Turn your wedding weekend into a mini vacation for your guests, with advice from top local pros.
Ask Us Anything: Spring/Summer '18
Q My fiancé and I are thrilled to invite our best friends to be in our wedding party. But having been a bridesmaid before, I know I’m asking a lot of my friends’ time and pocketbooks. Should I consider paying for certain wedding expenses for my bridesmaids?
A It’s an honor to be asked to be in someone’s bridal party. Your friends or family members consider you one of the most important people in her life, and that’s something to celebrate. However, many people don’t consider how much time and money are involved in being in a bridesmaid.
“Being in a wedding party is a big commitment,” says Ashley Ebert, owner of the Simply Elegant Group in Minneapolis. “It’s important to think about all of the pre-wedding activities, including bridal showers and bachelorette parties, as well as the wedding itself,” she says. “All of these events involve financial and time commitments.”
Ebert says that most bridesmaids typically don’t assume the bride will pay for some of the costs associated with being a bridesmaid, including the dress, shoes or beauty appointments. But if you’re concerned about the financial burden your bridesmaids will face, there are many options to alleviate some of the cost of being involved in the bridal party.
“If you’d like to lift some of the financial burden off your bridesmaids, consider being flexible on attire and accessories,” Ebert says. “This can be an easy option, especially as mix-and-match bridesmaids dresses are the current trend,” she says.
She also suggests being up-front with your bridesmaids early about what the commitments look like, including wedding showers, travel for bachelorette parties, the location of the wedding and wedding-day attire. This allows friends and family to accept your offer knowing everything they’ll be a part of leading up to your big day. This also allows them ample time to book flights and hotels, as well as shop for wedding gifts and attire in advance, to save money.
If you’d like to go a step further, consider paying for shoes, accessories, or hair and makeup the day of your wedding—these options will save your bridesmaids money and express your gratitude to them for being a part of your big day.
“The biggest thing is reminding your bridesmaids how much you care for them,” says Ebert. “Showing appreciation through a handwritten card, small gift or individually making time for them is a great way to show them you care. Being sincerely thankful goes a long way.”
Q I thought that finding our photographer would be one of my favorite parts of wedding planning, but it’s turning into one of the hardest. There are so many photographers whose styles we love! How do we narrow down our search to find the photographer who’s best for us?
A Choosing a wedding photographer is a big decision, and it’s smart you don’t take it lightly. Your photos will be what live on well after your wedding day, so make sure you choose a photographer who fits your personal style.
Gabe Stejskal, a St. Paul-based wedding photographer, has this conversation with couples every time he meets with them. “Your wedding is one of the most important days of your entire life. You want to choose a photographer who makes you feel comfortable, stays on task and can also have a little fun during your wedding day,” he says. “When it all boils down, the flowers will wilt, the cake gets eaten and no one will remember what your centerpieces looked like. But your photos are the moments that are captured and will last a lifetime.”
It can be daunting to choose a photographer, so Stejskal recommends couples make a list of five to seven photographers to narrow down their search. The first thing he recommends is emailing each photographer for quotes and to see who is available on your specific date; this is an easy way to sort them out right away based on availability and cost. From there, schedule times to meet with each photographer in person.
This is where the fun starts. Your in-person meeting is the time to get to know each photographer and discuss their style. “Photographers are generally open books,” Stejskal says. “Don’t be afraid to delve into deeper conversation with them about their inspiration, style, how they work and how they got their start in photography.”
Stejskal also suggests couples discuss the specific details or needs they have when it comes to photography. This may include a timeline for your wedding day, specific photos you want, how many photos are typically delivered and how long until you receive your photos. These are all topics you’ll discuss with your photographer at some point, so there’s nothing wrong with asking up front.
Another topic to discuss is fees. If budget is a priority, Stejskal recommends making that one of the first things you discuss—just like wedding dress shopping, there’s nothing worse than falling in love with a vendor’s services that don’t quite fit your budget. “Don’t forget to discuss package options too. Many photographers have different prices and packages, and there might be an option for you that works for your budget.”
Stejskal says most couples find that choosing the right photographer isn’t too different from choosing the right partner in life. “Go with your gut—you’ll know when you’ve found ‘the one.’ ” he says.
Q One of our top wedding-day priorities is the menu, and we’re looking to up the food experience for our guests. What are some options other than a plated dinner?
A Every detail of your wedding is planned and personalized to suit your and your partner’s tastes, and food should be no different. While many couples think they’re limited to traditional plated dinners, Laine Palm, owner of Laine Palm Designs in Minneapolis, says that caterers are almost always looking to try something new and create an exciting experience for guests.
“Such a large portion of weddings is centered on food and drink, so it’s a great opportunity to share some of your favorite dishes with your guests,” she says.
Palm recommends couples discuss what they want with their caterers right away. “When you have your initial meeting with your caterer, come with a list of notes or an ideal menu of what you would love to have at your wedding. In return, ask the caterers if they have been wanting to try something new and see if they have some suggestions as well.”
If your caterer is open to something new, this is where the fun begins. From burgers to mac and cheese to a full breakfast, the sky’s the limit.
One way couples can highlight unique food options is multiple food stations. “Food stations allow guests to create their own version of one meal,” Palm says. She suggests couples give the food stations a theme, whether it’s Italian, seasonal, or an experience you and your partner had together. To add another layer, consider creating beer and wine pairings with each station.
If your venue doesn’t cater or have a preferred list of caterers, consider having a food truck at your wedding. “This is a great casual option for a laid-back couple,” Palm says, recommending that couples hire two or three food trucks to give your guests options (and really, what could be better than pizza and tacos at your wedding?). Food trucks typically provide the plates and flatware, which can save money.
The Twin Cities has countless different food trucks, and many of them cater weddings. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to food trucks that maybe haven’t done a wedding yet—they might be waiting to be asked,” Palm says. She also recommends couples consider dessert food trucks as well. (Hello, doughnuts and ice cream!)
If your caterer is more traditional, couples can still think beyond the usual chicken, beef and veggie options. “If you have to stick to plated meals, talk to your caterer and their chefs about where they get their food from and what is in season,” Palm says. “This is a great way to highlight local, in-season ingredients and make your dinner menu stand out.”
Q For alcohol at weddings, what’s the new normal when it comes to hosted liquor? Wine and beer? Specialty cocktails? Open bar? Help!
A Take a sip and settle in; this question is a hot topic for many couples.
Kelly Bollis, owner and creative director of MAVEN in Minneapolis, counsels couples on this subject often. “You want to treat your guests like VIPs on your wedding day, which means you’ll want as many drink options as possible,” she says. “While making the decision to host alcohol for your guests is an easy one, choosing exactly what to host can be a challenge.”
The biggest factor in choosing a hosted bar option is cost; for many couples, this can consume a large portion of your overall wedding budget. Luckily, most venues have different levels of hosted bar options that can fit almost any budget.
If a completely hosted bar doesn’t fit your price range, Bollis recommends the following options:
- Host beer and wine only throughout your entire reception.
- Host a full bar (beer, wine and liquor) until the end of the dinner portion of your reception; guests can purchase alcohol after that point.
- Host one or two complimentary signature cocktails for the evening, with a cash bar throughout.
- Host complimentary wine, beer and champagne with dinner, then a cash bar the rest of the reception.
- Whichever option you choose, your guests will be grateful, no matter what. “It’s good to want to cater to your guests and show them you appreciate them; no option is the wrong option,” says Bollis. “Choose whatever works best for you and your budget.”
Q There must be something in the water—a handful of my family members are engaged and planning weddings around the same time. How can we all be supportive of one another while enjoying this special time for ourselves?
A Fear not. This happens in families all the time, especially if siblings or cousins are close in age and at similar points in their relationships.
“Multiple members of your family are getting married—how exciting!” says Kirsten Fischer, owner and principal planner of Fab Event Design in Minneapolis. “It doesn’t have to be a competition or about stealing anyone’s thunder—it just means there is that much more for a family to look forward to and twice the reason to celebrate expanding with new family members to love.”
So how do you navigate several weddings that happen in the same general time frame? The first thing Fischer recommends is to stop worrying or comparing one wedding to the next. “It’s common for couples to fear that they’ll be inadvertently duplicating the other couple’s ideas, or that guests will compare one wedding to the other,” she says. “Each of your love stories is unique, and designing and planning your wedding should be approached the same way.”
Her next recommendation? Plan your wedding as you normally would; don’t focus on other family members who are engaged. It won’t be easy, but it is possible. “Accept invitations to chat about your wedding and enjoy your engagement parties and showers,” she says. “Your engagement only happens once, and you don’t want to regret not enjoying it to its fullest.”
She also suggests that you celebrate your family member’s engagement as you normally would. “Be genuinely excited that your family member has also found the love of their life and that you get to share this excitement together,” Fischer says. “Be a great listener and cheerleader for your family member, and also remember that the stressful things you’re enduring with budgets and opinions are the same they’re experiencing. Being there for one another during this time will likely bring you even closer together.”