In the Beginning…
- After the engagement, decide on a range of dates/times when you hope to have the wedding. Negotiate at least 2 or 3 possibilities between the two of you.
- Have a preliminary discussion about the size and composition of the bridal party. Identify the people who must attend the wedding.
- Announce your engagement to family, friends and others, in roughly the order of their significance in your lives. Explore availability for your possible dates with those individuals whose attendance at the wedding is critical to the ceremony. Adjust your dates if necessary. Traditionally, people (parents) would publish a notice of the engagement in the local newspaper. Depending on the time to your wedding, some people choose to have an engagement party.
The Hard Work Begins……
- Set the wedding budget. Be realistic. Identify who will be responsible for which bills. Create a spreadsheet or chart or other tracking mechanism, and use it, and be realistic. The wedding should be the start of a wonderful life together, not an insurmountable accumulation of debt. Remember the Honeymoon when you discuss budget issues.
- Research and discuss the type of ceremony you want, the number of guests, the size and composition of the bridal party, etc.
- Research and discuss the Guest List. Be sure to send draft lists to each set of parents, but discuss with them first your budget and the limitations that places on the Guest List. Be firm with them, but listen too.
- Confirm availability for the dates. Start researching Wedding Sites, based on the approximate number of Guests you might have. Depending on how much time there is, the time of year, or your preferred locations, booking as much in advance is probably a good idea, but don’t book until the Guest List is close to being finalized.
- Once you book the Wedding Site, consider sending “Save the Date” cards (depending on how long there is to your wedding). These are not invitations to the wedding, but merely advance notice of the wedding.
- Start researching Reception Sites at the same time, as the availability of one might restrict the booking of the other. If you know you will have out-of-town guests, also research accommodations, to be sure there are places close by.
- Start thinking about color schemes and themes for the wedding. Brides often will buy a library’s worth of bridal magazines at this point. At the same time, Grooms will discover what a billion-dollar business the wedding industry is and want to invest in said bridal magazines… At the same time, research your stationery – this is your invitations, RSVP cards, Thank you cards, etc.
- Finalize the Bridal Party, the Guest List, the Wedding Site, and the Reception Site. Send out your invitations. Ensure that options for accommodations are included for out of town guests. Increasingly, maps to the Wedding Sites and Receptions are a good idea for everyone.
- Start researching and book your Officiant. Often, Officiants book up as quickly as Wedding Sites, particularly for “in-demand” times of year, such as the summer. Deposits usually are necessary. Once you book your Officiant, starting working with him or her on the ceremony. Again, research is nice, if you want something unusual – a more personal statement of yourselves.
- Choose your dress/ headpiece. Check the delivery period and order as necessary. Also choose the clothing and accessories for your Bridal Party.
- Research and select other wedding vendors, as desired: wedding Photographers, wedding caterers, wedding florists, wedding musicians or wedding DJs, transportation to and from the Wedding, etc. Your Wedding Site likely will have recommendations, and these are a very good start since they will see many professionals and their work-product coming through on a regular basis. Recommendations of friends and family are good a good place to start. It is always a good idea to actually meet the wedding vendor in person before contracting with them, and if possible, to see their product – sample wedding cakes, sample wedding photos, etc.
- Research and purchase your rings or other mementos of your union.
- If you are having a rehearsal, consider a rehearsal dinner party. If you have out of town guests coming, consider organizing an event for them the evening before the day of your wedding (such as dinner) or for after your wedding (the afternoon, if you are having a morning wedding, or the day after, depending on when most of them are leaving).
- If appropriate, sign up for Wedding Gift Registries and/or ensure that a family member is organizing a Bridal Shower.
- Plan for the honeymoon, but first make sure that you share the same vision of what the honeymoon should be.
- Book your wedding night accommodations. Also book any other accommodations that need booking (such as for visiting friends or family, or other members of the Bridal Party).
- Start planning decorations if you choose to for the Wedding Site, Rehearsal Dinner, and Reception. Some couples purchase various items, but some crafty brides will look around and quickly decide that they can make better decorations than anything affordably priced and on the market.
- Purchase Gifts for the members of the Bridal Party. Finalize your menu and music for the Reception, if you have not done this yet.
- Contact guests who have not responded to confirm their attendance. Finalize the guest count and the layout at the Reception. Send this to each set of parents to ensure that you are not giving new life to old feuds.
- Check your County to see the specific Marriage License requirements, and make sure you comply with them. Your marriage license is valid from the day after issuance up to 60 days in Ilinois. You must get married in the county your marriage license is issued.
- Talk as many times with your wedding officiant as you need. Finalize your ceremony at least 2 weeks before the wedding day.
- Make sure that any friends and/or family who are participating in the ceremony with music or readings know exactly what they are to do and when they are to show up. Have plain copies of the readings ready for the rehearsal, but for the wedding ceremony, print the readings on good quality heavy bond or cardstock paper and hand these out immediately prior to the ceremony.
- Ensure that all members of the bridal party have their clothes in order and know when and where they are to report.
- For the bride and bridesmaid (and mothers of the bride and groom), time at a beauty salon or spa together, well before the ceremony, to have hair and nails done while relaxing and bonding, is sometimes a really good idea to take the stress out of the day. If this is wanted, it is time to book this now, but make sure there is time for everyone to be done in plenty of time. At the same time, make sure the groom, groomsmen and fathers of the bride and groom go for haircuts and basic manicures too.
- Talk to family and friends to see if someone will act as a Coordinator or Host for the day – telling when the other guests need to move on to the reception, sit down, stand up, etc. Choose someone who knows most of the wedding party and has a strong personality, yet is polite. Your officiant is there to help you, but it helps to have someone else in the background.
- On the day of the wedding, get dressed and try to relax. Grooms should have a lot of cash, credit cards or 1 or 2 checks with them, for tips and final payments. The groom or best man also should bring the Marriage License. Remember – no license, no Wedding. If there are rings, the Best man should carry these too, and distribute the Groom’s ring to the Maid (or Matron) of Honor at the appropriate time. The Maid (or Matron) of Honor, in turn, should hold a small, discreet purse (in her hands, not over her shoulder) behind her bouquet that holds a stain stick, chapstick, comb, small bottle of hairspray, the bride’s lipstick, and a couple of tissue paper. During the ceremony, stick the tissue in the bouquets, where it is handy but invisible.
- The wedding should be enjoyable – meaningful and intense perhaps, but enjoyable. Do not stress about little details. There are generally a few small bumps along the way, but look at the whole day and how wonderful it is. At this point, just go with the flow and focus on the bigger issue that you are marrying your soul mate, your own true love, and your best friend.
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