Wedding Planning Tips

6 Steps for Planning the Wedding You Want With the Budget You Have

6 Steps for Planning the Wedding You Want With the Budget You Have

By Kristi Thompson for The Huffington Post.

Only 6 percent of couples manage to come in under budget while planning their weddings, according to The Knot’s 2014 Real Weddings Study. With the average cost of weddings on the rise, planning a beautiful, meaningful wedding within your budget may seem daunting, but it really is possible. Whether you have $4,000 or $40,000, here are six steps for planning the wedding you want with the budget you have.

1. Create a Wedding Philosophy

A mission statement guides a company’s decision-making process, just like a wedding philosophy will guide your wedding planning process. Before you pick out napkin colors, you and your partner should ask yourselves these questions:

  • What is the purpose of our wedding?
  • How do we want to feel about our wedding?
  • How do we want our guests to feel about our wedding?
  • What are our values and priorities?

Your philosophy might be, “We want to honor our guests and our culture’s traditions.” Tough decisions will come up like, “Should we spend an extra few hundred dollars to buy an arch to stand under during the ceremony?” You can look and see if the purchase aligns with your philosophy. Is the arch an important part of your culture? Is it an important family tradition? Will your guests feel more honored seeing the arch? If the answer to these questions is “no,” your decision has been made for you.

2. List Negotiables vs. Non-Negotiables

Using your wedding philosophy to guide you, you and your partner should create two lists: one of the non-negotiable items you absolutely can’t imagine your wedding without, and one of the negotiable items that would be fun to have, but you could skip if you need to. For every couple, these lists will be different because every couple has unique priorities. When you have a strong sense of your priorities, it will be easier for you to determine how to spend your wedding funds.

3. Splurge and Cut Costs

Financial expert Ramit Sethi says you should spend extravagantly on the things you love, “but you have to cut costs mercilessly on the things you don’t.” While Sethi’s advice is for general spending, this approach is greatly effective for wedding planning. You can have the non-negotiable items you’ve dreamed of at your wedding, as long as you’re willing to cut expenses for things that aren’t as important to you.

One couple might hire an experienced photographer and use faux flowers in their ceremony while another couple would ask a friend to photograph their wedding so they can splurge on professional floral arrangements. It’s up to each individual couple to determine the areas in which they’d like to splurge or cut costs.

4. Research Supply Costs

Your wedding budget should have columns labeled “item,” “projected cost,” and “actual cost.” Use Google Shopping to get a feel for the cost of the supplies you think you might like to purchase, and enter the prices under “projected cost.”

Start with non-negotiables, then move on to less important items like that rhinestone encrusted “bride” bathrobe. Leave wiggle room for unexpected expenses because they will pop up. (You hear it will be 30 degrees hotter on your wedding day than you expected? You better buy more water bottles!)

Once you’ve projected what you’ll spend on supplies, you and your partner may need to go back and cut supplies that aren’t important to you in order to stay within budget. As you make purchases, track your spending in the “actual cost” column and tweak your spending as needed.

5. Don’t Let Vendors Beat Around the Bush

When you contact vendors, explain the services you’re envisioning and the amount of money you’re planning to spend. Then, ask which services they could offer to maximize your budget. Save time by insisting on a price quote before attending an in-person consultation. This will help you quickly weed out vendors who are out of your price range and find vendors who can creatively work within your budget.

6. Get Creative

It may take some creativity to cut costs in negotiable areas. Skip any traditions that aren’t meaningful to you, consider DIY projects, and ask friends and relatives for help. Invest in professionals who will execute services you’re passionate about, but ask volunteers to assist you with things that you don’t mind being done without experienced help.

Photo by Jon Stars Photo by Jon Stars

You can absolutely plan the wedding you want with the budget you have. Rather than agonizing over every penny or going way over budget, your wedding philosophy will guide you in spending lavishly on the items that are incredibly special to you, and ruthlessly cutting costs on those that aren’t.

Tips for Planning a Wedding From Out-Of-Town

Tips for Planning a Wedding From Out-Of-Town

Whether you want a wedding outside the U.S. or in your hometown after moving away, there are unique challenges in planning a wedding from out-of-town. Destination weddings are fun, romantic, and exciting, and can be executed expertly with some careful planning.


Your guests will need plenty of time to make travel arrangements and request time off from work for your destination wedding, especially if you’re getting married over a busy holiday weekend. After you book your venue, send out your save-the-dates about 1 year in advance so your guests can mark their calendars and begin prepping to celebrate with you.

Research Local Laws

Before setting your wedding plans in stone, make sure to research local laws to avoid surprises. For example, I planned my wedding reception in a state park in New Jersey, only to later realize alcohol is not permitted and there is a strict limit to how man cars will fit in the parking lot. Also, research what you have to do in order to obtain your marriage license. 

Plan Details Virtually

Your destination wedding will have a lot of moving parts, with supplies and help coming from all over. Using Google Docs and Google Sheets to plan your wedding will help ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

The great thing about Google Docs and Sheets is that they can be shared via email with anyone. You’re working in Chicago while your fiancé is finishing law school in Pittsburgh and your parents are helping plan your Denver wedding? No problem. You can all look at your wedding budget and edit it in real time. The documents save automatically and are stored in the cloud.

After thoroughly planning out your wedding weekend itinerary, share the document with all vendors, friends, and relatives who are involved in executing your wedding plans.

Consult a Local Wedding Planner

Destination resorts often have an on-sight coordinator who can recommend wedding pros they usually partner with and assist you in arranging your wedding plans from afar.

If your venue doesn’t have a coordinator, consider hiring a wedding coordinator based in the area of your wedding. If you haven’t budgeted for a full-service planner who can help you find local vendors, at least consider hiring a local day-of coordinator who can support you in executing all of the wedding day details.

Read Reviews and Get Recommendations

Browse the internet to get a feel for what past clients are saying about your prospective vendors and check out what people are saying about them on social media. Also, put local networking to use. Once you book a vendor you really like, ask them for their suggestions. For example, if you find an amazing caterer, ask them which florist they love to work with.

Be Upfront About Your Budget

It’s quite common for wedding pros to hold-off on giving a price quote until they’ve had the chance to meet with you face-to-face. You don’t have time for this process if you’re planning from out-of-town, of course.

When you reach out to vendors, be upfront with your plans and budget. Explain that you’re planning from out-of-town, what you’re hoping to accomplish with their services, and approximately what your budget is. This will help you quickly find the vendors that are right for you.

For more budgeting tips, check out “How to Create a Wedding Budget.”

Schedule Meetings for the Same Day

If you can arrange at least one visit before booking your vendors, meeting with them in person will definitely bring you peace of mind. While you probably won’t visit the Bahamas to check out your potential wedding venue in advance, you might be able to schedule a visit to your wedding locale if it’s in a nearby state. 

You won’t have time to meet 5 different photographers, so before coming to town, narrow down your favorite vendors. Schedule appointments with all of your prospective vendors for the same day or two so you can crank out as many meetings as possible during your short visit. While time may be limited, don’t forget to read all vendor contracts carefully before signing them.

Make Payments in Advance

If there’s one thing you don’t want to worry about, it’s transporting large sums of cash to pay vendors in person on the wedding day. Always ask vendors if it’s possible to pay in advance via credit card. Be sure to ask for a receipt and pay off your bill right away.

Consider National Chains

Using a national chain when possible can reduce some potential confusion. Renting the groomsmen’s attire from a chain such as Men’s Warehouse will allow you to easily make arrangements from anywhere.

The groomsmen can go for a fitting at the Men’s Warehouse near their home, and their information can be sent to the Men’s Warehouse near the wedding location. It will also be simple to get a replacement of the correct color tie in case anyone spills mustard on theirs!

Consider Accommodations

If possible, have your ceremony and reception in the same location so your guests don’t have to worry about transportation. Before booking your venue, consider whether it’s easily accessible from local hotels and an airport. It’s a nice gesture to reserve a block of rooms at a hotel so that your guests don’t have to decide where to book a room. 

For more ways to welcome your guests, read “How to Accommodate Wedding Guests From Out-of-Town.”

Simplify Your Decor

Traveling with loads of decorations and favors can be challenging. Consider keeping your decorations simple. Try to rent a venue that has natural beauty and doesn’t need a lot of decor. Brighten up your venue with flowers arranged by a local florist, and consider renting other decorations and purchasing favors from local providers instead of trying to bring them with you.

Plan Your Flight

If you’ll need to fly to your wedding destination, it’s never too early to sign up for airfare price alerts from Airfarewatchdog or Kayak. Before purchasing your plane ticket, consider the airline’s luggage policy. If you have a lot of DIY decorations or attire to pack, consider flying with an airline such as Southwest (domestic flights only) which allows you to check 2 bags for free. If possible, put your most important belongings in your carry-on luggage so you don’t have to worry about it getting misplaced.

Arrive a Few Days Before the Wedding

Can you imagine missing a flight and not making it to your own wedding? Leave plenty of time in your schedule to arrive to your wedding area without feeling rushed or panicked, and encourage your family and wedding party to do the same. This will give you time to tie up any loose ends, track down missing luggage, purchase local supplies, pick up rentals, and meet with vendors, if necessary. 

Rent a Home

Skip the hotel and consider using Airbnb to find a home to rent near the wedding venue. You and your wedding party will be traveling from out-of-town with luggage, wedding clothes, decorations, etc. Having a house to settle into for the weekend will help everyone feel at home, reduce stress, and prevent important wedding items from getting lost. You’ll also save money by cooking in, instead of staying in a hotel and dining out.

Be an Early Bird

Remember, it’s never too early to start planning. Nail down as many details as you can in advance so you’ll have time to hammer out any last minute issues. Start by booking your venue and the vendors that are important to you, and branch out to smaller details from there.

Soon you’ll be well on your way to an amazing, memorable destination wedding!

Referenes: Every Last Detail // The Pink Bride

Why You Should Never Search for “Wedding” Products

Why You Should Never Search for “Wedding” Products

Whether you’re searching online for groomsmen cufflinks or reception decorations, don’t use wedding-related words in your search. For example, don’t search for “wedding bunting” on Etsy, just search for “bunting.”

For example, first, I Googled “pink dress.” The prices start at 10 bucks and vary in quality, color, fabric, style, and formality.

Source: Google Search
Source: Google Search “Pink Dress”

Next, I Googled “pink bridesmaid dress.” Suddenly, almost every dress is satin or chiffon and the prices have at least doubled!

Source: Google Search
Source: Google Search “Pink Bridesmaid Dress”

Think Outside the Box

Why purchase bridesmaid dresses from a bridal boutique when almost all clothing stores carry beautiful, affordable dresses? My bridesmaids wore sundresses from Fashion Junkee for my casual, outdoor wedding, and they’ve been able to reuse them many times since my wedding. As you’re shopping for attire and supplies for your wedding, be creative with your the search terms you use online and the stores you go to in person.

Get 10% off at when you use the coupon code KRISTIN10

The Best Wedding Gift You Can Ask For

The Best Wedding Gift You Can Ask For

What do you need more: a new ceramic gravy dish, or someone to help you address all of your wedding invitations? The best wedding gift you can ask for is a gift of service.

It takes a village to have a wedding within a budget; this is the most significant way you can save money. You’ve got loyal, talented, hard-working friends and relatives who can make your wedding extra special and affordable and who would be honored to be part of your big day.


Make a list of all of the talents your loved ones have: art, singing, baking, calligraphy, sewing, organizing, etc. When you sit down and look at these talents in one list, you’ll be amazed by the creativity and gifts you’re surrounded by that you can totally utilize! Once you have a sense of your friends and relative’s skills, you can begin thinking about ways to involve them in your wedding day.


I’ve heard couples express the concern that it’s tacky to ask for volunteers instead of hiring all of your help. The truth is, people can always say no, but more than likely, if they’re in town anyway and have resources you need, friends and relatives are happy to help! I have always found that people are honored to be a part of their loved one’s wedding in a memorable, meaningful way.

Volunteers Aren’t the Hired Help

Just remember, friends and relatives who are willing to volunteer are just that: volunteers. So don’t treat them like hired help! The only times I’ve seen volunteers get disgruntled is when they’ve been expected to work the entire wedding day. It’s not too much to ask for help, but asking loved ones to work the entire wedding day is asking too much.

You can avoid overworking your volunteers by divvying up jobs amongst a lot of people. For example, at one wedding I coordinated, friends of the bride took turns serving non-alcoholic drinks. Each friend had a 20 minute shift, so no one felt like they were missing out on partying at the reception.

You Get What You Pay For

Another thing to remember is that your volunteers aren’t professionals, so they won’t be able to operate on a professional level. That is totally okay for areas that are not a huge priority for you. For example, if you don’t think you’ll watch your wedding video much and you don’t care if it has Hollywood production value, who cares if your college roommate records it for you? You can then use the money you saved to splurge on an amazing professional DJ, which was a really huge priority to you.

See how volunteers can help you stay within budget? It’s totally okay to spurge on things you love, as long as you’re able to save in other areas to stay within budget.

$5,000 Budget Volunteers

I’m often asked how Josh and I managed to host 200 people at our wedding for under $5,000. By far, the biggest factor was all of our amazing friends and relatives who gave of their time and talent. Here are just some of the ways our friends and relatives helped make our budget wedding possible with the gift of service:

  • Planning/playing ceremony music
  • Free church fellowship hall for rehearsal dinner venue
  • Constructing decorations/programs
  • Supply deliveries to reception site
  • Decorating
  • Something Blue Crew: ushering/directing cars/passing out programs
  • Wedding photography/videography
  • Singing
  • Cotton candy and popcorn machine loan
  • Sound equipment loan
  • Running our cotton candy and popcorn machines
  • Serving food
  • Home loans for immediate relatives
  • Family-made dessert and wedding cake
  • Invitation art design
  • Flower arrangements
  • Handmade flower girl’s dress
  • Hand-altered wedding dress
  • Handmade ring bearer’s tie and pillow
  • DJ/MC
  • Handmade corn hole set
  • Chair and table loan
  • Reception “photobooth” photography
  • Cool getaway car loan (DeLorean!)
  • Clean up
  • Vacation home loan (free honeymoon!)

Without help from loved ones, we couldn’t have pulled off our dream wedding within our budget. Start thinking about ways you can involve your friends and family with your wedding in a meaningful and memorable way.

Photo by Jon Stars

To DIY or Not to DIY

To DIY or Not to DIY

DIY is always the cheapest way to go, right? Well, you’d think a do it yourself project would be cheaper than purchasing pre-made products for your wedding, but that’s not necessarily always the case.

I definitely saved money by making some of the decorations pictured above, but looking back on all the hours I spent cutting paper, I’ve realized DIY projects cost more than just money.

Before beginning any DIY project, ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. How much money will the materials cost?
  2. How much time will this cost?
  3. How much stress will this cost?


Maybe you have a specific way in which you ‘d like to save money, or you have a specific talent that you could use. At one wedding I coordinated, the bride showed her love for thrifting by purchasing a unique, vintage mug as each guest’s favor. That project was a time consuming undertaking, but she had a ton of fun doing it, it reflected her unique personality, and it allowed her to save money on favors.

Not to DIY

Sometimes by the time you buy all the supplies and invest a maddening number of hours into a project, you realize it might have been worth it to buy the product pre-made. Sometimes the monetary cost is about the same either way, or it might even be worth spending a few extra dollars to save yourself time and stress.

When I got married, I wanted to save money by catering the reception ourselves. My mom helped me realize it would not be worth the huge amount of time and stress required to prepare and serve all of the food to such a large group of people. We ended up hiring a caterer and found other ways to save money, like buying our own bottled water.

Do What’s Best For You

DIY projects can be a fun way to get hands-on with your wedding prep, but don’t drive yourself crazy trying to save a few cents. Most of your guests won’t know the difference or care whether you painstakingly handmade the guestbook or ordered it off Amazon for twenty bucks.

How to Accomodate Wedding Guests From Out-of-Town

How to Accomodate Wedding Guests From Out-of-Town

If your wedding guests are traveling from out of town, there are numerous creative ways to be an accommodating host.


Send out save the dates 4-6 months before the wedding to give your guests plenty of time to make travel plans for your big day. If you’re planning a destination wedding or if it’s scheduled for a busy holiday weekend, send them about 1 year in advance. Save the dates should include your names as well as the date and location of the celebration.


Before booking your venue, consider whether it will be easily accessible from local hotels and the nearest airport. Consider reserving a block of rooms in a nearby hotel, so guests can easily book a room near the wedding venue.

Wedding Website

A wedding website like the one I made for my wedding using is a great way to share information with your guests. Your website should include a wedding weekend schedule, the locations of the reception and ceremony, suggested hotels, the names of the nearest train station and airport, public transportation information, and suggested sightseeing. For example, you could mention your favorite Denver brewery or museum. You and your fiancé may be busy every waking moment, but your guests might like to fill some down time with local attractions that are special to you.


A wedding bus is my favorite way that I’ve seen couples accommodate their out-of-town guests. Your guests are already paying for a flight and a hotel room. Rather than your guests renting cars and trying to navigate in a new city, treat them to bus transportation. You don’t have to worry about anyone getting lost and your guests can continue partying and socializing during the ride. Just have all of your guests stay in the same hotel and they’ll be whisked off to the ceremony and reception in a bus. It’s fun and stress-free and shows your guests you’ve gone the extra mile to accommodate them.

Welcome Basket or Bag

You might like to treat your guests to some special goodies to help them feel at home in their hotel rooms. You could include anything from snacks and souvenirs to toiletries and a local map.

Quality Time

Your wedding guests made the effort to come to your wedding so they could spend time with you, so be sure they can. Arrange a get-together prior to the rehearsal dinner such as a laid-back lunch that includes all of your out-of-town guests. During the reception, make a toast and acknowledge how touched you are by everyone who traveled to be there. Since couples often fly off to their honeymoon some time the day after their wedding, it’s growing increasingly popular to have a brunch the morning after the wedding with everyone who is still in town.

References: The Knot
Photo by Jon Stars

How to Politely Say, “This is a NO Kids Wedding”

How to Politely Say, “This is a NO Kids Wedding”

Decide Carefully

Banning kids from your wedding is a big decision. Many couples choose to include kids for a more family-friendly, inclusive, event. Others choose to have a kid-free wedding for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Saving money on food
  • Saving money on venue size
  • Letting the grownups have a fun evening letting loose together
  • Preventing kids from stealing the show on the bride and groom’s big day

Tactful Tactics

If you choose to have a kid-free wedding, any parent will tell you this is a tricky, touchy subject. Here are some ways to handle the situation.

This is an Adult Affair

Be sure to refer to the wedding day as an adult event on the save the dates, invitations, and the RSVP cards. You could word it in any of the following ways: “Adult Ceremony and Reception,” “Adult Affair,” or “Adult Reception.”

Address the Invitation Only to the Guests who are Invited

For example, the wedding invitation should be addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Thompson” rather than “The Thompsons.” If you are going to include a teenager and not their younger siblings, include the teen’s name on the invitation. This cannot be your only tactic! It is too subtle and parents may overlook it–unintentionally, or not.

Recommend or Provide a Resource

Use your wedding website to tactfully reiterate your no-kid policy on your guest information page where you’ll list local hotels. “For your convenience, we recommend [insert local childcare provider’s name and contact information] while you’re celebrating with us.” Some couples go the extra mile by hiring childcare for the reception. You can use to find babysitters in your area.


Your RSVP cards should say, “We have reserved 2 seats in your honor,” so that couples subtly realize 1+1 does not equal a family of 5.

Spread the Word

Encourage friends and family to help spread the word or even call parents yourself to give them a heads up.

Brace Yourself

Realistically, there might be some backlash. Some people just won’t understand. There could be grumbles behind your back or even a confrontation. Politely stand firm, and do not make any exceptions. If you make one, it’s all downhill from there. Be gracious and understand that it just might not be possible for everyone to make it to your wedding without bringing their kids, especially if they’re traveling from out of town. Remember, you can’t please everyone. Ultimately, it’s your wedding day and you and your fiancé should plan the wedding day you’ve envisioned for yourselves.

References: The Stir

How to Assign Seats for Your Wedding Reception

How to Assign Seats for Your Wedding Reception

You’d be amazed by how many couples I’ve heard say creating a seating chart for their reception was one of the most challenging aspects of wedding planning for them!

Do You Really Need Assigned Seating?

When to Skip the Seating Chart

Some couples don’t bother with assigned seating. If you’re having a cocktail reception or serving a buffet dinner to less than 50 guests, you could get by without a seating chart. Think about what would make your guests comfortable. For example, my wedding reception was in a state park with a self-serve buffet, giant picnic tables, and a loose schedule. A seating chart wouldn’t have made any sense in that laid-back setting.

When Not to Skip the Seating Chart

While it can be challenging to create a seating chart, sometimes there may be more issues if you don’t take the time to do it. If you have more than 100 guests, just the right amount of seats, or a sit-down dinner, there is likely to be some confusion if there are no assigned tables.

  • People are used to finding an assigned table when they go to a wedding reception. When there aren’t assigned tables, I’ve seen guests wander around in confusion, trying to find their escort card.
  • Valuable reception time can be wasted if families can’t find seats together and are trying to switch chairs around with other guests. (This can also be stressful and embarrassing.)
  • It will be easier for waitstaff to serve entree options if they already know where the chicken people are sitting and where the vegan people are sitting.

Assigning Seats vs. Tables

If your servers need to know exactly where each guest is sitting, you will have to take the time to assign and label every seat with a place card for each guest’s name. In most cases, it’s more than sufficient to assign just tables, and allow your guests to choose their own seats. You won’t need any labels on the table other than the table number. You’ll write each guest’s name and table number on an escort card, which guests will pick up on their way into the reception.

When Should You Start Your Seating Chart?

While assigning seats comes later in the planning process, you don’t have to put it off until the last minute. Set your RSVP date 3 weeks before the wedding so that you have plenty of time to round up straggler RSVPs and assign tables. Having a final guest count sooner than later will also be helpful for your caterer and venue manager.

Table Info

Your venue will be able to tell you how many tables you can fit in their space. Don’t forget, guests and servers need room to walk between tables. You’ll need about 5 feet between each table, which may sound like a lot, but it’s not once chairs are pushed out.

An even number of people should be at each table, if possible. Below is the typical number of guests that can fit at various tables, but be sure to confirm with your venue or rental provider:

Rectangle Tables:

  • 4 guests: 30″ x 48″
  • 6 guests: 30″ x 72″
  • 8-10 guests: 30″ x 96″

Round Tables:

  • 4 guests: 36″
  • 6 guests: 54″
  • 8 guests: 60″
  • 0 guests: 72″

Head Table

There are many ways you can choose to arrange your head table. Here are a few ideas:

  • Long rectangle head table consisting of the bride, groom, and the wedding party, while the ring bearer, flower girl, and plus-ones of the wedding party sit at a regular dinner table (Consider whether the wedding party’s plus-ones would feel more comfortable sitting at a table together, or spread out at tables with other people they already know.)
  • Long rectangle head table consisting of the bride, groom, the wedding party, and their plus-ones
  • Small sweetheart table consisting of the bride and groom, while the wedding party sits at regular dinner tables (This can provide a few minutes of alone time during your busy wedding day.)
  • Small head table consisting of the bride, groom, maid-of-honor, and best man, with or without their plus-ones
  • Small head table, consisting of the bride, groom, and their parents

How to Organize Your Table Assignments

WeddingWire does have an online seating tool, but if you’re like me, you’ll prefer to see everything right out in front of you, and be able to easily move it around with your hands. I recommend using some notebook paper and small sticky notes. This makes sorting and rearranging super quick and easy.

Step 1: Write Down All of Your Guests’ Names

Look at your guest list, and jot down one guest name per sticky note.

Step 2: Organize the Guests by Relationships/Commonalities

Label one piece of notebook paper each with a different relationship to you or your fiancé. For example, one page will say, “Childhood friends of the bride,” another will say “college friends of the groom,” etc. Then, fill up those pages with guest name sticky notes. All of your dad’s co-workers will be on one page, while your volleyball team is on another page. It’s helpful to see how people are connected to each other before you try to break them into tables.

Step 3: Divide Your Guests Into Tables

Once you’ve sorted your guests into groups, you should have a good idea of common relationships and interests, and you’ll be able to divide your guests into tables. Grab some more blank notebook paper and label one page each as “table 1,” “table 2,” and so on. You can start moving guests from their group papers to the table number papers, and rearrange as much as you need to.

Once you’ve finalized your arrangement, you can copy the assigned table numbers onto your guest list and make your escort cards.

Tips for Deciding Where People Should Sit

What Does Tradition Say?

Traditionally, the bride and groom’s parents, grandparents, siblings (if they’re not already sitting at the head table), and the officiant would sit at a table or two together. They would sit close to the bride and groom’s table, and be served dinner right after the bride and groom. If your parents are divorced, you could talk with them about who they would enjoy sitting with, such as close relatives or friends. If possible, seat younger guests closer to the dance floor, and older folks farther from the DJ’s loud speakers.

Ask for Input

Something that could help you get started is to ask some of the people you know for their seating preferences. Asking for input will especially be helpful when you’re trying to figure out how to seat your parents’ friends.

Play Match-Maker

As you group people into tables, consider their interests, careers, and phase of life. Your guests won’t all know each other, but they could have a ton of fun meeting new, interesting people. If you still have an odd-ball friend or co-worker who might feel uncomfortable alone, it would be a nice gesture to allow them to bring a plus-one, even if you haven’t given that option to all of your guests.

Avoid Tension

Try to be considerate of anybody who might feel uncomfortable sitting together. (My husband and I have now shared a table with his ex-girlfriend at two weddings, ha!)

Be Creative

There are so many creative options to consider as you group guests together. I’ll always remember how much fun I had in high school at a wedding where I was seated with all of my cousins. At first it may have seemed logical for the bride and groom to seat me with my immediate family, but I see them all the time!

Don’t Stress

It might be impossible to assign everyone the ideal table, but don’t stress out. Try your best to be sensitive to your guests’ feelings, but also remember your guests will be so happy to be at your wedding, celebrating you! You can also take comfort in the fact that your guests won’t really be chatting with their table-mates for that long before they’re listening to toasts and going off mingling, dancing, and visiting the bar anyway.

References: Vista Party Rentals // A Practical Wedding // The Knot
Photo by Vert Photo

Choose Your Wedding Planning Battles

Choose Your Wedding Planning Battles

Everyone involved in the wedding planning process brings with them unique expectations. While planning your wedding, you’ll have to strike the perfect balance between planning your dream day and planning your family’s dream day. This means you’ll have to choose your battles.

Negotiables and Non-Negotiables

After creating a wedding philosophy, you should create a list of non-negotiable items. These priorities will be different for every couple. Maybe it’s extremely important for one couple to hire their favorite band, while another couple will instead splurge on a talented photographer and have a cousin DJ the wedding with an iPod. There’s no right or wrong list of non-negotiables, but it will be very helpful to have your priorities in mind as friends and family members begin making suggestions to you about the priorities they have in mind.

When to Say No

There were many times I said, “I will not do anything in my wedding just because that’s what everybody else does in their wedding.” This is your wedding, so ultimately you and your fiancé need to do what you’ve envisioned for yourselves. You need to politely consider honoring your family’s wishes without letting pressure from family take control.

Always let your wedding philosophy guide your decisions: It had always been a dream of mine to have a bounce house at my wedding reception. This unconventional idea was not initially palatable to my mom, but it aligned with our philosophy and was one of my non-negotiables. Our bounce house ended up being a huge hit; it helped our friends and relatives with kids have more fun and feel more comfortable, just like we’d hoped.

When to Back Down

Honoring our family was part of our philosophy, so we tried to be careful to hear them out. Something that might seem silly to you might be a lot more important to someone else. Ask yourself if it’s really worth fighting over. It might be easier to yield to your family on some negotiables that don’t really matter in the broad scheme of things for the sake of your relationship. After all, your wedding is just one day, but your relationships last a lifetime.

My parents really wanted to send my wedding invitations in envelopes instead of as postcards because they were concerned a postcard would be mistaken for junk mail. I wanted to save a little money by sending postcards, but at the end of the day, it wouldn’t have saved that much money and it wasn’t worth having tension with my parents.

When it comes to inevitable wedding planning battles, your wedding philosophy and list of non-negotiables should always get the final say to keep decision making simple and stress-free. 

Photo by Jon Stars

Wedding Vows: Where to Start

Wedding Vows: Where to Start

When it comes to your wedding vows, you have 3 main choices:

  1. Use Pre-Written Vows: There’s nothing wrong with using pre-written vows. Some couples prefer to use the wise words written by couples who were married long before them. Others just don’t want to deal with the stress of writing something from scratch on top of all the other planning they’re trying to do. Here are sample wedding vows from various religious traditions.
  2. Write Your Own Vows: Here are 12 tips for writing your own vows.
  3. Customize Pre-Written Vows: If you’re not a total free-spirit, you might find it helpful to look at pre-written vows for inspiration. You may not love the content, but the structure could be helpful. That’s I did with my husband.

Josh and I were never on a mission to write our own vows, but we just couldn’t find pre-written vows that we loved. We Googled wedding vows and also asked a friend for her wedding vows because her ceremony had the same values we wanted displayed in our wedding ceremony. We used a few sources as inspiration and created our own from there.

There’s no one right away to go about choosing your vows. Do whatever feels the most authentic to you and your relationship with your fiancé.

How to Write Your Own Wedding Itinerary

How to Write Your Own Wedding Itinerary

Your wedding timeline, also known as the itinerary, is by far the most important planning document. Your itinerary will serve two purposes:

  1. It will help you think through absolutely every wedding planning detail
  2. It will ensure your plans are clearly communicated to those responsible for executing your plans.

Your itinerary should include all of the information needed in order for your wedding to be executed as you envisioned. Don’t leave anything to chance. Every detail you want to happen should be in writing. If it’s important enough that you don’t want people guessing about how to handle it, it should be in writing. You’ll have enough going on without people asking you logistical questions on your wedding day!

Remember, it’s not possible to over-communicate. The more information you give your vendors and volunteers, the easier it will be for them to ensure your wedding day goes as planned, and the less stressed you will feel.

Work Backwards

Just like when you wrote your wedding philosophy, you want to start with your end goals in mind. The easiest way to begin writing your itinerary is by starting at the end of the wedding day and working backwards from there.

What to Include

Details: Include the time, date, place, and supplies/people needed for every aspect of the wedding week.

Contact Info: Remember to include contact information for everyone involved in the wedding, from vendors to volunteers, in case anyone needs to be tracked down. 

Plan Out the Details

Reception: Consider everything from the guests’ arrival to clean-up, including special events and song selections.

Cocktail Hour: Describe what guests, family, and the wedding party will be doing during this time and who will be photographed.

Ceremony: Consider everything from the ushers arrival to who is transporting the guestbook to the reception site.

Pre-Ceremony: Describe wedding preparation, set-up, and decorating in detail so that your helpers can execute your plans, just as you’ve envisioned.

Day Before the Wedding: Provide details about any last-minute items that need to be taken care of, the rehearsal, and the rehearsal dinner.

Wedding Week: Consider everything from your manicure to arrival times of the wedding party.

Need Help?

Feel free to contact me for more help with clearly laying out every detail of your wedding plans in your itinerary.

How to Use a Wedding Budget

How to Use a Wedding Budget

No matter how much or how little money you have for your wedding, a budget will help keep you from spending more than you’d anticipated. If you track your expenses carefully, you might even come in under budget! Let this motivate you: Anything that’s left over in the wedding budget can be used for a new home, car, or vacation!

Answer Some Questions

  • What is your wedding philosophy?

  • Who’s paying for the wedding and how much do you/they have? (Remember, the more people there are funding the wedding, the more opinions you will need to take into consideration throughout your planning.)

Download the Template

If you’re a math loving technophobe, by all means, create your wedding budget with paper and pencil. For the rest of us, I’ve created a free budget template for you to use. It lists suggested expenditures and will automatically total your expenses for you!

 Here are some of the advantages of using the Google Sheets budget I created.

  • Google Sheets is totally free to use; you just need a free Gmail account.
  • You can view and edit the file on any device.
  • The files will save automatically in the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about losing your work.
  • You can allow as many people to simultaneously view and/or edit the files as you want.
  • Edits are made and seen in real time, so after sharing the files once, you won’t have to worry about emailing updated versions out to people.

Recognize the Difference Between Negotiables and Non-Negotiables

Using your wedding philosophy, you and your fiancé can decide what is important enough to you to splurge on, and what would be okay to cut in order to save money. For every couple, these things will be different.

For example, as ridiculous as it may sound, one of the few dreams I had for my wedding was to have an inflatable bounce house at my reception! I didn’t care what it would cost; I had to have it. My parents really wanted to serve coffee at the reception, but I felt coffee had nothing to do with my wedding philosophy, and it just wasn’t a priority to me like the bounce house. Needless to say, our wedding guests jumped around in a bounce house, caffeine-free.

Research Prices

Make phone calls and search the Internet to get estimates for the items, venues, and vendors you envision for your wedding, and enter the prices into your budget under Projected Cost. Start with big ticket items such as venue, catering, and photography or any extremely important non-negotiables.

Then, move onto smaller, negotiable details like your rhinestone “BRIDE” bathrobe. Leave wiggle room for unexpected expenses because they will pop up! (It’s going to be 30 degrees hotter on our wedding day than we expected!? We better buy more water bottles!) Once you’ve seen your projected expenditures, you and your fiancé may need to discuss tweaking some things in order to stay within your budget.

Record Your Purchases

As you make purchases and book vendors, carefully keep a record in the Actual Cost column of your budget. It is much easier to enter prices into the budget immediately after each purchase than it is to try to remember them accurately later. Don’t forget, you might have to cut some of those negotiable items. (“GROOM” boxer briefs??)

Stay True to Your Wedding Philosophy

Creating the budget isn’t the hard part; sticking to your budget is the hard part. When disagreements arise about how to spend the budget (and they will arise) check to see if the expenditures in question align with your wedding philosophy to keep decision making simple.

Photo by Jon Stars

The One Thing You Need to Do Before You Start Wedding Planning

The One Thing You Need to Do Before You Start Wedding Planning

Before you start planning and picking out napkin colors, you and your fiancé should create a wedding philosophy.

Ask yourselves these questions:

  1. What is the purpose of our wedding?
  2. Who is our wedding for?
  3. How do we want to feel about our wedding?
  4. How do we want our guests to feel about our wedding?
  5. What are our values and priorities?
  6. What is our budget?


Sara Cotner of the $2000 Budget Wedding blog sat down with her fiancé Matt and listed these overarching goals/principles for their wedding:

  1. “To bring family and friends together to reconnect and form new friendships.
  2. The experience will not be overly-orchestrated. It’s a celebration of our love, not a show.
  3. We will fight consumerism by spending only $2,000 max. The Wedding Industrial Complex is conspiring to make us think we have to spend more money. But we want to make the event special with sincerity, not money.
  4. It will be good for the environment.
  5. It will be connected to nature.
  6. We will have real time to spend with guests. We want to be able to spend quality time with our friends and family. We don’t want to follow the traditional pattern of a few wedding “events” where the bride and groom only have time for a “meet and greet”: rehearsal dinner, reception, brunch the following morning. We want more of a family & friends reunion.
  7. We will make all the decisions ourselves so our wedding represents us.
  8. We only want to be surrounded by our closest friends and family.
  9. We want to be relaxed and fully present.”

This wedding philosophy was created by a Christian couple who called this their “wedding mission statement”:

“We will magnify the Lord on our wedding day by showing love to each other and our guests and creating a space within a reasonable and responsible budget that showcases God’s intention for marriage and his lavish goodness toward us.

  • On our wedding day, we first and foremost honor God.
  • One that day, we highlight the ceremony itself, showing the importance and seriousness of our covenant before God.
  • We live out Philipians 2, looking out for others’ interests so our guests feel honored and full of joy and wonder of our God.
  • We honor the Lord with our and our parents’ resources by holding to a resonable and responsible budget.
  • Through the whole day, we love each other well, rejoicing together and living in the wonder of his grace toward us.”

This is the simple philosophy that guided my husband and me while wedding planning: 

“We want to honor our friends and relatives while having as much fun as possible for $5,000 or less.”

Framework for Tough Decisions

Your philosophy might be, “We want to honor our culture’s traditions and our guests.” Then, when tough decisions come up like, “Should we spend an extra few hundred dollars to buy an arch to stand under during the ceremony?” you can look and see if it aligns with your philosophy. Is the arch an important part of your culture? Is it an important family tradition? Will your guests feel more honored seeing the arch? If the answer to these questions is “no,” your decision has been made for you.

Stick to Your Philosophy

As you plan your wedding, you can continually ask yourselves, “What details will help us meet our wedding goals?” You will have to make so many difficult decisions about what to spend the budget on, so having some kind of framework to work within can really relieve stress and simplify the process. Your wedding philosophy will help you determine what’s worth it to you to splurge on, and what’s okay to save on, ultimately helping you stay within budget.

References: 2000 Dollar Wedding
Photo by Jon Stars