Hello engaged friend!
First off, congratulations! This is such an exciting time for you and I want you to know I’m doing happy dances on the other end of my computer knowing we’re joining forces to help you navigate this incredible wedding planning journey ahead. It goes without saying how incredibly appreciative I am that you have shared your questions with me and how excited I am to be sharing my first Dear Stephanie post with you today. Your questions were incredible and so fun to answer. Please keep in mind that while I wasn’t given in-depth knowledge into your specific question, I hope these answers support you in your planning journey.
Shall we dive in?!
“What are ways to include additional people in the wedding? (i.e. step-parents)”
This is a great question! While I would love to know more specifics with this, here are a few suggestions that I have used in the past:
I’ve had fathers and step-fathers share the responsibility of walking the bride down the aisle. Depending on your relationship both fathers could walk you down the aisle or one would begin the walk and then at the top of the aisle (the first set of chairs), the one passes your hand to the other. It’s a beautiful moment between both father figures in your life.
Include them in the processional if parents are walking down the aisle!
Include them in the ceremony program. Simple!
Include them in that list! They should have the opportunity to be in a photo with you and your partner as well as maybe one with just you depending on your relationship with them.
During speeches, ask them if they would like to say a few words. This can be alongside their partner or seperately.
Additionally, in your thank you speech, address them when thanking your parents and make them feel special. Although they might not have been a part of your entire childhood to the present they love you and are truly invested in your happiness and should be acknowledged too.
Share that first dance moment with them! Example: Begin the first half of the song with your parent and then share the rest of the song with your step-parent.
“How do I get my future in-laws to offer to pay for more than the rehearsal dinner?”
Ask them! Sure it’s not easy and not always the most comfortable route but communicate your feelings and explain the situation. The worst thing they can do is say no. To set you up for success in preparation for this, I do recommend coming up with a number you are hoping they will contribute before the meeting or come prepared with creative solutions on how they can best support you whether that’s financially or with their time moving forward.
“How much do I pay for a photographer? How much do I tip vendors?”
While I can only speak on costs in Vancouver, Canada where I operate my business, you can expect to pay an average cost of $4500 for an 8-hour wedding package. As for gratuity, that is never expected but if your vendor went above and beyond I recommend anywhere between 15-20% of their fee. Another great form of gratuity is a detailed testimonial and personalized gift.
“What to tell people who keep asking how the planning is going? Clearly to get an invite…IDK if they’ll fit (COVID).”
Save yourself the stress of this and email your guests right away. Wedding website platforms make this incredibly easy and most have a COVID template conveniently ready to use. If not, share that you appreciate their love and support and while you are navigating through these challenges and don’t have answers yet, you will keep everyone updated through the wedding website when you know more. If you’re looking for wedding website platforms, I personally recommend With Joy, Appy Couple, and Minted.
“Is it wrong to not want to invite even some first cousins if you never talk to them?”
Not at all. Right now with guest count restrictions, it’s the perfect excuse for that intimate wedding you’ve always wanted. Remember it’s your wedding. That’s all that matters.
“I don’t want to offer 1 million food choices for everyone’s diet of the week. HELP!”
You don’t have to! On your wedding website include an RSVP question requesting their meal selection (if plated) and ask if there are any allergies or dietary restrictions you should be aware of then share that spreadsheet with your caterer. They will most likely create a separate meal option that will work for ALL the restrictions for those guests. If you are doing a buffet or family-style menu, I personally include a note stating that items will be clearly labeled for all common allergies but if you have specific allergies to email you so you can notify the chef and have a meal prepared separately. I have seen some odd requests over the years (red peppers – why not all peppers?) but a note like this usually limits those “preferences” over allergies.
“How do I handle someone who thinks they will be invited to the wedding but they aren’t invited?”
Call them! This is not a text or email conversation as feelings may be hurt but once you explain restrictions and/or capacities they will understand.
“Reasonable response time from the venue while negotiating a contract? 1 week each time seems long…”
Are we talking current pandemic or pre-pandemic? Pre-pandemic, yes, that’s a long time. Current pandemic, it’s common. Pandemic-related emails often include more details beyond that one question and take a lot out of us mentally and emotionally. Sometimes we need a day or two to process before we get back to you so we appreciate your patience and understanding. That being said, you might be asking them a question they’ve never experienced before, and therefore they are finding the best answer before returning your email. I recommend sending a friendly follow-up just asking when you can expect to hear back from them.
“How to approach a bridal shower when the wedding is parents and siblings only?”
First off, why are you saying no to this?! Also, this is a great way to have friends involved especially if you’re hosting an intimate wedding with family only. One recommendation is to email your friends and share that although you would love to have them all attend the wedding, you and your partner have decided to keep it intimate but hope they will attend to celebrate this exciting time with you. Including a link to a registry is completely your call in this situation depending on the group you are inviting as some might consider it tacky if they are not invited to the wedding. Maybe have the registry link ready but perhaps don’t share it unless someone asks.
“My parents think eloping is selfish, but they aren’t helping financially, should I care?”
Nope! It’s your wedding, they love you and they will understand. I do recommend filming it even if it’s just your iPhone because those are cherished memories for not only them to witness later but for you years later together. Trust me, it’s the most common regret from couples after the wedding day so please let me help you avoid that!
“Likelihood of a 200 person indoor wedding in April 2022 happening…”
I hope so! What I do recommend is to speak with your venue regarding your contract with them and negotiate the minimum spend. If the guest count cannot be 200, then will the minimum spend for your venue be flexible based on the guest count you are allowed to celebrate with at that time? If your guest count is limited to an intimate number, are you also able to creatively utilize the same space or do you need to make adjustments/find another space at the venue to accommodate a smaller guest count?
“How to tell the MOB or MOG you don’t want them involved in the wedding planning?”
This is common and a lot of couples tend to overlook that when their parents got married, wedding planners weren’t a common part of the vendor team and they planned their weddings on their own. Now a large percentage of engaged couples hire a wedding planner for full service or at least a month of management and therefore the MOB and MOG don’t feel needed. I would recommend making a day to spend some quality time with them – maybe lunch, and create that space that you can share your expectations with them. Be empathetic and know that they want to help but also be upfront and honest that you appreciate their input but hope they will support you and your partner’s wishes. Plus, I am sure there are some great creative options you can share with them to work on such as the bridal shower, their dress shopping appointment and/or maybe organizing the breakfast arrangements for the wedding party on the day of.
“How to tell someone who expects to be in your bridal party, that they won’t be?”
This is an in-person conversation or a facetime call. Don’t feel guilty about your decision. Remember they love you and although they might not stand up next to you on your wedding day, there are other great ways to include them in your day and overall experience.
“Do you have to include a future sister or brother-in-law in your bridal party?”
That is completely up to you and how close you are with them. You should never feel obligated to include them. Can we also talk about the fact that both wedding party sides don’t have to be even?! Random thought, I know.
“Handling tricky family dynamics…like divorced parents?”
In my experience, I have had very positive experiences with family dynamics such as divorced parents. I would encourage you to speak with both parents separately and ask their preference. Are they comfortable and open to doing a group photo with you during family photos or do they prefer to do that separately? Are they willing to sit at the same table together? Do they have plus ones that you need to consider? While each situation is different, I can confidently say they want to be there to celebrate with you. Afterall a wedding is usually only eight hours long 😉
“How do I tell my friend she can’t have a plus one?”
Exactly that way. If the invitation doesn’t include her plus guest, she should never assume. Sure she might be disappointed but weddings can add up quickly and she will understand and also appreciate that you called her to explain why.
“I feel awful telling vendors that I’ll be going with someone else for my day. How do I do it best?”
Rejection is never easy and I understand it’s hard. Speaking as a vendor myself, I want you to know that although we would have loved to work with you we’re so excited that you found another great vendor that is the best fit for you. Please don’t GHOST us! Always let us know, thank us for our time in meeting with you and share any feedback if you feel comfortable to do so. Check out my IG REEL on how to reject a wedding vendor.
Have a question you want to ask Dear Stephanie? Keep your eyes peeled on Instagram on Sunday, April 11th!
Until next time, friends!
your virtual wedding planning bestie!
“Congratulations! You’ve begun planning your wedding – I’m doing a happy dance to celebrate this exciting time with you! So who am I? I’m Stephanie, your virtual Wedding Planner ready to join forces with. I help engaged, time-strapped couples with efficient wedding planning and that’s you – so we’re basically already BFF’s. Skip the Google search and avoid falling down the rabbit hole of wedding forums and instead ask me, an experienced planner so you can get a personalized response. With twelve years of experience, my own list of stories to share it’s almost guaranteed I have an answer for you! Real, honest and no BS. Are you ready for it? I can’t wait to hear from you!”