Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Guest List

Figuring out whom to invite—and not invite—can be a breeze

Ah, the guest list. According to your recently married friends, it’s breeding ground for teary showdowns with your fiancé and shouting matches with Mom. (Thank goodness Dad is neutral.) Why is this must-do task plagued with such drama and tension? Because, in most cases, your budget doesn’t match your wish list, which means you can’t invite everyone. Or one of your parents insists you include relatives you never see or don’t like. Or maybe you want to have a small wedding (50 people, tops) and your fiancé has dreams of reconnecting with his bunk mates from summer camp. Just take things one step at a time—we’ll tell you how—and put together a list that everyone can happily live with. No argument there.

Getting Started

If you haven’t done so already, figure out the general size of the wedding you want. Are you dreaming of the biggest party imaginable? Or do you picture a more intimate event, the two of you spending quality time with each and every guest? Next, consider your budget for the reception, from flowers to petit fours. Most couples plan the guest list around these two all-important numbers, and quickly realize when they’re at odds. If, for example, you’ve got $10,000 budgeted for the reception, and 250 people on your wish list, you’ll be spending more than a few sleepless nights scheming how to host everyone for $40 a head.

Deciding on the type of setting you prefer will affect the length of your guest list. If you’ve got your eye on a favorite local restaurant or your decidedly non-palatial childhood home, 300 guests might end up sitting in each others’ laps, not to mention breaching fire regulations. On the other hand, if you’re considering a cavernous space—a ballroom in a grand mansion or a museum atrium—you’ll want a large enough group so the place will feel full, not barren.

Which step should come first? Each factor affects the other, so you’ll have to consider lots of things simultaneously. (Welcome to the world of multitasking!) Once you’ve come to a decision, locate your inner diplomat and you’re good to go.

Divide and Conquer

To reduce confusion and tension down the road, clarify the extent of your family’s involvement in the guest-list process early on. Typically, each family invites half the guests, but if one family is paying for the lion’s share of the wedding, or if you two are bearing much of the financial burden, consider a different formula. If you’ve been away from home for many years, chances are you’ve got lots of friends of your own to invite, in which case you may feel more comfortable dividing the list into thirds: one third for each family and one third for the two of you.

Of course, there’s arithmetic—and then there’s real life, which doesn’t always provide a neat solution. A two-way or even three-way split may not be fair if you have enough relatives to fill a multiplex and his can fit in a cubicle. (On the other hand, he may want to invite each and every fraternity brother.) The person with the huge family obligation should take a long, hard look at the list. Will your parents really be offended if you omit some relatives, especially those you haven’t seen in years?

Should you and your fiancé reach an impasse, grab some alone time and jot down your must-have guests. Compare lists, crunch the numbers and see how many slots are left to fill. Divide the difference or come up with a ratio (like 60/40) that suits your needs. Talk the situation through and negotiate. This is, after all, the beginning of a lifetime of problem-solving together.

Children: Yes or No?

You may love kids but just don’t want them at your wedding. If that’s the case, address the outer and inner envelopes of your invitation to the parents only. Printing “no children” anywhere in your correspondence is impolite. Having a blanket no-children policy may not be practical, so here’s another solution: Set an age limit—say, only children 12 or older are invited. Or restrict your list to the children of immediate family members and/or children of members of the wedding party. If you anticipate resentment, try broaching the subject with family and friends to whom you’re closest; explain your concerns about cost and space, and ask them to spread the word. If out-of-towners choose to bring their kids, offer to hire a babysitter to watch them during the wedding. Provide a goody bag with toys, puzzles and games so the kids won’t feel excluded from the fun.

Impossible Dream

Another conundrum is whether to invite out-of-towners you feel certain won’t attend. Will they think an invitation is a thinly veiled request for a wedding gift? If you don’t invite them, will they feel they’ve been snubbed? In many cases, a wedding announcement instead of an invitation will suffice. But in the case of really close friends, even if they live far away, send an invitation—and don’t be caught off-guard if they decide to make the trek.


Trimming your guest list won’t be excruciating if you set clear-cut limits: e.g., no second cousins, no coworkers, no dates—you get the picture. But the only way restrictions by category can work is if you stick to your decision, no matter what. Make any exceptions, and you engender the bad feelings you were hoping to avoid in the first place.

Another way to pare the list is to be honest about your friendships—like the pal you haven’t spoken to in more than two years. Chances are you’re not the only ones who are feeling social pressure: Your parents or his may try to use your wedding to reciprocate for the weddings they’ve attended. If the two of you are paying, or if it’s an encore betrothal, you should feel significantly less guilty about not accommodating every parental whim.

Keeping Tabs

Once you’ve congratulated yourself on surviving what may be the most grueling test in the wedding-planning process, enter your invitees’ names in alphabetical order in both your computer file and nonelectronic wedding planner. (It’s always wise to have a backup list on paper—just make sure to keep both versions up to date.) Include each person’s mailing address, telephone number(s) and e-mail address, plus his or her relationship to the bride or groom. Make columns that include space for the name of a single guest’s date, if you know it, the RSVPs, a brief description of any engagement, shower and wedding gifts, and the date that thank-you notes for each were mailed.

Once you’ve succeeded in making your guest list, you can turn your attention to another nail-biter: choosing the bridesmaids’ dresses. But that’s another story.

— Paula Rackow –

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Wedding Style: Color-Coordinated Weddings

Wondering how to pick your wedding day colors and make them work? Here’s a guide to creating a winning palette

The hottest thing happening at wedding receptions isn’t just on the dance floor — it’s on the wedding cake, the invitations, the centerpieces, and even the bride’s gown. It’s big, bold color. Years ago brides used color to accent their white wedding day decor, but now they’re using color to cover every inch of the wedding. We’ve developed a step-by-step guide on color coordination (from choosing it to decorating with it) to help you dream up a bright wedding day.

Choosing Your Color

First things first: location. When deciding on a scheme, you must consider the reception space or choose a space without decor or color. If you’ve chosen a country club with navy and maroon Oriental carpets, a color scheme of lime green and hot pink won’t work.

Next, become aware of color combinations that you like, whether browsing art galleries or flipping through a stack of fashion magazines. You might be able to narrow down your color choices to a half a dozen. To help you choose the exact hue for your wedding details, visit a local fabric store or paint shop and collect swatches or chips of colors you might want to use. This will help you get specific, so that when you decide on green you’ll know if it’s lime green, kelly green, sage green, or forest green. If you have access to a Pantone book, use this collection of colors to select your shade the same way graphic designers do. Many invitation designers mix ink to match the colors in this book, and many cake bakers use Pantone numbers as a reference when creating dye for frosting. Can’t decide on just one or two colors? Don’t worry. In fact, many extraordinary weddings feature a variety of colors, sometimes up to five, that work together to create a specific sensibility — like an “English garden” with green, yellow, pink, red, and brown, or “Fall in New England” with orange, red, brown, and gold.


Where & How to Execute Color

Where and how you use color really depends on the mood you are trying to create. The best way to get started is to figure out what emotions you want your celebration to evoke. A peaceful, Zen-like retreat? A regal, romantic affair? A jumping, high-energy party?

For instance, a vibrant summer yellow mixed with chocolate brown (think sunflowers and bees) is perfect for a country-chic wedding style; add gold to the mix, and the combination becomes more reminiscent of Northern Italy. As another example, leaf green paired with cantaloupe is pretty for a waterside wedding; but pair this green with copper, and you have a color scheme that’s formal enough for a ballroom or an estate setting. If your wedding takes place in multiple spaces, each room can have its own color scheme.

The Elements of Style

Attire Your gown doesn’t have to be solid white, especially since color accents are increasingly more available. A blue or red sash around the waist is striking and still very bridal. The groom and his guys can also sport color in their ties or on their cuff links. But color will be most prominently displayed throughout the day in the bridesmaid dresses. Some fervent folks might want to match the dresses to the invitation ribbons, the favor tags, and the bouquets but this isn’t the only way to define a style. Mixing and matching dresses in varying shades — pink and orange, or pale green and yellow — can sometimes make a statement stronger than uniformity.

Invitations Your invitations set the stage for the event, so remember that mood you want to evoke? This is your time to show it off. Coordinating the invitation colors with those of the wedding can be as easy as choosing a color font, ribbon, or monogram or as elaborate as layering colorful cards.

Flowers & Decor No matter what color you’ve chosen, chances are you’ll be able to find flowers in that shade — but that, of course, does not mean the blooms will be available or affordable. If your dream flowers aren’t an option, use neutral white flowers with centerpiece containers or other decor elements in your color.

Wedding Cake The cake is one of the easiest places to add color — all it takes is the right mixing. The color should reflect the other style elements used throughout the wedding. But when it comes to cake, your color options are the most flexible. White icing makes a marvelous background for colorful sugar flowers, sugar-paste stripes or polka dots, or other effects. Fondant can also be created in any number of shades. For instance, a yellow and brown country-chic wedding might have a wedding cake iced in a light brown basket weave and topped with fresh sunflowers.

Favors Ultimately, it’s more important to give something meaningful rather than something that matches, but it can be a nice touch to your favors package in your color scheme. Use gift tags and ribbons to incorporate your colors into your favors. If favors will be left at each place setting, consider how they will look with your wedding linens and flowers.

New Ways to Use Color

We should point out that overdoing it with a matchy-match look is entirely possible. (You don’t want your guests thinking, Um, yeah, lavender…we get it.) Begin with the five essential wedding elements (attire, invitations, flowers, cake, and favors) and see where you can — or should — add more color. Then consider details, such as napkins, candles, signature drinks, your ring pillow, or your guest book, made from the same fabric and in the same color as the bridesmaid dresses.

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