Planning a wedding is all about setting and adhering to priorities. In every decision, there must be some clear understanding as to what is most important to you in creating your dream wedding and not losing sight of your budget while attending to the sensibilities of friends and family. For most couples the first thing is to set the date and make sure that date is available at your chosen venue. In the case of a church wedding you will have to consult with your pastor, priest, rabbi or other chosen officiant to ascertain if he or she is also available. Other considerations, such as selecting a caterer, music, flowers, and so forth can usually be left until later in the process.
Choosing who to invite to each of the various functions of your wedding stands as the most difficult, and often emotional stages of planning, so a few guidelines are in order. It is best to start with at least two lists, one from the bride’s side and one from the groom’s side. Within these initial lists, one should separately mark those persons who absolutely must be invited, as opposed to those who are more casual or business acquaintances. In many instances, an invitation serves merely as a token of respect or notification of the wedding with full knowledge that the person invited will not be able to attend. Invitees who live close by are more certain to attend while wedding invitations to relatives or friends who live far away and would be unlikely to be able to attend serve as an important social formality. However, when inviting your long lost cousins from Stockholm, be aware they may unexpectedly accept. An available tool in preventing such surprises is to invite to only the wedding ceremony those who are distant from you both geographically and emotionally. Of course, one may always merely send a wedding announcement rather than a full blown invitation to avoid an awkward situation. An invitation to your wedding is considered a compliment regardless. Unless you have an unlimited budget, sanity should prevail in the decision process.
Friends and family should certainly be asked to the wedding reception as well as the church or other chosen location. If the wedding is held in an extremely small venue so that only a few intimate friends and family may attend, announcements should still be sent to all uninvited acquaintances. The wedding reception may present the most complicated series of decisions but in this case the assistance of a wedding planner can prove invaluable. He or she will provide you with expert guidance on setting realistic goals and expectations and balance those with your available resources.
The rehearsal dinner for your celebration may include the wedding party, their significant others, family members, and close friends. This might include grandparents, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, etc. If the list seems to be getting out of hand, one can invite only the wedding party and direct participants, although in some cases this could pose a significant breach of etiquette.
A bachelor’s dinner and a bridal luncheon are often included in the series of events surrounding the wedding ceremony. For these, at least, the rules are fairly universal and understood. The bachelor’s dinner is usually hosted and arranged by the best man and includes any groomsmen and their close friends. Often, the bridal luncheon becomes a spa day with the bridesmaids being treated by the bride’s family to various beauty treatments with hors d’oeuvres or other goodies as one sees fit. Needless to say, these functions are limited specifically to the bridal party and not to sisters, brothers, friends, or relatives. Thankfully, this limits the possibility of unintended slights.
Even the lushest landscapes would benefit from the addition of flowers to provide an energetic panorama of brightness to any wedding and lend an air of excitement to each location or event. While it is nearly impossible to overdo floral arrangements in large venues one has to be careful to consider available space and visibility in smaller settings. Floral sprays that block a view of the bridal ceremony from family and friends should be scaled to a reasonable size.
Most couples coordinate the color and design of the bridal bouquet with the bridesmaids bouquets whether by flower type or even by using contrasting colors. Wrist corsages can prove a convenient choice leaving hands free to perform other tasks if the corsages are kept to a moderate size. When carrying a bouquet or attaching corsages to one’s wrist is too awkward, one could consider utilizing a lei. In the appropriate season with the right style dress, they are beautiful and convenient. A lovely and smart way to use flowers is to insert or weave them into the bridesmaids’ hair. This will obviously require advanced thought and coordination but it could easily be incorporated the morning preparations with your bridal party.
Men’s boutonnieres should be consistent among the groomsmen. Obviously, they will match in color and size, but attention should be paid to consistently orienting them. The bride may want to delegate one of her bridesmaids or a mother to make sure these are installed on the same lapel and same angle on each of the groomsmen. The oddly placed boutonniere draws eyes away from the perfection you are seeking to create.
To accent the natural beauty of the outdoor weddings, floral decorations can be placed along the processional aisle on the last chair or end of the pew. To conserve your flower budget, this could be limited to the front two or three rows. Outdoor weddings are often held beneath an arch or pergola. If there is a wedding bower at your venue, flowers will lend a colorful silhouette to the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony. Check with your selected local florist to find out what types of seasonal flowers may be available in your area. Spring and summer wild flowers are often very affordable and offer a full palate of bright colors.
In selecting floral table decorations for your wedding, keep in mind that guests will want to socialize across the tables and be able to view other important events like the wedding toast, cake cutting, or the first dance. Also, there must still be ample room for food service and those pesky wrist corsages.
The tradition of the wedding toast is an integral part of wedding celebrations. The honor of offering the first toast to the bride and groom or the newlywed couple typically falls to the best man who then passes off the toast to others in the wedding party. The groom often toasts his lovely new bride and family members may want to wish the happy couple long lives, good health, wealth, and perhaps many children.
Most toasts are short and witty or sentimental, like “A toast to love and laughter and happily ever after.” Although rhyming adds a bit of charm, it is not entirely necessary. Tasteful humor can bring a lighter touch to the occasion, such as “A toast to the groom—and discretion to his bachelor friends.” One can use the words of famous writers who have provided an ample supply of excellent toasts. Robert Browning wrote:
“Grow old with me!
The best is yet to be
The last of life
For which, the first is made.”
It is not uncommon for the wedding toast to take form as a brief story of “how I met the bride” or “how I introduced the newlyweds” thoughtfully laced with sweet or humorous anecdotes. Just keep in mind that the story should remain short and to the point, especially within a larger wedding where many others may wish to offer a congratulatory toast to the marrying couple. The best man would be well served to plan his toast ahead of time and even practice in private beforehand to avoid an embarrassing stumble or a nervous lapse of memory. The perfect wedding toast can draw both tears and laughter from the gathering of friends and family.
The term “toast” dates back to the 17th century when a piece of bread, or toast was floated atop the wine perhaps to improve the flavor or add a bite of nourishment. However, the practice of the ceremonial toast dates back as far as recorded time, sometimes required by law and other times prohibited or banned. Under the Emperor Augustus, Romans were required to offer toasts to his health, and other alleged attributes, for each course of the meal and, in Roman tradition, there were many. Yet, both Maximilian and Charles the Great banned the custom of toasting, whether due to the excessive drinking that usually ensued or the tediousness of poor or inept toasts. Nevertheless, the art of toasting has survived the tests of time even during Prohibition when toasting was frequently more potent and substantial than the legal drink. Although toasts can be political, poetical, topical, cynical, humorous, or romantic, the latter two are the most appropriate for a wedding ceremony. They can be toast to people, events, or just about anything one can imagine within the bounds of appropriateness for the occasion.
Holding a successful wedding requires an almost endless number of lists which seem to present a daunting task. If you are lucky enough to have a sister, mother, or best friend willing to take on some of the responsibility, the burden can gratefully be shared. Modern grooms often involve themselves by helping in areas that used to be the sole province of the bride.
One list that must be started early and maintained assiduously is the record of gifts that are certain to be showered on a young couple and begin arriving shortly after the wedding announcements are out. To prevent this task from becoming overwhelming, each gift needs to be recorded along with the giver and date of receipt in a notebook. Unless the couple wishes to spend their honeymoon writing letters of thanks, it is best to write them as soon as each gift is received. If not, this note-writing task will get ahead of you. Notes of thanks are formal communications and are never sent by text or email. To do so is a serious breach of wedding etiquette.
Despite all your best efforts to avoid duplicate gifts by registering at various outlets and retail stores, the couple will undoubtedly find themselves with four toasters or six sets of salt and pepper shakers or even mismatched linens. Unless they were given by a dear aunt who will inspect the pantry each time she visits to ascertain if her gift is in place, such duplications can be exchanged for something the couple really needs. However, the bride or groom should follow up by writing a note to the gift giver praising the virtues of the replacement gift and expressing profound gratitude. It is worth emphasizing here that gifts of money require a written note that describes in some way how the couple will use that token of generosity. Often, financial contributions to the marriage can help the couple obtain items missing from their list of household needs.
Brides and grooms must always thank their bridesmaids and groomsmen individually and personally for their support and participation in their wedding celebration. Whether or not they carry out particular logistical tasks in support of the event, the wedding party participants endure at least some sacrifices and should never go unacknowledged. The proper way to express gratitude for their demonstration of love and support is by handwritten note, never by email or texting. The wedding party spent their time and money to be part of the couple’s important day. They can certainly take the time to write a short thank-you to each person. It shows both gratitude and respect. Bridesmaids are often given gifts commensurate with the bride’s financial circumstances to show a special appreciation for being willing to buy and wear a dress they will probably never use again. If a wedding video is produced, copies make a splendid gift for the wedding party so they can relive the wedding experience.