You've had your perfect wedding planned since you were a kid, right? Sure, but chances are your daydreams didn't involve vendor contracts, transportation and guest list disagreements. Those are all part of the planning process, so check out these nine tips for dealing with nitty-gritty planning details:
Reception Site Smarts
Finding your site should be at the top of your to-do-list. Popular spots are often booked more than a year in advance. And you want to choose your reception site, not settle for it. But before you select a venue, it's important to have a good idea of how many guests you'll invite. For one thing, you'll want a site that will add to the ambience of your wedding -- a grand ballroom could feel cavernous if you're having an intimate celebration of family and friends. And many sites have both a maximum and minimum number of guests required.
Guest List Diplomacy
Speaking of The List, be prepared for inevitable questions: Does your fiance really have to invite his whole rec league basketball team? And do you really have to invite your long-lost piano teacher? When you've put together the big list (everyone you'd like to invite) and see that it's double the number you can invite, keep the people who matter to you now and who you think will matter to you several years from now. And don't forget to give your folks at least a few invites -- they'll want their friends in on the party, too!
To be positive that you and your florist share the same vision for your wedding flowers, bring pictures of floral arrangements that you love, as well as arrangements that you hate. This way, your florist will know the sorts of centerpieces and bouquets that will fit into your wedding style and also what to avoid. If the arrangements in the pictures are a little too pricey, ask if your florist can replicate the look using less expensive blooms.
You should pick your cake after you've figured out some of the other major details, like your reception decor, flowers and gown. That way you'll be able to work with your cake baker to design a confection that can match other elements, like the color of your table linens, the blooms in your centerpieces or a pattern from your dress. Your cake should complement the reception space. If it strays too far from the overall theme, it might become a conversation piece for all the wrong reasons.
Photographer Style Sheet
When you're interviewing wedding photographers, pay close attention to their style, portfolio and price, but also take personalities into account. If you hire a photographer whose shots you love but who seriously gets on your nerves, your wedding day portraits may suffer. Remember, this person is going to be following you around the entire time. If you're not comfortable with him or her, your smiles will seem forced, and you may find yourself avoiding the photographer -- a fate no bride wants!
It's a good idea to order 25 percent more invitations than you're planning to send to leave room for mistakes and last-minute additions to the guest list, and also to have a couple for your scrapbook. You'll also want to order extra envelopes _ if you're having a calligrapher address them, they may request this.
Whether it's a band or a DJ you're after, try to see them perform -- at least on video -- before you book them. Pretty much any musician can sound good on a demo, but it may be a whole different story once he or she steps out of the recording studio. If you have an annoying DJ or bandleader who tries too hard to steal the show, your guests might be left clinging to their seats and the dance floor deserted.
When you're going over the contract with your caterer, keep in mind that you'll also have to feed the vendors (like the band or DJ) who are going to be present at the reception. Ask if you can serve these vendors less-expensive options than you're giving the other guests. Another point to clarify before you sign on the dotted line: Ask your caterer if there will be any other additional costs (like having to pay for extra wait staff).
It's not the most glamorous part of planning the wedding, but imagine your guests clamoring for cabs after your ceremony is over. Hiring a shuttle or several minivans to get your guests from the ceremony to the reception is a great way to make sure no one's stranded. This is especially helpful for your out-of-town guests who might not have cars. You should also consider post-reception transportation for those guests who may have celebrated a little bit too much.