Last week I talked a little bit about seating arrangements and how table shapes play into that. But table shapes don’t solve all of your problems! The puzzle is made even harder with last minute RSVPs, remembering your pregnant cousin will want to be near the bathroom, and deciding where to put all of your single friends. These tips should round out your table planning problems:
The seating arrangement isn’t as fun as wine and cake tasting, but it has to be done. Just keep your cool and do the best you can.
Choosing the wines for your reception can be a little intimidating, especially if you’re not a wine connoisseur. There are over 10,000 varieties of wine grapes that can be made into countless varieties of wine. That’s a lot to choose from! How do you go about picking yours? What works with your dinner? How much do you need? Take a deep breath. Let’s keep it simple!
Pregame: Taste a variety. Try a new kind every time you’re out for dinner or at the bar. Pick up a new bottle at your local wine or grocery store. Write down the ones you like and forget the ones you don’t. Or throw the empty bottles from your favorites on top of the fridge. Having the bottle makes shopping for them at the store a lot easier later on!
Double Trouble: Pick one red wine AND one white wine. People have their preferences! Keep in mind: oaky, buttery chardonnay and fruity full-bodied merlot wines can overwhelm the palette. Sauvignon Blanc (aka Fume Blanc) and Pinot Noir wines (white and red, respectively) are two wines that typically go well with most foods because they are light and less fruity. Looking underneath these categories will make your sampling much less daunting.
Matchy matchy: Choose your wines when you’re sampling your wedding dinner. Drink a few wines with the meal to get a better sense of which wine compliments the food best. Caterers will be able to offer advice, but don’t trust their judgment blindly. ALWAYS sample the wine.
Here is a basic guideline for pairing your food and wine:
Print this out. Keep it in your pocket. Tape it to your mirror so you see it every morning.
What about the money honey?
Is there such thing as “too much wine?” Different wedding professionals will say to allow 1/2, 2/3, or even a full bottle of wine per guest as an estimate. I say it depends on your guests. If your friends and family like to drink, then estimate higher, If they don’t, then aim low. BUT always add extra to your estimate because NO ONE wants to run out of wine. NO. ONE. And having extra bottles to take home is just a fabulous wedding gift for yourselves!
This covers wine at its most basic level. Now you can shop like a pro! Sample responsibly!
The reception seating arrangement is like a really huge Sudoku puzzle. Some people will want to be closer to the head table, some want to be close to the bathroom, some can’t be stuck in a corner, some want to be near the dance floor… AHHH! Just a heads up: It can get pretty complex but Panache & Promises is here to help. Choosing the right table shapes for your venue can solve a lot of these problems.
Let’s look at the options:
Family Style Tables
Family Style tables are most popular with large venues and outdoor settings.
Pros: Intimate; lower linen costs (only a few tables… maybe even just 1!); great arrangement for smaller weddings; no one will get stuck in the corner of the room!
Cons: Only works for large, long spaces; pretty much requires a plated dinner; conversation flow is limited to your chair neighbors.
Round tables are the classic wedding setup.
Pros: Great for mingling around the room.
Cons: They take up more space; the tables are harder to fit near walls, the space can end up cramped and people bump chairs frequently.
Square tables are a modern take on a classic arrangement.
Pros: Great for mingling as well; the shape makes them easy to fit along walls so they use less space than round tables.
Cons: You’ll probably still have guests playing bumper chairs.
Mix, match, and use them all!
Pros: The space looks unique; the arrangement can be better customized to fit your space.
Cons: When done poorly, the space can look very cluttered and unorganized; you’ll have a higher linen and floral cost.
You can’t perfectly accommodate everybody. Most people will just be happy to be at your wedding and their seat isn’t all that important to them. What IS important is that YOU don’t stress over the tables too much!
There’s a scene in “The Wedding Planner” where the engaged couple notices they don’t have a song that is “theirs” to dance to. So the fiancée puts on a CD with popular wedding tracks in the car and they choose the first one on the album. NOT the ideal way to choose a song! Have you ever noticed that most of the weddings you’ve been to use a lot of the same tunes? Don’t choose the first “romantic” song that comes to mind. MIX. IT. UP.
Here’s a secret: the song doesn’t have to be slow and sappy. Find something that you both enjoy and that defines your tastes. “Ain’t No Other Man” by Christina Aguilera would be much more unique and entertaining than another dance to “At Last” by Etta James.
Of course, if you’re looking for something more upbeat and wild, you’ll need some choreography. Many of the Panache & Promises brides go to CONVERGENCE Dance and Body Center for lessons. Make your first dance a performance and wow your friends and family!
The California couple below did just that. The husband is a magician so they chose “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and incorporated some tricks into their dance. Very sexy, very unique!
Whether you have an idea in mind or you’re feeling totally clueless, professional dance instructors can help you find the right moves that will make your first dance fabulous.
Convergence Dance and Body Center
7700 Clayton Rd, Suite 120
Clayton, MO 63117
Not every couple is the Pinterest-perfect couple that wants their wedding to be traditional and sparkly. What if you’re the couple that doesn’t like the cliché diamond rings, or doesn’t like jewelry at all? Diamond rings are becoming less popular with millennial couples. The Economist tweeted at its followers a few weeks ago with the question “Why aren’t millennials buying diamonds?” and the responses were brutally honest, but eye opening.
The verdict is in. Despite sounding a little bitter and sarcastic, it is clear that millennials don’t have and don’t want to spend the money on diamonds. If you’re one of the couples that works at mall or would rather take a trip to Europe than drop 3 months of your salary on jewelry, then a diamond is out of the question. Quirky couples everywhere have been decidedly going with more unusual options, like…
Diamonds are forever? No, TATTOOS are forever. And a small one on your ring finger costs about a hundred bucks. Just be sure he’s really the one. A tattoo can’t just be slipped off…
Traditional women in India get their noses pierces to show the world “I’m taken!” But regardless of your cultural background, piercings are very popular with millennials and getting a piercing together might be sort of romantic, by today’s standards at least.
Alternate Stones and Materials
Maybe a ring is your thing but you don’t like the overpriced, exploitative world of diamonds. There are so many other beautiful stones to choose from. Raw stone looks are especially trendy. An even better option: take a metalsmithing class with your fiancé and make rings for each other. The cost is minimal but the sentimental value is through the roof. Those who solder together stay together!
A Special Gift
His grandmother’s pearls. Her grandfather’s pocket watch. That pair of Jimmy Choo shoes she would never buy for herself. Whatever it may be, a special gift can be a sweet replacement for a ring. The couple above is drawing portraits of each other. Theirs are terrible, but an artsy couple could create some meaningful artwork for each other that they’ll see every day. Perhaps he’ll surprise you with the tickets from the movie you saw on your first date, framed as a reminder of where you began. Anything can be special!
Framed Marriage License
Maybe you’re a minimalist and you’re just not into the cliché, sparkly, over-thought, hoop-la wedding stuff. Keep it simple and frame your marriage license. You don’t need to buy things or prove your worth in the form of a diamond. You wanted to marry each other and you did. What more could you want?
You don’t need a ring to show you’re in love.
DIY on a budget is made easier with everyone’s favorite furniture conglomerate: IKEA. The Swedish brand is famous for having basic housewares at extremely reasonable prices. Many of their cheapest items can be used creatively to give your wedding an exquisite designer look without the high price. It was hard to choose my favorites, but these three items are CHEAP and really make an impact on a wedding space.
A custom sign from a local sign company can cost about $300. Umm…no. Grab a MÅLA Easel ($15) (or three) and make your signage yourself. Grab your chalk pens and your extra deck stain and POOF you just saved yourself a few hundred bucks. (via Leigh Elizabeth Photography / Style Me Pretty)
Use Lill Curtains ($5) to craft a stunning backdrop, hide the ugly banquet hall walls, or just add some romance. The fact that these are only $5 is incredible. Rented curtains are, let’s just say, A LOT more expensive than that. Tie some knots, add some ribbons, and create a soft surrounding for minimal cash. (via Eventures)
I’ve talked about linens on my blog previously, and the feel of luxury is important. But if your linen quotes are giving you cold feet, don’t resort to paper napkins. These Elly Dish Towels ($4, 4-pack) could work for a number of themes: boho chic, seaside-beachy, or a casual outdoor evening. Tie them with twine and tuck in a menu and you have your cute place setting. Better yet, you’ll have plenty of dishtowels for your kitchen when the day is over. (via Katrina Louise Photography / Ruffled)
IKEA is a wonderful place for modern, inexpensive decor. Now if we could only get them to cater those amazing $1 café cinnamon rolls for the reception…
See more IKEA wedding hacks from Brit+Co.
Most brides hand out custom cookies or little candies with the couple’s name on them as a souvenir of their special day. But no bride wants to be “most brides.” Surprise your guests with a special memento that they won’t gobble down in the car and forget about. There are so many more unique ideas out there! Here are my favorites:
Give your guests a chuckle with a fun, personalized drink koozie to remind them that the coolest couple is forever keeping their drinks cool.
“I met my match” matchbooks are super cute for pun-loving families.
Maybe the bride owns a bakery, or the groom’s mom used to hit him with her wooden spoon back in the day. Either way, a wood-burned and personalized wooden spoon is definitely unique and quirky.
I suppose this falls into the “gobble down in the car” category, but hey, cotton candy is more special than some personalized M&Ms. Keep a cart of cotton candy bouquets from Cloud Nine by the exit for your guests to grab on their way out.
Any music loving couple MUST hand out mini vinyl CDs. Give your guests the soundtrack from your reception or some of your favorite love songs to play in the car ride home. They’ll be cutting the rug until death do you part.
Show off your ever-growing love with a cute take-home succulent for your friends and family. Really any plant would be a fun favor, but succulents are hard to kill and people will greatly appreciate a low-maintenance reminder.
Just LOOK at how cute these are. Little personalized ketchup bottles are an obvious favor choice for a country-style or backyard-barbecue wedding. I never thought I’d want my name on a ketchup bottle so badly until I saw these.
The custom candies are always cute too, but save them for the dessert table. Aim a little higher and give your guests something fun and fancy.
Balloons have many metaphorical meanings. Balloons can be used to describe both holding on and letting go. This concept fits beautifully into a wedding – parents are letting go of their children and the happy couple is forever holding on to each other. Romantic, right? The problem is that balloons can end up looking corny and, dare I say, cheap. The little 10 cent balloons at the party store aren’t going to cut it! And a regular ol’ balloon arch usually looks like it’s straight out of the 80s. But there is hope for balloon-loving brides. Generally, I recommend oversized opaque balloons in one or two colors TOPS, and get the roundest ones you can find! A big round balloon looks very vintage and romantic. The thin pear-shaped ones at the dollar store just do not look elegant.
Here are some cute successes of styling a wedding with balloons:
This is what I’m talking about! A big, vintage balloon with thick, luscious ribbon looks stunning and fun – perfect for photos! Decorate the strings for even more pizazz!
This ceremony looks like its about to float away to minimalist heaven. The tall floating balloons give the venue some structure. They look almost like columns! This concept is so simple yet grand.
This reception entrance looks like champagne fizz! Invite your guests into the party by leading them through a room full of balloons. The opalescent color is so pretty and classic. Just make sure the ladies watch where they’re stepping in their heels!
No one will have a problem finding their tables with some giant balloon numbers!
The trick with decorating the reception area is to keep the balloon colors simple and elegant. Add your brighter colors with the other accent items like flowers, centerpieces, etc. Don’t shy away from decorating the strings either! A little glue and paper shapes or some knotted fabric raise the balloons to new levels (pun intended).
The best part about balloons: they aren’t expensive. Many Etsy shops sell the big vintage-inspired balloons for $1 - $35 each, and you can even buy them stuffed with confetti or with tasseled strings. Even better: St. Louis is home to balloon artist Sammy J Balloons. They can design balloon arrangements and set up for your event – save your lungs and get them pumped up professionally.
Balloons at an event as exquisite as a wedding can be tricky. Just remember to stay away from the dollar store and choose muted colors in HUGE sizes. Ask your wedding planner how to incorporate balloons tastefully into your theme without the risk of it looking like a circus.
Designing and ordering your wedding cake is always very exciting (umm hello cake sampling!) But when you’re ready to order, there are questions and problems that my brides NEVER think about. Know better! Let me tell you the things you’re going to forget.
Things you need to remember ahead of time:
Things to ask your baker:
Ordering a cake seems simple… but it’s not! There are a lot of things to remember. Have more questions or want some help? Call me! I’ll make sure everything goes well.
A wedding invitation’s envelope can really be a thing of beauty. A handwritten, embossed, metallic satin-finished envelope just seems vandalized when you stick a super-Americana plastic forever stamp in the corner. Vintage stamps keep a pretty envelope looking elegant… but where and how does one buy vintage stamps? Hear it from me: there is an expensive route and a cheap route. Jennifer Tomscha wrote a great BLOG for A Practical Wedding to serve as your vintage stamp guide (read below!)
From eBay Vintage Stamps for My Wedding Invitations... A surprisingly magical part of wedding planning by Jennifer Tomscha...
1. Be ready to do this. By this I mean, spend a weekend at the dining room table, arranging tiny pieces of delicate paper, counting their value in cents, and then glue-sticking them onto envelopes. I wasn’t quite ready. Dan—our resident calligrapher—definitely wasn’t ready. He thought addressing 115 invitations would take three or four hours. It took us fifteen.
2. Give yourself over to an evening of Ebay blur. I’m a terrible, terrible shopper. I worry over each purchase, and might return to the same H&M three times before I’m willing to buy the skirt I keep trying on. (Thank god there’s an H&M every six blocks here in Shanghai.) But I was a damn good stamp purchaser. Choosing stamps was nothing like selecting flowers or a interviewing DJs or committing to a dress. Each choice was small enough to be fun and a very low commitment. I pored over stamp after stamp, with a kind of shopping glee I haven’t experienced in other aspect of wedding planning. Or, frankly, in most aspects of my consumer life.
3. Get to know your stamps. Stamp collecting is the go-to hobby (or used to be), so cliché now as to be a joke. We all know the stamp collector is the epitome of fussiness and obsession, right? Well. Much to my surprise, I freaking loved all the stamps. I loved the satisfying feeling of carefully tearing the perforated edges. I loved all the details, the history. The 1950s and early 60s were the heyday of U.S. postal stamp design. The images are elegant, subtle, sketched. They’re printed in single-color ink, so the stamp is a block of color. They lack the Schoolhouse Rock-ness of the mid-70s stamps (although sometimes you want that mustard and citrus color palate, right?). And they don’t remind me of illustrations my third-grade Elements of Mathematics textbook, like most of the 1980s stamps do. An obvious aspect of these historical artifacts is that they reflect the centralized values of their time period. What did USPS find appropriate to honor? Who was worthy of the stamp? I googled the names of many celebrated (usually white) men. I read about many hard-won battles. I avoided these stamps.
4. To save money, look for sheets of stamps on Ebay marked “@FV +$1” or full value plus one dollar. These are the stamps that are going to allow you to do the vintage look in a lower budget. Essentially, you pay only $1 extra for a full sheet (usually fifty stamps), plus roughly two dollars more for shipping. Say you have fifty invitations to mail, and you choose five different FV+1 stamps. You’ll pay only fifteen dollars more for the vintage stamp look, rather than up to seventy dollars (or more) for the pricier packaged or pre-designed vintage stamp collections. Our own face-value stamps included a 20-cent Martin Luther in his black robe (because I went to Luther College), another “America’s Libraries” stamp with a sheet of text in red and black (because libraries), and a gorgeous three-cent light purple in honor of Joseph Pulitzer (so we could also honor Dan’s time working for the AP).
5. But the stamps you love most might cost you. Emily Dickinson, for example, was a splurge. So were the scarce Mt. Rushmore stamps we bought in honor of its proximity to our venue. Like everything wedding, the more particular you are, the more you’ll probably have to pay. Stores like myvintagepostoffice have stunning collections, but you might pay ten times the value (or more) per stamp. You might also find yourself tempted to splurge. We spent an extra fifteen bucks on a full sheet of four cent 1962 New Mexico stamps, just so we could—one day, if we ever get around to it—frame them and look at them forever, because both Dan and I agreed that they were stunning.
6. You don’t need many. On a regular 5 by 7-inch envelope, you only need four stamps to create the colored mosaic look. The envelope doesn’t need to be plagued with stamps. While we liked the look of six or seven crowded together, I arranged collections of only four stamps that looked perfect, at least to me.
7. Only you care. And that’s OKay. For the first half of our list, I considered each guest and chose stamps in a secret code, a kind of message sent to the receiver. This guest and I met in Michigan, I thought as I affixed a 22-cent Michigan stamp with the silhouette of a pine tree against a sunset. She likes South Dakota and the progress of women. Done. By the end, though, I’d mainly given up on personalization. Gluestick glue had long gathered under all my fingernails. I had become like the previously blind patients Annie Dillard describes in her essay “Seeing.” I now perceived “the world in a dazzle of color patches.”
Late Sunday evening, when my resident calligrapher bewailed the slip of his pen that created “Mew York,” we reminded ourselves—for the tenth time—that no one actually cared one bit about our damn invitations. They’d glance for roughly three seconds at the envelope; they’d miss the secret acknowledgement I’d sent them through my careful stamp arrangement; then they’d read the invitation and toss the thing on their table, where they would find it between two to six weeks later, depending on their housekeeping habits.
8. You don’t have to do any of this. You don’t have to glue a single extra thing if you don’t want to. Just stick a Forever stamp on the envelope and call it a wedding invitation (because it is a wedding invitation). After all, nothing evokes eternal commitment more than a stamp that promises to work until forever or until the USPS crumbles, whichever comes first.
Bonus: The Best Stamps I Didn’t Buy
… But if you do decide that you want to invest your time and energy into a project like this, there’s lots to be excited about. In doing research for this article, I found a banquet of FV+$1 stamps that include the following: a ghostly blue three-cent celebrating the Anapolis Territory Tercentary; another (5-cent) celebrating the same for New Jersey; others honoring collective bargaining, architecture, and the progress of women. If you love Eleanor Roosevelt, you can get Eleanor Roosevelt in a vivid magenta. You can even buy a stamp honoring the pap test. (This displays, unfortunately, not an orchid, but Dr. Papanicolaou with his microscope.) Seriously, what about these Aging Together stamps for your autumn celebration? Because isn’t that point of the whole thing anyway? With luck, you’ll be doing just that. -Tomscha
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