Planning An Unexpectedly More Intimate Wedding Celebration

2022 has been the year of unintentionally more intimate weddings. Across the board every wedding was hit by intended guests having to bow out.

What do you do if suddenly your guest list is dropping? Pre-pandemic it was rare to have a huge regrets list when you received your RSVP’s, but this year most weddings we’ve planned are experiencing 25-30% fewer guests than originally expected.

The number one reason for regrets – COVID or COVID concerns. Whereas a normal wedding might have a handful of no shows or last minute regrets post RSVP, most weddings are experiencing 5-15 drops the week of, because somebody tests positive for COVID.

These drops aren’t limited to friends and in town guests some people are testing positive and can’t travel, or even harder for couples and their loved ones, wedding party members and immediate family have tested positive last minute after traveling to the wedding.

If you experience this, don’t panic or cancel your wedding. But DO follow CDC guidelines for both those who test positive, and those who are negative but have been in close contact. In some cases, it may be safe for them to still attend. Again refer to the exact guidelines.

The other key reason people are replying with regrets, well in advance – travel difficulties. It is not exactly easy to travel by plane right now. For some inflation on costs for flights, gas, and everything travel related, makes it impossible for their budget for them to attend. There’s nothing you can do about this, unless your budget is endless and they are important enough for you to assist with the expenses to have them there. If enough loved ones in one place just can’t make it, try to plan a trip to them sometime in the next year and plan a mini celebration down the road. A dinner or mini party in another city may be just what you all need.

How do these significant drops in numbers change your plans? For starters, many of your vendors cannot give you discounts or refunds. Your floral needs may now change, but the orders were already set for your flowers. Your catering or food and beverage minimums may be higher than is reasonable with your lower head count, but that doesn’t mean your minimums change. So what do you do?

This is when it’s really great to have a planner. Here are my tips for how to adjust your plans, the first step is to ask for upgrades vs. keeping everything the same as planned.

For example, if you were supposed to have 20 tables and now will have 12-13 talk to your floral designer about that! While they may have ordered your flowers according to your original needs you don’t need 7 unnecessary centerpieces! Upgrade your original design, or put more flowers in to the ceremony arch.

If you originally planned a buffet for 150 guests but now are expecting 100, ask in advance if you can switch your catering service to plated or family style instead. if you have enough warning (weeks not days) ask for menu upgrades, add snacks later in the event, or upgrade your bar selections to reach your minimums.

For your baker, downsize the cake and add more diverse dessert options for a dessert table. You don’t want boxes of cake to take home.

With your rental contract, many will let you make minor adjustments without problem, but if you had a minimum to reach add upgrades – switch to higher end table settings, or linens. Add chargers or upgraded glassware.

The goal isn’t to increase your budget, it’s to upgrade the details to reach your contractual commitments, instead of throwing money away. Most vendors are more than happy to make adjustments if you give them as much notice as possible.

Organized Seating

Open seating may seem like the friendly way to go about handling your reception tables, but it actually kind of sucks for your guests.

Some of your guests know each other well but they may be part of a very large group of friends or family who won’t all fit at one table, and nobody wants to find out at your wedding that they are the couple voted off the table when space is limited to eight seats.

The world has been weird lately, to say the least. Add to the usual challenges, when guests have to seat themselves, family politics and actual ghastly political polarization of our world today, plus sprinkle on COVID concerns – it’s a recipe for disastrous levels of discomfort to seat guests at unplanned wedding tables!

As a planner, it sucks to see twelve people squeezing at a table built for 8 just to look across the room and see the sad couple not talking to each other, eating quietly at a big empty table – all alone. This is EXACTLY what happens, without fail, every time a couple doesn’t listen to this important advice: organize your seating!

You want to create a welcoming reception where everyone fits somewhere, feels wanted, and can relax. If you’ve never felt social anxiety pre-COVID, and you haven’t done much getting out with large groups since, you may not fully understand the kindness it shows your guests to plan your table seating arrangements.

Now before you get overwhelmed considering this task with all you have on your plate, relax and let’s go over the types of organized seating and the actual how to for completing this task.

Assigned Tables With Open Seating

Unless you are hosting a very intimate or very formal affair, assigned tables with open seating, is going to be the easiest and most practical form of organized seating for you. So what does it mean?

With assigned tables, but open chairs, you direct your guests to sit at exact tables set up for specific people to sit at, but at those tables the assigned guests can sit wherever they want.

This method is great because you generally put people who may know each other, or who would likely get along, at the same table and from there they can decide who they want to sit by. If you know you have large groups of friends who can’t fit at one table, you can decide how you want to randomly break them up at adjacent tables. It’s not going to be a big deal to your guests if you put them at one table vs. another. If you need a few tables of 7 or 9 to make the numbers work, that’s typically not a problem, especially at rounds. Your catering staff and design team will make sure the number of seats you assign to a table, match the number of place settings at that table on your wedding day.

Table Charts vs. Escort Cards

Should you use a table chart or escort cards? The simple answer is escort cards are almost always a great idea with assigned tables and open seats. Table charts are fine if your dinner service is family style or buffet ONLY.

What’s the benefit of an escort card? If you are serving plated meals, your catering team needs to know each guests exact meal choice. How do we communicate that if you don’t have assigned seating? The simple answer is on the back of the escort card. We either use color-coded stickers or write the word “Fish”, “Vegetarian”, etc.

What are the down sides to escort cards, the only huge one for Oregon weddings = windy outdoor weddings. We often have to plan ahead to weight them down and if you hope for the best vs. plan for the worst, outdoor escort cards can be a true disaster!

Escort cards should always be in alphabetical order by last name, so guests don’t struggle to find theirs – but they don’t have to be cards at all! Get creative, especially if they need to be weighed down or if they don’t need to communicate meal selection to servers (if dinner is family style or buffet).

Georgia Ruth Photography

If using just a table chart, always have a list of the guests seated at that table on the back of the table number or table name sign at the table. This may seem like an extra step, but some guests may miss the chart on the way in or forget their table number. It helps to have that info at the table.

Assigned Tables And Seats

Krishna Muirhead Photography

If you are hosting an intimate wedding or a very formal wedding, it is nice to assign exact seats.

If you are having an intimate wedding with everyone seated at one large King’s Table, you only need place cards and they should be preset at each place setting by your planner and design team.

If you are hosting a large formal wedding or there are more than just a few tables involved in your set up, you should assign table numbers to each table or segment of table for extra long tables, and have both a table chart – to direct people where to go, and place cards pre-set at each seat by your planner and design team.

The How To’s of Organized Seating

Step 1 hire a planner/designer.

Step 2 You need to know your service style, floor plan, and plated options if hosting a plated meal.

Step 3 Include RSVP cards in your invitation Suite send them with a deadline for RSVPs at least 3-4 weeks prior to your wedding date. They should be returned to your planner, yourself, or a designated other (mom, etc.)

Step 4 We highly recommend having us create a custom Google form designed to capture all of the details you need if anyone doesn’t send in an RSVP card, prefers to RSVP online, or doesn’t do it correctly to start with. I’ll be the first to tell you I absolutely hate the wedding platform RSVPs found on websites like The Knot or others. They’re difficult to customize perfectly, difficult to use as collaborative docs, and don’t have all the awesome ease of the auto generated Google form response data sheets plus the magic we can work with these simple, free for you tools, on the back end. You can, text, email, and share your link to the response form on your wedding website, through social media, etc. It’s super simple for anyone you want to collaborate on the response data, and easy to add information you receive in the mail or from mom, etc.

Step 5 once you have your RSVPs, plus one names, meal choices, etc. it’s time to assign each guest to a table using the floor plan created by your planner/designer.

Step 6 If you have long farm or collections of 8’ tables seating guests make sure your floor plan reflects a number for each connected long table (ex. it’s not one table of 32, it’s 4 tables of 8) and if you’ve named your tables creatively instead of using numbers, make sure your floor plan reflects those names.

Step 7 Your Planner will use all the RSVP info, and your table assignment info to create a master table chart and list for you or your calligrapher to write out or print your cards and/or table chart. Your planner will also use this info to notify the caterer of final head counts, meal counts, counts per table, etc.

Step 8 Your Planner needs finalized table charts and place cards in hand at least a week to several days before your wedding to alphabetize, prep for your design or add any design touches planned, and check for errors, etc.

This may sound like a lot, but it’s not with the help of a planner and attention to detail.

Oregon Weddings in 2022

What to do about COVID

Hello! It’s been a long while since I’ve written any updates on guidelines for hosting a wedding during the pandemic. A lot has changed, we’ve come a very long way, but at the same time 3,082 COVID-19 deaths were reported in the US on January 27! We are not done needing to worry about COVID at weddings and the safety of our loved ones.

There are a lot of things to think about as you are likely working with your planner on finalizing your invite wording and the details of your day. If you haven’t already, now is the time to create your personal COVID wedding policy and figure out how you will convey the details to your guests.

Should you set a strict, even-handed, or relaxed COVID-19 policy for your wedding and how do you convey this information to your guests?

It helps to consider your personal values, your venue, your guest list, and your total projected head count while making the decision on your COVID policy. While there are no specific restrictions on weddings, beyond a mask mandate for all indoor venues in Oregon, you still have the ability to set your own boundaries beyond that, as do venues.

A Strict COVID Policy– For these purposes I will define this as a policy requiring all vendors and guests to show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test to enter (at home vs. PCR will be discussed further down). Masking policy strictly enforced indoors while not at a table eating or drinking.

Who should choose this option?

  • Anyone who is very concerned about the health of their guests and vendors
  • Anyone hosting a large or small wedding with anyone on your guest list who is at high risk for serious illness or death from COVID-19
  • Anyone hosting a large indoor wedding

If this option is right for you, you will need to decide how to enforce and inform your guests and vendors about these policies. Will you create a Google or other form for your RSVPs and on it include your venue’s policy, your personal policy, and details on how and when proof of vaccination and a negative test will be accepted?

Will you have any exceptions for those who cannot be vaccinated for legitimate reasons?

Will you require rapid at home testing you provide, as all guests arrive or accept self reporting or photos of tests they take on their own? If risk and spread are relatively low on your wedding date will you only require testing for the unvaccinated folks?

Will you require a negative PCR test within 72 hours (more accurate) knowing they may have traveled since then or results may be slow and they may have no way of proving a negative test for possibly up to 5 days after they took it?

Who will be responsible for checking? Will you hire a bouncer from a local security company as they do at clubs? Will you designate a family member? Your venue will not offer this service unless it is a venue requirement and they charge you for a bouncer/security. Your planner is also not responsible for policing your guests. You may also just accept a copy digitally prior to your wedding date.

Regarding masking, your vendors will be very good at following the rules, some of your guests may not, especially after a few drinks. If you have guests on your list who are anti mask or any restrictions, will they listen to anyone other than a bouncer? If this is a serious worry for you, you either need to not invite them, hire a bouncer, or change your policy. See below.

An Even-handed Policy– I’m not intending to sound biased by the name of this policy, but it is the easiest to enforce, most considerate of all of your potential guests and vendors, and probably the most obvious choice for most couples hosting a wedding in Oregon in 2022. This policy is about gaining and using accurate self-reported information to treat everyone with respect while requesting they respect your wishes and values at your wedding. You will be asking unvaccinated folks to self-report a negative at home test before coming, letting your vendors know you require a pro-health and pro-worker COVID policy that includes vaccination or weekly testing requirements and paid time off for sick employees, masking by everyone while indoors (unless eating or drinking), masking while serving or unable to remain distanced from guests.

Who should choose this option?

  • Anyone who is concerned about the health of their vendors and guests
  • Anyone hosting a large or small wedding outside or inside
  • Anyone who knows they will have guests who firmly do not want to be vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated, but all of your guests will willingly comply with masking mandates as well as your venue’s, and your policies

This option will be right for most couples. It requires you to hire vendors you know and trust to have solid COVID policies. You will need to communicate your COVID policy to your guests openly. Place this information prominently on your wedding website. Gather everyone’s contact info (email and/or cell numbers) to send digital information quickly. You should have an emergency plan in place for updates to your policy, and the ability to quickly communicate to guests and vendors in the case of rising numbers, or a positive case for the couple right before (or after) the wedding, etc. You will also use this information to send out detailed digital RSVPs where people can easily see your stated policy, the venue policy, current state mandates, followed immediately by your requests for their vaccination status, meal choice, etc.

I have used Google forms for my couples from 2020-2021 very successfully. My couples receive this semi-custom RSVP form service included with their planning, the response sheet is used to collaborate on arranging seating, and table chart creation, as well as gathering exact meal counts for catering if you are having plated service.

If your venue is outdoor with guests only needing to be masked to go inside to use the restroom, masking should not be problematic for your wedding, for this reason outdoors is your best option for your wedding.

If you are hosting an indoor wedding, vaccines and testing are important! PCR testing continues to be problematic throughout the US with limited testing sites and appointments, delays up to five days getting results back (rendering them useless). Home test kits, while less accurate if you are asymptomatic, and sometimes hard to come by, are sadly the more ideal choice. Something is better than nothing and they are convenient for most of your guests. Convenience increases participation and compliance. For indoor weddings I highly recommend buying tests in bulk and giving them as part of your welcome gifts for out of town guests.

If you booked your vendors long ago and maybe they didn’t have COVID policies then, ask now. Let them know what you are or are not comfortable with. Decide if you need to lose deposits or if you can work with a vendor by coming to an agreement on what they will do for your wedding (i.e. masking and testing) and get it in writing. Email or texts count.

When gathering info, it is nice to ask for feedback as an open response about somebody’s comfort level with attending weddings right now, and your policy. Do not seat unvaccinated guests with people who are not comfortable being in a mixed large gathering. Most people are used to navigating this by now. Seating people with others they know and are comfortable with is always nice, and more so now. You do not have to put a scarlet letter on the unvaccinated or come up with a plan to inform people who’s who. Just generally make sure your planning details are considerate of any of your guests. It’s best to talk to the very at risk to make sure they are seated in a place of honor yet away from the dance floor or the bar, or areas where guests are more likely to congregate.

If you are having an intimate, low risk health wise, and mostly or fully vaccinated guest list, you can be less worried about how you are seating your guests.

Food service style is another way to manage risks. Plated is best, if you are doing buffet style please opt for caterer served buffet vs. self serve. Also have your DJ or planner direct the guests to wear masks through the buffet line as a courtesy to others.

A Relaxed COVID policy– I do not recommend this policy for most weddings. That said there’s a right way to choose this option. You still need to follow state mandates. Host your wedding outdoors, or at home on private property – do not host at an indoor venue that actively promotes ignoring indoor masking mandates. You need to hire only vendors who are comfortable and willing to work with you – many will not be and write an easy escape clause in to their contract. Vendors don’t need to have ANY reason to resign from your wedding at any point if they wrote this in to their contract. If we become uncomfortable or feel unsafe working with you we will resign your account. Avoid this by being upfront and following the masking mandate.

Who should choose this option?

  • Anyone who is not concerned about COVID-19
  • Anyone hosting an intimate wedding or elopement with people you trust and see often and who is hosting their wedding entirely outside or at their private residence
  • You are hosting your wedding at an outdoor venue and advising your guests of your venue and state policies and that’s good enough for you to feel comfortable

You do not have to break the rules or take unnecessary risks to plan a wedding where you are not considering COVID much, if at all, in your planning. But if this defines your attitude you need to be upfront. Be upfront with your guests and your vendors. Many vendors are comfortable as long as you are following the state masking mandate indoors. You can host any sized wedding you want at home with no mandates. It is not advised by the CDC or me, but you can do this. What you cannot do is plan this type of wedding and not let everyone know up front. You also cannot legally host this type of unmasked wedding indoors at any Oregon venue. If your venue tells you that you can, they are wrong. Do not do it!! I’m no lawyer, but any lawyer will tell you host at your private property or outdoors, vs. disregarding mandates at an indoor venue. They’ll also give you legal advice about writing a waiver, having the right insurance, and probably do a better job than I will convincing you there are better options.

If you are eloping or hosting an intimate wedding with your key people you’ve been with throughout the pandemic, people you trust, and people who are likely either vaccinated or not trying to give you COVID and will test and stay home if they feel sick, most vendors and outdoor venues will be happy to work with you. You should be happy to wear a mask when indoors, unless eating or drinking, or reciting your vows (public speaking).

If you are hosting a large or small outdoor wedding at a venue, you have stated the state masking mandate clearly (i.e. masks to go inside and use the restroom and do not attend if you have any COVID -19 symptoms), honestly most vendors and venues will be happy to work with you. Some will not and that’s ok work with aligned vendors!

If you have questions, or need specific advice – as always ask below or direct by email sadie@vareusevents.com

Steps to Creating a Wedding Budget

There are so many wedding “planning” sites out there that tell you how easily you could plan a wedding yourself and have all the most beautiful things you see in styled shoots- on a tight budget. Everywhere you look is “budget” couple this and “budget” cutting tips that. But they almost all are filled with horrible advice. Their goal is to get you to a site that is pay to play for anyone who advertises with them. They want you to believe that planning is easy and with their help it will cost you less!

Here’s the truth, before COVID, weddings averaged almost exactly the same amount as your average new car. The price tag was right around $32,000 for a wedding. Many couples quickly realized last year you can get married with a very small investment, if you have an intimate wedding. This has always been the case! The other side of the coin is this – you only get married once in your life and you may actually have the money to invest an average car or a luxury car level of budget in your wedding. Invest in your joy! Don’t cut yourself short or lose out on the details that truly matter to you, if that is within your means!

Before diving in to this process to create a budget, ask yourself- do you have the kind of budget where you truly don’t need to stress over this process? If so hire a planner FIRST. A seasoned planner, like me, will help walk you through this process without you even knowing you are doing it. It won’t be cumbersome and your only investment will be your time contributed to a free intial consultation. If you aren’t sure if you can afford a planner, or you know you want to go this alone, see below for your guide on how to do this- for real. It’s work, but that’s ok. It is valuable work!

The Steps to Creating a True Wedding Budget

Step 1 Decide how much money you have to spend on your wedding. This number will be different for every couple- so why do so many people buy in to the idea that there is a typical wedding? There isn’t. We can tell you average costs or average guest counts, but within that set of information includes weddings of all sizes, styles and budgets. Throw out the concept that you need to spend an amount you don’t have for a type of wedding you can’t afford or don’t want. Feel good about your wedding being the weding that is right for you! Figure out how much money parents or others will be contributing to your wedding, add in how much you can contribute- without feeling overwhelmed or going in to debt. That total is your overall budget. Stick to this number!

Step 2 Sit down with your partner and each of you should spend a little time creating a list of what you feel you “Must Have”, “May Want,” “Don’t Need,” and “Don’t Want” at your wedding. Consider guest size you find ideal, quality and types of food and drinks, location or type of venue, style, etc. These things will be shaped by your experiences and your vision for your wedding. They will be different for every couple!

Step 3 Now it is time to take “My List,” and “Your List” and turn that in to one final list. What you’ll be left with is a perfect blending of exactly what you both need and want to feel like your wedding is the right joyful celebration for you. This should give you a clear picture of what you find truly important, and what neither of you really care to have at your wedding.

Step 4 It’s time to break up your total budget in to categories as a percentage of your budget. Below I’ve included basic categories often included in wedding costs. Make yours fit your needs. If something on this list is not on yours – leave it out and create a ratio that works for you. If you have leftovers, put it in a “Misc.” section – you’ll need it down the road!

Here is a broad guide and percentage break down to help you consider what you might spend on each:

  1. Wedding Planner: We save you from costly mistakes and booking vendors and venues you truly cannot afford, so talk to a planner first!
  2. Venue, catering and rentals: Some venues have onsite catering, tables, linens, dishes, chairs and other items included all in their costs. Other venues include nothing or just some tables and chairs, which may or may not work with your decor plan. Some venues require you to use specific catering options, others require you to have a day of coordinator. If you are going to need a planner on your wedding day anyway, consider investing in full service planning to start.
  3. Photographer and Videographer: You will only be left with photos and videos when the day is over, invest in professionals for this category for any size wedding! Many people opt out of having a videographer, think long and hard about that. You may be sad down the road and you can’t go back in time.
  4. Officiant: This may be your clergy, it may be a person you know and love who is ordained or will become ordained, or it may be a professional officiant who exclusively performs weddings.
  5. Rehearsal Dinner: This may be an informal BBQ at a park or a catered dinner at your family home, or it may be a formal dinner at a restaurant or venue. It can just include immediate family and your wedding party and their immediate family, or include more people- this is up to you.
  6. DJ or Band: A band and live music typically cost more than a DJ. Determine if you want a DJ for your ceremony and reception, live music at the ceremony and cocktail hour with a DJ for the reception, or live music throughout the event.
  7. Attire + MUAH : You only pay for your own attire, your wedding party is expected to pay for their own attire, makeup, and hair. If you will have onsite makeup and hair, there is a limited supply of quality professionals who provide this service. You will need to book early! They fully book 6-12 months out for peak wedding dates.
  8. Desserts and Cake: Do you want just a cutting cake and cupcakes, small pies, pastries, and cookies for your guests? Maybe you want a s’mores station or ice cream, or something different. Decide and budget accordingly.
  9. Design, Decor, and Flowers: Do you want to invest in a few statement pieces, do you want to just have a bouquet, are you wanting non floral centerpieces, or beautiful full florals everywhere you look? Is your asthetic romantic, classic, natural, soft, or bold? Consider your venue type and location when thinking about how little or how much decor is going to be needed.
  10. Invites + Printing – All printed materials for your wedding from save the dates to invite suites, menus, place cards or escort cards for the reception, etc.

Step 5 Can you afford the wedding you were hoping for? Do the research! You may need to scale down the size of your wedding, select a different type of venue, or make other changes to stay within your budget. Do this work upfront! Don’t book a venue before you do this exercise. This step includes reaching out to potential venues, caterers, florists, photographers and finding out how much you should expect to invest with each of them to be able to work with them for your wedding. Again – hiring a planner first cuts this step out for you. Your seasoned planner is going to direct you towards options within your budget. They are going to be mindful of your wants and needs and give you options that make sense for you. You will not have to review hundreds of vendors to find ones that fit your budget and needs. A good planner will give you 2-5 quality options per category, and that is it. This isn’t becasue they don’t know of other options it is because those are the best options based on all of your needs and wants.

Step 6 Compare all of your different options to settle on the right one for you. Settle on the time of year, location- your hometown, your partner’s hometow, where you both live currently, or a destination wedding with an intimate guest list somewhere you really want to be. If intentionally planning a very intimate wedding is appealing to you, look at the different possibilities for that option. If you want a large wedding, what are your options within your budget?

Your wedding day will be amazing if it is a joyful celebration fitting for you and your partner. As 2020 couples learned, people will celebrate you even if they cannot actually be physically with you on your wedding day. Plan the ideal wedding for your needs and your true budget.

Who Should Be Part of Your Wedding Party?

AD Photo PDX

Too many people ask me the question, “Is it okay if I don’t want the traditional wedding party?”

Yes!! Yes of course it’s okay! This is your wedding and the only requirement is that you have an officiant, 2 witnesses who are 18 or older, and yourselves. The rest is a blank canvas for you to paint your very own way!

Gender is a social construct – as such, considering societal norms when you are choosing the key people you want to see standing by your side on your wedding day reinforces all the things we dislike about the wedding industry! If you so happen to be a bride with a groom and you have a Maid or Maitron of Honor and 4 bridesmaids and a flower girl and on the other side there’s a Best Man and 4 groomsmen and a ring bearer – this doesn’t make you “normal,” it means absolutely nothing! That’s what your wedding party looks like and therefore that’s great. Somebody else will have a completely different wedding, and that is equally great! It’s only important that the people you choose are standing there on your wedding day because they are important and they mean everything to you.

Deyla Huss Photography
You owe absolutely nobody in your life a space in your wedding, so invite your biggest champions!

If you’ve been in five weddings that doesn’t mean you need each of them to be part of your wedding, it’s cool if you want them to be. If somebody in your close friend group is absolutely horrible to be around they don’t have to be included in your wedding party! Your father didn’t raise you and you don’t want to walk down the aisle alone, but you also don’t want him by your side – ask your mom, ask a sibling, ask a best friend, ask a future in-law who loves you, or anyone who has meant everything to you in your life. But it is absolutely ok to walk alone. It’s also ok if you and your partner walk down the aisle together on the way down and on the way back up. Especially if you are planning a celebration with family after already getting married on a small scale sometime during the pandemic, this is a super cool and awesome idea!

Your Best Person (Official Witness) is a human not a gender

Did you even know that the significance of the traditional Best Man and Best Woman (Maid/Maitron of Honor) is to serve as two official witnesses to sign your marriage certificate to make this thing legal? That’s it. That’s their actual job in your wedding. Again, society has lied to us and told us that one person matters more to you than anyone else who isn’t your future spouse or your parents. You don’t have to choose this person because they are your best man or best woman – choose a trusted favorite human, gender is irrelevant! If you love many of your people equally, then pick a best bet based on the following criteria:

  • You may already know who this person is going to be, you may have known they would be your best person well before you knew who your spouse would be. That’s a great chocie!
  • If something big happens in your life, this is the person you tell either before your future spouse or just after.
  • This is the person (besides your partner) you trust to be your biggest supporter and a shoulder to cry on any day, and at any time.
  • This person is not somebody who makes you feel small!
  • This is not a toxic person who centers every event, night out, or occassion, on themselves.
  • This is not a person who will make you feel unsure in life, they will always lift you up and rely on you to do the same for them.

When picking the rest of your wedding party consider your entire wedding party – but ultimately this is about you. Some people within your group may not get along great. Some will be introverts, some will be extroverts. If your friends don’t play well together and this will be stressful to you it’s ok to pick and choose. It’s also fine to select them all and set ground rules upfront that they will be expected to play well together – or you will absolutely call them out! Here’s where picking the best “best person” is key. Let them do it if calling people out in a group is not comfortable for you.

Photos by Ali Mae Photo

You’re asking people to make a big commitment!

Agreeing to be in a wedding party is a big commitment. People who say yes will have to likely commit to travel costs, attire, participating in pre-wedding events, showers, etc. Here is a clear list of what your person is saying yes to:

  • Travel costs, complete costs for pre-wedding celebrations, events, etc. (please consider their budgets when making these choices)
  • Gifts – they will likely want to know from you if their presence is your gift, if so they will still probably want to give you something meaningful.
  • Attire – you are never expected to buy your wedding party’s attire. So think of their budgets and get their input when you make these choices! I always recommend you set up a GM right away once everyone has been asked. Start a discussion before making the attire decision. Ask questions like, what styles do you like? What is your budget you’d like to stick to?
  • Hair and Makeup – Often Brides like to get their hair and make up done professionally and on location on their wedding day (either at a nearby hotel, at home, or at the venue) The average local price for this is somewhere between $500-$600 for the bride (plus travel if not in the Metro area) and about $200 per extra wedding party member. Each service hair and make up will be broken out in your quote from your MUAH. My best tip for you is to message your crew in the GM so this is public! Tell them you absolutely want everyone to feel comfortable doing their own hair and make up, or just their hair, or just their makeup – it’s totally up to them! They should absolutely plan to do this with you all at the same time, in the same place even if they don’t want to use your professionals. BUT if they want to get their hair done the cost is $x, if they want to get their makeup done the cost is $y. If they would like to have one or both services please respond in the GM by a set date AND venmo, Zelle (whatever app you prefer). Get the money with the commitment and pay your vendor directly, do not ask them to pay your vendor or accept payment on or near your wedding date! Do this well in advance! Your MUAH needs this info to plan your schedule as well. On peak wedding dates your MUAH will be fully booked, don’t expect them to be able to add an artist a week outl. You need to plan for this in advance.
  • If you have a huge budget and will be paying all or some of these costs please be upfront about this! It helps your wedding party know how to budget and what to expect when they are saying yes.
AD Photo PDX
How to pop the big question!

So you’ve decided who to ask, you understand the commitment they will be making – now it’s time to ask! How do you do this? Some of your friends will be super thrilled with a phone call and the deal is done. Others will absolutely expect this to be a BIG deal! In this age of pics or it didn’t happen, expect this shit to make it to social media.

Here is a great opportunity to highlight the love you have for the place where you are getting married, and set the feel for what to expect when they say, “YES!” If you are planning a high budget, huge commitment wedding, or a destinatin wedding, plan to spend a bit of money on this ask and make it something special. If you want your people to understand that this is going to be a fun, relaxed, wild party of a ride, send some booze or something that sets that mood.You can buy a prefab cookie cutter ask box (not my jam but it’s cool if you are busy and just tryingn to check of a to do item), or you can do something special. If you are having a winery wedding buy wine bottles from your vineyard and give them a gift bag with the ask on the tag. If you are getting married in the city ask with a gift box containing local tea, coffee, beer, vodka, soaps, or candles. If your wedding party is mostly local you can have custom cookies with the ask written on them.

Ask your planner to do this for you – we love doing these! All we need to do this for you is a set budget, complete list of names, and a brief description of who they are (childhood friend, sister, your bff, college roommate, etc.) and what they mean to you. We’ll tell you what we think should go in the box, source, spice it up with our craftiness and mad design skills, and package them up for you and then hand them over for you to present in person or send to your people.

Now remember the part where I said pics or it didn’t happen? If this is an in person ask, expect a lot of pics. If this is being done from afar – same! If you have people you aren’t asking because of drama and all the reasons discussed here, plan ahead for this. Reach out to those you chose not to ask who may have expected an ask and have a good talk about what’s happening.

We hope this helps you choose the right people for your wedding party! If you have questions ask away my email is on my contact page!

Accommodations for Out of Town Guests

Standard room at The Benson Portland, OR

With the rising popularity of Airbnb’s and other alternatives to hotels, many of your out of town guests are not going to want or need recommendations on where to stay in Portland. So when do you need to contract for a room block? Find pricing for hotels near your wedding venue? Etc.

If you are having a true destination wedding, such as an intimate affair in Hawaii where 100% of your guests and you will need a place to stay, please negotiate a room block. If your wedding is late in the day in to the night or early morning in a remote part of the coast, The Gorge, wine country (or any time in summer when all accommodations fully book up) negotiate room blocks if you confirm with close family and friends they need and want this.

What is a room block?

Hotel deLuxe – Portland, OR

A room block is a contracted rate guaranteed for a select number of hotel rooms for a given set period of dates. Most room blocks are set for ten guaranteed rooms. While you don’t have to directly pay for all ten rooms, if your guests don’t book all ten rooms fully and the hotel cannot book them after your release date on the rooms, you will have to pay for those rooms – used or not.

Other options include negotiated discount codes. Some hotels will give you a discount code to give your guests on your wedding website. There is no contract involved. As a courtesy they give you a discount code (usually between 5-10%) your guests use it when they book directly online through the hotel website. Hotel Zag will do this.

Don’t over think this in your planning phase. People have personal reasons to choose where they will stay. Maybe they have family or friends they’re visiting as part of your wedding trip and they want to be near them or stay with them. Maybe they have rewards points to use with one hotel chain over another. Don’t assume people want you to set up their accommodations. They usually don’t.

Airbnb St. John’s, OR

The best thing to do for all weddings is recommend a few hotels – look up their current rates for your wedding weekend, and put a link to their web booking page in your wedding website. You can say something like, “The Jupiter Hotel – $157+ per night

So to summarize, put some info on your wedding webpage about nearby hotels but don’t contractually negotiate rates unless you absolutely can guarantee those rooms will be reserved. Room blocks are great for destination weddings, in most other circumstances just ask for a discount code or recommend nearby hotels you would stay at. Find at least 2 price points if possible. Don’t waste more than 20-30 minutes on this task in your wedding planning process. A good partial or full service planner will do this for you. If your wedding is happening anywhere with a lot of options. Don’t spend more than an hour on this task even if your wedding is not close in. Find two – three good recommendations and then relax. Your friends and family know how to book a room!