If you are about to plan your Virginia wedding, this is the top ten tips you need.

Tip 1) Stay within budget by considering the size of your guest list.

Half of your budget is wining and dining your guests at the reception.  An average approximation is $100 per guest.  For every 10 guests cut, you can shave $1,000 off.  Not everyone you invite will be able to come, but the sooner you know, the better you will be able to plan.  So set your wedding budget ceiling, consider $100 per guest, then see who RSVP’s.  Once you see who actually will be attending the wedding and reception, you can then decide if you can splurge or conserve with your vendors.  You can also cut the size of your wedding down by cutting the “plus one” on the RSVP cards.  If the person isn’t named, they are not invited.  So if you want someone to bring their girlfriend, include her name.  If you want to invite just the nephew, and you don’t know the girlfriend, then name him and don’t give a plus one.  If asked why you aren’t allowing plus ones, be honest about your budget and your parents’ need to invite all your cousins.

Tip 2) Make requests of vendors before signing.

If you want an extra song or something else special, make the request before signing a contract, and have it in the contract that you agreed on the “extra.”  After you sign, you may not get the song or what-haveyou so easily or at all.

Tip 3) Invest in organization.

Start a binder and keep track of contact numbers, notes from conversations, and reconfirm everything via email, especially with vendors and venues. Be specific and be clear and have it in writing. You want to be checking off lists, keeping track of to do’s, knowing who is doing what, and what is exactly being agreed to as things move forward.  If you want the champagne tower in the corner nearest the windows, you want to make sure it has been agreed to and can be checked off or you may not even have a champagne tower at all. So be clear and be organized and check everything you talk about via a confirmation email.

Tip 4)  Give yourself at least 6 months advance notice.

If you want to make sure you get the date you want in the venues you want with the music, food, and more, you need to be booking 6 months in advance. However, if you are trying to keep your budget low, you can save by waiting to book two months in advance because many times venues will lower their prices by 25% so they can fill a gap in their bookings. They need your business. So your frugal flexibility should be rewarded with discounts. Friday and Sunday weddings should be 30% more affordable than Saturdays.

Tip 5) Always provide directions and emergency contacts to guests and vendors.

Don’t rely on people to get the right directions via some online app.  They can be infamously wrong or inconvenient.  If you can give them directions that has them 1) not in deep traffic 2) not taking left exits and 3) not having them stop for a dozen tolls, then please help them out.  Getting there isn’t half the fun. And if they are the florist new driver or your directionless Aunt Fanny, making sure they have a person they can rely on to get them there is ESSENTIAL. Don’t give this task to someone who is impatient, easily stressed, or unfamiliar with the area. An emergency contact needs to be available, helpful, and responsible.

Tip 6)  Get your marriage license in hand as soon as possible.

Each office has its own rules, and you may have to take a half-day off from work to get your marriage license during the government office’s restrictive window.  Seriously, it could be fishing licenses Tuesdays and Thursdays and marriage licenses on Mondays and Fridays between 12 and 3 PM. Also, make a copy and keep it safe. People do lose them, and it tends to be right before the wedding. Your officiate will need this.

Tip 7) Be familiar with the rules.

Don’t assume that because it is your wedding and you are paying good money that there are not going to be rules. Tent stakes are not permitted in many cases and places of worship may have dress codes like no bare shoulders. So just ask what are the rules, if any.

Tip 8) Get rid of second and third opinions.

This goes against the grain of most advice given, but my take is too many chefs in the kitchen ruins the soup. So pick out your dress without the ya-ya sisterhood. Pick the cake without both mother-in-laws or with your soon to be sister-in-law.  Unless you need someone’s decision making help, don’t let too many people tag along, especially if they are wishy-washy or opinionated or, worst of all, too agreeable.  So, maybe select to include family or friends in meaningful ways, but be strategic. Inclusion isn’t all for one and one for all when planning your wedding.

Tip 9) Schedule the set-up earlier than later.

If you can set up the evening before, do it. No one needs to learn that you are short chairs or have a wobbly table two hours before you are to walk in.

Tip 10) Know what you can cut.

Ask yourself what you can live without if push comes to shove, because in the event that things don’t break your way, or you are running down the clock, you need to know what you can cut off your to do list.  No one needs the car decorated.  No one needs rice or bubbles as they exit the church or reception.  No one needs hand made place cards.  No one needs their childhood photos displayed on a reception table. If the clock really starts ticking, what can you cut?

Look for more tips each month from Virginia Bride Magazine.


Virginia Bride Magazine features the best Virginia weddings and Virginia bridal shows. Find it all in one place. Check our blog posts regularly for the latest show information.

The author: Dawn Van Ness

Dawn Dickson Van Ness grew up at the beach and has published her work in print and online. With a BA in English and a MS in Mass Communications, she has used writing and multimedia to promote artists, art shows, writers, small businesses, and other self-employed individuals by building websites and maintaining social media pages. She feels most fulfilled when she is helping others achieve their dreams, which includes writing self-help and steps-to-success articles for various websites. It seems a natural fit for this wife and mother of two to write features that help soon-to-be wed couples. For more about Dawn, go to www.dawnvanness.me.
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