Category Archives: wedding planning 101

wedding day at a reception hall with bride and groom dancing after wedding planning

How long is a wedding reception?

Planning a wedding reception timeline is about piecing together all those wonderful details into the perfect wedding day timeline. It starts with “how long should our wedding reception be?” (a reception should last 4-5 hours) and ends with an amazingly coordinated wedding reception that fits your unique style.

How to plan a wedding reception

Choose the right wedding venue

A spectacular wedding reception starts with an amazing backdrop, though the amazing shouldn’t end there. The right location comes with a wedding venue checklist that should be checked off. You should plan on asking wedding venue questions about:

  • Availability (use these tips to get a wedding venue if you don’t have your heart set on a particular wedding date)
  • Location (city and area)
  • Style (that matches who you are as a couple)
  • Parking/access to parking (for guest convenience)
  • Interior space for the estimated guest list
  • Spaces for wedding day (restrooms, wedding party suites, etc.)
  • Venue staff availability (for pre-planning and managing activities night of)
  • Cost (ask about amount of time included, overtime fees, and extra charges)
  • Insurance (just in case of an emergency on the wedding day)
  • Vendors (whether there are required vendors or if the couple can bring in their favorites)

If you need wedding planning services (either full or part-time), this is the time to ask if the service is offered and the cost. Remember to always ask about the best way to contact the venue. Wedding planning is full of pre-wedding day calls and e-mails; it’s important to choose a wedding venue that responds quickly to your routine—and emergency—calls.

Start with a wedding day timeline

Every wedding day is different, but there is a general wedding day schedule you can use to start planning your big day:

  • Cocktail Hour
  • Dinner
  • Toasts
  • Cake Cutting
  • Wedding Dances (Wedding Party Announcement, First Dance, Mother-Son Dance, Father-Daughter Dance, Etc.)
  • Last Dance
  • Cake Cutting

Select the right vendors

The next step in planning a wedding reception is to start selecting the wedding vendors that can make every part of the reception come to life (and capture every moment of it!) Typically, you should book the following vendors:

  • Décor
  • Equipment Rental (such as tables and chairs if the venue does not provide it)
  • Florist
  • Caterer
  • Photographer (and videographer, if desired)
  • Bakery (for cake, if caterer does not provide)
  • Entertainer (band or DJ)

Selecting the right vendors is process; as tempting as it may be to Google and hire vendors, resist the urge. Choosing and hiring wedding vendors requires research and an in-person contacts. As you look for wedding vendors, always be diligent about watching for these red flags:

  • No business address
  • Delay in responding to calls or e-mails
  • Asking for full payment up front (when the charges are substantial)
  • Reluctance to provide customer testimonials or proof of satisfied customers

Be cautious about hiring wedding vendors that you don’t have experience with, such as friends of friends or family members. As well meaning as your friends may be, “my brother can cut you a deal” is a risk that often results in sub-par service.

Contact every potential vendor with a list of questions:

  • What services do you offer?
  • What is included in the quoted cost?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • What is your business’ back-up plan in case of an emergency?
  • Do you carry insurance?
  • How should we contact you in the future?
  • Are there any deadline we should be aware of?

If you need assistance finding local vendors, don’t hesitate to contact your wedding venue. An experienced wedding staff member can recommend local wedding vendors that have delivered fantastic services to other couples in the past.

Coordinate the details

Once you have hired your vendors, it’s time to coordinate the details that turn your vision into the wedding reception of your dreams. This is the wedding planning step where you start setting a wedding day schedule, checking off steps on your wedding planning checklist, and looking forward to a very special and spectacular big day.

newlyweds cutting white wedding cake at wedding venue with blooms

Quick Guide to Planning a Wedding in 6 Months

Throw that two-year wedding planning checklist out the window. These wedding planning tips are for couples who want to get married in six months (or less!)—and are ready to plan and enjoy their dreaming wedding day (soon)!

Nail down most of the big details with your fiancé.

The best way to start wedding planning—before calling wedding venues or heading to the store—is to have a talk with your new fiancé. This discussion is an opportunity to get on the same page about important wedding planning details. It’s a time to start asking:

  • Where do we want to get married? (Discuss the city, ceremony site, any special venues you have in mind.)
  • When do we want to get married? (If you don’t have a set date, it’s okay to decide on a month.)
  • How big of a wedding do we want? (You don’t have to set a guest list but you should have a general guest count in mind.)
  • What is our budget? Where are the funds coming from? (This is the time to be honest about finances and discuss any friends or family that have expressed an interest in helping.)
  • What is the one thing you’ve always wanted on your wedding day? (The answer to this question may surprise you!)
  • How much time do we have for wedding planning? (Be honest! If you need some help, add “wedding planning services” to your wedding venue checklist.)
  • What is our style? What style or wedding theme reflects us as a couple?

Start contacting wedding venues.

One of the most important details to confirm is the site of your nuptials. After all, you need to know the location before you set a wedding day timeline or drafting invitations. This is the time to start researching wedding venues and prepping your wedding venue questions.

If you have a set wedding date, this is your chance to narrow your choices of wedding venues. Make a list of potential wedding venues that are within your preferred location, can accommodate your approximate guest count, and fit with your style. When you contact the wedding venue, your first wedding venue question, “Are you available on our wedding date?” can tell you if that venue is worth a visit or should be crossed off the list.

For couples without a set date, ask potential wedding venues for open dates during you and your fiance’s preferred month or season. If the venue is incredibly popular, be open to alternate wedding days (instead of a Saturday) that may be open. As an added benefit, alternate wedding dates (such as on a Friday or Sunday) may be less expensive than a Saturday.     

Make wedding planning an organized effort.

Planning a wedding in six months is an expedited process—and one that can go a lot smoother if it is organized (especially with these tips for organizing wedding planning). Start with a paper wedding planning checklist or a good wedding planning app that helps you check items off the list. Never start wedding planning without an excellent wedding budget worksheet (and good budgeting advice) that keeps your expenses within the amount set by you and your fiancé.

Remember, if you want to bring in a team of friends and family to help, great—but be careful! Even the most well-intentioned volunteers can miss deadlines or overstep their bounds.

Vet vendors carefully and quickly.

Remember, while you have to move down your wedding planning checklist quickly, never overlook one of the most important steps: vetting wedding vendors. Just one misstep can lead to an unscrupulous vendor who leaves you high and dry on your wedding day—and adds to what can already be a stressful time.

When looking for vendors, such as your caterer, photographer, entertainer, or videographer, always research each vendor carefully. In addition to checking out their website and social media sites, carefully look through reviews (especially on third-party websites like the Knot, Wedding Wire, or Yelp) to see what other couples have felt about their experience.

Be wary of amateurs recommended by friends (“oh my cousin can totally help!” or “I have a friend who does this on the side”)—especially if you and your friends have never seen them in action. Unfortunately, if an amateur shuts down or takes an extremely large down payment, you may not have many options to recover your lost funds.  

Don’t just be careful about vendors. If you have any items that need to be ordered, always ask about the expected delivery date. Never order any items that may not make it in until the last minute.

Take breaks.

Wedding planning can feel overwhelming and even stressful—especially when you’re on a tight timeline! Even though you feel like you have to get everything done, plan periodic date nights where you can enjoy being together. There are a lot of great ways to de-stress in Milwaukee! (Plus you can turn some of them into a de-stressing double-duty date that you can use for wedding planning!)

7 Tricks for Organizing Your Wedding Planning

beautiful wedding day after couple organizes wedding planningPlanning your special day comes with a whole list of wedding planning tasks, all of which can leave couples asking, “How am I going to get it all done?” The answer is organizing your wedding planning, though getting the process of setting every detail of your large, formal or small, intimate wedding may not feel as obvious (plus it can be slightly overwhelming!)

Fortunately, wedding planning doesn’t have to feel like navigating through a maze—or make you as crazy—if you use these tricks that organize your wedding planning. As an added bonus, organized wedding planning also can make you feel on top of things and perfectly okay about taking an occasional break.

Trick #1: Hire a wedding planner (even a part-time one).

The first wedding planning tips that definitely helps with organization—and sanity—is to hire a wedding planner. Every couple’s needs are different. Some couples want a part-time wedding planner that can assist with a few key details. Others need a full-service wedding planner that can manage every detail.

Both options give you the chance to give input and plan as much—or as little—as you want. When selecting a wedding planner, consider hiring a professional that is intimately familiar with your wedding venue, which gives them an edge planning your big day. (And gives you the chance to actually enjoy the planning!)

Trick #2: Find the right apps.

If you’re a couple that prefers phones and computers, it’s time to search for the best wedding planning apps. Ideally, those apps should have a wedding planning checklist and wedding budget calculator. A good wedding planning checklist app should help you track deadlines and details. The wedding budget calculators help allocate funds and keep you within budget so you still have money throughout the process. (Tip: even if you use a wedding app, still have a paper with the contact information for each vendor just in case your phone or tablet goes down on your big day.)

Trick #3: Use the binder method.

Even in the digital age, traditional wedding planning binders are still a common choice for engaged couples. The paper binder is convenient and easy-to-access for busy couples. Every wedding planning binder should have a wedding planning checklist, budget calculator, wedding venue staff contact information (and any other forms), vendor information, payment envelopes (for passing out cash payments on the wedding day), and anything else needed for your big day.

Trick #4: Make the process visual.

If you want to take color-coded wedding planning to another level, take a large bulletin board or wall calendar and use post-its to mark all the deadlines and meetings. For a smaller organizational tool, enjoy the task of color-coding a small paper planner. All that color-coding makes the process visual and easy to break down into easy-to-tackle pieces.

Trick #5: Create an e-mail address just for wedding planning.

Crowded e-mail addresses can make wedding planning e-mails hard to spot. To avoid trying to sift through a million e-mails trying to find “that one e-mail,” create an e-mail just for wedding planning. A wedding e-mail also makes it possible for you to step away and take a break (if you can ignore the urge to open the inbox!)

Trick #6: Delegate.

If you have friends or family that have offered to help, it’s completely acceptable to take them up on their offer to help with wedding planning. You should proceed with caution; many couples have had issues with a friend or family member who didn’t follow through or tried to plan it their way. Instead, make sure you set deadlines and regular check-ins to ensure that every detail is planned the way you want it.

Trick #7: Take breaks.

De-stressing may not help with organizing your wedding planning , but it definitely helps to keep couples sane! (Use this list of de-stressing ideas for enjoying some downtime.) Schedule regular dates with your fiancé (with no talk about the wedding) and outings. Enjoy yourself—and enjoy planning your big day.

‘Must Have’ Wedding Vendors You Need to Book

beautiful wedding venue for romantic weddingAfter all the wonderful feelings of your engagement wears off, it’s time to face the wedding planning list—and hold the necessary conversations you need to have with your family and fiance. Once you’ve decided on the location, budget, guest count (tips for crafting your guest list here), and date (or season-use these tips to choose the right wedding date), it’s time to go down the list of wedding vendors and start booking the wedding vendors you need for your big day.

Venue

Your wedding venue is a key part of wedding planning, so make sure you book “the one.” Once you’ve decided on your venue style (rustic, historic, elegant?), it’s time to start searching for the venue that checks off all the boxes on your wedding venue checklist. Ask each wedding venue these important questions (“Is my date/season available? How many people can you accommodate? What is the cost? What does it include? Do you allow caterers to come in?” and these other questions) before you tour the site—and never skip the tour. Contact the wedding venue to set up a tour; don’t rely entirely on the venue’s website or social media pictures. Use your venue tour to look for spaces you need on your wedding day, such as a welcoming foyer, mingling areas, handicap access, changing areas, and a beautiful area for your dinner and dance.

Ceremony Site

If you want to hold your ceremony at your wedding venue, ask your venue if they have an area available for ceremonies (and don’t visit venues that can’t accommodate you). If you prefer to hold your ceremony at another site, visit the site and make sure that it logistically makes sense. You don’t want your guests to go from one end of the earth for your ceremony, only to have to drive forever to get to your reception.

Wedding Planner

bride and groom on steps of elegant historic wedding venueOverwhelmed by all those wedding planning details? Hire a wedding planner to help you wade through all the decisions (or to make the decisions for you). If you don’t want to make another call, contact your wedding venue to see if they offer wedding planning services. You can also ask your friends or family for recommendations for a wedding planner.

Caterer

Wedding food is a key part of your guests’ experience, which is why choosing and hiring a caterer is toward the top of your wedding checklist. Your wedding venue may require you to use their caterer (if they have an open vendor policy, they don’t). If they don’t, ask them for recommendations or poll your friends and family for a wedding caterer who makes delicious wedding dishes.

Entertainer

The best bands and DJs are in demand. Decide on what kind of entertainment you want at your wedding, and start contacting your preferred entertainment vendors. Now that you have secured your venue, you can give the information to your entertainer and start putting together a timeline for your special day.

Invitation Printer

Once you’ve got all your major details nailed down (where and when), it’s time to plan out your invitation strategy. Today’s couples have more options that couples of 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. Inviting your wedding guests is about more than just locating a printer and sending out invitations in the mail. Couples today can use many channels, and it’s your job to locate a vendor that can assist you with invitations and the graphics for your wedding website and social media sites.

Videographer/Photographer

wedding foodIt’s time to choose the wedding vendor that can help you capture all the special moments of your wedding day. Decide whether you want a videographer or photographer (or both), and start asking around for recommendations. You can also start by researching local videographers and photographers online, but make sure you choose a high-quality videographer and photographer. Don’t forget to read the fine print in the contract so both of you are satisfied after your wedding day is over.

Décor

Your wedding decorations are a great way customize your venue (though it doesn’t need to be a budget buster if you use these tips). Talk to your wedding venue for recommendations of décor vendors that can make your dream wedding a reality.

Cake Baker, Wedding attire, Flowers…

Once you have all your major wedding vendors booked, it’s time to fill in the blanks. Your caterer may be able to make your cake, or you can ask your event venue, friends, and family for suggestions. Use these tips for organized wedding planning and this wedding planning checklist to help you stay on deadline right up until your special day.