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Wedding Planning Guide

Your wedding will probably be the biggest event you will ever arrange. To help you get started, we’ve put together the most important steps you’ll need to cover in order to create a memorable wedding day.

Step 1 – Set The Date

The first and most important step is to come up with the date.

The date helps set the theme and the mood of the wedding. Winter weddings suggest snowfall and holiday spirit. Fall weddings are all about rich colors and nostalgia. Summer is long days and warm nights. And Spring weddings suggest freshness and new beginnings. Consider your “wedding personality”, then choose your season accordingly.

You can select a date that holds special meaning, such as the date you first met, or the date of your grandparents’ wedding.

June, August, and September are the most popular times to marry, so if your heart is set on a specific date or a specific location you’ll need to book right away. And remember, with destination or outside weddings, you’ll need to keep the seasons in mind. Don’t book your wedding for the middle of the hurricane season!

Step 2 – Set the Budget

You will need to have a good idea of your budget before you can plan your wedding. In the US, couples spend on average around $24,000 on their weddings. The table below gives a basic outline of what expenses you’ll need to pay for and an estimate of what those costs will be…

  Average Cost % of total budget
Ceremony
  Ceremony Officiator, Ceremony Site…
$720 3%
Reception
  Location, Rentals, Food Service, Bar Service…
$11520 48%
Attire & Accessories
  Wedding Dresses, Tuxedos, shoes and accessories…
$2400 10%
Limo Rental and Transportation
  Limo, shuttle, parking attendants…
$480 2%
Photography and Video
  Photographer, Videographer…
$2880 12%
Music and Entertainment
  Live Band…
$1920 8%
Flowers & Decorations
  Flower Arrangements, Bouquets, Decorations…
$1920 8%
Wedding Rings
  Wedding Bands …
$720 3%
Invitations and Stationery
  Invitations & Reply Cards, Thank You Cards…
$720 3%
Gifts & Favors
  Gift/s for Parents, Attendants, Wedding Favors…
$720 3%

Who Pays for the Wedding

It used to be that the parents of the bride would pay for the wedding. However, in today’s economy, a couple needs to be more flexible. There are a number of options, such as having the couple, the parents of the bride and the parents of the groom split the costs evenly.

Remember, you can prioritize items in your budget. You can save money or altogether eliminate some items and spend more on others.

Step 3 – Planning… Get Support

Take the stress out of planning your wedding by getting the advice of professional wedding planners or friends or family who have experience with planning a wedding event. Professional wedding planners or consultants will have relationships and insights about wedding vendors and can often save you money.

If you’re looking for new wedding ideas, check out Pinterest, wedding blogs or the latest Bridal magazines.

Use online checklists

There are any number of online wedding checklists and budgeting sites. They can help you keep track of all the important items on your “To Do” list.

Consider setting up a wedding website to help keep your guests informed about event details, area information and updated with directions and the latest changes.

Step 4 – Set the Tone of Your Event: Casual or Formal

Not every bride wishes to have a grand ball with black ties and satin dresses everywhere. For many women, this is a day dedicated to utter celebration and sharing lots of laughs and good times with those closest to the couple. In the case of the latter, she probably won’t opt for the most formal of jewelry. Remember that the style of jewelry should also fit the overall style of the festivities. For more formal and grandiose weddings and receptions, formal jewelry is the right choice. A bride should look like the most expensive woman in the room in this case.

However, if the flair of the evening is more toned down and understated, a bride may turn out looking quite out of place at her own wedding if she is dripping in diamonds and rubies while everyone else has appeased the dress code which called for “relaxed and comfortable.” Be sure to consider the mood of the day before considering the jewelry. It is those little details that truly do make all the difference in making the day perfect!

Step 5 – Choosing Your Wedding Colors

You may consider choosing you wedding colors based on the season of the year. Spring colors are often lighter in color while summer colors are brighter. Fall and winter colors are deeper and stronger.

One way to help narrow the choices of bridal jewelry is to match it up with the chosen theme colors of the wedding. While it is not necessary to feel as if one is limited to choosing jewelry that matches exactly the color of the bridesmaid dresses and overall color theme, it is wise to choose bridal jewelry that does not clash with this chosen color theme. In other words, if a wedding color is pastel pink, a bride will simply glow in jewelry that is in some shade of a pastel color. She should definitely not opt for jewelry that is primary or bold colors while her ladies in waiting are decked out in pastels.

Step 6 – Wedding Day Location

This, among all the other decisions the bride must make, should not be taken lightly. In fact, the location of the wedding and the reception can either alter or support the bride’s overall theme or mood of the whole day. What many brides do not realize is that the location of their big day can also make or break the bride’s style of the day. Consistency of theme and location is essential for any wedding.

Possibly the happy couple is opting for a festive yet understated back garden event or perhaps the big day will be a grand celebration shared with hundreds of the couple’s closest friends and family members. One style of wedding can call for much different bridal jewelry than the other style of wedding.

In other words, the location often dictates the bridal jewelry. However, unlike the case of the wedding dress and the neckline of the dress, a bride can either make the decision of the location first and then make the decision of the jewelry after or vice versa. The jewelry choice can impact the location choice. If a location has a more formal ball-like formal feel to it, it is wise to choose sophisticated and formal ball-like jewelry. Or, if the jewelry has already been picked out and it is more understated and classic, a bride is a bit freer to choose a location that will not upstage or undermine the bridal jewelry and dress style.

Back Garden Party

A bride can be a bit more playful and personal when dressing for her back garden. Big, colorful flowers or delicately stringed seashells can be fun and feminine. It would simply not be appropriate to select large and ornate jewels for such a setting. Think “Spring Fun” when selecting this style of bridal baubles.

A Grand Evening Ballbride

Now is the time to pull out those family heirlooms of diamonds, rubies and pearls. This is the event to truly play Princess for a Day and show off your grand gemstones to all your loving subjects. This celebration would not be up to the high status it deserves if the bride opted for overly-casual bridal jewelry.

Beach Wedding

If a bride wishes to have a dreamy seashore wedding, where all the guests follow her and her groom down to a sandy beach, while the waves crash against the rocky shore, she should not call for a “formal” dress attire for the guests. In addition, she certainly should not be overdressed in dazzling diamonds that at any minute could get lost in the sandy shores below her feet.

It is true that every choice and detail seems magnified on this one special day. However, it makes sense that the jewelry must match the location. Most women don’t wear Cartier diamond tiaras to do their daily grocery shopping so why would she wear a seashell necklace to her decidedly formal wedding reception!

Step 7 – Hair and Dress

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The bride-to-be reader should not forget that one of her most important priorities is to find the right dress.

You should try to avoid choosing the bridal jewelry before picking out the dream dress. By first picking the jewelry, the bride to be has narrowed her choices of dresses, sometimes by half. Depending on the pieces, some jewelry should only be worn with a particular style of dress.

After choosing her dream dress, she should then decide on how she will wear her hair. Certain dress styles call for certain hair styles. To be more specific, certain necklines and waistlines will be more flattered by either an up-do or long and flowing locks. The hair and dress decision comes before the jewelry decision.

If unsure on what looks best, consider first the neckline, the waistline and overall silhouette of the dress. Here are a few quick tips on choosing the most flattering ‘do for the dress:

Low-Cut Neckline and Off-The-Shoulder Styles

If a wedding dress has a low-cut neckline or is off the shoulder, a woman’s neck will be well shown off with an up-do hairstyle. The best up-do’s are softer versions of the classic French chignon or low bun. For classical beauty, keep the up-do simple and loose as opposed to dramatically severe and tight. In addition, remember that this style of dress will draw a person’s eye to the bride’s face so it is wise to keep the hair off her face. A low-cut neckline or off the shoulder dress can look slightly immature if worn with long and flowing tresses. Therefore, always opt for some sort of up-do with this style of dress.

High Neckline or the ‘Vintage V’

This style of dress includes the crew neck cut or the vintage-style long sleeve with a plunging V neckline. Again, the most flattering hair is that which is off the bride’s face and neck so as to not distract from the overall elegance of this particular neckline. This statement, however, goes with a side note: if the dress has long sleeves that accompany the plunging “Vintage V” neckline or a crew neck, hair that is worn part up and part down is highly flattering too (think Catherine Middleton). The most important thing to remember is to never hide the beautiful bride’s face with any hairstyle.

brideSundress or Beach Wedding

With a beach wedding, a bride will likely choose a dress that is more appropriate to her outdoor paradise wedding such as a sundress or a strappy little number which looks great walking down the seashore. The best hair to support this style is loose, long and flowing tresses that don’t look over-styled or over-worked. A bride may well opt to add a few highlights to give her that sun-kissed look as well. One can imagine how odd it would look to have a sculpted up-do in a scenario like this.

White Wedding Gown

When choosing metal jewelry for a white wedding gown, the silver metals such as platinum, brushed or sterling silver or white gold are currently in fashion. Another excellent choice would be to simply choose all sparkling jewels with no visible metal.

Beige Gowns

Consider jewelry of a more antiquated fashion and metal type such as a string of pearls or rose-gold tones. Also, yellow-gold is ideal for complementing this dress shade. This is also a lovely time to pull out that special strand of unpolished gemstones such as turquoise or mother-of-pearls that have been hiding in your closet.

The best way to maneuver through all of these hair and dress decisions is to consider the style of the celebration first and then choosing the appropriate dress, jewelry and hair to match that chosen style.

Step 8 – Wedding Jewelry Accessories

Classic Princess Cut Diamond Stud Earrings

Classic Princess Cut Diamond Stud Earrings

In the world of wedding jewelry there are a few simple rules to follow in order to pick the perfect pieces that will fit the dress and the bride’s personal style. However, brides beware! The rules that apply to a wedding outfit are not the same as the rules that apply to everyday dressing-up or even to a formal evening gown.

Accessorizing is always, and should be, a matter of personal taste. In the same way that there is no perfect engagement ring for every girl, there is no one right necklace or set of earrings that can be considered “the right one” for every bride. Once upon a time, pearl stud earrings and a matching strand of pearls held the position of “appropriate bridal jewelry,” but that is simply not the case any longer. Nowadays there are many different choices for bejeweling the bride. So we’ve put together this quick guide to selecting bridal jewelry, to help you find the perfect pieces for your perfect wedding day.

Necklaces

The answer to the perfect necklace lies in the neckline of the wedding dress. A low-cut neckline will stunningly show off necklaces that either sit directly on the bride’s collarbone. Or, the choker or the princess-length necklace will stand out best. A princess length necklace sits about sixteen inches below the base of one’s neck.

Two Strand Pearl Necklace

Two Strand Pearl Necklace

It is best to avoid an opera-length style with a low-cut neckline because such a piece of jewelry’s long length will only get lost in the already low neckline.

There are three other lengths/styles to choose from which are the collar, the matinee and the bib length. The collar length sits just above the collarbone but is lower than the choke which sits right in the lower-middle of the neck. This length is great with a low-cut dress.

The matinee style sits just above the bust and is lovely with either a low-cut or a higher neckline. When considering the matinee, it is wise to try on just a necklace with the dress and then decide if it is the lucky necklace. Finally, the bib necklace is often seen sporting wild gemstones and flamboyantly daring metal pairings.

The bib necklace sits just below the collar and just above the matinee length and is chosen by jewelry makers for their signature pieces. A bib necklace rests just around the top of one’s shoulders and makes no apologies for its bold presence. It is best saved for simple-yet-elegant wedding dresses.

Earrings

Akoya Pearl Earrings

Akoya Pearl Earrings

It is hard to imagine a dress or hairstyle that would not be best summed up by a dazzling pair of earrings. Earrings follow just about the same rule as a necklace does: refer to the neckline of the dress to choose the right style. In addition, a bride needs to consider her hairstyle and hair length when picking earrings. Follow these few rules for hair/dress/earring cooperation:

Short Hair or Up-do Styled Hair looks best with:

  • Chunky ear-bud gemstones
  • Oversized, ultra sparkling clip-ons
  • Chandelier dangles
Square Drop Diamond Earrings

Square Drop Diamond Earrings

Long Hair that is down or part up/part down — aka the Catherine Middleton wedding day style:

  • Small and dainty diamond studs
  • Pearl drops
  • Dangle earrings that sit just slightly below the earlobe

Low bun or relaxed chignon:

  • Delicate precious metal flowers with pearl or diamond accents
  • Gemstone studs
  • Precious metal small hoops

Bracelets

Pillow Tennis Bracelet

Pillow Tennis Bracelet

The bracelet holds its place in the bridal set, but not in every bridal set. Don’t forget that if it looks like over-kill, it is. Don’t feel pressed to add a bracelet in the same way that earrings should be certainly added into the wedding gown mix. If a gown is armless, and the rest of the bridal jewelry is appropriately complementing the rest of the bride’s look than a bracelet may still work.

That is, of course, if the bracelet matches the rest of the jewelry ensemble. If, however, a bride wants to wear a certain bracelet because of its sentimental value even though it doesn’t exactly match the rest of her set, it is best to keep the rest of her bridal jewelry to a minimum since a bracelet can often be the tipping point for what turns out to be an overworked look.

Brooches

This piece of jewelry tends to be placed farther back in the ages in regard to style and fashion. The Brooch was a main staple for ladies in the Victorian ages…

A brooch can be an incredibly beautiful addition to the modern bride’s wear. Brooches can add a flair of color, sparkle and design when used to tuck the draping of a long veil to the bodice of the dress or to maintain the placement of a laced shawl or draped fabrics over the shoulders of a bride. Often a bride will use a brooch to keep such extra adornment in place for the ceremony only to remove it for the more relaxed celebration afterward.

Pearls

7mm Akoya Pearl Earrings

7mm Akoya Pearl Earrings

There is no such thing as a woman who doesn’t look more elegant in pearls. Always a popular choice among brides, pearls come in literally every color of the rainbow. There are even black and grey pearls. Pearls also fit just about any location, any occasion, any dress and any hairstyle. A pearl makes the perfect companion the beach side wedding or the swanky black-tie affair. Don’t forget this perfect answer to make the perfect day even more majestic.

By choosing a few special jewelry pieces that accentuate the bride’s beautiful features as well as her dress any bride can proudly flaunt an air of elegance and grace on her wedding day.

Step 9 – Wedding Favors and Gifts

Wedding Favors

Wedding favors are small gifts given as a gesture of appreciation to attendees from the wedding couple. Your choice of special wedding favors is a wonderful way for you to show your guests how much you value their friendship.

Popular wedding favors are edible treats and candy favors, coasters, glasses and candles. You can also choose colors to match your wedding theme. Wedding favors are often personalized with names and dates to remember your most special day.

Gifts

The wedding couple traditionally, give gifts to their bridal party, maid of honor, bridesmaids, the best man and the groomsmen, to thank them for helping with the wedding. Gifts are also often given to the flower girl and ring bearer, and parents of the bride and groom.

Jewelry is a popular gift for the Maid of Honor and Bridesmaids. Jewelry items, such as necklaces, that can be worn with the bridesmaid dresses are always a great choice. Personalized cufflinks, worn at the wedding, are a good choice for the Best Man and Groomsmen.

Selecting meaningful bridal party gifts should be an important part of your wedding planning.