Oracle Tips for Planning Your Wedding Day

Wedding Planning Advice for the Newly Engaged Couple

Planning a wedding can be something you've been dreaming about all your life. Unfortunately all too often some brides (and grooms) find that the reality of planning a wedding is far different from what you've always envisioned.

The members of Oracle have been performing weddings for years, and in that time we've seen just about everything. So, with that in mind, we would like to offer up a dozen of our own ideas and tips for planning the wedding and maintaining your sanity.

  1. Set a realistic budget
  2. There are no rules
  3. Plan for bad weather
  4. Consider a Bridal Consultant
  5. Don't go overboard on your itinerary
  6. Designate a "go to" person
  7. Hate junk mail? - check out these tips
  8. Use a binder for all your contracts, receipts, contacts
  9. Be aware of "preferred vendors"
  10. Use E-mail whenever possible
  11. Get Contracts from everyone
  12. Allow some personal time

1. Set a realistic budget

Unless you're independently wealthy and money is no object, one of the first items on the agenda for couples planning a wedding is to set a wedding budget.

You need to identify what you can afford, what you can't afford, and what is open to negotiation.

The first step in planning your budget is to get an idea as to what everything costs. Hit the internet and check prices for services in your area of the country. Prices vary widely based on where you live.

Once you have a realistic idea as to what the services you're going to look for cost, you can begin to make out your budget. Are your parents helping out? It's important to determine who is paying for what. It may be a bit awkward, but it's really important that everyone understand their role going in.

As you make your budget, PLEASE avoid the temptation to spend significantly more than you can realistically afford. Starting your lives off together in debt is not a good recipe for a successful marriage. Studies abound showing that the number one cause of marriages breaking up in the first year is over money problems. Be realistic!

2. There are no rules

Forget about what you're "supposed" to be doing. Today's modern weddings have pretty much thrown the old rule books out the window. Of course, if you WANT to abide by certain traditions and etiquette that is one of the things that is going to help define the personality of your wedding.

The key here is to understand that if you don't want to do something a certain way, you don't HAVE to.

For example, the tradition of not seeing the bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony has a long history to it. However, more and more couples these days are electing to get the majority of their photos done in advance of the wedding so they have more time to enjoy the reception and their guests, thus the groom will HAVE to see his bride in her dress before the ceremony.

3. Plan for bad weather

Mother Nature can be extremely fickle. Even if you're not having an outdoor wedding or reception, you must still plan on the possibility of a little rain on your parade.

Depending on the time of year and the location of the wedding, you'll need to allow for rain, snow, floods, wildfires, hurricanes, tornados...OK OK...are you scared yet?

You might not be able to do anything about the bad weather, but you can plan to address the problems associated with the most obvious issues.

For example, spring weddings bring the prospect of rain. Make sure you have enough large umbrellas for everyone to fit under in the dash from the limo to the church and/or reception hall. If snow is a possibility, find out in advance what the policies of the church and the reception hall are. Identify those friends that have 4-wheel drive vehicles, and be prepared to make arrangements to pick up anyone who might not feel comfortable driving on slippery roads.

The hurricanes of the past few years have really wrecked a lot of plans in the south. Those in areas subject to hurricanes, floods, and fires that laughed in the face of major weather are those that have an emergency plan in the event of disaster. Alternate locations, transportation, or a back-up date are all things that need to be considered.

4. Consider a bridal consultant

After the movie "The Wedding Planner" was released the concept of a bridal consultant has evolved significantly, but unfortunately most couples today immediately dismiss the use of a consultant.

Most people seem to have an image of a bridal consultant as someone who works the high end weddings and their fees are just too high to justify using their services on a tight budget.

The reality is that in many cases the use of a consultant can actually SAVE you money in the long run. Consultants have working arrangements with a wide range of vendors, and these arrangements often include some significant discounts on their services that you might not otherwise be eligible for.

The professional consultant does not take "finders fees" (i.e. kickbacks). Rather, they use their relationships with the vendors to obtain a better rate for their clients to bring the overall cost down. With the right combination of vendors you may actually SAVE money, and still have the use of a professional on your wedding day.

And what do these professionals do on your wedding day? Well, the biggest thing they do is take the burden of worry off of you. They make sure all the vendors are there on time. They make the phone calls if someone is missing. If someone has a question, they don't have to bother the bride or groom in the middle of their very special day.

All this extra time allows you to enjoy your big day all the more. Spend time with your guests, dance, and have a great time knowing that all of the details are being handled by a pro.  What's the point of planning a wedding for a year or more if in the end you don't get an opportunity to ENJOY it?

5. Don't go overboard on the itinerary

You want to be able to enjoy your day, right? Well, I can't tell you have many brides and grooms have become so obsessed over the itinerary and keeping with it that they spent more time looking at their watch than each other.

Your itinerary should outline the GENERAL order of events. Specific times should be avoided whenever possible.

As you develop your itinerary, build in extra time for personal things. A sample itinerary might look like this:


  • 4:00 Ceremony (approx 30 minutes)
  • Photos after ceremony - guests go to reception

Pre-Dinner Reception:

  • 4:30 Band starts playing cocktail music when guests begin to arrive
  • Upon arrival of wedding party (around 5:00)
    • Introductions
    • First Dance
    • Toast by Best man
    • Blessing
    • Dinner

After Dinner:

  • Father / Daughter Dance
  • Mother / Son Dance
  • General Dancing
  • During band's first break (around 7:30)
  • Cut the cake
  • Toss Bouquet / Garter
  • Special dance music by DJ
  • Band returns from break
  • Apron Dance
  • Dance music to end of evening
  • 8:25 - Last Dance

By keeping your itinerary flexible you allow for contingencies to arise and not be boxed into a specific timetable. Your best bet is to lay out the ORDER of events without necessarily designating a specific TIME for them to occur.

Of course it is up to your professionals, your band leader, DJ, catering manager, or bridal consultant, to make sure that everything gets accomplished in a timely manner, but by doing things this way you really do avoid having to keep looking at your watch all the way through your reception.

6. Designate a "go to" person

In the event that you are not using a bridal consultant (see tip #4 above), you should consider designating a specific person to run interference for you. It can be your mother, the catering manager, you maid of honor, or simply a trusted friend who has volunteered to help.

This is the person that all vendors should go to first if they have a question or problem. 80% of all questions do not have to be addressed by the bride or groom, so why not remove a bit of the burden and have more time to enjoy your day?

The person you designate will have to be familiar with your wishes and the general itinerary for the day. If your go-to person doesn't have the answer, then he or she can bring it to your attention.

7. Hate junk mail? Consider these tips

As soon as you begin your wedding planning go to Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, or create a new AOL screen name just for your wedding planning. Any forms you fill out (particularly at bridal shows), any websites that require you to register to use the site, and any magazines you may send away for, use this new e-mail address. Then, once the wedding is over, you can simply cancel the address, and voila, no more e-mails.

For those vendors that you used for the wedding...make sure they have an address you are planning to keep. Most of them like to do follow-ups and some even send anniversary wishes. Bands like Oracle continue to send invitations to our public performances so you can keep coming out to have a good time with friends.

If your US Postal mailbox is getting inundated with junk you can do something about this as well. Before you start the planning process, rent a PO Box. They aren't that expensive, and you can use this address for those that request it. Then when the wedding is over, you cancel the box, and voila (we really like that word), no more paper junk mail!

8. Use a binder for all contracts, receipts, contacts

Your "Bible" should the place where all of your important documents are stored. There are companies out there that make them just for this purpose, but a large 3" 3-ring binder and a box of sheet protectors and page dividers will easily do the trick.

As you get the contracts back in the mail put them in your binder. The inside cover should have a list of the names, address, and phone numbers (including Cell phone numbers), of all your vendors and bridal party members.

9. Be aware of "preferred vendors"

Often times a reception hall or chapel may have a list of "preferred vendors" whom they recommend. In some cases these are merely others you are required to use their services.

In most cases this list of preferred vendors can be a significant asset. These will be vendors who are familiar with the facility and any quirks that facility might have.

The problem is, that in some cases the preferred vendor list is simply an opportunity for the site to extort kickbacks from vendors. Some vendors have to PAY to be on these preferred that usually goes straight into the catering managers pocket. You are not necessarily guaranteed to be getting the best vendors possible, only those willing to fork over money for the purposes of getting the contract.

While the catering managers are unlikely to actually tell you about their practices, it is important to thoroughly check out those vendors on the list that you might be interested in. This becomes even more important if the catering manager tell you that you can ONLY use vendors from their preferred list and not someone you would prefer to use.

There are certainly valid reasons why facility managers prefer to use certain vendors regularly. Caterers are familiar with the kitchen facilities and know what to prepare in advance. Photographers know where the best spots are for photos. Bands will be familiar with the acoustics of a room, the load in requirements, and will know things like whether they have to bring their own carper to protect the floor.

We're not suggesting that you shouldn't  take advantage of preferred vendors. Indeed, Oracle is a preferred vendor at a great many reception halls throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC, (although we steadfastly refuse to pay "kickbacks" or "finders fees" to these facilities, not that they ask).

All we're saying is that you should be wary of any place that INSISTS that you use their vendors, or refuses to allow you to use your own preferred vendors, without a really good reason.

10. Use E-mail when corresponding with vendors

E-mail is the greatest. Here you have the means to archive all conversations you've had with all of your vendors.

Everything from original price quotes to exactly what services they will be providing, you should correspond with these folks via e-mail so you always have a printed record of what you agreed upon.

Even when you have a phone conversation where these items are discussed, you should send the vendor a confirmation e-mail outlining your conversation and all issues your discussed, so you both have a printed record of the conversation. There is nothing scarier than to think back and wonder "did I tell him to arrive at 2:00 or 2:30?"

Many vendors will do this anyway...once they've had a telephone conversation with you they will send you a confirmation e-mail detailing the gist of the conversation. Remember that with vendors they are usually preparing for several weddings at the same time, and it's important for them to keep straight exactly what needs to be done for which client.

11. Get contracts from everyone

Even if your friend from work is a DJ on the side, make sure to use some sort of contract that spells out exactly what is expected, how much you'll pay them, when they'll arrive, what is expected, etc.

All of your vendors should work with a contract. If they don't, regard them with suspicion, and for heavens sake don't give them any money up front!

Don't be afraid to ask for addendums to the "standard contract" to cover specifics for your wedding. While it's not necessary to spell out each and every song the band will play during the course of the reception, it IS a good idea to spell out any special requests, such as a special first dance or an extra early arrival time.

All contracts should have the following basic information:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How Much?

Sounds kind of like journalism 101 class...doesn't it?

When dealing with photographers, DJs, bands, and videographers, remember to make sure the contract lists the NAMES of the people who will be actually at your wedding. Some larger companies will show you an beautiful portfolio of photos from their top photographer, then you might find out that they will be sending a substitute photographer to YOUR wedding. Some music agencies will show you a great band, then you find out later the horn section was "optional". Beware the bait & happens a lot.

12. Allow some personal time

Your wedding day is going to fly by. You'll get up in the morning, perhaps with a few butterflies in your stomach, and before you know it the day will be over and you'll wonder how an entire year (or more) of planning could have passed by in such a blur.

You'll really want to be able to remember your wedding day. As you plan your day, keep in mind that it's going to fly by and make allowances for it. Build in some personal time to catch your breath, spend some time alone with your new spouse, and take everything in.

Start with making some time for just the two of you immediately after the ceremony. Even if it's only five minutes or so, use the time to reflect calm yourself, and get ready for the excitement of the reception.

When you're at the reception, DON'T FORGET TO EAT!!! I can't tell you how many brides and grooms never get to hardly taste the food they've spent so much time agonizing over. It's a good idea to prepare a "doggie bag" while the food is still hot. You'll probably not have a huge appetite at the reception, but by the end of the day some snacking will definitely be in order, and a few pieces of cold chicken might just hit the spot.

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