While wedding planning can certainly be a fun and joyous time, it can also be stressful, slightly overwhelming and even pretty confusing at times. After all, it probably is the biggest party you’ve ever thrown. And the best way to avoid problems later on is to ask your wedding planning questions early.
We’ve compiled a list of the most common wedding planning questions we get from brides-to-be and are addressing them here. We help you think through the different scenarios, pros and cons, but ultimately it’s up to you how you want your wedding day to materialize.
In no particular order, here are 19 of the most common wedding planning questions brides ask us:
01. What do we do with our gifts + decor items at the end of the night?
You’ll want to check your venue’s policy to see if they require you to have all décor items out at the end of the night or if they will allow you to store things overnight and retrieve them the following day. Regardless, someone should definitely take your wedding gifts at the end of the night!
02. Would you suggest closing the bar?
Closing the bar, even for just a brief period of time, aids in moving guests from cocktail hour to the reception space. It also keeps guests seated during your initial formalities so there are less distractions.
If you do choose to close the bar you can:
— Reopen the bar during dinner
— Provide a wine pour during dinner and reopen the bar once toasts or open dancing begins
— Open the bar after dinner and toasts
We also recommend reviewing the bar package you’ve selected with your catering or bar company to see how many hours are included, if you’re required to close the bar early (for example, 30 minutes prior to end-time), and so on. Each company follows different procedures, so it’s important to be aware of what their terms are.
03. Does a first look make sense for our day?
Some believe first looks can take away from the big reveal while others find it private, intimate, and that it can alleviate those wedding day jitters. However, this decision could also depend on your ceremony and reception timing. For example, if you have a 1:30pm ceremony and then a 5:30pm cocktail hour you would have ample time to do all photos in between your ceremony and reception. If you do choose to do a first look in this scenario keep in mind that hair and makeup would need to start even earlier to account for seeing each other prior to the ceremony.
For brides who choose to have a back to back ceremony and reception, a first look can be extremely beneficial to your timeline. With a 4:30pm ceremony and 5:00pm cocktail hour you may feel rushed to get all of your family photos, bride and groom portraits, and all bridal party images completed during cocktail hour. Not to mention any room and detail photos you’ll want your photographer to capture of your reception space, especially if there are any location changes from the church to reception, or if you are envisioning photos offsite.
A first look might be recommended by your photographer and wedding coordinator in this scenario because you would be able to allot ample time for all of these important images ahead of your ceremony without feeling rushed.
04. Should all the girls arrive at the same time for hair + makeup?
We would suggest doing so. You then eliminate any stress if someone is running late, hair and makeup is ahead of schedule they can just continue on to the next girl, and of course you want to soak up as much of the morning as you can with your favorite people!
05. Should we have hair + makeup done at the same place?
Yes – whether it be at a hotel, your home or even a salon, having both done at the same place allows for a more stress-free morning without worrying about timing/location between the two places, moving everyone and their stuff multiple times, etc. It can take up more time and add more stress to the day than one may think.
06. Where should I get dressed?
There are a few variables to consider when addressing this question:
— When and where is hair and makeup happening?
— Is it somewhere you could put your dress on as well?
— How is the lighting? Remember your hair stylist, as well as makeup artist and photographer especially will want ample natural light.
— Will you have transportation to your ceremony?
— Do you want to sit in your dress or would you be standing on a trolley or shuttle?
If you choose to get ready at your ceremony space, the same questions apply – how is the lighting/aesthetic of the room? Is there even a room to get ready in? And if so, is it big enough to hold everyone comfortably?
In our experience we typically suggest getting dressed at your home, a hotel, or in a bridal suite at your wedding venue. Most hair salons and churches don’t have the space (or time on their calendar) to allot for this. Plus, getting dressed in your home, hotel or a venue’s bridal suite just tend to be more intimate, and relaxed.
07. How will my bridal party process in for the ceremony?
This can come down to a personal preference and even the setup of your ceremony space.
Some common combinations:
— Groomsmen and bridesmaids walk down the aisle together
— Groomsmen enter from the front/side and bridesmaids process down the aisle individually
— Groomsmen enter from front/side and then meet the bridesmaids individually half way down the aisle and escort them to the altar
08. Do we need ushers at our ceremony?
If your ceremony will be in a church check with them first, as many require you to have ushers. We do suggest having ushers in most cases as it helps to corral guests, get them to their seats efficiently and minimizes mingling too close to your ceremony start time. Your guests should feel comfortable and welcomed but it’s also important to stay on time. 🙂
09. When should we do family photos?
This works best following the ceremony. Coordinating getting your family to the ceremony early for pictures and then getting the bridal party tucked away prior to guest arrival can get tricky. We suggest having a detailed list of photo combinations and specific names (not just grandma/mom/aunt) for the photographer so he/she can proficiently work through the list and send guests off to cocktail hour.
10. How do we determine if we should attend Cocktail Hour?
If you don’t have a first look and your reception immediately follows the ceremony your cocktail hour will be spent doing pictures. If you do a first look and/or have time in between the ceremony and reception this will allow you the option of attending cocktail hour and visiting with guests.
Bonus: the more people you can see during cocktail hour the less you will have to greet during dinner! Though many brides and grooms have the time to attend cocktail hour, some choose to use that extra time for a little alone time just the two of them or even for a private cocktail hour with just the bridal party.
11. Should we provide meals for vendors on the day of?
Yes, you should be willing and able to feed vendors on the wedding day. Your planner/coordinator, DJ/band, photographer, videographer and anyone else playing a major role and present at the time of the event should be offered a meal.
Be sure to check each vendor contract before sending meal counts to your caterer. Some vendors require the same meal guests receive and some even request to be sat with guests at a table. It’s also courteous to confirm if there will be any assistants you might be unaware of, as well as any meal restrictions they might have (vegetarian, gluten free, etc). just in case.
Other potential vendors that may want or need a meal could be the Officiant or your florist/design team, especially if there is a major flip involved with your ceremony and reception décor. It’s always polite to offer.
12. Do we have to do favors?
They aren’t a necessity, but if you’ve got some room in the budget then a small thank you to your guests is always a nice gesture and can be a beautiful addition to your reception tables. Edible favors like macarons, tend to be a big hit amongst guests!
13. Do we really need a Wedding Planner or Wedding Coordinator?
Each wedding planner and coordinator works differently and it’s important to think about what role you may want someone to have in your wedding.
All wedding planners and coordinators will coordinate the wedding day logistics: telling vendors where to go, being on the phone answering deliveries and questions, and managing the timeline. Many wedding planners will also plan and design the event – that is come up with the look for the wedding, find the right partners to bring that vision to life and help you work through budgets and contracts. Some wedding planners also happen to be florists or can make things for you.
Ultimately it’s your decision how involved you’d like a wedding planner or coordinator to be in your day!
[Related: 4 Reasons Why a Wedding Coordinator is Worth the Investment]
14. Do we need welcome bags for out-of-town guests?
This is completely optional, although a nice touch especially if you are anticipating a lot of out-of-town guests. If you aren’t going to create bags that are thoughtful and useful for your guests, then it may be better to save the money and put it towards that bottle of champagne for your head table, or even upgrading a few centerpieces you wanted.
Think beyond two bottles of water and snacks – it could be a beautiful guide book or map for the city or state you’re in. Or even a combination of local treats and goodies.
15. Are place cards a must?
This is a personal preference. Having a simple card or seating chart directing guests to a table is a great way to ___. However, if you’re worried about who will end up sitting next to who or your caterer requires it for meal preference purposes, map out the seating and assign guests to specific seats at their given table.
We do not typically encourage open seating. When you offer open seating, it can ultimately cause more confusion and disruption than one might think:
— Important family or bridal party members tend to be some of the last to sit before dinner and could end up sitting in the back corner.
— You’ll have to over-set your guest tables/chairs because some guests may pull chairs from tables and try to squeeze extras at another just to sit with family or friends.
— Some may save seats for their friends and it can be awkward for quests to ask if a seat is open.
— You may have a family of 5 that need seats together, but the five open seats left are scattered throughout the room.
16. When should we send out invitations?
The best time to send out your invitations is 8-12 weeks before the wedding date. This gives enough time for planning and sending back the RSVP card in time. For out of town weddings, it may even be nice to send invitations out more than 12 weeks in advance to give guests a little more time to arrange travel plans.
17. When should the RSVP reply card be due?
We recommend setting your RSVP date to be 4+ weeks before the wedding date. Many caterers require meal counts 30 days in advance these days, so this gives you enough time to send final counts their way, as well as finalizing seating arrangements and sending them to your stationer or printer for placecards or a seating chart.
We recommend keeping track of RSVP’s and any meal preferences in a spreadsheet as reply cards are received. Doing so will cause less stress at the end and all you have to do is tally a final count.
18. Who should give the toasts?
Traditionally, the Father of the Bride will start off toasts at the reception, followed by the Best Man and Maid or Matron of Honor. But here is where you can modify it to be however you prefer:
— Some FOB’s are nervous talkers and prefer to get their speech out of the way early on, and may combine their talk as part of a welcome once guests have sat down and just before dinner is served.
— Some couples have co-Best Men and/or co-Maid of Honors. If that’s the case, some choose to give individual toasts and some actually give joint speeches.
— Some couples also like to address their guests by thanking everyone for coming and being a part of their big day.
— Some couples choose to forgo speeches at the reception altogether and opt for them to be said in a more intimate setting at the rehearsal dinner.
Whichever route you go, remind those who will be speaking to keep it short. Long and drawn out toasts can make for antsy guests and even put you behind schedule.
19. Is it still common to do a receiving line?
No. It’s not as common anymore. The tough thing about receiving lines is that they often suck up a lot more time than one might realize, and blame it on technology and our ever-waning attention spans, but nobody (especially your guests) likes waiting in line.
A couple alternatives to receiving lines:
— Do a first look so you can attend your cocktail hour
— Go around to each table (be sure to start with family, elderly guests and your parents’ friends first – your friends will be on the dance floor if you don’t make it around to their tables).
— Host a welcome party after your rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding
The JDWC Team
Images by Ivan & Louise