Wedding vision

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Your Vision
The first step in wedding planning is to evaluate the type of wedding you wish to have. Formal or casual? Sit-down dinner or cocktail reception? Church or garden ceremony? It's important to take the time to discuss with your fiancé your inspiration for the wedding so you move forward in the right direction smoothly and easily.

This is major tear sheet time: Buy or borrow as many wedding magazines as you can get your hands on and when you see any possible idea that speaks to you, tear the pages out to file. Create files for: ceremony, reception, invitations, catering, attire, flowers, favors, rehearsal dinner, showers, engagement party and more.

Cost saver: Borrow magazines or books from a friend and photograph your inspirations, creating a free online gallery of your favorites.
Wedding guest list

Photo: Rosalind Weddings

Guest List
It is imperative to know your guest count before you start planning. Talk to parents on both sides and make sure you have a well-rounded count of your maximum number of guests. An average "unavailable to attend" rate is 10 percent for in-town guests, 20 percent for out-of-town guests.

Cost saver: A small, intimate wedding is always less costly and more personal than a 200-plus guest list for dinner.
Wedding budget

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Some people have a specific set budget to work within, while others figure it out as they go along. If you are the former, it's time to put pen to paper and make sure you know what the wedding budget will be. Typically, the costs break down as such:

  • 40 percent: Reception, to include reception venue, catering (tax and tip can be an additional 30 percent, so make sure this is included!), bar, wedding cake, linens, valet
  • 10 percent: Flowers for the ceremony, bridal party bouquets and boutonnieres, centerpieces
  • 10 percent:  Entertainment, including ceremony music, cocktail and dinner music, dancing for three hours after dinner
  • 10 percent: Photography for the engagement session, ceremony and reception (typically eight hours of coverage)
  • 10 percent:  Attire, including the wedding dress, veil, jewelry, shoes and groom's tuxedo
  • 5 percent: Wedding planner to make the planning stress-free and to save you time and money through negotiations, contracting cost savers and more
  • 5 percent: Wedding stationery for invitations, save the dates, thank-you notes, wedding ceremony programs, menu cards
  • 5 percent:  Transportation to and from ceremony/reception, including limousines, trolleys, double-decker buses and more
  • 5 percent:  Extras, like favors, rings, gifts for attendants, marriage license and other misc.
Cost saver: A morning ceremony with an elegant luncheon is always less costly than an evening affair—many restaurants are slow at lunch and have wonderful pricing to book a big party
Wedding ceremony

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Do you belong to a church where you wish to marry? Or do you prefer a ceremony in a unique location alongside the reception? Once you determine the locale, check dates and times available. With this decided, the reception is easy to determine.

Cost saver: Have your ceremony and reception in the same venue, saving you money on site fees, chairs and other rentals and transportation
Wedding reception

Photo: Avery House Creative

Modern and monochrome or traditional and romantic? Museum or garden? Inject your personality as a couple into the venue location to make it intimate and personal for both you, your families and your guests. Do you love to read? Then a public library may have an event space. Collect wine? A vineyard estate seems the perfect choice.

Make sure you can easily accommodate your maximum guest count and have room for a dance floor, band stage, cocktails and a catering kitchen if not already available.

Cost saver: Many venues own their own tables, chairs, china, stemware, silverware, linens and more, saving thousands on rental and delivery costs.
Wedding music

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Again, inject some personal favorites here. Are you Argentinian? A Tango during dinner is perfect. Latin? Strolling mariachi for cocktails really sets the tone and gets the party started.

A band or DJ can provide everything you need from cocktails to dinner to dancing to after party. For the perfect high-energy reception, have the band play your first dance immediately as you are introduced into the dining room. Guests will join you for a short, quick dance set, and then dinner will begin. The father/daughter dance can kick off the next dance set between soup/salad and entrée.

Cost saver: A DJ is always a low-cost option, typically one-fourth the cost. If you opt for a band, you can have a smaller jazz trio for cocktails and dinner, then the full band for dancing only. Instead of paying for overtime, have the DJ for the late-night hour at the end of the reception.
Wedding flowers

Photo: Amanda Hein Photography

Flowers and Décor
Flowers are like fashion, and the trend for this season is color, color, color. Hot combinations like cherry red/fuchsia, pink/navy and aqua/crimson are just as gorgeous as whisper soft sorbet colors like lavender/oyster gray, buttercream/apricot and ivory/antique gold.

Combining unique family heirloom tabletop details like silver urns and compotes on silver trays with cut crystal candlesticks and gilded Moroccan teacups as votives sets an intimate, entertaining at-home tablescape instead of plain rental vases as centerpieces. Insider tip: Use at least twice as many more votives and candles than you think you need—it creates the most warm, ambient, soft glow throughout the space. Everything and everyone looks best bathed in soft, flickering candlelight.

Cost saver: Choose a venue that has lots of bright, reflective windows, trees and plants (think garden, conservatory, courtyard) and doesn't need floor-to-ceiling décor.
Wedding invitation

Photo: Avery House Creative

Paper has gone couture—textured cotton pulp papers, soy-based organic inks, vintage letterpress printing techniques, contrasting paper wraps, luxurious swiss silk ribbon accents and more.

Unique shapes are another hot trend. Think square with square response and enclosure cards, long and narrow, petite tri-fold accordions, pocket-fold jackets and paged booklets with ribbon or silk cord spines.

Cost saver: Skip the formal reception card, opting instead to list dinner and dancing to follow below the ceremony details at the bottom of the invitation.
Wedding dress

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Bridal Party Attire
Gorgeous gowns abound this season with a shape, style and price tag for every bride and bridesmaid alike. The simple elegance of J.Crew gowns has brought bridal chic to the convenience of a's that for easy shopping? It's perfect when the bridal party members are spread across both coasts and everywhere in between.

Cost saver: Find a boutique in your area that offers "once-wed" bridal gowns. Some stores offer brand new "past-season" samples at a fraction of the price, all in a runway-inspired, glamorous boutique setting. Even better, take your gown budget farther by consigning your gown after the wedding and take that check straight to the bank, while allowing the next bride to fall in love with your perfect gown.
Wedding favor

Photo: Avery House Creative

The favors are always the place-setting detail that steals the show, a very personal and thoughtful gift to each of your guests.

Going to Paris on your honeymoon? French macaroons are by far the most lovely, elegant, tasty and trendy favor du jour. What's more, you can literally choose any color to match your wedding palette and any flavor for the season.

With favors, the packaging is more than half the fun! Opt for colorful petite square boxes wrapped in jute cord or silk ribbons, or glossy acrylic boxes personalized with monogrammed labels.

Cost saver: Have an interactive dessert bar that doubles as the take-home favor for guests, making a dual-purpose "two-for-one" expense and stretching your budget further. Set up a cookie bar filled with homemade family recipes and allow guests to fill up a mini old-fashioned glass cookie jar to take home. To set the scene, copy handwritten recipe cards with generational family recipes and display them in vintage recipe boxes. Cake truffle bars, chocolate bars and candy bars are also favorites.

More ways to cut your wedding costs from brides like you