Updated: May 11, 2019
The only article we recommend you bookmark, simply because you can't remember everything, and you'll want to check back for reference.
AISLE RUNNER: Whether you’re indoor or outdoor, you’re going to want an aisle runner. It adds elegance and charm to the moment you walk down the aisle to say your “I dos.” Not mention, it really adds to the photos. Our advice; don’t do a red carpet, this isn’t the Oscars. Unless, that is, your wedding colors incorporate red in a major way. CastleWed Essentials offers two colors here, in white and ivory.
ALCOHOL: It’s a simple question: Yay or nay? If the answer’s yes, then you’ll need to decide if it’ll be an open bar or not. Also, see “BARTENDER,” below.
BARTENDER: Is your brother-in-law really trustworthy or do you need to hire a mobile bartender to cater? Before you look into spending extra money, see if the venue of your choice has a bartender on staff.
BASKET: If you’re going to have a flower girl, you’re going to need a flower basket. Not an old Easter basket, but a real flower girl basket. Do you even know where to find one? If not, you can find a couple of adorable ones here.
BEST MAN: Has he been selected already? Does he know he’s been selected? Make sure it’s clear to him how he’ll be contributing. Example: Is he responsible for planning a bachelor party? Are there any wedding planning duties you want to have assigned to him? Is it important to you that he prepares a toast? When it comes to the best man, make sure he knows precisely what that means to you and your fiancé.
BOUNCY HOUSE: It’s one way to keep a bunch of children from getting bored (j/k it’s for you, too). Also, depending on the time of year, you can find some bouncy houses with a slide that leads into a pool.
BRIDAL SHOWER: Generally speaking, anytime between 3 weeks and 3 months prior to your wedding date you should have your bridal shower. It’s common for the maid of honor, bridesmaids collectively, the parents of the bride, or the bride, herself, to organize it. The intention is not so much to furnish the bride and groom with gifts in celebration of their upcoming wedding. Rather, the idea is to have fun, play games, get to know one another better and perhaps gift money or items to ensure that the wedding does happen.
BRIDE: Whether that’s you, or who you’re marrying- don’t forget about her for goodness sake! Ask how she’s doing and see if there’s anything you can do to help her. There’s a good chance she’s trying to shoulder too much responsibility.
BRIDESMAIDS: Have you already picked them? Do they know you’ve already picked them? You should communicate that information to them sooner rather than later. Have you selected (with or without their input) their attire or jewelry? Have you decided whether they’ll be getting some sort of special party favors from you? To make it special, a lot of thought and care should go into this. If you plan on something sooner rather than later, it will allow for more customizable options (you can create items online that read, "bridesmaid," "Sarah," or "10/24/2020"). Keep in mind that it’s common for bridesmaid so pay for their own dresses. But if the bride and groom can afford to pay for their dresses, it’s considered a thoughtful gesture. If they are paying for their own dresses, we strongly recommend some sort of unique bridal party favors. Also, if any of them live out of town, travel and accommodations need to be planned well in advance.
BUDGET: Have you written down an exact dollar amount, or at the very least a specific dollar range? If not, you don’t have a budget. Do you have an excel sheet? Still no? Then you don’t have a budget. Even if you're an excel pro, we recommend downloading the Free CastleWed Desktop Budget spreadsheet here. It's been carefully created with formulas specifically for wedding planning. You enter prices and it does the rest! It even changes colors to keep you aware of your proximity to your budget.
CATERERS: How many have you talked to? We recommend you discuss services and prices with at least three. Have specific questions written down before you meet with them so you’re better prepared. Start with what kind of food you want, then look for caterers that serve what you have in mind.
CHAMPAGNE: It’s so customary, it’s celebratory, it’s almost obligatory. It’s hard to imagine a wedding without the bottle popping. However, it’s your wedding. If you don’t like champagne, that’s fine. We recommend either replacing it with a nice wine, providing it for your guests, or (my personal favorite) making mimosas for those that don’t like champagne much.
CIGARS: Will you have these available for your guests? If so, we recommend a moderately secluded area at your venue of choice (if they allow smoking on their premises at all). It’s common for the groomsmen to each receive a quality cigar (within the $8-$12 range is fine), at the very least one for the best man. It’s a great idea for party wedding favors, too. Perhaps even complete with a custom zippo lighter.
COLORS: Have you picked wedding colors? Does your fiancé know you picked your wedding colors? If you plan on doing a symbolic gesture like pouring “unity sand” or lighting “unity candles” make sure you start the search early for the perfect colored items. If you have a unique color scheme it may take longer for you to find exactly what you’re looking for.
CONTRACT: It’s okay if you don’t read your cell phone provider’s contract. But for wedding vendors, you need to read them, and then read them again. We continue to suggest that you should be comparing at least two of each vendor type. You should start by comparing what one vendor includes, that others don’t. You should be familiar with the breach of contract information, too. Your wedding is sure to go fine, but you should be aware of any repercussions you have at your disposal. Also, if the pricing is spread out at different points, then calculate your own total so you have a better idea of the exact amount you’re committing to. We recommend you also look for cancellation or rescheduling fees and clarify deposit and payment requirements.
DAD: First question is do you want him/them to be apart of your wedding? Second question, does he want to be a part of the wedding? If the answer is yes to one or both questions, then find a way to include him/them. Should it be the unfortunate case that he’s passed away, maybe you want to incorporate him somehow with a message in your vows, nuptials, or some sort of symbolic way. You can do it as subtly as playing a song that he would have enjoyed in the moment.
DANCE: If you enjoy watching any number of those viral choreographed wedding dances, there is no reason you shouldn’t do it yourself. Actually, there is one reason you shouldn’t: if you’re short on time. Something like that can take a while to develop successfully. You don’t want to be the wrong kind of viral wedding video that makes people laugh or cringe.
DESTINATION WEDDING: Where are you going and how do you plan to get there? The sooner you decide, the sooner you need to let your guests know. Is the destination meaningful to one, or both, of you? If so, consider incorporating it into your nuptials or vow exchange so you can share that with your guests. Speaking of guests, a destination wedding will really slim down the number of them. Depending on who you want there, you might have to fork over a lot of dough to make your dream destination wedding happen.
DIET: Don’t be silly and starve yourself to lose weight, it may seem counterintuitive, but it will only have the opposite effect. If you are looking to drop a few pounds, keep in mind that the sooner you start, the better. No, you can't start it after the weekend. If you're serious, you need to start thinking about what your next meal is going to be, and how to make sure it's a healthy, low-calorie option. Continually be on the lookout for little healthy ways to cut calories based on proportion and food choices. Also, see EXERCISE.
DJ: Do you want a sibling or friend to handle this, or do you want an actual DJ to come get the party started? Just remember, anyone can play music, but there is an art and a science to entertainment. If you’re thinking about this as a cost-cutting measure, here’s something to consider: a good DJ will show up with professional-caliber audio equipment and it makes big a difference!
DRESS: You probably have one picked out, or plan on shopping with a small supportive group with a wide-range of opinions. This is the penultimate Quality vs Budget decision. If you’re setting a budget, you should have a budget set before you go shopping, obviously. Not so obvious: don’t pick a dollar range, pick an exact dollar amount. Our advice: go with quality in mind, then once you find the dress you want, worry about price and how to pay for it.
EMAIL: Get stuff in writing, especially the big stuff, and include details that were discussed in person. Example: "To Vendor; Before I make the payment, I wanted to confirm that my fiancé and I can expect 200 White Roses to be delivered to 123 Main Street, Portland, OR 97233 by 9:00a on Saturday 05/27/XXXX for $300?" Note that the email message included amount of the product, the name of the product/service, whether it is delivery or pick-up, an exact address complete with city, state, and zip, and a date and time.
EVERYONE ELSE: There’s the newlywed couple. There’s the bridal party. There’s the parents of the bride and groom. There’s children and/or immediate family. Then there’s everyone else. Don’t forget that this is a memorable day for them, too. Have you thought of a way to make them feel special or appreciated? There’s a number of ways to get them involved, even if it’s finding a way for them to easily get song requests to the DJ. Simple party favors are a great way to go and are often really inexpensive. You can get 100 shot glasses customized with your names and wedding date for as little as $70.
EXERCISE: Looking to drop a few pounds? If so, the sooner you start exercising, the better. Even if it’s small, 5-minute walks around the block. You won’t start off an Olympian, but that’s why you start early. You work up to more regular, longer, rigorous exercise routines. Don’t fall for any fad diet or exercise plans. It’s simple: Get. Some. Cardio. Set small goals that aren’t weight or size related and increase those goals. Example: Today you jogged half a mile and walked the other half. Your goal could be to jog the whole mile by the end of next week. A good target should be to eventually reach a point where you're getting a sold hour of cardio five times each week. You’ll surprise yourself how quickly your body adapts to do more. Oh yeah, and stretch!
FINANCES: A lot of vendors will take deposits (CastleWed Ceremonies accepts deposits as low as 10-15% in most cases). Check to see if they’re refundable, or how much is refundable. You should create a timeline that includes when payments are due. You need to have your vendors all paid up by their due date or… well… or else!
FLOWERS/FLORISTS: We recommend discussing services, products, and prices with at least two florists. Talk to them sooner rather than later. Prepare some detailed descriptions of what you want, maybe even a small sketch to help demonstrate your needs and run it by them. Search online for inspiration, and bring photos or screenshots. Ask for their input. It’ll be costly depending on what you’re trying to do, but wow! it can be worth it.
GARTER: Don’t forget this! You’ll want something sexy. Here’s a couple that you might like. Scratch that- it’s something your beloved will like.
GOWNS: Yours and your bridesmaids. Are you going to / did you already decide on what they’ll be wearing on your special day? We recommend getting their input before making a final decision. This should happen early on in your planning process in case something doesn’t fit quite right, especially if you’re ordering online. They can certainly pay for their own dresses, but we already mentioned, it would be quite generous of you to handle this expense if you can manage.
GROOM: Whether that’s you, or who you’re marrying- don’t forget about him for goodness sake! Ask how he’s doing and ask if there’s anything you can do to help him.
GROOMSMEN: Treat them like bridesmaids that are likely less interested in what they wear. Also, see BRIDESMAIDS.
GUESTS: Everyone in attendance is going to either want a moment with you, a photo with you, or both. At some point during the big day, be sure to make time for shaking hands and kissing babies at each table. Our advice: do it after the ceremony but before all the drinks have been poured, and be sure to do it as a couple.
GUESTBOOK: There’s a few ways you can go with a guestbook. You can order a guestbook which you fill with your own photos. Or you can go to other websites that allow you to upload photos and completely customize. There are also some pretty creative alternatives that also serve as keepsakes that won’t just sit on a shelf collecting dust. If you’re going to have a DIY book done by hand, consider having a friend or family member doing it to help save your time, money, and energy. Maybe you have an aunt that loves calligraphy?
HAIR: You’re perfect just the way you are (if you don’t believe us, ask your fiancé). But if you’re going to get your hair and make-up done, you’ll need to adjust your Day-Of schedule by starting it very early. You’ll also need to decide if you trust someone close to you enough to have them fix your hair up or go with a pro. If you’re going to hire someone to come out early in the morning, like all vendors, we recommend discussing services with at least two. But here you might want to contact at least four because prices and services vary widely.
HANDFASTING: A simple symbolic gesture in which bride and groom, who have taken each other’s hands, have them loosely bound together with any number of different types of cloth, ribbon, or rope. If you are looking for a way to customize your wedding and break it free from just words, handfasting is an interesting option.
HELP: Ask for it! Don’t forget that you have friends and family that may not say it aloud, but they are willing, if not eager, to help. Maybe early on, you’ll be so organized that you think you can handle it all, but trust us, as the big day approaches, you’ll recognize that you can’t do it all alone. If you're particular about a project, but you're delegating it to someone, be clear to them that you have final approval before (for example) 200 of the items get ordered.
HORSE: Would you like to arrive or depart on a horse drawn carriage? Fancy you! There probably aren’t too many vendors in your area that offer this service. So start looking early and try to find at least two to compare.
ICE SCULPTURE. Have you considered this? Even if you go with something as simple as a drink luge, it can be impressive for much less than you’d expect. At the very least it's something to consider if you want to skip hiring a bartender vendor. Anyone can serve drinks from a luge, and it adds pizazz!
INVITATIONS: The way we see it, there are really three options. 1) You can custom make them online. Or 2) you can DIY them. If you’re looking to utilize family or friends, then 3) delegate this, because it can be time consuming.
JEWELRY: Are you going to wear something special of yours? We recommend if it’s a necklace, you bring it with you while fitting dresses, just to see how the neck lies. Is there some meaningful jewelry that you’d like to borrow from your mom or grandmother? If so, check with them first. Surely they’ll let you borrow it, but don’t make any assumptions. How about your bridesmaids? Have you found some jewelry that will make their look cohesive? If so, have you asked for their input or decided who’ll be paying for them? You should get that done.
KIDS: You need to determine pretty early on in your planning process what your personal policy is on children. It needs to be early because you may need to put it on the invitations. Here’s a few options: 1) Allow all children; 2) Disallow all children unless they're still nursing; 3) Allow children and provide some form of childcare; 4) Institute a cut-off age. We get pretty specific with some of our advice on this quick read of an article here. Also, see: BOUNCY HOUSE.
KILT: Borne of Scottish tradition, it’s ideal for the groom that wants to honor his Scottish heritage.
LIMOUSINE. How are you making an entrance? How are you departing? The same questions apply to your bridal party and reception. There's a difference between showing up and making an entrance, and a limousine takes any wedding to the next level.
LUGE: Let me paint you a picture. The venue of choice for your reception doesn’t include a bartender, and hiring a mobile bartender just isn’t in the budget. So you have a friend or family member as an ad hoc bartender. It's pretty mundane until you easily (and often inexpensively) spruce things up with a luge like this.
MAID OF HONOR: Rely on her as much as you can, that’s what she’s there for. Be sure early on to let her know that if she gets overwhelmed, she can push back on any number of your infinitely benign and unnecessary requests. Also: You need to mean it. If she provides some constructive criticism or feedback on a decision of yours, YOU HAVE TO LISTEN. Should you decide to provide party favors to your bridesmaids, it is totally appropriate to do, or include, a little something extra just for her.
MAKE-UP: We just can’t say it enough: You’re perfect just the way you are. Don’t believe us, ask your fiancé. But if you choose to wear makeup, are your bridesmaids going to match? Will your bridesmaids match each other but not you? Are you going to somehow incorporate your wedding colors into your eyeshadow? Who’s going to do your make up, and are you going to hire someone to come do it? If so, it’s common to have a hair & makeup specialist come out early, and you’ll likely save money by combining the services. Be sure to plan accordingly with your Day-Of schedule, because it’ll have to start earlier.
MOM: Don’t forget to include ma. This is a big day for her, too. Look for things she can or would be willing to be helpful with or responsible for. If she’s unfortunately no longer alive, think of ways to include her in your vows, or even a subtle symbolic way like a song.
MUSIC: Sure, you think selecting music will be easy. But you should have selected in advance: a song that plays while you walk down the aisle. One that plays during your first dance as a couple, while you dance with your dad, and one for when the groom dances with his mom. Have you considered something to choreograph with members of your bridal party? We suggest you also come up with a list of songs you DON’T want played.
NUPTIALS: You should have final say over anything said during your wedding ceremony. You get to decide if it’s religious or secular. You determine if they say, “until death do you part,” or “love and obey,” or ask if anyone objects to your marriage. If you have a good, experienced wedding officiant (like -ahem- a CastleWed Ceremonies Officiant) you should have complete control over thenuptials. Speaking of...
OFFICIANT: You need to select someone to perform your wedding ceremony. Unlike most vendors, we recommend you only speak to one: CastleWed Ceremonies. (Okay… you caught us) You should probably talk to at least two. Look for whoever makes you feel most comfortable. Also pay attention to the pricing. Many officiants charge extra for attending the rehearsal, and for the amount of times you contact them. CastleWed Ceremonies will only give you one price, and everything is included. If you live in Washington or Oregon, you can click here for a Free Quote.
PANTSUIT: The only reason to adhere to gender norms is if it makes you comfortable. If you like doing things differently in any number of ways, for any number of reasons, you might want to consider pantsuits. If not for you, for your bridesmaids. Your bridesmaid outfits are largely up to you, but because pantsuits are so far outside the norm, we recommend at least gathering their input first. Here's our opinion: it's a bold move, but some of them are so gorgeous, that it's well worth the risk.
PARTY FAVORS: You need to decide if you’re going to provide party favors of some sort. To keep the costs low, consider gifting some to only the bridal party. And for the ring-bearer and flower-girl you should consider simple things. For example, you can get a ring bearer pillow with a personalized keepsake box in which he can keep it forever. The same for the flower-girl. Instead of reusing some old basket, consider getting her a keepsake Chantilly lace basket like this one.
PERGOLA: If you’re thinking of an outdoor wedding, maybe even something small in a backyard, consider purchasing a pergola. We suggest wrapping floral décor through and through to create the picture-perfect pergola like the one pictured here.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Anyone can own a camera. But a talented photographer will capture the perfect moments from your biggest day and make them last forever. We always recommend speaking with at least two vendors, but here we recommend discussing pricing and services with at least four. Be sure to look at their portfolios, and if you’re not wowed, then keep looking.
PILLOW: We previously mentioned it, but… did you already get a ring bearer pillow? If not, here’s where you can find a really cute one with customizable color options for the lace.
PLACARDS: There are a lot of creative ways to develop a seating chart. But no matter how you do it, be sure to offer your guests a way of making it clear that a seat is taken to avoid any confusion. An easy way to do it is with name placards. At the very least, bride and groom need one, bridal parents need one, and so do the members of the bridal party. If you’re wedding is outdoors, we recommend having them laminated.
PLUS ONE: You want to determine this sooner rather than later. It needs to be decided before you send out the invitations, so you can include the details. You’ll also want to include information about bringing children. One sure fire way to keep the budget low or come in under budget is to limit the number of guests. We're not sure who to credit with the phrase, but to keep a low headcount "No ring, No bring," is a way to keep invitees limited to invitees and spouses only.