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07 Apr '15

Tips for Creating the Perfect Timeline for Your Wedding Day

PocketWatchPurveyor note: This article by Elizabeth Clayton of A Practical Wedding provides an excellent starting point for scheduling your special day, minute by minute.

Timelines can be confusing when you’ve never done one—even if you’ve attended a lot of weddings you probably haven’t paid much attention to how long each individual aspect lasted (barring the rare occasion that you end up an hour-long ceremony indoors without air conditioning on a 102 degree day. Which nobody forgets). So today I’m going try and shed some light on how to keep your wedding moving, without feeling rushed or ending up with weird chunks of time where nobody knows what to do.

First, it’s worth noting that timelines are a guideline, not canon. I often go into a wedding with a two-paged, single-spaced timeline—it contains every single thing that every single person is doing for the entire day. (Famously, I often edit them before sending them to other vendors, because they scare the crap out of some people.) But, as I tell all of my clients, it’s the extremely rare wedding that hits every single point at the minute it’s supposed to. We extend cocktail hour because people are having fun (and/or the kitchen is running late). We move up the first dance because everyone finished eating early. We move last call out thirty minutes because we were able to start breaking down early and know we have time. Starting and ending the wedding on time are key—hitting everything in the middle in the approximate right order is important, but you usually have to adjust a little to the particular set of people.

And because the 4pm ceremony time, 10pm reception end (with both ceremony and reception in the same venue), with secular ceremony and photos beforehand is one of the most common formats I work with, I’m going to start with that as my example. But don’t worry! Next week we’re going to talk about variations on this timeline, like religious or otherwise longer ceremonies, daytime weddings, later evening weddings, separate ceremony and reception sites, and separate ceremony and reception times (i.e., gaps).

But for now, let’s dig into the format I mentioned above, with the timeline I use for almost all of the weddings that fit this mold:

  • 10:00am—Hair and Makeup/Getting ready
  • 12:00–2:00pm—Most vendors arrive for setup
  • 2:00pm—Wedding party and family photos start
  • 3:30pm—Doors open/Guests begin to arrive/Pre-ceremony music starts
  • 4:00pm—Invite time
  • 4:15pm—Ceremony starts
  • 4:35pm—Ceremony ends
  • 4:40pm—Cocktail hour starts
  • 5:45pm—Move guests into dinner
  • 6:00pm—Buffet opens/Dinner served
  • 6:20pm—All guests have food
  • 6:30pm—Toasts
  • 7:30pm—First dance
  • 7:35pm—General dancing music starts
  • 8:00pm—Second set of pre-sunset portraits
  • 8:26pm—Sunset
  • 8:30pm—Dessert
  • 9:45pm—Last call
  • 9:55pm—Music off
  • 10:00pm—Guests depart
  • 11:00pm—Breakdown done, all staff departs
And now, a few tips on how to get this all to go smoothly:

Invite Time vs. Start Time

The “invite” time is the time on your invitation. The earliest guests will show up about half an hour before this, so be prepared for that. And then there are the late guests. No matter the size of your guest list, you can put money on the fact that ten of them will be around ten minutes late, even if they’re all staying down the street from the venue. Do yourself a favor and plan on starting the ceremony fifteen minutes after your invite time. There’s nothing more awkward than a late arrival standing at the back of the aisle because the bridesmaids are walking down.

Food Timing

Timing for dinner depends largely on 1) what type of food service you’re having (the most common options being buffet, family style, and plated) and 2) how large your guest list is. It takes about twenty minutes for one hundred guests to get through a buffet. Plated courses are usually spaced about forty-five minutes apart. And family style also takes about fifteen-twenty minutes for one hundred guests to be served. Plan accordingly—I highly suggest starting with a minimum of bread on the table to give guests something to snack on while they wait for their turn at the food, although plated salads are also a great way to start out an otherwise buffet meal for the same reason. And of course, always discuss timing with whoever is actually serving your food—they should have the best idea for your particular menu.

Toasts

I really encourage people to do toasts during dinner—you have a captive audience, and people are in a headspace to be attentive, plus you don’t have to carve separate time out of the day for them to happen. Note: Make sure the first person to give a toast tells all of the guests to please continue to eat while people are speaking! And also make sure to tell the catering staff that they should continue to serve/clear/etc. while people are speaking (they’re good at doing this discreetly). (Editor Maddie’s note: Don’t forget to tell your photographer too! We usually eat when guests eat, because face-stuffing photos are unattractive. So make sure we’re not knee-deep in the lasagna when toasts start by giving us a heads up on when toasts will start. Though it’s always best when your timeline is shared with your photographer at least a week or two before the wedding so that we know in advance.) (Elizabeth’s note on Maddie’s note: This is why I have the photograhper’s go through a buffet first, yes, before the guests. Or if it’s plated or family style I’ll discuss with them and either have them eat at the end of cocktail hour, or once toasts are done. Please don’t forget to feed your vendors!)

Sunset

Note what time it’s going to happen! (There are lots of places online that will tell you—I personally use this site, possibly because I love the name, but I also find it to be totally accurate.) You’re going to want to think about lighting, especially if your event is happening partially outdoors. And also…

Portraits/Photos

Whether or not you opt for an “official” photographed first look, the truth is that a lot of couples these days tend to do formal portraits before the ceremony, because otherwise you’re stuck wrangling people during cocktail hour, which a) means they’re less compliant and b) you miss out on mingling with your guests/stuffing seared shrimp in your mouth (Editor Maddie’s note: or scallops wrapped in bacon. Mmmm…). Also, I always suggest a second set of portraits right before sunset for two reasons—the light is totally different, and gorgeous (they don’t call it golden hour for nothing) and you’re also in a totally different space emotionally—the ceremony is over, you may have had a glass of champagne, and you’re married, as opposed to about to get married in an hour. You really only need to budget ten to fifteen minutes for these, and you should plan on it being just the two of you and your primary photographer. This mini session also has the added benefit of giving you a short break away from the crowds.

Cake/Dessert Timing

While this rule seems to have gotten lost over the generations, traditionally it’s considered acceptable to leave a wedding once the cake has been cut—at that point you know that nothing else major is going to happen (it’s just partying from there on out) and hey, maybe you have a sitter to get home to, or just want to be in bed to watch the ten o’clock news. And while you may not be aware of this rule, if you have any guests over sixty-years-old then they do, and they will wait for you to cut the cake (or alternative dessert. I’m personally a pie girl myself). So don’t wait until too late to do it. I mean, no one wants to leave without a piece of cake (or, again, pie).

Last Call

The universal signal that things are about to wrap up or wind down. You don’t have to make it official, but if you do it can be a helpful to sign to people that they should start preparing (mentally) to leave.

Breakdown

If your venue has strict timing rules, or noise restrictions, or you’re paying a staff hourly and they’re going to go into overtime or time-and-a-half at some point, don’t forget about breakdown. While generally faster than set up (it’s a lot quicker to toss decorations into a box than it is to take them out and perfectly arrange them) I rarely see a breakdown that’s under an hour, and sometimes they end up in the one to two hour range. Think about all of the things that are going to need to happen once the lights go on and how much time that will take, and plan the end of the night accordingly.

After Parties

(and why you should have one)

“But really, I know we’re going to want to party until 1am!” you say. Dude—me too. But we’re in the minority. I am already anticipating a lot of rebuttal on this point in the comments, but as someone who’s coordinated over a hundred weddings I will tell you—I can count the number of weddings where there has been a critical mass of guests still wanting to go after 10:30pm on my fingers. And two of them took place on New Year’s Eve. And most of the rest had 6:00pm or later ceremonies. Six hours is about the most that most weddings guests have in them. That said, should you make everyone go home at 10pm? Hell no. Move people to an afterparty. My favorite way to do this, because it’s the easiest, is to pick a nearby bar ahead of time, spread the word, and whoever wants to go can go. Do you have to host (as in, pay for) the afterparty drinks? Definitely not. You certainly can, and it would be super nice, but after paying for everyone’s drinks for six hours, you’re off the hook (and I will tell you—if you walk into a bar in a wedding dress there’s definitely no one in the world who’s going to make you pay for you own drinks!). Also—if the majority of your guests are staying in the same hotel, that hotel bar can be a great option for this, and they may allow you to bring extra wedding champagne in for a reduced corkage fee.

 

Originally appeared at http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/03/calculate-wedding-timeline/

04 Apr '15

Make a Wedding Cake for Under $50 Using a Grocery Store Sheet Cake


DIY Wedding Cake Grocery Store Sheet Cake (25)

A few weeks ago, the APW team got together to do a little flower shoot. While we were at it, I decided that we were going to do something I’ve wanted to do for a zillion years: turn a grocery store cake into a really lovely wedding cake. You know, a post you could show to your mom when she didn’t get you were saving money AND being super classy. (PocketWatchPurveyor note: Costco sheet cakes are even more affordable, tasty and perfect for this project.)

So it was decided that I would go to Whole Foods, and get some of their cute cakes for us to work on. But I was really determined to take it a step farther than that. I wanted to show that you could take ANY kind of grocery store cake and turn it into a wedding cake. (Because, let’s be for real: my home town does not have a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s or any kind of gourmet grocery store, and your town might not either.) So, I set out to find the world’s most average sheet cake. This being Oakland, I tracked one down at the Lucky’s in my neighborhood, where the people behind me in line were pretty clearly high on crack. So, you know, that seemed not-gourmet enough.

And when I got this cake I was OVER THE MOON, because it was suddenly clear to me that this was going to be the awesomest of all the projects (in my estimation). So I brought the cake into the shoot, and everyone just sort of looked at it, worriedly. Then they looked at me very doubtfully. (Credit where credit was due: Maddie was as excited as I was about it.) While I was working on the cake, I kept waving people away, because everyone wanted to pretty-fy it: take off the sprinkles, take of the piping. And do.

But for truth. When I finished, there was a collective, “Ooooooooo…..” It was good, my friends. So without further ado, the world’s easiest (and cheapest) wedding cake. If you do this for your wedding, I want to have a drink with you.

DIY Wedding Cake Grocery Store Sheet Cake (20)DIY Wedding Cake Grocery Store Sheet Cake (21)

DIY Wedding Cake Grocery Store Sheet Cake (22)

 

Originally posted at http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/06/grocery-store-sheet-cake-wedding-cake/

17 Mar '15

Useful Tips for Creating the Seating Plan at Your Wedding Reception

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably attended weddings in the past, picked up your escort card, and found your table without ever really thinking about the work that has to go into making a seating chart. For many of my clients, the seating chart is one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning—I’ve seen clients both cry and fight with each other (and their families) over them. Just recently a client of mine posted something on Facebook about their seating chart, and one of the responses summed it up perfectly as being, “Like Tetris, but with emotions.”

By nature, seating charts have to be made at the very end of the wedding planning process (after your RSVPs are in) when you have a ton of other stuff on your plate. Plus, they’re not something you can delegate to someone else. (As I tell my clients—I could do your seating chart for you, but since I don’t know your friends and family, it’s entirely possible I’d end up putting your conservative great-aunt next to your anarchist college roommate.) It’s important to note here that you certainly don’t have to have a seating chart, and the logistics of a seating chartless wedding are something I’ll go into in a future post (because, hey, you don’t even have to have tables at your wedding!) but for those of you who are in the midst of staring at your guest list trying to figure out how exactly this is going to work? While I can’t promise to make the creation of your seating chart painless, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years that might just make it manageable.

Don’t overthink it

At most weddings, your guests are sitting at their tables for at max ninety minutes of what is a pretty long event. So, while ideally everyone has someone at their table who they like, and no one is at a table with someone they can’t stand, don’t stress too much about breaking all of your guests into the most-perfect-groups-of-eight ever—they’ll have hours to hang out with whoever they want. Now, if your wedding consists of a six-course plated meal that’s going to take three hours, you may want to work a little harder on creating great groups, but this is also where I encourage people to let the guests who won’t know anyone else at your wedding (see: that one former co-worker you’ve stayed close to, or childhood friend who lives out of state and doesn’t know any of your current friends) to bring a plus one, even if you’re not allowing them across the board.

Assigning Seats vs. Assigning Tables

For the majority of weddings, assigning your guests to tables, but not to specific seats at those tables is going to be fine—with the exception of a multi-course, plated meal with multiple selections for each course. If you do assign seats, you’re going to need both escort cards (which get picked up at the entry and tell you your table number) and place cards, which are on the table and tell you which seat is yours. With assigned tables you only need escort cards, or you can make things even easier, and scrap the escort cards for a seating chart (which is really just a big poster with a list of people’s names and table numbers on it. A chart also has the bonus benefit of not being able to get lost, which somehow always happens with escort cards even when no one is leaving the room).

Where do we sit?

I’m semi-convinced that the sweetheart table (a raised and/or “head” table at the front of the room where you and your partner sit) was originally invented for couples with acrimoniously divorced parents, since one way to avoid having to pick who to sit with is to sit with no one. But a sweetheart table is not your only option. If your families all get along well (or, well-enough) a table made up of you and your partner and both sets of parents can be great, or a table with your wedding party and their dates works just as well. Regardless, I often encourage couples to put their table in the middle of the floor plan, instead of on one edge so that you can put the maximum number of other tables close by and avoid anyone feeling like they’re in the “cheap seats” on the opposite side of the room.

Do toasts during dinner

If you’re doing a sit down meal, I always encourage toasts either a) after the last table has gone through the buffet, or b) after entrees have arrived (either family style or plated). Your guests are a captive audience at this point, people can totally eat and listen at the same time, you don’t have to carve a thirty-minute time chunk out of somewhere else in your schedule, and, if people don’t like who they’re sitting with they don’t have to try to make awkward chit chat with them (key point: the first person to give a toast should tell everyone to please keep eating while people are talking).

 

Seating Chart Logistics

How many people can fit at one table? The short answer is that you can fit six to ten at a 60″ round table (the most common table size). But what does that mean?

Round tables


 

The fewest people you want per 60″ round is six—less than this and the table will feel oddly big and empty. You can see that people are pretty spread out here, but are just above feeling too spread out.

 

 

Eight is the ideal number—it feels full, but not crowded, everyone is going to be able to pull their chairs in all the way, and still have some elbow room. Rad.

 

 

Note how close the place settings and the chairs are to each other. Yes, ten people is really the maximum you can put at a 60″ round—there’s simply not space to squeeze an eleventh in there and still have enough space to pull chairs close enough to actually sit (or, more importantly, eat) at the table.

Rectangles

The most common size of rectangle table is 6′ by 30″. They seat either six or eight people, depending on if you use the endcaps (short side of the table.) As pictured:

 

 

 

 

Layout

But how many tables can you fit into your room? This is a big one people—do not forget to leave room for people to walk between tables and to actually get in and out of their seats. The standard is a minimum of 60″ between tables, and… it’s correct. Pictured below—about 48″ between tables:

 

 

That seems fine. But then you pull the chairs out (which they are when people are actually sitting in them, unless your guests are somehow… flat?)…

 

 

And really, there’s not enough room for anyone (a waiter, or guest trying to get to their seat) to easily get in between those chairs. Do not let this happen to you—keep those tables 60″ away from each other (or, at least 30″ away from a wall).

Okay, so you know how many people are coming, how many tables you have, and how they’re going in the room—how do you arrange all these people without losing your minds? There are a bunch of fancy software programs out there that will help you do this, and I’ve heard good things about the one from Wedding Wire in particular. But, for those of you on the low-tech end of things, I like to suggest a super easy paper alternative that can be done with things you likely have sitting in your house.

 

 

Write each guest’s name on a post-it note, and line up as many half sheets of plain paper as you have tables. Then proceed to stick those suckers down, and move people around until you have the appropriate number of people at each table, and you are satisfied with the arrangement. Take a picture, or, better, transcribe this list into a bullet point list or spreadsheet.

I generally encourage people to ask their closest friends and family members for input on the seating chart—you may be surprised to learn that your parents would really rather be at a table with their college friends instead of their siblings. I also encourage people to think about mixing up groups of friends and family. At a friend’s wedding a few years ago they put a lot of thought into blending groups—everyone had at least one person at their table they already knew, but then other people who the couple thought they might have something in common with. Almost everyone commented on how lovely it was to have the chance to talk with people they might not have otherwise (and really, I love my extended family, but I know them well—I personally think it’s much more interesting to sit at a table with cousins from the other side of the aisle than one made up of just my cousins, who I likely just spent all of cocktail hour chatting with).

And, if you’re currently in the weeds of post-it-note (or software) hell, just remember—your guests are adults (or have an adult with them); they love you and are happy to be there, and will hopefully be gracious about whatever table they end up being placed at. If not—just remember that a well-stocked bar can go a long way towards soothing things.

 

Originally posted at: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/08/wedding-seating-chart-tips/