Guest Thank yous

At your reception it is customary you give a little something to your guests for coming. It doesn't have to be huge, but a small token of appreciation shows to your guests that you cared that they came. At my wedding reception I had a candy bar where guests they were given a small Chinese takeout box with our wedding "logo" on it and they went through and filled it with different candies to take home. I have seen people give out CD's of love songs, homemade caramel apples, chocolates, cookies, magnets, and plants just to name a few. You really can do anything and make it work. Make sure you order your thank yous two months before.

Be sure that you have more than enough just in case more guests come than originally expected, or (as was the case at my wedding) if children take more than is intended. If you want to monitor your wedding favors then you can have someone passing them out, or if you're having a sit-down dinner have it waiting at their seat. You can put it at the guest book table so guests know that's what it is. If it's food you're giving then you should give one per guest, if it's a CD, plant or something like that then one per family/couple is plenty.

To help you decide what you are going to do for your thank yous, your budget might be determining that for you. Be sure to set aside a predetermined dollar amount while budgeting your reception to be used for these and stick to it. Again, these don't need to be expensive and can even be handmade. So have fun with them and make these thank yous fun, cute and something your guests will enjoy. It's their final take from your wedding and you want them to remember it and how wonderful it was.

As one last point of advice, if the favor itself is inexpensive, you can make sure it doesn't look it by spicing up it's presentation. A cute bag or some crafty design design could help you accomplish this without spending hardly anything extra. Also consider getting something with your color scheme and theme.

Here are some neat ideas I have seen for wedding guest thank yous.

 Chinese boxes from my wedding with our logo used for the candy bar

Tips For Men: Planning The Honeymoon

This will possibly be your first time away together on vacation and of course you want to make it perfect. Here are some tips to make it exactly that.

Tip 1: Start saving money ASAP so you can go on a nice one-on-one vacation together.

Tip 2: Set a budget of how much you can afford to spend. It may be an awkward conversation to have but you will have lots of money conversations throughout your marriage, so this will be good practice. A honeymoon is about being together, not where you go. It is NOT worth breaking the bank to go on some super extravagant trip. Live within your means!

Tip 3: Buy your airplane tickets, book your hotel room, rental car, and make plans as to what you are going to do on vacation as far in advance as possible. Please don't be like my husband, Ty, and book the honeymoon the Monday before our wedding. Luckily, it all worked out, but I'm sure he could of saved money if he would have done it further in advance.

A lot of men like to surprise their soon-to-be wife and not tell her where they are going. This is a good idea but make sure to let her know what kind of clothes to pack beforehand. Some women actually prefer to be in the know and be able to assist planning and voice their opinions. So you might want to talk to you fiancé and get her opinion as to what she would prefer.

Tip 4: Most couples stay somewhere in town the night of the reception before they leave the next day. Also know that this is your responsibility, and you will need to book a hotel room or make arrangements wherever you are going to stay.

Tip 5: If you are planning to go out of the country be sure to have your passports or get them. It takes a long time to get these in the mail so be sure to start your applications early if you need to.

Also know, when you book the plane tickets to put your wife's maiden last name before her new last name on the tickets. Ty was so excited to put O'Bryant on the ticket instead of Giles. The problem being that my license still said Giles. The next day as we rushed to the airport last minute, two gargantuan issues presented themselves. The first being that my ticket said "O'Bryant" instead of Giles. The second, although I had my purse, my wallet was nowhere to be found. In the rush of getting last minute preparations completed, I had failed to double check that I had everything My wallet was in my temple bag, which I didn't have. At check-in they were nice and understood the situation, leaving it up to us to decide if we wanted to postpone our flight for another six hours or try and make it through security. Obviously, we didn't want to do postpone our flight. As we made it to security we explained our situation and fortunately had our marriage license to prove my identity and name change. They eventually let us through and we made our flight. Looking back, it was a miracle we made it through.  This all brings me to my next tip:

Tip 6: Have someone else be in charge of getting your luggage in the car, making sure your licenses/passports etc. are with you.

Tip 7: Pack a week before.

Ty and I were trying to save money as we were heading back to Idaho for school so we didn't go on a super extravagant vacation. We went to southern California, and did Disneyland, Universal Studios, Hollywood, Newport Beach and went on an "OC Tour" like in the TV series, and site seeing. It was so much fun. We stayed across from Disneyland and every night we could see the fireworks show from our hotel room it was very romantic. The only thing that was a bummer was when we got to pick up our rental car they didn't have what we reserved, and they tried to give us a Charger that smelled like smoke, and wasn't clean. So our only option was a Camaro (which was a gas-sucker) so my last tip:

Tip 8: Don't go too cheap. It's worth paying a tiny bit more to get a far better experience with reputable companies.

Going on a honeymoon is very fun and important as a newly married couple. If you can't afford a luxurious vacation that is fine go to the beach for a weekend or make a fun road trip back to school or wherever you're moving. All that matters is that you're together and enjoying your first few days as a married couple.

For the Bride & Groom: Wedding Registry

Registering is one of the best parts of the whole wedding experience. It's not even the least bit stressful. Make a day out of it and grab some lunch before you head on over to do your registry. It is recommended to register at 2-3 stores and that you register for a variety of items and prices, that way your guests have options on where to go and what to pick out. You should plan to register at least two months before your wedding but you can register as soon as you get engaged if you want. Though, it's not something that needs to be at the top of your priority list.

It's nice to let stores know you're coming in so, if possible, schedule an appointment with them. If for whatever reason you can't schedule ahead, don't worry about it. Most stores have incentives or a rewards program, like Bed Bath and Beyond. If your guests purchase a defined dollar amount of specific brands, you earn extra free gifts! We registered with Bed Bath and Beyond and were very pleased with their customer service. They also let guests send you wedding gifts off your registry for up to a year afterwards. Some may think that is an insignificant perk but we received a few gifts six months after our wedding. A year is not unheard of. For your one year anniversary they also give you a huge 50% off coupon. For these reasons (not to mention the amazing product selection) Bed Bath and Beyond is a popular store for wedding registration.

Target is another popular store many couples register with. I've heard brides complain that they don't have a good return policy, but that is false. Target was very helpful in returning all our gifts; with and without receipts. I think Target is a choice place to register with because of their wide selection of products and the affordable prices. Some other stores couples choose are Crate and Barrel, Williams Sonoma, and Macy's. All are great choices.

Let your guests know where you are registred by including a insert with your annoucement. When I previously posted about announcements, I said not to include this on your actual announcement but with an insert. Stores usually give you inserts for your announcements or you can include your own.

It is important to keep in mind the guests that will be attending. A wedding should never be considered a gift grab by the bride and groom, but they are certainly nice to receive. Especially for those that are starting out with close to nothing, these gifts might be the only things you own. Certain stores like Crate and Barrel or Williams Sonoma are wonderful and top notch, but that often comes with a larger price tag. While some guests may be more than willing to splurge for you on your big day, others may be in need of a more moderate gift list. Just be sure you provide options that will fit the needs of the giver; be it the close family friend versus the distant work acquaintance, or the very wealthy versus the moderately budgeted.

Lastly is an idea that may be perfect for some and ridiculous for others. You may not want gifts at all, but cash or gift cards only. This type of request is somewhat rare but extremely useful in certain circumstances. I first became aware of it from a good friend. They requested that no gifts given because immediately after their wedding they were moving to Hawaii. The cost to try to ship or carry the blenders, toasters, pots and pans, dishes and glass, was going to far outweigh their value. Receiving gift cards and cash allowed them to simply buy everything they needed when they got to their hometown, saving them hundreds in unnecessary costs. Not many have situations exactly like this, but even if you were moving a large distance shortly after your wedding, all that extra bulk could add many hundreds to your moving expenses: larger moving truck, more gas consumed, possible damaged goods, etc. Instead you might consider minimizing the gifts so you can consolidate your possessions to your personal vehicle(s) only. This will greatly minimize overall costs and probably save a few strands of hair from the stresses of moving.

Obviously you don't have to register anywhere if you don't want to and leave it up to your guests to pick out great gifts. But it is nice to let your guests know what you are in need of, especially if you have been living together. I have been wedding shopping for couples and it takes me forever because they are either registered at one store and everything they want is out of my budget,  everything they wanted is already fulfilled, or they don't register at all. So again, give your guests plenty of options. Hopefully I've been able to put some thoughts in your head that will help you make a wise decision in regards on your wedding registry. HAVE FUN!

Choosing the Right Band/DJ/Music at your Wedding

Choosing what music to have at your wedding ceremony can be very difficult. It is ideal that you choose music that will go hand-in-hand with your theme and tone you are setting. For a traditional ceremony you usually have a song for the moms and dads to come out to, bridesmaids and groomsmen, the bride alone with her father, and one that the groom and bride leave to. If you're having a Catholic, Lutheran, or other religious ceremony there can be even more music and songs.

At the wedding reception you may want to hire a band or DJ if your budget allows for it. They should know what kinds of music to play at your wedding but you may want to give them a list of requests. If you're having your couple's first dance, father/bride & mother/groom dances you will want to give them not only the songs/artists, but also the order in which to play them.

I chose to spend my budget in other ways and therefore didn't have a band or DJ play at my wedding reception. Instead I had my iPod connected to a large stereo with a playlist of songs for background music. When it came time to for special events, my brother announced the program and songs from the cutting of the cake to the bouquet and guarder toss, as well as the couple's first dance and the father/bride & mother/groom dances. A playlist of songs on your iPod works out very well, and more and more brides are choosing to do this.

You should choose songs that will make your guests want to dance and celebrate with you. If you're having an actual dance you should have both fast songs and slow songs. Play songs from all decades so all generations will recognize and dance to.

Some people choose to split up the father/bride & mother/groom dance. I recommend not splitting it up and combining them. Start out with the father/bride dance and have the mother and the groom join in party way through. No one wants to sit and watch two of these kinds of dances that can last four to five minutes each. If possible, edit the couple's dance song and the father/bride & mother/groom songs to a minute or so each. Guests also don't want (nor have the attention span) to watch you dance for 10-15 minutes. Trust me, it gets awkward.

Lastly, I recommend practicing the dances to the music. You can't just get up there and wing it or everyone will know that's what you just did. Some brides are intense and have dance lessons like in the movie, The Wedding Planner. I don't think that's highly necessary, but you should practice a few times with your groom and your father. No one wants to watch you go round and round in a circle while you gaze into each other's eyes. Add some spins in there and finish with a striking pose. You are entertaining your guests during these dances so make it fun for your guests to watch. Plus, you don't want your dad getting up there and embarrassing you. If you don't practice with him he will!

If you're going to finish with a bang and have a dance party at the end, you should! That's what your guests came for. Have your bridal party help and get your guests up on the dance floor and movin' to the beat. My dance party was a hit and my grandma got up and started dancing her little tail off. The guests love it so I always recommend a dance party.

How To Split The Wedding Bill & Avoid That Awkward Conversation

It used to be that the bride or the bride's parents usually paid for the entire wedding, but it is becoming more common that the grooms side also helps pay for somethings. "Who pays for what?" is a standard question that brides typically ask me. In response, I hand them a checklist that I have created from my experiences and what I have found through research. However, there are no set rules. Generally speaking, if one side has a strong opinion on something, for example: which band plays, or what photographer is used, that side will pick up the tab. 

So here are my "guidelines" on what I feel to be most accurate and acceptable. Of course, any of it can be altered to the individual.

Who Pays For What

-Engagement Party (optional)
-Wedding Planner
-Wedding Dress & Accessories
-Venue:Ceremony & Reception
-Reception expenses: Decorations, Food, Rentals etc.
-Wedding Favors
-Family's Wedding Attire
-Grooms Ring
-Bridesmaids Outfits (unless bridesmaids are responsible)
-Gifts to Bridesmaids/Groom
-Flowers for Ceremony & Reception Site
-Corsages for M.O.B/Grandmothers
-Grooms Boutonniere
-Boutonnieres for F.O.B/Grandfathers
-Bridesmaids Bouquets, 
-Bride's Throw Away Bouquet

-Engagement Party (optional)
-Rehearsal Dinner/Luncheon
-Family's Wedding Attire
-Grooms Attire
-Tux/Suits/Ties for Groomsmen (unless groomsmen are responsible)
-Corsages for M.O.G/Grandmothers
-Boutonnieres for F.O.G/Grandfathers
-Boutonnieres for Groomsmen 
-Bride's Bouquet
-Brides Engagement Ring/Band
-Grooms Gifts to Groomsmen/Bride
-Officiant's Fee
-Marriage License

Hopefully this checklist will clarify what has become standard for bride's parents and groom's parents to pay for. My husband's parents followed this list and also helped pay for stamps for announcements, skirts for the bridesmaids outfits, and were more than willing to chip in other ways.

Wedding Décor

Decorating the reception and ceremony is very hard work. You need to start thinking about decorations right after you have your venue or you will be in trouble. There is a lot of space you need to fill and it takes a while to find décor that matches your theme, tone and colors. 

If every time you look at your budget and you notice that it keeps shrinking, that's good because you're planning a wedding. But if you realize you still have a lot of things to get and you're close to running out then decorations are one of those places you can go cheap with. 

We're lucky now that there is Pinterest. I wish I would've had Pinterest when I was planning my wedding.There are tons and tons of DIY wedding decorations and the supplies is actually inexpensive. For example, you can find instructions for decorations such as tissue paper flowers, candle votives, signage, and tons more.

You can get really creative with décor. A good friend of my mom helped us with decorations and she was awesome at it. She went out to thrift stores and found vintage looking frames that we spray painted my colors and put engagement pictures in. I've mentioned before, that I had my reception outside at a friend's house where they have a pool. We used that pool to our advantage. We made a large styrofoam heart and poked it full of red and white plastic table cloths from the dollar store and voila we had an awesome floating pool decoration. That heart is still hanging in my master bedroom. We also cut the bottoms off of 2-liter plastic pop bottles and spray painted them in my wedding colors to look like flowers in the pool. I also borrowed a gazebo from a friend and some shepherd hooks that we drove into the ground and hung these glass jars with floating candles and stones, as well as pretty flower arrangements hanging on. If you have friends or family that have resources like these left over from other events, try to use them to cut costs. 

If you need help thinking of ideas that's where I come in. Let me be of help to you brides. There is so many fun, trendy decoration ideas out there right now. The possibilities are endless. 

Need A Wedding Photographer?

One of my good friends and roommates from college, Leslie Leavitt, has started her own photography business and has done amazing work. She has taken photos of Ty and I for our Christmas photo as well as some fun Valentine's pictures to build her portfolio. She does a fantastic job and really has an eye for photography. 

She currently is in Blackfoot, Idaho but is willing to travel. In fact this last weekend, she went up to Seattle to shoot a wedding. So my bride's if you are looking for a photographer you might want to look at some of Leslie's work. She has shot tons of engagement pictures and has some weddings under her belt too. For pricing be sure to contact her at You can also check out her blog at

Some photos Leslie has taken for Ty and I

What To Serve

What food you are going to serve at your wedding depends on what theme and tone you are trying to set, as well as what time you are having your guests arrive. If your guests are coming from your ceremony, most brides will serve dinner at their reception, which I think is very appropriate. For brides who are not having a ceremony before the reception you have more of an option. It depends a lot on the theme and tone you are creating, as well as what time you are having your guests arrive. If you are doing a more elegant, romantic tone you may want to consider serving dinner. If you choose dinner are you wanting it to be a sit-down/formal, or buffet style? If you are wanting a more fun, late night reception, then you can think about having a dessert only reception and having it start around seven so guests know you will not be serving dinner. The options for food are endless. So have fun with this. Food is one of the largest chunks of your budget. You need to think about choices, quality and presentation. 

Depending on your venue, they may provide food for extra, or require a list of caterers to be approved by them. This can be a frustrating part of picking a venue, sometimes they will have restrictions that will keep you from using your caterer or restaurant of choice. So find out what the venue's rules are, and meet with some caterers they recommend or with the venue's manager.

Discuss your ideas and hear theirs. They've been doing this for a while so they know what guests like and probably have a few favorite items. Ask questions and tell them how many guests you're planning for. Let them know your theme, if you want sit down dinner versus a buffet, and make sure to let them know your budget. In the end have them prepare a written proposal with estimated costs. If you have some guests with food allergies/vegan let them know. If you are going to give your guests an option of meat/fish check and see if the caterer wants R.S.V.P cards and when they need them back by. Also, ask them if they rent tables, chairs, linens  dishes or if you need to find a rental company. (Get linens to enhance color scheme). Decide how you want to do beverages. Do you want a bar or certain options of self-serve drinks. Keep in mind when once this is all said and done to expect to tip 15-20% of the total bill. Once you have initially met with the caterers narrow it down and set up a few tasting appointments for the two of you, and your parents. After, decide which caterer made you feel confident, what food looked and tasted the best, and offered the best value. Then hire the caterer and work out details in a written contract. Lastly, inform your venue of your caterer. 

If your venue doesn't require you to have a caterer then have what you want. There are so many neat trends with food right now that can put caterers to shame! Some new trends in food right now are different bars/buffets.

  • Italian Soda Bars-you can get many different flavors and fun glasses and straws to drink them out of. I had an italian soda bar at my wedding and my guests loved it.
  • Waffle/crepe bar- all different kinds of yummy toppings
  • Taco bar-easy different meats, toppings, tortillas etc. 
  • Candy bar- I had a candy bar at my wedding too, which was my "Thank You" to guests and they sure enjoyed it. We didn't have hardly any candy leftover. The candy bar is fun because you can get candy that is only in your colors so it matches your color scheme and looks cute. We had all different kinds of jars for the candy. You can make cute little display cards and have cute bags or boxes to put the candy in. Keep someone watching it though, otherwise some guests (especially children) will take more than their share, and there wont be any left for everyone else.

So have fun with this. If you are needing to cut back on your budget, then you can here. There are so many ways to go about what to serve. But do keep in mind your guests come and bring you a nice gift, so you can at least serve them some delicious food.

Taco Bar
Italian Soda Bar

My Reception: Dessert Only
My Candy Bar

Why Have A Wedding Planner?

Why have a wedding planner, anyway you ask? Well, I am going to tell you why, so when you start to plan your big day you will automatically know you need one. Some of you maybe thinking a wedding planner is a nice, extra expense but I'm already on a tight budget and my family or my friend can really just take care of it all. Well, it's up to you, but you may change your mind when I'm done.

My friend found an article titled "7 Things Wedding Planners Do (That Brides/Moms/Aunts/Friends Can't) and she thought I could use it. So today I am going to touch on a few good things this editor said in hopes that will hit home to you. 

Why have a Wedding Planner? 

-You and your mom get into a standoff the day before the wedding, who will be the mediator? 
-Mom, family and friends want to enjoy the day with you, so who is going to be there to serve you as needed?
-What if that mom, aunt, friend isn't going along with what you want who's going to tell them? 
-Everyone is dancing and someone drops a drink-who's going to clean up the glass? 
-Who is going to make sure all your gifts and extra details get sent home? 

Here are some points that came from "7 Things Wedding Planners Do" By Lauren Grove from

1. Wedding Planners offer insight and suggestion. They have planned many weddings in their career, they know weddings, they know the industry. You wouldn't want to plan a wedding by yourself when you can easily have an expert sitting right next to you. 

2. They have relationships with vendors. Which can be a plus when you're enquiring about vendors, and maybe just maybe they can get you a good deal;)

3. Wedding Planners can be a great mediator between the bride and the mom or whoever. They offer a bird's-eye perspective while providing logical reasoning and aren't emotionally involved, like the bride, mom, aunt, friend. 

4. The Wedding Planner is there to take care of the unexpected. You have enough on your plate, especially on your special day. The last thing you need is added stresses. If the wedding planner is exceptional they will fix things before you even know to worry about them.

5. A Wedding Planner is there to work for you, not to mix and mingle with friends and family. Though your friends and family could take care of mostly everything, imagine the regret you might feel if someone has reason to say, "I wish I could have actually experienced it all with you."

6. Wedding Planners will ensure that the wedding get's set up correctly without having to hurry off go get ready for the wedding, like family and friends need to. Luckily for me, friends and family helped set up the day before (for the most part) so there weren't any problems scrambling to get ready the day of.  However I did (kind of) have a wedding planner/friend who was setting up all the decorations that day-photos, centerpieces, table cloths etc. I can't imagine my mom or aunt or friend running off to set up and not being with me and taking it all in. I am so thankful I had a wedding planner/friend to help and ease the burden from me, my mom and family. So again, wedding planners know the drill, they know the plan and will take care of it.

7. In planning the actual ceremony, brides need someone who isn't a friend or someone part of the family to coordinate it all: Getting everyone lined up, cueing the musicians to change the music, asking the guests to rise for the bride's entrance. This is where a wedding planner comes in and ensures the bride a stress-free wedding so she, along with everyone else, can relax and enjoy the best day of her life. 

So, sure a friend can do it but then they won't be able to enjoy the wedding day, or participate in the wedding very well. It will just be a job for them. So let me help plan your wedding so everything can run smoothly, and your family and friends can sit back and enjoy your special day with you.

Jennifer Lopez In Wedding Planner