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Planning a wedding can make even the most Zen-like bride break into a cold sweat. The choices that have to be made, everything from dress styles to the reception site, can be overwhelming. It's enough to make a girl throw up her hands and head to a Vegas wedding chapel. In an attempt to alleviate the stress, we asked three wedding planners to help us weigh the pros and cons of five choices that couples must make.
Indoor vs. Outdoor
Outdoor weddings are gaining popularity with brides because they offer a romantic, scenic option, but indoor weddings often produce less stress. Both have their pros and cons. "If you are a flexible person, then an outdoor venue is up your alley," says Colleen Cook, owner of CCS Events. "If you are the type of person who checks the weather constantly, don't have an outdoor wedding. You'll worry yourself sick."
Indoor venues offer a climate-controlled atmosphere as opposed to outdoor ceremonies, which are subject to weather conditions before and during the ceremony. "If there has been a downpour before your wedding, for example, you would have to wait for the ground to dry," says Angela Parker of Angela's Elegant Events. "You'll also have to worry about grass and dirt stains on your dress." She also suggests letting your guests know that the wedding will be held outside "so they can wear comfortable shoes."
When it comes to cost, many brides believe that an outdoor wedding will be less expensive, but in some cases it can be more expensive than an indoor wedding because of rentals. Obvious rentals include chairs, tables, tablecloths, silverware, glassware and a tent, but you may also have to rent a dance floor, generators and portable toilets. "In July, you may have to consider fans and also sides for the tent to keep the bugs out," Parker says. In this case, an indoor venue may be less costly if it has all the items you need in-house.
Couples can compromise by hosting a wedding at a location with a patio or a courtyard, allowing the festivities to move inside in case the weather turns unpleasant.
DJ vs. Live Music
Most couples like to create a party atmosphere at the reception, and that would be difficult to do without some type of music. When it comes to choosing between a DJ and live music, one of the first considerations is budget. "Typically, a DJ can be more affordable than live music," says event planner Michele Damasco. "Sometimes, however, a good high-quality DJ can be as much as live music because of the depth [of services]. A DJ can be a master of ceremonies. He or she can be instrumental in being a host."
Your choice between a DJ or live music, which can include everything from a trio to a six-piece band, depends on the type of music you want played. Most groups or bands play a specific type of music, while DJs can play a variety of musical styles, from classical to hip-hop. Still, "if you're planning to have a backyard barbecue with bluegrass, it's tough to fit that bill with a DJ," Damasco says.
You'll want to also consider the fact that bands are required to take breaks during the reception while DJs typically keep the music playing. If you can't make a choice, compromise. "You could have a DJ for the reception and a soloist play during the cocktail hour so you could have both types of music," Damasco says.
Day vs. Night
The time of day you get married can affect the cost of the wedding. Formal evening weddings can be very glamorous, but they are often more expensive. "If you have an evening wedding, people will think they
are getting a full-plated meal," says Angela Parker. "If you are having a day wedding, you can have a brunch, light lunch or heavy hors d'oeuvres."
Keep in mind that many venues charge less for a day wedding because it may allow the venue to book two weddings on one day. Also, a day wedding allows out-of-town guests the opportunity to go home after the reception as opposed to staying overnight in a hotel. Albeit an expensive choice, evening weddings are popular with brides. Because of that, evening wedding dates book up the quickest, says Colleen Cook.
If the wedding is on an evening other than Saturday, though, it can be a cost-saver since some reception locations offer special deals for a Friday or Sunday wedding. Also, if you want that evening fairy-tale wedding, you'll want to make sure that the ceremony site doesn't have any restrictions regarding the time of day. For example, many Catholic churches offer only early-afternoon or late-afternoon weddings.
Fully Stocked Bar vs. Specialty Cocktails
Wedding guests normally expect to belly up to the bar during the reception, so many wedding couples decide to offer a fully stocked bar. That is often the most expensive choice. "If you have a top-shelf open bar, people will drink," says Angela Parker. Those costs can add up, depending on whether you've paid a per-person per-hour rate for liquor or you're paying by consumption.
When you opt for a full bar, you can choose between house, call or premium (top-shelf) liquors, depending on your budget. A fully stocked bar guarantees that everyone will find something they like to drink. Featuring a specialty cocktail at the reception is an option that can add to the theme of the event. However, it may be difficult to rely on signature cocktails alone because the one you create may not be popular with everyone. "When you have signature cocktails, about 80 percent of your guests will drink them," says Colleen Cook. "Twenty percent will go to the bar."
Another alternative is to serve a specialty cocktail along with beer or wine. It could be less expensive than a full bar or a specialty cocktail with a limited bar.
The time of your wedding often dictates your choice of beverages. "If you have an after-five event, you really should be courteous enough to offer a full bar," says Michele Damasco. "Anything before 5 p.m. gives you the opportunity to do something that is more affordable and designed to the event."
Civil vs. Religious
Choosing between a civil and a religious ceremony is a very personal decision for the bride and groom. For couples who are members of a particular church or synagogue and want a traditional ceremony, it's an easy decision. For couples on the fence, a religious ceremony could have more restrictions than they bargained for: such as style of service or premarital counseling requirements. "A civil ceremony gives you the flexibility of tailoring the service to be your own," says Michele Damasco. Couples who choose a less structured civil ceremony can write their own vows, add poems or have someone else speak during the ceremony, for example.
When it comes to length, civil ceremonies can be as short as 10 minutes, while some religious ceremonies such as a full Catholic Mass can last for more than an hour. "If you are having a full Mass, you need to let your guests know that," says Angela Parker. "Also, be aware that some Catholic churches only have a full Mass at 2 p.m."