We recommend setting up an appointment with the florist early in the week before your wedding, if it is on a weekend. If adjustments have to be made, chances are the flowers haven't been delivered to the florist by Monday or Tuesday of that week. If you can't be there, give your surrogate planner a copy of the contract or proposal—and any changes or questions you may have. Have the planner touch base with the florist to confirm these details:
- Date and place of delivery. Make sure the florist has the correct date and place on his or her calender. If you chose an off-peak day such as a Sunday, be sure to point this out. We've received letters from brides who've had no flowers at their Sunday weddings, thanks to florists who "assumed" all weddings are on Saturdays.
- Time of delivery to the ceremony. You must be certain that the site will be open to allow the florist to set up. If the florist has several weddings on your date, he or she may plan to drop the flowers off early to your wedding. Remember, if you plan a summer wedding, you'll want to be sure the air conditioning is on at the ceremony site so the flowers do not wilt.
- Coordination of ceremony flowers. Ask if the florist will be willing to help pin on corsages and boutonnieres, as well as show the bridesmaids how to hold their bouquets. Some florists include this coordination in their cost, others charge an additional fee for it and still others don't offer the service at all. Check ahead of time.
- Time of delivery to the reception site. Again, you'll need to know how early the flowers will be delivered so you can coordinate with the reception site to have the space open and the air conditioning working. Also, your florist should have contacted die reception site to discuss placement of arrangements with the caterer—ask if he or she has!
- If you plan to have some ceremony arrangements transferred to the reception, confirm these details. Ask if there is an additional fee for this service. Give the florist a specific time to pick up the flowers from the ceremony site and deliver them to the reception.
- Last minute changes. You found out that your fiance's mom is allergic to gardenias so you need to change her corsage. Or you decided you wanted a guest book attendant and need to order another corsage. Put all your requests and changes in writing, give one copy to the florist at your meeting and keep one for yourself. If you must make changes via the telephone, send the florist a written memo detailing the discussion. This is the only way to make sure you get what you want. Remember, however, that last minute changes may cost you extra money. If this is the case, have the florist re-draw up the order sheet to include your changes as well as the additional expenses. Don't take "no" for an answer—this is your wedding and your right as a consumer! Payment terms if there is an unpaid balance. If possible pay the balance after the wedding day. Usually, however, florists require full payment before the date.
Go over the size, flavor, and decoration of the cake(s). This is important if you want to be certain the cake corresponds to your original order. If you are in town, try to visit the baker in person, early in the week prior to your wedding.
- When will the cake be delivered? This is crucial! It is best for the cake to be delivered an hour or two before the reception. An earlier delivery may invite mishaps such as cakes toppled by a bumbling catering staffer.
- Of course, make sure they have the correct date, time, and location.
- Make sure the baker has phone numbers for the caterer, reception site, and florist so they can coordinate with one another.
- Confirm their return policy for any rented items (cake plates, columns, and so on).
- Pay the final bill. Most bakers require full payment before the wedding—if you can pay at the time of delivery, this may be better.
Set appointments with the photographer and videographer the week before the wedding. This is prudent since many photographers haven't met both the bride and groom—this is a perfect time to introduce them. During this meeting:
- Confirm the place and time of the ceremony and reception.
- Bring your "shot list." This is a list of photography "must haves." For example, you may want a picture of you and all your siblings. Or a detailed portrait of the grandparents. put it in writing! Make a list for the photographer, keep one for yourself and give one to your surrogate bad cop at the wedding. This way, if the photographer claims he "forgot" his list at home, someone at the wedding will have a copy. find out how the photographer plans to run the day. Discuss the sequence of the day's events and how you will coordinate with him or her to keep on schedule. Of course, you may have a professional coordinator who is responsible for the flow of the evening—if so, inform the photographer. Have the photographer contact the coordinator for details on the day's events.
- Confirm the payment terms. Ask if you can pay the balance after you pick up the proofs or the finished album. This will help ensure that the photographer delivers what he or she promises.
- Cover emergency plans. If you haven't already confirmed this, find out what the photographer will do in the case of an emergency. For example, when will he call you if he can't make your wedding? Who will step in for him? What about backup equipment in the case of a mechanical failure?
- If the videographer is attending the rehearsal, confirm the date and time. There may be an extra charge for this service. Also, ask the videographer many of the above questions.
The Musicians or DJs
Music at the Ceremony
Call each musician to confirm the date, time, and location. Also review the selections to be played and at what time during the ceremony. Ask if they will attend the rehearsal and confirm any extra charge. Find out when they want to be paid, before the ceremony or after (see if the best man can pay these bills when he pays the officiant). If you have any friends or relatives who will be singing or performing at the ceremony, contact them to confirm rehearsal dates and times
Music at the Reception:
- Confirm the date, time, and location of the reception. Tell them when the reception site will be available for set-up. Give them the phone number of the reception site or the caterer.
- Confirm what the musicians or DJ will be wearing, especially if you prefer formal attire.
- Provide them with a list of special songs and preferences. Hopefully, you gave this to them earlier so they could learn the songs or pick up the appropriate CDs. This just should be a confirmation. Remember to give a copy of your list to your surrogate bad cop at the wedding, in case the band "forgets" their copy.
- If you need to make adjustments in the song list, now is the time to ask. Sometimes this is possible, but if a band needs to learn a new selection, it may not be feasible. When do the musicians need to be paid? Musicians seem to play better when paid after the reception, rather than before. If you can swing this, make sure someone at the wedding (a consultant or relative) has a check for the band.
- By phone, confirm date, time, and location of pickup.
- Consider providing the limo company with maps of the locations and schedules, so they don't get lost or arrive late. You can typically fax this information.
- Check on payment policy.
- If you're renting a luxury car from a company like Avis, call to confirm with the rental company ahead of time. Also, provide volunteer drivers with maps and schedules.
- Rehearsal Dinner and/or Bridesmaids Luncheon
- Confirm the time and date with the restaurant or site.
- Check with the caterer or site about the menu. Give them a final guest count.
- If you're providing the beverages, find out when you need to drop off beverages for chilling.
- Put all attendants' gifts in one place. This helps you remember to bring them to the rehearsal dinner or bridesmaids luncheon.
- Give each member of the bridal party a written schedule of the events of the wedding day. Don't let anyone leave without reading it. It may be best to do this at the rehearsal itself. This is your best opportunity to get that notoriously late groomsman to the church on time. Take different members aside to explain their roles the following day (best man must pay officiant, etc.).
GET ALL THE PHONE NUMBERS FOR EVERY MERCHANT OR BUSINESS YOU ARE HIRING, What if the DJ is AWOL at the reception? Or the photographer is late to the ceremony? Calling their office number on a Saturday may only get you an answering machine. Having their home phone numbers (as well as cellular phone numbers and/or pager numbers) is peace of mind for any bride and groom.
IF YOU PLAN TO ALLOW THE PHOTOGRAPHER, VIDEOGRAPHER, AND RECEPTION ENTERTAINERS TO EAT AT YOUR RECEPTION, INFORM THEM AHEAD OF TIME. If you are providing them sandwiches or an alternative to the food you're serving your guests, tell them to see the caterer for their meals.
CONFIRM WITH ALL BUSINESSES WHEN THEIR PART OF THE "SHOW" WILL BE OVER. For example, if the photographer is only going to be at the reception for three hours, confirm this and ask about overtime fees.
When you get engaged
- Decide when and where you want to go. Using the back section of this book, compare the different costs for possible sites. Decide whether you want an "intimate" wedding (couple only) or a more traditional wedding that includes family and friends. Whether or not your guests can afford the trip is a consideration (some couples pick up airfare and hotel tabs for guests, which obviously inflates wedding costs.)
- Do some basic research into marriage requirements at different locales. When we review sites at the back of this book, we'll give you a general idea of what different states or countries require. This will help you decide whether you can do the planning on your own or if you will need the services of a professional planner.
- Decide how much time you have. Remember that many destinations require a full day of travel time each way. Hence, a seven-day honeymoon may be reduced to just five days of actual vacation. Is that enough?
- Prepare a destination wedding budget. Talk to a travel agent to get the latest prices on air/hotel packages. Factor in other costs like long-distance phone calls, faxes, translations and document processing, car rental, transfers from the airport, meals, sightseeing activities, shopping and, of course, the wedding itself (flowers, photography, officiant fees) Other extras might include a professional planner's fee, tips, and so on.
- Remember that many "traditional" bridal gowns require three to four months to order, plus another two weeks for alterations. If you're lucky, you might be able to buy a sample gown off-the-rack. Less formal gowns may require less lead time to order or you can buy one off-the-rack at a department store. Once the date and place are set, you'll want to begin the gown search in earnest.
- You'll need a certified copy of your birth certificate. Be aware that if you need to send away for this from the Department of Health in the county in which you were born, it may take four to six weeks.
- Get an application from a main post office near you. You'll need two identical pictures taken within the last month (Kinko's copy shop and travel agents can do this for you). You'll also need a driver's license and $65 (for an adult).
- Once you submit your application, it may take at least four weeks for processing. One postal employee told us that they do offer "express" service, which takes about a week and costs $20 extra.
- Make any airport and hotel reservations in your maiden name. You'll have to do this since your passport will be in your maiden name.
Marriage License Gymnastics
- Investigate the marriage license requirements of your desired location. Ask a hotel/resort concierge for help or hire a destination wedding planner.
- Check for residency requirements. Some destinations require you to be in "residence" for a period of days or weeks prior to the wedding. Even a few states have "waiting periods" that require you to wait two to three days between the time you get the license and when the wedding can be performed.
- Be aware of filing periods. Some countries require up to six weeks to process your completed application. Other locations require documents to be translated.
- If you've been married previously, you may need either a copy of the divorce decree or a copy of your spouse's death certificate, if you are widowed.
- Typical documents required include a birth certificate (or driver's license for U.S. destinations) and, in some cases, medical test results. Arrange for these as soon as possible.
- Other Stuff
- Remember that many resorts and hotels book up to six months in advance. Does that mean you can't plan a destination wedding in less time? Of course not—the prices may be higher and the pickings slimmer, but it can be done.
- Two weeks before your wedding, confirm all the details. Refer back to the checklist earlier in this chapter for specific points.
- For U.S. destinations, pack all required documents (birth certificate, divorce decree, etc.) in one place so you can find them conveniently when you arrive in your destination. You will need to apply for your marriage license as soon as you arrive, especially if the state has a waiting period.
COUNTDOWN CHECKLIST AT A GLANCE
- The License
- The Guest List
- The Bride's Dress
- The Bridesmaids's Dresses
- The Groom and Other Men
- The Officiant
- The Ceremony Site
- The Reception Site
- The Caterer O The Flowers
- The Baker
- The Photographer
- The Videographer
- The Photographer
- The Musicians or DJs
- Rehearsal Dinner
- O Passports and Other Stuff