Read an Excerpt
The Big White Book of Weddings
By David Tutera
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 David Tutera
All rights reserved.
GETTING STARTED 101
The Planning Process: Think, Organize, Do (and Don't!)
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This is a huge moment! Before we start on the details of your wedding, make sure you have taken time to enjoy your engagement! You will never get another chance to enjoy the rush and elation of being engaged more than once, so revel in the moment of being excited about your dream come true. I understand how exciting it can be, when nothing else matters or is on your mind except thoughts of how happy you are and questions of how you can ensure that your day will go perfectly once it's finally here. I once had a bride who was so thrilled about being engaged that she drove right off the road because she was so preoccupied by staring at her engagement ring. (Sound familiar? Don't be embarrassed. You're in love!) If you've taken the first key step of appreciating each and every moment of this process, you have set a great tone to starting to plan your wedding. This is not a task list, this is an exciting list of experiences, each a celebration in itself!
This first chapter is about preparing yourself for the process: a crash course in planning. I am here to break it down for you in the easiest way possible so you can have both the wedding of your dreams and the wedding-planning process of your dreams!
The biggest mistake I see brides make is when they jump right into the details, the plans, and the purchasing before even pausing to think about the overall picture. It's like running a marathon without pacing yourself, and on top of that, it's like not stretching before you take off!
First, think about what you want to end up with in the end. Then organize those thoughts. Last, do exactly what you need to do to achieve your perfect wedding.
THINK ABOUT IT: BRAINSTORMING
I start with all my brides, even the celebrities, by sitting down with them to discuss what they want their entire wedding outcome to be. It's so important to take a moment for just you and your fiancé (no friends, no family, no coworkers or neighbors or celebrity influencers on your TV) to envision your perfect day. Write down all you have dreamed of or have seen that you remember wanting. Also write down things you like — colors, styles of music, eras of time, scenes in movies, and anything artistic that speaks to you. Dream big and get it all out there; this is your brainstorming list! The sky is the limit; even your wildest and least practical ideas can turn into inspiration down the line.
Ask yourself the most important question of all: What feeling do I want my guests to have when they leave? What emotions do I want them to take away with them? For example, if you answer with emotions like love, joy, faith, warmth, and serenity, this might help you discover you want an intimate, secluded celebration. If you want your guests to feel awe, excitement, and energy, this might guide you toward a lively party!
Throughout this book, you will find several of my lists of "I Do's" and "I Don'ts" regarding each topic. They'll look like this:
I DO's for Your Wedding Music
Have a special song for your ceremony that creates the mood, sets the energy, and evokes your personality.
I DO's for Your Timeline
Choose to have a unique timeline to change up things for your guests so it's not just another cookie-cutter wedding!
I DO's for Your Wedding Cake
Have multiple layers of wedding cake flavors to provide options for your guests.
I DON'Ts for Your Wedding Music
Just say no to hiring a band from your local pub that you just love hearing every Friday night.
I DON'Ts for Your Timeline
Don't have a lineup of endless toasts scheduled in your wedding timeline. Keep your tidings of good health from becoming a speaking engagement by choosing various moments throughout your reception to highlight each speech.
I DON'Ts for Your Wedding Cake
Don't choose a flavor for your cake that is inedible. No matter how many times your groom promises to take out the trash if you go with the "beer-batter" flavor because he'll be a hit among "the guys," pick something that is tasteful for everyone who will be enjoying it with you!
Having your own master list of "I Do's" and "I Don'ts" can help you stay focused in the long run. Reflect on the weddings you have been to, and think of what you've seen before that you both liked — and also what you promised yourself you would never do. You would be surprised what some brides end up doing that they said they would never fall victim to, either because they have been blinded by bridal bliss or because they are pressed for time and don't have an original brainstorming session (like the one you are so smartly doing right now) to rely on! When you feel as though you have a good collection of ideas and inspirations, it's time to start putting them in order and turning all these fantasies into realities!
GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT: ABCS OF ORGANIZING
Now that you have your creative bridal juices flowing, organizing your ideas is the next step to making sure you don't lose any of them in the process. Create a binder to keep notes, all your great ideas, and, later on, your vendor contacts and contracts, timelines, and all your paperwork. Everything should be at your fingertips so you always feel in control. Organization will allow you the luxury of being calm, cool, and collected (literally!).
Organizing is not just about keeping files and folders: This step is also where you mentally organize yourself and prioritize all your ideas as you prepare to act upon them. Prioritizing is necessary to make sure that your wedding dreams, special moments, family tributes, and other traditions that will make your wedding yours don't get lost in the planning whirlwind. Prioritizing the fruits of your brainstorming session can be simplified into three categories: non-negotiable,negotiable, and neutral.
Non-negotiable is for things you will not change, no matter what. Example: You have always wanted a spectacular white cake of many, many layers with gardenias because they were your grandmother's favorite flower, and you promised her you would give her that special tribute.
That would go under non-negotiable! This is something you would be truly upset by and that would potentially sadden you on your wedding day if you did not get it. (And no. You may not put everything under the sun under non-negotiable. You have to pick and choose your battles, sassy lady! ... and that's a great lesson to learn about being married!) Only "must-haves" go here.
Negotiable is for things you want, but you are willing to forgo. Example: Perhaps you know you want live music, but you don't know if you can afford it and you are willing to give it up if you need to spend your money on more important things (like your special, multilayer gardenia-topped cake).
This would go under negotiable. It is something that you would like, but you realize you are impartial enough to it that it can go if it needs to. You would, in an ideal world, like to have these items, but you also realize there are options and you're willing to compromise.
Neutral is for things you do not have a stance on that you can prioritize at the bottom (and also delegate the responsibility to bridesmaids, moms, sisters, or friends to handle!). Example: Maybe you really don't mind what the flowers on the end of each ceremony pew look like, or what varietal of wine is served at your cocktail hour. You guessed it! These would go under neutral. These are things that you must choose for your wedding, but they are not as important as things that are non-negotiable, or negotiable. They are just items you need to make sure are included to complete your wedding.
Throughout this book (and in a very handy chart on my Web site, www.davidtutera.com), I've listed all the things in a wedding you may potentially have the opportunity to spend your money on. By no means do you need to purchase everything any wedding "expert" says you need to purchase to have the perfect wedding! If that were the case, all weddings would be more than a quarter of a million dollars (and if that's your budget, put this book down and call me so we can go out for a night on the town!). Highlight the items you definitely want to spend money on. Then rank those items in order of importance to you: 1, 2, 3, etc. Having trouble putting things in order? Look back on your "negotiating" list. You've already done the thinking!
If you're still having trouble, think of it all in terms of "this versus that." Is having a band more important to you than having lots and lots of flowers? Rank band above flowers. Is your money best allocated toward helping your bridesmaids afford the dresses you want versus getting an expensive veil? Bridesmaids over veil. As you prioritize, make notes. Later on, in the bridal whirlwind, if you want to remember why you made a certain choice, you'll know!
Once you have categorized what is important to you, you have laid the foundation for your entire wedding, and you have given yourself a solid idea of how to build your wedding and what you need to purchase — and, most important, you know what is important to you! You can go forward with a clear idea of your priorities as you prepare yourself to smartly spend!
DO YOUR HOMEWORK: RESEARCHING BEFORE ACTING
The excitement of getting married can be misdirected into excitement to spend, spend, spend! Don't fall into "bridal bargain" shopping, especially with the Internet bridal Web sites that beckon you to purchase the votives with your initials on them ... or disposable cameras in your colors for your tables ... or the fake candles you "like better" than the votives with your initials on them that you found earlier, but you couldn't choose which to get, so you got both. ... You're a smart, sensible, and stylish bride! As long as you do your homework and research before you act (or react!), you'll pass the test of being a brilliant bride with flying colors.
I advocate that your money is very valuable. (Don't you?) It should be spent only in the wisest of ways, so here's your study guide — your cheat sheet for when you do your homework on your vendors.
Research vendors and everyone you are considering for hire. Work with vendors who are in business to take care of you! Sometimes the personality of a vendor can become very high maintenance, and you might find that you're spending more time making sure your vendor is happy than vice versa. Good vendors will always be happy to provide reference letters of past happy clients. Don't be afraid to ask! Take multiple meetings with multiple vendors to test out how you feel about each one and to see samples of their work. Last, speak to past clients (you can find them on bridal blogs and chats) to find out what they really thought.
Work on your budget until you know exactly how much you can spend on your dress, accessories, flowers, favors, etc. (You don't have to carve these figures in stone, but you should know in the back of your head when you are about to buy something if it is within your means or not.)
Get a good idea of how much things realistically cost. Save yourself from getting sticker shocked when you realize how quickly a wedding adds up — after you've already started spending. Be a well-educated bride and put the feelers out first. How much are flowers? How much do dresses run?
How much can cakes be? Don't purchase anything before you understand how much your other elements — and the additions that come with them — will be. That sounds daunting, but do not fear, this leads us to our next section — being a budget-friendly bride!
Plan out what details you need to buy. It's like going to the grocery store. When you go without a list, everything looks so appetizing that you end up in the checkout line with way more than what you need! When you plan your wedding, you need to do the same thing — make your list first.
I am so serious about not letting you waste your money that I want you to pledge to stay your brilliant, money-saving, savvy self right now. Make the commitment (I am your "other man," remember!) with yourself.CHAPTER 2
THAT COSTS HOW MUCH? OR, MY DAD SO WON'T PAY THAT
The Bride's Guide to Savvy Spending and Budgeting
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Money makes the world go 'round ... and when you budget properly, you can absolutely prevent your number-crunching from spinning out of orbit.
My rule of thumb: There's no need to spend a ton of money to have an elegant wedding; you just have to spend the money you do have wisely!
The budget is the number-one place I see my brides go from wishful to woeful ... and it's all because they don't create a good, solid strategy of how they are going to afford all the wonderful accoutrements of their wedding. The stress of finances (in addition to the wedding commotion) takes them into uncharted — and unpaid for — territory. How I wish they all knew this was preventable! You just have to be a well-educated bride — and now that you've "done your homework," you're ready to graduate to part two! Sounds like a perfect time for a few life lessons on bridal bucks, so let's hit the budget books, my lovely bride-to-be, and save you some cash for the honeymoon!
CREATE YOUR BUDGET BEFORE YOU SPEND A DIME
Before you make any financial commitments to anything (a dress, a caterer, even a venue), it's important to first plot out how you will pay for the wedding shebang as a whole. What good is it to have a gorgeous fancy wedding gown ... and no reception to show it off at? ("All dressed up and nowhere to go" is not what we're going for!) Ensuring you have enough money to purchase what you want (and keeping you out of a disaster zone of debt to come home to from your honeymoon) is our priority here.
Don't forget that you don't have to buy a lot of things or have an abundance of trinkets to have a lavish, well-done wedding. Anyone on any budget can have a beautiful ceremony and reception. There is beauty in extravagance but there is also beauty in simplicity!
Each bride's budget is different. Instead of giving an exact dollar figure of how much should be spent on each element, here is an idea of the percentages of your budget that should be allotted.
WHAT TO EXPECT (AND QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN RESEARCHING COSTS)
Budgeting is a constant work in progress throughout the duration of the wedding-planning process. Many variables come into play that determine how much you have to spend in other areas, so it's a continuous bridal balancing act. To get you acquainted with what will be in your wedding equilibrium, here are some tips to keep you from toppling (in order of what the most expensive items, from highest to lowest, will traditionally be).
Food and Beverage Expenses
Food and beverage expenses, being the most costly (and most controlling) element of your budget, play a large role in your budget and will give you the best idea of what you will be left to work with monetarily.
When you decide how much your food per person will cost (or when you decide how much you can pay for food per person, whichever comes first), you can then determine the general cost of your wedding. A very simple equation can get you there:
YOUR GUEST COUNT: ________
COST PER PERSON FOR FOOD AND BEVERAGE EXPENSES (for both
cocktails and reception): $ ________
+ TAX: $ ________
+ SERVICE CHARGE: $ ________
+ GRATUITY (separate from the service charge): $ _________
YOUR FOOD AND BEVERAGE COST: $ ________
Is the number higher than you were expecting? Before you panic, remember that food and beverage will be your highest cost (and this is the category that makes a wedding costly from the get-go). Also know that there are ways to cut that number down, which I explain in the "Eat, Drink, and Be Married!" chapter.
Guarantee the lowest guest count possible. You can always go up from there, and you won't ever be contractually obligated to pay for more people than you can guarantee.
Tax and tip amounts (often referred to by caterers as your amount per person followed by a "plus plus") are important to remember, especially when dealing with large numbers. "Tax" may have the connotation of being just a few dollars here or there on an item of clothing or a slushy from the convenience store, but when you're dealing with large numbers, it can be a pretty big chunk of change that you need to actually budget for. In your contract, you will find a line item for tax and service charge, and often a blank line for additional gratuity that you will determine yourself. ("Service charges" go to the establishment to pay for the actual labor wages, so that "additional gratuity" is the tip for your servers, captains, and maître d'.) Don't assume anything is included if it's not listed: Look for any hidden fees and ask if there are any charges you haven't seen yet. Is there a charge for rentals or for using or traveling to your venue? What about coat check or valet? It may be a lot of question asking, but better safe than sorry! It's your right to know what you will be paying for. Protect yourself when it comes to your signature and your money.
Excerpted from The Big White Book of Weddings by David Tutera. Copyright © 2009 David Tutera. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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