2015年6月16日星期二

How to Seat Your Wedding Reception Guests

If you're having 50 guests at a buffet, you may or may not want to give people specific seating assignments. But if you're having 100 guests or more and serving a seated meal, you'll want to make sure everyone's got a specific place to sit. Why? For one, people like to know where they're sitting -- and that you took the time to choose where and whom they should sit with. It's also helpful if you're serving several different entree choices, because the caterer and waitstaff can figure out beforehand how many chicken, filet and veggie dishes a given table gets, because they (you) know who's sitting there. Read on for tips on how to seat neatly.

Start Early


We've been at kitchen tables the night before the wedding (or even wedding morning) with a bride and groom just starting their seating chart. Don't let this be you -- you've got more important things to think about at that point! Sure, it's fine to make last-minute changes, but try to get the chart mostly done at least a week before the day.

Hit the Keys


Create a new spreadsheet. If you haven't already, insert a column into your guest list document categorizing all the invitees by relationship: bride's friend, bride's family, groom's friend, groom's family, bride's family friend, groom's family friend and so on. This way, you'll be able to easily sort the list and break it down into more logical table assortments. Now you'll need to separate these lists into distinct tables.

Create a Paper Trail


If you're feeling more low-tech, draw circles (for tables) on a big sheet of paper and write names inside them (make sure you know how many people can comfortably be seated at each one). Or you could write every guest's name on a sticky note and place it accordingly.

Head Up the Head Table


A traditional head table is not round but long and straight, and it's generally set up along a wall, on risers, facing all the other reception tables. It may even have two tiers if your wedding party is large. Usually the bride and groom sit smack-dab in the middle (where everyone can see them), with the maid of honor next to the groom, the best man next to the bride, and then boy/girl out from there. Flower girls or ring bearers usually sit at the tables where their parents are sitting, much to the relief of the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Decide to sit this way, or plan a sweetheart table for a little one-on-one time.

Switch Things Up


But you don't have to do it that way. All the bridesmaids can sit on the bride's side, and all the groomsmen on the groom's. Or maybe you're not into being on display, or you don't want your wedding party to feel isolated from other guests. Let your wedding party sit at a round reception table or two with each other and/or with their dates/significant others, and have the head table be a sweetheart table for the two of you. (How romantic!) Another option: You two sit with your parents and let that be the head table, with the wedding party at their own tables.

Place Your Parents


Traditionally, your parents and your sweetie's parents sit at the same table, along with grandparents, siblings not in the wedding party, and the officiant and his/her spouse if they attend the reception. But if your or your honey's parents are divorced, and are uncomfortable about sitting next to each other, you might want to let each set of parents host their own table of close family and/or friends . This could mean up to four parents' tables, depending on your situation -- or have the divorced parent who raised you (or your partner) and his/her spouse/date sit at the table with still-married parents. (Phew, confusing!)
Remember, the parent-seating question is a flexible one. Set it up in whatever way best suits everybody. If you're unsure, don't hesitate to talk to the parents in question about it before you make your final decision.

Tame Tensions



There may also be situations in which certain family members just do not get along. Maybe they haven't spoken in years. Maybe the last time they saw each other there was a drunken catfight. Understandably, you want to keep them as far apart as possible. Think about these kinds of relationships (or lack thereof) before you even start making your chart, so you can take them into consideration in the first place and begin by seating Aunt Hattie at table three and Aunt Lucy across the room at table 15. Trust us -- they'll appreciate it.

10 wedding tips you won't get from a bridal magazine

I had a lot of surprises on my wedding day, and I thought I'd take those learnings and create a top 10 tips on practical advice. Obviously everyone will have their own experiences and opinions, but without further ado, here are mine, in no particular order (mainly because I'm tired of putting things in order at the moment)…

10. Everyone makes a list of things to pack, but Offbeat Brides should also make a list of things to bring back.

Have you spent hours creating those programmes/fans? Did you create your own photo booth? Have you hand-crafted several ornate decorations that you plan to hang onto for several years? You'd be amazed at what people leave on site and forget to collect, simply because they think someone else has arranged to bring these keepsakes back.
Very often these things aren't noticed until you come back from honeymoon, in which case the venue may have unwittingly thrown them out. The best way to circumvent this is to not only give your bridal party a list of things you must have back from the venue, but make sure the venue coordinator has a list of this as well. That way, if anything gets lost in the shuffle your venue coordinator will know to hang onto it for you until you get back from honeymoon, or can make other arrangements for delivery.

9. Assign someone you trust to download as many photos as possible before your guests leave the party.

All of us already know that one of the great thing about weddings today is that almost everyone brings a digital camera. And although many of us also hire professional photographers, we still would like copies of the photos our guests have taken.
The best way to expedite this process is to brief someone who is a trusted friend to be your photo catcher. Their job is to download as many memory sticks as possible onto a designated laptop before your guests leave. If you catch people right then and there you have a much better chance of getting all the images you'd like and without the hassle of chasing them down later.
You'll probably also have the best luck getting images if your photo catcher is NOT in the wedding party. We asked my dad to take on this role, but as a member of the wedding party he got waylaid with other duties at the time.

8. You may have already been advised to make sure to take some time for you and FH during the big day. But try to make some time just for yourself, too.

One of the things I found during the wedding was that from 7am I had no time to myself. There was always someone in my room, always someone who had question, always a well wisher and always someone ready with a camera. It can become difficult to keep energy levels up when you're "on show" for twelve or more hours at a stretch. I found myself wishing for a few minutes every few hours or so just to be able to go somewhere quiet and collect my thoughts / recharge my batteries / have a glass of water / check my lipstick or just be uninterrupted for a few minutes so I could then enjoy the day more.

7. Which brings me to assigning a poking coordinator…


Having a trusted family member or friend help create space around you can be extremely helpful and allow you to enjoy those hugs… but to also make sure you don't OD on being stroked before the end of the day.
Yes, you read this right and this is actually the fab suggestion of fellow Tribesmaid. I'm a very huggy person but really started to get tired of so many people touching me throughout the day. At some point in the day photos started to show me wincing/pulling away from loved ones/turning glassy eyed just because I had reached sensory overload.

6. If you find yourself freaking out a little, do something more "normal."

Yes, I had my awesome shoes, my awesome dress, my awesome OTHER dress and every decoration that made me and FH smile under the sun. It was most certainly Our Party. However, there were times in the day I felt distant from it all. There were times I still felt disconnected from everything that was happening. I reached a real turning point in the evening when I was tired of feeling like someone other than myself –- comfy clothes and comfy shoes aside. I put down the bubbles and grabbed a beer instead and found an old friend who sat for ten minutes and told me about her life for a while.
I should say that I drink bubbles outside of weddings so swapping champers for beer wasn't really the issue. But it was such a relief to not talk about me, the wedding or our hopes for the future. Having those ten minutes to sit in the back corner, drink a beer and chatter on about nothing at all really helped me feel more like myself again. If you have a friend who doesn't feel obligated to only talk about your wedding, spending a little time with them could be a welcome break!

5. Brief your key speakers/celebrants on anything they need to know about your guests.

This probably sounds like an inane comment, but in actuality I found myself briefing both our celebrant and my mom in regarding what our friends and families would need to know.
For example, we really wanted our guests to ask us our vows and to also pronounce us. Our celebrant totally got where we were going with this and was happy to lead everyone in these sections. But we were still worried that our guests would be so surprised to take on this role that it would be so quiet that we'd only hear a tumbleweed go by. We went back to our celebrant and asked her to write a preamble to set everyone's expectations about their role in the service up front –- and yes, as a result their voices were as loud as we hoped they would be!
Similarly, I didn't know much about my mom's speech but I did know she was planning to weave in the Jewish tradition of the breaking of the glass. It suddenly occurred to me that she would expect to produce the glass, have Hubby stomp on it and that everyone would applaud. In actuality, 99% of our guests were Church of England, and I had to advise her that if she wanted everyone to applaud and yell out "Mazel Tov" she needed to tell them in advance. She then amended her speech to include a very short definition of Mazel Tov and her favourite reason for the tradition of the breaking of the glass – and everyone applauded and cheered when it was broken in the first go.

4. Which leads me to: trust your guests.


3. Provide a detailed hand over to your wedding party earlier than you think you should.
There are a lot of comments on the Offbeat Bride Tribe about how friends and family members wig out when something tests their boundaries of what they think a wedding should be. However, we found that our guests were absolutely fascinated by being part of something different. The framework was something recognizable (bride, groom, ceremony, rings) but the details were different enough to keep everyone completely attentive through the entire event. We absolutely trusted that when people showed up, they would embrace the journey –- and they did.
I know this sounds really corporate, to have a hand over meeting. But if you have an offbeat wedding, you may need to pass the reins over to someone else earlier than you think you need to.

In most of our cases we have someone in our lives we can trust and who has been part of the planning process with you every step of the way. In my case, it was my two sisters. However, they were still sort of on the periphery until the day I sat down with them (about two weeks before the wedding) and went through a very detailed, exhaustive document with all my thoughts about how the day would run.
Bless my sisters for printing these documents out, scribbling their notes all over them and delivering the most seamless day an event planner ever could have hoped for. And bless them for also sharing this with the onsite coordinator… and all the ushers. I absolutely know that if I hadn't given them enough time to own the process on their own, it wouldn't have worked as well as it did.

2. When it's all over, remember to thank your vendors… publicly.


If you really love your vendor, one of the greatest gifts you can give them is not just a letter of profuse thanks, but to also take it upon yourself to find a public site that rates said vendor and write something that could sway couples to call that company. I know it's not really in our job descriptions to act as their marketing departments. But as so many of them went out of their way for me, I am genuinely moved to want to make a difference to their business.
Like most Tribesmaids, I've had a little love-in with nearly all my vendors. I simple cannot believe that they've taken some sketchy brief and come back with designs, flowers, decorations, etc., that completely surpassed my expectations. After the wedding I wrote each one an incredibly detailed thank you as I wanted them to be able to use my comments as a testimonial to share with other brides and grooms.

1. Have a registry? DON'T write thank you letters in advance.

You've probably guessed by now that I'm a Type A personality. And when I read an online suggestion to write thank you letters in advance as guests start to buy gifts or make donations, I jumped at the idea. So precise, so organised! And I would be able to express my thanks without suffering perhaps quite as much letter fatigue as someone who wrote them all in one go (i.e. after the wedding).
What I found through the planning process is what everyone else here has found. That it is inevitable we will need colossal amounts of help before everything is over. And until it's all over you really can't get your head around who has helped you in ways that really need to be acknowledged more than the toaster you may receive.
Right, so that's my top 10 then! Although I'm now an old married woman, I'm really curious what lessons and advice YOU would give others — every day is a new learning experience.

30 Expert Wedding Planning Tips and Tricks

When planning your wedding, there are things that are nice to know, like that mermaid silhouettes are all the rage or that purple is making a comeback. Then, there are things you need to know -- advice so essential that any bride who's lucky enough to hear it thinks, "I'm so glad someone told me that!" If you're wondering whether there's something you may have missed (or even if you've got everything under control), check out our indispensable planning secrets.

1. Guests Come First

Get a grip on the approximate number of guests you'll invite before settling on a venue. This will ensure there's ample space for your crew. As a rule of thumb, allow for 25 to 30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot, but it's not if you count the space you'll need for the tables, bustling waiters, the band, and the dance floor.
Start your wedding guest list here.

2. Investigate Wedding Blackout Dates

Know ahead of time if your wedding date falls on the same day as a trade conference, charity walk, or other local event that could affect traffic and hotel room availability.
Click here for wedding dates to avoid.

3. Listen to Mother Nature

Heed the weather and other potential annoyances. Guests have been known to skip out early from hotter-than-hot summer tent weddings and improperly heated winter loft receptions. Bugs (gnats, deerflies, and no-see-ums) also swarm in certain areas during certain seasons. Consider renting pest control tanks to alleviate the problem or including bug repellent in guests' gift bags. And if you want a sunset ceremony, make sure you know when to say your vows by checking SunriseSunset.com.

4. Check Your Credit

Take advantage of the high cost of weddings and sign up for a credit card with a rewards program. Whether it gives you airline miles or great shopping deals, consolidating all wedding-related purchases to this card will help you accumulate thousands of rewards points (which could be used for your honeymoon).

5. Pay It Forward

Let one vendor lead you to another. Your wedding photographer can tell you which florist's blooms really pop, and your reception manager should know which band packs the dance floor.

6. Lighten Your List

The easiest way to trim your wedding budget? Cut your guest list. Remember, half of your wedding expenses go to wining and dining your guests. If it's costing you $100 per person, eliminating one table of 10 can save you $1,000.

7. Ask and You Might Receive

Request an extra hour for cocktails or for your band to throw in that Frank Sinatra sound-alike before you sign on the dotted line. Most vendors would rather secure the reservation than nickel-and-dime you early on and turn you off. Later on, though, they may have less of a motive to meet you halfway.

8. Make a Meal Plan

Another unforeseen expense? Feeding your wedding day crew. Before you sign the contracts, make sure you're not required to serve the same meal to your vendors that guests will receive. Otherwise, you could be paying for 20 additional lobster tails. Choose a less expensive (but equally hearty) meal for them instead. You will have to let your wedding caterer know a couple of days before the wedding exactly how many vendors you need to feed (don't forget photography assistants and band roadies) and what you want them to serve.

9. Get Organizationally Focused

In a three-ring binder, compile all your correspondences with vendors, notes you make during meetings, and photos or tear sheets from magazines you want vendors to see. Set up a special email address dedicated to your wedding, and store important vendor numbers in your cell phone.

10. Tend to Your Bar

Typically, you need one bartender per 50 guests to keep the line at a minimum. But if you're serving a signature cocktail that cannot be made ahead of time (or in large quantities), consider adding an extra server designated to this task.

11. Leave Some Room in Your Wallet

Your wedding budget should follow this formula: 48 to 50 percent of total budget to reception; 8 to 10 percent for flowers; 8 to 10 percent for attire; 8 to 10 percent for entertainment/music; 10 to 12 percent for photo/video; 2 to 3 percent for invites; 2 to 3 percent for gifts; and 8 percent for miscellaneous items like a wedding coordinator. It's essential to allocate an extra 5 to 10 percent of your money for surprise expenses like printing extra invites because of mistakes, additional tailoring needs, umbrellas for a rainy day, and ribbons for the wedding programs. Go to TheKnot.com/budgeter for an interactive budget allows you to add your own items.

12. Don't Be Afraid to Ask

Your wedding vendors should be your go-to, most-trusted experts during the planning process. When working with them, you should feel free to really explore what it is you want -- maybe it's serving a late-night snack instead of a first course or doing a bridal portrait session rather than an engagement session. The bottom line is that you should feel like you can have an honest conversation with them about what it is you want. Their job will be to tell you what you can and can't make work given your wedding budget.

13. Wait for a Date

Sometimes, last-minute planning can work in your favor. The closer your date, the more bargaining power you have. Since most people book their wedding sites at least six months in advance, calling for open dates two months prior to your desired time can save you up to 25 percent. And, Friday and Sunday weddings should cost about 30 percent less than Saturday weddings.

14. Manage the Mail

Of course you want the perfect stamps for your wedding invitations. But not all stamps are widely available at every post office, especially in large quantities. Save yourself scouting time by ordering them online at USPS.com. And be sure to weigh your invitation and all the additional paper products before you send them out so you can attach the right amount of postage. Ask your stationer about the need for additional postage for odd-shaped envelopes.

15. Prepare for Rejection

Know that as a rule, about 30 percent of the people you invite won't attend. Naturally, this depends on the location of your wedding (destination weddings are harder to attend), how many out-of-towners are on your list, and the timing of the event (some guests may have annual holiday or summer plans). On the other hand, everyone could accept -- knowing your wedding will be the can't-miss party of the year!

16. Make a Uniform Kids Policy

You have four choices: You can welcome children with open arms; you can decide to have an "adults only" wedding; you can include immediate family only; or, you can hire a child care service to provide day care either at the reception space, in a hotel room, or in a family member's home. To prevent hurt feelings, it's wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others (unless, of course, the children are in your bridal party).

17. Prioritize Your People

Pare down your guest list with the "tiers of priority" trick. Place immediate family, the bridal party, and best friends on top of the list; follow with aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends you couldn't imagine not being there. Under that, list your parents' friends, neighbors, coworkers, and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.

18. Take It One Step at a Time

Put together a wedding planning schedule and do things one by one, in a logical order, so you don't take on too much too fast and end up with everything snowballing around you. Don't hire any vendors before you've confirmed your date; don't design your cake before you've envisioned your flowers; and don't book a band before you've settled on a space.

19. No Ring, No Bring

If your guest list is bursting at the seams, assess the plus-one scenario. Do a faux seating chart in your mind, and imagine whom your single pal would sit with. If it's a table of singles that she knows pretty well, then you're all set. If it's a table of couples (making her the odd one out) or if it's a table of singles where she won't know anyone, consider bending the rules. If asked why you're not allowing single friends to bring guests, size constraints or your parents' never-ending guest list are always good fallback white lies.

20. Release Rooms

As soon as you have picked a date, start to look for hotels in a wide variety of price points. Many hotels allow you to reserve rooms for guests under a special wedding block and a reduced rate. You can then release any unbooked rooms a month prior to your wedding. If the hotels you contact insist upon contracts with cancellation penalties, just say no -- you don't want to be responsible for rooms you can't fill.

21. Provide Accurate Driving Directions

Make sure guests know where they're going. As easy as online map programs are to use, sometimes the directions are wrong -- or there's a quicker, less traffic-prone route to take. Ask your ceremony and reception sites for printouts of recommended driving directions, which they often keep in stock for weddings and will give to you for free, and test out the routes yourself.

22. Keep a Paper Trail

Get any nonstandard changes to your agreements in writing or send the vendor a confirmation email saying, "Hello, just confirming that you'll keep the venue open until 2 a.m. versus midnight." Don't take anyone on his word -- by the time the big day rolls around, your contact may no longer be working there to vouch for you.

23. Schedule the Setup

You must make sure there's ample time for setup. If you're renting a venue and bringing in outside help, ask, "What time can people come in to set things up?" Preston Bailey, author of Preston Bailey's Fantasy Weddings, recommends seeing if they can do it the day before, or at the very least the entire wedding day, before the event starts.

24. Learn About Marriage Licenses

You can check your state's license requirements online, but confirm with a call to the county clerk's office to see when they're open. Even if it's open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they may issue marriage licenses only during slower times like, say, Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Give a copy of your marriage license to your mom or your maid of honor (just in case you lose yours during the final days before your wedding).

25. Go Over Ground Rules

Be prepared! Ask the manager of the house of worship or site where you'll be married for the list of restrictions (if any). For instance, is flash photography or bare shoulders prohibited? Or, if you're exchanging vows outdoors, are you allowed to plant tent stakes in the lawn (which is often a no-no)?

26. Classify Your Cash

Wedding budgets are all about balance. Start your budget planning by making a list of the crucial details, like the music, your wedding gown, the invitations, the flowers, and the photographer, and assign a number to each -- one being the most important and three being the least. Invest your money in all your number ones and cut corners on your number threes. (But everything can't fall into the number one category!) For example, if a designer gown and fabulous food are what really matter, you may have to choose simple invitations and smaller floral arrangements.

27. Help Guests Pay Attention

Make sure your guests can see -- and hear. If people are seated farther than 15 rows back from your ceremony altar or podium, consider renting a mic and a riser. This could range anywhere from $50 to $100, depending on the equipment used. You'll need to coordinate the delivery and setup with your ceremony space, so put your wedding planner or best man in charge of this task.

28. Write Down Your Digits

Carry an emergency contact sheet on your wedding day. Keep the paper with names and phone numbers of all your vendors in your purse -- it may come in handy in case your limo driver gets lost or you decide you'd like your photographer to take some behind-the-scenes shots.

29. Call the Fashion Police

Don't go dress shopping on your own -- all the gowns will start to look the same after a while and it will be harder to recall which style you really loved. But be careful about who you do bring. If your mom or sibling can't make the trip, ask a friend who is truly honest. This is the time when you really need to know which dress looks best.

30. Be Realistic With Your Time

When it comes down to the last month of your planning (and when you're particularly harried) look at your mile long to-do list and cut three things. Yes, cut three things. Not crucial things that you just don't feel like doing, such as picking a processional song or confirming final details with all of your vendors. Eliminate only the over-the-top tasks like hand-painting "Just Married" signs, or baking cookies for all of the welcome bags. Make a pledge to not think about them ever again.