To Inspire You…

For Your Next Wedding Or Event

Divine Lighting February 26, 2009

Filed under: Daily Inspirations — genesiswse @ 6:00 pm

Top tips to ensure that everything is illuminated on your big day


Choose Your Mood

“We use our artistic design to translate the emotions each couple comes to us with,” says New York City–based lighting expert Bentley Meeker, who was responsible for shedding light on the weddings of celeb couples like Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, and has also lent his expertise to White House events. Whether you’re planning a romantic evening or a sultry affair, it’s important that you communicate to your planner or lighting team the exact look and vibe you want. To change the energy in the room during the night, Meeker employs a system called intelligent lighting: He creates customized assortments of light, or light palettes, that alternate throughout the night. Options include an “excitement” palette of reds and oranges, to energize your guests, or a calming “in-between-courses” palette of blues and purples, which can soothe guests and facilitate conversation.
Use Flattering Hues

Golden and amber tones allow you and your guests to look their best, according to Meeker. Josh Brooks, of New York City–based wedding-planning company Fête, agrees: “Warm colors, such as gold, flatter everyone and highlight decor beautifully.” Shades of pink are also complimentary. Meeker often uses these shades to color an entire space and invoke a sense of warmth and comfort.
Light to Enhance

To highlight centerpieces and food displays, Meeker employs a technique called pinspotting, in which a tightly focused light makes decorative touches shine. Gobo lights—a special projector with an etched metal template (the gobo)—can be used to wash the walls with the lines of your favorite poem or to shine a pretty pattern on the dance floor.

Gorgeous light isn’t relegated to reception space only. Hallways and courtyards can, and should, be embellished. If your party is a subdued one, Meeker may choose to illuminate these areas to complement your reception lighting and decor. If you opt for a funkier vibe, however, Meeker can change the colors and moods of each area. One rule he always follows: “The powder room should be enhanced with pink lights,” says Meeker. “Every woman—especially the bride—should feel her best.”

A wonderfully lit space is sure to create a desirable ambience and enhance your reception decor. “When your guests walk into a room that is lit properly,” says Meeker, “they will not only look good, but feel great too.”

* Written By: Cristi L. Hansen
* Originally appeared in Elegant Bride magazine


Include Your Pet February 25, 2009

Filed under: Daily Inspirations — genesiswse @ 6:00 pm

Here’s how to incorporate your furry family member into your big day


On your wedding day, you want to be surrounded by your entire family. Does that include Fido? It can: More and more couples are making their pets a part of the big-day festivities. Read on to bone up on the basics.

List of Mutt-Dos
For starters, consider your pet’s personality. Is he comfortable around strangers or does he bark up a storm? Think about where you’d like to hold your event. Pooches might not be permitted at a church, synagogue or indoor reception venue, so check first. Once you’ve booked your spots, confirm the details. Is a security deposit required in case your dog has an accident? Will he have to be leashed? Once you’re clear on the specifics, you can embark on the big-day plans.

Best Attendant in Show
You have many options for the part your pet can play. “A small dog or a cat could be carried down the aisle by a junior bridesmaid in a basket decorated with flowers,” offers Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, a Dallas-based wedding designer and author of Dog Parties. She suggests having a larger dog walked on a leash made of ribbon with the bride’s and groom’s names printed on it. If you’d rather not give your pet an active role, you can display his photo, mention him in your toast or include him on the “who’s who” list in your ceremony program.

Doggy Duds
To up the fun factor, dress your canine in wedding-worthy attire. Try Pink for pup-sized wedding gowns and tuxes, for a bow tie or for a tiara. To completely “collar-coordinate,” ask your florist to fit Fido with a wreath in your wedding colors, or affix a single bloom to his collar.

Hush Puppy
If your dog will be taking part in your ceremony, you should arrange for him to be at the rehearsal so you can have him practice walking down the aisle with you or his escort. Someone should plan to hold the leash during the ceremony, and also to have treats and water on hand to quickly quell any disruptions. A relative or a responsible guest can plan to escort Fido out of the area if he becomes restless.

Party Poocher
If you don’t want your pup around the entire time, arrange for his pickup or hire a dogsitter (perhaps your groomer or vet if you know him well, Whitman says). Arm your sitter with plastic bags and paper towels in case of accidents.

Bone Appétit
With all of the excitement, attention and activity on your big day, your pet will have worked up a major appetite. Bring along some of his favorite food and serve it in a fancy or festive bowl. Most of all, remember to enjoy the party and your pet attendant’s company. Happy tails to you!

* Photo credit: Daphne Borowski
* Originally appeared in Modern Bride magazine.


Give A Great Toast! February 24, 2009

Filed under: Tips & Tricks — genesiswse @ 6:00 pm

Deliver a heartfelt wedding speech with these tips


Evaluate if and why you want to speak.
Assess how comfortable you feel with public speaking, advises Sharon Naylor, author of Your Special Wedding Toasts. Think about what you want to share: Even if the thought of holding a microphone makes you quiver, you may find the momentous occasion inspiring enough to help you overcome your nerves. “A toast is a great way to convey your emotions,” Naylor says. “But it should not be considered a replacement for greeting your guests at their tables or in a receiving line.”

Be prepared.
Write out your speech before the wedding festivities begin, and get an objective opinion about it. If you try to wing it, your nerves may get in the way, says Naylor. Practice, practice, practice. And, on the wedding day, try to not have more than one or two drinks before toast time so you’re as clear-headed as possible.

Time it right.
NYC-based event planner Marcy Blum recommends making a toast at the cake cut-ting. But, if the anticipation of giving the toast will distract you all night, you may want to do it at the beginning of the wedding meal. Blum has seen brides tweak the bouquet-toss tradition by making a toast instead, and closing by offering the bouquet to a special guest, like the friend who introduced them or a treasured family member, and explaining why.

Keep it short and sweet.
Your toast should be two minutes, maximum. Speak slowly, breathe between sentences and make eye contact with your guests. Don’t panic if you lose your train of thought, Naylor says. Just make a joke like, “Now I know how Oscar winners feel… Whew!” Guests will understand. Blum suggests writing down important phrases on an index card. Or, you can write out the toast word for word, but you may appear stiff reading it that way.

Acknowledge the people who made it happen.
Thank your parents, in-laws and anyone who traveled from far away or made a special effort to be there. Don’t spend the whole time thanking your best friends or bridal party members individually, says Naylor. The rehearsal dinner is a more appropriate time to highlight their contributions.

Get personal.
Not everyone knows you and the groom as a couple, so share an anecdote about your relationship. If you don’t consider yourself a comedian, don’t try to bring the house down. Express what the day has meant to you, but skip superlatives—being gushy and overly intimate can make guests uncomfortable. Stay positive, but don’t worry about getting emotional. “Wedding guests would rather see real feelings than a beauty-pageant speech,” Naylor says.

Be thoughtful and creative.
Consider delivering your toast with your groom. Read from old letters you wrote each other, or prerecord a video message. Blum recounts a wedding of a Chinese bride and an American groom where he learned to speak Chinese and gave the toast in her native tongue, which she translated into English. For a similar effect, give the salutation or final words of the speech in one or your families’ native languages.

* Written By: Zibby Right
* Illustration By: Yuki Hatori
* Originally appeared in Elegant Bride magazine


75 Ways To Personalize Your Wedding February 23, 2009

Filed under: Daily Inspirations — genesiswse @ 6:16 pm


Check out these brilliant ideas for adding a special touch to your big day

1. Decorate the aisle with meaningful objects, such as dozens of seashells from around your grandparents’ beach house.

2. Serve wines from the years you were born or when you met. Share your reasons in a note to guests at each table.

3. Raise the bar on the cocktail hour by creating signature drinks.

4. Play part of a different song for each bridesmaid and groomsman as they are announced at the reception.

5. Carry a bouquet with the same types of flowers that your mom carried as a bride.

6. In your program, excerpt romantic notes you and your groom have written to each other.

7. Ask the officiant to work a story about your meeting or courtship into the ceremony.

8. Have each of your bridesmaids carry a different type of flower in the same color.

9. For a garden wedding, include some pressed flower petals with the ceremony program.

10. Incorporate a family dish into your meal; give out the recipe with your favors.

11. If you’re baseball fans, serve some concession-stand snacks (soft pretzels, nachos)during the cocktail hour.

12. Give guests candles to light up your exit as husband and wife.

13. Your best friend is a guy? So let him be a bridesman.

14. Embellish dessert plates with moving wedding words like “Love,” “Honor,” and “Cherish.”

15. Make your ring bearer’s pillow with material from your mother’s wedding dress.

16. Have your dog carry the rings. Or dress him in a collar with your wedding colors.

17. Set your sweetheart table or gift table with family linens.

18. Arrange chairs in a circle for your ceremony so that everyone surrounds you.

19. Write the story of how you met on cards and place them on tables. Your guests can then wander around to read the tale (and mingle while they’re at it).

20. If you’re printing menu cards, give dishes names inspired by your experiences together.

21. Ask a close friend to get ordained online so that she can perform your ceremony.

22. Name tables after places important to you as a couple—where you’ve lived or where the proposal took place.

23. Fill lobster traps with bunches of flowers as centerpieces for a seaside wedding.

24. Have your guests sign a photo mat with silver pens: You can frame a favorite wedding photo and remember who was there.

25. Consider box-style invitations, and tuck an object that reflects your wedding theme or colors inside.

26. Hold a golf outing during the wedding weekend; hand out tees printed with your names and the date.

27. Incorporate your heritage into the decor by dressing up walls with paper fans or placing potted shamrocks on the guest-book table.

28. Have vintage lace from your grandmother’s veil sewn into your wedding gown.

29. Get creative with your cake topper. Make your own from figurines that reflect your personalities.

30. Stage a slideshow with photographs from your childhoods through the present.

31. If you met in college, toast with Champagne flutes etched with your school emblem.

32. Create a comfy lounge area where guests can take a break from dancing.

33. For your wedding meal, re-create the menu of your first date.

34. Use your state flower as the main bloom in your bouquet.

35. Offer hay or sleigh rides during the wedding weekend.

36. Use seasonal fruits and vegetables in your centerpieces.

37. Wrap your invitations in pretty monogrammed paper.

38. Create a trivia game with questions about you and your groom, to be played at the rehearsal dinner.

39. Rent an old-fashioned photo booth so that guests can ham it up and add their photographs to your guest book.

40. Give guests DVDs of your favorite movies as wedding favors.

41. If you met on a blind date, use a “blind” seating arrangement for your rehearsal dinner: Guests pick a number out of a hat to get their table assignments.

42. Have the officiant ask if guests affirm your union. They can respond by applauding or shouting, “We do!”

43. For your first dance, learn some moves that celebrate your heritage: the Argentine tango or an Irish jig.

44. Spotlight musical talent among your guests; a friend who’s an accomplished singer may agree to perform.

45. Have your father’s favorite song played as he walks you down the aisle.

46. Build centerpieces around your hobbies (like flower-filled watering cans if you’re an avid gardener).

47. If a group of guests is traveling from a foreign country, have ceremony programs printed in their language.

48. If either of you has children, include them by taking family vows together, too.

49. Stray from the traditional bridesmaids’ bouquets. For a tropical wedding, give your girls fragrant floral leis; for a garden wedding, have them carry fancy paper parasols.

50. Commission a cartoon version of your courtship story and have it printed in your ceremony programs.

51. Honor your heritage during the ceremony by having someone give a reading in its language.

52. If you’re book lovers, give beautiful bookmarks as favors; have them printed with your names and wedding date.

53. Have a Polaroid camera at the reception; ask friends to take informal pictures, and prop them on tables for instant decor.

54. During the ceremony, recognize special people in your life by handing them flowers.

55. Celebrate the season: In winter, adorn the cake table with holly. In summer, serve lemonade in mason jars.

56. For your first dance, choose the same song that your parents (or his) danced to at their wedding.

57. Customize your wineglasses by tying ribbons in your colors around the stems.

58. As favors, give out packets of seeds along with a note asking guests to plant them to symbolize the beginning of your lives together.

59. If you sing or play an instrument, sit in with the band for a number or two.

60. For an Easter-season wedding, decorate surrounding trees with handblown eggs.

61. For a Fourth of July wedding, light sparklers and put one in each piece of cake as it’s being served.

62. For a summer wedding, hand out small baskets of fresh blueberries as favors.

63. For a fall wedding, use pumpkins carved with your monogram as centerpieces.

64. For a formal Halloween wedding, leave sophisticated handheld masks at each place setting.

65. For fun holiday-season favors, give out snow globes with a photograph of you and your groom inside.

66. For a Christmas wedding, display a gingerbread house and stack wrapped presents as centerpieces.

67. For a New Year’s Eve wedding, send invites rolled inside plastic Champagne bottles.

68. Instead of serving hors d’oeuvres on silver platters, consider using wicker baskets.

69. Add an interactive element to dessert with a make-your-own table (try sundaes).

70. Pick a special quote—from a favorite book or song—to put on your ceremony programs or invitations.

71. Make a donation to a cause that’s important to you. Leave a sign on the escort-card table so that guests are aware of the gifts.

72. Get creative with groomswear. A tie or socks can reflect the locale (preppy whales in Nantucket, thistle in Scotland, etc.).

73. Create a who’s who page in your ceremony programs, explaining your relationship to each person in your wedding party.

74. If you are planning to have an all-night affair, end it by serving a sunrise breakfast.

75. Think beyond four wheels: Exit in a helicopter or boat.

* As seen in Modern Bride magazine.


Alternative Aisles

Filed under: Uncategorized — genesiswse @ 6:00 pm

Forget the plain white runner. Here, a few novel ideas to grace your path


Leaves: Scatter fall foliage down your autumn trail.

Pumpkins: Line the aisle with illuminated jack-o’-lanterns.

Faux snow: Want a winter wonderland without the freeze factor? Make an aisle out of imitation snow ($19.95 for one pound at, flanked with urns of white birch branches.

Rose petals: Try a blanket of the real McCoy or the inexpensive silk variety ($175 for 10,000 petals at

Bamboo: To lend an authentic touch to tropical-themed weddings, use runner-width tatami mats of bamboo, reeds, or straw.

Pine needles: Fashion a forest by padding your aisle with fragrant pine needles. Buy in bulk from

Lawn tricks: If you’re marrying in a grassy area, create a custom aisle by rolling a striped pattern into the grass; check out for instructions. Or simply cut a path through a field or meadow. (Get permission first!)

* Photo Credit: Lisa Leigh Photography
* Originally appeared in Brides Magazine


Custom Guestbooks Make An Indelible Impression February 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — genesiswse @ 2:27 am

By Norris Carden

“You look like you fell in love during your engagement session,” the bridesmaid told the bride. While it is certainly a statement about the photography, it is just as much an endorsement of my custom guestbook and an example of how this product helps set me apart as a wedding photographer.

My top tier wedding packages include an extended engagement session and custom guestbook. I always have a sample guestbook on hand at any sales presentation or bridal show. It makes a huge impression and, so far, no bride has turned it down.

Producing the guestbook actually starts with the engagement session. Because of the time involved in selecting images, designing, printing and delivering the book, I prefer to shoot at least two months before the wedding, though I could force one through in just under a month if need be.


The photo guestbook makes a huge impression on your clients and their wedding guests alike. It provides an exciting conversation piece for the big day, and for years to come. Image ©Norris Carden

The engagement session usually lasts 2-3 hours in two locations, sometimes with a clothing change. My style is primarily photojournalistic using natural light. I tell the couple to “be together,” and then I mostly let the camera observe.

I guide the couple to the most photogenic spots on location and position myself accordingly. At times I make adjustments … shifting a hand, turning them to get a better angle or moving to better light. I place the couple together in situations that allow me to create the images that I want, but the only really posed shots are to emphasize the ring and the happy bride.

Since I shoot primarily for a horizontal book, there are a few shots I must get. The cover requires an image with plenty of open space around the couple for the wrap. I try to get at least a few shots with the couple framed on one edge looking in. Most images are horizontal, but I do get a few verticals, which work well as a series of three across the bottom of one page. At least a few images feature the bride and a few feature the groom.

My first guestbook was a shot in the dark. I had an engagement session in the can with plenty of images, and I had a concept for I wanted, but I didn’t know how to design one or how it should be printed. I consulted with photographer friends and album companies. I knew the design needed to have open space for guests to sign. I was just uncertain how much space would be needed or how to best present the images. I also planned to use this first guestbook as my sample for an upcoming bridal show and it needed to be perfect.

I turned to Karen Dahlquist at Happyfish Design. She guided me on image selection and created an incredible design. Since then Karen has designed about half of my guestbooks and I have done the rest. I plan for the design process to take a week either way. The initial design usually takes about a day, and the week gives the couple plenty of time to review the design, make small changes and receive approval for printing.


©Norris Carden

That first guestbook contained 45 images on 30 pages plus front and back cover. I’m now more comfortable designing with 35-40 images. Because of the negative space required for signing area, many spreads feature a single image. Multi-image spreads usually feature a series of 2-3 images. I place my logo and web address at the bottom of the last page and under a single image of the couple on the back cover.

For the guestbook, I want album quality, not a press printed book. Images are better showcased on two-page spreads, and it is easier to write on pages that lay flat. I also want the guestbook to train the couple to understand the value of an album. After all, why have a wonderful book from the engagement and something less from the wedding? I chose Vision Art to produce my mid-range album and selected their 6×8 horizontal format with 15 spreads for my guestbook. That choice has been perfect for price, quality and Vision Art’s ability to deliver within two weeks.

Because the book will be signed, the pages are not laminated. We have tried multiple types of pens with the books. The ones that seem to work best are either very fine Sharpies or gel clicker pens. A photographer on a forum reported gel ink smearing a bit, but I have not seen this. One couple provided multi-colored Sharpies for guests, which made their book look even more fun.


©Norris Carden

I like to deliver the guestbook on the wedding day before the bride gets dressed. She often shares it with her mother or bridesmaids and we get to capture the moment. The guestbook is then off to either a greeting table for guests before the ceremony or the reception hall. The only negative about making the guestbook available prior to the ceremony is it may cause a traffic jam. At one wedding, the ushers had to remove the guestbook so that the wedding could start on time.


©Norris Carden

Sometimes the first few guests at the reception have to be educated that the guestbook really is for them to sign. After a few minutes they start spreading the word and the guestbook becomes a focal point for guests to talk about the couple.

The only complaint I have ever received about the guestbook is that guests left too much open space unsigned. I make sure the DJ announces where the couple’s photo guestbook is located. This usually motivates a few additional people to view it and make an entry.

The guest book provides several things for my clients:

• A multi-hour, stress-free engagement session that
demonstrates what to expect from a photojournalist
following them on the wedding day
• Notes from guests that the bride and groom will enjoy
reading rather than a name on a black line
• An appreciation for what an album provides compared
to just ordering a few photos
• A treasured book of images to display and show family
and friends for years
• A priceless reminder of the love they shared before the wedding

For me:

• A product they can probably only get from a pro photographer
• A product offering more comprehensive than competitors’
• A product and service that increases the value
and profitability of each wedding contract
• A marketing piece that just about every guest will see
• A marketing piece that couples will show to family and friends for years
• A testament to the couple that I can be their photographer
both before and after their wedding

As I enter the 2009 wedding season in a new city, I am confident my guestbook provides a unique wow factor. Almost no bride or wedding consultant has seen anything similar. Thus I prove that I am ready to deliver more than just pretty pictures from the wedding day.



30 Expert Tips & Trip From The Knot

Filed under: Resource Alley — genesiswse @ 2:20 am

When planning your wedding, there are things that are nice to know, like that trumpet skirts are all the rage or nosegays are making a comeback. Then, there are things you need to know — advice so essential that any bride who’s lucky enough to hear it thinks, “I’m so glad someone told me that!” If you’re wondering whether there’s something you may have missed (or even if you’ve got everything under control), check out our indispensable planning secrets.

1. Guests Come First
Get a grip on the approximate number of guests you’ll invite before settling on a venue. This will ensure there’s ample space for your crew. As a rule of thumb, allow for 25-30 square feet per guest. That may seem like a lot, but it’s not if you count the space you’ll need for the tables, bustling waiters, the band, and the dance floor.

> Start your guest list here.

2. Investigate Blackout Dates
Know ahead of time if your wedding date falls on the same day as a trade conference, charity walk, or other local event that could affect traffic and hotel room availability. Click here for wedding dates to avoid.

3. Listen to Mother Nature
Heed the weather and other potential annoyances. Guests have been known to skip out early from hotter-than-hot, summer tent weddings and improperly heated winter loft receptions. Bugs (gnats, deerflies, chiggers, and no-see-ums) also swarm in certain areas during certain seasons. Consider renting pest control tanks to alleviate the problem or including bug repellent in guests’ gift bags. And if you want a sunset ceremony, make sure you know when to say your vows by checking

4. Check Your Credit
Take advantage of the high cost of weddings and sign up for a credit card with a rewards program. Whether it gives you airline miles or great shopping deals, consolidating all wedding-related purchases to this card will help you accumulate thousands of rewards points (which could be used for your honeymoon).

5. Pay It Forward
Let one vendor lead you to another. Your photographer can tell you which florist’s blooms really pop, and your reception manager should know which band packs the dance floor.

6. Lighten Your List
The easiest way to trim your budget? Cut your guest list. Remember, half of your wedding expenses go to wining and dining your guests. If it’s costing you $100 per person, eliminating one table of 10 can save you $1,000.

7. Ask and You Might Receive
Request an extra hour for cocktails or for your band to throw in that Frank Sinatra sound-alike before you sign on the dotted line. Most vendors would rather secure the reservation than nickel-and-dime you early on and turn you off. Later on, though, they may have less of a motive to meet you halfway.

8. Make a Meal Plan
Another unforeseen expense? Feeding your wedding day crew. Before you sign the contracts, make sure you’re not required to serve the same meal to your vendors that guests will receive. Otherwise, you could be paying for 20 additional lobster tails. Choose a less expensive (but equally hearty) meal for them instead. You will have to let your caterer know a couple of days before the wedding exactly how many vendors you need to feed (don’t forget photography assistants and band roadies) and what you want them to serve.

9. Get Organizationally Focused
In a three-ring binder, compile all your correspondences with vendors; notes you make during meetings; and photos or tear sheets from magazines you want vendors to see. Set up a special email address dedicated to your wedding, and store important vendor numbers in your cell phone.

10. Tend to Your Bar
Typically, you need one bartender per 50 guests to keep the line at a minimum. But if you’re serving a signature cocktail that cannot be made ahead of time (or in large quantities), consider adding an extra server designated to this task.

11. Leave Some Room in Your Wallet
Your wedding budget should follow this formula: 48-50 percent of total budget to reception; 8-10 percent for flowers; 8-10 percent for attire; 8-10 percent for entertainment/music; 10-12 percent for photo/video; 2-3 percent for invites; 2-3 percent for gifts; and 8 percent for miscellaneous items like a wedding coordinator. It’s essential to allocate an extra 5-10 percent of your money for surprise expenses like printing extra invites because of mistakes, additional tailoring needs, umbrellas for a rainy day, and ribbons for the wedding programs. Go to for an interactive budget allows you to add your own items.

12. Don’t Be Afraid to Beg
With vendors, almost everything is negotiable. And it doesn’t even sound insulting. Just say, “I would love to have you, but my budget doesn’t allow for this. Is there any way we can make this work?”

13. Wait for a Date
Sometimes, last-minute planning can work in your favor. The closer your date, the more bargaining power you have. Since most people book their wedding sites at least six months in advance, calling for open dates two months prior to your desired time can save you up to 25 percent. And, Friday and Sunday weddings should cost about 30 percent less than Saturday weddings.

14. Manage the Mail
Of course you want the perfect stamps for your wedding invitations. But not all stamps are widely available at every post office, especially in large quantities. Save yourself scouting time by ordering them online at And be sure to weigh your invitation and all the additional paper products before you send it out so you can attach the right amount of postage. Ask your stationer about the need for additional postage for odd-shaped envelopes.

15. Prepare for Rejection
Know that as a rule, about 30 percent of the people you invite won’t attend. Naturally, this depends on the location of your wedding (destination weddings are harder to attend), how many out-of-towners are on your list, and the timing of the event (some guests may have annual holiday or summer plans). On the other hand, everyone could accept — knowing your wedding will be the can’t-miss party of the year!

16. Make a Uniform Kids Policy
You have four choices: you can welcome children with open arms; you can decide to have an “adults only” wedding; you can include immediate family only; or, you can hire a child care service to provide day care either at the reception space, in a hotel room, or in a family member’s home. To prevent hurt feelings, it’s wise to avoid allowing some families to bring children while excluding others (unless, of course, the children are in your bridal party).

17. Prioritize Your People
Pare down your guest list with the “tiers of priority” trick. Place immediate family, the bridal party, and best friends on top of the list; follow with aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends you couldn’t imagine not being there. Under that, list your parents’ friends, neighbors, coworkers, and so on. If you need to make some cuts, start from the bottom until you reach your ideal number.

18. Take it One Step at a Time
Put together a wedding planning schedule and do things one by one, in a logical order, so you don’t take on too much too fast and end up with everything snowballing around you. Don’t hire any vendors before you’ve confirmed your date; don’t design your cake before you’ve envisioned your flowers; and don’t book a band before you’ve settled on a space.

19. No Ring, No Bring
If your guest list is bursting at the seams, assess the plus-one scenario. Do a faux seating chart in your mind, and imagine whom your single pal would sit with. If it’s a table of singles that she knows pretty well, then you’re all set. If it’s a table of couples (making the single one odd man out) or if it’s a table of singles where she won’t know anyone, consider bending the rules. If asked why you’re not allowing single friends to bring guests, size constraints or your parents’ never-ending guest list are always good fallback white lies.

20. Release Rooms
As soon as you have picked a date, start to look for hotels in a wide variety of price points. Many hotels allow you to reserve rooms for guests under a special wedding block and a reduced rate. You can then release any unbooked rooms a month prior to your wedding. If the hotels you contact insist upon contracts with cancellation penalties, just say no — you don’t want to be responsible for rooms you can’t fill.

21. Provide Accurate Driving Directions
Make sure guests know where they’re going. As easy as online map programs are to use, sometimes the directions are wrong — or there’s a quicker, less traffic-prone route to take. Ask your ceremony and reception sites for printouts of recommended driving directions, which they often keep in stock for weddings and will give to you for free, and test out the routes yourself.

22. Keep a Paper Trail
Get any nonstandard changes to your agreements in writing or send the vendor a confirmation email saying, “Hello, just confirming that you’ll keep the venue open until 2 a.m. versus midnight.” Don’t take anyone on his word — by the time the big day rolls around, your contact may no longer be working there to vouch for you.

23. Schedule the Setup
You must make sure there’s ample time for setup. If you’re renting a venue and bringing in outside help, ask, “What time can people come in to set things up?” Preston Bailey, author of Preston Bailey’s Fantasy Weddings, recommends seeing if they can do it the day before, or at the very least the entire wedding day, before the event starts.

24. Learn About Marriage Licenses
You can check your state’s license requirements online, but confirm with a call to the county clerk’s office to see when they’re open. Even if it’s open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., they may issue marriage licenses only during slower times like, say, Thursdays from 2 p.m.-3 p.m. Give a copy of your marriage license to your mom or your maid of honor (just in case you lose yours during the final days before your wedding).

25. Go Over Ground Rules
Be prepared! Ask the manager of the house of worship or site where you will be married for the list of restrictions (if any). For instance, are flash photography or bare shoulders prohibited? Or, if you’re exchanging vows outdoors, are you allowed to plant tent stakes in the lawn (which is often a no-no)?

26. Classify Your Cash
Wedding budgets are all about balance. Start your budget planning by making a list of the crucial details, like the music, your wedding gown, the invitations, the flowers, and the photographer, and assign a number to each — one being the most important and three being the least. Invest your money in all your number ones and cut corners on your number threes. (But everything can’t fall into the number one category!) For example, if a designer gown and fabulous food are what really matter, you may have to choose simple invitations and smaller floral arrangements.

27. Help Guests Pay Attention
Make sure your guests can see — and hear. If people are seated farther than 15 rows back from your ceremony altar or podium, consider renting a mic and a riser. This could range anywhere from $50-$100, depending on the equipment used. You’ll need to coordinate the delivery and setup with your ceremony space, so put your wedding planner or best man in charge of this task.

28. Write Down Your Digits
Carry an emergency contact sheet on your wedding day. Keep the paper with names and phone numbers of all your vendors in your purse — it may come in handy in case your limo driver gets lost or you decide you’d like your photographer to take some behind-the-scenes shots.

29. Call the Fashion Police
Don’t go dress shopping on your own — all the gowns will start to look the same after a while and it will be harder to recall which style you really loved. But be careful about who you do bring. If your mom or sibling can’t make the trip, ask a friend who is truly honest. This is the time when you really need to know which dress looks best.

30. Be Realistic With Your Time
When it comes down to the last month of your planning (and when you’re particularly harried) look at your mile long to-do list and cut three things. Yes, cut three things. Not crucial things that you just don’t feel like doing, such as picking a processional song or confirming final details with all of your vendors. Eliminate only the over-the-top tasks like hand-painting “Just Married” signs, or baking cookies for all of the welcome bags. Make a pledge to not think about them ever again.