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shego's avatar

How do I help a friend plan her wedding?

Asked by shego (11062 points ) August 5th, 2010

My best friend is now officially engaged, and she wants me to help her plan her wedding.
Now, I know nothing about planning weddings, much less planning a basic birthday party.
So the date she has set is for September of next year, and we both decided, to get a head start on doing research. We don’t have the funds for a wedding planner, so it would be appreciated if you not told me I should have one.
But we would like some advice from those of you who planned your own weddings, to help guide us in the right direction.

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14 Answers

sliceswiththings's avatar

There are websites that help you keep organized with to-do lists and such for free that you can manage for your friend. My cousin just used www.theknot.com.

JLeslie's avatar

Go to the book store and look for books that help you organize. I had one that I stapled my receipts in for down payments and wrote down all of the bands I saw, and just all of the information that I needed to keep straight. You don’t have to buy one in the store, you can make your own, but at least get an idea of all of the things you will need to keep track of.

Also, skim through some wedding etiquette books. It will tell you different customs for different religions, which even if the bride is not religious it is neat to know the various options. Like at my wedding both of my parents walked me down the aisle, and both of my husbands walked him, and my whole family stood with us under the chupah (the canope Jewish people get married under) during the ceremony. We did not have any friends as bridesmaids or best man, just close family.

Also I wish I had asked my mom for some more help. I think her opinion would have been useful, but for the most part she let me plan it all myself.

There really is a lot to decide:

- Where the ceremony will be, what music to play at the ceremony.
– Vows.
– Where the reception will be.
– Will there be dancing?
– Song for the first dance.
– Song for the dance with the parents.
– Song list for the DJ/band of things you definitely don’t want and want played.
– Will you do a toast, the garter thing, whatever other traditions.
– If there are several courses will there be dancing inbetween courses, or all food courses and then turn up the music.
– Which brings us to food. Sit down dinner or buffet.
– choose a cake
– grooms cake?
– gifts for guests?
– gifts for bridesmaids?
– flowers

While at the bookstore get a few brides magazines to help give you both ideas.

Alleycat8782's avatar

I have never been married but I have heard about planning for weddings and the very first thing you have to do is book the reception hall and where to have the ceremony. I have heard that places get booked fast, even in a year of advance, so getting ahead start on that is a must.

Then you have to figure out the minor things: dj, food, photographer, dresses, flowers, cake, guests, and the list goes on and on. @JLeslie has some good questions to think about.

I hope this helps and good luck on helping your best friend plan a wedding.

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hug_of_war's avatar

Set a budget before making any big decisions, and stick to it. It’s really easy to fall in love with something at a price point you can’t afford and if you don’t have a financial plan you’ll quickly find a little extra here and there will add up.

You usually reserve where it will be way ahead of time so start looking right away – those places book fast and you want to have it at a time you like best.

People love open bars but they are ridiculously expensive. Decide what is important to you, and what you can compromise on.

More people generally equals more expense, especially when it comes to food if you are doing the traditional catering thing.

Keep track of everything. Money matters, what still needs to be done, down payments, guest lists, etc and keep it all in one place so if you ever need to reference it it is right there.

Many ways exist to cut costs, like using an ipod playlist instead of a DJ. Decide which options would work for you.

Before deciding on a photographer look at their previous work. Every photographer has a different style so it’s important to match up in that way.

Recording a wedding is more difficult than it looks, be comfortable with the level of expertise of your pick.

Remind her (and him) to write thank you’s post-wedding in a timely manner. It’s easy to forget after the hustle of a wedding.

I’ve never planned a wedding but I do know a lot about them.

shego's avatar

Thanks
We are going to check out a couple if the Victorian mansions out here, and a couple up in the mountains. We do have a budget set.
And a grooms cake? Isn’t that optional?

BarnacleBill's avatar

From a project management standpoint, here’s a list of wedding components that need to be accomplished to have a wedding. Create a timeline for the bride, working backwards. Also, create a budget spreadsheet, and allocate funds for her for the various components so she doesn’t overspend. It’s easy to get caught up in spending money on wedding favors and elaborate invitations—both things that most of the guests will throw away. There is a lot of hype to weddings that encourages overspending.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes grooms cake is optional, that is why I put the question mark. I think you see it done more in the south, but it is catching on. Defintely not necessary though. It gives the groom a chance to express himself I guess, because so much of the wedding day is the brides day. Last wedding I went to the groom had just received his wings from the airforce and the cake was a rectangle decorated as a runway with lights at the end a model airplane at the the other end. What I think they did wrong was both cakes were white cake. If you do a grooms cake make it a different flavor than the main wedding cake.

It is a great idea to decide on a budget first, I had not thought of that, good other people mentioned it. You might alter the budget a little as you learn how much things cost, you don’t want to go into a huge debt when you get married.

Also, your friend may want to ask her parents and fiance if there is anything that is really important to them. Both my husband and mother wanted a chocolate cake, and my husband did not want boutineers for the men. So, it was easy for me to make them happy.

lynfromnm's avatar

Plenty of excellent suggestions here. To me the number one thing is to help the bride and groom decide what THEY want – how fancy, how many people and where, whether they want to write their own vows, have a religious or secular ceremony Encourage them to make it their own..

NaturallyMe's avatar

I’ve just done my wedding in May and it went well! I’m not sure about where you live, but over here, most wedding venues comes with a “wedding planner” of sorts, included in the price, so they’ll remind you of some of the things you’ll have to think about.
I ordered many of my wedding goodies from wedding sites on the net (wedding bubbles and little decorative stuff that i used to make the gifts for the guests etc).
Here are the things that i organized and did myself:
* made the wedding invites, including directions to venue
* made guest gifts (little decorated boxes filled with chocolates and mini glass jars which i filled with my favourite jam)
* designing and printing table menus
* printing “order of the day” scrolls (just a little note letting the guests know how the day will be progressing – i made one for each guest and attached a packet of heart shaped sweets with wedding themed words printed on them
* ring bearer (i used a trained dog to do this and everybody loved it)
* i arranged for a family friend to make the cake (she’s a caterer)
* you should arrange for a DJ for the chapel and reception hall, and possibly make a list of songs you want them to play during the evening, but more specifically any specific songs that the bridal couple wants played at specific times (walk down the isle, entering the reception hall, removal of garter event, cutting cake music, or wherever they want specific songs)
* centre pieces (we just used big glass jars which my mum had collected over the years, and decorated them with celophane and cut out butterflies and material flowers and a little light – cheap but very pretty!
* confetti
* if they want flowers, find out what’s in season at the time of the wedding. I didn’t use flowers at my wedding because, well, they’re WAY overpriced and just die anyway. That doesn’t mean that my wedding was drab though…one just has to be creative. :)
* i “ordered” the marriage officer online as well
* you sould remind them to start practicing their “first dance”, if they want to do something exotic and interesting. We did the tango at ours, but left it to the last minute to practice it, so we spent a few nights way after midnight trying to make ourselves remember all the steps, so don’t let her wait to the last minute, haha!
* decide the theme, if any, and colours, and find out if she wants you to wear something to match with her colour of choice, and start shopping for your outfit.

Anyway, i’ve been talking too much and have probably gone off-topic already, but ask me if you want to know anything else! :)

BarnacleBill's avatar

I’m puzzled when giving guests “party favors” became the wedding fad. I like it when they give me a box with a piece of cake in it to take home.

Once nice thing at an out-of-town wedding I went to was arranged activities for the out-of-town guests, including a list with name, cell phone number, where they were staying, a photo and how they knew the bridal couple. The brother of the bride hung out at the hotel, and acted as a concierge for the wedding guests. That was a nice touch.

JLeslie's avatar

Someone mentioned a direction card in the invitation, good idea, and I would add put attire expected, which was missing on the last wedding I went to. One wedding I was invited to had a website set up for their wedding with some photos of them, directions to the chrch and reception, where the were registered and links for everything Macy’s, the church, etc.

@BarnacleBill I think it depends on the religion and ethnice group when it comes to favors for the guests. My impression is the Catholics and Jews typically. Almost every wedding, shower, Barmitvah, or communion party I have ever been to give favors. When I was a little girl we gave favors to the people who attended our birthday parties, not sure if other people do that? The last wedding I went to they just did a big homemade sugar cookie with the initials on the cookie. I gave out a small candy dish ceramic plate with Jordan Almonds in a small mesh bag with a bow in a party box. A friend of mine gave cup holders (the type that are like a cushion you can put around a can or glass to insulate it and golf tees with their names and wedding date.

NaturallyMe's avatar

Regarding the giving of gifts – although it appears to be very traditional at christian weddings (in fact, every wedding i can remember attending), my main reason for giving gifts was because i thought it was a fun idea to do, and i had lots of fun in making the gifts myself as well. I love giving people cute little gifts, so it was fun for me. :) I also tried not to give something totally useless (however cute it may be), as well as giving something that both men and women could use, hence the little box of candy chocolates and the mini bottles of jam.

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