Five Wedding Cake Alternatives

Donut TowerNext to the ring and the vows, the wedding cake is one of the more ingrained wedding traditions in American culture. We’ve all seen the multi-tier white cake with the delicate sugar flowers, elegant and understated and incredibly expensive. An amazing cake can definitely be a conversation piece at your wedding, but there are plenty of options out there for an innovative couple. Here are five suggestions for wedding cake alternatives, in order from more traditional to most out-there:

Cupcakes

Instead of one huge layer cake, why not go for several different flavors of cupcake? You can experiment with small batches of different fillings and frosting rather than just one or two on a big cake. What’s more, they’re pre-portioned: no waiting for the caterer to cut the cake before your guests can serve themselves. Plus, there’s no need for plates or forks; cupcakes are portable and finger-food.

A Cake for Each Table

Wedding receptions can be a little awkward as social circles collide and friends and family meet each other for the first time. One way to encourage guests to mingle is to do away with the single big cake and put smaller cakes of different flavors on each table. Make an announcement at the beginning of the meal that guests are encouraged to seek out other flavors and trade with other tables and watch the fun begin! It’s much easier to make friends when you have a reason to interact with each other, and trading a slice of chocolate with raspberry ganache for a slice of lavender-vanilla is an excellent reason.

Pies Instead of Cakes

This possible alternative is really a question of personal taste. For a rustic wedding, a down-home wedding, or a wedding for a couple who just aren’t “cake people,” pie can be a wonderful way to go. Instead of a three-tiered cake, you can go with several different flavors of pie on a cake stand. Pie is the ultimate comfort food; for a more casual reception, you can’t go wrong with a slice of Dutch apple.

Mini Desserts

Mini desserts, or dessert shots, are a great way to let your guests sample a variety of desserts without overly taxing their waistbands which makes them a great option as a wedding cake alternative. Instead of a single piece of cake, let them choose a miniature tiramisu, a tiny crème brûlée, and a little flourless chocolate torte. No one will mind having dessert buffet style if you have four or five unique options for the guests to mix and match.

Donut Tower

If any kind of dessert is a little too conventional for you, and especially if you’re having a morning wedding and brunch-themed reception, a donut tower may be the perfect cake alternative. A multi-tiered display of stacked donuts, with several different brightly-colored frosting finishes, will definitely get your guests talking. Pair it with a coffee fountain for breakfast-themed nirvana.

If those suggestions are still a bit too conventional, you can make a playful reception centerpiece out of just about any foodstuff arranged into that classic three-tiered shape that most wedding cakes are displayed. We’ve seen wedding “cakes” made of stacked Oreos, Twinkies, even cheeseburgers (with ketchup for dipping). Whether it’s sweet or savory, conventional or extremely quirky; make sure your cake fits your personality as a couple, and your guests will love it.

Five Things You Should Know About a Beach Wedding

Beach WeddingFor a certain type of wedding couple, nothing beats the allure of a beach wedding. To be outside in warm air, standing in front of the ocean that touches all, feet in the sand–what could be more romantic? What better witnesses to your day of bliss than the sun and the sea?

My wife and I recently got married in Pismo Beach, California. Though we had a wonderful ceremony and amazing reception, there were a few things we hadn’t thought about beforehand. Below are a few things that we have learned form our research.

It Won’t Be a Private Ceremony

When we pictured our ceremony it was just the wedding party, officiant and guests standing on a deserted stretch of beach. It was to be an intimate moment between the loving couple and our friends and family. But when we started scouting venues, we discovered most hotels don’t have a private beach, and even if they did, it’d still be open to the hotel’s other guests.

We ended up having quite a few curious onlookers on the day; thankfully, they were polite and kept out of the area where we had set up chairs and the wedding arch. But our pictures definitely include an obese tourist in a bathing suit or two.

You’ll Need Amplification

Our officiant was my father, who has a lifetime of training as a minister. Our music was provided by a band that regularly performs acoustically, and my wife and I are not quiet people. We figured that with a little bit of vocal projection, we wouldn’t need a P.A. system.

We were wrong. At the rehearsal, it became clear that our voices wouldn’t carry past the first row of guests, even for our small (30+ guests) setup. The processional music, a delicate acoustic guitar melody, was also swallowed by the ambient noise just a few feet from where the guitarist was standing. We ended up having to rent a couple of speakers, a microphone, and a guitar pick-up at the last minute, just to make sure our guests could actually hear what was going on.

It Won’t Necessarily Be Sunny–

We thought the middle of June on a northern California beach would be the perfect time for a bright, sunny ceremony. It was only after we had reserved the hotel that we started hearing the phrase “June Gloom.” For all its reputation as a land of golden sunshine, the ocean does weird things to the weather, and frequently a sunny day a little bit inland is pretty gloomy at the beach. Our wedding was darker and chillier than we imagined it would be. It was still an amazing day, but the sun didn’t break free of the clouds until the middle of the reception.

–But You Can Get Burned Anyway

There’s something about human nature that makes us think if we can’t see the sun, we can’t get sunburned. As many of our unfortunate guests learned, the sun is out even if it’s behind clouds, and those skin-reddening UV rays have no trouble breaking through the cloud cover. My wife and I applied sunscreen before the ceremony, but many of our guests ended up looking like boiled lobsters by the time the brief service was over. If we could do it over again, we would have had a basket of travel-size bottles of sunscreen at the top of the aisle and insisted everyone apply some.

Shoes and Sand Do Not Mix

My wife and I had planned on doing the ceremony barefoot, with our toes dug into the sand. Most of our guests, however, had on high heels and loafers. After watching stiletto heels sink into the sand during the rehearsal, we commandeered a luggage cart from the hotel for the wedding day, and had all of our guests drop their shoes off before they went down to the beach. We definitely should have specified casual wear for the wedding and suggested flip-flops or bare feet in our invitations.

Despite the unforeseen obstacles, our beach wedding was a magical, amazing time. I can’t imagine it happening any other way. With a little foresight and planning, your beach wedding can be just as wonderful as ours was.

Picking the Perfect Wedding Officiant

Wedding OfficiantEven more so than beautiful flowers and an amazing cake, the choice of wedding officiant can make or break your ceremony. The officiant isn’t just the person with the legal power to sign your marriage certificate; he or she is the host of your wedding ceremony, the glue that binds the whole show together. Here are a few options to consider for your wedding officiant.

Clergy Member

The old standby of having a pastor, priest, or rabbi perform the ceremony is still an easy way to make sure things go smoothly. Most clergy members are trained in performing wedding ceremonies, and will have many options for scripts to set just the tone you’re looking for. If you or your spouse has a favorite clergy member from childhood, or a church you regularly attend, you might not need to search further. Also, if you’re getting married in a particular church, the venue might require that you use their officiant.

If you do go with a clergy member with whom you don’t have a history, be prepared to pay an officiant’s fee. The fee can range from $50 to $400 depending on experience and denomination, so make sure you find out upfront how much a particular officiant charges.

Justice of the Peace/retired Judge

If religious faith isn’t a big part of your life as a couple, a Justice of the Peace or a retired judge might be the way to go. While a civil ceremony like this is usually a stripped-down, private affair in the courthouse, some justices are available for a ceremony at another locale, like a local park. Don’t expect romantic poetry readings or jokes, though; this option is strictly no-frills, just-making-it-legal. You can expect to pay between $50 and $100 for the services of a current or former civil servant.

Friend/Family Member

The most popular trend for secular weddings is to simply have a friend or family member perform the ceremony. It’s a good way to ensure that your officiant knows you and knows exactly what you want out of the day. It’s also a special honor to convey on that charismatic, outgoing friend who isn’t in the bridal party, but still should be a part of the day.

The important thing about having a friend or family member perform the ceremony is to make sure that your officiant has the legal standing to pronounce you man and wife. Most states require that an officiant be a justice of the peace or an ordained minister, but most states accept an online ordination like those offered by the Universal Life Church. The ULC’s website also contains a list of marriage laws by state, so your officiant can make sure of his or her legal status before the day.

Whether it’s a judge, a priest, or your best friend from high school, the choice of officiant can change the tone and timbre of a wedding ceremony. Make sure to explore all the options available to pick the one that’s just right for your special day.

Wedding Seasons: Pros and Cons

4 SeasonsSo you (or your significant other) has popped the question, you’ve done the ring and the tears and the gushing to your friends. This begs the most basic question: when’s the big day? Will it be a traditional June wedding, or a January winter wonderland? Will you be wearing a hat and scarf or sandals? Here are the pros and cons of having a wedding in each season of the calendar year. Note: this list assumes you live in a locale that has all four seasons. If you’re one of the fortunate few who live in a state of perpetual spring and summer, you don’t need my help on this one.

Winter

Snow on the ground, Christmas in the air, the crackle of a fire–there is definitely romance and beauty to be found in a winter wedding. Your bridal party could dress in icy blues and silvers to complement the season, and the bridesmaids can accessorize with muffs and scarves. Since the groom and groomsmen are dressed for cold weather regardless of the season, what with an undershirt, dress shirt, vest, and jacket, they’ll certainly be more comfortable. You could even arrange a romantic sleigh ride as part of the ceremony, and cocoa and cookies make for a great snack in the latter hours of the reception.

The downside of the cold weather is, of course, that it’s cold outside. Those beautiful snow-covered pictures will take some braving the elements to procure, and a runny nose might wreck the most carefully-applied makeup. There’s also the chance that a winter storm might put the kibosh on guests’ travel plans.

  • Pros: Romantic setting, fun holiday themes, less crowded venues.
  • Cons: Cold, dangerous driving.

Spring

What better metaphor for love could there be than the season in which all things grow and bloom? You’ll have no shortage of fresh flowers for a spring wedding, and the vibrant nature all around is a great inspiration for a brightly-colored bridal party. You’ll avoid sweltering in the dog days of summer and freezing in the wintertime. Provided your locale has a temperate spring, it’s a great choice for the day.

With all those growing things, however, comes pollen, and with pollen comes allergies. Expect some degree of sniffling and sneezing during the ceremony. There’s also the risk of a late-season chill that might make your spring fantasia a little wintrier than you had planned.

  • Pros: Bright colors, everything in bloom, moderate temperatures.
  • Cons: Unpredictable weather, seasonal allergies.

Summer

There’s a reason that June is the traditional month for weddings. The days are getting longer; the temperature is warm but not July-hot; it’s the ideal season to go on a tropical honeymoon. Something about the warming temperatures tends to warm the blood, too; the beginning of summer is a naturally romantic time.

This also explains why it’s hard to book a wedding venue in those prime summer months. Expect to plan your ceremony over a year in advance to get a popular venue in June; otherwise, you might be stuck with the hotter, stickier days in July and August, which are murder for overdressed groomsmen and bridesmaids alike.

  • Pros: Warm, temperate, romantic.
  • Cons: Competing for venue space, sweaty wedding photos.

Autumn

The slight chill in the air, apple cider and pumpkin spice, the crunch of falling leaves: autumn is a delight to the senses. Sure, plants are turning brown and the world is preparing for its winter nap, but the vivid oranges and reds of autumn can make for striking centerpieces and a well-dressed bridal party. Autumn is an unconventional choice for a wedding, so it might be easier to book that hard-to-get-into wedding venue for a late September or October date.

Autumn might be a trickier travel time for your guests, though, sandwiched between summer vacation and holiday travel. And autumn’s rustic aesthetic is definitely unconventional; it’s definitely not for every couple.

  • Pros: beautiful foliage, comfortable temperatures, getting away with putting acorns in boutonnieres.
  • Cons: Unconventional, may be tricky for traveling guests, rustic.

A wedding ceremony can be so many different things: a frozen fantasy, a spring fling, a sultry summer ceremony, or an autumnal affair. When planning your wedding, keep in mind the color palette you’d like to work with, how you want your bridal party to be dressed, and how you want those all-important pictures to look. If your season matches your wishes, you’ll end up with a magical day, no matter what time of year it is.

Tips for Choosing a Wedding Photographer

Wedding PhotographerWhen you’re planning every detail of your special day, don’t skimp on research for the photographer who is going to capture all those special moments. Your Aunt Cathy might have a fancy camera, but does she have the training and the accessories needed to take truly unforgettable photographs? Here are a few tips to make sure you pick the right photographer to chronicle your unforgettable day.

Choose Your Style

Before you start contacting photographers, you should have a clear idea of what kind of pictures you want. Do you want a documentary-style capturing of candid moments or posed portraits?  Do you want a more artistic approach, playing with film grain, saturation, and focus? Or some combination of all of the above? Do you want absolutely every moment chronicled, or would you prefer the photographer hang back and not intrude? Make sure you and your spouse have a clear idea of what you want your wedding album to look like. Most photographers can work in a variety of styles, but make sure your photographer is proficient in your favorite style.

Do Your Research

Be ready to invest a good-sized chunk of time evaluating the photographers in your area. The proliferation of cheap, quality cameras has led to a boom in the photographer business, but you want to make sure you get a professional who knows how to work that camera. Websites like Yelp have customer reviews to help you weed out the obvious bad apples and pick a dozen or so to follow up further.  Once you have your top ten, visit their websites and browse their digital portfolios with a critical eye. Do you share the photographer’s vision? Look at the use of color, focus, and staging to see if they match your expectations.

Look Through Wedding Albums

For each of your finalist photographers, make sure you look at least one full wedding album. You want to see how they capture the day from start to finish, not just a few carefully-chosen shots in a portfolio.

Evaluate Personality and Communication

The last piece of the puzzle is how your personality meshes with the photographer’s. If you don’t get along, odds are the pictures won’t be what you want them to be. If you’re comfortable with the photographer as a person, it’ll make it much easier to communicate. And communication is key. Your photographer should have a clear idea of your expectations, what shots you absolutely must have, and what degree of intrusiveness you’re willing to put up with to get a good photo. That communication works both ways, though: you’ll want to feel comfortable having the photographer make suggestions based on their experience.

Explore Pricing, Packages, and Rights.

Once you’ve found the right photographer, keep up that communication as you agree on a price and exactly what you’re buying. Does the photographer provide physical prints? If so, what service do they use? Do you want the photographer to curate the best photos of the day, or give you access to every picture taken?

One thing couples might forget to discuss is the issue of the rights to the pictures themselves. Generally, the photographer reserves the right to reproduce and distribute the pictures they take, and may use them in a portfolio or for promotional purposes without asking permission every time. You also may be free to distribute the digital photos, or you may be asked to buy the right to reproduce them on your website, Facebook feed, additional photo albums, etc. It can be a bit confusing; that’s why good communication and compatible personalities are so important!

Your wedding photographer is a professional with the equipment and experience necessary to capture memories that last a lifetime. But for him or her to do their work, you need to have a clear idea what it is you want and pick a photographer whose style and personality meshes with yours. With clear expectations and excellent communication, the right photographer will make your wedding album a priceless heirloom.

A Basic Bride-To-Be Checklist

Wedding ChecklistWith so many things to keep straight while planning a wedding, the most common method that brides use is a checklist. Having all of the tasks that you need to accomplish on a nice organized sheet can be very helpful and you can simply cross each item off as it is done. The length of this checklist will vary depending on a variety of factors including the size of the wedding, where the wedding is being held, and whether or not you have hired a wedding planner to handle some of the details. Here are a few of the most basic things that should be included on a bride’s checklist when they are starting to plan their wedding.

Guest List

The very first thing you’ll want to do as a bride is determine the size of your guest list. Most of your wedding will revolve around how many guests you’re inviting including the amount of food you need to supply and the size of the venue for the event. If you are in a big hurry and need to start looking at venues right away, your best bet is to figure out what the absolute largest number of guests you could imagine inviting and work from there. Having less guests come to your wedding is easier to manage than having too many.

Arrange the Venue

The next thing on your checklist should be arranging your venues. This not only includes choosing a venue where you’ll be holding the wedding ceremony, but also choosing a venue for the reception. Since you already know how many guests you’ll be inviting, you can start looking in your area for venues that are large enough to accommodate your needs. If money is an issue, you can always consider getting a single venue for both the ceremony and reception; but most brides prefer to have separate venues for each part of the wedding.

Food and Drink

Next, you’ll need to have the food and drink that you’ll be serving your guests on the checklist. Most brides choose to serve dinner to all of their wedding guests followed by a piece of wedding cake a little later in the evening. Additionally, it is customary to have a bar that serves drinks to your guests that are old enough to indulge. Often times a bride will choose to offer free drinks for all of their guests, but it’s not uncommon to have what’s known as a “cash bar” where the wedding guests pay for their drinks themselves.

Transportation

Lastly, you’ll need to make sure that you have transportation arranged between the church or ceremony site and the reception venue. Most commonly, the bride will plan for transportation for the wedding party and give clear instructions to the other guests of how to drive themselves to the wedding reception. However, it is also popular to have transportation arranged for everyone depending on the size of your guest list, but this is only if your budget allows for that type of expense.

After you’ve crossed all of these important things off of your checklist, you can focus on the elements of the wedding that are more fun and focus on you as a bride. This includes picking out your wedding dress, flowers, and other items that will make your wedding distinctly yours. However, smart brides get the main items crossed off their checklist first so they don’t need to deal with distractions while planning the details of their special day.

The Basics of Wedding Dress Shopping

Wedding Dress ShoppingShopping for your wedding dress is not only one of the most important parts of putting together your wedding, but it can also be the most overwhelming and stressful. There are so many different types of wedding dresses available from hundreds of different designers which can make it seem impossible to get through all of the options. Making things worse is that you want to try on every single dress because your wedding is so special and important, but there simply isn’t enough time to make that feasible. So what is a gal supposed to do when faced with this lack of time and important decision?

Fortunately, there are some basic tips that will help you find the perfect dress when you head out shopping. It all starts with a good foundation of education and familiarity so you don’t go into the bridal shop blind. Since most women will only be getting married one time in their whole life, knowing the different terminology and rends specific to wedding dresses can be difficult. Here is a quick rundown of things so that you can be armed with knowledge when you head out on your quest for the perfect wedding dress.

Dress Styles

One of the hardest things to wrap your head around is the different styles of wedding dresses that are available. Wedding dress style names are unique to the niche, so you probably won’t recognize some of the buzz words. Here are the most important ones that you’ll need to know.

  • Silhouette: The shape or outline of the entire wedding dress.
  • Neckline: The shape of the dress at or below the neckline.
  • Bodice: Where the waistline ends and the skirt begins.
  • Sleeve Length: The section of fabric that covers the arms and shoulders.
  • Train Length: The section of skirt that extends behind the dress.
  • Length: Where the hemline of the own falls.
  • Accents: Embellishments to enhance the overall look of the gown.

Your Body Shape

The next thing that you’ll need to understand is your own body’s shape. Each woman has their own curves and features, so knowing what category your body falls into can really help you choose the appropriate dress style to show it off well.

  • Inverted Triangle: Your torso and upper body tend to be wider than your hips with minimal waist definition. Many women with this body shape have slim legs and an athletic-looking physique with broader shoulders than average (a swimmer’s build).
  • Rectangle: Sometimes referred to as a “column”, this body shape features a torso and upper body that is the same width as your hips with nearly zero waist definition. This creates a linear physique with parallel lines from your shoulders to your waist and hips.
  • Apple: Your torso and upper body are equal to your hips with little or no waist definition, and you carry most of your weight around your waist and bust. Your waist and hip measurements are usually similar.
  • Pear: Your hips are a little wider than your torso and upper body which really defines your mid-section. You have full-featured legs which will usually seem a bit short in comparison to the rest of your body. Your bust may be dramatically smaller than your hips.
  • Hourglass: Your torso and your hips are about the same width with a lot of definition in the waist. Your physique is considered proportionate, meaning your bust and hips are equal in size with a smaller waistline.

By understanding your body shape in conjunction with the various dress styles that are available, you can go into your favorite bridal shop prepared to choose from wedding dresses that will look the bst on you and show off your features. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want to take you time and choose your wedding dress carefully so you don’t have any regrets when your big day finally arrives.

The Journey to Your Wedding Day

Wedding CalendarFrom the moment you say “I do”, time speeds up drastically and the wedding planning process begins. Even if you aren’t having for wedding for a year or two, a newly engaged person will start to see wedding details in every object they see. If you’re like most brides, the journey to your wedding day will be very strange and new, plus you’ll want to make everything perfect for your special moment. There are a lot of things that need to get done; so much so that it can seem overwhelming, but just going through the steps one after another can prove to be the right process. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the process of getting to your wedding day starting from the moment you’re engaged.

Getting Started

The first thing that you’ll need to do is make an announcement to your friends and family. Often times you can place a wedding announcement in the local paper for free, but you also need to call everyone that’s important and tell them personally. Once that’s done, you’ll need to sit down with your significant other to discuss the initial details of the wedding.

This discussion should be quite in-depth and include topics like what you want out of your wedding day experience, where you want to get married, how much money you’ll be able to spend, and when you want to set the date. These initial stages are all very important because the rest of the wedding planning process will take shape around the choices that you make together.

Guest List

Once you have some of the initial details roughed out, you’ll need to compile your wedding guest list. This can be a tough moment in the planning process because every person you add to the guest list is another chunk of expenses. The best way to go about this is to start with your friends and family, then work out from there. Don’t invite a bunch of your work friends or people you haven’t seen in several years; just try to keep it to the important people in your life right now so the list doesn’t get out of control.

Choose Your Venues

Once you know when you want to get married, the budget that you have to work with, and an estimate on the number of guests that you’ll be inviting, you can start to look at wedding venues. This is probably the biggest decision you’ll make regarding your wedding, so make sure you take your time and look at all of the options that are available. You’ll need a venue for the ceremony and a venue for the reception, but if your budget is tight you can consider a single venue that will work for both.

Hiring Vendors

Hiring the right wedding vendors can be tricky, especially if you are on either a time or budget crunch. The best way to ensure you are hiring the right person is to extensively research their reputation online and find real couples that can give you a testimonial about their work. The term wedding vendors is a blanket term for every professional you’ll hire for the wedding such as your wedding photographer, the musicians, florist, caterer, and more. This will be a very long and tedious process to choose the perfect candidates, but all of your hard work will pay off huge when your wedding ends up perfect.

Dress Shopping

Shopping for your wedding dress can be both fun and stressful all rolled into one. There are few events during the wedding planning process that are more important, and that can lead to second-guessing and stress. The best tactic to achieve success is to choose a practical dress with as little emotion involved in the choice as possible and then never look back from your decision. This can be easier said than done, but you will be very happy on your wedding day if you just go with your first instinctual choice of wedding dress.

Invitations

Your wedding invitations can be one of those things that end up eating up way too much of your time. The best choice is to choose something simple, elegant, and to the point, and remember that pouring too many resources into a piece of paper that will eventually be discarded is just a waste of time. You want to send out your wedding invitations 6 to 8 weeks before your wedding date.

Being Well-Rested

One thing that many brides forget to do in the days leading up to their wedding is to take care of themselves health wise. To look your best on your wedding day and alleviate any potential stress, make sure you get good rest for at least a few days leading up to your big day. You should also try to do relaxing activities with your bridesmaids such as a spa day or a girls’ evening out. Though it may sound obvious to some that you want to be rested, hydrated, and in a good mood entering your wedding day, you’d probably be surprised at how often this isn’t the case.

Saving on Your Wedding Catering

Wedding CateringOne of the most expensive parts of your wedding will be paying the caterer, and this is particularly true if you’re having a large wedding. Other than the cost of your reception venue, your next largest expense will be feeding all of your guests. For each wedding guest you invite, you’ll need to have appetizers, a main course, and usually an evening snack; not to mention a slice of wedding cake for each person. All of those expenses can add up really quickly, especially if you let your guests run wild with the amount that they eat. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to control the cost of your wedding catering and keep room in your budget for other items.

Cocktail Hour

Typically, most couples will offer some type of small appetizer during what is known as “cocktail hour”. This is the time between when guests arrive at the reception hall and when the main dinner is served. Usually the guests will mingle, sip on cocktails, and congratulate the happy couple. Additionally, there are appetizers going around curbing the appetite of hungry guests.

To save money during cocktail hour, it’s a good idea to have the appetizers passed around from person to person on a tray or to have a server carrying them around to each group of people. If you just leave them on a table for your guests to have free reign, you’ll notice that a small handful of your guests will devour the whole tray in record time. By avoiding this, you can save a ton of money on your wedding catering. Additionally, not having an open bar or only serving beer for free can help you save money during cocktail hour, but that really isn’t considered part of your catering expenses.

Dinner

One of the easiest ways to save money on dinner service at your wedding is to choose an inexpensive dish that is very filling for your guests. By far the best choice for this is pasta because it is usually the least expensive option, everyone will love it, and it will fill the guests up with a single serving. It’s a good idea to offer at least two pasta choices to your guests such as spaghetti and fettuccini so that everyone can have a choice that they enjoy.

Also, though it may seem cheaper to do a buffet style dinner to avoid the cost of servers, having a plated dinner is usually much less expensive in the long run. It’s cheaper to pay a server $25 to deliver plates to a table than it is to have Uncle Joe eat 12 plates of food from the buffet line, so take that into consideration when you are crunching the numbers for your catering budget.

Side Dishes

Side dishes can quickly add up at a wedding, so try to avoid them at all cost. For instance, if you’re having a pasta dish, try to limit your sides to only salad and bread. Every additional food item you offer to your wedding guests will add to your catering expenses, so just keep them to a minimum.

Evening Snack

The cheapest way to thwart the expense of an evening snack for your guests is to time your dinner out so you don’t need on at all. If you space out your dinner and your wedding cake service, you can easily get away without having an evening snack at all. Also, you can put some candy or cookies at each table as a wedding favor which will also alleviate the need for any type of late night munchies.

Wedding Cake

Wedding cakes are so labor-intensive and decorative these days that they are usually one of the more expensive parts of your catering costs. To keep your budget in check, you should opt to buy a very small decorative wedding cake for the cake cutting ceremony and for your wedding party to eat. For the rest of the guests, you can slice up some sheet cakes that are just as delicious but much less expensive because they aren’t decorated like the actual wedding cake. This is particularly budget-friendly if you’re having a large wedding with a lot of guests.

Finding Your Perfect Wedding Ceremony Location

Wedding Ceremony VenueFinally walking down the aisle with the person you love may seem like a dream come true, but as you start planning the details of your wedding you’ll quickly realize that there’s a lot more work involved than fun and games. One of the first things you’ll need to choose, and it’s one of the most important things, is the location of your wedding ceremony. Your wedding ceremony is going to be the heart and soul of your entire wedding day, so it all starts with the proper location that will set the perfect tone for how the rest of your wedding will unfold.

There are a lot of different places that couples choose to have their wedding ceremony. Some couples choose a traditional venue such as a church, while others simple head down to the Justice of the Peace to sign their paperwork with very little fuss. If you’re starting from square one in your ceremony venue search, you have a long path ahead of you; but even it you know where you want to get married because of a religious affiliation or you just have your heart set on a particular venue, there are some important details that you need to figure out before you can start planning the other details of your wedding.

Availability

The very first thing you need to find out is if the venue is available for your preferred wedding date. If it’s not available, you’ll need to find another venue for your ceremony or consider switching dates.

Size

It’s always good to know the approximate size of your guest list before shopping for wedding venues because each one will have a maximum capacity. If you choose a ceremony location that isn’t big enough, you’ll need to cancel or make tough choice on who you invite.

Officiant

Does your wedding officiant require couple’s counseling ahead of time or special classes? If so, are you willing to accommodate those requests? Are you comfortable with this person joining you in marriage? Can you bring your own officiant if you choose to do so?

Music

You’ll want to find out if the venue you have chosen provides ceremony music or if you need to make your own arrangements. Some churches require that you use their organist while other venues require you supply your own musicians.

Photography

Though it is rare, there are some venues that either don’t allow photographers or require that you choose from a pre-approved list. Make sure you’re comfortable with the wedding photographer options that a ceremony venue offers.

Ceremony Services

Does the venue that you’re renting offer any services such as pew or chair decorations and aisle runners? Do you need to clean up the venue afterwards or is that included in the fee? You’ll need to know what services are covered so you can make other arrangements if needed.

Total Cost

You will need to find out how much the ceremony venue will cost to rent, but you also need to factor in the other small expenses that come along with the booking. Does the officiant get paid? Is there a permitting fee for the venue? What about parking and clean up fees? Knowing these answers in advance can make budgeting your wedding a whole lot easier.

Timeframes

Knowing when you can start accessing your ceremony location can be very important, especially if you need to decorate it yourself. Knowing things like when the florist can get in to setup flowers and when is appropriate for your rehearsals to take place are important things to consider.

Weather

Considering every aspect of your wedding day will be important, and taking into account the weather is very important. If you’re having an outdoor ceremony, make sure you have a safe location in case there’s a storm. If you’re having a summer wedding, you’ll need air conditioning and heat if it’s in the winter.

Securing the Location

If everything goes well and you’re happy with a location for your ceremony, you’ll need to put down a deposit to secure it for your date. It’s always good to know what their cancellation policy is in case the date needs to switch for whatever reason. If their cancelation policy is somewhat lax, you can even continue looking at other venues knowing you have a good one already lined up. After you’ve locked down your ceremony location, the next step is finding the perfect wedding reception location.