’s wedding day, but Christina and Tom’s film by Josh Gooden completely blew us away. Josh told their story so beautifully, in a way that augmented the story captured in still pictures. We’re such firm believers in videography and always tell clients its one investment you’ll be so, so glad you made.
I’ve seen it way too many times: couples nervous at the altar, clinging to the minister like a life preserver. Don’t do it! Don’t recite your vows to the minister while your spouse is left searching desperately for eye contact. Worry more about maintaining eye contact with your significant other as you recite your vows and less about reciting the lines perfectly. Katie and Max did it beautifully, as shown above!
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea to be on display in front of 25 to 350 of their nearest and dearest friends and family, no doubt. The silver lining in this whole thing is, though, that if you do make a mistake, no one will know, except maybe you and your minister. Take it easy on yourself and enjoy!
In addition to styling Janie Medley’s lovely feature in the latest Southern Weddings Magazine, the SW girls were kind enough to ask me to contribute to a story called “35 tips for a wedding full of southern hospitality.” Naturally, I wrote about something that’s near and dear to my heart — timing. No matter how beautiful the details, how sumptuous the linens, how striking the flowers, a thoughtfully crafted event day agenda is the foundation of your event; anticipating how your guests will experience each moment of your wedding day and crafting an experience with them in mind is one of the most generous expressions of hospitality!
Gay offered such great insight into what it means to serve dinner “family style.” Here are a few technical things about this dinner style…
*Design your floor plan to match the service style. Nearly 250 guests attended Alex and Paul’s reception. Although that’s a large party, we really wanted the reception to feel intimate and for the focus to be on conversation and feasting! That was the entire point of serving dinner family style, after all. For that reason, we grouped tables end to end and created a u-shape around the dance floor. The table set-up facilitated conversation and passing of platters.
*Using escort cards and place cards are a must with this floor plan! Each table seated eight people, but with tables grouped end to end, some table groupings seated as many as 40 guests. When tables are grouped in this fashion, it is really important to number each table in the group (as shown below) and to offer both escort cards and place cards. Even though each table will be numbered, without place cards, it can be difficult for guests to discern where one table ends and another begins.
*Vary the look of the tables. To keep things interesting and to make sure the tables weren’t a sea of sameness, which could have easily happened with this many tables, we decided to seat guests at a mix of linen covered tables and farm tables.
*Don’t forget to leave some room for platters! We really labored over how much decor to put on the tables. Because dinner was served on larger platters that were passed from guest to guest, we had to be mindful of leaving space on the table. Unlike a plated dinner service, where you could literally create a “runner” of floral down the center of the table, we had to be sure to leave some breaks. We also had to be mindful of budget — long tables can be more expensive to decorate. Ultimately, we decided to group jars of flowers in threes and spaced the groupings with hurricane candles. To add a little more sparkle to the table, we scattered tea lights.
photography by Don Mears