The nearly two dozen responses to this question revealed that a lot of people marry at a time of year that they've always loved. The Husband-To-Be and I are no different: We love fall. Football. The changing leaves in Northeast Ohio, accompanied by cooling temperatures. Halloween and frightening movies. It's our favorite time of year, and adding our wedding anniversary to it will make it even more so.

If you've got a date in mind, book early, many of my Facebook friends advised. The longer you wait, the more difficulty you may have in booking the church/pavilion/ceremony place you want AND the reception hall for the same day.

Others noted, too, that they were careful not to schedule their wedding too near holidays and birthdays, and one former colleague of mine noted it didn't hurt that her wedding date included her favorite number. There was one person who has what she calls a family date: the date her mother married and her mother's parents married. Pretty neat.

Others planned their date around their "dating anniversary." Remember to think about the weather, said one woman who did. Her groom had a sweaty time marrying her on their early August date. To that point, asking a venue about climate control (heat and air conditioning) is a must.

A sorority sister of mine gave this advice: "Our biggest lesson was flexibility so we could get the location and vendors we wanted. But it's all about your priorities -- if you want a specific date, you may have to sacrifice on some vendors who are already booked. Or, if you want a specific vendor(s), you'll need to be more flexible on the date."

I do the same: When asking a vendor about their services and/or interest in bartering, I almost always start with: Do you have our date available?

Other date-setting tips offered by the Facebook peanut gallery:
  • Booking your date on a Friday or Sunday can save you money.
  • Give thought to whether you passionately want a certain type of flower, and schedule your wedding when said flower is in season. I've learned through my conversations with our prospective florists that it can increase costs significantly if you're absolutely set on an off-season flower.

Speaking of wedding dates, our save-the-date proofs arrived today! My sister designed them for us, and we're printing them and our other wedding materials with a Groupon we bought for Vistaprint. The side with the picture is altered (for privacy's sake); at the bottom of the calendar on the ones we will send, we shared the location of our ceremony and reception and also wrote "formal invitation to follow."
If you like what you see, my sister is open to designing others... Email me, and I'll make sure she gets your request. My advice, even if you're working with another custom designer: Share images of invitations you like and give a general feel of what you like. Also, if you want to write copy like I did (I wrote the "poem" we used), it's probably best to give a designer that to begin with, too.
 
 
Coincidentally, I'm posting this bridesmaid-related question only weeks after I asked my little sister to be my maid of honor and went dress shopping with my girls. Drawing from my own experience being a maid of honor a few years ago and from my experience as a bride so far, here are a few tips of my own:

  • Be grateful that your friends and family are willing to take on the cost and responsibility of being a bridesmaid or maid of honor. Also, be clear about your expectations for them. I've already explained to my maid of honor that I expect her to pay for a stretch Hummer and to hand-capture doves for releasing. (I'm also being a tad sarcastic here.) In seriousness, I do intend to ask my bridesmaids if I may delegate certain tasks to them, such as arranging for breakfast on our big day. 
  • Bring drinks, snacks and even meals when you're asking your bridesmaids to spend a large portion of their day with you. It demonstrates to them that you've thought about the time commitment and appreciate them. Besides, a well-fed woman is a happy woman, at least from my point of view. ;]
  • As I wrote in my bridesmaid blog, I individually asked the girls what they wanted to spend on dresses so that no one felt awkward saying it in front of everyone else. Then, I provided the number to our dress consultant.

Plenty of other people offered insights on this topic, too:
  • Letting the bridesmaids choose different styles and colors is an option that has a lot of fans, that's for sure. "That way, everyone (looks) about the same, but each (gets) to add their own flair to the party," one of my friends wrote. She's been in four weddings. That said, one person said it looked "awful" when a bride left color selection to her maids, only to have two in lilac, a third in dark purple and another in a third shade.
  • Another former bride encouraged me to keep budgets in mind and noted that a number of bridal and menswear stores offer discounts to attendants if the bride or groom has purchased their getup from said stores. (David's Bridal offers a $20 discount to each bridesmaid if the bride has purchased her gown there, for example.)
  • My bridesmaid, Amy, said she's seen brides simply name a color and ask their bridesmaids to choose a dress that was their style. While Amy said these brides always asked to see the dresses before purchase, others noted they've known brides who required no pre-approval. One friend of mine said a bride she knew tied mismatched dresses together with a matching sash. (Oh, and another useful tip: Some bridesmaid dresses are two pieces, which improves the likelihood that one or both pieces can and will be worn again.)
  • A recent maid of honor couldn't believe how expensive a "no-frills" shower cost. She said it cost $400 for 40 guests, even with them cooking the food themselves. Given a do-over, she would have had a restaurant cater the event, she noted.
  • As for shoes, if you want to spare your bridesmaids and groomsmen additional cost, ask them to wear shoes of a common color, such as black, that they may already own. Also, a lot of women said they purchased matching jewelry for their maids, and others said they gifted their bridesmaids a day at the spa to get their hair, makeup and nails done for the wedding day.
  • When I asked on Facebook for less predictable bridesmaid dress options, one person suggested taking one's bridesmaids to a vintage store. Pick an era, she suggested, rather than a color or style.

Your turn, former bridesmaids and groomsmen: What made participating in someone's wedding day a fun event for you, and what made it less enjoyable?
 
 
I figured gathering ideas from my Facebook friends' favorite weddings couldn't hurt. :] (If you're wondering why the broken-glass reference, my car proved irresistible to some thieves last summer. Twice in five days.)

One friend said the best wedding she's ever been to was the best because the bride and groom made the day about things they enjoy: Christmas ale (my family, the Husband-To-Be and I actually tasted Christmas ale-infused cupcakes today!). Sushi appetizer (never tried it!). And their own music playlist. (Steven and I have taken to writing down song titles anytime we hear something we like. VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 90's is to blame, guests of ours, for the abundance of 1990's songs we have on our list, a la... New Radicals' "You Get What You Give" and Barenaked Ladies' "One Week." Get ready to party like it's 1999.)

This Facebook friend also noted that the bride and groom made it a point to spend time with all of their guests.

Amy, one of my bridesmaids, commented that the most memorable weddings she's attended were the ones that stepped outside the box. One took place at a yacht club and culminated with fireworks. Another was scheduled on New Year's Eve. And a third took place on the stage of a theater downtown. "Individuality is the best way to go!" she wrote. (The Husband-To-Be and I stayed true to our musical, or not so musical, endeavors in arranging for wedding karaoke.)


This two-word answer attracted quite a few *likes*, lol: Open bar. (Wedding alcohol is always cheaper to serve if you find a place that will allow you to buy and bring in your own drinks, I'm told. And if you go that route and need a bartender, check out Bill.)

"Mine is pretty simple," another of my bridesmaids, Michelle, wrote in response to the question. "The ones that stick out the most had the best DJs, the ones that really kept the party going and made everyone want to dance."

Other "best weddings" were described like this:

  • NOTHING TOO FORMAL: Guests wore flip flops and summer dresses. People brought food to share, and his sister, mom and I decorated. If you wanted to speak with the bride or groom, you didn't feel like you had to ask or wait in line. We had no assigned seats at the picnic tables. You felt free to move around and talk. Outdoors, simple and special.
  • TRUE TO TWO: Perfectly them, matched their personalities and preferences and made them so happy!

Finally, a recent bride wrote: "Mine! I've been to many weddings, but nothing beats your day."
 
 
Lots of advice for this one, so to keep it a quick read, I present to you bullet points!

  • One of my married Facebook friends said her husband and she invested more in lighting so the venue wouldn't look like your typical hotel reception hall. They had a white backdrop with crystal lights behind the head table and peppered the room with can lighting to add ambiance. Subtle differences, she said, made a big impact.
  • This same friend also suggested that when interviewing a prospective DJ, one should ask: How will you get people dancing?
  • Another recent bride noted that the type of venue you choose and the lighting inherent in that venue will play a large part in the ambiance you create. She noted, for example, that having uplighting in a venue tends to make for a more formal feel, while having natural light stream through the windows can lend itself to a more vintage, summertime feel.
  • One college peer of mine noted she purposely sought out a venue that wouldn't require lights, fabric, etc., so she chose a place with huge windows and great views. Her biggest lesson learned, however, was to consider how long any natural light will last, and how the change in lighting will impact the room. "I'd never seen our space at night, and it got VERY dark and the room wasn't quite as beautiful without the view," she wrote.

    This is particularly relevant for the Husband-To-Be and me: Our venue is built of old, dark wood, and while the room seems bright enough during the day, I am bartering for uplighting through Something New Entertainment (the company who will be our DJ, too). I want the room to have that additional touch, and I trust that a company led by theatrically trained people can pull it off. Also, we will have Mason jars on each table outfitted with battery-operated votives.

    Why battery-operated? A bride once advised me that she learned the hard way that wax candles can burn out before you would prefer for your darkening room. Our reception will last for five hours, and these battery-operated candles, at their advertised lifespan of dozens of hours, should more than cover our desire for a lasting, romantic flicker on the tables. (Yes, fake candles fake-flicker!)

    Here's a picture of one of ours fake-flickering away atop a tree trunk slab from inside one of the twine-wrapped jars I purchased from a local bride:
Here's another, lights-off look:
  • Last but not least, one person urged: The Do-Not-Play list that one can provide to her DJ is just as important as the Must-Plays. I don't know to what extent I agree with this, as I really feel a dance party is most fun when everyone gets to hear a favorite song of theirs, even if I'm not a fan. Pretty non-zilla of me, right?
 
 
While others hunted for toys and electronics on Black Friday, I braved the unpredictably crowded Jo-Ann Fabrics on a hunt for the burlap I'll need to craft table runners, lace and ribbon for wrapping the glass jar collection currently overwhelming our small dining room and twigs, too.

Thanks to a generous 50% off coupon, I snagged 12 yards of burlap for $23, plus several yards of beautiful lace. I left without fake twigs because I decided I would go gather real twigs in the park across the street.


Gluing lace to jars and cutting strips of burlap seems well within my crafty abilities. But I asked the above question because I wanted to know what people regretted tackling on their own. There was no shortage of advice here:

*No one disagreed with Jenn, my culinary school-trained friend: Leave the food to the professionals.
*Many, though, recommended making your own centerpieces (we are!) and your own favors. A number of my Facebook friends said they simply wrapped candies or made donations to charity for their guests. Another said she created mini storybooks showcasing her hubby and her as part of their centerpieces. A third mentioned his wife and he put together bowls of water with colored stones and floating candles.
*People also recommended that we leave alterations to the professionals. This is a must-do, given that the sewing machine my mom gifted me three or four years ago remains unopened as of yet.
*The response regarding invitations was mixed. Some were happy that they did their own invitations and saved money doing so. Another woman, however, was quite adamant that her decision to DIY the invites was not the right one: "I did my own invitations ... huge mistake ... wayyy more difficult than I thought they would be ... leave those to the professionals!!!!"

*Finally, a piece of advice with which I do agree: "I would have gotten my makeup done as mine didn’t last well throughout the evening," one former bride said. "I’d actually leave anything related to your appearance to the pros – dresses, hair, makeup – you will be able to see the impact."
 
 
This post didn't drum up a whole lot of advice (maybe because those who get married in a church have less choice in the matter and subsequently less advice overall). Interestingly, a number of people mentioned they wished they would have had one of their friends be registered (if that's the right term) to marry them.

Others loved their priest/pastor/officiant because they led them through the planning process, from who would give the bride away to how s/he would pronounce the couple man and wife.


I feel adamantly that an officiant should pronounce names correctly. I was at a wedding once where the officiant said the names absolutely incorrectly, and I was disturbed. Of all things to get right, aren't the names most important?

Finally, another of my friends noted: "Finding that trust is very important -- I’ve seen priests go a little rogue and end up talking about bizarre things (like camping ... at a wedding)."

Lucky for us, we've found someone we DO trust. Watch the blog this week for more about her!

 
 
If it did nothing else, my 30 Days of Wedding Questions cemented this for us: We would not cut corners when it came to wedding photography. Too many married people said poor photography was their greatest regret of the day. And, my friend, Nick, put it this way:

"Picking a photographer is one of the most important decisions you'll make. The day itself is a blur and the quality of your images helps you remember and be able to share your day with others for many years to come."

Doing your research is paramount, most told me, and bridal shows can be the place to get started because you can see portfolios and talk with photographers. There are two shows in Northeast Ohio this January, by the way: the Today's Bride show at the I-X Center in Cleveland and the Boutique Bridal Bazaar in downtown Cleveland.

Most of the respondents to this day's question said they chose their photographers based on portfolio. I chose Cavanaugh Photography for the same reason. There were images of theirs that made me CRY. That's true talent: capturing the emotions of a day in such a way that a stranger to the bride and groom can feel them.


Others said they chose to work with friends (recall that I'm a reporter, and many of us reporters know plenty of photojournalists). One also said she chose a younger photographer to save on price.

Here's a snapshot (woo, I'm so clever!) of the other advice offered:

*Give your photographer a list of must-have photos, that way you know you'll have the shots you know -- going in -- that you want.
*Ask who will actually be shooting your wedding. Some teams have more than one photographer, so if it's a particular photographer with whom you're impressed, you'll want to make sure it'll be him or her shooting your big day.
*One former colleague of mine discouraged me from having the officiant stand in front so guests can see the couple's faces. The reason: Front and center in most of her pictures was the pastor's butt. Another friend of mine, though, noted that they did the same but used steps to put them at a higher elevation, so it was less noticeable.
*My recommendation: Make sure to ask about rights to the photos. I wanted them so that if, in 10 years, we want to print a whole bunch of our wedding images for an anniversary party or for display above our mantel, we would have the rights to do so.


Some specific photographer recommendations for my betrothed readers from me and my peanut gallery: Cavanaugh Photography; Graham River Productions; Making the Moment; Marty's Studio; Paul Floyd; oh, and did I mention, Cavanaugh Photography?!


Here's a really helpful infographic; it presents 10 questions you should ask prospective photographers, plus a list of shots to request be taken. One image I know I want is a shot taken from behind Steven and me, aimed into the crowd of our guests, while we sing a karaoke song together. We love to karaoke, and we love the people we're inviting. The image would be magical, I think.

What's a must-have photo for you?

 
 
Coincidentally, today I had my very first consultation with a florist in Westlake, Ohio. She's sending me a quote, and said she may have an interest in my bartering for a discount (eee!). She also didn't shy away from answering my favorite question for wedding vendors: What's one mistake brides make when it comes to choosing [insert service they provide]?

Champagne wishes on a beer budget, she replied. Too often, brides are set in their flower choices before they know what they cost, she added.

The one response to the post above that really spoke to me, probably because like most women I have people I'd like to involve more intimately: One bride collected flowers from close friends as she walked down the aisle and when she reached the end, her mother tied them together with a piece of fabric from her own wedding dress. What an incredible, memorable idea.

Brooch bouquets seem all the rave, and my Facebook thread was no exception. One friend said she wants to ask her wedding shower guests to bring brooches (from their own collections or antique stores and the like) to help her put one together. I can't say I want a brooch bouquet, though I do think this one (found on bridaltreasures.wordpress.com) is gorgeous:
Other flower advice:
*Don't pay a ton for flowers, one former editor of mine advised. Costco is a budget-friendly place to turn, she said. Another former editor (they're helpful even after you're done writing for them!) strongly encouraged me to shop around.
*There's always silk flowers, others noted. One person said she chose silk flowers to keep her allergies at bay, but found that it meant that she could have any flower she wanted, even those that wilted easily because wilting wasn't a concern. Another woman cautioned that good fake flowers can cost just as much as real ones.
*Find a way to use every flower arrangement twice. One thing the florist I spoke with today mentioned that I hadn't even thought of is using the bride's and bridesmaids' bouquets as the centerpiece flowers at the head table. Uh, brilliant much?!
*Give the florist artistic license, a sorority sister of mine advised. She was picky and too cost-conscious, she conceded, and that led to less interesting floral touches than she'd desired. Give the florist some color guidelines and a budget and let them do their job, she urged.
*And finally, flowers that appear to be quite popular, if my thread is any indication: roses, Gerber daisies and calla lilies.
 
 
The advice that rolled in:

*Be sure to sit down in the dresses you're considering. You'll want to be comfortable while seated, too.
*While it's beautiful, heavy beading at the top of a dress can be a pain, literally. One woman said her sister's underarms were RAW because of her gown's beading. Yikes!
*Make sure the dress is easy to pick up (for restroom break purposes). I do believe I failed myself on this one, but I also believe it'll be worth it. :]
*One woman wrote, "Do not let them talk you into that undergarment garbage!" She noted that a good dress fits a body without the need for those things.
*A former boss of mine advised me (and other brides-to-be, since this has never been just about me) to not limit oneself to bridal boutiques. A friend of hers, she said, found her dress at Nordstrom. This former boss also mentioned that she'd just sold her dress, something I think I might consider if Steven and I do not commit to a tradition of wearing our wedding wardrobes once every year or five years.
*A wedding planner I know, Angela Wish of A Wedding Wish, suggested not using the alterations department in the bridal shop itself. Way overpriced, she advised.
*Finally, another girl mentioned that she's heard a number of brides complain about how heavy their gowns were.

What would you add?
 
 
Traditions, schmaditions: A number of people said they'd rejected certain traditions during their big day. Many skipped the bridal party dance -- you know, where groomsmen and bridesmaids who may not know each other are asked to dance together. I recently wrote a blog about selecting songs for special dances for Something New Entertainment, and Anna-Jeannine, my DJ, said she's seen others welcome their bridal parties to dance instead with their respective dates. Much better idea, from my perspective.

One girl said she wished she had skipped the garter part because it was awkward and she didn't want to do it, but was pressured into it. Another recent bride mentioned they, too, skipped the garter and bouquet tosses because they felt they were "tacky" and "outdated."

Another noted her groom and she skipped the unity candle and other touches that are more about families uniting than the couple uniting. "This was about our union, not our family members," she wrote. They also skipped the cake-smashing to be kind to one another.

Given how much money/time may be spent on my makeup and is being spent on the dress, I have ZERO interest in cake-smashing.

"How much interest do you have in cake-smashing?" I just asked Steven, who's sitting beside me on the couch.

"Not much," he replied. "I know it's a tradition and everything, but it's like, why? Then I have to take a time-out from everything to get cleaned up."

Another sign we are meant to be, lol.

Finally, here are some i
deas you might steal (if you can) from others:

Something old:
+Grandma's opera gloves
+Great-grandmother's engagement ring

Something new:
+The bride's dress

Something borrowed:
+The bride's circlet (headpiece, and yes, I did look that up)
+Family necklace and family hankie

Something blue:
+The bride's garter
+Bride's toenails
+And, for what it's worth, I'm considering wearing blue shoes.

What did you do for your big day that others might copy?