Monday, October 09, 2006

Hiring a Wedding Planner: A Step-by-Step Guide

Small, simple weddings and receptions are usually small and simple enough to be arranged by the engaged couple themselves without too much stress and trouble. But more often than not, weddings are seldom simple and rarely small events, and the bride and groom need to decide first if they need the assistance of a wedding planner, and if so, who should they pick? It takes a bit of work, but in the end, if done right, you can be seeing your dream wedding be organized in ways you weren't sure were possible.

  • Start by asking around for local wedding planners from friends and relatives who have been recently married or look online or in the phonebook for local consultants.
  • Narrow the list down and schedule a few appointments with the consultants that piqued your interest.
  • During the meetings with the various wedding planners, give them as good an idea as you have of what you want the wedding to be like and let them know your budget. Ask how close to your idea they can come within that budget, and ask what kind of fees they charge based on what you would need them to do for your wedding.
  • Feel free to ask for various credentials and testimonials from the weddings they have helped plan in the past. Credentials can include a business license, proof of membership to any national organization, and anything that proves they are not just a wedding enthusiast instead of a legitimate business person.
  • Ask to see a portfolio of photographs from prior weddings, and find out what sort of things they have arranged in the past, along with what they consider their strengths or areas of expertise in particular.
  • Pick their brain about the specifics of a traditional wedding -- a professional wedding planner should know more about weddings than just about anyone else, especially if they have been in the business for a long time.
  • After the meetings, discuss all the potential planners and decide who the two of you liked the most and felt the most comfortable with. Comfort level is as important as the consultant's basic ability to do what they claim: if you cannot express yourself and communicate with your wedding planner, it will be harder to plan the perfect wedding.
  • When everything is said and done and both the bride and the groom have agreed upon one person, remember to sign a contract with the wedding planner of your choice, outlining everything that was agreed upon, from payment to what services will be provided, and what to do in case the wedding is cancelled.

Remember, the better you treat your wedding consultant, the better they will work for you. And if they do a wonderful job, offer to write a letter of reference to show future couples. And be mindful of your gut instinct when choosing a planner. If everything inside you is saying "no," it is within your best interest to listen. And make sure the person you choose is going to keep your best interests and ideas at heart and do their best to find you the best deals that they can. And with all of that kept in mind, there is no reason you won't have the wedding you have always dreamed of.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

How to Budget Well for That Upcoming Wedding

The average wedding these days is somewhere around $19,000. With that sort of money, you could get a brand new car, go on several vacations, travel to Europe for a month or two, or any number of things. But not all of us can afford to drop that kind of money for a single day. In order to make sure you aren't stuck with an exorbitant amount of money to fork over when it's all said and done, it's a good idea to plan ahead, make a budget, and stick to it! Start by looking over your finances with your spouse-to-be. It can save problems in the beginning, as money is one of the touchiest subjects in relationships, something that often leads to divorce with couples who aren't on the same page financially.

  • Discuss credit card debt, medical bills, student loans, car payments -- anything that requires paying off over a long period of time.
  • Take the time to talk about potential expenditures of money necessary after the wedding.
  • Figure out average income, how much of that automatically goes out in taxes, and how much goes towards paying off various expenses.
  • These are all important and can impact the basic ability you may have to afford a fancier wedding. Other factors that will affect price:
  • Where the wedding and reception are being held. Cost to reserve a venue differs from place to place, and the cost per place varies by time of year, and time of week.
  • When the wedding and reception are being held. Certain times of year or even certain times of the week can affect price. The price is higher if the particular time is a popular one for various events, and the price is lower during off-peak times.
  • The amount of time between the beginning of planning the wedding and the actual date. The longer you wait, the more it could cost you and the fewer options you will have.
  • Determine how much financial help you are getting from others to pay for the wedding, and then figure out how much money you can afford to spend on the wedding. When you've come up with a number, figure out what aspects you consider most important, and make a list in order of most important to least. Next to each, list the maximum amount of money you will spend on each.

Decide whether or not you will need help from a wedding planner or if the event is simple or low-key enough to handle on your own. If you are lucky enough to have friends who are creative and would be willing to handle certain aspects of the wedding for you as a wedding gift, talk over the feasibility of it with your spouse, and then adjust the budget accordingly. Also, consider opening a bank account specifically for paying for the wedding. That way, it will be easier to see what money is being spent where, and how much you have to work with if something changes down the road. Be thrifty, find ways to cut corners, and stick to that budget, and you'll be on your way to a worthwhile wedding to remember for a very long time.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Picking the Right Wedding Planner

Getting married is a common thing. People are doing it all the time, across the world, and have been for as long as the idea of a community existed. But despite its frequency, marriage is still an important part of many people's lives, and too many, taking that first step towards the intended rest of their lives with the person they love is best done with the perfect wedding. In order to do this, and do it right, most people will hire a wedding planner to make sure they get exactly what they need and want in time for the big day.

Being engaged and being the guest at a wedding or two does not mean the bride and groom have any more idea of what is actually involved in a wedding than they did before. And with the right wedding planner, it is possible to still feel as if the wedding was planned for you, not by you, which will often allow the bride and groom to enjoy the day while the wedding planner worries about the finer details.

Before choosing someone to handle the reins of your wedding and reception, look around and see what sort of choices are available. Ask friends who they have hired, and what their experience was. You can also find local wedding planners in the phone book, or use the internet to find them as well. There are planners with websites that showcase some of their work to help you decide to look into their services to begin with.

When you have narrowed down a list, start talking to the consultants themselves. It is a good idea to see what their strengths and weaknesses are, and most importantly, ask to see some kind of portfolio of past work. Ask how long they have been in the business, and how many weddings they have helped coordinate over that period of time. Feel free to ask for credentials, and ask around to see what others have to say about them, if anything. If the planner is willing to divulge, ask who they often rely on for services such as cake- making and floral arranging. If you have an idea of what sort of things you would like to happen during your wedding, look to see if the weddings these consultants have planned resembles some of the things you are looking for. Ask plenty of questions, and make sure you feel comfortable with the person you think of hiring. It is also important to be able to trust your wedding planner, as they are the one handling the money being spent and they are the ones pull the strings to make sure everything goes according to plan.

A wedding planner basically plays the role of several different kinds of professionals, and must be able to play those roles effectively in order to gain a reputation that will lead to repeat business and allow them to maintain their planning business. Because when it comes to hiring someone to oversee everything for a wedding, no one wants to hire someone who is only so-so. Before choosing a planner, make sure to ask around for anyone who has worked with them before to make sure they are capable of doing the things you need them to. And if so, congratulations, and start planning that wedding!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Cutting Corners for Weddings in Smaller Ways

Let's assume for a moment that you have a very loose and forgiving budget. But somehow -- just somehow -- your original plans for that big day are just over the maximum limit of what you can spend. And you need to bring that price down -- not a lot, just in small ways. Here are a few things to think about that can help save money for your wedding but won't detract from some of the larger, more important aspects.

The first thing guests see is invitations. With the right printer and a good eye for design, why spend a lot of money on specially designed invitations when you can do them yourself? The average specially-ordered wedding invitation costs at least $1 each if not more -- so for a 300 person wedding, that's $300 in invitations alone! But if you have a good-quality printer, or at least know someone who does, printing invitations you design yourself costs the price of paper and any additional ink cartridges you may need, which might be $100 at the most for a complicated, multi-colored invitation for 300 guests.

When it comes to decorations, go low-key or hold the reception somewhere that is already decorated. Or, before the wedding, get together with family members and friends and make the decorations yourself. If the wedding and/or the reception is being held during the summer in the backyard of a house (whether your own or someone else's), consider planting flowers shortly before the wedding, or plant bulbs ahead of time, depending on how long the particular bulb needs to mature.

Not only does the do-it-yourself approach work with decorations and flowers, but it can apply to any sort of favors and take-home centerpieces for the guests. Ordering pre-made candy packs designed to match the wedding colors can be more expensive than doing a little searching on your own and making something with your own hands -- or perhaps the hands of a few close friends!

As far as music goes, having a live band can be nice, but hiring a DJ is a good idea as well. Bands generally have one or two particular styles of music, and a set list, but a DJ is usually versatile enough to be able to play just about anything because their list of songs to play is dependent upon their music stock, which are just about any songs that have been recorded. DJs also require fewer breaks and give the option for requesting songs so everyone in attendance can hear something they like. And you might like that local band you heard at the coffee shop last Friday, but will your grandmother?

The main thing to remember is that, while it cuts the cost to do things on your own, remember that the downside is that it will require more time spent. And planning and getting ready for a wedding is no small task, so having a low-key do-it-yourself wedding is not the best choice for everyone. Though, if you know people who are attending the wedding who are gifted in particular arts such as cooking, decorating, or graphic art, perhaps see if they will help with the wedding in lieu of a wedding gift. It will help you out and will give the opportunity for them to showcase their talents, and in the long run it will allow you to focus on other parts of the wedding that need more attention than invitations and wedding favors.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

You're Engaged! What Next?

When the decision to get married comes along, it can sometimes turn your world upside down. There are so many people to tell, and everyone has so many questions. It can easily overwhelm just about anyone! Just take a step back, breathe in and out a few times, and consider the best course of action towards the planning of the big day.

Getting the word out is definitely the first step, no matter how late or how soon the wedding is set. Usually, the sooner the better, especially in a wedding less than a few months away. Sit down and make a budget with specifics as to who is taking care of what and how much help and funding they are willing or capable of giving towards the wedding. The bride's family generally takes care of a good portion of the wedding, but if the bride's family does not have the cash flow for the kind of wedding their daughter and future son-in-law desire, things can be scaled down, or other means of financing can be found.

Find the wedding planner to fit your budget and your style if you are planning on having a wedding with a good-sized guest list. They can help you organize and figure out what to do when, and where to find the best deals to make the day as close to your dream wedding as possible.

When it comes to deciding on most things wedding-related, you need to take a few things into account: personality, guest list, and spending limit.
  • Most or all aspects of the wedding and reception should somehow reflect the personality of the bride and groom.
  • A large venue with a small guest list works about as well as a small venue with a large guest list.
  • The larger the guest list, the larger the venue needs to be. The larger the venue, the more details there are to take into account.
  • The more the details, the more the money spent.
Remember that the farther in advance you decide where you want to have the wedding, the less of a chance there is that you'll have to fight over the date and time with another wedding party. It also gives any out-of-town friends and family more time to make travel arrangements. The options for where to hold the wedding and reception are almost limitless. You can either set a guest list first and find a place that will fit that number, or find a place you like and make the guest list accordingly.

Keep in mind that certain times of year and busier and more popular for weddings than others. Particular days, weeks, and times of year will lead to lower prices if no one is clamoring over themselves and others to reserve the space.

Destination weddings are quite popular, but if you have a lot of family and friends with small children, health issues that keep them from going far, or money issues that don't allow for much leeway, a wedding too far away can lead to a very small wedding party; that works for some people, but not for all.

After the basics have been decided, and everything is falling into place, the specific details can be ironed out. But with the help of family, friends, and a well-utilized wedding planner, there is no reason your wedding can't be everything you have dreamed of, and possibly more.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

So You Want to Plan Weddings, Do You?

The wedding industry has become a very large one over the years. People specialize in wedding-related fields all over the place and manage to make a good living off of it because there are weddings happening all the time, so the demand for various services is a big one. Floral arrangements, wedding cakes, wedding dresses, invitations, decorations -- all of these and more require a great deal of focus and know-how. But for those who want to be involved in weddings but are better at overseeing than baking, designing, or creating, there is the very necessary job of wedding planning. But the job is a hard one, and not everyone has what it takes to do it well.

There are some basic attributes a wedding planner must have in order to be truly successful: -Patience. Weddings are stressful and often complicated, and the bride, groom, and any involved family member are going to feel under a lot of pressure. Being able to deal with a vast range of emotions while still doing a good job is key in this industry.
  • A certain "take charge" attitude. Wedding planners are similar to personal assistants. They know what needs to be done, who needs to be called, and should, in most cases, be able to anticipate the needs of their clients' before the client realizes them.
  • Creativity. Sometimes the bride and groom aren't sure what they want to do for their reception, or where to hold the ceremony. Theme weddings and receptions are popular with some crowds, and coming up with ideas that the couple will like the sound of is important. Very few people want a completely boring or drab wedding.
  • A basic (or more-than-basic) understanding of religions, which will help you tailor the wedding ceremony to the needs of your clients, as very seldom are weddings non-religious in nature, though it does happen. Understanding what can and can't be done in various religions, and knowing what should and can't go on is all very important.
  • An eye for detail. Knowing how to match colors and styles from every area of the wedding is important. Without a keen eye, it is significantly harder to get word-of-mouth business, which is a good way to gain a reputation as a good wedding planner.
  • Good accounting skills. It is not only the wedding planner's job to make sure the wedding is as close to the bride and groom's ideal as possible, but must know how to handle the money of whomever is paying for it.
  • Good networking skills. Knowing who to call for various wedding- related projects is important. And when you have someone you get frequent business, you can often get discounted rates because they want you to keep handing projects over to them to further their own business. Not only does this make you more efficient, it also saves money for the bride and groom, which is always appreciated.

With all of these skills, you may be able to set yourself apart from the scores of wedding planners already out there. The industry is large and very wide-spread, so it may be a hard job to break into, but with hard work and determination, it is entirely possible to succeed. So if you’re calling is wedding planning, then have at it. Start with attempting to plan a friend's wedding for free, perhaps, instead of a wedding gift. Or ask local wedding planners if you can shadow them to get a feel for the job and see if it is something you’d really be interested in doing as a career. And remember, the most important part of a wedding planner's personality is patience and a drive to get the job done. Use that to get yourself start, because it isn't the easiest field to break into.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Getting the Beautiful Dress You Want Without Breaking the Bank

Women grow up with the idea of fairy tale weddings that are supposed to be the most important day of our lives -- the day we are considered our most beautiful. And everyone who falls in love with this idealized notion most likely also has their own fantasy wedding dress in mind, as well. The problem is, this dream some of us has can turn into a huge expensive without some thoughtful consideration and some thriftiness. Consider looking online for a gown. Because there is no middleman, the cost is generally lower, and having the dress tailored to fit your figure will often be less than what you end up saving by having the dress sent straight to your house. Sometimes it is possible to save up to 30% or more in some cases on wedding gowns depending on when and where your order it. And when the average wedding gown bought in a store can cost around $1,000, which can be a considerable amount.

If you have a particular gown in mind, or have seen one at a bridal store that you fell in love with but can't afford, find a local seamstress who can come close to replicating that dress at a lower price. Since the dress will be made to fit you, it won't need alterations, and the cost of materials will be less because the seamstress can generally purchase wholesale fabrics below retail prices. In some cases, this can cut the cost of an expensive dress almost in half, depending on the intricacies involved.

Borrowing a gown is also a viable option, and having your mother or grandmother’s dress tailored to fit you or restored generally costs less than buying a whole new dress to begin with, and can be turned into a family heirloom if the gown is taken care of properly. Also, recently married friends might be willing to allow you to wear their gown, as well. This tactic can easily save you upwards of 70% of the dress cost, with the only money being spent on tailoring. Along the same lines as borrowing your mother's wedding dress, think vintage. There are plenty of places out there that have older wedding dresses from past decades, and the prices are generally less (accepting, of course, for dresses that may be one-of-a-kinds or original pieces from famous designers).

Sometimes having a less formal wedding is a good cost-saver for many reasons, and would require a less costly dress. Instead of a complex, very ornate dress, consider finding a bridesmaid's dress that you are fond of, and order it in white. This may also help make choosing the bridesmaids’ dresses much simpler.

And what if you found a dress in a bridal store that is everything you wanted a wedding gown to be, even as a little girl, but it's too much money? If the fabric itself is somewhat expensive, ask if that style can be made with a different material. In most cases, you can save a bit of money (not a large amount, but $100 to $200 can make a difference) by getting the dress you want in a material that isn't as fancy, but still look just as beautiful.

In a lot of ways, the ways that will work for you will depend on your personality and what you are looking for in a wedding dress. But either way, it is possible to look radiant and beautiful without the painful blow to your checking account. And if you can find the perfect dress without spending the yearly revenue of a small third world country that smile people see in all of the wedding photos will be even brighter and more beautiful.
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