12 Options for Brides Who Don’t Want to Wear a Wedding Dress

Some girls have been looking at wedding dresses since they were hanging out with friends at slumber parties, and others…well, they’d prefer an alternative wedding dress. Traditional brides would be shocked to know just how many of their peers really don’t want to wear anything too “bridal” on their big day. For various reasons, these women look for something a bit alternative for their walk down the aisle. For those of you who can totally relate, this round-up is for you!

The Beachy, Boho Bride: “I don’t want to wear a wedding dress in the sand.”

Especially if you are planning a destination wedding, nothing sounds more unappealing than schlepping 20 pounds of tulle to the beach. If you still want something vaguely bridal, try a style like the gorgeous dress above. It’s light and flowy and casual. And it is a perfect compromise for women who have traditional moms that want them to wear white.

If white isn’t important, then embrace cool colors and dynamic patterns. The burnout dress above (left) would be amazing at sunset in Hawaii, right? Brides looking for something unconventional, but slightly more formal, could check out this sexy dress with long sleeves and daring cutouts (right). It needs to be worn with heels, though (well, unless you are in the WNBA or Taylor Swift), so save this for oceanfront weddings on a patio.

The Ultra Glam Bride: “I want to look like a glam version of me, not a frosted cupcake.”

If you find yourself drooling over bridesmaid dresses instead of wedding gowns, why not just buy yourself a cool cocktail dress? You’re probably fairly practical and want a dress that you can either wear again or that completely suits your eclectic style. Opt for sparkly gold (if a gold wedding dress is good enough for Serena van der Woodsen, it’s good enough for us) with a sultry silhouette like the gown above. Or, if you favor bold colors, we are in love with this blue and silver Oscar de la Renta below. It’s flattering on a bride of any age and is a dress you can definitely pull out for special occasions.

Another choice is to find a really chic and “non-cupcakey” wedding dress. Bridal designers have come a LONG way (even just in the last decade) when it comes to creating fresh, modern looks. No one will think of a baked confection when you walk down the aisle in a stunner like the dress below.

The Bold Bride: “I didn’t give up carbs to wear a princess gown.”

You’ve got a great set of gams and you want to show them off. Or you are really proud of what a little weight lifting has done for your body. Or maybe you just really prefer short dresses. Whatever the reason, you aren’t in a hurry to cover up in yards and yards of organza. Instead of searching for wedding dresses, try looking for a “reception” dress. Usually shorter and a little sassier, these dresses were designed so that the bride could be traditional at her ceremony and then a bit less tame at the reception. We say if “less tame” is how you roll, go with it. The lace dress above is great for more relaxed weddings, and you can tailor it to either have more of a shift silhouette or be more form-fitting. Below, this statement-back, high-low hemline dress is sensational for brides that want a powerful statement gown (just with less fabric than most).

The Practical Bride: “I haven’t worn a dress since my high school graduation. Why would I start now?”

To all brides that want to wear pants, 2016 is your year! There have never been so many adorable, amazing, sophisticated options as there are now (can you tell we’re a little partial?). For summer, find a suit with a camisole top (above) or just a lace romper (below) to stay cool. Either way, with these looks, shoes are everything. Spend your accessory fund on a killer set of heels to pair with this fashion-forward statement.

The City Hall Bride: “I don’t want to wear a wedding dress to the courthouse.”

For the record, you can absolutely wear a ridiculously formal wedding dress to city hall. You do you. But if you would prefer not to, there are tons of stylish options for your big day. You could certainly Carrie Bradshaw it in a vintage suit (much love, SJP), but we like the below choices even better. Wear a snazzy shift dress with ultra-modern style for a completely updated interpretation of a classic look (below, left). Or go for the unbeatable casual and girly combo of a pullover sweater and tulle skirt. This bride (below, right) looks like her city hall wedding is sponsored by Clinque Happy and we couldn’t love the whole thing more!

Your Wedding Gown Midway Through

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about brides buying their dresses too soon — today, I want to talk about the multiple dress phenomenon. It started about five years ago and it has grown every wedding season since — about half of my clients with large weddings bring at least two different dresses to wear during their wedding festivities. Is this too much?

Most brides who have two dresses will tell you that they wanted one big traditional poofy dress for the wedding ceremony, and something shorter and more manageable for partying all night long at their reception. Makes sense, I guess (I have trouble relating because I truly loved my gown and wouldn’t have wanted to switch). There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having more than one wedding dress if you can afford to pay for it. But when I have brides that do three dress changes, I really start to wonder what they’re thinking and if they have any idea how much time changing dresses will suck out of their time enjoying their actual wedding reception.

My first two years planning Caribbean destination weddings, the current bridal hair trend was to change up your hair at some point during the evening. Several of my brides wore their hair down for their ceremonies, and then had a professional hairdresser switch it to an elaborate updo after the pictures before they made their grand entrance at the reception. Flat out the most stupid waste of time I’ve ever seen. Burned up at least 30 minutes. One bride (from Texas) had her hair re-done at least four times during the wedding night. Each time they added more fresh orchid blooms to her hair and with the humidity, by the end of the night, the hairdo was so big I couldn’t tell if she was coming or going without finding her face peeking out below. Seriously.

The trend of changing your hair has given way to changing your dress, and like I said before, if having two dresses won’t stress out your wedding budget, go for it. Changing dresses certainly takes less time than changing your hair. But don’t think that it won’t take away some playtime that you would otherwise be spending with your guests. If you plan to wear a ball gown-style dress for your wedding, you’re already going to burn time having that sucker bustled at some point before you change out of it. Think about how much time you want to spend changing what you spent so long to put on earlier in the day -0 and then, remember to be quick about it if you still want to wear more than one dress.

Plan things out ahead of time and have the new dress, jewelry and shoes (oh yes, brides usually switch all the accessories too) all set up and ready to go. Designate one friend (absolutely no more than two) to help you change. If you bring up a group of girlfriends, you’ll end up gabbing longer than you realize and it will take much longer than necessary. Tell your friend to set a five minute timer on her phone when you get up there — even if you end up needing 10 minutes, you’ll realize how much time you are burning. Remember to take a quick potty break because it will be awhile before you have another chance.

A good wedding planner will help keep you on schedule and urge you to get back out to the party if you’re in the bedroom too long, but if you planned your big day yourself, set up a backup plan. Tell your mom or another friend with a strong personality that you’re heading in to change and to come kick your butt if you’re gone from your own wedding reception longer than 15 minutes. It’s easy to let time slip away when you’re changing gowns and sipping love martinis with your girlfriends in a ginormous master bedroom of a million-dollar villa. Sneaking cigarettes takes time too. But I promise you, the fun you will be having if you rejoin your groom and your guests faster will be far more satisfying when you think about it the next day.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!

How to run a successful home-based event planning business

Whether it’s a wedding or other special occasion, everyone loves to celebrate a big event, but planning these things can be fraught and often the cause of sleepless nights and worry about how to ensure the event is a big success and goes off without a hitch.

One solution is to let someone else to do the planning for them, which is why event planners and co-ordinators are finding their services increasingly in demand. For those with good communication skills, an eye for style, and a flair for organisation, event planning can be a rewarding business that lends itself to being run from home.

Jennifer Phipp left her role as a former weddings and events manager at a luxury resort in Portreath, Cornwall, to set up her own home-based business Jenny Wren Weddings & Events in November. As well as excellent organisational skills, she says one of the most important qualities for business success is personability.

“As a wedding and event planner, clients buy into you as a person as well as the service you are offering and place their trust in you to organise what can be a highly important personal event,” she says. “You need the ability to make your clients feel at ease with you, and this stems from having a very personable character, which is essential in this line of work.”

An initial consultation meeting with her client provides Phipp with some insight into their character and the sort of look and feel they want for their event. This inspires her to come up with the creative ideas for their special day. However, she adds that one of the few drawbacks of running a business like this from home, is having to generate that creativity in isolation.

She says: “In an office environment, you are surrounded by colleagues who are all working in the same field and whom you can ask for an opinion on a colour scheme or for their view on a particular supplier, and so on. Working from home on your own means there is likely to be no one else to ask for ask for a second opinion, so often you have to trust your own instinct.”

Event planning can be a seasonal business; demand for Christmas parties creates a festive peak season, while enquiries about wedding planning services frequently follow prime engagement periods of Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.

Phipp adds: “If you are open to the prospect of organising a broader range of events then you are more likely to stay busy all year round. So that might include providing planning services for non-seasonal events such as conferences, corporate dinners, staff training days and celebration parties.”

Anyone who is thinking about turning their talents to becoming a freelance wedding planner needs to be aware of how time consuming the work can be, says Caroline Smith, who set up her business, London-based Do Events.

She says: “It’s said to take an average of 250 hours to plan a wedding. Once I’ve met with the bride, groom and their immediate families, I put together a proposal and a fee based on their requirements and how I can help them. Also, I find that most brides and their families want help on the day of their wedding, someone to look after the suppliers, the guests and be on hand to oversee everything runs smoothly.”

Smith finds her home-based business quite flexible to run and she is able to fit it around her son and family life in general. Having a husband who is a drummer in a successful band can come in useful when she needs to find a good band that she can trust to put on a show at a wedding or party.

She adds: “Finding new business is a constant challenge as the events industry is a very crowded market to be in. However, I do use a lot of social media; Facebook and Twitter, blogs and listings to win business, and I also take part in cross promotions with other small businesses in the events and wedding industry.”

Marketing is an essential skill for home-based event planners. Word-of-mouth recommendations are especially important, as is keeping up with the latest marketing tools and techniques for reaching new customers.

Having set up her Leeds-based events business We Love This from home in 2012, Rebecca Marriott is constantly looking for new ways to make her business stand out in a highly competitive industry.

She says: “We have only been going for 16 months so we are constantly trying to keep ahead of the game. It is crucial to keep up to date with new ways of marketing yourself, and offering clients interesting new ways of working with you.

“The biggest revelation this year for me has been Pinterest. It puts me in direct contact with people searching for wedding styling ideas or party planning, and then once I’m in touch with the prospective new client, it couldn’t be easier to see the kind of thing they want.

“I just take a look at the boards they’ve set up to visually plan how they’d like the event to be, and show them the kinds of things we’ve done before, even more specifically, the kinds of props we already have, and can offer very cost-effectively.”

30 Essential Wedding Planning Tips and Tricks

Cover all your wedding planning bases with these expert tips no soon-to-be-wed should be without.

When planning your wedding, there are things that are nice to know, and then there are things you need to know—advice so essential that any bride who’s lucky enough to hear it thinks, “I’m so glad someone told me that!” If you’re wondering whether there’s something you may have missed (or even if you’ve got everything under control), check out our indispensable planning secrets below.

1. Guests Come First
Get a grip on the approximate number of guests you’ll invite before settling on a venue. This will ensure there’s ample space for your crew. As a rule of thumb, allow for 25 to 30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot, but it’s not if you count the space you’ll need for the tables, bustling waiters, the band and a dance floor.

2. Investigate Wedding Blackout Dates
Know ahead of time if your wedding date falls on the same day as a trade conference, charity walk, or other local event that could affect traffic and hotel room availability. Here’s a handy list of potentially problematic wedding dates coming up in the calendar.

3. Listen to Mother Nature
Heed the weather and other potential annoyances. Guests have been known to skip out early from hotter-than-hot summer tent weddings and improperly heated winter loft receptions. Bugs (gnats, deer flies and mosquitos) also swarm in certain areas during certain seasons. Consider renting pest control tanks to alleviate the problem or including bug repellent in guests’ gift bags. And if you want a sunset ceremony, make sure you know when to say your vows by checking

4. Check Your Credit
Take advantage of the high cost of weddings and sign up for a credit card with a rewards program. Whether it gives you airline miles or great shopping deals, consolidating all wedding-related purchases to this card will help you accumulate thousands of rewards points (which could be used for your honeymoon).

5. Pay It Forward
Let one vendor lead you to another. Your wedding photographer can tell you which florist’s blooms really pop, and your reception manager should know which band packs the dance floor.

6. Lighten Your List
The easiest way to trim your wedding budget? Cut your guest list. Remember, half of your wedding expenses go to wining and dining your guests. If it’s costing you $100 per person, eliminating one table of 10 can save you $1,000.

7. Ask and You Might Receive
Request an extra hour for cocktails or for your band to throw in that Frank Sinatra sound-alike before you sign on the dotted line. Most vendors would rather secure the reservation than nickel-and-dime you early on (which might turn you off of them). Later on, though, they may be less inclined to meet you halfway.

8. Make a Meal Plan
Another unforeseen expense? Feeding your wedding day crew. Before you sign the contracts, make sure you’re not required to serve the same meal to your vendors that guests will receive. Otherwise, you could be paying for 20 additional lobster tails. Choose a less expensive (but equally hearty) meal for them instead. You will have to let your wedding caterer know a couple of days before the wedding exactly how many vendors you need to feed (don’t forget photography assistants and band roadies) and what you want them to serve.

9. Get Organizationally Focused
In a three-ring binder, compile all your correspondences with vendors, notes you make during meetings, and photos or tear sheets from magazines you want vendors to see. Set up a special email address dedicated to your wedding, and store important vendor numbers in your cell phone. For on-the-go planning, download the The Knot Wedding Planner app to keep all of your planning info digitally on-hand at all times.

10. Tend to Your Bar
Typically, you need one bartender per 50 guests to keep the line at a minimum. But if you’re serving a signature cocktail that cannot be made ahead of time (or in large quantities), consider adding an extra server designated to this task.

11. Leave Some Room in Your Wallet
Your wedding budget should follow this formula: 48 to 50 percent of total budget to reception; 8 to 10 percent for flowers; 8 to 10 percent for attire; 8 to 10 percent for entertainment/music; 10 to 12 percent for photo/video; 2 to 3 percent for invites; 2 to 3 percent for gifts; and 8 percent for miscellaneous items like a wedding coordinator. It’s essential to allocate an extra 5 to 10 percent of your money for surprise expenses like printing extra invites because of mistakes, additional tailoring needs, umbrellas for a rainy day and ribbons for the wedding programs.

12. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
Your wedding vendors should be your go-to, most-trusted experts during the planning process. When working with them, you should feel free to really explore what it is you want—maybe it’s serving a late-night snack instead of a first course or doing a bridal portrait session rather than an engagement session. The bottom line is that you should feel like you can have an honest conversation with them about what it is you want. Their job will be to tell you what you can and can’t make work given your wedding budget.

13. Wait for a Date
Sometimes, last-minute planning can work in your favor. The closer your date, the more bargaining power you have. Since most people book their wedding venues at least six months in advance, calling for open dates two months prior to your desired time can save you up to 25 percent. And, Friday and Sunday weddings should cost about 30 percent less than Saturday weddings.

14. Manage the Mail
Of course you want the perfect stamps for your wedding invitations. But not all stamps are widely available at every post office, especially in large quantities. Save yourself scouting time by ordering them online at And be sure to weigh your invitation and all the additional paper products before you send them out so you can attach the right amount of postage. Ask your stationer about the need for additional postage for oddly shaped envelopes.

15. Prepare for Rejection
Know that as a rule, about 30 percent of the people you invite won’t attend. Naturally, this depends on the location of your wedding (destination weddings are harder to attend), how many out-of-towners are on your list, and the timing of the event (some guests may have annual holiday or summer plans).

16. Make a Uniform Kids Policy
You have four choices: You can welcome children with open arms; you can decide to have an “adults only” wedding; you can include immediate family only; or, you can hire a child care service to provide day care either at the reception space, in a hotel room or at a family member’s home. To prevent hurt feelings, it’s wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others (unless, of course, the children are in your bridal party).

17. Prioritize Your People
Pare down your guest list with the “tiers of priority” trick. Place immediate family, the bridal party and best friends on top of the list; follow with aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends you can’t imagine celebrating without. Under that, list your parents’ friends, neighbors, coworkers and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.

18. Take It One Step at a Time
Put together a wedding planning schedule and do things one by one, in a logical order, so you don’t take on too much too fast and end up with everything snowballing around you. Don’t hire any vendors before you’ve confirmed your date; don’t design your cake before you’ve envisioned your flowers; and don’t book a band before you’ve settled on a space.

19. No Ring, No Bring
If your guest list is bursting at the seams, assess the plus-one scenario. Do a faux seating chart in your mind, and imagine whom your single pal would sit with. If it’s a table of singles that she knows pretty well, then you’re all set. If it’s a table of couples (making her the odd one out) or if it’s a table of singles where she won’t know anyone, consider bending the rules. If asked why you’re not allowing single friends to bring guests, size or budget constraints or your parents’ never-ending guest list are always good reasons.

20. Release Rooms
As soon as you’ve picked a date, start to look for hotels in a wide variety of price points. Many hotels allow you to reserve rooms for guests under a special wedding block and a reduced rate. You can then release any unbooked rooms a month prior to your wedding. If the hotels you contact insist upon contracts with cancellation penalties, just say no—you don’t want to be responsible for rooms you can’t fill.

21. Provide Accurate Driving Directions
Make sure guests know where they’re going. As easy as online map programs are to use, sometimes the directions are wrong or there’s a quicker, less traffic-prone route to take. Ask your ceremony and reception sites for printouts or digital copies of recommended driving directions and even test out the routes yourself. Then include the best directions on your wedding website or email them to your guests to print out if they’d like.

22. Keep a Paper Trail
Get any nonstandard changes to your agreements in writing or send the vendor a confirmation email saying, “Hello, just confirming that you’ll keep the venue open until 2 a.m. versus midnight.” Don’t just assume everything’s all set—sometimes, by the time the actual day rolls around, your contact for a certain may no longer be working there to vouch for you.

23. Schedule the Setup
You must make sure there’s ample time for setup. If you’re renting a venue and bringing in outside help, ask what time people can come in to start setting. Preston Bailey, author of Preston Bailey’s Fantasy Weddings, recommends seeing if they can do it the day before, or at the very least the entire wedding day, before the event starts.

24. Learn About Marriage Licenses
You can check your state’s license requirements online, but confirm with a call to the county clerk’s office to see when they’re open. Even if it’s open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they may issue marriage licenses only during slower times like, say, Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Give a copy of your marriage license to your mom or your maid of honor (just in case you lose yours during the final days before your wedding).

25. Go Over Ground Rules
Be prepared—ask the manager of the house of worship or site where you’ll be married for the list of restrictions (if any). For instance, is flash photography or bare shoulders prohibited? Or, if you’re exchanging vows outdoors, are you allowed to plant tent stakes in the lawn (which is often not allowed)?

26. Classify Your Cash
Wedding budgets are all about balance. Start your budget planning by making a checklist of the crucial details, like the music, your wedding gown, the invitations, the flowers and the photographer, and assign a number to each—one being the most important and three being the least. Invest your money in all your number ones and cut corners on your number threes. (But everything can’t fall into the number one category!) For example, if a designer gown and fabulous food are what really matter, you may have to choose simple invitations and smaller floral arrangements.

27. Help Guests Pay Attention
Make sure your guests can both see and hear from their seats. If people are seated farther than 15 rows back from your ceremony altar or podium, consider renting a mic and a riser. This could range anywhere from $50 to $100, depending on the equipment used. You’ll need to coordinate the delivery and setup with your ceremony space, so put your wedding planner or best man in charge of this task.

28. Write Down Your Digits
Keep an emergency contact sheet or phone with your vendor contacts on you on your wedding day—it may come in handy in case your limo driver gets lost or you decide you’d like your photographer to take some behind-the-scenes shots.

29. Call the Fashion Police
Don’t go dress shopping on your own—all the gowns will start to look the same after a while and it will be harder to recall which style you really loved. But be careful about who you do bring. If your mom or sibling can’t make the trip, ask a friend who is truly honest. This is the time when you really need to know which dress looks best.

30. Be Realistic With Your Time
When it comes down to the last month of your planning (and when you’re particularly harried) look at your mile long to-do list and cut three things. Yes, cut three things. Not crucial things that you just don’t feel like doing, such as picking a processional song or confirming final details with all of your vendors. Eliminate only the over-the-top tasks like hand-painting “Just Married” signs, or baking cookies for all of the welcome bags. Cross them off and make a pledge not to think about them again.

10 Tips for Newly Engaged Couples

Congratulations! You just got engaged! And you’re not alone. Did you know that close to 30 percent of couples get engaged between the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays?

So what do you do now? Here are my top 10 tips that will help you successfully navigate — and truly enjoy — this exciting time in your life. I also reached out to recent brides for their input.

Don’t post on social media first! Wait until you have personally told the people you care about most. Make those phone calls — first to your parents, then to your siblings. Grandparents and best friends are next, and then other close friends and family. Only then should you show off your ring on Instagram.

Get ready for the questions. Everyone will be excited for you and will naturally want to know all the details. Craft some good catchall responses to these types of questions:
Q: When are you getting married? Have you set a date? You can say, “We’re thinking of a spring wedding,” or, “We’ve decided on a one-year engagement to give us time to plan all the details.”
Q: How did he propose? Develop your story. You’ll be telling it over and over again.
Q: Am I invited? Important tip: Don’t commit to inviting someone that may not make the guest list. In the early stages of sharing your news, you haven’t had time to determine whom you will and won’t be able to include, so unless you’re 100% sure someone makes the cut, don’t commit. Be polite but vague, something like, “We haven’t finalized our wedding plans, but I think we may be keeping it fairly small.”
Q: Am I in the wedding? Important tip: Don’t ask someone to be in your wedding party until you know some of the details and associated costs. Wait until you have a good idea where your wedding will be and what costs your wedding party will be expected to pay. For example, do you want a destination wedding? This will likely add additional expenses for your wedding party. When inviting your attendants, discuss the costs up front before they commit. If they can’t afford it, let them decline gracefully and tell them you understand.
Meet the parents. We will assume that you have already met each other’s parents, but have your parents met one another? If not, now is the time to make that happen. Traditionally, the parents of the groom reach out to the parents of the bride and arrange to meet or at least talk over the phone. This is the first step in laying the foundation for a good relationship between the parents. They may be working together in the planning of wedding or pre-wedding events.
Insure your ring. If your fiance proposed with a traditional diamond ring or another expensive bauble, make sure to protect the investment with insurance. You can add it to your current homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Don’t have insurance? Now is the time to take that step.
Draft the guest list and set the budget. Get an idea of the size of your wedding by making a first draft of the guest list. Next, discuss and set your budget. These two factors are the foundation, and determine the type of wedding you chose to have.

Julie from Philadelphia suggests, “wait a month to begin planning the wedding so you have time to enjoy the engagement, once the planning starts, it’s a nonstop roller coaster!”

Also, most brides warn that the guest list can be a major source of conflict, so be prepared to compromise.
Pick the date. The time of year you chose is key to your wedding planning. The most popular wedding months are (in this order):
If you’re picking a popular time of year, you will want to plan well in advance to make sure you’re able to secure your preferred venue. The best method is to pick a season, month or selection of possible dates; pick your venue; and book an available date at that venue.

Research wedding apps and websites, and consider hiring a wedding planner. Everyone needs help. If your budget allows, a wise investment comes in the form of an expert to guide you through the process. If not, there are great apps and websites that help keep you organized every step of the way.

Take your marriage seriously. Don’t take this the wrong way, but now is the time for premarital counseling. All couples should seek premarital counseling whether or not your religion requires it. This is a good time to discuss the difficult issues that will face you in your life together. Counseling will help make your bond stronger as you learn how to work out problems together and disagree productively. It’s never too soon to discuss plans for children, how you will handle your finances and boundaries for in-laws.

Don’t share everything (or anything) on social media. I know you’re excited, but holding back on how much you post about your wedding plans can actually make your life easier. It will reduce the unsolicited advice, number of questions, hurt feelings and self-invited guests.

Don’t let wedding planning take over your relationship. Make time to date each other and keep the romance alive. Set aside date nights where you focus only on each other and not the wedding. Wedding planning can be very stressful. Take a deep breath and remember that the commitment is much more important than the wedding. This is a time to build your relationship up — not let the stress tear it down.
Most of all, don’t forget to have fun! It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of wedding planning. But keep in mind that this is a magical — and finite — time in your relationship. So take the time to pause and enjoy it, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Ultimate Guide to Cutting Your Wedding Guest List

Trimming the guest list is a common planning pain point—follow this guide to help condense your headcount (and minimize stress).

Your guest list determines so many other details, and the more guests you add to your list, the more everything costs. Making sure your head count includes everyone important, without contradicting your budget, can be a balancing act. If you’re having trouble cutting down your guest list (say, your venue only holds 150 comfortably but your list has already exceeded 250), rest assured that this dilemma is a common occurrence with a few relatively painless solutions. Here’s how to crop that list without hurting feelings or experiencing guilt.

Make an A-List and B-List
Your A-list consists of the must-have invites you can’t imagine not being at your wedding, like your family members and close friends. They’ll receive your first round of invitations. Anyone not essential (no, we don’t mean people you don’t like, but rather colleagues you might be able to skip) should be added to the B-list. These are people you’d enjoy having at your wedding but who cannot be extended an invite in the first round. (It’s completely fine to add plus-ones to your B list too, and if it turns out you do have the budget for your nephew’s new girlfriend to come, you can always invite her at a later date.) If you start getting RSVPs and it turns out you have enough “regrets,” (between 10 and 20 percent of those invited will likely decline) then start sending invites to your B-list in order of importance.

Set Cutting Rules (and Stick to Them)
The easiest way to cut the list is to come up with firm rules and actually stick to them. We promise it’ll be easier in the long run and you’ll avoid potential drama down the line. What do we mean by “rules”? First, If neither you nor your spouse has ever spoken to, met or heard a person’s name before, don’t invite them. If it’s a friend of your parents, and your parents are being generous by footing some or all of the bill, that may be a different story. Maybe work out a compromise with them where you promise to cut one of your own chosen guests for every one of their chosen guests. Second, leave out anyone neither of you has spoken to in three or more years (or is related to). That means old high school or college friends you’re pretty sure you’ll never see again, or second and third cousins whose names you can barely remember. Finally, if there’s anyone on your list who’s only included because you feel guilty about leaving them off (maybe you were invited to their wedding or they’re friends with lots of people who are invited), cut them. You shouldn’t feel like you “owe” them an invite to your wedding—it’s your day, and you should be surrounded by friends and family that you really want to be there.

Go Adults Only
Not crazy about inviting kids to the party? Don’t feel bad about having an adults-only wedding—so many couples decide to go that route, whether it’s a budget and spacial issue or more a matter of atmosphere. It’s also perfectly okay to have children in your wedding party and still have an adults-only wedding. Just be careful to not make exceptions and let other family members or close friends bring their kids to the reception. Otherwise some guests might get offended if it looks like you selected which children were and weren’t invited. Inviting children to the ceremony only isn’t fair either, since it’s not fun for them to have to go home and see the other children going to the party.

If you hear that family members aren’t happy your little cousins, nieces and nephews aren’t allowed to come, that’s expected. But remember, it’s completely fair for you to want a child-free wedding (especially if it will help you stay within budget and venue limitations). If you need to, call and explain that you’re sorry, but due to budget constraints you can only invite adults.

Exclude Coworkers
Even if you’re close to your colleagues, you might consider cutting them from the list if you’re in a pinch. The easiest way to avoid a headache is not to invite any coworkers at all. But if you’re close to some of your coworkers (you socialize outside the office and regularly text or call them) and everyone knows it, it’s fine to invite them. Just don’t hand them their invites at work or make a big deal out of it. Keeping wedding talk to a minimum at the office is smart anyway. However, if you work on a smaller team and are considering inviting a handful of coworkers, you should invite the entire team or skip them altogether. As for your boss, invite them if you have a friendly relationship, along with a plus-one. If you don’t, you’re certainly not required to ask them to attend.

Be Firm About Plus-Ones
When it comes to plus-ones, sometimes things can get a little dicey, but hopefully these guidelines will make things easier for you. You should offer plus-ones to anyone who’s married, engaged, lives together or is in a long-term, committed relationship (if they’ve been together for at least one year). Extending a plus-one to everyone in your wedding party is a courteous move they’ll definitely appreciate. This doesn’t mean you have to force each bridesmaid and groomsman to bring a date to your wedding if they don’t want to (there’s a chance they’ll decline anyway), but it’s important to make the offer because they’ve been there for you from the start. Otherwise, guests who are casually dating, coworkers or single friends whom you’re not especially close to (or who will know other guests) do not require a plus-one.

An Expert Guide To Your Wedding Planning Timeline

We often take for granted that couples know what order to plan their wedding in.

That the best photographers get booked up early, that less than six months is a rush order for a wedding dress, and that printing your menus can often take a few weeks.

Knowing what to do when with wedding planning, is a big part of an expert planner’s job.

It helps you keep in budget, combat indecisiveness, and stay organised. Being prepared with your colour palette 10 months out, means meeting your florist at 6 months out, is a cinche.

But what do you do if you’re not a professional planner? Easy. We’ve got the cheat sheet!

World class wedding planners Quintessentially Weddings create some of the most beautiful, luxurious, and unique weddings on the planet, so when it comes to planning timelines, they sure know their stuff.

And not only have they been kind enough to share their top tips for getting prepped for planning, but they’ve also put together the ultimate cut-out-and-keep (or pin!) timeline that we just know will be a go-to resource throughout your planning. (So blooming handy!)

So, without further ado, take it away Quintessentially Weddings…

How To Get Organised With Wedding Planning

At Quintessentially Weddings we know it can be incredibly frustrating for brides when the time comes to plan their wedding.

Not only do we understand, we take the load off and take note of everything there is to know about the bride and groom as individuals and as a couple, thus turning their wedding dreams into a reality by incorporating their unique personalities.

But what happens when you don’t have access to a wedding planner?

It can be easy for a wedding planner to see outside the box but if you are a bride and groom venturing into the world of wedding venues, floral designs and stationary decisions you can get a little fuzzy headed in the process and end up stressing yourself out with the finer details.

As professional wedding planners we can offer both brides and grooms some essential tips to help make planning your wedding that little bit easier.

#Tip 1: The Budget

The very first thing you need to do is sit down as bride and groom and make sure you are both on the same page when it comes to your budget.

Make a list of the more expensive parts of any wedding including the venue, photographer, dress and flowers. A rough budget is essential – you can always change your mind later but initially this will save you a lot of time.

#Tip 2: The Inspiration

Whether you create a scrapbook or a Pinterest board we recommend you collect your wedding styles ideas in one place.

This will ensure the colours and designs that you like are at hand when the time comes to choose your decor and floral arrangements.

#Tip 3: The Checklist

Follow a wedding checklist like the one we have created.

Our ‘Wedding Timeline Planner’ guides any bride and groom through every step of their wedding planning and enables you take each step as it comes.

Plan the months ahead with a clear head and you will feel the benefits immediately.

Such a concise graphic, right? And great tips (especially the one about pre-wedding pampering!) Don’t forget to pin it so you have it to hand for every step of your wedding planning.

Why is Choosing a Wedding Photographer So Hard!

In today’s instalment of my Real Bride Diary, I’m going to share how we came to choose our awesome wedding photographers (but how it’s still a choice that keeps me awake late at night!)

Choosing a wedding photographer meant I had to take off my blog editor hat, and stick on my civilian bride one!

You see as a wedding blog editor, I look for certain things when it comes to the images I choose for a real wedding. I want close-up details, romantic portraits, long vertical images (so they stand out on Pinterest) but most importantly, it’s all about inspiration.

My main job is to give couples ideas for their own big day, so when they look at a real wedding on the blog, they instantly feel inspired.

But your own wedding photos don’t have to inspire anyone other than yourself.

I’ve written before about how I feel a silly pressure to have an ‘extra special’ wedding because of my job, and that extends to the photography more than anything else. I had a lot of anxiety about choosing a photographer because I felt like our pictures would be scrutinised more than others.

But as I said in my chat with Aleisha on her Save the Date Wedding Podcast, I needed to get over myself, and realise I was being ridiculous!

So I stepped back and thought about what we really wanted from a photographer, rather than what I felt we ‘should have’.

When you look back on your own pictures, in two, ten, or thirty years time, chances are you’ll gloss over those so-Instagram-worthy-right-now pictures of your dress billowing in the breeze, your just-right table styling, or your carefully chosen Etsy cake topper.

Those details may be important to you now, and will all be beautiful on the day of your wedding, but when it comes to the memories you’ll have forever, it’s that look you exchanged as you walked down the aisle, that sheer excitement after you said ‘I Do’, your parents seeing you for the first time, the hilarious gasps when your uncle busted a move on the dancefloor, and that romantic moment when you dipped away together, to look at your wedding from the outside.

I’ll want to remember what my day felt like, rather than what it looked like, so I wanted photographs that would capture the mood of the day, over the prettiness of it.

As much as all those long shots, detailed images, and dreamy portraits are my favourite kind of snaps to swoon over, as a couple, it’s about choosing a photographer whose style suits both of you, and the kind of wedding you’re having.

Every couple is different of course, and luckily we feature all kinds of photography styles on the blog – be sure to hit our real weddings section to see what kind of photography takes your fancy. Your wedding photography is the one thing you’ll have after your day is over (aside from your marriage of course!) so it’s worth investing some thought into identifying what you’re looking for.

As difficult as it was for me to step away from the fine art and film styles I love to gush over, I knew that for Marko and I, it wasn’t ‘us’. So we opted for photographers whose work instantly made us smile, with their candid, bright and fun style.

We’re not very serious people, we laugh, a lot, and I just loved how every wedding on their site is just filled with smiling faces.

While I still hope our photographers will capture all the details we’ve worked so hard on (and I can’t wait to share with you guys!) it’s more important that they snap me ugly crying at the vows (inevitable!), Marko doing the limbo (he’s freakishly good at it!) and my gang of best friends all in the same room for the first time in five years (I can’t freakin’ wait!).

What We Love About Our Wedding Photographers

So, in case you haven’t guessed it, (there have been a few hints scattered through the post!) our photographers are husband and wife due of Christine & Xander from Navyblur – and we’re so excited about them shooting our wedding!

I first came across Navyblur when I was compiling my very first blog post for Bridal Musings. I was searching for a gorgeous wedding gif and discovered their really fun blog filled with joyful weddings.

And when it came to choosing them for our own wedding, Navyblur ticked a lot of our boxes.

I love that they’re a two person team. We were always going to hire a second shooter (something I’d definitely recommend if it’s within your budget) and this way, we’re getting two people who already have their own rhythm of working together.

They have the most awesome photobooth set up. We were looking into photobooths in Ireland, but couldn’t find any with high quality images. Friends of ours had been to a wedding that Navyblur shot, and said their photobooth was so fun, and the pictures were so flattering, that there was a massive queue of guests getting in for the second and third time.

Photobooth snaps might not be important to lots of couples, but for us, these are the pictures that will adorn our fridge and be dotted around our flat more than the actual wedding pics, so it means a lot to us to know we’ll have such gorgeous party snaps from our big day.

Perhaps most importantly, Navyblur take some really beautiful photographs. Their sunset (golden hour) shots are just breathtaking, they have some really romantic portraits, and their candid, informal images make me feel all warm and fuzzy every time I look at them (which is almost any time I’m feeling stressed about the wedding!).

Best of all, I can see Marko and I in every one of their pictures!

And finally, we know we’re going to have a whole lot of fun with Christine & Xander at our wedding. After a Skype chat with both of them, we have lots in common (they seem to take as many flights a year as we do!) and we know we’ll have a great time with them on the day.

You spend more time with your photographers than anyone else at your wedding, it’s a long, often emotional day, and sometimes it’s a little awkward if you’re not a fan of having your photograph taken, so it’s really crucial to find someone you have good chemistry with, can be honest with, and that you can trust to do a great job.

We had to forgo some insanely talented Irish photographers when we chose Navyblur, and I was so nervous about the decision, not because they’re not great, but for me, it was a massive commitment (somewhere up there with oh, I don’t know, getting married perhaps!).

But after putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!), I don’t think I’ll be having any more sleepless nights. I know our wedding photos are going to be awesome (and I can say that with both my editor cap and my bridal veil on!).

Five Top Tips For Choosing a Wedding Photographer

1. Cast a wide net (but not too wide)

Lots of photographers will travel, so you should certainly look out of state or overseas for photographers you love.

My problem? I kept falling for photographers in Australia and California. I’m getting married in Ireland, so um, not ideal!

2. Find Someone Whose Style You Love Already

Photographers have their style, and that’s not going to change. It’s not fair to book a photographer and then request them lots of pictures you’ve seen online, in a style that’s nothing like theirs.

Photographers are creative professionals, you need to choose someone whose abilities you trust in 100%, rather than trying to direct them on the day, or expect them to alter their style to suit your tastes.

3. Give it a Chunk of your Budget

It is, on rare occasions, possible to find a good photographer that’s inexpensive, (a super talented student, second shooter, or family friend) but as a rule, skilled, talented, and competent wedding photographers come at a price.

Not only are you paying for the time at your wedding, but the training, experience, equipment, and editing processes that goes into becoming a highly regarded wedding photographer.

There’s a whole other discipline involved in managing wedding photographs over any other kind of photography too. So, there’s a reason the best photographers are expensive, and when you’re allocating your wedding budget, it’s the one area I suggest you prioritise.

4. Choose Someone You’ll Enjoy Hanging Out With

If you don’t like your photographer’s personality (even if they take the most amazing pictures) that will be one of the lasting memories you have of your big day.

As I said above, most couples don’t realise until their wedding day, how much time they’ll actually spend with their photographer, it’s important to pick someone you’ll have fun with.

Try your best to meet, or at least Skype with them before the big day, so you’ll already have a rapport.

5. Look To Wedding Blogs

Okay, okay, so I know I’m biased, but I firmly believe the easiest way to identify a photography style you like and find a photographer you love, is to check out wedding blogs.

By looking at lots (and lots) of real weddings, you’ll get a good idea of what you want (and just as importantly, don’t want!) from your wedding pictures.

And when you find a photographer you love (be sure to check out photographers’ own blogs too!) you’ll be able to recognise if they’re right for you.

We feature lots of photography styles and photographers from all over the world, but if you’re looking for something niche or localised, check our guide to our fave blogs.

Edit: Tip 6!

I thought of this one after I hit publish on this post and just had to add it in. Don’t be intimidated about getting in touch with a really high end photographer.

Just because a photographer shoots really glam weddings, at luxurious locations, with swanky guests, doesn’t mean they’ll be too expensive, too exclusive to shoot your wedding, or already booked.

I found myself really selling our wedding to photographers, just to make them think we were a good fit, and expecting back sky-high quotes, but in fact, some of my favourites came back with prices a lot lower than expected and were all to happy to shoot our simple BBQ bash.

So, there you have it, I rambled for waaay longer than I meant to – again! – but that’s my wedding photography story and advice, both as a blogger and a bride to be.

I’d love to hear your tips too though, so please do leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Coming soon, I’ll be stepping up my diaries, with hen night chatter, my decor inspiration, and our party playlists (which we’re hoping to plan this weekend, while wine tasting – the perfect combo!).

Top Tips on Finding Your Perfect Wedding Venue

Top London wedding planner Andri, of Always Andri Wedding Design is back with another installment of expert wedding planning tips.

Andri has worked with lots of couples just like you, to plan beautiful, thoughtful weddings in wedding venues around the UK and beyond. Lucky for us she’s sharing her juiciest tips to help with that all important venue hunt.

This is the kind of stuff I wish I’d known before Zee and I chose our venue. Seriously. We only saw about three venues, rushed into our decision then regretted it soon after when I fell in love with another venue. Whoops!

Finding Your Perfect Wedding Venue

Now that you’ve answered the basic questions and agreed on your wedding budget, the next step is to find your venue. From the styling of the space to the timings on the day, the majority of your decisions will ultimately hinge on your choice of wedding venue.

What kind of venue are you looking for?

Traditional venues such as hotels and country houses dominate the wedding market and with their set packages, they are well rehearsed at holding weddings.There are, however, also a host of non-traditional venues out there: from art galleries, museums and theatres to restaurants, pubs, boats and warehouses. There are some real hidden gems that can be worth the extra effort to find, so don’t limit your options to all the usual suspects. Often these quirkier venues offer a lot more flexibility, as they are not so set in their wedding ways.

You also have the option having a marquee wedding, which gives you ultimate flexibility in terms of decor and styling but bear in mind it really is a blank canvas so everything from tables and chairs to lighting, flooring and more will need to be hired in.

What do you want from your wedding venue?

Decide what your priorities are for your venue and then create a spreadsheet that lists all these important points, allowing you to keep track of each venue’s suitability as you do your research. Do an online search and start with a long list of venues you like the look of in your chosen geographical area before contacting them for further information.

You’ll be able to start narrowing down your search right away as you go through your list, considering:

– How many guests can it hold?

– Are there different capacities for different rooms?

– Can you have your ceremony and reception there?

– Will there be onsite accommodation for your guests?

– How does the pricing structure work?

– Is it based on room hire, price per head, minimum spend or are there set packages?

– Check exactly what is included for the price and what you’re getting for your money. (Ask whether you can upgrade at any point.)

– Is the catering in-house or is there an approved caterers list?

– Do you have a choice in which suppliers you can use?

-Are there any sample menus you can look at and how do their menu tasting sessions work?

– Is there plenty of natural light or will dark conditions make it tricky for your photographer?

– Will you need to hire in any extra lighting?

– Is there plenty of outdoor space?

– How easy is it to access by public transport?

– Is there plenty of parking?

– What chairs and tableware will you use? (If they’re not to your taste, you might want to consider hiring in your own.)

– If you’re not choosing exclusive use, check how many other weddings are likely to take place on the same day/weekend as yours.

– What are the staff numbers for service on the day? There’s nothing worse than slow service!

– What are your bar options and can you see a bar pricelist?

– Can you supply your own beverages and will there be a corkage charge?

– When can you get in and out of the venue to give access to your suppliers on the day of the wedding?

– Are there any particular restrictions such as the use of confetti or candles?

Wedding Venue Visits

Once you’ve drawn up a shortlist of suitable venues, you can start visiting them in person. Be prepared for this part of your wedding planning to take the most time – you may find yourselves with some very jam-packed weekends for a while!

When visiting venues pay attention to the little details, like routes your guests will take, what the bathrooms are like, whether there’s ample heating/air conditioning and where the power sockets are for your band / speeches / DJ / ceremony music.

Also discuss with the venue how they normally orchestrate their wedding days. Are they open to your ideas and flexible with timings or are they rigid in the way that things have always been done? If it doesn’t work for you, chat about how you envisage the flow of the day and the use of the rooms.

Don’t commit to ‘The One’ straightaway!

Before signing anything, ask to see a full breakdown of all the costs in an itemised list that shows what is and isn’t included in the price. Pay close attention to whether VAT and service has been included or not in the overall price too. Ask what happens to your money in the case of cancellation, whether on your behalf or the venue’s.

It’s also worth questioning the venue about their recommended suppliers. Do the venue, for example, insist that you use their suppliers? Are the businesses they advocate recommended on merit and experience of working at the venue? Or are suppliers paying to be on the list? Will you have to pay extra commission? If they do insist you use certain suppliers (as they normally do with caterers) then I would also get independent quotes from these suppliers prior to booking to check that the total costs are still within your allocated budget.

Finally, do ask who will be your main point of contact throughout the planning process and on the actual day itself. At this stage you may be dealing with the sales team and only once booked will you work with the events team before finally dealing with the banqueting team on your wedding day. For peace of mind you may prefer to deal with one person throughout, but if this isn’t an option you might want to consider working with a wedding planner who can oversee everything for you.

Finding your wedding venue is the crucial piece of the puzzle that will help bring all your ideas together. It’s all too easy to fall in love at first sight, but make sure your head rules your heart with proper and thorough research. This will be the biggest expenditure for your wedding, so you can never ask too many questions!

Many thanks to Andri for these super helpful tips on choosing your perfect wedding venue.

Please bear in mind that an experienced wedding planner, like Andri, can help you to navigate through all of these issues and will have some absolute wedding venue gems up his or her sleeves!