Random questions about weddings

All my answers below should probably be prefaced with “In my experience” or “In my opinion”

I think six months in advance is the MINIMUM norm for formal weddings. To get what you want you have to reserve early. This is mostly the case with venue choice. 1 - 2 years advance bookings are not uncommon. The only comment I have to say about flowers is flowers.com is the way to go with any wedding in the USA. I wonder if there’s an equivalent thing for Ireland and Korea

Save the date cards are not required, but nice to have especially if the wedding will require traveling to get to. If your wedding is that small you probably won’t need to call them ahead as they’re likely in your inner circle enough already?

Rain is always a risk with outdoor weddings. Maybe that’s a good question for the venue where you’re having the outdoor wedding.

Yes, but they can be really small.

In the USA, the bride usually wears her wedding dress to the reception, but I don’t think anyone would really care if she had changed clothes.

Talk to the venue or the group that’s providing the open bar. They can give you pretty accurate cost quotes based on the length of reception and number of people. Then you set a budget. In my wedding the reception was going strong and the manager came to my wife and me and said we were approaching our budgeted amount. He could have stopped then, but we chose to let him go beyond that amount.

It’s your wedding. The numbers match because it provides symmetry. Five minutes after the wedding is over, no one is going to care or even remember.

When people hear wedding the price goes up. Order online as much as possible. i.e. above I posted about flowers.com saved us a huge headache on flowers. Also use friends and family where possible and shop around. Our photography needs were relatively simple. We picked one of the least expensive offers out there. Our wedding cake came from Kroger (grocery store with a bakery). We opted for a DJ instead of a live band; whom was a friend of my wife’s and offered her a fair deal.

Most of all have fun, and don’t stress about it. Oh one more no-hassle thing my wife did that may not apply to you… She asked the bride’s maids to wear any black dress that they were comfortable in. That way they weren’t stuffing themselves into some taffeta monstrosity that they would never wear again. My wife was definitely not a bridezilla.

I know most of these have already been answered, but here’s my take. For reference, I got married 6 years ago, in Toronto.

  1. How far in advance are weddings usually planned?
    We booked over a year in advance and had to change our hoped-for date as it was already booked. We looked at several venues and it was the same story at each. We also had a June wedding, and I think June tends to book up quickest.

  2. How far in advance should invitations be sent out? “Save the Date”?
    I think it depends on how important it is to you that certain people are able to attend. Anyone who mattered enough to me a) knew pretty much as soon as the venue was booked what the date would be, and b) would have dropped anything else to come. Everyone else I was comfortable taking my chances on, so we didn’t bother with Save the Dates. When to send out invites can depend on your venues needs – we worked backwards from when the venue needed to have their absolute final numbers, and sent our invites out about 6 weeks prior to that.

  3. What happens if you plan an outdoor wedding and it rains?
    Our wedding was outdoors, and the venue had both an indoor option and a tent available had it rained. I’d advise looking for a venue that offers a plan B simply so it’s not something you worry about.

  4. Have wedding favors become a given for Western weddings nowadays?
    I’ve never been to a wedding without. A little net bag of candy or a tiny box of chocolates is most common (and most appreciated) at the weddings I’ve been to lately.

  5. Is the bride expected to wear her wedding dress all day (ceremony + reception)? In Korea brides usually change into something else for the reception, but I wasn’t sure if this was common in the West.
    Usually worn all day but nobody would think it rude if you didn’t.

  6. How do you have an open bar without bankrupting yourself?
    We paid a flat fee per guest for open bar and it was quite affordable. I think our venue was rare to offer this but if you can find it, it’s pretty great.

  7. Is there a traditional number of attendants you’re supposed to have?
    I say no stinkin way, but I’ll warn you I have met a surprising number of people who disagree. I think you should choose who you want to stand up for you, and not worry about anything else, and I think just having a MOH is rather elegant and nice. That said, I got a bit of flack for not having an even number of bridesmaids and groomsmen at my wedding, so if you care about that kind of thing, know there are people to whom it matters for some weird reason.

  8. My boyfriend has two nephews and a niece (all under the age of 8) - I think it’d be nice to include them somehow in the ceremony. Flower girl, ring bearer, and . . .?
    Yay! How fun. Kids love to be in weddings! If the boys are closer to 8, I might call them “junior ushers” or something as I think of a ringbearer as being under 5 (not that they have to be! Just that a little kid might think it too juvenile a job…) I think any girl under 8 would be fine with being a flowergirl.

  9. Any tips on how to cut costs on decorations?
    Most weddings I’ve been to aren’t actually “decorated” aside from the centrepiece (if there is one). Usually I have seen just tablecloths, chair covers and, if there is anything aside from candles) a centrepiece of some kind (usually put together by the bride) ranging from a bowl of lemons, elaborate floral arrangements, a fishbowl, etc.

ETA: Oh, and we didn’t have a cake either and later a lot of guests were surprised to hear that as they hadn’t even noticed. We did have a late night sweet table though.

Remind me never to have a drink at your house! :smiley:
Actually when I was planning my wedding reception (at a nice hotel ballroom) we didn’t get a choice of brands. They had various package offers and we picked one. I think it was a flat fee based on time or something.

The only advice I have that I haven’t seen already is…

  1. Have the second boy be the flower girl’s escort.
    If she’s going to be throwing flower petals be sure have her hold the basket on the same side he is holding so her throwing hand is free. My friend did this at her wedding.

I’m going to a wedding in Northern Ireland next week, I’ll report back to this thread. :slight_smile:

But I can answer #6 for you. The only Irish wedding I’ve been to that had an open bar was an unusual affair. The bride and groom had purchased all the booze for the wedding in Northern Ireland (cheaper y’see) as the venue wasn’t licenced and it was a smallish wedding by local standards. I don’t think you could affordably have an open bar in a licenced premises here. Usually the wedding party pay for the toast drink and that’s all.

Edited to add: I’ve been to loads of weddings over the last few years and they’ve all been different. IOW do what you want and don’t worry about whether it is or isn’t the done thing. It’s your day.

The last two weddings I attended did not serve cake. In one, the bride simply doesn’t like cake that much, but she loves cheesecake and makes a mean cheesecake. She made a huge tiered cheesecake, decorated with hydrangeas from her mother’s garden. (The reception was at her mother’s house.) It was both beautiful and delicious.

At the other wedding, the bride has celiac’s disease and cannot eat anything containing wheat gluten. She had a chocolate bar: like a buffet of candies, cookies, and treats, most of which did not contain wheat. There was a small cake for the cake/toast thing. The bride fed the groom a bite and he gave her the tiniest little bite. I think she actually just pretended to take a bite for the ritual/photographs, but didn’t actually eat any cake.

So if you don’t want cake, do something else.

  1. How far in advance are weddings usually planned?
    It depends a lot on the venues and dates desired. You want to get married in the Basílica del Pilar in Saragossa on October 12, when the city is invaded by hundreds of thousands of people celebrating Pilares? You don’t just need to plan in advance, you have to get the Crown Prince of Spain for the groom and have the Pope as your godfather… oh wait, sorry, the Prince is already married!

  2. How far in advance should invitations be sent out?
    It depends on how complicated it will be for people to set the date aside; I don’t know about Korea and Ireland, but in Spain formal invitations have pretty much gone the way of the dodo: of all the weddings I’ve been invited to since I was 18, I think I got a paper invitation to 1.

  3. What happens if you plan an outdoor wedding and it rains? I think Ireland “outdoors” events often involve tents; I’d be more worried about chill but the same businesses which provide the tents provide heating. You should be able to figure out what are the actual normal weather conditions for the chosen location and time anyway, both from the future Mr Haze and from the web.

  4. Have wedding favors become a given for Western weddings nowadays?
    Dunnow about Ireland, the best source there is your future in-laws; they’re normal in Spain and have been so for decades, often a different little item for the male and female guests. We sort of made our own: Bro was able to obtain unengraved wedding-decorated (a picture of two wedding bands) bottle-opener/letter-openers. We got enough of those for the male guests, enough lace-edged handkerchiefs for the female ones, several kilos of a kind of hard candy which is typical of SiL’s home town (where they were getting married) and a lot of red ribbons (a kind that’s a typical souvenir of that town, bought in the colors of our own homeland): tie a bow around each opener, put some candy into each hanky and tie it with a bow.

  5. Is the bride expected to wear her wedding dress all day (ceremony + reception)?
    Bride’s choice. In Spain it’s common, but I’ve seen some who changed and nobody fainted.

  6. How do you have an open bar without bankrupting yourself? :eek:
    And who says you have to? Then again and unlike Middlebro and his wife, you do drink…

  7. Is there a traditional number of attendants you’re supposed to have? And does the number have to match (groomsmen vs bridesmaids)?
    Careful there, some of those customs change a lot by location. None of those apply in Spain: for Korea ask your friends, for Ireland your in-laws.

  8. My boyfriend has two nephews and a niece (all under the age of 8) - I think it’d be nice to include them somehow in the ceremony. Flower girl, ring bearer, and . . .?
    If you have a long train or veil, dress-helper. If the eldest reads well enough, maybe there is something they can read. Are both ceremonies civil ones or will the one in Ireland be a Catholic wedding? These include a lot of little things to read, which can be spread around.

  9. Any tips on how to cut costs on decorations?
    That wasn’t itemized for the Bro’s wedding, so no idea.
    The photographer was a pro, but the videographers were the brothers of the groom and bride, both using borrowed cameras. Littlebro had gotten some tips (“move slower than you want to” was the biggest one) from the camera’s owner. The video came out quite nice.

Congratulations! :slight_smile: I have some thoughts about some of this…

My sister just got married, and I think she planned it in about 6-8 months. The venue you definitely have to book early, as you found out. The other stuff such as flowers and photographer I think she booked maybe 4 months in advance. The thing is, since we’re in the Chicago area, there are a zillion vendors for everything, and I think competition is less fierce…this may be different in other places. I would call around and just see what the vendors advise.

Traditionally, the invitations are sent 6 weeks in advance. I don’t think “save the date” cards are mandatory, especially for a small wedding. I think it’s fine to call or e-mail people. When you think of it, when you have a large wedding, you do that usually informally with the most important guests, like family and your closest friends…the date comes up in conversation, you know? And I personally don’t think you need to alert, you know, your dad’s college roommate or whatever, that you’re getting married and they MUST set that date aside…if they can come they will, and if they can’t, they can’t. Since you’re having a small wedding, I’m sure the date will get around the family by word-of-mouth anyway.

Most wedding venues that have an outdoor space have an indoor space it can get moved to. My reception hall, for instance, had an outdoor space, but you could also have the ceremony right in the same room as the reception, or in an adjacent room. If you want to do someplace that doesn’t have one, you really need to arrange for tents just in case.

Most weddings I’ve been to, there are no favors. At most, maybe some chocolates in a little box.

Typically, the bride wears the same dress all day. However, my sister-in-law is Chinese-American, and she wore a western-style wedding dress for the ceremony and changed into a Chinese-style dress for the reception. Everyone thought it was charming, so if you want to follow some Korean traditions, I don’t think anyone would think that was strange.

Other than getting the folks to pay for it, as suggested above, I don’t think there’s a way. :frowning:

I think you can do anything you want these days, and for small weddings, it’s typical to have fewer attendants. I like weddings where there’s just a maid of honor and a best man, especially if those people are have very special relationships with you, such as a sibling or a best best friend.

So cute. I say, sure, have two ring bearers, why not? They can carry the little pillow together, and usually the actual rings aren’t on it, anyway, so it won’t matter if they can’t figure out a good way to do it. Or, if they are a little on the older end of the age range you give…7 or 8, maybe they could be ushers.

I went pretty bare-bones with decorations for my wedding, since flowers are SO expensive. I didn’t decorate the church, and at the reception, I bought silk flower rings and placed fish-bowl vases in them, with floating candles. It looked pretty, and didn’t cost much. I suggest going online to look for ideas…I’ll bet there’s a lot out there.

Have fun with your planning! :slight_smile:

OH, BTW, for flowers, it depends what you have access to – but I did dried flower arrangements – both for cost reasons and also because cut flowers are depressing to me – and the whole shebang was $70 – my bouquet, 3 simple bunches for the bridesmades, and I don’t know, around 5 boutonierres for the menfolk. The arrangements were wheat, grasses, and blue eucalyptus wrapped with ribbon - my wedding was in September. They were easy to make.

I have also heard of people using “flowers” carved from wood, or made of clay. If you want traditional live flowers there are places where you can order roses, etc., at wholesale prices. for delivery a few days before the wedding. Seriously, putting together a bouquet is not rocket science unless you want a super-formal “sculpted” look. Even then, you can learn how on ye olde Internette.

My venue provided open bar at a VERY reasonable cost: $10/a person. This was crazy cheap for NYC-area, but I didn’t argue. Other ways to reduce costs include:
provide your own liquor & bartender (may require insurance/bonding, depending on jurisdiction)
unlimited beer-wine only (“limited open bar”)
Don’t have an ordinary bar - have a large quantity of a particular drink, such as a fancy alcoholic punches or margaritas (“signature drink”)

My sister had a selection of wedding pies in lieu of a wedding cake at one of her weddings.

We just got an invitation this week, for a wedding in June. The couple sent out their Christmas cards last December with a “save the date” note on it. That let me set aside that weekend with 6 months notice, which is often needed in June.

A couple of ideas that I’ve seen:
I’ve seen receptions where only the beer on tap was free.
At another reception, each person got 2 drink tickets when they arrived. So the first 2 were free.
A friend did free cocktails before dinner (waiting for the bride and groom to arrive), and wine served at the table during dinner.

The numbers vary widely. Just a maid of honor would be fine. It is traditional to have matching numbers, but personally - I’d say ask whomever you want to, and forget about matching. Also, don’t feel required to only have women on your side and men on the grooms side. I was in a wedding with a female groomsman and a male bridesmaid. (Groomsmaid and bridesman?)

I just realized why I find those responses about “cheesecake” and “pie” strange: in Spanish there is a word which covers all those and dozens more (“pastel”). A friend of mine had chocolate cake, pastel de yema (no idea what that one would be called in English) and sobaos (individual sponge cakes), so people could choose whichever one they liked.

You wanna have “something that’s sweet and gets portioned before partaking”, be my guest - but there is no rule you have to!

Congratulations!! I know some of these have already been answered, and I won’t answer those that i think have been sufficiently answered, but here is my experience.

As others have said, the venue may need to be booked at least a year in advance, depending on where you are and when your wedding is – summers in particular, as you’ve found, are pretty popular. If you get married on April 1, as I did, you can wait for a while before booking :slight_smile: Photography I booked fairly early on but I’m kind of a picture snob. Flowers I just don’t care about, so I got my aunt to do them in lieu of a wedding present (she is very crafty). Time to book = 2 months. Cost to me = free (I guess, minus whatever present she would have given me otherwise)

We did do Save the Dates with a photo card with a picture of him and me, so people knew what he/I looked like, but only for out-of-town people who would have to make travel arrangements. But if it’s just going to be family and locals, there’s no need, especially since the family probably already knows when it’s going to be. I concur that summer weddings may actually require setting aside the date six months in advance so people don’t plan vacations or whatever at that time.

We had a backup plan.

No. No one cares, and will probably throw away your favor anyway. I should mention that my Favorite Favor Ever was at my sister’s wedding and was a small tape measure which I think cost her about $1 apiece.

At my sister’s wedding they paid by the drink and had the open bar outside (the reception was inside) so only the people who were really intent on getting drinks actually did – that is, it wasn’t in a high area of traffic where you could just be walking by and think, “Hey, I’ll have a drink!” Of course, this worked also because not many of her friends/family are really heavy drinkers.

I had my sister and my best friend as co-maids of honor and it was awesome. I had two other friends I really wanted to include and I asked them both to do readings. They liked it because they didn’t have to buy a froufrou matching dress, and I liked it because I got to include them, and that way we had matching attendants (which I didn’t care about, but for some reason my mom did).

Out of curiosity, why would it save money to have fewer people in the wedding party? I guess we gave all of ours presents, but they were pretty small cute ones – but that was the only cost associated with that.

Assuming that you’re not the sort of bride who is hyper about every detail, get everyone you know with any skills to help out in lieu of a wedding present. My aunt did the flowers, my aunt and mom did the decorating, my best friend did the “cake” (see below), a friend from work did the DJing, another friend did a special musical number, yet another friend served as a “wedding day personal assistant” taking care of a lot of details on the wedding day itself like putting up signs to the reception, etc.

(Though of course be sure you know you will be okay with what they do. I had a minor meltdown when my only bouquet request was “No roses please!” and my aunt showed up with a rose-only bouquet. My mom mediated that one, and the roses later made it into some decorations.)

Also, of course, there are lots of things you can do yourself. Hello Again mentioned flowers (though be aware you will be VERY BUSY the couple of days before the wedding so you may want to hand those off to others, or do silk flowers ahead of time – my sister did this because she is allergic to most fresh flowers) – we found a local printer to print the invitations, and I know people who just did them on their printers. (Note that this will probably NOT be okay with your mom. I know my mom is the sort of person who totally feels up the type to see if it is Properly Faux-Engraved.)

You absolutely do not have to have cake. I personally hate cake, so I had my best friend (who is an awesome cook) make individual mousses at mine instead of cake (we put cake toppers – a moose and a cow – on top of one of the mousses and that is what we cut) and that is, five years later, still what people remember they enjoyed about our wedding.

It is nice to have something dessert-like, though. What about cupcakes? I’ve been to several cupcake weddings.

Mazel tov!

General principle: Don’t feel like you MUST MUST do something because “it’s tradition” or “everybody else does this.” Also, it’s not about the wedding; it’s about the marriage.

Set a budget and stick to it. Decide where you can reasonably hold down costs.

My lady and I will buy the wine by the case ourselves, for about 1/4 the caterer’s charge for wine service. We’ll have two wines (sparkling brut, sparkling sweet) and a sparkling alcohol-free juice. Many of the people we’re inviting are not major drinkers anyway.

I’m not going to go through all of these, but I will mention that I found out from the venue which florist had done flowers there most frequently. I then went to the florist, and asked for pictures from that facility. I looked through the pictures, picked out my four or five favorites, and said, “I like the style in these. My bridesmaids’ dresses are light blue. Do something that you think looks nice, and use flowers that are in season as much as you can.” That was pretty much it. I got raves about how beautiful the flowers were. I figured that the florist knows a lot more than I do about how to do nice flower decorations, so I let them use that expertise. I think they repaid the confidence with extra effort.

As others have said, it depends on if you have your heart set on [some detail like a venue/photographer] and how popular that [some detail] is. Popular venues get booked early.

I’d say rent a few large canopy tents just in case. Cover in case of rain, plus a place to get out of the sun, if needed. (I’m pale as a ghost, so I can’t spend hours on end in direct sunlight without burning to a crisp. You likely have guests who would appreciate the tents regardless of how the weather turns out.)

Don’t know how common they are, but they don’t need to be complicated or expensive. The last wedding I went to had something like this (only without the backing card). They also wrote each guest’s name and assigned table number on it, so it simplified getting everyone to their seat at the start of the reception – you picked up your favor from a table just outside the door to the hall, and found your table by matching your favor number with the number on the table tentcards. I thought they were lovely, and I like the practical aspect as well.

It’s your wedding, there’s no rule that you have to adhere to any tradition if you don’t want to. (Or that you have to forgo a tradition that you like, for that matter.)

Have the third share duties with one of the other two? e.g. there are two rings, so each ringbearer gets one; or flower girl and flower boy both walk up the aisle scattering rose petals.

I have no experience in actually planning a wedding, but if you don’t hire a planner, I believe they have planning books available, which have all the various tiny details, and a general timeline for getting them done. You might find that helpful, since tiny details can slip through the cracks.

Our “cake” was two teddy bear cakes that my mom baked and decorated for us. She’s good at decorating cakes, but these only used the simple star tip. And they were really just for us - everyone else got (purchased) cheesecake.

I think my sister did something similar. I doubt anyone cared. I’ve been to one wedding that had the chocolate fountain thing - that was kind of fun.


Irish weddings do not traditionally have open bars. Relax.
Wine for the tables (say 2/3 bottle per person), a glass of champagne for the toasts yes, open bar- no.

Fully outdoor weddings aren’t done here.
Marquees maybe, but usually not for the ceremony itself.

If money is no object and you want a spectacular venue for the ceremony- Mussenden Temple is fabulous- we had friends who had their ceremony there.

The National Trust has other properties where you can get married as well- including outdoor options at Rowallane.

If it will be a small wedding, consider hiring a restaurant as your venue.

I assume you will be having a civil rather than a religious wedding.
In which case this website will be helpful. Make sure you check the requirements for the licence, including cost and timescale. Some of the municipal venues are lovely- don’t be put off that they are council owned.

For my wedding (in 2005) £500 got us 10 table centrepieces, a bridal bouquet, 2 bridesmaid bouquets, 2 flowergirl bouquets, 8 button holes, 2 corsages, a large arrangement for the foot of the staircase at the venue and the flowers for the church (which were arranged for free by the church ladies). I had calla lillies and roses, so not cheap flowers.

Favours can be anything from miniature bottles of whiskey (what we did) to donations to charity. Don’t do it if you don’t want to, or give something like your favourite childhood sweets or origami models of your favourite animals .

PM me if you think of anything you need.


When I got married, we had a miniature bride and groom (our children from previous relationships). They were soooooo cute walking down the aisle together! My younger cousin served as the ring bearer.

I have also been to many weddings that serve individual cupcakes. I think it’s a great idea.

Our wedding was outdoors (in Chicago, in August), at the same location as our wedding reception (a country club). We rented a big canopy (essentially, a tent without sides), just in case. There was a huge thunderstorm the night before, during the rehearsal, but, the day of the wedding was bright and sunny. It turned out that the canopy was appreciated for the shade. :slight_smile: