Tag Archives: wedding

“There’s an app for that” wedding

Our wedding. Destin, FL.

Our wedding. Destin, FL.

Last year at this time I was frantically finalizing all the details of our wedding. Flash forward a year and I’m being asked my opinion about certain wedding planning websites. Planning a wedding takes organization and patience. I carried around a journal type notebook as I went vendor to vendor to get price quotes. Apparently, I am far from a 2013 bride because “there’s an app for that.”

The wedding industry has gone mobile. It makes sense because every other industry is dealing with the rise in popularity of smartphones. A quick search on my iPhone brings up 1,999 apps so you can organize your wedding at your fingertips.

The survey was for a wedding website, and there were many questions about my use of mobile apps. Obviously, this is the next frontier of wedding planning.

Using an app never really crossed my mind. I was so overwhelmed by all the details and spreadsheets I had for addresses, RSVPs, gifts, and costs that I never thought about an app. I was in information overload and struggled to keep track of everything on a big computer screen. Perhaps if I had a tablet it would make more sense.

wedding websiteIn fact, I didn’t even use the website tools that many sites provide to organize items like your budget and checklist reminders. I simply used the websites to search for reviews of vendors and to create a website for our guests. I kept my checklists on Word documents and my figures on Excel documents. Nice and simple. Just like the wedding.

Plus, while I was meeting with vendors I often looked on my phone for other suggestions or answered phone calls. Since I had a destination wedding, I was juggling many appointments that were crammed into my three day visit to the town before the wedding. I needed my phone for other things. I couldn’t use it to take notes on an app. My handy paper journal worked just great.

While an app wasn’t a part of my wedding plan, it’s something to consider especially as these apps advance and become more sophisticated and user friendly. It might make your life easier. Most brides are looking to cut down on the stress.  That help may be within reach. After all, there’s an app for that. 

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Registering for your wedding

Chef Wes

My husband using some of our new kitchen tools.

If you’re having a summer or fall wedding, this is a good time to start thinking about creating a gift registry. It’s a great time to reinvigorate your fiance, and get them involved in the planning. My husband loved registering and checking out all the kitchen gadgets. The key is to give your guests choices.

First, you need to choose where to register. I suggest shopping the stores before you choose one. Go to two or three and figure out if they have what you’d like to have in your home.

Look for products in a wide variety of price points as every guest will have a different giving level especially if your guests are from different parts of the country. Having lived in several parts of the country, I’ve realized there are huge differences in price points for weddings. Some of it’s personal, but a good chunk of decisions are regional.

When you’re browsing the store, it can be overwhelming because you’re deciding on so many things. What kind of dishes, pots and pans, or mixer do you want for the next 20 years?

Be realistic. It’s easy to get carried away and register for items that you’ll never use. We had a few on our list, that we’ve used once in six months. I tried repeatedly to get some removed from our list, but my husband insisted we would need it. I just rolled my eyes and let him relish in the fun of registering. He is handy in the kitchen, and the last thing I wanted to do was discourage him from planning and cooking.

The stores all offer different programs. They want you to sit through their speech about the pros and cons before they allow you to register. One store even wanted to follow us through the store to make suggestions. Luckily, we convinced them otherwise telling them we already did a site survey and knew what we wanted.

Some stores give you cash back on a percentage of the purchases made from your registry. Others, give you nothing for bringing dozens of your friends and family to their store to shop. Also, consider shipping and handling. Many stores will charge you for it online while others give you free shipping for orders over $99. Bed Bath & Beyond will only ship for free if you find a promotional code or if you go to the store and don’t find the item you need.

We registered at Macy’s and Bed Bath & Beyond, and by far the majority of our guests bought items at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Once all the registering is done, sit back and relax. It’s like Christmas everyday as you get close to the wedding and have gifts arriving. I laughed at some that arrived in huge boxes with a small kitchen gadget in them. Another one arrived with cups wrapped in just a few pieces of paper. Needless to say some were broken and we called for replacements.

Finally, keep track of everything as you receive it. It gets confusing as the gifts start piling up. We waited to send thank you notes until after our wedding so we could send notes with our wedding pictures on them, and I think some guests would have prefered thank you notes as the gifts arrived. I say this because when you send something you always wonder if the recipient got it. We had people asking if we received gifts, and I felt bad when they inquired. It’s just something to consider when you’re figuring out the best way to thank someone.

Just make sure you take the time to write a thank you note at some point. I can’t tell you how many weddings I went to where the bride and groom never said a word about the gift. I don’t want a big pat on the back, but I want to know you received it and put it to use.

Fashion trend: rent a dress for a wedding or event

little borrowed dressHow many times have you gone shopping when you had an event or wedding to attend? The damage is often $75-100+ just for that one event. You might wear that dress a few more times, but not too much fearing someone will see you in the same dress at a future event. For men who are shaking their heads, let me introduce you to how women think. Next time they want to spend money for a new outfit, how about suggesting that they rent? It’s been a trend for men for quite some time with tuxedo rentals, and now it’s hitting women’s fashion.

I considered renting bridesmaid dresses for my wedding, but I was running out of time so I decided against it. If you have time, it may be a money-saving option to try. The site, Little Borrowed Dress, rents and sells bridesmaid dresses for $50-75. There are just a few styles to choose from, but dozens of colors. The styles are designed to fit and flatter a variety of shapes and sizes without alternations.

If you are nervous about the sizing, you can visit the showroom in New York City. For all the other bridesmaids who don’t live in NYC, a second rental is sent for free with every dress just in case the first one doesn’t fit.

I think it’s still a little risky if you don’t always wear the same sized dress.  The dresses are shipped two weeks before the wedding which is very last minute if the dresses don’t fit. The company promises to make it right if the dresses don’t fit, but as a bride that’s one element of surprise I don’t need. I was already worried with dresses that I knew were sized for the women. 

Rent the Runway is another option if you’re in the market for an evening gown. My friend used this site, and loved her dress. She had some problems with sizing, but got the company to overnight her a new dress just in time for the big event. It was a little  nerve wracking as it was down to the wire, but she got the dress of her dreams.

Finally, consider shopping a friend’s closet. Chances are you can find a new outfit for free for your next event.

What do you think of this trend? Would you rent a dress? Join the conversation by clicking comment below.

Finding the right bridesmaid dress on a budget

bridesmaidsLooking for bridesmaid dresses was one of the more challenging tasks of planning my wedding. All my bridesmaids live out of town and I wanted a dress that would fit everyone’s body style. I had to accomplish that without ever seeing the dress on them prior to my wedding day. I wanted a light dress because the wedding was on the beach in August and one friend was 9 months pregnant. I also wanted something reasonably priced because as much as we all think we’ll re-wear a bridesmaid dress, it rarely happens. There are ways to accomplish all of these tasks without wasting a lot of time. I’m sharing  my mis-steps to help you check this task off your checklist faster than I did.

I started my search online, but that turned out to be a futile task because the majority of the dresses I liked were not in the store. I tried several stores looking for the dress I wanted, but I never found it other than on the Internet. Save yourself some time, and visit a few retail stores rather than online stores.

Expand your horizons and consider a department store as well as a bridal store to find the style you want. 

If you have a pregnant woman in your bridal party, you don’t necessarily need a maternity line of dresses. By the way, there are very few. My friend just ordered a size she knew would fit with her belly, and I made sure I picked out a dress that would give her room in the belly for her cute baby bump. Just talk to your friend who is pregnant and find out what type of dress will feel most comfortable. If you pick a flattering style for a belly, you don’t have to limit yourself to the few companies that have maternity size.

I had a big problem finding just the right color. I knew I wanted something bright and in the fuchsia/bright pink shade. The colors I liked were not in the store, so I often had to rely on a swatch. The swatches are so small and so difficult to tell the true color.  In this case, it helped to have bridesmaids all across the country because one of my brides was able to try on the dress in one of the targeted colors.

bridesmaidsAfter many stressful weeks, I finally decided on a color and dress style. I was so nervous because a cell phone photos was the closest I got to seeing the dress in the right color and on one of my bridesmaids. I was very relieved when I finally saw the dresses in person.

Once you decide on your dress, look for ways to cut the cost. If you know a good seamstress, you might consider ordering it online. There are many discount sites that sell some of the styles online. Get measured in store, and then order online. Just choose a reliable retailer. Check reviews before ordering because this can be risky if you don’t know anything about the company.

Sometimes the bridal store will sell the dress at a discount online. My friend ordered hers from R.K. Bridal in New York City, and then ordered it for a cheaper price from their website. She had to pay $20 for shipping, but she still saved money off the store retail price.  The order is shipped to your home, and you have to find your own seamstress. 

Even better – how about just renting the dress? I’ll discuss that option in tomorrow’s post.

Related links you may like:
Creating a wedding website
Planning a wedding on a budget
Airport parking that won’t break the bank
Wedding decorations on a budget
Picture perfect honeymoon – best research sites
Do it yourself invitations 

 

Creating a wedding website

085When you’re planning a wedding, you don’t realize you’ll also be the travel coordinator for all your guests. We had a destination wedding so we heard more questions than perhaps the average bride having a wedding in town, but be prepared for constant questions about the arrangements. That’s why I highly suggest you put together a website so guests can check out the details on their timeframe.

wedding websiteIt’s very easy to create a wedding website, and often free. You can make it as simple or as fancy as you want. The sites are fully customizable and allow you to even take requests for music.

After checking out several sites, we settled on WeddingWire. It’s a simple, intuitive process to create your site. Within an hour, you can have it all set to go with pictures, a story of how you met, and details for guests.

You can customize your URL so it’s easy for your friends to remember.

You even have the option of setting the site to public or private. I set mine to private as I didn’t want strangers to know where our wedding was being held. Perhaps that’s not as big a deal for you, but do you really want the world to know when and where your wedding and reception are being held?

We got a lot of great feedback on our site, and it was visited 1,800 times as people made arrangements.

For our destination wedding, we even put tips on finding cheap flights and cars. We had a search engine so people could search right from the site. It made it easy on guests.

We still got quite a few calls, but I can’t imagine how many we would have gotten if we didn’t have the website. People want to talk to the bride, learn about the wedding, ask about travel arrangements, etc. It’s nice to talk to everyone, but  I have to admit it’s tough when you’re planning an out of town wedding and taking care of all the details yourself.

That’s why I think a website is an easy way to defer some of those questions. I gave out our wedding website countless times.

The website also keeps you on task with a countdown clock and checklists. That way you are reminded of all the things you need to do in the coming weeks and months. It’s important to stay organized and on task so you’re not overwhelmed by all the planning.

Some brides are taking the customization to a whole new level by introducing the guests to each other on social media so they get to know each other before the wedding. We didn’t take this step, but I remember attending a wedding where there were details about the wedding party, main guests, etc. You could introduce yourself as well. It became a forum to get to know the guests so you could enjoy yourself more once you arrived.

Whatever you choose to do, be prepared to answer lots of questions from inquisitive guests from where are you registered to how do I get to the reception. Happy planning!

 

Planning a wedding on a budget

Wedding sunset with heartJanuary is the start of wedding season because so many people get engaged over the holidays. This is the month couples begin the planning, attend bridal shows and visit venues. That was my fiance and I  last year, only we weren’t visiting any venues because we had a destination wedding. I learned two things: it’s possible to plan a wedding from far away and on a budget.

I relied a lot on reviews. I also asked for references and called past customers when I had questions about a vendor. Former brides are a wealth of knowledge, and you should tap into their vast planning knowledge. It’s a joyous day that so many brides would love to re-live while giving honest feedback about their vendors.

Once you do some basic research and know how you want your wedding to look and feel, sit down with your fiance and put pen to paper. Decide on a budget early so you’re not swayed later on by products or ideas that will put you over budget. Trust me, there will be many things that you think you can’t live without until you look at the dollars and cents.

Don’t just make up an imaginary number for your budget. Consider where the money is coming from. Are the two of you paying for the wedding or will your parents or relatives help? If you’re paying for it, look at your bank account and know exactly how much you have in it and how much you’ll be able to contribute between now and your wedding date.

If your parents are contributing to the event, ask them how much they will contribute. Don’t rely on generalities. Get specific with your finances.

Be realistic, and decide where you will skimp if you go over budget. It’s easier to lay the ground rules before you start spending and making decisions so you avoid the urge to use your credit card.

money angle Create a spreadsheet to keep track of expenses
Do your research so you don’t overlook expenses. For example, it’s easy to forget postage and that can really add up. You need two stamps per invite, and don’t forget about those save the date cards and thank you notes. If you’re thinking about oversized invitations, you’ll need extra postage.

Don’t forget alterations. This is usually a last minute cost as the alterations don’t happen until you’re close to the wedding day. You may be told the fees depend on how the dress fits. My dress was much bigger than expected, and this happens a lot. My seamstress even made a comment that the dress shop ordered the wrong size for me, but I later looked at my measurements compared to the manufacturer recommendations and they ordered the recommended size. I thought I was paying for their bridal store’s expertise as well, but they don’t stray much from the recommendations because if the dress is too small the shop and bride are stuck.

Taxes and gratuity are hidden in most contracts, and they can cost you up to 30% of the price of your wedding food and drink. Ask about these. They can be expensive, and are not pointed out by some venues.

IMG_7730Also, a dance floor is often extra. Find out if the venue or the dj / band supplies it and the cost.

Don’t forget the rings. Your fiance may have just splurged for your diamond engagement ring, but don’t forget you need a wedding band too.

New categories will come to you throughout the planning process, and that’s okay if you set aside a cash reserve for these unexpected expenses. Create an Excel Spreadsheet with your spending categories and budget. This will come in handy throughout the months of planning.

Begin merging your money
Many people will tell you money is one of the biggest disagreements in a new marriage. I suggest opening up a joint credit card while you’re engaged and planning the big day. It’s a good way to begin sharing your money and bills. It’s also a great way to earn rewards.

Don’t rely on your credit card to spend money if you don’t have the cash to pay off the balance every month. Only get this credit card if you are good with money and won’t rack up debt. It is a good idea to charge expenses because you are $5-25,000+. Why not get rewards for all that money spent?

There is speculation in the consumer industry that credit card companies will begin adding up to a 4% surcharge to credit card purchases. It’s allowed under new rules that take effect soon, but I don’t see this becoming widespread soon. More to come on this issue in the coming days, and rest assured I’ll be watching this in the months to come.

My fiance and I evaluated credit card offers, and did a cost benefit analysis to figure out which one would give us the most bang for our buck. Don’t exclude credit cards that have a yearly fee. Sometimes these cards give you better perks than a free card.

Before you can do a cost benefit analysis, figure out what you want to get with your rewards. Do you want a cash credit on your statement or do you want a product for your new home or kitchen?  Some credit card companies don’t offer good cash redemption policies. They require a lot of points compared with the number you need for a product. Decide what’s important for you and your fiance.

That will help you determine the card that will  net you the most rewards.

 IMG_7566Have fun
The first few months of planning can be overwhelming. You have so many big decisions to make in such a short time. Find some time to relax and enjoy your new fiance. It’s hard to avoid stress while wedding planning, but try.

Set a calendar and decide what you want to accomplish each month. This will help you stay on task and have fun while planning the most blissful day of your life.

 

Related links you may like:
Wedding decorations on a budget
Airport parking that won’t break your budget
Picture perfect honeymoon or vacation – best travel review sites
Do it yourself bride: invitations 

Wedding decorations on a budget

Decorations and centerpieces for a wedding can get really expensive, but they really make a difference. I think decorations spice up a room. Most venues are a little plain. Sometimes there are no windows and the carpeting is dark. Decorations and bright centerpieces will add some pizzaz, and you can do it without breaking the bank.

Our venue had windows overlooking tennis courts and open rafters. To make the room sparkle without paying for colored table cloths and chair coverings, we added color to the rafters and bright colored candles to the tables. Candles are a great idea because they add sparkle at night. Continue reading

Picture perfect honeymoon or vacation – best research sites

When you’re planning a wedding, there’s a lot of back and forth with the vendors. You visit the reception hall and go over every last detail. You know what to expect that day and know how everything will look. While your wedding day is a big moment, the reception you planned for months only lasts a few hours. The weeks that follow are just as important. Your honeymoon lasts more than just a few hours. It can last more than a week. Yet, you plan it without ever visiting and often without ever speaking to anyone. You’re at the mercy of others to make sure every detail is as perfect as you ever imagined. So, here’s my tips to a picture perfect honeymoon.

We planned our honeymoon entirely on the reviews of other honeymooners and travelers on TripAdvisor.  It’s my #1 travel site, and I check it all the time for hotels in the United States or resorts in another part of the world. You know the worst thing that may happen on your trip, and you know the best parts of the resort or hotel.

We originally booked our honeymoon to Antigua. It was a small resort, and got good reviews. When you’re planning a wedding, you want to get the big details planned as quickly as possible. We saw a sale for the resort we were considering, and booked it early on. We were very excited and even told people we were heading to Antigua.

A few months later, the excitement faded. As we researched what we would do during our time in Antigua, we realized there may not be enough activities to keep us busy. Funny, considering we did very little on our honeymoon. When you’re planning, you still have energy and can’t imagine sitting on a beach for a week even though that’s exactly what we needed after months of planning.

We explored other honeymoon options and saw a review of top honeymoon islands. St. Lucia topped it. We began looking at the island, and we were sold. There are volcanoes, nice beaches, snorkeling, scuba, and culture. It ranks as one of the most romantic islands.

Our haste to book our honeymoon cost us $50 to cancel our reservation to Antigua. Not a big deal considering the amazing time we had in St. Lucia. It was the best choice possible. My advice to you: don’t rush into a decision. Your honeymoon is a big detail, but it’s small enough that it can wait until you have time to truly explore and decide on the best option for you.

So many people are looking for something different on their honeymoon. Some people take short trips, others long. Some people want to explore, others sit on the beach. First, decide your wants and needs. Then, search for that perfect destination.

Sunset from our room at Jalousie Plantation

We settled on Jalousie Plantation in St. Lucia, and had an amazing time.  Beyond the accommodations, you need to consider the food. I’ve stayed at some budget resorts, and the food gets old real fast. At Jalousie, it was amazing night after night whether you ate at the high end restaurant or the budget one by the beach. All inclusive is the way to go. The last thing you want to worry about on your honeymoon is money. You should order the entree, or two like my husband did one night, that you want rather than the one that fits your budget.

Do your research. Don’t assume your resort has good beach access. Some have amazing views in St. Luica, but they don’t have a beach. At our resort, they bussed in other hotel guests. They were relegated to a small part of the beach without bad chairs. If they wanted a good one, they had to pay handsomely. They were on such a small part of the beach, we wouldn’t have known they were there if we didn’t see them all walking down the mountain from the drop off point at the resort every day.

Kendry – Guide for Real St. Lucia Tours

We saved a ton of money because we did our research before we left. We found an amazing tour company, Real St. Lucia Tours. Their tours are custom and half the price of our resort. We booked a custom tour to chocolate plantations, volcano, mud bath, nearby fishing village, etc. for six hours for $85. That’s so cheap considering it costs me $15 in a cab to drive less than ten minutes in the United States. The driver also showed other points of interest and made it a day we’ll always remember. Do your research and skip the tours at the hotel.

Boucan drinks – Hotel Chocolat – St. Lucia – $40 cab drive from our nearby hotel unless you hire a driver

If you don’t plan ahead, you’re stuck guessing which company to choose when you arrive. If you don’t want to go with the hotel, taxis are your other option. They are expensive. When we asked the hotel how much it would cost to go anywhere, the answer was $40. Even if it was 10 minutes down the road. They know you don’t know that it’s that close, so everything costs $40. A lot of tourist pay this price because they don’t have another option because they didn’t do their research before their trip. When we went out with Real St. Lucia Tours to some of the chocolate plantations, I couldn’t believe other tourists paid $40 to visit them because they were so close to our resort.

Boating near Pitons in St. Lucia

If you want to head out on the water, you need to look beyond Real St. Lucia Tours. They only offer land trips. You can take a water taxi, but they are expensive. We heard some travelers who used them and enjoyed their trip, but they are pricey adventures. You can wheel and deal with the water taxis that sit on the shore all day waiting for a customer, but they don’t discount their rides that significantly.

We only took one water tour and felt a bit ripped off. We hadn’t done our research, so we booked it through the hotel.

View from room at Jade Mountain

Through our research, we also knew where to spend all our money. We wanted to splurge one night, and did just that at Jade Mountain. Based on the reviews on TripAdvisor, we knew we would have amazing views and a night to remember.

If you’re headed to Europe, I would use TripAdvisor. We’re using it to book a trip to New Zealand. However, I’d also grab a travel guide book like Fodor’s. It will be your Bible for your entire trip as you’re traveling. Those books never left my hand when I traveled through Europe. You need a quick guidebook for last minute questions, accommodations, and sights to see when you are on the go in Europe.

You need to review traveler comments with a bit of skepticism. A traveler is more likely to leave a negative comment than a positive one. However, they offer insight we didn’t have ten years ago. Reviews should not be underestimated. They are priceless tools to help you book a trip. TripAdvisor happens to be my favorite. Which one is yours?

Do it yourself bride: invitations and postage

Our wedding. Destin, FL.

I’m back! Sorry for the hiatus, but I’ve had so much going on. Planning a wedding is so time-consuming. I spent months planning, and it was all over in a matter of hours. I think all the special touches made it a memorable weekend for us and our guests who traveled so far.

So many people have told me to share all my money-saving wedding tips and ideas, and I plan to do that over several months. I won’t do it all at once so I won’t bore all of you who are not planning a wedding.

The Do It Yourself trend is not just for home improvement — it’s big in the wedding industry. There are businesses who cater to the DIY bride.  It will save you money, BUT understand what you are undertaking. You will hit roadblocks. Be prepared, and give yourself time to work through them.

I decided to tackle our save the date cards, invitations, place cards, and programs as stationary and printing will cost you a bundle. I remember walking into a stationary store last winter just to get some ideas. It’s a small store so the consultation area is right there as guests look at products. The bride told the consultant her stationary budget was $1500 and the consultant mentioned it was doable but not a lot. For $1500, you get pretty basic invitations. It’s a price I was not willing to pay for something most people are going to eventually throw in the trash. The others may sit in a drawer somewhere and collect dust.

Doing it yourself takes lots of preparation and thought. I did lots of research to figure out an invitation I could execute, and thought about the invitations I’d received. Which ones did I like or dislike and why? I wanted a quality product that organized the wedding details and RSVP card in a neat way. I hate opening an invitation and having it all fall onto the table in a million pieces.

The other problem is that so many invites are crushed and bent by the time you receive them in the mail. One reason is that brides rarely use two envelopes anymore so there’s less protection for the card. Also, the invites are simply thinner material. I wanted something to protect my invite.

I decided on a square pocket invite. It would keep everything organized with the pocket, plus, offer some protection to the invite itself. While I found a very reasonably priced pocket from Cards and Pockets, little did I would make up for those savings in stamps because of the size.

I took a sample to the Post Office to make sure it would fit with one stamp. A postal employee told me it would be fine, so I ordered all the invites. When I was done assembling them, I was once again told one wedding stamp would work. The clerk was confident, but wanted to verify it with a supervisor. That’s when everything changed. The supervisor informed me that my invitation was too big, and I’d need additional postage. It wasn’t like five or ten cents. It was a significant cost. My invitation fit in a 6.5″ square envelope, and the Post Office dimensions go to 6 1/8″.  It was just barely over, but that small difference makes a big difference in price.

So, take five minutes and check the dimensions of your invite with the dimensions at the Post Office. Don’t count on a clerk giving you accurate information. Do the research yourself. After all, you are a do it yourself bride.