The ‘Big Five’……….

  1. WHEN
  2. HOW
  3. COST
  4. GUESTS
  5. LOCATION

When….
In considering your date, there’s a few things to remember. Some times of year cost more, your budget will have to cover the extra venue and vendor costs. The expected climate will impact upon your location as well as special holidays or religious festivals. You don’t particularly want a park wedding on July 4th weekend, for example. Also consider that some family and friends have obligations to keep with their own families. Thanksgiving weddings may not be attended by anyone other than family. If you want a cheaper wedding, then a weekday ceremony would be cheaper, with the reception held at the weekend if you want full attendance. It pays to be flexible. You can have your glamorous party and still cut costs on the small stuff. One wedding I officiated was held in one state during the week, and the party was in another and was two whole days. The money saved on the ceremony and the travel costs for the family ended up in the thousands and no-one missed out on a thing.

How…
What style of wedding would you like? Also, would you like religious, civil or spiritual? The formality of the wedding tends to vary with the style you choose. In big church weddings, for example, there is often a ritualistic aspect to the wedding and a protocol other than just etiquette to be followed. Civil weddings tend to be less rigid but also quicker and more of a recitation of vows to legalize the commitment followed by the real party. A spiritual ceremony tends to combine aspects of both, but can work out less stressful as it can be customized to fit your personal wishes and belief systems. This is particularly helpful in those cases wherein there are more than one or two faiths within the new family unit.

Often your type of ceremony will dictate the attire, but it doesn’t have to be the case. You can wear the full formal attire and have a civil wedding, but often not the other way around. In my opinion, it’s your wedding, you should be comfortable, happy and focused upon the creation of the bond between you, rather than the aptness of your attire. Theme weddings are fun and lift the whole thing out of the ordinary. Weddings in balloons, at water parks, Halloween themed, medieval themed, you name it, it can be done.

Cost..
This is crucial to the smooth running of your event. You must decide what you want, get quotes and contracts and keep them close to you. It all too often happens that a venue is not available and a second has to be found and the costs can vary by thousands. A vendor has difficulty with a request and therefore the costs rise, or the quotes you got were not precise enough in their numbers and now you have to buy more, and there goes your budget.
Have your budget in mind, gather quotes from the best, the middle and the budget end of the spectrum, and compare what you get for your money. Be wary of asking for changes late in the day, as it will cost you more than planning way ahead of time.
Pick a venue that has a beauty and elegance already, that way décor can be kept to a minimum and therefore will cost less. Outdoor venues in gardens and orchards are ideal for this as the only décor you need is in the guest area and the wedding arbour. A huge empty church hall for example will cost a lot more to transform into a cozy elegant space than an Italian barn or greenhouse venue.
If you are planning most things at home, keep it simple because rentals can actually work out to be more expensive than  a venue by the time you have added in chairs, tables, cutlery, crockery, linens, flowers, candles and all the other items that would come with the venue as standard. Lots of little expenses soon add up and can be in fact a false economy. Account for every little detail, because it may actually benefit you to book a small venue and have them take away all the stress for you.

Guests…
Do you really need to invite that girl you shared a room with back in college and haven’t seen for years? Does everyone in your family need to be there? Do they all have to be at the ceremony or will most of them be happy with attending the reception? Take into account that some of them will have children to bring with them. This can increase your guest list greatly, and most people will not be able to leave their children out of the plans or find sitters, especially if they are traveling to your location. If there are a lot of children involved then it may help to have a kids area in your seating plan. Tables set up less elaborately and a kids food menu for those tables. Most children would remember a pasta or pizza dish more favorably than a cordon bleu creation that delighted their parents. That can help cut costs tremendously. Also consider a buffet style menu if there are a lot of people, that way you know everyone gets something they like to eat, and you don’t have to deal with food allergies and  menu choices ahead of time. This will alter the logistics of your room, as you will have a lot of people on their feet at the same time, also consider having two serving areas at either end of the room to save the long line of hungry guests at one table. You could vary the style of food at each table to suit your theme.
You also have to make sure of accommodations for your guests who are traveling from longer distances. Consider talking to a couple of local hotels and asking for the best time for bookings, and give your guests a cut off date for booking their rooms to get a good rate and secure their booking. Discounts often apply for group rates. Get the business card of the person you talked to, and give the information to your guests so that everyone is on the same page at all times.

Location…
After you have decided on all the previous points, your location should be able to cope with all your plans. Does it have indoor and outdoor provisions to deal with weather? Is the ceremony and reception in the same place? Do you and your guests have to move from the ceremony location into the reception area? How easily will this be done?

What provisions are their for parking? If you are having the wedding at home, you will obviously either have to limit guests or to provide information for their parking or transport. How many guests are logistically possible at that location?

Is there a place for the bride to be hidden away from the eyes of the groom and how easily will she have access to bathroom facilities and mirrors prior to the processional? Are their restrictions on flowers, candles, décor, access rights etc? One wedding that I officiated was in the middle of a public park on Memorial day weekend. There were several thousand people in the park, and seven weddings that I personally saw en route to my couple. The guests and indeed myself were severely hampered by the traffic into the park and the tourists who were haphazardly parking and driving erratically. Not only was it tough to schedule my arrival [I was 10 minutes late] but also to actually find the couple. They were getting married under a tree with some ribbons on it. It was a lovely location and must have been a great idea at it’s inception. But the reality of the day was somewhat different. At any other time, there would have been no difficulties, but it took me almost an hour to get through the park, and if we missed a turn, it was a one way system back around. So consider all the aspects of the location and just how private your ceremony will be, if required. Sometimes the dream needs to be nurtured and created, it will not just happen of it’s own accord. The rest of the world doesn’t get it, it has to be shown, and sometimes dazzled by the fact that you made it work. It’s all part of the fun.

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