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Wedding Dress Shopping

Wedding dressTips to Know Before You Go

DO take the page from the magazine with the picture of the dress you want into a bridal shop. Note the magazine name and issue date on the page.

DON’T order a dress that you have not actually seen.

DO inquire about the alteration policy. Most stores charge for this because employing an expert seamstress/tailor is an additional cost for them. Custom fitting is as important as the style of the gown.

DON’T rush to accept an all-inclusive price (free headpiece, petticoat), because the level of service is often reduced by the amount of extras promised. Beware of incredible deals.

DO use a credit card when paying your deposit. If the dress is not delivered or there are problems, the bank that issued the card can be contacted to issue a refund.

DON’T buy at a hotel sale unless the sponsor has a bridal shop in town. Traveling shows are cash and carry. You have no way to reach the seller and no recourse if you’re not happy with the dress.

DO set a budget. The cost of a wedding dress averages between $700-$800, but can range from $300-$2,500. Know how much you are willing to spend, and be prepared to buy if you find your dream dress. Most salons require a 50% non-refundable deposit.

DON’T bring children along. Take this time for yourself.

DO start looking early! Most stores recommend that you order your dress no less than 16 weeks before your wedding to allow time for custom ordering and fitting.

DON’T bring more than two bridesmaids or friends shopping with you. Too many opinions will only cause confusion and controversy. Pick one trusted adviser.

DO check the manufacturers size charts for each dress with your measurements in hand. Select the size closest to your largest measurement  its easier to take in a dress than to enlarge it.

Tips on Sending Invitations

wedding invitation Gather your lists of invitees before you order the invitations.

Order at least 25 more invitations and envelopes than you think you will need (to cover mistakes in addressing, re-mailing to a current address, to cover last-minute must haves). Its much more expensive to re-order than to order more than you need at the beginning.

Type/print the list of names with the appropriate titles: Mr., Mrs., Dr., Ms., Reverend, Captain, Lieutenant, Rabbi, Fr., Messrs., Honorable, etc.

If a widow: Mrs. John Smith; If divorced: Mrs. Susan Smith.

For children over 18 and living at home, they receive their own invitation or are listed separately on their parents: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith Ms. Melissa Smith

If inviting two people sharing a home or living together, or a married couple with different names, use both full names: Dr. Susan Davis Mr. James Rosser

If inviting children under 18, their individual names (or, and Family) are listed below their parents names on the inside envelope: Mr. and Mrs. Smith Sue, Bret and Mike

If you are graciously inviting single people to bring a guest, this appears on the inside envelope: Mrs. Smith and Guest; Mr. Jurgen and Guest.

When purchasing postage for the outer envelopes, take a fully stuffed envelope (invitation, inner envelope, response card/envelope, reception card, map, etc.) to the post office. Correct postage is determined by weight and size. If sending different enclosures to differing groups of people, take an example of each. Remember, postage to foreign countries is higher. And, if you are sending invitations to other countries, do not pre-stamp the response envelope. U.S. postage can only be used for mail originating in the U.S., territories or through the armed services.

If youve ordered thank you notes for your wedding gifts with the names of the bride and groom, you can write, seal and stamp the thank you note as the gift is received, but do not send out before the actual marriage ceremony is performed. (Writing the thank yous as gifts are received is much easier than doing them all at once. Just mail them after the wedding or on your return from your honeymoon.)

Set up a card file, loose-leaf notebook, or computer program with:

Response Shower
Gift/Thank You Wedding Gift/Thank You
Y/N #
(What?) Sent? (What?) Sent?


City, State, Zip

Bridal Party Responsibilities

Close up of bride and bridesmaids bouquets

Special People Do Special Things

Attendant duties MAID or MATRON OF HONOR: Name___________________________________________
A Maid of Honor is single; a Matron of Honor is married. She is at least 18 years of age  the minimum age to sign a legal document. Helps select attendants dresses and coordinates the bridesmaids. Helps address the invitations, and plans the shower. Helps the bride dress and finish packing on her wedding day. During the ceremony, stands next to the bride, holds the grooms ring and brides bouquet. Adjusts brides veil and train, and signs the marriage license. Stands next to the groom in the receiving line. May offer a toast at the reception. Helps the bride change into her going-away outfit. Takes care of storing the wedding dress and may deposit gift checks or look after presents while couple is honeymooning.

Offer to do errands for the bride and help address invitations before the wedding. Pay for attire and attend fittings. Participate in bridal shower. Attend rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. May assist in caring for the flower girl or ring bearer before the ceremony. March down the aisle in the processional, may stand in the receiving line. Sit alternately with ushers at the bridal table. Dance with ushers during the reception.

At least 18 years of age  the minimum age to sign a legal document. Makes arrangements for the bachelor dinner. Often assists in hotel arrangements for grooms family and out-of-town guests. Confirms honeymoon travel arrangements and provides grooms transportation to the ceremony and to the reception. Confirms ushers and groomsmens duties. Helps groom pack car for couples getaway. During the ceremony, signs marriage license, holds the clergys fee and brides ring. Offers the first toast at the reception and sits at brides right at the head table. Dances with the bride and attendants, and reads congratulatory telegrams. Returns all of the mens rental clothing to the tux shop.

Assist groom with errands, bachelor party, and seating lists before the wedding. Responsible for clothing rentals and lodging, attending rehearsal dinner and arriving early to the wedding site. Escort guests to their seats, seating friends of the bride on the left, of the groom on the right. Seat the grooms parents and the brides mother. Pull runner into position as the bridal march begins, and pull it back at the end. March in the processional and escort the bridesmaids at the end of the ceremony. May escort bride and grooms family out of the church, and signal each aisle of guests to exit. Pack and decorate the get-away car (if allowed). Should be able to give directions to the church and reception facilities. Provide bridesmaids with transportation and dancing partners for the reception.

Seated just prior to the mother of the bride at the ceremony. Traditionally host the rehearsal dinner. They stand in the receiving line. Often pay for the liquor and bar service at the reception.

Traditionally, the father of the bride pays for the wedding and reception although its more often a shared expense with the bride and groom and the grooms family. The father of the bride escorts his daughter down the aisle and stands next to the mother of the bride in the receiving line. Toasts the couple at the rehearsal dinner. Dances with his daughter after her first dance with the groom. The mother of the bride is the last person to be seated before the ceremony and is the first in the receiving line. Is prepared to pass along gift and registry ideas to inquiring guests. She assists in compiling the guest list and may accompany the bride when shopping for her gown.

When including children, choose the kids carefully, include them in the rehearsal, provide a baby-sitter, seat their parents on the aisle, allow them to back out if nerves prevail, and be sure to give them a special reward for their important role in your wedding.

Immediately precedes the bride. Carries a basket of flowers to strew in the brides path, symbolizing a beautiful path ahead.

Precedes either the flower girl or the bride. Carries the pillow with the symbolic ring. (The best man still gets the honor of presenting the real thing.)

For a very formal wedding, two children may carry the train down the aisle.

Children from either family who light the candles just before the mother of the bride is seated.

Questions to Ask the Caterer


_____ What is the estimated cost per person for a seated dinner? Buffet? Cocktail reception? Open bar? What does the cost include?

_____ What is the staff-to-guest ratio? (For seated meals, the ratio is usually one waiter to 8-10 guests.)

_____ Have you worked at my prospective reception sites? Can you recommend other sites for weddings?

_____ Do you have a set menu? Can the menu be modified?

_____ Can the kitchen staff adhere to special dietary restrictions for some guests who may be diabetic, kosher, vegetarian?

_____ Do you have liability coverage  including liquor liability?

_____ Can you supply me with a list of references? (Contact two.)

_____ How much advance time is needed to confirm a reservation?

_____ Can I arrange to view the catering of another wedding reception to check food display, service style, flow, organization? Can we arrange to taste foods on the menu you suggest?

_____ Do you set the tables? Provide linens? Order floral arrangements? Coordinate the music?

_____ What additional charges might be incurred other than the food, beverages, and rental of requested extras?

_____ What is the policy for payment, tipping? (Some caterers request cash, others accept checks or credit cards. Some include gratuities in the base or overall price, others do not.)

_____ How much advance time will you need to set up?

_____ Can you send me a confirmation letter including the wedding date and time, names of service help, tipping policy, decorating time, color schemes, menu, cost per person?

_____ Can I see available linens? What is the additional rental cost?

_____ How much food is enough? (Ten to twelve hors doeuvres per person is adequate. With buffets, offer a choice of two entrees.)

_____ Will the hors doeuvres be butlered or on a buffet?

_____ How much are your overtime and cancellation costs?

_____ Can you give me a ceiling on anticipated menu price increases? (Caterers quote final prices 90 days prior to the wedding. Due to rising food costs, an increase might be 10%.)

_____ When will the wedding cake be delivered (if your caterer will provide you with one)? Is the cake cut by the banquet staff?

_____ Can we go over placement of the head table  on a raised platform or floor level, dais or round table?

_____ How many drinks does each bottle of liquor, champagne, provide? Is there an opening fee per bottle of champagne?

_____ Will you feed the photographers, the musicians?

_____ What is the guarantee requirement for number of guests?

_____ When must I provide a final guest count?

Get all estimates in writing; contracts should state what food and drink is to be served, how many servers will be needed, and a provision to inform the caterer of the final number of expected guests at least a week before the wedding.

Planning Your Beach Wedding

beach weddingThere is no right or wrong way to plan a beach front wedding. It can be large, small, romantic, whimsical or even downright goofy…the choice is completely up to you and your ideas!

There is certainly nothing that should dissuade you from your vision of a beautiful beach side ceremony. As a matter of fact, there are many benefits that will make your wedding day a wonderful and joyous event.

A beach wedding can be much cheaper than a traditional wedding. It is said that the average budget for a traditional wedding is between $20,000 to $30,000!

A beach wedding can be a casual affair. It allows everyone to relax. Your guests can dress comfortably and affordably.

The wedding ceremony and reception can be held right on the beach. No need to travel to different locations!

A beach wedding allows you to involve everyone in the activities. Guests are not restricted to sitting quietly in their seats.

A beach wedding is a modern and refreshing change from the traditional wedding. It allows your creativity and personality to come through.

If you dream of a wonderful day on the shores of Northern Michigan, think about one thing… Mother Nature rules! Depending on her mood, she can brighten your day or rain on your parade. When planning your celebration be sure to arrange an alternate location should the weather turn bad.

If every hair is not in place due to the bay breezes or a last minute snafu with the bouquet happens, remember…these are not imperfections in you day…they are special memories!

Submitted by Boo Birk


wedding photographer1A good time to start looking for a photographer and/or videographer is about nine to twelve months in advance. Begin with recommendations from family and friends, looking through albums for quality, style and formats that you like. Some criteria to keep in mind when interviewing photographers include:

  • Do the photos have a sharp, crisp quality?
  • Can they do retouching? What about special effects?
  • Will there be an extra charge for the proofs?
  • How long do they keep the negatives?
  • Does the quoted price include the finished album?
  • Do you feel confident with the person and feel that they will perform professionally, inconspicuously and deliver great pictures?
  • Check for a mix of shots that are technically good.
  • Look for the emotion the photo projects.
  • Is the person showing you the photos the person who will be shooting your wedding?
  • Discuss costs. Work out a clear payment schedule, and obtain an itemized agreement that lists everything included in the package and the total cost.
  • Can he arrive early to capture last-minute preparations, moments with family members, and the little events that make the day complete?
  • Will he design your album for you?

Grooms Check List

groom6-9 Months

Select your best man. Decide how many ushers you need (1 for every 50 guests), and select them.

Start making out your guest list.

Arrange visit with minister to discuss ceremony.

Discuss wedding expenses with fiance and all parents.

Discuss honeymoon plans. If traveling abroad, make legal arrangements (passport, visas, inoculations, etc).

Visit wedding gift registry with fiance.

3-5 Months

Complete guest list, give it to fiance.

Consult with fiance and order wedding attire for self, for best man, ushers and fathers.

Arrange transportation (limousines, etc.) for wedding party to ceremony and reception.

Complete honeymoon plans: buy tickets.

Order wedding rings and engraving.

Arrange to pay for brides bouquet and going-away corsage; order boutonnieres for men, corsages for mothers.

See your doctor for exams, blood test.

8-10 Weeks

Plan rehearsal dinner with your parents.

Consult with fiance and arrange lodging for relatives and ushers from out of town.

Select gifts for best man and ushers, to be given at the bachelor dinner or wedding rehearsal.

Choose brides wedding present. Something personal, such as a watch or other piece of fine jewelry, is traditional.

Make sure necessary documents  legal, insurance, financial, medical, andreligious  are in order.

Give or attend bachelor party.

Pick up wedding rings, check engraving.

Help fiance with thank-you notes.

3 Weeks

Make a date with your fiance to get the marriage license.

Arrange with the best man for transportation from the reception to the airport or train.

Double check honeymoon reservations and hotel for wedding night.

2 Weeks

Explain any special seating arrangements to head usher.

Put the clergy members or judges fee in a sealed envelope and give it to the best man, to be delivered after the ceremony.

Purchase travelers checks.

Get your going-away clothes ready so you can change after the reception.

Pack for your honeymoon.

Arrange to move belongings to new home.

Remind best man and ushers of the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner details. Present gifts to attendants at rehearsal dinner.

Arrange for rental returns.

Be sure you and your bride sign the wedding certificate and see that it is safely put away before leaving on your honeymoon.

Have best man send a thank-you telegram to your brides parents the next day saying how lovely both the wedding and reception were.

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