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.


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!

AP135A pink feather quill pen is optional for LOLs


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.


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.


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.


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

AP170 AP168

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 6: Catering, cake & entertainment

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


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.

Wedding food

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.

Photo 39Make it a double

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.


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!

Week 2: The reception venue

The venue – the place where beautiful memories are made, ‘I do’s’ announced, food consumed, drinks imbibed and many, many photographs are taken.  For the purpose of this post, ‘the venue’ really refers to the reception venue, and to put it frankly, the place where you’ll spend most of your money, because the reception is the best part of the wedding!

First of all, if you have big dreams for your wedding, I recommend you give yourself more time.  Don’t plan a destination wedding or anything too elaborate if you have only a few months, unless to plan to elope with only a few friends (clever you).


An example of elaborate

We initially decided we wanted around 50 guests and were happy to get married locally.  We wanted a hall or similar venue we could hire, with plans to supply our own catering and alcohol so we could save some money without paying per head price.  We were lucky to find Currumbin Farm School which has a beautiful wedding garden and a dining hall with a bar area, fridges, tables and chairs we could use for a reasonable price.  The venue hire included an event manager for the day and waiters and bar staff who also helped with setting up.

2014-01-18 12.29.272014-01-18 12.22.432014-01-18 12.29.582014-01-18 12.25.02

Reception in the shed!

 Our venue had lots of advantages – the ceremony and reception were in the same place, there was no limit on how many people we could invite (our guest list blew out to 90 on the day), we saved money on alcohol by buying kegs, wine and spirits and had a catered buffet so there was plenty of food.  However, this meant that it was a lot of work – organising catering, drinks, glassware, the band, decorations, lighting, additional outdoor seating and transport for guests from the venue late at night.  It was in the valley in a rural setting and out of range for a taxi service, with no mobile phone coverage.  Fortunately this didn’t deter anyone from showing up and celebrating with us.


No internet or phone service at this wedding #sorry

However I think it’s important to consider your guests when hiring your venue, and consider what they are willing to tolerate in order to be a part of your wedding.  Will they be happy to stand in the sand at your beach wedding, pitch a tent in the mud at your rustic winter wedding or spend a fortune on transport and accommodation at your bring a plate and BYO alcohol budget wedding?


Leave your heels at home ladies

If you are planning a wedding in a short space of time, your guests will have likely already made an effort to make last minute plans to attend, so be kind to them on the day and consider how they will spending the day with you and accommodate to get them home safely as well.

Around the time of booking your venue make sure to book your accommodation in the days before your wedding and for your wedding night too.

High Five Business people

Stock photo high five!

 Once you have a venue and date locked in, give yourselves a high five!  You now have a time and a place for your wedding day.  Next week – planning the guest list and your bridal party…!

Week 1: Have you set a date?

I remember when we first announced our engagement to our family after a couple of weeks of being unable to keep it secret any longer.  We were met with hugs and congratulations, lots of questions about the proposal, the ring, the reaction etc.

After the excitement bubbled down, the next question everyone seemed to ask was ‘So, have you set a date?’  ‘When’s the big day?’ ‘Are you getting married soon?’


How about a random Thursday?

I was really surprised we got pestered about the wedding date literally days after getting engaged – especially when most of our friends were engaged for a year or more before getting married.  After getting asked a few too many times, we decided the best way to give everyone an answer was to just get on with it and set a date!  We started looking for a venue that weekend.

Setting the date depends a lot on where you want to get married and the availability of your venue.  We also considered work schedules of family and friends and potential time needed to travel from interstate or overseas.

Take the time to talk about what is important to you for your wedding – for us it was good food, good drinks and a live band.  I’d suggest making a list of everything you want then selecting two or three things to really focus your energy and budget on, especially if your time is limited!  For example:

1. Live band

2. Food and drinks

3. Over 50 guests

4. Venue setting

5. Venue timing (Saturday night vs weekday)

6. Photography

7. Flowers

8. Wedding gown, hair and make up

9. Ceremony and celebrant

10. Bridal party size

11. Transport and accommodation

12. Table decorations/ bonbonierres/ photo booth

13. Wedding cake

14. Honeymoon

Think about what you value as a couple and what your friends and family will remember and enjoy.  Consider what you would willingly sacrifice in order to be able to focus on your priorities for the wedding.

open bar

from someecards

Once you have a good idea of what type of wedding you want, talk to your partner about a budget before you spend anything.  Keep in mind that you will likely go over your budget and plan to have an extra 10-20% of your total budget available to use as well.

We spent about $17 000 on our wedding with just over 90 guests.  This total included our wedding rings, my wedding dress, my husband’s suit, bridal party dresses and suits, hair and make up, transport, accommodation, photographers and ceremony and reception expenses.  Our reception (venue hire, catering, glassware, lighting, extra seating, alcohol and band) cost around $10 000 – about 60% of our total budget.  Our original budget was $14 000 so we went over budget by about 20%.  Expenses I didn’t include were our cake (which was home made as a wedding present), champagne and wine (which my parents purchased), hen’s and buck’s nights (which our friends mostly contributed toward), invitations (which we printed at home) and thank you cards (about $150 to purchase and post).

If you can afford to do it – without offending your family – I would recommend paying for your own wedding.  This will give you the flexibility to spend your money how you wish without feeling indebted to your parents.  This is a tricky topic as parents often want to help out and it can be difficult to negotiate money and responsibility whilst making them still feel loved and appreciated.  I suggest asking your family what they would like to help with on the day and who they would like to invite.  Keep them updated with the planning process so they don’t feel left out, but keep any disagreements and details about finances between you and your partner.

With a date in mind, a few priorities and budget set, you should now be ready to find yourselves a venue!