I grouped a bunch of these headings together after I got through the first few big topics, and I actually intended to do these ones before the last post (Planning a wedding in six months – Part 5 – Accommodations, Flowers, and Transportation). One small typo later, and that one moved up my queue.
When I was married ten years ago, having a “wedding website” was considered relatively new. Sure, some people had them, and there were a few basic sites out there that offered some options, but it wasn’t everywhere. Now, pretty much every wedding has one. Because websites can help with a lot of things:
- A place for people to do confirmations of attendance (i.e. RSVP) and indicate their meal preference in real time;
- Provide links for hotel registration or maps of the area;
- Post photos of the events so far (and for the wedding afterwards); and,
- Links to a gift registry for the happy yet possibly greedy couple.
I already talked about the meals in an earlier post (Planning a wedding in six months – Part 4 – The Reception) and hotels (Planning a wedding in six months – Part 5 – Accommodations, Flowers, and Transportation), so I won’t cover that again. In another post, I’ll cover photography as it is pretty unique. And below, I’ll talk about gifts and gift registries. So what’s left?
Nothing. Because your website isn’t about giving you something different than you would have normally, it is just a tool to help you do certain things more easily (RSVPs, for instance, or update venue information). As I said, when we got married, it was a separate “thing”; now, most people would just put it with other “tracker” tools, and depending on which website you choose to host it (there are HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS now), they likely have modifiable to-do lists you can use too. As such, our website didn’t get going until Week 8 or 10, but now, they’re frequently up at Week 3-4.
Lots of couples get married every year and have big weddings, and think, “Hey, wait a minute, we already own a house and have lived together for awhile, we don’t need gifts, do we?”. Perhaps not. But you still need to have a gift registry. Why? Because no matter how cool your family and friends are, many of them are going to INSIST they need to buy you a gift. In an absolutely insane world, some of them will buy you a gift for your engagement party, the first shower, the second shower, AND the wedding. No, I’m serious. Someone close to you might get invited to all of them and think they HAVE to buy something every time. What if they’re also in the wedding party? Like a bridesmaid? So potentially FOUR gifts PLUS a dress, shoes, makeup, blah blah blah? And fend off drunk Uncle Ernie’s sexual advances? Wow, what a deal.
Wedding gift registries started long ago as an easy way to avoid everyone getting you a toaster. Register somewhere, make a list of things you like, and then people can just ask, “Where are they registered?”. In the distant past, this was a good way to get your “good dishes” or silverware or place settings. Now, you can have registries at Walmart, Canadian Tire, sporting goods stores, etc. Some even are website-based and have options to “help us buy a house” (i.e. give us cash to save for a house) by helping buy a virtual “door” or a “window”. Some make it more mercenary — like “help us pay for the wedding”. Or pay for miles on a trip for a honeymoon.
But ignoring the old and the really greedy new, most registries at department stores tried to make it simple and “fun” about 12 years ago. Let’s face it, most stereotypes of grooms had them preferring to have their eyeballs shaved with lasers rather than help pick out a china pattern, so places like The Bay, Sears, Eaton’s (yes, I know two of those are gone), etc., tried to make it easier by giving you a bar code reader. So here is what you would do — walk around the store. See something you like. Zap it with the gun. Voila, it’s on your registry! So stores would say to the woman, “here, give this to your husband so he can participate too and have some fun”. Zap, you have towels chosen. Zap, luggage. Zap, some tools. Zap, some lingerie. Wait, zap, zap, zap. Stop! Cuz everything you zap? It SHOWS on your registry. Where your MOTHER can see what you’ve chosen. Delete delete delete. Okay, good. Now people can go there, or on the store website, look you up by last name of groom or bride (or both), look at your registry, choose something, buy it, and BAM, it’s removed from your registry so that you don’t have the four toasters problem again. Of course, now, you can have that delivered to their nearest store, and instead of multiple deliveries or taking it to the shower and them having to lug it home, they can arrange for a single pickup or delivery at some point. Very orderly. Not as much “fun” as opening 40 gifts at a shower and feeling stressed that you have to not only keep track, keep smiling, keep opening, etc., but also write them a thank you note later too. And try not feeling overwhelmed that you’re cleaning up like you were the best or only kid in the world and it’s Christmas morning.
But wait, you’re not done. Because not only are YOU getting gifts out the wazoo, you traditionally buy something for each other (bride to groom, groom to bride). Besides the rings. My suggestion? Go for something small but meaningful. Not a tie for the groom, unless he’s wearing it to the wedding. Not earrings for the bride unless she’s wearing them to the wedding. Lots of people do watches (snore). Know what? I”ve asked people and TONS of them have no memory of what they got or gave five years later. Right now, I confess, I’m totally blanking. Just saying…wait. I think I *asked* for a watch. Sigh.
You also need thank you gifts. For your wedding party members. For the Minister. Maybe for the cake decorator or logistics people if they are friends/volunteers. And last but not least, you often do party favours for EVERY GUEST. Back when I was younger, many brides would MAKE something. A sewn wrapper with the names and dates on it, and pieces of wedding cake inside. Some do little candies inside mesh lace, which traditionally, were HAND TIED. Whackjobs. A much more civilized if boring option is to make a donation to a charity in lieu of party favours (no one wants them anyway), and then just put a small note in the program or mention it at the reception. [Week 20-24]
What else do you need to know about gifts? You also need to know that you often have to cart them around on the day of the wedding. Some people didn’t attend party x, or see you within a month of the wedding, so they bring the gift TO the wedding. Which is great, thanks everyone, but oh, now I need to TAKE THEM WITH ME WHEN I LEAVE WITH MY BRIDE???? No, I didn’t, my brother piled them all into his van and looked after that for us. But someone has to. And not for nothing, particularly in some cultures (I’m looking at you, Greeks and Italians!), it’s quite common to stuff cash in an envelope and give THAT at the wedding. So someone has to look after all those envelopes. In some cultures, in lieu of gifts, it is quite common for that total amount of cash to exceed $10K, $20K, even $30K. Not something you want sitting in the back of your car overnight. So someone has to look after it all. Just saying. [Week 25-26]
Until you have a wedding, you have NO idea how stressful invitations can be. Why? Because the options are endless. Absolutely endless. Here are some questions:
- Do you want printed “save the date” advance notices?
- Do you want them to match your later invitation?
- Do you want special RSVP cards with matching layout and design?
- Have you decided on the date, location, blah blah blah, all of which has to go on the invitation?
- Are children invited?
- Are all the singles invited to bring a +1?
- Have you even DECIDED WHO IS ON YOUR A-LIST AND B-LIST???????
- Oh, and by the way, you’re SNAIL MAILING THEM LIKE AN OLD PERSON, so you need EVERYONE’S MAILING ADDRESS WITH POSTAL CODES.
And then you have some other basic questions:
- Are you designing them yourselves?
- Are you printing them at home on a laser printer?
- Are you having some place like a basic printer do them?
- Are you hiring a special invitation-design person?
Once you get through those, you are pressed for advanced questions:
- Is there a theme?
- Have you decided on your colours yet?
- Are you also doing orders of service to match?
- Do you want your guestbook to exactly match?
- Are you printing enough to have extras in case you mess up an invitation? Or in case you invite 100 people on your A-list and miraculously people respond right away to let you know you only have 90, so you can invite the first 10 off your B-list? Don’t forget too that you want extras to save as souvenirs.
I’m a great believer in farming out as much as you can, if you can afford it. By luck of the draw, we knew someone who did invitations. Andrea reached out, she was interested, we were only inviting 100 people, manageable. But then the questions started (see above). Even with someone else doing it, it’s still a lot of questions, many of which you haven’t thought of yet, until right that MOMENT, and time is ticking away.
You need to know how many people are coming; in order to know, they have to RSVP; in order to RSVP, they need the invitations and some time to think about it; to even get the invitations, they need to be received because they were sent; in order to be sent, they have to be addressed, stamped, prepared; before that, they have to be printed; and before that, THEY HAVE TO BE DESIGNED WITH ALL THAT INFORMATION THEY’RE ASKING ABOUT. All in six months. Acccccccccccccccccccccccccccccck! 🙂
Invitations are a GREAT way to turn yourself into a squirrel in the first couple of months. Lots of young’uns will cheat and send their SAVE THE DATE note by email to everyone (you can’t post it on FB because lots of your friends on FB are NOT going to be invited!). But that doesn’t save much work, just delays the timing a bit.
For me, I think one of the brightest things we did early on was relax a bit about the protocol features of the design. Sure, we wanted it to look nice, but we didn’t want all of the printed materials to exactly match down to the cardstock and filigree. Instead, we decided on a theme. Pandas.
You see, my name is Paul and her name is Andrea. So our initials are P and A = PandA. Early on in our relationship, for a story too cute to tell here, we started calling each other Panda. And it stuck. So we knew we wanted a PandA wedding. And, early on, we had an idea of a logo that we might want to use on the invitation. Something cute, a bit campy, not formal at all. The invitation person took a couple of examples we sent her and did some graphic design with them, and voila, we had a design:
We thought it was cute, but I didn’t realize how brilliant it was. Now we had what the marketers call the basis for branding. For EVERYTHING that we were going to print, all we had to do was slap the logo on it, and it would MATCH our theme. Simple, straight-forward, and matched our informal styles (well, really, mine more than hers, but well, I’m part of the party too). We didn’t want hams and hots with a bag of chips, but we also didn’t want people drinking tea with their pinkies out. And we wanted the wedding to be fun. It is amazing how often through-out the six months that the logo cropped up. On cakes, on boards, at the wedding, not all of which we did, others used it too.
Now, we also wanted to have some fun with the invitations. We didn’t simply want “Mr and Mrs parents of the bride and groom invite you to witness blah blah blah…”. We wanted a bit more, well, personalization. I’ll be honest. I *loved* our invitation. It was fun writing it, it was fun sending it, it was fun doing it ourselves. Here’s the original text that was suggested to us from varying sources for a more traditional invitation:
A light approach, combining our venue (the theatre), the idea of a “play” with galas and read the reviews brunches, and a touch of us. Exactly what we were looking for, rather than a formal invitation. Is our approach for everyone? Of course not. It just fit us rather perfectly. Even re-reading it above, I feel the excitement I felt when we drafted it and sent them out. People LOVED the invites, and those who didn’t, who thought maybe it was a bit too “light” for such a solemn undertaking, didn’t share their views with us. Is this the right approach for your 90-year-old grandmother who has always wanted to dance at your wedding? Probably not. She needs a proper letter or decorative stationery. But everyone else? They loved it.
Later, for the actual ceremony, we printed the programs ourselves (well, at Staples actually, on better quality semi-gloss cardstock) and then folded them ourselves. And we did it up like play bill with the list of cast members, etc. It looked something like this:
It all fit on one page, double-sided, and if you folded it down the centre, it looked like a program. Easy peasy lemon squeezy? Not really, it took a bit of work to make it all look decent, but it got there. And at a fraction of the cost, while also letting us personalize it much later in the schedule than a professional designer would have been flexible enough to handle.
However, you will still need to:
- Choose invitation person
- Meet with invitation person
- Draft invitation text
- Decide if children will be invited / will attend
- Assemble addresses
- Draft order of service
- Print invitations
- Print mailing, return address labels
- Buy stamps
- Send invitations
- Participant tracking
- Call any guests who haven’t responded
- Buy guestbook and pen
- Print orders of service
And last but not least? You’re going to want to save copies of the invitations and order of service for your wedding scrapbook.
We did our SAVE THE DATE message somewhere around Week 4-8 I think (?) and the actual invitations went out in week 12-13. By most standards, that is considered LATE.