Week 12: The week before

One week to go!  Yippee!  First of all, I hope you have planned to take this week off work.  If you worked right up until 6pm on Friday the day before your wedding (like I did) then I truly hope you have asked your partner to take some time off.  Trust me, even if you think you have everything sorted, you will need at least one body available to do any last minute run around during business hours before the weekend.

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So much to do in this 21 day week of wedding!

A week before your wedding is usually the time when family start to arrive from out of town.  I remember when I first saw my relatives who had traveled from interstate and overseas, the reality of getting married really hit me.  Suddenly there are people turning up everywhere to see YOU and the wedding you’ve worked your tail off planning.  Your wedding that will be taking place in less than a week.  ZOMG… things are getting REAL.  I guarantee that when your family arrives you will need a glass of wine.

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My bossy advice for this week is not to overdo it.  Enjoy having friends and family around, but don’t feel obliged to see them every minute.  Do take some time to yourself to have a decent sleep and chill out.  Don’t listen to last minute wedding suggestions/comments/criticisms from friends and family, it’s too late to make any changes and their opinions will only stress you out.  Drink enough to be sociable, but not enough to give you a hangover.  Same applies to your partner.  Having him/her hung over on your wedding day is not a great start.

Practical tips for your last minute run around, I suggest:

  • Confirm bookings with all of your vendors
  • Put everyone’s number you will need on the day in your phone or your partner’s phone (transport, catering, band, photographer etc etc)
  • Take some time out to write a speech so you will be prepared if you are asked to give a toast
  • Practise dancing at least a couple of times with your partner
  • Make sure your rainy day back up plan is ready (undercover set up and umbrellas!) if weather is looking gloomy
  • Confirm everyone you nominated for jobs are aware of what they need to do on the day (For example, who will drive your flower girls to hairdresser, who is responsible for picking up your flowers, meeting the photographers at the venue, bringing music for the ceremony, giving readings etc)

Finally, imagine a complete run through of your wedding day and visualise everything going perfectly to plan.  Picture yourself with your partner looking relaxed and happy with family and friends celebrating with you.  Imagine yourself eating breakfast, getting ready, talking to your bridesmaids.  Picture yourself driving to the venue, walking down the aisle and saying your vows.  You might only need to do this once but I visualised myself going through the day a few times which helped me feel less nervous on the day.  It also helped me to remember a few small things I’d forgotten in the planning process.

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Think positive and be awesome!

One thing I wished I’d done is stay with my partner on the night before our wedding.  My parents really wanted me to stay at their place to get ready and were quite insistent about it so I just caved in and stayed at their house.  It sort of sucked because I didn’t sleep very well on my own and in the morning I had to negotiate their kitchen for breakfast. So, again, don’t give in to tradition and stay with your future husband/wife if that’s what you want to do!  Now finally, it’s time for your wedding day!

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Week 11: The finishing touches

Two weeks to go and still a lot to do.  Hopefully by now you have paid for all of your big expenses like the venue, celebrant, catering, band, photographer, suits, dresses, flowers, transport, accommodation, rings.  The finishing touches are the annoying things like bonbonieres, table numbers and the seating plan that no one on the day gives a sh*t about.  Seriously, don’t give more than two minutes of your time stressing about what stupid wedding favour you’re going to give out.  They are time consuming to make, expensive and often left on the table at the end of the night.

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  A bottle of sand with a dead starfish from your wedding that I will cherish forever

We went ultra cheapo and bought packets of mixed lollies from the supermarket and put them in a clear container with a ribbon and a little tag that said ‘Thanks!’.  It cost just over $100 to buy everything we needed.  We then asked our friends to come over and we put them to work.

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Fingers crossed everyone at the reception is too wasted to care about the bonboniere

The other annoying thing is the seating plan.  If you have friends and family that don’t get along or don’t know anyone else at your wedding it can be a nightmare to plan.  However, no seating plan for close to one hundred guests is just asking for drunken chaos, especially if you want everyone seated in a somewhat organised fashion. We got around it by splitting everyone into four groups with one group per table.  Our seating plan sign at the entrance to the reception read:

‘Join us for dinner and drinks inside

Where you sit, we don’t mind

You may use these rows as a guide

See you soon! From the groom and the bride’

At the time of drafting up our seating plan on PowerPoint we also made our table numbers and menus.  The menu had a program of events, bar menu, catering menu and a quiz titled ‘How well do you know the bride and groom?’ on the back.  Yes, very lame but it was intended to be a conversation starter and I think it worked.

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With a couple of weeks to go, now is the time to encourage everyone in your bridal party to try on all their gear and make sure everything fits.  Try on your wedding dress and shoes to make sure you don’t need any last minute alterations and plan what jewellery you are going to wear.

Confirm that everyone in your bridal party and immediate family have their transport and accommodation arranged and know when and where they need to be on the day.   Also make a last minute trip to the shops to buy some thank you presents for your bridal party and any one else you have put to work!

Week 10: Buck’s & hen’s parties

It is difficult to write a no nonsense guide to running a hen’s night/bachelorette party because honestly, hen’s parties are designed to be nonsense.  My sister, who was my maid of honour, did a great job organising the night in just a couple of months and I had about 8 friends and family at my bridal shower and nearly 20 for my hen’s night.

My advice is to be realistic with your expectations for the night, and offer to give your bridesmaids a hand with planning the event.  Have a reasonable idea about what you want to do for the party and a list of names and numbers of those you want to attend.

I had my bridal shower/kitchen tea and hen’s party on the same day.  Parents and relatives were invited to the bridal shower which my mum hosted at her house and did a great job.  We had tea, sandwiches, cake and champagne and played a few games.  It was very relaxed.

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More cake please!

We hired an apartment near the beach for the weekend and friends could choose whether they wanted to stay over and split the cost of the room or join us for dinner.  From memory my sister organised a set menu at a BYO Thai restaurant and everyone paid around $25 each.

Costs can easily get out of control so I would recommend just one event for the weekend – we did a one hour fire twirling class which was I think around $15 each.

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Fire twirling!

My partner told me about a week before my hen’s night that my sister had booked a stripper and I begged her to cancel it because I would have been mortified if one had shown up.  I think she was a bit grumpy about Phil ruining the surprise and losing her deposit, but I will be forever thankful that I never had to experience some tattooed meat head gyrating all over me in front of my horrified friends.

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The girls screamed in delight when he said he was leaving

If you have a small bridal party with only a maid of honour or 1 or 2 bridesmaids, be prepared to put in a lot of work yourself or have another friend available who can help with organising your friends, asking for money, buying snacks and setting up for the party.  Planning a bridal shower and/or hen’s night is a huge amount of work so don’t place too many demands on your maid of honour or she will be totally exhausted by your wedding day.

I would recommend doing the buck’s and hen’s parties on the same weekend so you are both out having fun at the same time.  Unless of course, all of your friends have kids then alternate weekends might be a good idea so partners can take turns to babysit.  I still don’t have any idea what happened at my partner’s buck’s night but he came home with both eyebrows and no broken bones so I assume it was good clean fun.

Week 9: The ceremony and the run sheet

On your wedding day, timing is important.  Wrangling a huge crowd of partially intoxicated, distracted and hyperactive guests away from your ceremony venue, into allocated seating and onto the dance floor is not an easy job – so a good run sheet for your MC and celebrant is absolutely essential.

P-WEDWhere’s the reception? Is the bar open yet?

There are many good examples of running sheets online – such as this one or this one (which is probably too detailed, but you get the idea).  In hindsight, ours was probably a bit over the top with detail but it probably helped settle my nerves to write down exactly how I wanted the day to run.  Here it is – feel free to use it as a template for your own wedding.

Running Sheet

I wrote a little about the ceremony in one of my earlier posts about finding a celebrant – hopefully by now you have found an awesome celebrant and have an idea about who you would like to give a reading, which music you want when you walk down the aisle and how you would like to be announced.  If you are getting married outside, make sure your celebrant has a PA system and a decent set of speakers for music so your thoughtful choice of words and lyrics are heard by your friends and family.

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Rap battle ceremony.  Drop the mic, I’m out

Now is also the time to write down exactly what you want to say in your vows and practice them so you are less nervous on the day.  The same applies for guests giving readings – give a copy of the readings to your guests early so they won’t feel awkward about speaking in public if they have had a month or two to mentally prepare and practice.

Importantly, if you are adamant that you do not want to be introduced as “Mr and Mrs (insert partner’s first and last name here)” make sure you tell your celebrant how you would prefer to be introduced as a couple.  Most civil celebrants should be flexible enough to say whatever you tell them, except for specific requirements to ensure your marriage is legal, which is summarised nicely here.

Some ceremony advice based on experience from my own wedding and as a wedding guest –

1. Make sure you have the option to get married undercover in the event of rain

2. If it looks like it will rain, put someone in charge of bringing a few umbrellas

3. Test your PA system and have enough extension cords or battery power to see you through the ceremony

4. Don’t ask anyone to give a reading that is longer than 3 minutes – your guests will be bored and you will be too

5. Save the french kiss for your wedding night and spare your guests the trauma of witnessing your tongue wrestle

6. Find someone trustworthy to hold on to your wedding certificate!

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Week 8: Transport, accommodation and RSVPs

One month until your wedding, so time to lock in your guest list.  Make time with your partner to chase down outstanding RSVPs together and add them to your guest spreadsheet.

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Lock in the guest list!

It is important to know where everyone from out of town will be staying and to help those who need accommodation to find somewhere close to your venue and reasonably priced.  If you have a group of friends staying close together, offer to share their contact details so they can meet up to share a taxi or transport to the wedding.

Because our wedding was a long way out of town, we organised a charter bus to take everyone home at the end of the night.  It made about 5 stops along the coast which we planned according to where everyone was staying.  The bus was about $500 and had 50 seats which ended up being reasonably cheap to get everyone home for around $10 per person.

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All aboard the drunk bus

Now is the time to plan how you will be traveling to the wedding with your bridal party, along with anyone else who will be at the residence where you are getting ready.  If you have flower girls like we did you will need car seats for the trip as well.

We hired an 11 seat limousine and everyone just piled in.  This made for an entertaining entrance at the ceremony when the limousine did a 15 point turn around so I could get out.

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We hired the limousine for a few hours to transport us to the location for photos and back to the reception venue.

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We also then needed to hire a second sedan limousine to drive Phil and I to our accommodation in Surfer’s Paradise at the end of the night.  This meant we both had to have an overnight bag packed and with us at the reception to take in the car to the hotel. Therefore it is worthwhile considering where you will be staying and what you have planned the next day so you won’t be stuck wearing your wedding dress to breakfast.

Week 7: Photography, hair & makeup

Wedding photographers – love them or hate them, you have to have them.  The sky is the limit on how much you can spend and I was terrified of spending thousands of dollars.

Of course, if beautiful wedding photos are one of your top priorities, go crazy and splurge on someone with a good reputation who will make you look stunning.  However, if you are more inclined to save some money I suggest seeking out a photographer who is starting out in the business who would be happy to give you a discount in return for more wedding experience.

We chose our friends Kristy and Ben from K&B photography to shoot our wedding.  They did a fantastic job and worked for over 10 hours to shoot our ceremony, reception and formal photos.  They hardly stopped and worked like troopers in the humidity!

At our first meeting I learned that it is common to have an engagement shoot before your wedding.  Although we were initially quite hesitant to agree to an engagement shoot, after much persuasion we took the opportunity to use the shoot as a ‘trial’ before the wedding day.

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So awkward.

Our engagement photos make me cringe however, it was a good rehearsal before the main event.  We were able to find a nice location near our wedding venue for photos and were also able to tell Kristy and Ben what we liked and didn’t like.  As a result I knew what to expect on our wedding day and I wasn’t so nervous.

I had my hair and make up trial done the same day as the engagement shoot so I had some idea of what I would look like as well. I ended up going to a local hairdresser which was really convenient on the day – everyone met in the morning at the hair salon and we got our hair done together with four hairdressers.  It saved a lot of time compared to stories I have heard about hair and make up starting at 6am at someone’s house and everyone waiting around all morning for their turn.

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Hair and makeup

A friend of ours did our makeup and did an amazing job.  My bridesmaids and I brought along makeup that we wanted to wear and Sarah applied it – which meant we felt comfortable on the day with products we were used to wearing.

My biggest advice regarding wedding photos is to communicate what you want with your photographer.  Don’t feel pressured into doing stupid poses or any of the standard ‘getting ready’ photographs if you really don’t want them.  Don’t let your photo shoot run too long – I would recommend no longer than 90 minutes tops, including travel from the ceremony and to the reception.  I have been at weddings where the photos run for 2 hours (or longer) and it sucks waiting around for the bride and groom.

I also found having a long photo shoot after all the excitement of getting married was a huge drag. After the first few photos I was totally over it and felt like I was missing all the fun with my friends at the venue!

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Can we drink champagne now?

I could tell our bridal party were also keen to wrap it up quick and get on with the reception.  However, if you love getting photographed and have spent thousands of dollars on your dress, hair and makeup, then please take your time and enjoy looking fabulous.

My one regret is that I wished I had asked for more professional photos with our family and friends at the reception.  We have so many photos of us as a couple (which are fantastic) and our bridal party, but a lot of our reception photos are of people on the dance floor and giving speeches.

Fortunately everyone was taking photos so I have more photos than I need!  After the wedding we made a Dropbox folder and asked everyone to upload their photos to share.  Once we received our professional photos we uploaded them to Dropbox as well.  For our parents and grandparents, we gave them photo books from Snapfish, which was far easier than explaining how to get a Dropbox account.

Week 6: Catering, cake & entertainment

Dinner, drinks and dancing – in my opinion, these are the three best things about the reception!

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Party in the shed!

The food, alcohol and entertainment will be the biggest part of your budget, and what your guests will remember.  For a good night out with decent food, unlimited alcohol and a live band most people would pay at least $100 per head, so be prepared to spend money if you want to show your friends and family a good time.

If you are planning to use a catering company make sure they are willing to travel to your venue!   Think about your guests and how much they will eat, and consider what food will be available for kids, vegetarians and those with other preferences.

The caterers we used served canapes between the ceremony and the reception.  We had a buffet for dinner with seafood, roast chicken and lamb and a few salads.  We saved a bit of money by serving our wedding cake as dessert.  At the end of the night we served tea and coffee and I think maybe 5 people actually drank it.  The catering company we used was Spits and Pieces and they were excellent.

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I seafood and I eat it

It can be tricky to calculate exactly how much alcohol, soft drink and water you will need for your wedding.  We bought kegs of beer from Burleigh Brewing and my parents kindly supplied wine and champagne.  Unfortunately the beer could not be saved once the kegs were opened.   We also had lots of soft drink left over as we only had a few kids and not many designated drivers.

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I would suggest over catering for your bar as most franchised bottle shops will let you return unopened cartons of beer and wine after your wedding.  I found an awesome post about calculating how much alcohol you will need here.  Also consider who will be responsible for buying ice on the day and make sure you have plenty of water for the tables at dinner and to keep everyone hydrated while they burn up the dance floor.

For dancing and music, there are three options – a playlist, a DJ or a live band.  If you choose to do your own playlist, nominate one of your trustworthy and tech savvy guests to be responsible for the iPod and speakers in case you have any issues.  We were so lucky to have the Lamplights and Andrea Soler – amazing talent that worked with the crowd and played a mix of their own songs and covers.

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The Lamplights and Andrea Soler

A band or DJ will pick songs to suit the mood of the night, they will be ready to play for your first dance and they are worth every cent.  If you have even the slightest inkling that you (or your guests) will want to dance, then I would strongly recommend a live band or DJ.

Around the time you are planning your reception it is a good idea to order your wedding cake.  Asking a friend or relative to make your cake is a big request and I would suggest it only if they have cake making experience or have the time to commit to planning and preparing your wedding cake.  I also recommend having an idea about what time you will be cutting the cake and ensuring your caterers know to stay and serve your wedding cake as well!