Wedding Bar Options

To drink or not to drink, that is the question. Serving alcohol at your wedding reception can be a costly, and at times controversial, decision. An open bar is the most generous (and expensive) option for your reception, allowing guests free alcohol and unlimited drinks of their choosing. However, if cost or controversy is a concern, here are a few alternative beverage options, of both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic variety:

Limited Bar: If you’d like to offer alcohol, but want to avoid a massive bill or the risk of guests overindulging, consider offering a bar with limited choices and hours of operation. Set a specific alcoholic drink menu with a few options for guests and then limit the times when drinks are available. For example, simply offer beer and wine that is only available during the cocktail hour or just through dinner.

Soda Bar: Offering unlimited soft drinks is certainly more cost effective than liquor and it can be done in a way that’s unique and creative. Serve sodas out of classic glass bottles for a nostalgic vibe or glam them up with fancy fluted glasses for a more elegant affair.

Espresso Bar: Set up a complete coffee bar for guests to indulge in cappuccinos, lattes, and mochas before and after dinner. When served in elegant china, coffee drinks can take on a sophisticated and swanky air. Serve in mismatched coffee mugs for a more relaxed, laid-back feel. To spice things up, consider offering alcoholic alternatives. Alcoholic after-dinner coffee drinks are classy, delicious, and more cost-effective than mixed cocktails.

Cider/Hot Cocoa Bar: Warm up chilly guests at a fall or winter wedding with an apple cider or hot cocoa bar. In addition to the hot beverages, offer a buffet of toppings, like whipped cream, cinnamon sticks, peppermint, sprinkles, and chocolate shavings, for guests to sweeten their treat.

Juice Bar: Liven up a summer gathering or afternoon brunch with a variety of juice options for wedding guests. With chic glassware and an array of garnishes, juice can be both refreshing and classy. Embellish beverages with a splash of alcohol for light, fruity cocktails.

Splurge & Save On Your Wedding Day

Every decision of the wedding preparations comes at a cost. Unless you have an unlimited budget, you’re constantly forced to negotiate with yourself about the expense of every item. If I spend more in this area, I’ll have to cut back in another. Here are some ways to splurge and save on the big areas of your wedding and reception:

The Dress

SPLURGE: Buy the dress of your dreams and have it altered to perfection. It is, after all, the centerpiece of the day and probably the other time you’ll justifiably be able to spend such a significant amount of money on one item of clothing. Plus, you’ll look and feel fabulous all day and in all of your photos. Designer Wedding Dress

SAVE: There are a number of ways to save on your wedding dress. Shop the racks of bridal discount stores, sample sales, or expos. Or wear the wedding dress of your mother, grandmother, or another close female relative. Even if it’s outdated, you can often have it redesigned for a fraction of the cost of a new designer gown. Dress Preservation

Flowers

SPLURGE: You should absolutely have the flowers that you love at your wedding and reception. They add a punch of color, contribute to the overall theme and feel of the day, and complement the décor. In the hands of a skilled florist, your bouquets and centerpieces can become works of art. So find a great florist who understands your vision and put them in charge of the entire flower scheme.

SAVE: You can still have the flowers of your dreams but for considerably less if you purchase them through a floral wholesaler. Nowadays you can order almost any flower in bulk on the Internet and have them delivered to your home. Find a friend or relative who is skilled with floral arrangements to create the bouquets or gather your bridesmaids together the day before the wedding to each arrange her own. There are books and magazines that offer a step-by-step guide for creating professional and beautiful bouquets, centerpieces, and boutonnieres on your own.

Food

SPLURGE: Splurging on food for your reception is as easy as it gets. Simply hire an amazing caterer, select the most indulgent fare, and offer seven courses for your guests. Throw in an open bar and a dessert buffet to create an unforgettable meal that you’ll be paying off for a long while.

SAVE: Saving on food doesn’t mean sacrificing taste and quality. Opting for a more unique meal is a great way to save cash and make your wedding more memorable. Consult your favorite local restaurant about catering the wedding. They’re often much less expensive than traditional catering companies and you already know you love the food. You can also opt for an elegant brunch instead of dinner or an extravagant array of appetizers and tapas instead of a full meal. If your wedding is themed (think rustic, carnival, or Southern), opt for a tasty but inexpensive meal that supports the theme.

Location

SPLURGE: There are a number of amazing venues that will wow your guests and rack up a big bill. If there’s a location that you absolutely love or has significant value to you, spend the cash to reserve it for your reception. You can also rent creative locations like aquariums, zoos, or museums that are unique, memorable, and entertaining. Even if the venue rental costs more than you intended on spending, you might be able to save in other areas like décor (if it’s ornately designed), rentals (if it comes equipped with tables and chairs), or food (if it’s included in the price).

SAVE: If you know someone who owns a great piece of property, approach them about renting it for a small fee or even using it for free. Family homes, vacation spots, or parks can be great for hosting your wedding and reception and great on your wallet.

More On Wedding Budgeting

Creative Place Cards

If you’re planning to assign seats for your guests during the reception, you’ll need a way to notify them of their spot. Place cards, which should include your guest’s name and table number, can be a great way to incorporate creativity and style into your wedding. Here are a few creative suggestions of ways to wow guests with place cards:

Traditional: Tented place cards are the most traditional option, but they don’t have to be boring. Stationers offer a wide variety of traditional place cards that are classy, romantic, and unique and available in a wide array of colors. Or, if you’re hoping to save money, buy a DIY kit at a craft or office supply store and have fun creating your own. Use ribbon, flowers, stickers, stamps, or other crafty add-ons to create a clever card that’s unique and beautiful.

Seasonal: Incorporate the elements of the season with your place cards. For fall weddings, tuck a place card into acorns or attach with string to apples or gourds. Multipurpose stylish Christmas ornaments as place card holders for winter weddings. For spring, affix a card to a tiny bundle of wildflowers or use seashells for a beachside summer wedding.

Hanging: No one says your place cards have to be assembled on a table. Make things fun and different with hanging place cards. Connect them all with string to create a trendy garland, pin them to a chic covered bulletin board, or attach them to twine using wooden clothespins.

Edible: Make place cards do double duty by notifying guests of their seats and being a tasty treat. Order specially made cookies, cupcakes, or desserts with guest’s names written on top or simply create a cute flag or pick that can be stuck into the tops of each.

Sign: Place cards don’t have to be individual slips of paper for each guest. Assemble one giant list for guests to peruse. Order a large framed print (or have an artistic friend draw or design one), listing guests and their seat assignments or mapping out the room with guests listed at each table, and hang it on a wall or mount it with an easel. Add a rustic touch of whimsy by using a chalkboard to list the seating arrangements.

Favors: Kill two birds with one stone and save space by fastening place cards onto wedding favors. Tie the card on with string or have them printed as a sticky label that can be attached to the favor.

Bridal Shower Etiquette

The bridal shower is one of the few wedding-related events that you don’t have to plan, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require any work from you. At the very least your friends and family are probably planning one bridal shower for you, if not several, to equip you with the gadgets and goods you need to stock your new home. As the bride, here are a couple responsibilities that you should fulfill:

1. Register for Gifts: While registering for gifts isn’t absolutely mandatory, it’s a great way to ensure you receive the things you truly need and want for your future home. Your registry should be completed prior to the mailing of bridal shower invitations so your guests have ample time to find and purchase a gift. Here are some great wedding registries. More about wedding registry.

2.      Provide the Guest List: It’s up to you to provide a list of names and addresses for everyone you’d like invited to your shower. Remember, if a person isn’t invited to the wedding, they shouldn’t receive an invitation to the bridal shower. In recent years, it’s become common to include every female who is invited to the wedding on the bridal shower guest list. In reality, it’s totally acceptable and more appropriate to only extend invitations to the wedding party, immediate family members of the bride and groom, and close personal friends or co-workers.

3.      Be Early: There’s nothing more awkward for your shower hostesses than having to entertain a complete stranger (or several) while the guest-of-honor is nowhere to be found. Be sure to arrive to the shower early enough that you’ll beat your guests, but not so early that you’ll interfere with the party preparations beforehand.

4.      Provide Helpful Tips: Nobody wants to deal with a bride who is trying to call all the shots for her own bridal shower, but it is helpful to provide useful information to your hostesses about special needs, dietary restrictions, or allergies of guests. If, for example, you have an aunt who is allergic to nuts, a relative who is handicapped, or a co-worker who is vegan, a simple heads-up is much appreciated so the hostesses can make the necessary arrangements to accommodate everyone.

5.      Open Presents: This seems like a no-brainer, but some brides feel shy or awkward about being the center of attention and unwrapping all of their gifts in front of a roomful of people. It is, however, your responsibility as the guest of honor to open your presents in front of your guests so they can celebrate with you and witness your reaction.

6.      Hostess Gift: A personal card and small gift is the most appropriate way to say thank you to your shower hostesses. You can hand-deliver a gift at the actual shower or mail something a few days later to express your gratitude.

More About Bridal Showers

Choosing Wedding Colors

One of the first decisions that need to be made regarding your wedding is what colors to use. The choice will affect everything from the flower arrangements to the stationery to the centerpieces and everything in between. Unless you have a clear favorite color, selecting the color scheme for your wedding day can be a daunting task. Here are some simple ideas to make the task easier:

1. Seasonal Inspiration: What time of year are you getting married? Deep colors like brown, rust, and burgundy are natural choices for a fall wedding, while breezy pastels work great in spring and summer. Let the natural colors of the season determine your wedding colors. As an added bonus, outdoor photos will look fabulous when you take your cue from nature.

2. Venue Accent: If you have your heart set on a particular location for the ceremony or reception, allow it to direct your color choices. Consider the space where your nuptials or celebration will be held and select hues that accent. If a color is prevalent in wall décor, flooring, or surroundings, be careful not to choose a color palette that will clash.

3. Trust Your Instincts: If the wedding date or location hasn’t been set yet and your wedding is essentially a blank canvas, trust your own instincts or tastes. Are there one or two colors that keep coming to mind? When you envision your big day, what do you see? Go with your gut. In the end, when you look back on your wedding day, you’ll be happy that you selected a color that you love and represents who you are, rather than the current trend of the day.

4. Trust Others’ Instincts: If you’re at a total loss of what you want, browse wedding magazines, websites, and photos to gather ideas. Bookmark web pages or tear out photos from magazines of anything that catches your eye. Once you’ve collected several images, compare them and see if a clear theme or color scheme is present.

5. Flower Power: Flowers are a great way to determine the color scheme of your wedding. If you have your heart set on using a specific bud, let it be the color inspiration. A lot of flowers come in various shades, but stop by the local florist or flip through a floral book and see what draws you in. You might be surprised to find yourself pulled towards sunny wildflowers or dramatic orchids.

6. Create a Theme: Maybe you feel like colors are irrelevant but that a theme is incredibly important. What is it? Do you want an ultra-modern wedding or something romantic? Whimsical or preppy? Once you determine the overall theme, it’ll be easier to select colors to support it.

Wedding Colors 2011

Flower Power

Flowers can add drama, romance, or a simple splash of color to your ceremony and reception. With literally thousands to choose from, flowers can make a unique and beautiful statement at your wedding. Here are a few helpful tips to consider when planning your floral motif:

Book in Advance: Since many flowers need to be shipped from other continents, it’s important that you give your florist ample notice about your wedding and your preferences. Your florist should have at least six weeks to order flowers and have them shipped. As an added bonus, ordering in advance can often save money.

Multitask: Many brides order elaborate flower arrangements for the wedding ceremony with no plans to use them again. When meeting with your florist and brainstorming ideas, think of ways to reuse flowers for both the ceremony and reception. This will save you cash and keep the gorgeous bouquets on display. Arrangements used down aisles can double as centerpieces while larger displays can serve on the buffet table, head table, or alongside favors or place cards.

Trust the Experts: It’s wise of you as a bride to assemble photos and ideas of flowers or arrangements that you like. However, when you sit down with the florist, trust his/her instincts. Communicate your vision, likes, and dislikes but be open to suggestions the florist may offer.

Budget: Flowers are not always cheap so be sure to budget accordingly, especially if you have your heart set on elaborate arrangements and bouquets or particularly pricey buds. Talk to your florist about ways to incorporate more expensive flowers, but offsetting the price by coupling them with less expensive blooms.

Size: Contrary to what they say, size does matter. Large arrangements, bouquets, or centerpieces can be a major wow factor at your wedding, but they can also take away from the day as well. A massive bouquet for the bride or bridesmaids can be heavy, distracting, and can actually hide the beautiful dresses. Tall centerpieces at the reception can overpower an intimate space, prohibit guests from visiting with one another, or obstruct otherwise beautiful views. Elizabeth Wray Designs can help you with these types of decisions.

Accent: Just because you love the color pink doesn’t necessarily mean that every dress, accessory, and flower needs to be in various shades of the hue. Don’t be afraid to use accent colors for a dramatic pop. While the monochromatic look can be stunning, it’s not always easily achieved. When you see your wedding photos, you might be disappointed to see bland bridesmaids whose flowers blend into their dresses. Look through magazines and discuss ideas with your florists to incorporate an unexpected accent color in your floral arrangements.

Flowers By Season

More About Wedding Flowers

Gift Ideas for Bridal Attendants

Your bridal party is an important and meaningful part of your wedding day. They’ve supported you, stood by you, and loved you throughout all the ups and downs of the wedding planning process. In return, show your gratitude with a touching and unique gift. It’s customary for the bride and groom to purchase gifts for their bridal party as a way to say thanks. These gifts are usually distributed during the bridesmaids’ brunch or rehearsal dinner. Here are some unique and clever ideas for gifts of all types:

Wedding-Related: Purchase something your bridesmaids and groomsmen can use on the wedding day, but in the future as well. The most common options are jewelry or cufflinks. You can also consider purchasing pashmina scarves that can be used as a wrap with their bridesmaids dress or a small clutch purse that can be used on the wedding day. For the guys, consider watches or money clips.

Beauty: Pamper your bridesmaids and groomsmen with beauty-related gifts to indulge in. Treat everyone to a massage, facial, or mani/pedi’s in the days before the wedding or with a gift certificate for later use. For the ladies, consider a beauty bag with cosmetics and toiletries, a luxurious bath set, or aromatherapy oils and candles. For the guys, opt for a classic shaving kit or high-end skin care products. Other suggestions to consider: swanky pajamas, a gift card to a clothing boutique, monogrammed towel sets, or a lush robe.

Entertainment: Treat your bridal party to some fun with gifts that are meant to be entertaining and amusing, as well as unique to each person. Compile a film or music collection focusing on each person’s favorite genre or celebrity. Purchase tickets to a live event such as a concert, sporting event, or theatre production. Give the gift that keeps on giving by purchasing magazine subscriptions for each attendant based on their interests or careers.

Handmade: Go above and beyond by actually making each gift yourself. This is a thoughtful (and potentially cost-effective) way to show your attendants how much you care about them. Some ideas include a personalized photo album or scrapbook, personally designed jewelry, homemade food items, a knitted scarf or hat, or hand-painted artwork, pottery, or ceramics.

Tasty: Gift cards to a favorite restaurant or coffee shop are always great ideas. If you want something a bit more personal, think about each person’s tastes and styles and buy a food-related gift that complements their personality. A French press and gourmet coffee for the caffeine addict, a bottle of vintage wine for the wine snob, a stylish serving platter for the hostess, delectable chocolates for the sweet tooth, a picnic basket for the nature lover, a set of grill tools for the BBQ master, or an adorable apron for the cook.

Personalized: There are a number of gifts that you can purchase and have engraved or embroidered for your attendants. For the guys, go for money clips, cufflinks, flasks, pocketknife, key chain, paperweights, beer glass/travel mug, pens, or pocket watches. For her, think jewelry boxes, charm bracelets, lockets, bath towels, picture frames, vases, or stationery.

Wedding Programs – A Creative Take

Wedding programs have been a part of the wedding day tradition for years.  They give the guests the basic who, what, when and where of the wedding day festivities.  Though couples often spend a great deal of time and money creating the perfect program, we find that all too often, guests grab a program, give a glance, and then tuck it into their purse or jacket pocket, never to look at it again.  Lately, we are loving the idea of programs with a purpose: give guests the basic wedding day details, plus some fun extras to help pass the time between when they arrive and when the bride makes her grand entrance.  To make your program fun, festive, and functional, check out the three ideas below.   (We’ve even included examples for each!)

Give your guests some extra info. Consider this a fun fact guide to the special couple.  Use the backside of the program to include trivia type information about the couple, including where they met, special places they’ve traveled and post wedding plans.

Jordan and Ricky met in their college tennis class.  Ricky took the class to improve his tennis skills, while Jordan took it to work on her tan!

The couple is honeymooning in Jamacia.

The couple has traveled to 9 different countries together.

The couple’s song is “Collide” by Howie Day.

Say something about each other. This option is a great way to give guests a peek into the couple’s feelings about each other, as well as their silly sides.  Ask a variety of questions to the couple, and note each of the partner’s responses to the same question.  You’ll get a combination of laughs, smiles, and heart warming answers.

Describe your partner in one word.

Matt: Encouraging.

Allison: Fun!

What was the first thing you noticed about your partner?

Matt: Her smile.

Allison: His laugh.

What is your partner’s worst habit?

Matt: She is always running late.

Allison: He’s cranky without his morning coffee.

What are you most looking forward to about married life?

Matt: Sharing a life with my best friend.

Allison: Experiencing all that life has to offer as a team.

Let guests hear from friends and family. This program option is a great way to get your family and wedding party involved in the wedding in another special way.  Ask friends and family a question or two about what makes the couple tick.

Why do you think Kristin and Nathan are such a great couple?

Marla (brides mom): They balance each other perfectly.

Josh (best man): She understands his loves for football and even puts up with his ratty old jersey that he swears is good luck!

Kendall (sister of the bride): They both take time to enjoy the little things.

Barry (pastor): They have their priorities set and make time for what is important.

Here is a little info about save the date cards.

Plan a Fun Wedding

What do you want your wedding to be? Romantic? Classy? Elegant? Unique? Boring? Weddings can be a lot of things and unfortunately, fun isn’t always one of them. While you’ll surely be busy and overjoyed the entire day, plan ahead to make sure your guests aren’t overcome with boredom. Here are a few tips of ways to make your wedding fun for everyone:

1.      Strategic Seating: When mapping out the seating chart, for your reception, put some thought into groups or individuals who will really mesh well together. Arrange tables so that guests are either seated with people they already know and like or people you feel confident they will get along well with. Nothing can make or break a wedding reception more than being surrounded by the coolest or lamest people you’ve ever met.

2.      Party Plan: Your day might be packed with activities from dawn until dusk, but think about your guests. What are they going to be doing while you’re being photographed or making the rounds? When planning out the wedding day and scheduled activities, think about it not only from your perspective as bride but also from the perspective of a wedding guest. Make sure there’s food and drinks or scheduled entertainment available prior to dinner if the bridal party will be arriving late to the reception. Wedding Timeline Tips

3.      Exciting Entertainment: There are so many clever and fun ways to keep your wedding guests entertained during the reception. Consider booking a live band for the cocktail hour, renting a photo booth for pictures, or hiring a specialized entertainer that complements your wedding theme (think belly dancers, palm readers, singers, or magicians).

4.      Fun Foods: Nothing will make your wedding more forgettable than serving the same boring and bland meal your guests have eaten at a dozen weddings before. Plot out a unique and delectable meal that will wow guests. Unique food doesn’t have to equal expensive. You can serve fare from your favorite local restaurant, offer delicious comfort food like mac ‘n cheese and fried chicken, or present interesting dessert treats like a make-your-own-sundae bar or a fully equipped dessert buffet. Seasonal Wedding Menus

5.      Lively Locale: Choose a reception site that is fun, distinct, and entertaining. You don’t need to rent a boring old hall. Consider opting for a museum, aquarium, or local attraction to hold your festivities. That way guests can meander around during the reception and entertain themselves.

Photo Booths: Passing Trend or Here To Stay?

In recent years, photo booths have become an increasingly popular addition to wedding receptions. They’re fun, affordable, quirky, and conjure up an air of nostalgia for your guests. Are photo booths here to stay or nothing more than a passing trend? We’re a bit divided on this one and here’s why:

Photo Booth Pros:

1.      Fun: Guests have a great time squeezing in front of the camera and hamming it up with friends and family. Brides and grooms love the silly personality that shines through when guests are given the freedom to snap their own photos.

2.      Affordable: Renting a photo booth is a relatively cost-effective way to entertain your guests and ensure that you capture photos of everyone during the reception.

3.      Thorough: Regardless of how great your photographer is, it’s pretty unreasonable to expect them to snap a smiling photo of every single wedding guest. Photo booths are an excellent way to have a memento from every person who attended your special day.

4.      Unique: Photo booths are a clever way for your guests to leave a message for you as the happy couple. By creating a scrapbook of photos or allowing guests to write messages on the strips, you get a meaningful reminder of everyone who celebrated alongside you.

Photo Booth Cons:

1.      Overdone: Because the photo booth is growing so rapidly in popularity, chances are that at least a few of your guests will have seen it before. Some of the appeal is definitely lost when yours is the third wedding in a year where certain guests have posed for a photo booth.

2.      Boring: There’s only so many ways a guest can pose when crammed into a tiny booth. After a while, looking through filmstrip after filmstrip can become a bit monotonous.

VERDICT: We predict that the rise of Photo Booths 2.0 will be the growing trend in future weddings. What’s Photo Booths 2.0, you ask? Instead of renting a classic photo booth, create your own for guests with colorful backdrops, hilarious props, and more space. Corner off a section of the reception site for your makeshift photo shoots and either install a camera that can be powered by a remote or position a photographer at the spot. Let guests pose with fun and creative props like hats, mustaches, mini chalkboards for messages, and empty frames. It provides you with all the pros of renting a photo booth with an exciting, fresh twist.