Q. My friends and I are all recent college graduates, and now one of us is getting married. A lot of people are worried about how they're going to afford a wedding gift, and I'm sorry to say a few are already battling it out to get the lowest-cost registry items first. I understand their cash concerns, but I think they're being tacky. How can we handle this?
A. There's no required amount to spend on a wedding gift; instead, let your relationship to the couple dictate your spending. In this case, since you're close to the bride but short of cash, it's a bit of a conundrum--but one with an easy solution. Why not ask a small group of your friends to chip in together and buy a larger item from the couple's registry? That way, each contribution will go a long way toward showing how much you all care. Just be sure to include a big card crediting all of the gift givers!
Q. Should we tip our vendors? My fiance says it seems crazy since we're already paying everyone so much for their services. At the same time, I know they're working really hard and I don't want us to seem impolite.
A. Tipping isn't mandatory--a tip is an added reward for service well done. So unless one of your vendors really botches something, they probably will expect at least a small gratuity. But before you start forking over the dough, be sure to check with your reception site to see whether there are any policies regarding tipping (same goes for your limo or other transportation). If, for example, they already have a gratuity or service charge built into your fee, you shouldn't feel compelled to add anything onto that.
Otherwise, plan on tipping your hair and makeup pros (15 to 20 percent, just like at the salon), delivery people (about $10 apiece), officiant ($100 to $200, or a donation to the ceremony site) and parking, coat check, or restroom attendants ($1 per car or per guest), wait staff ($20 per, plus more for the manager or headwaiter), bartenders (10 percent of total liquor bill).
The good news: Your bridal salon, cake baker, florist, stationers and party rental company will not be expecting tips. To make it easier for you, designate someone (a bridesmaid, groomsman, or family member) to be in charge of distributing the tips. Set aside a predetermined amount for each vendor and place the cash for each in a sealed, labeled envelope--include a little note as well, if you're feeling especially gracious. That way, you won't have to worry about counting out money when you need to be dashing off for your honeymoon.
Q. I've found a florist whose work I absolutely love and I definitely want to book her for my wedding. However, I'm worried she won't be able to make it to the church on time for my noon ceremony--she's in the city, and my wedding is at the beach right in the thick of tourist season. Is it OK to hire her only for my reception decor and find a local florist to do the bouquets?
A. It's totally fine to hire a florist to do one part of the wedding or the other. We've heard of plenty of brides who went with DIY decorations for their receptions and had a florist create all of the bouquets and boutonnieres, and there are also brides out there who've created their own bouquets and hired a pro to do the rest. Talk with your florist to see what she thinks about your timeline.
While you're right to be concerned about traffic and timing (especially since florists usually work with fresh flowers the morning of the event), there may be a way she can work around it, whether bringing in additional assistants to help complete the work on time or simply choosing a simpler design.
If she can't execute your vision in time or if you're just too worried there will be a time crunch, there's no reason you can't have someone else arrange the personal flowers. Just make sure both florists are on the same page with respect to your palette and preferences so that all of the flowers blend well together.
You'll probably do best to have either your centerpieces or your bouquets be on the simple side--perhaps you can choose one bloom that you absolutely love for the bouquets, then just make certain a bit of it is included in the centerpieces. Either way, you should wind up with flowers you love.
Q. My bride's parents do not support our wedding and almost certainly are not attending--nor are virtually any other relatives from her side. What can we do for our ceremony (particularly the walk down the aisle!) and receiving line to avoid bringing additional attention to this unfortunate and painful situation?
A. It is unfortunate that your fiancee's parents will not give their blessing to your wedding, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't go ahead and make it a special, personal day.
Instead of highlighting family matters, choose to focus on you two as a couple. Your bride can walk down the aisle solo (plenty of gals do these days!), or she might ask a close male or female friend to escort her. As for the receiving line, many couples do a mini-line that includes just the two of them instead of the usual with both sets of parents--it's still a wonderful way to greet guests and thank everyone for their support.
Do be careful, however, not to exclude your own family. The bride's parents' absence does not make your parents' presence less important! Your mother should be the last woman seated before the ceremony begins, and your parents should have seats of honor at the reception. If they were hosting, perhaps your father would like to make a welcoming speech at the party as well. No matter who is or isn't there, you two can make it an amazing day.
Q. In order to get the reception site and everything else we need on the date we want, my fiance and I are planning on a pretty long engagement--almost two years. Unfortunately, I'm already itchy to start looking at wedding gowns. Is it too soon to start my search?
A. Most brides don't begin the search for a gown until a year to nine months before the wedding, but when to begin looking for your gown is entirely up to you. If you've got more time, there's no reason you can't use it. And should you end up ordering a custom-made gown from a bridal salon, it can take a while for the dress to arrive and for the store to make alterations--so it pays to give yourself time to shop at a comfortable pace and leave plenty of leeway for preparations.
The downside? If you buy a gown long before your wedding, you'll need a safe place to keep it (which might be a pain if it's got a full skirt and you've got a studio apartment!). But you may be able to store it at your seamstress' or at the salon, so be sure to ask about this possibility.
Also know that if you choose something you love now, a whole new wave of gowns will come out next year--what if you find something you like better? If you decide to wait, you can plan to save money during the first year of your engagement and then, when the time comes, you can shop for your dream dress without financial stress.
WHERE ARE RSVPS SENT?
Q. My fiance and I have been living together for some time now. Does this make any difference in where the response cards are sent? I thought they traditionally went to the bride's parents, but I haven't lived at my parents' house in years.
A. Technically, invite responses should be sent to whoever is hosting the wedding, and the hosts are traditionally the people whose names are at the top of your invite--most often the mother and father of the bride.
So, if your parents' names appear on the first line of your invitation, tradition dictates that they should get the response cards. On the other hand, if you and your fiance are hosting, you should get the cards.
That's tradition, though--now let's talk practicality. Maybe you want the responses sent to your home because you have the guest list and want to check off people's names. In that case, it doesn't make sense for responses to go to your parents. Likewise, if your mom is going to keep track of the guest list, it's logical that the responses to go to her, even if you're hosting the wedding. Do what makes the most sense for your situation--guests won't find it a faux pas either way.