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The Wedding Guide - Wedding Basics
Wedding Basics



When choosing a florist, find someone who is reliable and shares your taste. Look at florists' sample photos and discuss your ideas to make sure your florist's vision matches your own. Bring photos of your venue and swatches of fabric from your dress and the attendant gowns to your meetings. If you're on a tight floral budget, ask your florist for a chart of flowers that are in season. This should lower your costs considerably. You may also want to use greenery to fill out your arrangements.

The Bridal Bouquet
Wherever else you scrimp on flowers, don't scrimp on your bouquet, because it's really the essence of your vision of your wedding. The traditional bouquet is white or pastel, but use whatever flowers you feel define and express the real you. White roses, lilies of the valley, white lilac, and stephanotis are all popular choices. Choose a bouquet that matches your size; if you're small, a large bouquet may detract from your dress.

Flowers for the Wedding Party
Attendants' corsages should coordinate with their dresses, and with the bridal bouquet. If the gowns are ornately detailed, opt for a single stem, or accent simple dresses with a more intricate arrangement. Both mothers usually get a corsage to wear on the wrist or lapel, or to pin to a bag. Flower girls need a basket of petals to toss or a small bouquet to carry.

The groom's boutonniere is often pulled from the bride's bouquet. If the bride's bouquet is built around roses, then the groom could have a single white rose. All the men in the party get boutonnieres: the groomsmen, ushers, ring bearer, fathers, and grandfathers. A white carnation is the most popular flower for the boutonniere.

Flowers for the Ceremony
Check with your church or temple to see what their decorating policies are. You may want to skip a white aisle runner, since a white dress will stand out better against a dark floor, and an off-white dress may clash. You can cap the pews on every row, alternate rows, or just immediate family rows, depending on your budget. A cheap alternative is to use bows instead of flowers for the pews. You'll probably want several formal arrangements on the altar plus smaller touches on any tables to be used in the ceremony. To save money, consider renting potted plants instead of flowers for the foyer and steps outside the venue. Many florists use myrtle, an evergreen, as decoration for the trellis under which the marriage takes place.

Flowers for the Reception
Ask your florist if it would be possible to design the pew caps for the ceremony to double as centerpieces for your tables at the reception. Whatever centerpieces you choose, make them a reasonable size so they don't block conversation at the table. A cheaper alternative is to use balloons, candles, or greenery for centerpieces. Flowers for the cake table and the food tables are standard. Flowers for the restrooms and the guest-book table are a nice touch.

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Your music choice makes all the difference in determining what kind of ceremony and reception you'll have. For the ceremony some couples choose the church organ, some have a string quartet, others have musically talented friends sing and play. Make an appointment to speak to your wedding officiator. Some churches and temples don't allow secular music, so make sure that any music requests you have are approved by your venue. Talk with the musical director of the space about the kind of atmosphere you'd like to create, your musical tastes, and what the church or temple offers.

If you choose a band for the reception, make an appointment to listen to a live demonstration; if this isn't possible, at least listen to a tape. Specify in your contract the kind of attire you expect musicians to wear. If you hire musicians for the reception, let them know any special requests you have ahead of time. Make arrangements for them to set up their equipment at the ceremony and reception site.

Whether you choose a live band, a small orchestra, or a D.J., make sure the people you hire offer a wide range of musical selections to keep the guests entertained throughout the wedding. This includes any personal favorites and any ethnic selections appropriate to the family. No matter which type of entertainment you choose, the selection of music should fit your taste and individual music style. It's your wedding and you should get exactly what you want from your musicians; it's okay to be demanding.

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Photography / Videography

The first step in choosing a photographer is to think about the style and feeling you'd like your wedding album to have. Look at friends' albums and videotapes for ideas. Then go to several studios and look through sample albums. Look at whole albums, instead of sample photos. You'll want a photographer who can tell the story of your wedding. While you look at sample albums, pay attention to the story the album is telling to see if it gives a feeling of the day. It might be worth spending more money to find a photographer who knows just what you want. If you are dealing with a large studio, insist upon meeting the person who will be photographing your wedding. Make sure the person is energetic and engaged, someone who will work well with you and your guests. Discuss your budget openly with photographers and once you have chosen one, be sure you agree on all of the details and fees included in the final price.

Most studios will have a number of wedding photography packages from which to choose, but they should be willing to create individual packages to fit a couple's needs. The photographer can help choose locations for wedding photos, indoors and outdoors. Give the photographer a list of shots you want, especially if you have a complex, extended family. It is common to have candid photos taken during the reception as well as standard, posed photographs. Make sure to be very clear about how much you want the photographer to interrupt your ceremony, if at all. Some people want the photographer on the altar snapping pictures, some prefer that pictures be taken from the sides, and some don't want any photos taken during the ceremony at all. Decide ahead of time what you prefer. The photographer might want to see the venue beforehand in order to bring appropriate equipment. Provide a wedding-day itinerary at least one month before the wedding.

Try to take most of the formal, portrait-style pictures before the ceremony, then more informal shots as the day goes on, so you can have time to fully enjoy your celebration. Some couples even wait until a couple of weeks after the wedding and have their pictures taken in a natural setting with a more relaxed atmosphere.

More and more, couples are returning to black-and-white or hand-tinted prints for their ceremony, their celebration, or both. Black-and-white photos give a timeless, formal feel to an album. Another popular trend is to hire a photographer with a photojournalist's flair. You might try a photographer with experience in the news or magazine field who will tell the story of your wedding day with pictures.

Use the same criteria to choose a videographer. Find someone creative who will work with you to create a fun, special document of your wedding. You may want to include interviews with family members, childhood photos, or favorite songs. Give the videographer a seating chart marked with people who you especially want included on the tape. Suggest a theme for the video, where guests are all asked to make a wish for the bride and groom, or to tell a story about them.

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Biscuits used to be given as favors, along with fruit and almonds. Later, people sent their guests home with spice buns. In romantic Elizabethan times, small corsages of flowers tied into a knot with ribbons were given to symbolize the marriage promise. Even today, many couples feel it is essential to give their guests a token of their esteem, a remembrance of the day. Favors are a thoughtful way to thank your guests for sharing your wedding with you.

Generally, one favor per couple is appropriate. Common favors at Italian weddings are sugarcoated almonds, which symbolize life's bittersweet nature. Jordan almonds, which symbolize fertility and joy, wrapped in tulle bundles are a popular choice. Plants of various kinds are meaningful favors, like small rosebushes, evergreen trees, small potted plants, or flower and vegetable seeds in a pretty pot. A silver picture frame could double as a placecard, or a porcelain vase could have a flower or two in it. Silver-plated mirrors, candles and candlesticks, or a small bottle of champagne are common favors. Coming up with unique favor ideas is an area where a creative bridal consultant can offer some value.

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The standard way couples travel on their wedding day is by limousine. Some limousine rental agencies also offer antique cars. Reserve your vehicle well ahead of time and arrange to see the exact car you'll ride in to check its condition and to see how many will fit in it. A five-hour rental should be enough to get to the church, be married, and be driven to the reception site.

Other fun ideas are a horse-drawn carriage or a sleigh ride, depending on the weather and distance between the ceremony and the reception. If you want to get really creative, you could be taken away by fire engine, rowboat, hot-air balloon, or helicopter!

Providing transportation for the main wedding party is not necessary; however, it can add comfort and luxury to your special day and reduce stress. Typically, the best man and maid of honor ride in the car with the couple from the ceremony to the reception, and the rest of the wedding party follows in one or more cars. Whichever mode of transportation you choose, make sure that the company has the proper licenses and insurance.

Whether your wedding is a big-budget affair or a small and less expensive gathering, splurging on valet parking at the ceremony and/or reception is a great way to make your guests feel special, especially in colder climates.

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