Step 1: Pick Your Venue
What type of venue offers what you want?
Banquet Hall/Hotel BallroomPros: It comes with built-in decor; packages often include a day-of coordinator; it usually comes with the fewest hidden costs.
Cons: Yours may not be the only wedding on site that day; you may not love the space's linens, chairs or required vendors.
Best For: Traditional couples, those on a budget, glitz and glamor seekers (think gilded ceilings and chandeliers).
Outdoor TentPros: You're free to choose your own vendors; you can celebrate outside without stressing about the weather.
Cons: Bathroom rentals, generators, and flooring can be expensive and can take a long time to set up; and you may need air conditioning or heat, as well as a second tent for your caterer.
Best For: Temperate climates, couples with generous budgets
Loft/Gallery SpacePros: A definate cool factor waiting for your special touch - a blank canvas; indoor plumbing
Cons: There may be restrictions on noise, kitchen use, candles and hours
Best For: DIY enthusiasts; couple who want to make the most of their personal style; those with a generous budget.
Step 2: Arrange the Room
Place family members closest for the head table so they feel special.
One bar per100 guests is typical and if you have extra room you could add cocktail tables or mini-lounges near the bar for mingling.
Step 3: Pink the Menu
This is the most elegant option. Stick with three course: soup or salad, a main course, and dessert. With more than that your guests will start to get bored.
Instead of a standard chicken or beef, personalize the menu by asking your caterer to try a twist on an heirloom family recipe.
One benefit to having a buffet is that guests are able to get up and mingle. They require less staff so they are usually cheaper. Budget for nice plates, florals, and your presentation and it will still feel classy.
Having guests pass platters of food around will feel more relaxed and informal. With guests serving themselves it can be more expensive. You can help defray this cost by having the kitchen plate the entree and then have the side dishes for the guests to pass.
Step 4: Order the FlowersDO Keep an open mind. If the flower you love isn't in season, the cost will be higher and it may not have the availability of a similar bloom.
DO Keep the weather in mind. Many delicate blooms can not hold up in the heat.
DO Walk your florist through your venue. They may have wonderful ideas for decorating unusual places.
DON'T Try to cover up ugly spots in your venue - flowers will only draw everyone's eye.
DON'T Be predictable. Mix and match and let each table stand on its own.
DON'T Put flowers with strong fragrances on the tables, it can over power the food.
Step 5: The Right Lighting
$ Candlelight is an affordable way to create an intimate setting. Stock up on votive candles and use them liberally on table, windowsills, and walk-ways.
$$ For extra pop, try hanging globe lights or a string of cafe lights.
$$$ For maximum effect, hire a lighting designer to coordinate the colors to what is happening. Mimic candlelight during dinner and a deep orange shade for dancing, for instance.
Step 6: Choose the Music
Book a DJ if you want a wide variety of music and to save a lot of money.
Book a band if your priority is a packed dance floor. If you are on a tight budget, hire some local talent and keep thereception to four hours.
Step 7: Stock the Bar
This provides the most options for guests but can be quite pricey.
Beer and Wine:
These options will satisfy most guests. Buy enough Champagne to do your toasts and everyone should be happy.
Offer two favorite cocktails to represent you and your groom.
Step 8: Create a TimelineHere is an example to work from:
6:00 pm Cocktail hour
6:45 pm Bride and Groom announced; welcome toast; guests are seated for dinner
7:00 pm Dinner is served (20-30 minutes per course); Brief toasts during dinner
8:00 pm First Dance, then family follows
8:15 pm Dance Floor open to all
9:15 pm Cake Cutting
9:45 pm Bouquet Toss
10:15 pm Last Call
10:30 pm Last Dance; Send off
Step 9: Map the Dessert Table
The key to a gorgeous dessert table is - abundance. You don't want it to look flat or empty. Use stands and pedestals and trays to create a 'full' look.
Offer three to five bite-sized options from light and fruity to chocolatey. Estimate that guests will eat about five pieces each.
If you are creating a dessert buffet, keep in mind that you can save money by ordering a smaller cake for the cutting ceremony.