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Weddings: Tips for Planning

By Diann Valentine with Tonya Bolden

Authors of Weddings Valentine Style:
Rich Inspiration for Every Woman's Dream Day

Once you have established your budget and your checklist, it's time to make it real! If funds are in place, you can probably make your dream come true with six months' lead time, possibly less (and possibly more, depending on the complexity of your affair).

Below, tips for the planning. If you are not your own wedding planner, may this advice empower you to keep your wedding planner on track and working in your best interests.


Meditate on the style and overall tone and energy you want for your day. High formality? Offbeat elegance? Casual chic?

Play Dress-up!

As you envision your day, dream on your attire -- the inspiration for so much else.

People It

If you are going to have a bridal party, give your hoped-for attendants plenty of advance notice, laying out your expectations of them, so that they will have ample time and information to think it over before they commit. And don't assume that just because you ask they will -- or should -- say yes.

Next, the guest list. How large a guest list are you comfortable with? Two hundred? Fifty? Whatever your number, list all the couples and then all the singles, adding "+1" because no one wants to attend a wedding alone. (For heaven's sake, if you really want your single friends to come, allow them to bring a guest!) If you choose to include children in your celebration, make special plans for them. Have a separate child-friendly menu and special entertainment, possibly in another room. Make it so that the kids can be kids.

Location, Location, Location!

The Where often determines the When. The ballroom you have in mind may be booked on your first-choice wedding date -- or perhaps it is available but the church you desire is not. It's important to secure your location as soon as possible to increase the likelihood of having your celebration on your first- or second-choice day.

Yes, You Can but . . . May You?

Find out if any element of your wedding requires a permit. And don't forget that marriage license! Most states no longer require a blood test, and a license can usually be obtained in one to three days. Keep in mind that some marriage licenses will expire if not filed within thirty days. So be sure to read all the fine print.

Book Your Vendors

Contract with all the individuals and establishments you need to make everything on your checklist happen, from caterer, florist, and DJ to photographer and make-up artist. Do not dawdle. To secure top talent, you may need to book the person six months or more in advance. Remember, never, ever sacrifice quality for quantity. If necessary, scale back the scope of your wedding to get the best professionals your pocketbook will allow.

Organize It

Purchase a three-ring binder with indexable dividers, a pack (or two) of three-hole paper, and a pack (or two) of sheet protectors. Devote one section to each component of your wedding, from "Bridal Attire," "Ceremony," "Reception," and "Stationery" on and on to "Et Cetera, Et Cetera" and "Budget."

Use the lined paper in each section to log all communications, decisions, and transactions on items.

Use sheet protectors for the following:

  • Clippings and photographs of elements you'd like incorporated in your gown (the neckline of one couture gown; the bell sleeves of another, for example), your wedding cake, the reception space, and other aspects of the celebration.

  • Correspondence, estimates, invoices, and other vendor-related paperwork. Having a paper trail on everything is a must!

Budget Check

Every time you make a decision, reconcile your budget.

Make That Call to Attend!

The standard mail date for invitations is at least six weeks before the wedding. For save-the-date cards, at least six months.

Make Your Gift Wish List

If you are comfortable having a gift registry, plan on giving it a full day, as it is very time-consuming. Fortunately, many retailers now offer scanners so you can easily select items for your registry. However, you must still comb each department to personally select your preferences. Also, most retailers offer a limited online registry. But please do not insert gift registry instructions inside your wedding invitations. I believe that your guests should still have the freedom to buy you whatever they would like for your wedding. I always keep wedding registry information on hand for my clients, and most guests will call and ask. The only exception is when you are asking guests not to bring a gift. And for heaven's sake, don't even think about asking for monetary gifts . . . poor taste!

Reprinted from Weddings Valentine Style: Rich Inspiration for Every Woman's Dream Day by Diann Valentine with Tonya Bolden. Copyright 2006 Diann Valentine. Published by Atria Books; February 2006;$39.95US/$54.95CAN; 074349747-3.


Diann Valentine is the founder and creative force behind D.R. Valentine & Associates, Inc., a full-service event production and interior design firm based in Los Angeles. A native of Oakland, California, she has a marketing degree from California State University.

Tonya Bolden, a magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University with a master's degree from Columbia University, has authored, coauthored, and edited more than twenty books. For more about her work visit www.tonyabolden.com.

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