1. DO YOUR RESEARCH. After the proposal, or agreement, on a wedding date, start doing your research. The internet already allows for speedy gathering and consolidation of information, rates, pictures, etc. No, you're not going to book suppliers just yet. But before planning your wedding, you have to have a pretty good idea of how much major items cost so that you and your beau can plan your wedding with a more REALISTIC budget. At least, you are also forewarned that invitations can cost as much as P100 now, depending on the design, or that people actually use Save-the-Date cards now, which you can create on your own.
2. ATTEND BRIDAL FAIRS AND EXPOS. Again, this is only to arm you with information on the latest trends. Some suppliers in such shows also do a mock set-up which will also allow you to envision a THEME for your wedding.
3. TALK ABOUT THE WEDDING DETAILS. Ask yourselves important questions such as, does your chosen date fall during the rainy season? What things are MUST-HAVES? What things are you willing to scrimp on? How do you envision your wedding? Are there many guests? What are they wearing? Will you need luminaries? Will a CD for the reception do? Etc.
4. ARM YOURSELF WITH LISTS AND PICTURES. Cut pictures from magazines. Consolidate list of poses and songs. Draw designs if you can. Try to avoid gray areas by just describing what you want. This way, it will be easier for a prospective supplier to give you accurate estimates/quotations for what you want, as well as deliver what you thought you ordered.
5. DRAFT A BUDGET. Using information gathered before, itemize each detail and come up with a budget. Set a limit for how much you can exceed said budget (5%? 10%? 50%?)
6. INTERVIEW SUPPLIERS. Armed with ideas, pictures and budget limitations, start interviewing prospective suppliers.
7. TAKE REFERRALS AND SUPPLIERS' REVIEWS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. Note consistent complaints while also making sure that you spell out everything with a supplier before booking him/her. Sometimes, some suppliers are just really unprofessional. Sometimes, the negative comments actually were a result of overly-exacting couples with unrealistic expectations (e.g. do not expect 2 dozens of tulips for only P300). Miscommunication can also happen, and it's the bride/groom's responsibility to make sure they are getting their money's worth... unless they paid coordinators to do it. And even with wedding planners, you still have to be vigilant about details.
8. BE VIGILANT ABOUT DETAILS. Not exactly encouraging compulsion, going over your lists time and again and making follow-ups, while also repeating agreements before with suppliers will help you, and your supplier to remember better. Note everything down. Add addendums to contracts for your specifications. Be clear with the look you want, and the overall effect you’re after, and not how perfect each item/aspect should be.
9. USUALLY, SIMPLE IS TIMELESS. Sure, you can have the Moroccan wedding you want... but make sure it's something you'd still appreciate 5 years down the line. And even with themed weddings, make sure no activity is overly-elaborate that will only just leave you distressed or worried (e.g. will this really big crown of flowers fall off my head?). Remember, you and your guests are there to have fun.
10. DO NOT OVERDO YOUR THEME. Whatever your theme is, just choose certain aspects in which to feature the theme (e.g. butterflies shall appear on your invites, flower girls’ wings and cake, but not on everything where you can put them). Guests will appreciate it all the more, it will save you on costs, and there’d be less detail you’d be worrying about.
11. RESEARCH YOUR WEDDING GOWN STYLE. Ask yourself, what silhouette or dress type has always flattered you best? Just because most brides march in strapless gowns doesn’t mean you should. And just because you want to be different shouldn’t find you in boleros that don’t really flatter you. Play up your strengths/assets and hide (if you can) what must be hidden (really bulging tummies, unless you want to look pregnant).
12. TUNE IN. Flip through your CD collection for ideas for your wedding ceremony/reception. Are there songs that you really love playing? Is there a movie soundtrack close to your heart? This will help you to envision the mood you want to create for your own wedding.
13. CONSIDER FAMILY/PERSONAL HISTORY. Your family history and personality will help you in coming up with personal, unique touches to your wedding elements. Include a dish you're renowned for, use pictures of happy couples in your family, use/modify designs of grandmothers and aunts' wedding gowns or bridesmaid dresses or wedding rings, give away recipes of the first thing you cooked/baked as a child. Go over your history as a couple, and incorporate some things (dish you tried on your first date, the first poem he ever gave you, etc) in your wedding. Note cards telling stories of your childhood, your hobbies or your courtship will also add intimacy to your wedding without requiring much from effort.
14. MAKE YOUR SUPPLIERS YOUR FRIENDS. Don't antagonize them until you really have to. Choose your words and modify your approach. It doesn't mean to say that you should forget that they should also please you, but be careful not to treat them as hired help. Call them at reasonable hours. Be considerate. Be nice. Always remember to say your "thank you's".
15. OUT OF TOWN WEDDINGS STILL COST A LOT. Even if you plan for an intimate, out-of-town affair, you'd still be exerting a lot in terms of effort (going to and from the venue to conduct inspections, submit requirements, pay deposits and show around other suppliers) and money (transport costs and out-of-town charges). So unless you have the time, money and attitude for the tasks ahead, forego the wedding by the beach.
16. MAKE DIVISORIA, QUIAPO AND BINONDO YOUR WEEKEND JAUNT. When you don't really have anything planned, walk the length of these places for cheap giveaways or ideas. Not only will the experience give you bonding time, you'd also have a better view of each other's limits (hot and crowded places are stressful) and a clearer view of what each other wants where wedding elements are concerned. Plus, it is exercise you can benefit from.
17. DON'T BORE THE GUESTS. A 2-hour reception ceremony is usually the max before some of your guests start impolitely leaving. And the 2 hours already include picture-taking, toasts, performances, speeches, thank-you's and meals. If you must, just include one sentimental ritual into the program but don't try making it into the Guinness Book of World Records for "most unique ceremony program". There can be dancing and merrymaking after the usual program, after the couple has thanked everyone who came. Speeches and testimonials and special performances by friends and relatives and other inebriated guests may be done while the guests are eating. They're more likely to applaud (politely) with mouths full rather than when they're already on the road anyway. The objective is for people to still be around when you cut your cake. Be creative and add personal touches some other way. Also, make sure you get reliable emcees that can entertain your guests and also remind them (sweetly) to stay for the other parts of the program.
18. GET DANCE INSTRUCTORS. If you have oldie guests who partied hard in the 70s or friends who like dancing, hire professionals who can start the party for you. If your dancing friends are none too shy to initiate dancing with strangers, ask them to do this favor for you. This would maximize the venue rental and sound system, and also entertain your guests as you rest your feet. Just make sure you don’t end up with gigolos and ladies in skimpy outfits for DIs though.
19. MAKE SURE THERE IS ONLY ONE GUEST LIST AND SEAT PLAN. But make sure that many people are armed with copies of these. Do not ever let the groom’s side have a separate seating arrangement, expecting guests you didn’t even know was invited.
TIPS ON HELPING HANDS AND ON-THE-DAY TASKS
If you got a coordinator, chances are he/she/they have already walked you through every imaginable boo-boo that can happen on the day of your wedding which they will be handling for you. Still, here are some insights from my two stints of assisting in weddings.
When you delegate tasks, as much as possible, try not to assign them to your entou... who will be worrying about their gowns and make-up to have the presence of mind to remember. Or, assign a list of things to one person you can trust, as opposed to one small thing that will be easily forgotten:
* one will be in charge of the processional, recessional and offertory people... so assign someone who knows everyone in your wedding party, for even the coordinators cannot guess which ones are the primary/secondary sponsors when even guests are wearing gowns and barongs
* one will be in charge of all wedding ceremony paraphernalia... so he/she would box everything he/she'd have to bring
Better yet, assign a set of colleagues to do all the readings for you... and a set of cousins to do the offertory. That way, they know they're in charge of that particular part of the ceremony and can already cover for each other (heck, it seldom really matters who got to read the passages from the Bible so long as the task was done wonderfully). No more running around looking for one specific person (as if the wine cannot be brought to the altar by some other person). Ushers can be another group of friends. This will facilitate the delivery of the task because they'd know each other and can easily make up for each other's slack, without grievously upsetting other people because one or two turned out unreliable.
SOME OTHER TIPS THAT CAN HELP SAVE YOU MONEY OR STRESS
a. Plan for a longer engagement to have more time to save for the affair.
b. Hiring suppliers early usually gives you protection from price increases (as an incentive for having booked them early).
c. Order two boutonnieres for the groom. If you need a retouch after all that kissing after the ceremony, your groom's buttoniere would also need to be replaced after all those hugging.
d. Cut down the guest list and the wedding party. Each additional guest will mean an extra meal, a bigger bar tab, an invitation and a souvenir. Eight or ten additional guests would mean extra table with centerpiece. Each groomsman or flower girl would mean additional flowers and gift.
e. Wed off season and away from holidays. December as the wedding month in the Philippines, and competing with Christmas, usually means more expensive flowers (aside from being a busy time for venues, caterers, performers and lights and sound suppliers). A Valentines wedding seems romantic, but again, flowers are still expensive and will continue being expensive till May (Mother's day).
f. Serve breakfast, brunch, merienda cena or cocktails. These meals are cheaper, and the atmosphere in such parties more relaxed. The important thing is for your guests not to go home hungry. Of course, this would also mean getting wed in weird hours (like 1 PM for a merienda cena reception). You can also opt to have a "Just Desserts" reception where you serve only sweets.
g. Skip the extravagant extras. Or at least, just have one extravagant extra. Fireworks will cost you, as well as butterfly releases and poppers and bubble machines and both DJ and orchestra. Concentrate on the basics and must-haves first before prioritizing/rationalizing nice-things-to-have.
h. Skip the gifts to each other. After all, you've already given each other the best gift there is - yourself. And you can buy each other the nice, thoughtful things during the marriage.
i. Choose a site that's already well-dressed. Bargain but bare sites will only require extra decoration and flowers.
j. Watch out for hidden fees. Ask about corkages. Some venues require fees for every little thing you bring in.
k. Keep invitations simple. Vellum overlays, calligraphy, ribbons and other adornments will translate to additional costs. Also, proofread your invitations before having them printed since you pay more for reprints because of wrong names, salutations and typos.
l. Pick flowers that are in season. Anything that has to be imported or especially ordered will cost you. Also, hand-tied or nosegay arrangements will cost less than cascades or biedermeiers. Reuse ceremony flowers for the reception. If you can, split the cost for the same arrangements with other couples getting married before or after you in the same Church.
m. Go for strategically-placed decorations rather than quantity. Lighting/luminaries can create a multiplier effect on your centerpieces/decorations.
n. Every extra swag or flower or layer or frosting on your cake translates to cost. Keep the cake's design simple instead of elaborate, and consider using real flowers and fruits to decorate it instead of sugar flowers and marzipan.
o. Borrow. Borrow your mother's jewelries and your sister's shoes. Borrow your cousin's corset and Uncle Pedro's Benz.
p. Skip the secondary photographers and get friends and relatives to send you the film/files of the pictures they took.
q. Consider hiring collegiate talent as wedding musicians. They'd usually charge less for the same amount of work. Of course, you have to audition them.
TIPS FOR A GREAT MENU (from Modern Bride, New York)
1. CONSIDER YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES. Consider your guest list, the setting (indoors or outdoors? Formal or relaxed?) and your budget. When money is a concern, it’s usually better to choose simpler dishes made with the best available ingredients rather than elaborate meals using inferior ingredients. Elaborate meals would also mean that some guests may be left waiting for their food.
2. LET YOUR SEASON BE YOUR GUIDE. Choose a menu that will use ingredients that are in season. Fruits are usually plentiful around summer and Christmastime, so you can be assured that "fresh fruit platters" will make use of the sweetest mangoes and pineapples. Choosing food at the height of their season will also translate to savings for they won't be especially ordered/imported.
3. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Caviar may be great, but not everyone will appreciate it. And though you can't exactly please everyone (in case you're going crazy over feeding vegetarian, Jewish, Moslem friends), you can make sure that they can at least eat something in your menu. Also, its money wasted if guests were too afraid to try some of your dishes. A wedding is not the time to be gastronomically adventurous, even if you are.
4. ADD PERSONAL TOUCHES. Consider your heritage, family business, mother's unique recipe or favorite food in the menu. You can even put some note cards informing the guests why so-and-so was included in your menu. Balance this tip with the others to create a cohesive menu where dishes complement each other.
5. END ON A HIGH NOTE. Do not skip dessert. If you're not sharing your wedding cake with your guests, make sure your guests will be treated to a sugar/sweets high nonetheless.