- Who should we include in our Grand Entrance?
Many of my clients these days, regardless of whether or not they have a Wedding Party, are opting for a Couple-Only entrance. It makes things super easy, and honestly, the Wedding Party is usually fairly relieved at not having to ham it up for the crowd, and just be able to go to their seats with the guests. I really only suggest a Grand Entrance with Wedding Party if it is culturally expected (Mexican weddings, Filipino weddings), or if you have a super rambunctious & really lively Wedding Party.
- Should we do a Grand Entrance even if we are attending part or all of our cocktail hour?
I still think it's a good idea. It's your formal intro into the party, and a great way to segue into the reception potion of the evening. Your guests will move from cocktail space to reception space, and we simply hold you back and intro you as we would any Grand Entrance. Following that is typically your first dance, welcome/thank you, and any parent welcome speeches. Your mileage may vary.
- Should we do a garter toss/bouquet toss?
I definitely suggest you think about your crowd when deciding. Do you have a young crowd with a lot of single friends/family members? If so, it could work out well and be lots of fun. If not, it could end up being rather humiliating when the few single people are called out. If you have kids at your wedding, don't be surprised or disappointed if they join in, and possibly even catch it themselves. They don't understand the tradition behind it (the one to catch it is the next to be married!). Something else to think about with the bouquet toss is the size of your bouquet. Many trends these days dictate larger/organic/loose bouquets which carry some significant weight and are not best for tossing at drunk people.
- What about cake cutting?
Let's start with this- do you know where this tradition came from? It started as just "The Bride", cutting and serving cake for her guests (because you know, women are the ones in the kitchen and all that) as they clamored for crumbs of an oft-too small confection. As cakes grew in size, so did the necessity for help in cutting it; and that's when "The Groom" came in- helping to cut it as a necessity. It then became a symbol of the first task the couple performed together. It can be a sweet tradition if it speaks to you no matter who you are, but if it doesn't (or if you are in a same sex partnership, and this background info just sounds so annoyingly hetero), it's certainly not necessary. The cake or dessert table can still be a gorgeous piece of wedding decor without a formal cutting. Another option that can work for many couples? A "private" cake cutting- photos and a time to cut the cake without an announcement or fanfare, and without stopping the reception. Those guests who like the tradition are welcome to come watch. The private cake cutting is my suggestion when couples are on the fence.
- When should we have the First Dance?
I normally suggest the First Dance happen immediately following the Grand Entrance. It's a time when the attention is already on you, so why not parlay that into a dance before dinner? A nice flow is Entrance >> First Dance >> Welcome Speech >> Dinner. The only exception to this is if you are not having any parent or family dances. Then I normally suggest we do first dance after dinner, after toasts, to kick off open dancing and get everyone in the groovin mood.
- Does dinner really take that long (over an hour in most cases)?
Yep. The time I schedule in your timeline for dinner is with good reason. I take into account your guest count, meal service style (plated? family style? buffet? food truck?), and wedding priorities when scheduling dinner time. Dinner service can last from 45 minutes for a very small wedding to 1-1.5 hours for a medium wedding, and up for a really large wedding. Remember, we can always move along with the itinerary if things get done quicker, but I always suggest padding things when possible, just in case. You'll be happy when we remain on time or ahead of time.
- We really want to dance. A lot. What do you suggest?
If you are planning a super mega dance party, I suggest you choose as little formalities as possible, while still accomplishing all the traditions that are important to you. Less formalities will free up the schedule for lots & lots of dancing. Cutting into dancing for announcements and formalities can put a kink in the dance party.
- Can we do speeches during dinner/between courses?
I know that can be really tempting and sound like a great way to save time, but I really caution against it. The reason is that it actually results in the opposite. When dinner is interrupted in any way, it prolongs service. It also ensures that guests put their flatware down (often noisily), and have to cease their conversations. I highly, highly recommend that you let your guests enjoy their dinner uninterrupted, and begin speeches at the very end of dinner. We normally start them as the last table of guests is finishing their entree, or immediately following clearing of china, just depends on your particular wedding.
- How many speeches should we have?
Generally, I don't suggest going over 1-2 welcome speeches (parents, typically), a quick thank you from the couple if they feel up to it, and 2-4 toasts. I also HIGHLY suggest you let these folks know that 2-3 minutes is a great "sweet spot". I have seen SINGLE speeches/toasts go for over 35-45 minutes more times than one. Again, if you are concerned about getting to dancing sooner, please think hard about the implications of too many speeches. You can also suggest those who want to say something (who you don't want to add to the wedding itinerary) can have a few moments at the rehearsal dinner or welcome party instead.
- Should we do a First Look?
I totally understand why people would NOT want to see each other before the wedding. It's another wedding tradition that is hard to let go of. That being said, I absolutely recommend doing a First Look. Scheduling special time for the two of you to see each other before the wedding is not only a great way to relieve stress and enjoy more of your special day together, it is an amazing time saver. It also results in better photos in my opinion. Why? They are less rushed and more intentional. You can also get your Wedding Party (if you are having one) and immediate family photos done before the ceremony. Why would you want to do that? So you can snap a couple extended family photos and be off to cocktail hour, of course! This also makes sure that you get really killer couple's portraits when the light is just right. Juuuust in case the wedding falls behind (rare, but a recent experience solidified this), we won't be afraid of losing all natural light for portraits.
- Can I choose someone to take our gifts and personal items the night of the wedding instead of ahead of time?
Unfortunately not. I must insist that this task is pre-determined. The reason is that many times in earlier years I have let that go, and things have ultimately ended up in a random guest or inebriated family member's hands. And it's much harder to ensure it happens correctly when the person is ill-prepared. We need to be able to have a responsible person to hand over these items to. As mentioned in some of my paperwork, if your wedding is at a hotel or estate you are staying at, we are more than happy to bring these items to your room instead of designating a guest/family member. **Leftover alcohol, when brought in by you, must be claimed by a pre-determined person, or left at the bar area for your pick up the next day.
- Champagne toast, or drink in hand?
By all means, if your venue includes it, or if you love the champs, do a champagne toast. But if you don't care for it much, or if you are at a DIY venue where you have to provide everything, forgo the champagne toast and go drink-in-hand! Guests will already have their drink of choice, and trust me, people won't miss the obligatory champagne. Plus, you can always have a few bottles at the bar for those who do want to partake and order it themselves.