SPENDING TOO MUCH It's easy for an excited bride and groom to get swept up in planning a spectacular wedding without stopping to add up the expenses, especially when parents are covering most of the cost. As much as you'd love to have a fairy-tale wedding with every imaginable luxury, you'll soon discover that economic reality has a way of interfering. Start by shopping for a reception hall and dinner for your invited guests. That's likely to be your biggest expense. Then make a budget, allowing for a gown, tuxedos, a limo, a minister/rabbi, flowers (for the wedding party, parents, church/temple, reception hall), decorations, favors, music (both ceremony and reception), and a generous fund for miscellaneous expenses. Keep records, so you know how you're doing in relation to your budget. And don't bounce any checks!
TOO MANY GUESTS Don't invite more people than your reception hall can hold, assuming that a lot of them won't show up. If you invite 300 guests, and you expect 200, but 250 people show up, the room won't magically expand, and 50 additional dinners won't magically cook themselves. You'll have to send some people away. Assume that 80 percent of the people you invite will show up. Make sure your room can handle at least that many people, plus a few more. And plan for a few extra meals in case some people who RSVP'd 'no' suddenly show up.
OVERWORKING YOURSELF Planning a wedding is a lot of work. Don't turn down anyone's offer to help you with some of that work. The Internet is full of advice on wedding planning. If your budget allows you to hire a professional planner, that's wonderful. But in most cases, the families handle the planning. Friends, parents and future in-laws can do things like addressing invitations, gathering information about entertainment options, and helping you shop. Shower them with gratitude when they volunteer to help. It's also a good idea to give them some nice gifts on your wedding day to show your appreciation.
MISTIMING YOUR GOWN ORDER Allow at least six months for your gown to arrive, especially if it's a designer gown. Leave plenty of time for delivery and fitting, both for the gown and your bridesmaids' dresses. Don't expect the gown to be the perfect size when you open the box. Even if you buy your gown off the rack, you'll want to have it fitted within a month of the wedding. If you tell a gown designer you're getting married five years from today, you'll probably be told that the gown will take four years and two weeks to make. That's because the designer doesn't want to deliver the gown early, then get blamed when you put on an extra ten pounds before the wedding.
FORGETTING TO BOOK HOTEL ROOMS Your out-of-town guests will need places to stay. And if you wait too long to reserve hotel space, they'll all end up staying at your apartment. Many hotels offer discounts for blocks of reserved rooms. But check in advance to make sure it's not a big weekend like the Super Bowl, the Indy 500, or the Marathon. Start looking at hotels a year before the wedding. Once you know how many guests will need rooms, book them at least eight months before the wedding. Then let your guests know the name and phone number of the hotel, so they can reserve their individual rooms with their credit cards.
FORGETTING RELIGIOUS CONSIDERATIONS The site of your wedding ceremony will almost certainly have requirements and restrictions that you'll need to observe. Consult with your clergyman within a month of your engagement. Discuss available dates, required pre-cana courses, dress code, music selection, and any other considerations that might cause any conflict. Once everything is settled, you may put down your deposits and hire your vendors.
LETTING YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE EXPIRE A typical marriage license is good for a limited time. Don't let it expire before your wedding date. Check with your local County Clerk's office about the requirements for applying for the license and the time required to get it. If you're getting married for the second time, be sure to provide your divorce papers from your first marriage.
CRASH DIETS If you have your wedding gown fitted within a month of your wedding, you shouldn't have to go on a crash diet to look good in it. Also, don't get any major beauty treatments like facials or tanning sessions the day before your wedding. The risk of burns, blisters or infections will far outweigh any small benefit such treatments might give you. You'll look fabulous if you just take good care of yourself, eat sensibly, and get enough exercise and sleep. You don't need last-minute enhancements.
SWEATING THE DETAILS Don't try to over-choreograph your wedding reception. If you and your fiancee want to practice a special dance or speech, that's fine. But never lose sight of the fact that your wedding reception is just a party you're throwing for your friends. Relax and enjoy it. If you spill red wine on your gown, the cake collapses, your uncle Todd gets drunk and makes a pass at the minister's wife, and the banquet room's sprinklers suddenly go off, and at the end of the evening you're still married, you win!
ENTERTAINMENT PLANNING BLUNDERS If you're hiring a band, expect to pay a lot of money. Many musicians cost more than just one musician. And a band won't know every single song you like. Find out which songs they do well. And expect the songs to sound different than the way they sound in your CD collection. Bands like to add their own personal touches to the music they play.
If you have a more modest entertainment budget, a DJ is an excellent option. A DJ's music is always on key, and it's exactly as you remember it. He/she has a much bigger song selection. He/she doesn't take a 30-minute break every time the dance floor is just getting full. And -- this is important -- he/she can turn the volume down if it's too loud for you.
The most expensive DJ's will probably bring a much bigger sound system than you need, and play it at much higher volume than you need. Too many of them also spend a lot of time on the microphone, talking and singing over the music, because they believe you're paying extra for their personality. The truth is, your DJ shouldn't be the center of attention at your reception. He should be a professional master of ceremonies when it comes to handling your introductions, special dances, cake cutting, garter/bouquet and other special announcements. But he must also have the discipline to turn off the microphone and let the music do the work when it's time to dance.
Remember, if you pick all of your dance music in advance, and you don't let your guests make requests, the entire reception will become a concert for the bride and groom, and the guests will feel cheated. And they'll leave early, with a bad memory of your reception. As we said earlier, your reception is a party you throw for your friends. Let them have a good time, too.