Wedding Planning For Dummies®, 3rd Edition

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Table of Contents

About This Book
Conventions Used in This Book
Foolish Assumptions
How This Book Is Organized
Part I: First Things First
Part II: Be Our Guest
Part III: Ceremony Survival Guide
Part IV: A Rousing Reception
Part V: Gifts, Garb, Pics, and Trips
Part VI: The Part of Tens
Icons Used in This Book
Where to Go from Here
Part I: First Things First
Chapter 1: First Steps to a Wedding to Remember
The “Ize” Have It
Familiarize: Spreading the news
Fantasize: Envisioning your dream wedding
Prioritize: Deciding what’s really important
Visualize: Making a reality checklist
Organize: Breaking down the details without breaking down
Synchronize: Dispelling the timetable myth
Deputize: Choosing your team
Working with a Wedding Planner
Considering how much help you need
Interviewing prospective wedding professionals
Chapter 2: Avoiding Those Wedding- Bill Blues
Love Is a Money-Spender Thing
“I Will” Make a Wedding Budget: Tracking Your Expenses
Controlling Costs
Comprehending Contracts
Forking over a little at a time
Covering your bash
Take a Tip: Calculating Gratuities
Catering staff
Other vendors
Other people you may want to tip
Finding Bargains Online
Chapter 3: Making It All Legal
License to Thrive
Same-Sex Legalities
Drawing Up a Pre-nup
Playing the Name Game
Deciding whether to change your name
Updating your records
Alerting the Media
Announcing the engagement
News of the wed
Unplanning a Wedding
Settling up
Who keeps the ring?
Part II: Be Our Guest
Chapter 4: Venue Victories: Finding the Ideal Location
Looking for Love in All the Right Places
Finding great spaces
Getting more info by phone
Do You Need More than One Space?
The turning of the room
Ceremony here, reception there
Taking a Space Walk
Asking the right questions
Understanding square footage without spacing out
When There’s No Place Like Home
Tents and pretense
The flushing bride
Planning a Destination Wedding
Finding a faraway venue
Taking care of foreign affairs and red tape
Chapter 5: By Invitation Only
Preliminary Planning
Formalities First
Getting the wording just right
Who’s throwing this shindig?
Following up with announcements
When things don’t go as planned
How Else Can We Put This?
Striking a less-formal tone
RSVP remedies
The nonprinted invitation
Rehearsal Dinner Invitations
Extracurricular Events
Typefaces and Other Technicalities
Printing methods
Ink color
Proof it all night
Addressing Traditions
Fit to be titled
Printing Your Own Invitations
It’s a Mail Thing
Or Maybe It’s an E-Mail Thing
Chapter 6: The Weekend Wedding
A Typical Timeline
Asking Guests to Save the Weekend
Telling Guests What They Need to Know
Winning Welcomes for Weekend Weddings
Chapter 7: Creating a Foolproof Wedding- Day Schedule
Putting Everyone on the Same Page with a Wedding-Day Schedule
Addressing Transportation Plans
Transporting the wedding party
Arranging transportation for guests
Directing traffic
Creating the Master Schedule
Taking a Closer Look at Receiving- Line Logistics
Chapter 8: Other Creative Celebrations
Dream Themes
Strategizing a Military Wedding
Dressing to code
Passing under the arch of sabers
Surprising Your Spouse-to-Be
Private Ceremony, Public Party
Giving Marriage Another Try
Say It Again: Renewing Your Vows
Partying Before and After the Wedding
Opening rounds: Engagement parties
Getting showered
Reinventing the bachelor party
Planning the bachelorette bash
Doing lunch with the girls
Revving up: The rehearsal dinner
Wrapping up the day after
Part III: Ceremony Survival Guide
Chapter 9: Attending to Your Attendants
Choosing Your Entourage
Understanding the job requirements
Knowing what your friends expect of you
Next Stop: Wardrobe
Bridesmaids’ dresses: The honest truth
Outfitting the guys
Making Mom look good
Dapper dads
Showing Your Appreciation
Chapter 10: Sensational Ceremonies
Selecting Your Officiant
Evaluating prospective officiants
Choosing an officiant for a same-sex ceremony
Getting Married in a House of Worship
Deciding on the Order of Events
Reviewing Religious Rites and Rules
Eastern Orthodox
Roman Catholic
Unitarian Universalist Society
All Together, Vow!
Creating the script
Reading something meaningful
Places, Everyone — Time to Rehearse
Doing a quick run-through
Going over the rules and expectations
Getting with the Program
Chapter 11: Selecting the Perfect Florist and Arrangements
Finding a Fab Floral Artiste
Expressing Yourself: Decorating the Ceremony Site
Gathering floral ideas and images
Visualizing your floral design
Decorating Your Reception Space with Redolent Arrangements
Making centerpieces measure up
Styling your centerpieces
Cutting costs: Making alternative reception arrangements
Putting the Bloom on You: Up Close and Personal Flowers
Bride and attendants
Mothers, stepmothers, fathers’ girlfriends, and others
Grooms, ushers, stepfathers, mothers’ boyfriends, and others
Little touches for little people
Keeping the Bloom On
Chapter 12: Music to Get Married By
They’re Playing Our Song
Music in five parts
A soloist, a choir, or something in between
Composing musical menus a la carte
Choosing Ceremony Musicians
Part IV: A Rousing Reception
Chapter 13: Get Up and Dance
Setting the Tone
Cocktail reception
As guests enter the main reception space
First dance
Second tune
Dances with parents
Special requests
Background music
Cake cutting
Late night
Booking the Band
Finding a band
Auditioning the band
Getting in tune
Spinning with a DJ
Chapter 14: What’s on the Menu?
Working with the Perfect Caterer
Finding a caterer who shares your tastes
Asking the right questions
Building rapport with the chef
A matter of tasting
The Beauty of the Feast
Postnuptial nibbles
Variety shows: Buffet stations
Playing with your food
Serving with style
Making Menus Memorable
A seated wedding dinner
A family-style wedding supper
When Dinner Is Not Served
The cocktail reception
Tea for two (hundred)
Other ways to munch: Breakfast, brunch, or lunch
Chapter 15: Let’s Drink to That
Tending Bar
Speaking in bar code
On-premise pricing
Off-premise options
Chilling out
Liquid logistics
Avoiding Traffic Jams
Bar Aesthetics: Set Up and Take Notice
Specialty Bars: Blithe Spirits
Selecting Wine, Beer, and Champagne
Wining when dining
Don’t worry, beer hoppy
Bring on the bubbly
A Few Words about Toasts
Chapter 16: A Piece of Cake
Baking Away
Finding a baker
Tiers of joy
Confection selection
Size matters
Slicing and pricing
Two Hearts, Two Cakes
Cake on Display: No Drooling, Please
Cutting the Cake
Chapter 17: Setting the Stage
What to Contemplate before You Decorate
Choosing a Wedding Designer
What’s in a Room?
When you enter
Up, down, and all around: Ceilings, floors, and walls
The cocktail area
Dining areas
Transitional spaces
An In-Tents Experience
Doing Your Guests a Favor
Part V: Gifts, Garb, Pics, and Trips
Chapter 18: Greed Expectations and Registry Realities
Retail Details
Beyond Department Stores
Hinting and Hoping
Keeping Track of Your Gifts
Giving Thanks
Problem Presents
Unhappy returns: The wedding is canceled
Consolidation techniques
Trading in versus pawning off
Chapter 19: And the Bride Wore . . .
Sizing Up Your Style
Selecting the right silhouette
Figuring out the neckline
Arm negotiations
Looking behind you
To what lengths will you go?
Happy trains to you
She comes in colors
Fabrics for fantasy
Amazing laces
The icing on the dress: Finishers
Getting the Goods
Quality control
Getting the right fit
Underneath It All
A little bra-vado
Perfecting your proportions
No Mean Feet
Heads Up
Veiled intentions
Hats, headpieces, crowns, and doodads
From Hair to Eternity
Hair today . . .
. . . Gone tomorrow
Making Your Face Wedding-Proof
Finishing Touches
Covering up
Hand-some gloves
Selecting your jewelry
Bagging it
Getting into the Gown
Caring for Your Gown after the Party
Preserving for posterity
Recouping your investment
Chapter 20: Rings That Rock
Evaluating a Diamond
Carat weight
The fifth C — cost
If Diamonds Aren’t Your Best Friend
Judging gemstones
Scintillating synthetics
Setting Pretty
Metal Matters
Don’t Leave Out the Groom
Finding the Right Ring
Buying new
Analyzing antique pieces
Chapter 21: For Posterity: Photos and Videos
Getting Focused
Take Your Pic
Finding a photographer you click with
Choosing a photography style
Calling the shots
Figuring out fees and packages
Selecting which shots to enlarge
Compiling the wedding album
Scheduling picture time
Videorecording Your Day
Casting for a filmmaker
Thinking like a movie director
Getting miked
Safekeeping the Past for the Future
Chapter 22: Handling the Honeymoon
Determining Your Honeymoon Style
Researching Destinations Online
Working with a Travel Agent
Making Your Money Travel Farther
Hitting the Road (Or Sky): Tips before You Travel
Going Abroad
Part VI: The Part of Tens
Chapter 23: Ten Tips for Staying on Budget
Do Away with Magical (Money) Thinking
Don’t Play Cat and Mouse with Vendors
Track Your Spending
Do Sweat the Small Stuff
Work Together: It Takes Two Baby
Don’t be Trendy
Be Flexible
Be Careful about Overtime
Stop Watching Wedding TV!
Control Yourself (No Last-Minute Spending Frenzies)
Chapter 24: Ten Tacky Temptations I Beg You to Resist
Indulging in Pre-Wedding Debauches
Broadcasting Your Registry
Bankrupting Friends and Relatives
Playing Musical Chairs
Bad-Mouthing In-Laws-to-Be
Procrastinating with Your Invitations
Making Yours the Longest Day
Knocking Others’ Weddings
Having an “Adult” Garter Grab
Forgetting That Those You’ve Invited Are Guests
Cheat Sheet

Wedding Planning For Dummies®, 3rd Edition



About the Author

Marcy Blum has been creating wonderful, memorable, magical weddings for 27 years. Her sane and humorous approach to entertaining in general and weddings in particular has made her a nationally sought-out wedding and party planner. Marcy is credited with being among the first to offer couples elegant, fun, and stylish alternatives to the cookie-cutter wedding. In addition to her work as an “eventiste,” Marcy is also a sought-after speaker and consultant for businesses in the wedding and special-event field. She has been a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, and The Nate Berkus Show and was a contributing editor for Modern Bride magazine. She has also been a guest on several wedding shows in Japan but has no idea what was said to her.


For Destin, who keeps me remembering what really matters.

Author’s Acknowledgments

Thanks a million to my agent, Sophia Seidner at IMG Literary, for picking up the ball and keeping it in play with such grace and tenacity. Gratitude to my shockingly smart agent Alexandra Machinist, at Janklow Nesbit, who will definitely harass me into finishing my novel soon.

Heartfelt thanks to Stacey Lutz, who was so helpful in using her ample brains to keep this on track while I was swamped with weddings. And to Lea Brumage, who attends to so much of our business so I can get some writing done.

Thanks also to my project editor, Alissa Schwipps, for staying several steps ahead of me and being such a sweetheart. Thanks for the expertise of my friend Terry DeRoy Gruber in helping me sort out how photography has changed since the last edition.

This is the first edition of Wedding Planning For Dummies that was written without my friend and co-author, Laura Fisher Kaiser, whose other writing projects are keeping her quite busy these days. It’s fun to note that her own nuptials (to “the most wonderful man in the world,” according to fact checkers) were planned chapter by chapter — and quite successfully — as we collaborated on the first edition. I’m sure that all her logistical wedding know-how is coming in handy for her blog, Secret Science Geek, not to mention her forthcoming book, a history of leprosy. (You read that right; even I can’t make this stuff up.)

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Vertical Websites

Senior Project Editor: Alissa Schwipps

Acquisitions Editor: Tracy Boggier

Copy Editor: Todd Lothery

(Previous Edition: Kristin DeMint)

Assistant Editor: David Lutton

Editorial Program Coordinator: Joe Niesen

Technical Editor: Kim King-Smith

Editorial Manager: Christine Meloy Beck

Editorial Assistant: Alexa Koschier

Art Coordinator: Alicia B. South

Cover Photos: © Peter Brutsch, © Raya Lopez, © Ettore Marzocchi, © Janice Richard © Trista Weibell, © boiling,  © GrenouilleFilms, © Anna Furman,  © Anthony Rosenberg /

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (www.the5th

Composition Services

Senior Project Coordinator: Kristie Rees

Layout and Graphics: Carrie A. Cesavice, Corrie Niehaus

Proofreaders: Melissa Cossell, BIM Indexing & Proofreading Services

Indexer: Valerie Haynes Perry

Illustrator: Elizabeth Kurtzman

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Kathleen Nebenhaus, Vice President and Executive Publisher

David Palmer, Associate Publisher

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


A wedding, whether it’s a quiet civil ceremony in a judge’s chamber or a pull-out-all-the-stops extravaganza, requires equal parts creativity, planning, diplomacy, and nerve. Often, what should be a joyously happy time in one’s life is looked back on as one long stress test. Keep calm, carry on, and start reading.

The mission of Wedding Planning For Dummies, 3rd Edition, is to demystify and simplify myriad details that go into the Big Day, inspire you with wonderfully innovative ideas to personalize your wedding celebration, instill confidence in you to bring off a memorable ceremony and reception (no matter what your budget or wedding style), educate you on all the new tools you can use to help you, and hopefully enable you to have some fun while doing it.

About This Book

Wedding Planning For Dummies, 3rd Edition, isn’t just for brides. Because a wedding (not to mention a marriage) is a joint venture, I recommend that the couple participate equally in its creation. I’ve also noted from the feedback on previous editions that Wedding Planning For Dummies has been an invaluable reference tool for mothers and fathers of brides and grooms, as well as friends helping out with a wedding, and that truly delights me. Whatever your role is, if you’ve done zero planning, I’ll get you up and running. No matter what stage you’re in, however, I won’t make you go back and start over because you’ve done something wrong. Generally speaking, no single right way exists. Whatever makes the bride and groom happy is the right way for their particular wedding.

I’ve organized this book to make planning your wedding as stress-free and logical as possible. Having been a professional wedding and party planner for more than 27 years, I know just what it takes to produce a happy, hassle-free day. I’ve built a career of escorting couples through the exhilarating, step-by-step process of creating a joyous wedding that expresses their personal style and commitment.

Packed with wit and wedding know-how, Wedding Planning For Dummies, 3rd Edition, helps you figure out your own wedding style and guides you through each stage of the planning process. What size wedding is right for you and your budget? Where is the best place to have the ceremony and reception? How can you make sure everybody will show up at the church on time? How can you save money without looking cheap or completely sacrificing style? Whatever the wedding-related issue, the answer is here in an easy-to-use reference.

Each chapter is divided into sections, and each section contains useful information, such as

check.png Advice on setting up a budget and sticking to it

check.png Tips for evaluating prospective venues for the ceremony and reception, whether for a local or destination wedding

check.png Thoughtful ways to make guests feel welcome

check.png Ideas for creating memorable menus, music playlists, and party favors

check.png Info on how to keep your wedding day running smoothly by creating a no-surprises schedule

Although some wedding guides love to dictate timelines about when to do what, I find that contrived deadlines produce more anxiety than efficiency. A wedding can be two years or two months in the making. Rather than lay out a strict protocol or chronology, I’ve organized this book according to what makes sense for real brides and grooms, for many of whom the demands of work, school, or family leave little time for wedding planning. I say: Let your priorities determine the timing for everything from setting the date to ducking out for the honeymoon.

The great part about this book is that you decide where to start and what to read. It’s a reference you can jump into and out of at will. Just head to the table of contents or index to find the information you want.

Conventions Used in This Book

To help you navigate through this book, I’ve set up a few conventions:

check.png I use italic text for emphasis and to highlight new words or terms that I define.

check.png I use boldfaced text to indicate the keywords of bulleted lists and the action part of specific steps.

check.png I use monofont for website addresses.

Foolish Assumptions

Every book is written with a particular reader in mind, and this one is no different. As I wrote Wedding Planning For Dummies, 3rd Edition, I made a few assumptions about you:

check.png You’re a newly engaged couple (or someone helping a newly engaged couple), and you’ve just begun really thinking about the kind of ceremony and reception you want to have.

check.png You haven’t had much experience with planning weddings or even large parties, and yet you know you don’t want a cookie-cutter wedding.

check.png You want basic information — tips from the pros — but you don’t want to be bombarded with minutiae.

check.png No matter what size your budget, you’re starting to feel panicky, wondering just how much the wedding of your dreams is going to cost — and how you’re going to afford it.

I can’t tell you what kind of wedding to have — that decision is completely up to you. But I can tell you how to make the most of your resources and budget. I realize that you want to know not only the traditional ways of celebrating your big day but also, in some cases, innovative ways to tweak the official rites and rituals. I can help you figure all that out. And, dare I say, make the process fun.

How This Book Is Organized

You have to plan so many aspects of a wedding simultaneously that picking a starting point is a difficult task — one of the reasons I’m not a fan of dogmatic timelines. I set up this book in a way that I think makes sense: big-picture visualization and budget matters upfront — plus the all-important question of where to hold the wedding — followed by party-planning strategies (invitations, weekend/destination weddings, scheduling, pre- and postwedding events, and flowers), ceremony details, reception matters, and such miscellaneous topics as registries, attire, rings, photos, and the honeymoon.

Part I: First Things First

These initial chapters hit some of the biggest concerns upfront. Chapter 1 explains what happens from the moment someone proposes, providing a logical, step-by-step process to making your dream wedding fit your reality. In Chapter 2, I focus on the financial picture. I help you keep track of expenses with a wedding-budget spreadsheet and provide valuable tips on tipping, negotiating contracts, and surfing for deals online. Chapter 3 gets all those legal and financial technicalities out of the way, from blood tests to prenuptial agreements.

Part II: Be Our Guest

This part covers many aspects of planning the event and providing hospitality, starting with finding the perfect venue for your celebration, which I help you do in Chapter 4. Then, in Chapter 5, you start thinking about invitations, from formal to creative, do-it-yourself styles. Chapter 6 tells you how to plan the increasingly popular weekend wedding. Chapter 7 alone is worth double the price of this book, as it reveals how to design a comprehensive schedule for a snag-free wedding day. In Chapter 8, I cover other kinds of celebrations, from theme weddings to encore weddings, as well as showers, rehearsal dinners, and morning-after brunches.

Part III: Ceremony Survival Guide

The pivotal moment of all weddings is the ceremony, and in this part I detail how to make yours as special as possible.

In Chapter 9, I help you select the wedding party and explain what you can and can’t expect of them. In Chapter 10, I get to the emotional center of a wedding — the ceremony — with clear explanations of various customs and rites, helping you determine the service sequence, suitable vows, and meaningful readings. I also give examples of wedding programs — a lovely guide and memento for the day. In Chapter 11, the subject is roses and whatever else your nose and eyes desire. I explain how to work with a florist to get the decorative effect you want for both the ceremony and the reception. Ceremony music is so important that I devote all of Chapter 12 to it, from choosing the songs you like to finding the right musicians to play them.

Part IV: A Rousing Reception

This part focuses on the reception, helping you decide what to serve, what to wash it down with, how to decorate, whom to hire, and what to listen to throughout.

Chapter 13 is devoted to the element that sets the tone perhaps more than anything else: the music. I include a primer on putting together a winning playlist of favorite songs for the band or DJ. Then, on to my favorite subject — food! — in Chapter 14, where I help you determine the style and scope of the nuptial feast, among other tasty topics. In Chapter 15, I order up a round of advice on what to serve in the beverage department. The wedding cake requires a chapter unto itself, hence Chapter 16. Chapter 17 focuses on making everything look stunning — décor, lighting, and tables.

Part V: Gifts, Garb, Pics, and Trips

In this part, I examine several key aspects of getting married — before, during, and after the wedding.

Chapter 18 covers gifts and registries. Then, on to Chapter 19 for choosing a bridal ensemble. You won’t be fully dressed without a ring, so Chapter 20 brings you into the loop on wedding bands, diamonds, and engagement rings. In Chapter 21, I help you hire the right photo and video professionals. Finally, that hard-earned honeymoon requires planning, too, and in Chapter 22 I arrange the particulars of a blissful getaway.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

A favorite among For Dummies fans, this part rounds up critical information for quick reference.

In Chapter 23, I offer you some tricks to staying on budget (whatever your budget is). Chapter 24 lists some tacky trends that I implore you to avoid.

Icons Used in This Book

Icons are the nifty little pictures in the margin of this book. They each grab your attention for a different reason:

doittogether.eps Contrary to what some fools think, even in a “traditional” heterosexual partnership, the bride and groom should be responsible for pulling the wedding together. Of course, a natural delineation of duties may occur, but some decisions require input from both parties. These entwined wedding rings signal a matter on which you should consult each other.

gamerules.eps Yes, I realize that your Aunt Myrtle graduated with honors from the TJTWID (That’s Just The Way It’s Done) Etiquette Academy, but I’m here to tell you that times have changed, and so have certain ironclad rules of decorum. When you see this icon, expect either an alternative way for handling a sticky wedding situation or simply a heads-up on a modern approach to making everyone feel comfortable.

planahead.eps Although I don’t advocate being a slave to calendars and endless to-do lists, every now and then a timely reminder or heads-up is in order. When you see this symbol, adjust your personal wedding timetable accordingly.

tip.eps No matter the budget, anyone planning a wedding wants to get the most bang for the buck. This symbol means I’m about to impart vital information regarding a practical money matter. Although many times I tell you how to save money, I just as often explain why pinching pennies in a particular area may not be wise. I also use this icon to flag information that may save you precious time.

warning_bomb.eps Weddings, like life, can be unpredictable, but you can easily avoid certain mistakes, pitfalls, and tacky traps if you know what to look for. Defuse these little bombs before they explode.

Where to Go from Here

You may find that you need to fast-forward to the reception chapters because the space you want gets booked a year in advance. No problem. This isn’t a Stephen King novel — you can jump around all you want without missing any major plot twists. Check out the table of contents to find a topic that suits your fancy.

If you’re just getting started, you may as well turn to Part I. Chapter 1 starts you off easy. Before you know it, you’ll be planning like a pro.

Part I

First Things First


In this part . . .

Congratulations on your engagement! Now it’s time to get down to business. These first three chapters help you organize a game plan that will carry you through the whole wedding-planning process. First, you need to figure out what kind of wedding you want, whom to invite, and how to pay for it. I help you create a realistic budget and stick to it. I provide valuable tips on negotiating contracts and tipping, and I give you a heads-up on new smartphone apps to assist you. I also include information on getting your marriage license, changing your name, and considering a prenuptial agreement, all aspects of your planning that are best to figure out early on.