Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wedding Budget: Coordinating Multiple Parties with Ease

By Cherie Johnson

Photo from /
For husbands-and-brides-to-be with large, extended families, they often find that both sets of parents, and perhaps even grandparents, want to chip in to help defray the soaring cost of today's weddings, which, on average, come in at a whopping $20,000. Many couples, too, are electing to pick up the rest of the slack. Corralling so many people who want to help with the wedding budget can be a virtual nightmare though. Before simply accepting their good wishes and checks, the very first thing you should do is sit down with your fiance and chart a course of action to ensure you've covered every element of your wedding that requires a significant contribution. Planning a wedding with a budget in mind comes down to knowing what you're looking for in terms of venue, vendors and necessities -- this, however, can be easily put to rest with a systematic budget planning roadmap.

Planning a Wedding with a Budget in Mind
An itemized wedding budget detailing the specifics -- such as the dress, food/drinks, venue, flowers and band -- will ensure you've covered all the major aspects of your wedding day.

At the top of your worksheet, spreadsheet or what have you, list what you've decided is a reasonable amount to spend on the wedding. On the left hand side, make each specific and significant element that you must or would like to have a line item. For instance, the ceremony, which encompasses the venue/place of worship, wedding officiant and any licenses would be listed here. Decide on a true and honest estimate of what you're willing to spend planning a wedding on a budget, and then at a later day, add what you actually spent so that you can keep accurate track of your finances. Other items in the left hand column should consist of things such as the reception (food/drinks, cake, favors, venue, etc.); wedding attire (bride's clothing and shoes, makeup, hair, groom's clothing and accessories); rings/jewelry, flowers (for the entire party and at both venues); musician/band/DJ; photograpy; transportation (if applicable); invitations and signage; and anything else that would cause a significant dent in your wedding budget. Remember to include such essential fees as tips for vendors (about 15% to 20%), trial hair and makeup sessions and dress/tuxedo cleanings and pressings.

As far as planning a wedding on a budget with your parents, his parents and any other well-wishers (step parents perhaps), show them your finalized wedding budget at an informal, yet constructive meeting. Discuss costs and who can realistically afford what. In days past, it was common -- and expected -- for the bride's parents to pay for everything, a modern dowry in a sense. Today's weddings no longer involve such a considerable sacrifice, though it is still carried on by many traditionalists. At this meeting, you'll want to discuss how the payments will be made; maybe your parents would like to split something or pay for one segment of the wedding entirely. Will they be giving you one lump sum in a check or visiting vendors with you to pay upfront? Such concerns about planning a wedding on a budget should be dealt with by a frank talk that involves all parties.

Many wedding budget planners suggest opening a separate wedding account at your bank that's not linked with any of your personal accounts. This simple action will help you more carefully figure out what's been spent on the wedding and where the funds are going. You should also set aside an additional 5 to 10% of your overall wedding budget should mishaps arise. The likelihood that you will go over your budget is almost a given; the amount to which you do can be controlled, in most instances, by careful wedding planning, and that budget of 5 to 10% extra you've stashed away will come in handy. Scaling back from the get-go is a huge help; this includes things like not having a buffet (wasted food), having fewer bridesmaids and offering just wine and beer at the reception (alcohol is a major expenditure). Still, if these are must-haves, just be cautious of vendors who try to upsell you to some better, improved service that you probably don't need. Research is a crucial part of planning a wedding on a budget, so make sure you do your fair share before visiting vendors and venues.

Fine-tuning Your Wedding Budget for Success
Far too many couples forget about planning a wedding with a budget in mind and have a bang-up, blow-out bash that ends up putting them in the red. Add that to any other debts, and you're starting your marriage -- which should be thoroughly exciting -- with a gray cloud over your heads. A well-planned wedding budget that's done from the start -- with nothing unaccounted for -- will ensure that you can mosey off to your honeymoon with nothing else to worry about but enjoying yourselves.

Cherie Johnson is the founder and owner of Creative Wedding Favors, a one-stop shop for personalized, unique baby and bridal shower, graduation, quinceanera, anniversary and wedding favors, helping countless couples and families make their big events a success. Cherie's wedding advice has appeared on several websites including Little Wedding Guide, Wedding Lenox and the Wedding Source. Before she launched her company in 2006, Cherie worked as a professional wedding photographer, capturing the most special moments of the bride and groom's big day. For more information on Creative Wedding Favors or to find a variety of colorful, customizable gifts and favors, please visit

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

5 Ways to Be Sure Your Bridesmaids Don't Hate You After Your Wedding

Photo Credit \ Brooke Anderson

If you've ever been a bridesmaid, you probably know that it's no easy task. Check out five painless ways you can keep your friendships together in the middle of planning your wedding:

Keep in mind that you're the one getting married, not your entire circle. Planning your wedding -- no matter how small or low-key -- can become all-consuming. However, your bridesmaids still have lives to attend to. Yes, your wedding is important to your friends, but they do have other things going on that often take precedence.

Be considerate when choosing their attire. Blowing $300 (after alterations) for a dress you'll probably only wear once? Not cool. There are plenty of other fashionable and affordable places that offer bridesmaids dresses such as J. Crew and Ann Taylor. Also, remember: Any dress can be transformed into a bridesmaids dress if it fits your vision; don't be scared to think outside the box.

Check out the other three tips here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wedding Party Gifting Dos and Don'ts

Photo from |

Your wedding party has been there for you through the good and the bad. To thank them appropriately, it's customary to give gifts to show your appreciation for all they've done. Here are a few dos and don'ts to think about:

Be unique. If you've ever been in a wedding party, most likely, you already know the gift routine. The typical gifts -- beer steins, watches and necklaces -- are great; however your friends probably already have lots of these items. If you really want to "knock their socks off," think of something outside the box. Check out websites like Etsy Weddings and Pinterest for unique options. Also, local vintage shops are great places to find one-of-a-kind gifts.

Don't procrastinate. Let's face it, shopping at the last minute is always a stressful experience. And that stress is multiplied when you're trying to put the finishing touches on your wedding. Chris Easter, co-founder of The Man Registry, suggests completing your shopping no later than one month prior to your wedding. If you wait too long, you may end up paying extra shipping or rush charges for purchases you make with online specialty shops. Additionally, keep in mind that some personalized gifts need extra time to create and ship.

Read the other dos and don'ts here.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

RSVP Woes in Wedding Planning

Photo Credit: Matt Hutchinson

You would be hard pressed to find a couple who hasn't experienced surprise, anger, hurt or disappointment about who didn't come to their wedding and who did not RSVP without having to be asked (after the deadline).

What is going on with people? Why aren't they able to fill out a stupid card with a stamp already on it and tell you they are going to come or not come to your wedding? And then show up if they said they were coming!

The RSVP deadline is where the rubber meets the road in wedding planning. Until this point, you can live in fantasy land. You dream of the big day, you count everyone you want to be there and budget accordingly, finding the right reception space, deciding on the food and festivities surrounding the big day. The mythical princess moment is just around the corner and soon, you will have The Final Guest List or the final cast of characters to witness your Cinderella moment.

Getting those RSVP cards in the mail every day can be as exciting as the actual wedding gifts.

Ironically, this is often the small window of life when you diligently RSVP to friends' weddings. When you're single, you have no clue about the enormous task of wedding planning, and when you're married, you either get amnesia, or you're busy having your last pre-child moments, being pregnant or raising children. A simple RSVP card is just another item on a busy checklist of activities for those marrieds/singles. I remember a married-with-kids coworker of mine said to me about RSVP cards, "I figure if I don't respond, they know I'm not coming." I wanted to strangle her.

I admit, I'm in the amnesia camp with the exception of one guest who was unreachable until after the final catering count and who, to add some extra blood pressure, was also bringing an uninvited guest (someone he barely knew but had a crush on). This was two days after the catering deadline, plus an uninvited guest. The person is still living because he was a guest on my husband's side, so I stayed away from him (with a strong warning of my parents and husband to chill out). The woman he invited did end up dating our guest.

The bubble bursts when you find out that your Cinderella day turns out to be just another day for most of your guests. Your rational side knows this is not the biggest day to them, but you are shocked that they can't just respond, or you are hurt and disappointed when they decide not to come for lame reasons. (I recently heard about guests having a lot of household chores that weekend, so they wouldn't be able to make it. I was at a wedding with a half empty reception hall because a full 70 people RSVP'ed yes and no-showed. There was clearly some family drama going on there!). Hopefully, you have enough cheerleaders to keep you from being weighed down by the emotion of it all.

How do you, then, rethink your wedding when you estimated for 200 and only 100 will make it? Or when you have a huge ballroom and it will be half empty instead of brimming full? Or when the reasons cherished guests give for not coming are shockingly pathetic and dismissive on your big day? Or when they don't show and don't bother to call you to explain?

First of all, I hope this article normalizes what you're going through. You are not alone -- far from it. For any story you have, there is going to be someone else with a way worse story. Then, it's a matter of letting yourself feel whatever you are feeling about it. (Your emotions may range from, "Oh well, the important thing is I'm getting married" to "What a flipping idiot!" to "I can't believe someone would be that rude!").

The next choice is how you are going to set aside strong negative emotions, temporarily or permanently. You can't let these people ruin the build up to your wedding. Are you going to forgive or forget or stew? You can ask yourself if this is worth altering a friendship -- maybe yes, maybe no. For sure, now is not the time to make nasty phone calls or worse, write flaming emails. I encourage you to talk with your spouse-to-be. Life is full of disappointments and hurts, and this is a perfect time to remind yourself that you are marrying this person for his or her support. You can let them know what you need in the moment. Sometimes, it's as simple as, "Honey, I am going to vent right now. Please just listen!" or you may want to actually ask to get a rational perspective on why the wedding will still be wonderful and life will go on with or without the offending persons or the modified guest list or altered plans.

Once you have wrapped your head around the new wedding guest list, remind yourself of the love and support you are getting from everyone who will be there in person or in spirit. Weddings are a community event, and the number of people who are there has nothing to do with the quality of your supportive community. Most of us would take one great friend over 10 acquaintances. Your wedding day is a huge day for you, and nobody can change that by their inconsiderateness. Bask in the glorious day surrounded by those who love you and are witnessing the beginning of your married life.

Elizabeth Doherty Thomas is a co-founder of The First Dance, along with Marriage and Family therapist father Bill Doherty. The First Dance is a 2007 Modern Bride Trendsetter award-winner for taking on the complex family dynamics of wedding planning. See what engaged couples and wedding professionals are saying about their book "Take Back Your Wedding." Their entire website is dedicated to offering advice on working through the people stresses of wedding planning as a couple, with your families and how to strengthen your upcoming marriage through this enormous first task of married life.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tips for Throwing A Festive 4th of July Party

Photo from \
The 4th of July is right around the corner, but you still have time to put together an amazing party for your friends and family. Check out these tips:

Evite your family and friends. When you're planning a party at the last minute, take advantage of technology to get the word out. Websites like or allow you to send free email invitations and keep track of your guest list. Additionally, make a Facebook event and invite your friends.

Decorate the party with stars and stripes. Of course, flags can be a main theme for your party decor. Small flags are not only affordable, they can also be found at any party supply store or superstore. Other decorations to consider are balloons, paper lanterns and flowers in red, white and blue. For your table centerpieces, you can use Mason jars or other glass containers and fill them with red, white and blue jelly beans or other candy.

Set up a craft table. Kids love to make crafts, so set up a crafting station at your party where the kids can make 4th of July star wands, patriotic handprint flags and American flag tissue paper wreaths. You can come up with a craft that kids of all ages can do together or something that teens can help the younger ones put together. Another idea: Have a beading table where children can make necklaces and bracelets. Just keep in mind that beads can be a choking hazard, so supervise the project at all times, or just let the older children participate.

Celebrate the states. Add a little fun to your party by making it a 50 states theme. Have your guests dress up (or act) like someone from a different state. Having a potluck? You can have each guest choose a state, then bring a dish or food that particular state is known for.

Allow everyone to pitch in. Hosting a 4th of July party doesn't mean you have to do it all. Ask your guests to bring drinks and side dishes, while you provide the grilled food. You can ask them to bring traditional sides (like potato salad), but encourage guests to bring something that reminds them of their own family traditions; and you might find a new tradition to try.

Serve patriotic desserts. Grilling is awesome, but you don't want to forget the desserts. You can find some ideas by checking out our source here.

What tips do you have for throwing a fun and festive 4th of July party? Please share by leaving a comment!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tips for Planning Your Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

Check out these tips for pulling off your rehearsal dinner without a hitch:

When to have it: While most people have their rehearsal dinner the evening before their wedding, right after the ceremony run-through, you can have yours whenever works best for you.

Paying for it: Usually, the groom's parents plan and pay for the rehearsal dinner. However, these days, many couples pay for it themselves or ask both sets of parents to contribute to the cost. If you feel strongly about which venue is chosen, you should start talking about everyone's plans.

Who you invite: Must-includes are: all members of the wedding party (with their spouses/dates); parents of flower girls and ring bearers, if the little ones are invited; all parents, stepparents and grandparents of the bride and groom and siblings who aren't in the wedding party (and their spouses/significant others); and many times, the officiant and his/her spouse. Out-of-town guests should be invited as well, but if you'd rather keep the gathering more intimate, schedule an event for them at another location, like a restaurant, the hotel where they're staying or informal cocktails at a friend's or relative's home.

Formality: It can be however formal (or informal) you want it to be, but it should not be more formal than the actual wedding. Whatever style you choose, send the rehearsal dinner invitations after you've received wedding RSVPs.

Where to have it: Try to keep it simple. Places to consider: a restaurant (preferably one with a private room); someone's back yard; or a pizza place for a super-casual shin dig. As long as you and your guests are comfortable, relaxed and having a good time, anything goes.

And don't forget these moments:

Toasts. If the groom's father is hosting, he can welcome guests with a formal toast, or the best man can do it. Then, other-well wishers can toast as well (keep in mind that toasts can be a little longer and more humorous at the rehearsal dinner than at the wedding). Be ready to rise and thank those who've toasted you. And later, you and your fiance may want to take a minute to toast each other and thank your hosts.
Gifts. Give your bridesmaids and groomsmen their thank-you presents, particularly if it's something they'll need for the wedding.
Performances: If secular readings or popular songs aren't right for the ceremony, you can include them in the rehearsal dinner.
Special presentations. A lot of rehearsal dinners have videos that incorporate footage from the bride's and groom's pasts.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How to Throw The Best Birthday Party Ever

By Annette Yeturn 

Photo from /
Are you one who has determined that having birthday parties at home is just too stressful so you avoid them with fear and trembling? A little planning can go a long way. With it, you can help turn a potentially chaotic mess into a wonderful birthday party that your child will remember for the rest of his life.

So how do you throw the best birthday party ever and still remain sane? Let's review four top tips to help make the day stress-free:

Make a Plan -- A birthday checklist will help to keep you on track and in control. No more "Oh, I hope I didn't forget something." With this single step, you will have built-in reminders and will take the pressure off instantly. Include even the things that you know you won't forget like 'bake a cake' or 'buy paper goods' just so you know that everything is there and will be taken care of. Have a section on your list to keep track of the items you need to buy as well as a detailed timeline. This also helps if you have people helping you with the party as they will know what's been done and still needs to be done on your checklist.

Get the birthday child involved -- Keep in mind that your child is the focus of the day, so he should be consulted and involved in a majority of the planning and preparations. It may take some extra time but having him involved will really make him feel special -- and that's the goal of the day after all! Have him choose the theme, take him with you when you shop for the party favors and paper goods -- ask him what he wants! You'll be glad you did!

Grab a photographer -- You want to remember the day in photos, but often, the last thing on your mind during the party is taking pictures because you're so busy with the kids, the parents or getting the candles on the cake that the camera gets left on the counter unused. Snag one of the other parents or a neighbor friend to be in charge of the photography of the day. Make sure you communicate which pictures you want to have taken if you special ones you want, but otherwise, let them just snap away. The beauty of a digital camera is that you can take tons of pictures and delete the ones that don't work.

Hire help -- Ask an older sibling or cousin to assist you during the planning and especially on the birthday party day. Your helpers can serve as clean up crew or even be in charge of the games and activities. This way. you can focus on your child or the guest's parents, etc. You can, of course, pay them a small wage for their time, give them a special present or gift certificate from you for their help.

These small steps and some advanced preparation will help you to have a fun, memorable party without pulling your hair out. Keep your birthday child as the focus, and the rest of the day will go smoothly! Enjoy!