Wedding Planning

Setting the Date

Northeastern Pennsylvania has beautiful seasons, and there are many options from which to choose for your wedding date. Setting the date is important, since that decision will not only have an impact on the bride and groom, but also on their wedding party and guests.

Weather is a highly important factor in the date-setting decision. Extreme temperatures — either in the cold of winter or in the sweltering heat of summer — will be unpleasant for everyone involved, irrespective of your dream to have an outdoor wedding. Therefore, when choosing your date, remember that atmospheric comfort is paramount.

The time of day in which the ceremony begins is also significant. Consider whether you want a sunset or sunrise wedding. These times vary with the seasons throughout the year. Keep in mind that your selected time of year may cause scheduling conflicts for your younger guests in grammar school, high school, or college. These potential issues that may prevent them from attending your special event.

Since weddings are typically planned during the warmer, rather than colder, months, costs are also seasonal. If you plan your wedding in June, for example, you can expect to pay more than for a January or March event.

If you are planning your wedding on a budget, consider the less active months. A winter wedding can be a magical experience. Also, search for available weekly discounts.

Your wedding reception menu will also depend on the outdoor temperatures. Make sure that your seasonal cuisine meets your expectations. If you enjoy certain fruits, for example, schedule your wedding at a time when your favorites are in season. Flowers and color schemes also vary with the seasons. If you’re dreaming of fall colors for your special day, plan accordingly.

No matter when you decide to plan your wedding, personalize every aspect of the occasion. Be creative, keep an open mind, and make lasting memories.

Setting a Budget for your Wedding

To help you along during the various stages of the planning process, a wedding budget should be divided into expense categories. For instance, take invitations, entertainment, and photographer and determine how much you want to spend in each of these categories.

And, of course, these are not set in stone and can be adjusted along the way. After coming up with a preliminary budget, you might decide to divide the budget differently. For instance, you might decide that entertainment is more important than, let’s say, the wedding favors. So, you reduce the wedding favors budget and add it to the entertainment budget. The budget is still $15,000, but it’s now divided differently.

The key thing to emphasize here is to stay on budget.  Even expensive weddings need to be planned around a budget to control costs and determine where the money can best be spent.

To start developing the budget, you should determine the expense categories for your wedding and estimate how much you would like to spend in each category. Then, as you receive responses from the requests for proposals from wedding professionals, you can adjust your budget accordingly. So, in the case that the photographer comes in at $250 under your set budget, then you can apply that to invitations, for instance.

Remember, developing a budget requires you to set priorities so that you can work the budget around. The budget must be based on what you and other contributors can afford and which categories you’re willing to spend more, or less, on. By being realistic, you can avoid the embarrassment of having to change plans due to a shortage of funds or even going into serious debt to finance your wedding. But, in any case, it allows you to plan more efficiently.

The number one way you can reduce the cost of the wedding is by controlling the guest list. To ensure the wedding day runs smoothly, keep in mind that some of the guests you invited may have special dietary or mobility needs. However, many issues can affect the ability to limit the guest list. So, set a goal for your list size. This is also an efficient way to keep costs in check.

You can print out our wedding expense checklist below to help you stay on budget and plan the perfect wedding.


Vendor Agreements

Memorializing your wedding plans in the form of vendor agreements is of vital importance. Avoid verbal agreements, as these are subject to change — often on a whim. Ensure that your wedding day proceeds smoothly for all parties by reducing your intentions to a writing.

The following information must be included:

  • The vendor’s exact name, location, and contact information
  • Your exact name, location, and contact information
  • The precise day, date, time, and location of your wedding
  • The specific nature of the vendor’s services that will be performed on your behalf, including any additional services for which you agree to contract
  • All agreed-upon fees, payment methods and due dates, including installment payments and any overtime costs

The agreement must be a full expression of the parties’ intent. In other words, don’t leave anything out.

You may also want to meet the individual(s) with whom you contract, so as to receive a firsthand impression of their confidence level, integrity, and work ethic. Speaking to your vendors by phone will also provide you with a clear understanding of who they are and their quality of work.

Be proactive with your research and follow up with questions. Word-of-mouth recommendations are always helpful. You can never be too thorough in choosing your service providers — especially when you’re relying on them to make your wedding day shine.

The Guest List

In the excitement of planning your wedding, the fine details are sometimes overlooked. It’s important, therefore, to sit down with your fiancé(e) and begin to compile your guest list as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the size of your budget will determine the number of people in attendance.

In creating the guest list, include the obvious attendees: family and close friends. Also, consider co-workers and others who would, potentially, be offended if they were not included.

Remember that not everyone you invite will be able to attend.

List your guests in the order of their closeness to the bride and groom, taking into account the necessity of their attendance. In doing so, be mindful of each person’s feelings and sensitivities. This may seem difficult, but you want everyone to enjoy your special day, and it’s more than worth the time and effort.

Be mindful of your guests’ individual needs and restrictions (e.g., food choices, transportation constraints, venue accessibility, etc.).

Be organized. Use spreadsheets or other templates that can be easily modified to accommodate guests’ responses to your RSVP’s.

Separate your data into columns and rows, indicating the guests’ names, contact information, responses: ( ) Attending ( ) Not Attending ( ) Most Likely Attending ( ) Ceremony ( ) Reception ( ) ( ) Other Special requests ___________________________.

The guest list will inform how your seating charts will appear, as well. So, take your time and wisely select the people that will share in your momentous day.

Vows from the Heart

Although many couples decide to recite standard wedding vows, many are choosing to personalize their own. Some couples feel that in the most poignant moment of their lives, they don’t want to delegate the task to others. So, for those whose hearts are bursting with self-expression, the following are just some suggestions as to how you might proceed.

Begin with “I choose you because …” or “As we embark on life’s journey together, I want to acknowledge and thank you for …” Here, you may wish to extol the virtues of your intended, highlighting his or her attributes. Continue by stating how and why you are a better person for having met your fiancé(e). “Since we met, I awaken to each new day realizing …” Next, explain how your life and goals, now conjoined with your loved one, will be fulfilled. For example, “Never could I have envisioned sharing my dreams with someone who understands what it means to …”

Finally, declare your pledge of loyalty and devotion. “From my heart and with all that I am, I promise to …” Remember to speak from your heart and as though you and your life partner are the only two people in the world. This is your moment. Make the most of it — with love, authenticity and a spark of inspiration.

If you reach an impasse, please contact Gabriella at

Tips for Managing Wedding Day Stress

Your wedding day is a celebration of love. It is not a time to stress or worry about minutiae which, in the scheme of things, are insignificant when compared to the fundamental intention of your special day. Therefore, amidst the flurry of preparation, you must take time to decompress.

The benefits of stress relief — particularly leading up to the final weeks and days before your wedding — cannot be stressed too much or too often (no pun intended). First, you should focus on the mind-body-spirit connection. Take time to engage in such passive activities as listening to your favorite music, playing relaxation tapes, reading and/or meditating. In addition, focus on the quality of your nutrition, limiting caffeine and sugar, which tend to increase cortisol levels (i.e., your body’s stress hormones). Be sure to reorganize your daily schedule, so as to allow yourself time to relax with your loved ones, family, and friends. Being in the company of those who support and uplift you will help to decrease anxiety. Stop working at least an hour before bedtime. Kick back, relax with a good book or some other pleasant engagement.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Delegate tasks to your wedding planner, or if you are planning your wedding independently, make sure that you think ahead, so that you do not find yourself inventing “Plan B” at the last minute. Speak candidly with your partner and work toward being “on the same page” with regard to your wedding details — the venue, the style of the event, the guest list, etc. Open communication is essential, although excessive emphasis on stressors only tends to compound your frayed emotional state.

Smile often, and allow that feeling of joy to emanate from your core. This is the most exciting time of your life. Take it all in and bask in each moment, enjoying the totality of the experience. Most of all, indulge in those activities and plans that make you happy. When you do, everyone around you will rejoice.

The Joy of Children in your Wedding Party

Having children in your wedding party adds to the charm and warmth of your special day. As you embark on life’s journey with your soulmate, children serve as reminders that although time passes, the child inside always sustains your sense of wonderment and hope for the future.

Older children can serve as bridesmaids, groomsmen, and ushers. Those who are too young to assume these roles can participate in the wedding processional in a variety of ways. Flower girls carry bouquets or flower baskets to scatter before the bride. Typically, the girls range in age from four to seven, and are close relatives of the bride or groom. In large families, more than one young girl can be chosen, in which case they walk in pairs. However, they do not take part in the receiving line.

A four-to-seven-year-old close male family member of the bride or groom can participate as a ring bearer who carries the rings on a white decorated cushion. If the ring bearer carries symbolic costume- ring replicas, the original rings remain with the best man and maid of honor. If the child bears the actual rings, these must be securely affixed to the cushion with ribbons or pins. When the ring bearer reaches the end of the processional, the best man takes the rings from the cushion.

Train bearers are typically young girls and boys – though they are older than the ring bearer and flower girl(s). Typically, girls fulfill this role in the English-style ceremonies, while boys assume the responsibility in the United States. Unless the child is well-behaved and rehearsed, the train should be left unattended for safety reasons.

Children can also be included in the wedding party as junior bridesmaids, junior ushers, and pages (the latter are young boys who walk with the wedding party).

The requirement of formal attire and finery gives each child a sense of moment, responsibility, and involvement in the ceremony, making their personal experience more meaningful and memorable. The inclusion of children also adds to the joy and aesthetic pleasure of the festivities for all participants and guests.

Experience the Moment

Ladies and Gentlemen, please silence your cellphones, put down your tablets, disable your cameras, log out of all social media web sites, and leave the photography and videography to the experts. It’s time to live in the moment and feast your eyes on the bride and groom. This is a very special day to be shared in person, in the NOW.

All of us are fully aware of the immediate gratification of virtually sharing the most important moments of our lives with multitudes on social media — achievable almost at the speed of light. In doing so, however, we become so caught up in Facebook “Likes” and “Loves” and getting the shot, that we rarely stop and think about what it would be like to actually experience moment-by-moment events, in real time, without compulsively reaching for our devices and posting in the blink of an eye.

In attaching ourselves to electronics, we miss the human component — that indelible, once-in-a lifetime look or tender exchange that can only be appropriately and poignantly captured by masters of light and shadow, who know how to catch a glance or a smile at just the right angle, inspire an impromptu kiss, or demonstrate the depth of foreground and background.

In truth, the efficacy of the point-and-shoot cellphone camera is no match for the more complex devices, manipulated by the hand and heart of an in-person photographer and/or videographer. When newlyweds allow guests to substitute for professionals, chaos can — and often does — ensue, and cheap becomes expensive. Due to a shaky lens, incorrect lighting, and/or an unskilled photographer, cherished moments can be lost forever.

You want your wedding day to last perpetually in photos and videos, and you want the images to be pristine, properly edited, and prepared by skilled artists. So, don’t settle for second best, and don’t try to skimp. Instead, tell your guests to remain with you in front of the camera, and dare to truly experience in the moment!

The Wedding Cake

Your wedding cake is a slice of symbolism. As the bride and groom partake their first taste of life together, they sometimes offer one another a sample of cake, which represents mutual caring and solidarity.

Over time, wedding cakes have increased in size and significance. In the past, cake crumbles were sprinkled over the couple’s heads, symbolizing abundance, fertility, and good fortune. Later, the cakes were stacked like towers, replete with icing — a representation of sweetness and lasting harmony. This tradition has given rise to elaborate, savory, and often expensive modern-day wedding cakes.

The Unforgettable Dance

In centuries past, married couples used pageants and skits to entertain their guests, but in modern times, dancing has replaced those diversions. Typically, dancing begins after the wedding party and guests partake of the reception meal and the wait staff has cleared the tables. In less formal settings, however, the dancing starts when the couple takes the floor.

Irrespective of when the dancing commences, the sequence of dances usually proceeds according to tradition: first, the bride and groom, then the bride and her father. During the father-daughter dance, the best man, the bride’s father-in-law, and/or step-father may cut in, while the groom dances with his mother and mother-in-law. Typically, the bridegrooms also dance with the bride and all of the bridesmaids.

Since the United States is a melting pot of diverse cultures and traditions, some couples pay homage to their ancestral heritage. For example, in Hungary, the “Bridal Dance”(“A Menyasszonytánc”) is performed in unison with each guest, not separately with different people. During the dance, guests offer their wedding gifts. In Italy, the widely known “Tarantella” is performed. In Poland, the “Money Dance” takes place, in which male guests pay to dance with the bride and at times, female guests do the same to dance with the groom. In Romania and Israel, the “hora” (“circle” or “chain” dance) is popular, and in Greece, guests engage in the twelve-step “Kalamatiano.”

Although many couples adhere to convention, modern newlyweds sometimes break with tradition and hire professional entertainers to dance at their wedding. Occasionally, brides and grooms go so far as to prepare for their first dance as a couple, while even more avant-garde partners surprise one another with feats of dancing prowess, to the complete amazement of the entire wedding party and guests.

No matter how you choose to enliven the festivities, make every step count, have fun, and enjoy the dance!

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