How to decide what you need (and don’t) for your wedding isn’t easy. Heed these tips to help you make your big planning decisions.
The First Look
Pro “[A First Look] allows the couple more time to enjoy the reception and not feel rushed while taking pictures after the ceremony,” explains Carla Eustache of Style Perfect Weddings and Events. Adds planner Dina Blazek of Dina Berg Blazek Events: “Yes, [doing a First Look session] helps with logistics and, yes, you will get to your party going quicker if you do a First Look, but make it about feelings instead of logistics. The advice I give to brides is this: Who calms you? If this person is your fiancé, then I think you should have a First Look. It will take some of the butterflies away and allow you to really be in the moment of your ceremony.”
Cons The moment you see your fiancé for the first time on your wedding day is emotional. With a First Look, your guests miss out on that moment, though very intimate and personal, between the bride and groom. Take a moment and think about how you envision seeing your partner for the first time on your wedding day: if it involves you walking down the aisle, a First Look is not what you want.
Pros Social media allows you stay connected. Using hashtags (e.g., #Becky&SteveGetHitched) is just one way not only to engage your guests but to also catalog all of the fun, candid images your guests took while at your wedding. “It allows your guests to be fully present in your day,” says Eustache. “Plus, it allows the bride and groom inside access to all of the candid pictures captured from the wedding day.”
Some things are best left intimate and unshared. And sometimes those things include your wedding day. “I think this is a slippery slope,” says Anne Markey of Favor Me Events. “Do we really need to hashtag our wedding? Too much social media takes guests' focus away from the day and the couple and makes it feel like a marketing campaign.” So while your guests may not like being told not to post photos of you in your wedding gown online before you’ve even had a chance to look at your own wedding pics, it’s your prerogative. A note in the program or a brief statement by the officiant can clarify your preference.
The Wedding Planner
Pro Quite possibly some of the best money spent on your wedding day is for a wedding planner. And for good reason: while most couples have a vision for their wedding courtesy of dozens of pages pinned on their Pinterest boards, many don’t know how, exactly, to pull it all together. Enter the wedding planner, who can help coordinate everything from color palettes and cake design to timelines and impending disasters (e.g., a monsoon-like storm threatens your outdoor wedding). “Hiring a professional wedding planner will save you money and time,” says Carla Eustache of Style Perfect Weddings and Events. “They will make the wedding planning process and the wedding weekend more enjoyable and stress-free.”
Con They cost money. Though you can expect to dole out between 10 to 20 percent of your total budget for a full-service planner depending on the size of your wedding and the planner’s experience, you can save money by hiring a day-off coordinator instead. A day-of wedding planner “will create and execute the timeline for the day, manage the vendors onsite, act as liaison between the bride and her vendors, manage the rehearsal and ceremony and, above all, this person is a neutral party without any emotional attachment to the situation,” explains Anne Markey of Favor Me Events. For that, you can expect to spend between $500 and $2,000, which comes in handy when your florist is a no-show and you need someone to chase them down for you. Beware, though, of planners who literally show up the “day of.” As far as hands-on time, at least a month is needed for a professional planner to get up to speed on all vendors and plans to execute smoothly.
The Destination Wedding
Pros Location, location, location. Saying ‘I do’ with a famous Key West sunset as the backdrop, spending days touring wine country with your closest friends and family members days before your wedding, relaxing on the beach the morning of your nuptials with your bridesmaids. What’s not to love about a destination wedding? “I think if a bride and groom are laid-back and don't mind some of the traditional formalities being left out, it is a perfect scenario,” says Blazek. “All of the guests are super charged for a fun weekend and everyone is on vacation. It is truly a great experience for all.”
Cons Oftentimes there’s a hefty price tag associated with destination weddings as it’s proper etiquette to cover your guests’ accommodations. And even then, some guests might not be able to foot the airfare. “Be prepared for some nearest or dearest that won't be able to attend,” says Blazek. Plus, “destinations that are out of the country are a tad more complicated with language barriers, traditions, so I still suggest a wedding planner to get these details together and bring your vision to life at the destination.”
The Seating Situation
Pros Having assigned seating “takes the guesswork out of it for guests,” says Markey. “I have seen guests practically throwing elbows in order to reserve seats at tables so all of their family could be seated together. With assigned seating, this is already done for them.” Open seating, though, seems to only be acceptable in certain scenarios, says Eustache. “If you're planning a cocktail-style reception with a variety of seating arrangements, you are able to get away with open seating, as long as you have noted this on your reception card and have enough seating and table arrangements for all of your guests.”
Cons Sometimes not spelling it out for your guests exactly where they need to be at what time, not to mention what attire they need to wear, can result in harried wedding goers. And confusing them even more by not telling them exactly where to sit and with whom at your reception can create a situation that detracts from your wedding. “It can set a tone of confusion, and you want guests to have fun and be relaxed,” says Eustache. Keep in mind, too, that placing “Reserved” signs at tables isn’t foolproof either. “Guests assume that the 'reserved' sign is for them, even if it is not,” explains Markey. “Be specific and either have the names at the table or tell family members in advance who are meant to be seated at the 'reserved' table.”
The Great Outdoors
Pros Outdoor weddings oftentimes provide the best setting for wedding photos. (A picturesque backdrop of the Appalachians versus the interior of a ballroom? It’s a no-brainer.) “If you are a super easy going bride—and your mom is too!—then go for it,” says Blazek. Outdoor weddings can be some of the most magical events, so long as the weather cooperates.
Cons It can rain. Or be sweltering hot. Or be too cold. “If your wedding day is stressful enough, don't put the added stress of ‘will I or won't I be able to be outside’ on your plate,” says Blazek. “If you do choose an outdoor wedding, be sure to have a plan B that you love almost as much as your plan A. Again, outdoor wedding equals a greater need for a wedding planner! Lots of last minute needs and changes could pop up and you need someone on your side.” Plus, oftentimes the cost of an outdoor wedding is more due to providing electricity, bathrooms, and more to the space and guests.