Wedding/reception tips, anyone?
February 25, 2005 8:50 AM   Subscribe

The soon-to-be-Mrs. and I have a wedding coming up in about six months, and we're in the planning stages right now. Married members - what do you know now (about wedding planning) that you wish you had known then? What are the little things that we should be thinking of now, but aren't? Others - what were some little things that you remember about weddings you've attended? What worked, and what didn't?

A brief overview: We've already booked a church and a minister and cleared the date with our families, groomsmen, and bridesmaids. It's a Sunday afternoon wedding - ceremony at 4:00, reception immediately thereafter in the church, and an afterparty (for close friends and family) at a bar or similar drinking-enabled facility which we will rent out. We're looking at about 200 or so at the wedding and reception, and maybe 75 at the afterparty. We want to focus our limited financial resources on the reception/afterparty rather than the ceremony itself.

We're having the wedding in Madison, WI, so on the off-chance that any Madison residents read this, any ideas for where to hold the afterparty?
posted by UKnowForKids to Grab Bag (53 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
You're not supposed to serve the top layer of the cake, but freeze it and have it on your first anniversary. One of my wife's aunts nearly had a coronary when we started cutting it up.

(Our marriage survived not having a year-old-cake eating ceremony.)
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:06 AM on February 25, 2005

Not sure where you are on the band/DJ decision, but it is an important one. If you are looking to get everybody on the dance floor, a DJ is key. Make sure to get some typical playlists or peek in at one of his gigs some time. If you are more just looking for good background music a band will be the better choice. Make sure they really know (by listening to them play) any songs that are particularly important to you.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:06 AM on February 25, 2005

I wish I had known right off the bat that despite my best intentions, my wife was the wedding planning boss and I should just do what she wanted.

I'm glad we discussed a few things (IE the cake). But otherwise, I should have just taken orders right from go.
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 9:10 AM on February 25, 2005

Watch out for that after party. An informal get-together with a dozen or two of your same-age buddies is one thing, but 200:75 is a tough ratio to manage without awkwardly making the uninvited feel dismssed. ("So long, 'B' List guests -- 'A' List, right this way to the real party.").
posted by MattD at 9:11 AM on February 25, 2005

We got married in October:

1) Relax. Seriously. The tone of the wedding, the party, and the amount of fun had by your friends is directly determined (for the most part) by the bride's attitude.

2) Our reception was extremely non-structured, and I kind of regret that. We didn't do all the traditional "Dance with whomever" bits, and I wish we had.

3) Make sure that you are getting a lot of photos, because you will remember about 15 minutes of anything in particular. My reception was about three or four hours long. I feel like I was there for twenty minutes.

4) If you have any friends with musical talent, have them sing or play. We did this, and I will never, ever forget it (she sang at the ceremony and also a surprise song for my husband at the reception). It was a huge hit, and she was very honored. It's much, much more personal and memorable than a CD.

5) If your friends are coming in from out of town, spend time with them. We had people there the day before, and becuase we prepared pretty well, we were not running around like dorks, and we could enjoy them. We also spent the evening partying with our friends, and then brunched the next day. It was awesome. Always remember, your friends rhyme with awesome. That's why they are there.

6) Cake does not have to be expensive. We would have done Publix cakes, but no Publix around us. We did Wal-Mart cakes for 1/6 the cost we would have had from a "cake person" and they were delish. Unless you really want fondant icing, it's no good. Your guests will appreicate whipped or buttercream way more.

7) Music - we did not have a DJ. We hate DJs. We had a jazz band made up of professors from the Music Department of the local college. They were so much fun, we loved it, our parents and their friends thought it was classy, and our friends thought it was fun. And, we weren't annoyed by the Electric Slide. Make sure you get what you want.

Finally, this is your wedding, you and your fiance. Make sure you get what you want for what you want to spend. Also, ask your vendors for rec's on things you dont have already. That's how we got our super-awesome florist, and the super-awesome band.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:11 AM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

Invite whom you two want, not whom anyone else wants. 'S your wedding, and you call the shots (unless someone else is paying, then it gets sticky).
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:16 AM on February 25, 2005

Hey...I got married in Madison, WI, just about a year and a half ago (and I live here now!). We were married in the horticulutral gardens on campus, and had the reception catered at my parents' home (a luncheon in a big tent and a bluegrass band--it was pretty low-key for a wedding). Afterwards we met a group of friends at my family's restaurant for a casual dinner. We didn't stay long after dinner, but the rest of them headed down to the Memorial Union Terrace (it was a gorgeous warm summer night) and then hit a couple of bars on State Street. Although we missed it, a friend with a video recorder captured the rest of the night, and they seemed to have had a good time...

But I digress a bit...advice in no particular order. This is more stuff that I learned by going through the wedding:

1. order extra corsages and boutenniers, and be generous aboug giving them out. I think I managed to hurt a friend's feelings a bit when I negelcted to give her one.

2. be graceful. A friend (ironically the same corsage-less one metioned above) spilled red wine all over my dress (I don't think it was a conscious act of revenge!). The truth is that I didn't care at all--the whole day was to wonderful to spoil, and I only felt awful about how badly she felt about it. Afterwards people told me that they were impressed with how I handled it. There were other little goofs, and there will be on your day, too, but just smile and laugh and forget about it. Don't let anything ruin your day.

3. take a moment or two to be along with your new wife in the crowd of people.

There's a lot more, but others will cover it, and there's plenty of good all-purpose advice online (i.e. And finally, congratulations!
posted by handful of rain at 9:18 AM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

Ditto prettyboyfloyd's input above. When it comes to napkin color schemes, flowers, etc., I of course have an opinion if you ask me for one. I may have never thought about it before, but I'll have something to say if I'm asked. My wife, however, actually cares about that stuff. Best bow out of decisions that don't matter to you.

Having said that, the decision I did make that turned out great was to refrain from having a large wedding party (groomsmen, bride's maids, etc,.). I had a best man (my dad), and she had a single maid (her sis). They had no duties other than to show up and stand with us. The final result was that the people we care about most got to just show up and party.
posted by space2k at 9:19 AM on February 25, 2005

It's hard to make blanket comments, because different weddings are...different.

1. Six months is not a lot of time (my wife discovered that a custom dress through normal bridal salons can take longer than that; went with a local seamstress recommended by a friend and saved quite a bit).

2. Are you paying for this, or are the parents? If the parents are, then you'll have to put up with their decisions about how the wedding will go, which you may not like. At any rate, start by working out A) how much you plan on spending and B) what you want. Then start figuring out how to compromise on B to get it closer to A.

3. If you rent an event space and provide your own booze, you'll come out way ahead. It's hard to estimate quantities, though. My wife and I bought caseloads of wine (we had pared-down drink options), leftovers of which remained in our closet for 10 months. You can get 10 glasses out of one champagne bottle for toasting, but only 5 for drinking.

4. Like prettyboyflloyd said, always defer to the prospective bride.

5. Prepare to be completely appalled at how much it costs to rent a venue for 6 hours.

Like I said, different weddings are different--ours reflected our personalities. We had no caterers but did the thing potluck. We had no DJ or band, just an iPod and some speakers upstairs. The whole thing had a sort of DIY ethic to it, but came off nicely, if I do say so myself.
posted by adamrice at 9:20 AM on February 25, 2005

This is the first time I have heard of an afterparty. Is this something new? More important, is it necessary? When do you guys plan to leave for your honeymoon?
posted by mischief at 9:25 AM on February 25, 2005

Have a receiving line. It sounds formal and stuffy, but it's the only way you'll be able to speak to everyone, especially the shy ones who won't butt in on someone else's time with you. Then you can go mix and dance and stuff.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:31 AM on February 25, 2005

Go buy a copy of the book "Bridal Bargains," the most level-headed wedding-planning book we came across when planning our wedding two years ago. The name is a bit misleading, because it's far more than just a "how to save money" book. The authors go into detail about the wedding industry and how it works to suck as much money out of you as possible.

A professional videographer is expensive and often intrusive (always in your way, with distracting lights, etc), but you will regret not having a video of the reception if one isn't made. The whole day will be a blur to you and you won't remember much, so having a video is wonderful. Find a cousin or date-of-a-friend who has a video camera and wouldn't mind standing at the back of the room and videotaping the toasts, dances, etc. For our wedding, we looked at the expense of a videographer (minimum of $600 in our area), then bought a good Hi-8 camera for $250 and had someone tape the wedding and reception for us. It was the best $250 we spent on the entire event, plus we now have a camera we use for vacations, holidays, and so on. You can get the tapes transferred to DVD pretty cheaply.

As tempting as it is to give the DJ or band a "do not play" list, allow them to play whatever is requested. The reception is supposed to be a celebration, and if your guests want to celebrate by doing the electric slide, let them. The evening will be much more fun if you don't have people complaining that the DJ won't play "Baby Got Back."

And finally, drop any and all pretenses that everything has to be perfect. Something will go wrong, whether small or large, and I've known couples--usually the bride, not to stereotype--who have had the day almost ruined for them because they got really upset about some ultimately trivial detail.
posted by arco at 9:31 AM on February 25, 2005

Consider wedding insurance. My wife's dressmaker went bankrupt a month before the wedding: her dress turned up in a refuse sack and turned out to be the one from the shop window. The insurance people went to another dressmaker and sorted it out for us in about two days of worry: my wife got the dress two weeks later.
posted by alasdair at 9:32 AM on February 25, 2005

If you hire a photographer, remember to factor in the cost of getting them to print your album and agree in advance about posting your photos to a web site (if you have one).
posted by alasdair at 9:33 AM on February 25, 2005

This may sound like a bit of flippant wit, but I mean it with deadly seriousness: Beware the mothers. Ours did their damnedest to try and make our wedding miserable through deception and cajoling in attempts to force us into being 'normal'. These were ordinarily decent women, driven into a frenzy worrying that we were being too weird and foolish in ditching a lot of traditions we saw as meaningless, but apparently were like unto religion to them. Hopefully yours don't meddle as much.
posted by picea at 9:36 AM on February 25, 2005

First, thanks for the good advice so far. I'll flesh out where we stand, prompted by the above comments:

Cost and parental input: Our families are going to contribute, and we're going to be saving money over the summer (when we'll both be working). Neither of our parental units are the type to make lots of demands in a situation like this. Her mother lives in Madison, so she's going to be doing a lot of the on-site coordinating (we're planning this from New York, where we're living until a few weeks before the wedding, at which point we're moving back to Madison).

Afterparty: The figures for the afterparty are mainly based on who we think will be interested in attending. We each have older family members who won't want to come, people with kids, etc. The church reception is aimed at this demographic, while the afterparty is focused on the key 18-29 segment. We are definitely going to be extremely careful about hurt feelings with this kind of thing.

Miscellaneous: Luckily, we know people who are useful in this kind of situation. Her mother is good friends with a caterer, so he'll be taking care of food. She's also friends with a baker, who will be doing the cake. My fiancee worked at a flower shop during high school, so they'll be taking care of the flowers. Two of her family members are photographers, so that's covered. She's also not interested in spending a ton of money on a dress - we've discussed renting one, picking one up at a thrift store and having it fitted, stuff like that.

Demon rum: We may look into bringing our own alcohol to the afterparty, if we can find a place this will work - we're also considering paying for a few drink tickets per person or a couple hours of open bar, depending on where we hold it.

Thanks again for the advice. I'll leave you with this quotation from Dr. Johnson: "Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures."
posted by UKnowForKids at 9:38 AM on February 25, 2005

As tempting as it is to give the DJ or band a "do not play" list, allow them to play whatever is requested.

We, in contrast, burnt MP3s covering the allotted time for dancing onto a CD, put it in a sound system and hid the control: we got the songs we wanted, in the order we wanted, had none of the songs we despised, and were immune from pressure to put on particular songs. We were also able to include some in-joke songs (e.g. Leonard Nimoy's rendition of "If I had a hammer"; They Might Be Giants) which a DJ would not have had. Before the wedding we asked our friends for suggestions and allowed mothers-in-law to lobby for particular tracks, but made the final decision ourselves. I guess that our attitude was "it's our wedding, so we're controlling the whole thing." We also trusted our friends to get up and boogy...

This worked for us: I think arco's suggestion is equally good for different reasons. Work out where you want to be coming from, but think about it in advance.
posted by alasdair at 9:41 AM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

Make sure ALL the guests get photographed. At our wedding we had family members with cameras and one "official" videographer (an old friend), which we thought would get us enough pix to make us nauseous, but they tended to cling, of course, to the family groups and familiars. Fifty photos of Grandma, zero photos of my old friends from work. I guess I should have seen that coming, but it might be worth addressing even if you have a professional photographer.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:44 AM on February 25, 2005

What are the little things that we should be thinking of now, but aren't?

Not much. You're almost certainly worrying about far more than you need to.

If there's stuff you don't care that much about, delegate that responsibility whereever you can. Flowers, cake, etc, whatever you don't have a real bee in your bonnet about, let someone else (with reasonable taste) pick.

Others - what were some little things that you remember about weddings you've attended? What worked, and what didn't?

Here's the thing. You two are going to spend a lot of time hammering out all sorts of details about all sorts of things, from the order that your wedding party stands in to the particular composition of different people's bouquets to the deep particulars of other decorations.

And for the vast majority of that stuff, most of the people there won't give a rat's ass. I mean, think about it, you've been to weddings before. How many of them do you look back on a year later and say, "Wow, that one bridesmaid had the best bouquet ever!" or "I remember how the particular bunting on the back pews really picked up the light and blah blah barf..." You don't, unless you're the girliest of girlie-girls, because you weren't there to see bunting or bouquets or any of that stuff -- you were there to see your friends tie the knot, and have a nice party.

The food matters. The drink matters. The entertainment matters (but it's entirely fine for it to be tacky!). Your vows matter, to you. Having a ceremony that's short and sweet is a good thing.

But a lot of other stuff, people really won't care about or much notice. That's not a bad thing -- think of it as giving you the freedom to just pick something you like and then move on from there to some part of the Special Day that people do care about.

Personally, I'd spend a lot of time fussing over details of a honeymoon instead of details of the wedding.

Oh, yeah: Eat. People will be grabbing you right and left and you won't have 5 minutes to yourselves, or when you're not being bothered by someone. Make *CERTAIN* that you have a few minutes scheduled to shove some food in yer pie-hole.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:52 AM on February 25, 2005

On the subject of "eat" -- if you can assign a Bridesmaid to make you doggie bags, do it. You will appreciate it later.

One last thing: In my and my friends' experience, putting off the honeymoon=much better honeymoon. You are not exhausted from the wedding. You don't have to worry about what you have to do when you get home. You don't have to save money for both things at the same time. If you are working, you can finagle your PTO. We have put off our honeymoon for an entire year, and we are doing exactly what we wanted to do -- go abroad -- which we would not have been able to do had we made it an-immediately-after-wedding necessity. I'm a money-worrier though, and so that's part of why I'm more comfortable doing it later -- I like having the whole year to save and plan.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:06 AM on February 25, 2005

Make sure you search the AskMe archives - there have been several threads on weddings and what worked/didn't work, what was important to spend money on and what wasn't etc.

I read an article somewhere that mentioned that the one thing most people regretted about their weddings was inviting too many people. Not only does it get very expensive, but it severely limits the time you get to spend with everyone who has come to share this day with you. However, if you and/or your fiancee have your hearts set on having a big wedding, then by all means do it. It really all comes down to what you want and enjoy.

Make sure you have a good photographer/videographer - as arco and rolypolyman mentioned above, it makes a huge difference. The day goes by very quickly, and of course you can't be with everyone all the time, so the photos/video do a great job of not only documenting the things you two did during the day, but also other peoples' well-wishes and reactions.

Don't get too caught up in the details and most of all, have a good time and remember that this is your day. Congratulations and good luck!
posted by widdershins at 10:06 AM on February 25, 2005

The best advice I can give to someone who is planning a wedding is to spend more time planning for your marriage than you do planning for your wedding day. There are all sorts of pre-marriage counselors who will help you not only to be sure that you really are the most compatible couple you can be, but also help you think through some of the more mundane and often forgotten aspects of married life -- like how you will handle finances; ex. joint checking account?

I mean, in my case, I was only a few days away from my wedding when I realized my mate wasn't going to be taking my surname, and while it isn't an earth-shattering thing, it was a source of friction, since it hadn't even occurred to me that she wouldn't.

More than half of all marriages end in divorce. Take the time now to make sure you're going down the proper path.

One other bit of advice : Don't sweat the small stuff. I made an off-hand comment about what clothing my wife was going to wear for the ceremony. It caused all kinds of stress , teeth-gnashing, and tears, ultimately. And, in truth, my wife thought it was much more important to me than it really was.

Maybe these two tips are related, and can be tied together into one word : communicate.
posted by crunchland at 10:12 AM on February 25, 2005

If you're going from 200 down to 75, you may want a sign-in book, scrapbook, or some other means for people to jot down well-wishes and the like. My sister and her husband had a photo of themselves with a large white mat, so folks could write directly in the whitespace. It isn't something they hang in the living room, but it's a nice momento nonetheless.

Also, check with the photographer to see if he only does posed shots, or will also be taking candid photos.
posted by Sangre Azul at 10:22 AM on February 25, 2005

A professional photographer is *really good* for getting that one shot where everyone is together, arranged, posed, and looking at the camera. People will do what a photographer says, because s/he *is* a photographer. Random relatives/guests trying to achieve the same thing do not stand a chance, in my experience. but they are pricey.
posted by carter at 10:40 AM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

Okay, haven't been married, but have been to weddings, and let me say this: If you have a friend do the photography (as opposed to a more distant acquaintance), please make sure that they actually appear in some photos too, and let them have fun in addition to snapping pictures. I.e. have a couple rotating photographers.

Not that i'm bitter or anything.
posted by Kololo at 10:45 AM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

We learned that an iPod is cheaper than a DJ, but you do want to make sure to rent or borrow a microphone if you're not hiring someone. We had a great time with our music mixes, but if my husband's friends hadn't brought pretty much an entire sound system, we would have been shouting a lot all night.

We got a lot of help from friends, and had boutonnieres and corsages for everyone who helped and all of both our families, which seemed to be appreciated.

The only real mistakes I made were that my hair appointment was way too late in the day (2pm and many miles away for a 7:00 wedding - on a Friday, when rush hour starts at 3), and I did not wear comfortable shoes. There are a number of pictures of me with my ratty-ass running-errands shoes on because I just couldn't stand up any longer in my nice shoes.

It is true what they say about the bride and groom not really getting to eat at the reception, so chow down beforehand.

Getting married on a Friday night saved us a grand, and gave us time to actually see our friends on Saturday (my husband arranged for his band to play an afternoon gig out on the patio of a bar, where we recycled cake and just hung out with everyone). Our out of town guests were all gone by mid-day Sunday, and we left for our honeymoon on Monday morning.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:50 AM on February 25, 2005

Don't sweat the small stuff.

And it's all small stuff, once you have what you need for the ceremony (bride, groom, minister/JP, witnesses).

Something will go wrong. Expect it. Then be pleased when it's something minor. :)

We drove Mr R's mom nuts with the above 'non-traditional' approach. We got her out of our hair by asking her to do the altar flowers the morning of the ceremony.

Ask the church if they have standard wedding party decorations that you can use -- many churches have an aisle runner and stash of white bows, etc, left over from previous weddings.

If it's going to be a sit down reception, put disposable cameras on each table. Have the DJ/MC mention them before the reception starts, and then again before the dancing/socialising. You'll get a lot of junk photos, but you'll get some really good ones, too. Have some cameras at the afterparty, too. A good photographer won't mind this at all.

Photos are expensive. Mr R did the pix for our nephews wedding (digital SLR, good photo printer), and it ran us $70 just for printing the proofs.

Have someone besides the wedding party who will be able to handle last minute questions and problems. Give a friend/aunt/uncle a copy of the contract(s), and have them be the contact person once you're on site, so that you won't have to deal with questions about "is this in the contract". Have extra maps from the church to the afterparty (at least two people will forget theirs).

Other than that, remember that it's only part of one day. Deal with any problems with a sense of humor, and you will have a wedding that you and your guests will remember fondly.
posted by jlkr at 11:01 AM on February 25, 2005

If you have any friends with musical talent, have them sing or play.

Keep in mind that knowing how to play the guitar is not the same as having musical talent. I've been to a couple weddings recently where they've had friends or family do a song and it was painful to watch. Cringe-inducing, stare-at-your-plate-until-the-song-is-over stuff. And even if they truly are talented, don't let them pick out an eight-minute song.
posted by hootch at 11:06 AM on February 25, 2005

1. Choose non-drippy foods if you can. No use splattering that nice new dress, eh?
2. Bring a checkbook, just in case.
3. Make sure you have change for the parking meter (this happened to me - I was dressed to the nines, drove a convertible top down on a gorgeous day, got a parking space right in front of the church, no change in my pockets! I begged from the first pedestrian I made eye-contact with, who turned out to be the man I was supposed to meet to get into the church anyway)
4. There are an infinite number of little tasks that need to be done. Assign them to people who are being a pain because it gets them out of the way under the guise of doing something important (eg, can you make sure all the tables have numbers/place cards on them? can you make sure all the carnations have pins for the groomsmen?)
posted by plinth at 11:07 AM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


I second the keep it in between the two of you. As soon as parents or 'moms' in particular get involved they can't help but take over, even though they have good intentions.

With our wedding, we kept the church service to immediately family only and had the after party in two stages. Family and close friends to the dinner and others to the dance afterwards. This allowed leeway for our parents to invite their friends that we did not feel as close to.

Our numbers were like 70 to the dinner and 30 to the dance for a total of approx. 100

We rented an old barn at a local park and had it catered, The caterer took care of the alcohol and decorating as well and was quite reasonable. They had a mobile kitchen that they could store and prepare food in and as well as dinner they also provided for the late night buffet which was more than adequate, it was actually like a second dinner.

My wifes sister had their ceremony at a banquet hall and I think that our arrangement was thousands less if not half price.

Ask around for a quality photographer, If you are in a hurry for your pictures be sure that that will happen before hand. Our pictures are amazing but they took almost a full year before we received them.

Last but not least have fun. It goes by so fast that you can forget most things soon after they happen. I was told to repeat back things as they were happening and it seemed to help me remember the day better.

On our anniversary each year we go for a hike at the park where our wedding was. That is also a really nice thing.
posted by vidarling at 11:15 AM on February 25, 2005

1. A professional videographer is expensive and often intrusive (always in your way, with distracting lights, etc), I'm not convinced that videotaping is better than photos (and two photographers is definitely good - lots of pictures to sort through, and to send copies to people). If you do go that route, firmly insist that the person doing the videotaping NOT be intrusive. (I can still remember a wedding I attended where the videophotographer, during the ceremony, walked in front of each person in the wedding party, doing closeups. [Remember that sharing photographs, or looking at a photo album, is still a lot easier than working with a video, particularly one that isn't perfect throughout.]

2. Take the formal wedding pictures (families, attendants, bride and groom, etc.) before, repeat, before the ceremony. It's difficult (and has aspects of rudeness) to try to do this when the other attendees want to spend time with those being photographed.

3. There are advantages to deferring the honeymoon, but if you do, have a mini-honeymoon of a couple days, following the wedding, within (say) a few hours driving distance.

4. It's a great idea to rent a limo to get you to wherever you're going after the afterparty, and if necessary a second driver to drive your car (following the limo) This is surprising not really that expensive. The last thing you want to do after a long day is to have to drive somewhere. In any case, a limo adds a nice touch at the end of the day, even if you're only being driven five miles to where you live.

5. Set a closing time for the afterparty, and let everyone know well ahead of time. Ask a couple of friends to be in charge of closing down the party, and that they remind everyone (say) an hour or two ahead of the closing time.
posted by WestCoaster at 11:16 AM on February 25, 2005

I'm going to contradict MrMoonPie.... Reception lines, in my experience, tend to suck. They clog everyone up in one place, where 95% of them are standing about waiting for your attention, ensuring that at least some of them feel petulant and the lucky one with your attention at the moment may feel rushed.

You can avoid this by 1) keeping your wedding small and 2) making time to circulate and say hi to everyone during the food/dancing/whenever. Who wants to sit up at the head table like a bored royal when you can walk around and hug everybody on your special day?

I also can't emphasize this enough: table cameras. You know: those cheap, low-to-moderate quality disposable things. You can pay even less for them when they're sold in bulk. We put one on every table and yes, there were some funny batches where the kids obviously got their hands on the camera before anyone else, but there were also real gems that were quite album-worthy.

Last but not least, go re-read what crunchland wrote above. That's golden.
posted by clever sheep at 11:50 AM on February 25, 2005

Have a budget set out before you start spending money, and I don't mean a total budget, but an itemized one. This will let you know where you think you stand, and how you really stand as you go. Oh yeah, after you do the budget, add 25% to everything. Where you fall short on some things you will make up for it on others and unexpected items.
posted by vianetman at 11:56 AM on February 25, 2005

Great thread! I am in the same boat as you, UKnowForKids. We're getting married in July here in Seattle and have been preparing for it since December. Not much advice (as I'm in your same position).

Stress seems to be the big issue for us during the planning phase. Admittedly, more for my fiancee as she is handling a lot of the planning along with her mother. I help out and try to keep her calm when issues arise. We're really excited, though, and thankfully a lot of the tougher decisions are behind us.
posted by xmutex at 12:13 PM on February 25, 2005

Want some really sage advice? Don't ask for wedding advice.

As you can see, very few people--including, you'll discover, you and your immediate family--have the same ideas about what to do for a wedding. Decide what matters to you, get a second opinion on your ideas, and run with it. Some of the things my wife and I did for our wedding would make Metafilter's collective jaw drop, and it was the best wedding we could have imagined. So there you go.

That said, the words of wisdom above--don't stress, play nice with family--are indeed wise. The interpersonal relationships matter a lot more than the actual event. Get too worked up about it being perfect, and it won't be. Just get everything organized to your basic specifications, be ready to laugh when the band/DJ plays House of Pain in the middle of the reception, and have a ball.

Oh, and that House of Pain thing? That was my wedding, too. Heh.
posted by werty at 12:20 PM on February 25, 2005

We got married 3 months ago, so it's all very fresh. My biggest piece of advice (which was given to me, and for which I am very grateful) is to concentrate on the ceremony while it's happening. Apparently a lot of people are busy worrying about the reception and don't remember a thing about the ceremony. And that's the bit where you are getting married!
Completely agree with the "don't sweat the small stuff" people. It's true that the only thing other people will remember is the food, the booze and the entertainment. We didn't have table decorations or anything, because we figured nobody would care, and we didn't either. Things will go wrong - the only traditional thing we had at our wedding was a first dance, and our (otherwise wonderful) jazz band played the wrong song! Nobody knows, and we just laughed (because we can't dance and had practiced A LOT to the right song). But ultimately, who cares?
As for something that I don't think anyone has said: Make sure that you have organized people to do stuff on the day for you. You should just have to turn up and get married. Make sure you have someone organized to pay and/or tip the caterers/dj/band/photographer etc. Make sure you have someone organized to take the gifts home, or to their hotel. Make sure the vendors all have each other's phone numbers.
posted by gaspode at 12:23 PM on February 25, 2005

Speaking as someone who suffered the indignity of the bouquet toss a few too many times (called onto the dance floor by name, one of only two single women at the wedding), I urge you to go with the anniversary dance - give the bouquet to the couple that's been married the longest.
posted by deliriouscool at 12:23 PM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

Make sure your photographer is on board with _exactly_ the type of pictures you want. If having a picture of every table at the reception is important to you, make sure he knows.

Along the same lines, I always found intrusive photographers irritating. Don't stop the wedding for the photographer. Get one that's good enough to grab the right pictures without being in the way.

The most important piece of advice though:
It's your wedding.
Seriously, don't let the petty issues(and there will be some) of the MIL, sister of the bride, great-aunt Trudy, who(m)ever get in the way.
It's your wife's day, do it her way, and back her up in any and all disputes.
If possible, make this policy very clear in the beginning, so you don't end up having the same quarrel over and over.

Thankfully my wedding was mostly devoid of such things, but I've seen some wedding plans almost collapse under the weight of trying to please everyone.
posted by madajb at 12:39 PM on February 25, 2005

I'm with MattD and mischief regarding the afterparty. Why do you want to whittle the group down from 200:75? The oldsters and those not-so-close to you will most likely leave a bit early anyway. And you can save some money by having everything at the same venue.
posted by tidecat at 12:51 PM on February 25, 2005

First of all, congrats, UKnowForKids. Best wishes to you & the soon-to-be Mrs. UKnowForKids.

Second, I just attended a fairly low-key reception in Madison at the Essen Haus. I don't know what their prices are like, but the room was a good fit for the 100 or so people (we only used half of it). And after the reception, those who wanted to stay longer and those who couldn't come earlier or because of space limitations gathered in the attached bar. Extra bonus: There's a B&B upstairs.
posted by aine42 at 12:59 PM on February 25, 2005

I can still remember a wedding I attended where the videophotographer, during the ceremony, walked in front of each person in the wedding party, doing closeups.

Yes: hire a videographer who knows to shoot these scenes during the rehearsal rather than during the ceremony. Anyone who has shot weddings for more than a week should know this. The good ones will also ask the groom to put the ring on the bride's finger a second time during/after rehearsal so they can get a close-up. This can all be seamlessly edited together so it looks like one continuous ceremony even though it's not.
posted by kindall at 1:37 PM on February 25, 2005

Gaspode reminds me of something else. You (or perhaps more likely, your bride to be) should appoint a lieutenant--a trusted friend who will not be standing up at the ceremony--to coordinate all the other people directly involved in bringing things off the day of the ceremony. Obviously a person who can take charge and has a cellphone. Everyone concerned should have this person's number and know that if they have last-minute questions, that's the person to call.

Separate from the rehersal dinner, have at least one meeting at the venue/s with all the major parties to work out who does what when.

Also, FWIW--We didn't want a videographer, didn't have one, and don't regret it. No formal posed photos, either
posted by adamrice at 2:45 PM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

The wedding is for you and your wife. The reception is a party for the guests. If you remember that, you'll be fine. Don't do a cash bar. Don't play only one genre of music. Dance with everyone. Set out disposable cameras, and look the other way if they don't come back to you. Add some sort of candy to your favor. Invite your family - kids too. Low centerpieces so people can talk over them, and look out across the room. Set aside a half hour and walk around to greet each table. Tell everyone they look fabulous, and are fabulous for being there. You and your bride share a dance with just the kids. Give a flower to all the little girls. Make a big entrance and a big exit. Give yourselves a quiet moment to relax in a quiet room at some point.
posted by FunkyHelix at 4:29 PM on February 25, 2005

Some friends of mine had someone stand at the door with a Polaroid camera, and s/he took photos of everyone who arrived. Then they got everyone to sign their photos, adding a message if they wanted. It meant the couple wound up with a good souvenir photo of everyone who came to their wedding.
posted by orange swan at 4:31 PM on February 25, 2005 [2 favorites]

A co-worker of mine told me that all she wanted to do at her wedding was dance. But she'd also planned to hand out slices of her wedding cake individually, and she'd completely underestimated how long it would take to make the cake circuit among 400 guests. So.. she spent her entire reception handing out cake and didn't get to dance at all. Make sure any plan you have works on a practical level.
posted by orange swan at 4:35 PM on February 25, 2005

My then-fiancee (now wife) and I had the same deadly fear of Cheese. For that reason, we didn't get a DJ, and in fact dispensed with dancing altogether.

It sounds like you've got most things together already, so maybe the following observation won't be of much use to you, but what I found talking to wedding-planning people was that they always offered the cheesiest option first, if they asked at all, and assumed that we wanted the cheesiest option when they didn't ask.

For example, we had to fight for a long time with the string quartet to get them to not play all the most obvious things, a Klassix Gr8est Hitz of Vivaldi's Spring, Pachebel's Canon, etc. It turned out, once we finally made them believe that we didn't want that, that they were delighted! They're sick of playing that stuff too!

I take from this that the vast majority of people getting married do want the cheesiest option. If you're one of those, you're in luck, but otherwise be prepared to fight.

My uncle has married hundreds of people, and told us what some other posters have: what people are going to remember is how happy the bride looked. (Not "was", but "looked"; it may be worth practicing beforehand.)
posted by Aknaton at 5:24 PM on February 25, 2005

Your friends are your friends. They are not decorations at your wedding. So don't freak out about bridesmaids being perfect matching, HWP, etc. If you care about them enough to ask them to stand up for you, you should care about them enough to want them to be comfortable and enjoy themselves.

(This wasn't a problem at my wedding -- I had one attendant and asked her just to wear something nice that wouldn't clash with red and silver, the wedding colors. But I have seen some weddings get really ugly when the brides or mothers start freaking out about bridesmaids not matching each other perfectly, or even worse, about a bridesmaid not being aesthetically pleasing enough and "ruining the pictures". It is insane. It's better not to have attendants at all than to go down that road... It sounds sane enough to avoid these problems, though.)

Also, regarding seating at the reception: at one wedding my husband was in the wedding party and I was not. So he was assigned to sit at the wedding party table while I was expected to sit by myself at a wedding where I knew no one except people in the wedding party. I was very uncomfortable. Don't do that to your friends -- splitting up couples is not very nice, even if it makes a nice photograph.
posted by litlnemo at 7:11 PM on February 25, 2005

A couple of people have made the point that you should always defer to the wife in matters like napkin color or flower girl dresses, and while this is good advice, let me add a word of caution.

If you are constantly saying, "Hey, whatever you think," and "It doesn't matter to me," it is very easy to make her feel like you have no emotional investment in the whole process. You have the right to an opinion, and in the spirit of your new partnership, you should be comfortable expressing it. If you don't have an opinion, say so, but make it clear that you do care about (and are willing to help with) even the most trivial seeming decisions.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:31 PM on February 25, 2005

Here's what I did.

First thing was to get a three-ring binder for all the stuff you're going to collect.

Then, get some see-through pockets, dividers and a three-hole punch for paper.

Then, print out everything you see on-line worth saving. Save all the receipts, contracts, etc. in the folders, and organize everything with the separators.

Saved me a lot of time and headaches in the planning, and I always took it to everyone we met with throughout the eight months we planned our 200 person wedding.

The only bad thing was my new shoes to wear afterwards were stolen by a college golf team sharing the clubhouse with us.

As for places in Madison for an after party, you're fighting with Saturday night crowds, I'm assuming, and that may be a problem. In the downtown area, there are several places. The Essen Haus that was previously mentioned gets pretty gross after 11 PM or so, once people start barfing from consuming too many boots.

The Great Dane, White Horse Inn, and Angelic Brewery are all larger places that have separate areas if you want to reserve something. I doubt they will let you BYOB. However, both the Great Dane and Angelic have tasty microbrews. You might be able to rent a smaller room at the Union Terrace. Again, I would think it would be very difficult to find a hopping spot for an afterparty to BYOB. Feel free to contact me if you'd like more info. (I live in downtown Madison and know the area well.)
posted by RobbyB at 8:57 PM on February 25, 2005

It's better not to have attendants at all than to go down that road... It sounds sane enough to avoid these problems, though.)

I don't know where my brain was. I meant to write "You sound sane enough to avoid these problems."
posted by litlnemo at 4:47 AM on February 26, 2005

Read this website from A to Z: Etiquette Hell.
posted by anastasiav at 11:22 AM on February 26, 2005

A little late, but one more word of advice: Give your photographers a list of all the essential pictures. Take shots of both of you with each important family member (parents, grandparents, siblings) individually. It'll seem like overkill, but it pays off later when you're putting together albums.
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:03 PM on February 28, 2005

My sister got married at the Pres House chapel and had her reception at Mem. Union's Great Hall.

If you decide to go that route, be advised that the Union will be your caterer and your alcohol supplier/bartender. I have no idea how much this costs, but I do remember that though people complained about the chicken entree, I had the meatless pasta and it was delicious!

And congratulations, pal. I'm happy for you.
posted by rocketman at 9:18 AM on March 9, 2005

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