Category Archives: planning a wedding

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.

Tips from the Pros: 15 Tips (and Tricks!) that’ll Kick Start Your Wedding Planning

newlyweds cutting white wedding cake at wedding venue with bloomsWhen you’re engaged, it can seem like everyone’s a wedding planning expert. From the day you announce your engagement, it can seem like everyone has some advice about your wedding venue, dinner, flowers…

We’ve guided a lot of couples through wedding planning over the years, and we know the process can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put some of our top tips (and tricks!) into a list that you can use as you plan your special day.

Wedding Venue

Wedding Budget

Wedding Vendors

Should you use a wedding planner?

elegant historic wedding venueWedding planning. For some couples, just the phrase can stir up feelings of dread while others look forward to the process. No matter which side of the coin you’re on, many a couple has found the answer to navigating through the process: a wedding planner. Obviously, it’s up to you to decide whether a wedding planner is right for you, but there’s no denying that a wedding planner brings three clear advantages to the wedding planning process.

Expertise & Connections

No matter how much you know about wedding planning, there is no doubt that there is a level of expertise that a wedding planning brings to the table. If you want a wedding planner that is intimately familiar with local vendors and your venue, consider hiring a wedding planner at your venue. From tying all the details together to knowing just the right vendor that fits the budget, a wedding planner has the expertise and connections that make your vision a reality—or make your big day better than you ever imagined.


If you’re a couple strapped for time, a wedding planner is the answer to your quandary. Planning your special day takes time (a lot of time). A wedding planner can check items off of your wedding checklist with as little—or as much input—as you can give. If just the thought of relinquishing control of the day you’ve dreamed of for years gives you hives, remember that wedding planners can manage as many details as you request in the way you request. Hiring a wedding planner doesn’t mean you have to hand over every detail of your big day; to the contrary, it gives you a partner in the process who can do the legwork and give input.

Problem Solving

Wedding planners are a constant throughout the wedding process and on your wedding day. Working with a wedding planner gives you one person to contact from the beginning of your wedding planning until you’ve collapsed at the end of your wedding day (and even after). That means that if you encounter any issues at any time—even on your wedding day—you have a wedding planner familiar with every detail and vendor and can troubleshoot (and, if you book a wedding planner at your venue, knows your location intimately).

6 BIG Wedding Planning Regrets to Avoid

bride and groom dancing at summer wedding reception in beautiful wedding venueMistake is such an ugly word, especially when you’re planning the most important day of your life.  But almost every bride and groom has that one “thing” they wish they’d done differently during their wedding planning (note: we’re talking wedding planning, not wedding day).  Here are some of the most common wedding planning mistakes that can negatively impact both the planning and the big day, and how to avoid them.

Not asking the right questions

The mistake: Jumping in with both feet into wedding planning can seem like a good idea at the time, but can lead to some serious backtracking and regrets.

How to avoid the regret: As tempting as it is to jump into wedding planning, asking yourself important questions before you start wedding planning helps you avoid having to backtrack and rethink details.  Have the “talk” with your fiance and family; a short conversation gives your wedding planning direction and brings out all the important requests that you need to keep in mind as you plan.  Once you’ve asked your fiance the right questions, you can start asking the important vendors (like your wedding venue) the important questions that help you find the right site for your big day.

Not prioritizing your budget

The mistake: Many a bride and groom has blown too much of their budget in one area, leaving them with no money at the end of the process.

How to avoid the regret: Even if you hate budgeting, a plan helps you allocate dollars where they are needed so you don’t run out of money when you need it.  Talk to your fiance and family early in the process to prioritize what is important (i.e. venue but not favors, etc.)  As you plan, make sure you track your wedding costs to ensure you are staying on track.  Think of your wedding budgeting as a long distance race: you want to make sure that you fuel all the way to the finish line.

Waiting too long to get started

The mistake:  A couple who procrastinates misses out on the quality wedding venues and vendors.

How to avoid the regret:  Everyone wants to enjoy their engagement, but it pays to be proactive.  Wedding vendors work on a first-come, first-pay basis and you want to get the best.  As soon as you set a date (or time of year), start checking off boxes on all the important parts of your wedding: contact wedding venues, find a wedding caterer, and start asking friends and family for recommendations for entertainment and photographers.  If you’re on a super time-crunch (six months or less), use these tips to plan your perfect day very, very quickly.

Taking on too many DIY projects

The mistake: Everyone wants to save money while wedding planning, but taking on too many do-it-yourself projects can suck up all your time and money.

How to avoid the regret: Be realistic about the amount of time you have to devote to do-it-yourself projects.  Put the most important projects (to you and your budget) at the top of the list.  Don’t be afraid to ask other family members and close friends to help (only if they ask!).  Be prepared to go to plan B if you don’t have time to complete all your DIY projects.

Taking on too many wedding planning tasks

The mistake: Wedding planning can be an overwhelming process for anyone.

How to avoid the regret: The wedding planning checklist can feel endless.  If you’re overwhelmed, consider hiring a wedding planner or choosing a wedding venue with an event planner to coordinate and finalize all the details that come with your wedding.  If you’re on your own, don’t be afraid to ask your venue coordinators or vendors for recommendations for other vendors; your wedding venue staff know what florists that do a beautiful job, and caterers can recommend local wedding décor vendors (if they aren’t willing to help, it’s time to contact a wedding venue with more helpful pros).

Not making de-stressing part of your wedding planning

The mistake:  There’s so much to do, so many tasks to check off, that the bride and groom doesn’t remember a single moment—much less enjoy wedding planning or their special day.

How to avoid the regret: It’s easy to get so involved in making sure that every detail is so “just right” that you feel like it flies by and you don’t get the chance to take it all in. If you want to enjoy the wedding planning process and the day, plan some down time before and on the day of your wedding to relax.  Use these tips so you can make sure you actually get to enjoy your wedding day, such as taking care of payments in advance and assembling an emergency kit for any ‘just in case’ scenarios.

10 Questions to Ask Before You Start Wedding Planning

wedding reception with MR & MRS letters after wedding planning has startedAs soon as the elation wears off from the proposal, it’s time for the fun wedding planning to begin.  Dress shopping, designing invitations, ordering cakes…you’re going to need a good wedding planning calendar.  You’ll also need to have a conversation with your partner, and anyone else significant to your wedding.  This simple step is an IMPORTANT initial step before you jump into wedding planning feet first.  So what should you talk about?  We’ve compiled ten questions that can get you both on the same page and set your wedding planning up for success.

Where do we want to get married? Do you have a wedding venue in that location in mind?

Nail down where you want to get married.  Do you want to hold the wedding in your home town?  Or have you always dreamed of a destination wedding?  Would you like to hold your big day in the city you live in?  Or at the college where you met?  Or would you like a peaceful setting like a family member’s lake house?

Next, discuss the criteria for your venue (or venues) in your chosen location.  What do you want in a ceremony site?  Do you want a religious ceremony?  Or would you rather hold your ceremony and wedding reception at the same venue?  Do you need a venue near hotels for your out-of-town guests? Use your answers (and these tips for choosing the right wedding venue) to create a short list of venues in your chosen location.

When do we want to get married? What dates works for us?

This is a BIG and important question.  For some couples, it’s easy to come up with special day: their first date, parent’s anniversary, etc. though you can if you want to get married on an anniversary, holiday, birthday, or other special day. For others, it’s a process trying to choose the right date; after all, there are 365 days a year to choose from (tips to help you choose the best wedding month here).

If you are on a time crunch, consider holding your wedding on a non-traditional day, such as a Thursday, Friday or Sunday, when wedding halls, caterers, photographers and other wedding vendors tend to be available. Also try to choose wedding venues where many of the details are set, such as a venue where the wait staff and coat check is included.

For couples who have longer to plan their wedding, start with a date, month and year, or series of dates. If you know what time of year or month you want to be married in, contact your wedding venue to see if they have any dates available during that time. 

How many people do we want to share our big day with?

Big or small?  Before you make any major wedding planning decisions, before you book your venue, before you contact caterers, you need to decide—and be on the same page—about the size of your guest list.  Make sure you actually write out the names (they don’t have to be exact names on the invites) with the amount of guests per household so you can make sure your guess is an accurate count.  If you know your parents want to invite friends, ask them for a list now before you start contacting venues and vendors.  You don’t want to book a venue that’s too big or too small for your guest list, or choose a caterer that blows your budget because of an inaccurate guest count.

What is our budget?

This is one of the most important questions in your initial conversation.  Where is the money going to come from to pay for your wedding?  How much do you have to spend?  Ask any family members that have expressed interest in contributing to your budget for an idea of how much, or what vendor, they are willing to pay.  If the answer is something like, “we are willing to pay for the wedding venue” ask for the amount they expect to cover so you don’t book a venue that is far more than they expect (or more than you expect to chip in for over and above their help).

How much wedding planning can we take on?

It’s an honest question that demands an honest answer; wedding planning takes a lot of time and follow through.  If you don’t think you can take on the overwhelming task list (or don’t want to), consider hiring a wedding planner to plan your big day or choosing a wedding venue with event planners on staff that can make your vision a reality.  

What is one thing (or things) you’ve always wanted on your wedding day?

The answers to the question run the gamut: some people dream and plan their big day for years, while others are fine with whatever final product comes their way.  If you ask this question, you may find that your fiance, who you thought fit into the latter category, has a particular request (or requests).  Now is the time to talk through any special requests now before the wedding planning begins.

What do we want our wedding day to look like?  What kind of wedding reflects us?

This is your special day together as a couple, and now is the time to decide what style you want to exude in your wedding details.  Would you like an elegant wedding? A more vintage occasion? A rustic and romantic evening?  Set the tone at the beginning of your wedding planning so you don’t choose details that don’t fit with your style and make your wedding look haphazard—and not well-planned.