The Complete Guide to Wedding Invitation Etiquette in the Modern World (or, how to plan a wedding without offending anyone)

Gift Faux Pas-01
Gift Faux Pas-01

It's 2015. Chivalry is dead, good manners aren't important, and "proper" etiquette for weddings has completely gone by the wayside.

Wrong. All three of these are lies young people tell themselves to get away with bad behavior. I could go on for a whole post about chivalry and manners, but that's for someone else's blog. I'm here to talk weddings, and as far as I'm concerned, we're in the middle of an etiquette crisis.

Now, if you know me at all (or have worked with me, read my blog or browsed my gallery) this might sound out of character. I'm not some traditionalist---far from it in fact. I'm all about fun, unique weddings. And I love to create work that fits an out-of-the-box couple and their funky style. But, I am also quick to advise my clients (when asked) on modern etiquette. Things have certainly changed since your parents got married. I've met my fair share of wedding planners with their noses stuck up high in the air, and their taste and etiquette stuck back in the 70s. If you ask these types, they'll tell you none of the old etiquette rules have gone out the window, but I disagree. Modern times call for modern brides (and grooms). So the question is, what has changed? I sometimes feel like we are in such a different world -- technology-driven, fast-paced, accessible-everywhere -- that it's hard to distinguish where to draw the line. What "rules" are considered old-fashioned, and what rules can be broken or adjusted to fit with the times? And possibly most important, what rules shouldn't be broken and what traditions shouldn't we be changing?

So, here's our simple guide for current etiquette and some tips on how to navigate the complicated world of wedding invitations (and more):

is it appropriate?
katie's advice
Should we send traditional, formal invitations?
  • Appropriate for a formal, traditional wedding in a church or other formal venue.
  • Formal wording on the main invitation makes it clear that it will be a traditional ceremony with an upscale reception.
  • Skip the super formal invitation if your wedding is more non-traditional or outdoor with casual decor and attire. You don't want to run the risk of "over-selling" the formality of your wedding and making it look shabby compared to the invitation.
  • Formal does not have to mean "old-fashioned". Formal invitations usually have simple layouts with more traditional wording, but even formal invites are incorporating more and more color and design that add some flair.
  • Most of the verbiage decisions are based on who is hosting and how you want it announced. There are lots of modern options that are still considered formal without sounding old-fashioned.
  • Upscale printing methods like letterpress or gold foil and pretty packaging in folder enclosures with lined envelopes make your invitations feel more formal while not being too stuffy!
  • Address the invitations to Mr./Mrs./Miss
Can we send a more casual invitation?
  • Perfect for a barn or backyard wedding or for a non-traditional venue like a museum or urban space.
  • Casual, cheeky wording is great for a casual, cute, personalized wedding, but doesn't match bow ties and ball gowns. Make it a formal invitation for a black tie or semi-formal wedding.
  • Connect the invitation design to your relationship, your passions, and the things that will make your wedding memorable and SO YOU. **This is my wheelhouse. I'd love to work with you!!**
  • Feel free to break the rules when it comes to wording and style! Get your guests excited to celebrate the two of you and dance the night away!
  • Address the envelopes in a way that matches the style and verbiage of the invitation (maybe drop the Mr. and Mrs.)
Can we send online invitations?
  • In short, No. (you're on the wrong blog!)
  • The invitation sets the tone of the wedding, and if you want your guests to take it seriously, you should too!
  • No idea.
Do we have to send a Save the Date?
  • In short, no. But you should consider it if you want a lot of people to come. The more notice your invited guests have, the better chance they'll be able to make it.
  • For a short engagement (less than 6 months) an early invitation is best. No need to overwhelm your guests with lots of mailings, and it's a cost saver to do just one.
  • Send the Save the Date as soon as you've nailed down the major vendors and made your deposits (in other words, when you can't change your mind!)
  • The more time your guests have, the better!
  • It does not need to have a photo--no need for an expensive photo shoot! There is a lot you can do without a photo, just ask me!
Is there a specific time invitations should be sent out?
  • Every wedding website will tell you something different, so just do the math for yourself and figure out what makes sense for your guest list deadlines (work bakwards)
  • If you've sent a Save the Date, the majority of your guests will have it on their calendar and already know whether they're coming or not. It's truly a formality these days.
  • If you haven't sent a Save the Date or are having an especially short engagement, give your guests at least 2 months.
  • For a destination wedding, you're on a completely different timeline. Ignore all traditional wedding timelines and ask me!
  • Start with the catering or venue deadline for your guest count. This can be 1-3 weeks before your wedding.
  • Give yourself a full week between the RSVP deadline and the deadline for your caterer/venue. You will have to track down the stragglers and you want a good window of time for people to get back to you, etc.
  • If you are planning a lot of personalized or expensive favors or per-person items that require a guest count, give yourself an extra week.
  • Give your guests 3-4 weeks to RSVP.
  • Add up all that time and that's your "hit the mailbox" date
  • Add a week to that for the invites to go through the mail, and that's when you send them!
  • The window is basically 6-10 weeks out, and I always say the earlier the better!
Can we accept RSVPs online?
  • Appropriate for all weddings nowadays.
  • Feels Non-Traditional and Modern
  • Green Option
  • Easier for Guests
  • Cost Savings
  • Choose a wedding website that includes online RSVP
  • Match the wording style to your invitation
  • Hire KEEvents to help plan your wedding and it's included!
Who should get a +1?
  • Appropriate for married couples or couples that live together
  • Make your own policy for all guests getting a +1. (i.e. All guests get to bring a date, or Only guests who have a serious significant other, or No one you haven't met at the wedding)
  • Don't hand-pick which guests get to bring a date. A clear policy is best for not hurting feelings.
  • Be prepared for some difficult conversations and be united in your responses!
  • If you are inviting a date for a guest with a significant other, both names should be on the invitation.
  • If you are inviting dates for all guests (i.e. some you do not know personally) add "and Guest" to the invitations of the dates you do not know.
  • If dates are not included, only the guest name goes on the invitation.
  • If you're worried, you can make it clear on the RSVP by writing in the guest name or by writing (1) or (2) guests somewhere on there.
Should we invite kids? Which ones?
  • Weddings are traditionally adult-only events, but modern weddings can be full of children. It's completely up to the couple.
  • Flower Girl/Ring Bearer Only is an acceptable option.
  • Go all or nothing. If there are some children invited but not others, those without their children there will wonder why theirs were not included.
  • Don't invite children to the ceremony only. This is actually more of a hassle for parents, and the kids feel left out of the party, which is more fun!
  • Keep in mind some caterers will not offer a kids' price.
  • The names on the envelope of the invitation indicate who is invited.
  • To make it extra clear, you can make a polite note on the RSVP card that your wedding either includes children or is "respectfully an adults-only event".
  • Ask close family and friends ahead of time if children being included is a "deal-breaker"
  • Consider hiring a babysitter, and be aware that including children will likely mean extra planning to keep them occupied and happy.
  • If your guests are bringing their young children, they will likely leave early. If you have a lot in this situation, your wedding might empty out early!
Can we put our registry on our invitation?
  • It does not belong on your wedding invitation or in any other prominent location.
  • Only OK to do on your wedding website, or on a shower invitation sent by someone hosting a shower.
  • It is not a requirement for your guests to give you a gift.
  • Mentioning it on the website is a convenience to your guests.
  • Create a tab or link on your wedding website.
  • You could say something like "Your presence at our wedding is a gift in itself, but if you feel inclined to give us something tangible, we have created a wish list here:"
  • Avoid anything sounding mandatory.
  • Do not say anything about your preference for gifts or really anything else.
Can we ask for money?
  • Never.
  • It is completely inappropriate to ask for money of any kind, or to specify who to write checks out to.
  • If you'd prefer money to put towards a large purchase, tell your parents or someone else close to you whom people might ask.
  • When you do receive money, deposit checks as soon as possible, and make sure you let your guests know what you plan to put it towards when you THANK them.
Can I throw my own shower?
  • Don't do it. It's basically the same as putting your registry on your invitation.
  • It doesn't really matter who hosts the shower, as long as it's not the couple getting married.
  • The invitation should be sent by the host in honor of the couple.
  • Since the invitation is not coming from the couple, the registry and gift information can be included here.
  • The host should also collect the RSVPs.
  • The only part the couple could play is in deciding who to invite if asked.
Can we have a couples' or co-ed shower?
  • Definitely appropriate in 2015, in most situations.
  • It's no longer appropriate or politically correct to assume gifts for the home (cooking utensils, iron, vacuum, linens) are only for the bride.
  • Lets not forget our same sex couples--would you only have a shower for one of the brides? And what about two grooms? They should totally have a shower!
  • Showers don't have to be all tea and cucumber sandwiches.. get creative and make it a party!
  • Couples showers can be co-ed cocktail parties or backyard bbqs.
  • Think outside the box, and share with your partner in receiving gifts for your new life together!
Should we send a shower invitation to everyone invited to the wedding?
  • Unnecessary.
  • Inviting more people = Getting more gifts. You don't want to seem like you have the gimmies.
  • The more people come, the longer the whole event drags on, and the more gifts your guests have to sit there and watch you open. Keep it intimate.
  • Start with your bridal party and family, and then if you feel like there are some people you consider to be your closest friends that should be included, add them to the list.
  • Sometimes there are games and activities planned that will expose some of your secrets and unknown details of your relationship. If there's anyone you wouldn't want to hear those things, don't invite them!
Can I get away with a cash bar?
  • This is only appropriate if you or the hosts of the wedding have a strong aversion to drinking heavily.
  • It's like inviting someone to your house for a dinner party (which is essentially what a wedding is, on a larger scale) and asking your guests to pay you for their glass of wine.
  • Understandable if you don't want to have a party full of drunks, but don't be surprised to annoy a few people if you go this route.
  • If you do choose to have a cash bar, you should let your guests know ahead of time, probably on their invitation.
  • Most people these days expect some sort of open bar, and many women don't even bring a wallet, never mind actual cash.
  •  If they're told ahead of time, they'll be prepared with cash and won't be as disappointed or annoyed when they're asked to buy their drinks.
Do I have to hand-write my Thank You notes?
  • Always handwritten, never typed. (Unless you are disabled and can't write.)
  • You do not have a year to send them out, nor do you want to take a year to do it.
  • Ideally, you get them out in three months, and six months is the maximum.
  • If you hit the six month mark you should make note of how long it's been and how you've been using the gift in the months since it was received.
  • A Thank You note should always mention the gift. Nothing generic.
  • Create a logging system as you receive gifts so you don't forget who gave you what.
  • Do not write "thank you for the gift" and leave it at that. The note should be personal, and not something that could have been copied to everyone at your wedding.
  • Weddings are expensive, the gift was probably expensive, and you want your guest to know their personal presence at your wedding as well as the gift were greatly appreciated.
Someone suggested I have my guests write their address on an envelope at the wedding and shower so I don't have to write them all out when I send Thank Yous.
  • I'm not a fan of this.
  • It's not clever; it feels lazy and impersonal.
  • Don't make your thank you note seem like just another box to check off of your wedding to-do list--your guest put some thought into their gift, so make your Thank You note heartfelt.
  • Keep an up-to-date address list and hand write your notes AND envelopes.
  • Get a stamp for your return address to make it easier or get your return address professionally printed.
  • If there are any mistakes or new addresses, they'll come back to you and you'll know you need a new address. (Another reason to get them out early!)

It's your wedding, so by all means do what you'd like. Don't agree with my take on things? Let me know in the comments! I'm all about friendly discussion. :) I'm here to offer advice and share my expertise in the field. And to tell you that in this modern world, being a considerate person and thinking of how your guests will react to your choices is still important. Most people don't mean to be rude or offensive when they make their wedding plans, but most people also would rather not offend anyone if they have the choice. So, you can thank me in advance for maintaining the respect of all your friends and family throughout this process!

3 Simple Rules to Follow for the Best Wedding Ever: PART THREE

Back in April, I started a mini-series on the blog highlighting Three Simple Rules for the Best Wedding Ever. Part One was the 2 Week Rule: Make a timeline for your planning that ends 2 WEEKS before your wedding. And stick to it. A couple of weeks ago I gave you Part Two: Focus on how you want your wedding to feel, not how you want it to look.Check out Part One and Two, and meet me back here! The final rule for planning the Best Wedding Ever is PART THREE:

Make a pact to stay by each other's side all night long.

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1147008_698012475382_1185239961_o (2)

This one is the simplest of the three rules, but possibly the most important. In keeping with my Parts One and Two, here are a few points to focus on:

1. Why? Well, this is an easy one. It's your wedding! The two of you! The room will be full of all your favorite people in the world, but you just chose to marry each other and this day is all about your love. You worked together for months planning this day, and you deserve to bask in the glory of that together; to share the day with the other person that it's all about. One of my close friends gave me this advice before my wedding, and it is the single best piece of advice I can pass on.

2. It's more difficult than you think! Staying by your new spouse's side may sound like a no-brainer, but it's actually a challenge to stay on each other's hip all night. Just think -- you are the center of attention, everyone in the room wants to talk to you, dance with you, take a picture with you, and make sure you have a drink in your hand. If you're standing next to each other and two people come up to you at the same time and split you apart, it's very easy to get pulled into the crowd, onto the dance floor, and all of sudden lose track of each other. It can be a challenge to make it back across the room without seeing someone you haven't seen yet, or getting pulled into another photo with friends, so it's not always easy to get back to each others' sides. Before you know it, a precious hour has gone by without a kiss! If you agree before the wedding starts that "where you go, I go" you will avoid long stretches apart.

3. If you follow some traditions, you haven't seen much of each other before the wedding. In many cases, couples spend the last few days before the wedding participating in guys-only/girls-only events and appointments. Many couples see each other at the rehearsal and dinner the night before and then stay apart until they have a first look or walk down the aisle. So you might actually feel like you miss each other by the time the wedding starts! Don't forget--you are each other's date! Treat it like a date to the best party you've ever been to, and it feels much more natural to stay together all night.

4. Take a moment alone. You've probably heard it before, but time flies by so quickly on your wedding day. You've thought about the details of the day for months, you've practiced your vows and your dancing for weeks, and now it's here. Take a few minutes at some point in the evening to step outside, just the two of you, and have a moment to soak it all in. It's worth a few minutes of the night to have some privacy away from your families and the cameras and just be.

5. Greet people together. It's a challenge, but make sure you say hello and thank you to all the guests at your wedding. The best way to do this is together. Some of the guests from your spouse's family you may be meeting for the first time, and you don't want to have to introduce yourself at your own wedding. People are there to see the two of you, and they love to see the bride and groom together, take a photo and congratulate you.

6. Don't do the cigar thing. This one might be a battle you don't want to have, but please hear me out. I've been to many, many weddings where at some point in the evening, whether formal or casual, there are cigars offered outside. Typically, the groom and a large group of guys head outside and gather for a cigar. Sounds like a fun celebratory tradition, right? Well, guess what happens inside? The party dies. All of a sudden, you're missing 25 men from the dance floor, and it feels like the party is over. And the worst part? It lasts at least 30 minutes! I could go on and on about how I think this is the biggest party-killer out there, but I am listing it here because it also means, unless the couple is both having a cigar, you are apart for 30 minutes or more and (he) comes back smelling like an ashtray. I politely told my husband I really didn't want to do the whole cigar thing at our wedding, and he agreed. The dance floor was packed all night, and as far as I know, no one missed the smoke break.

Obviously there will be moments you will have to step away from one another (ahem, bathroom break) but if you both have it in your heads from the start that you are going to try to be together for the entire night, it will happen for the most part. I have worked with couples who have said their biggest regret from their wedding was that they felt like they barely saw their new spouse. On the other hand, the couples I have met who have followed this simple rule (myself included) were so grateful for the advice. Every memory I have from our wedding night includes my new husband standing or sitting right next to me, and that's a beautiful thing.

So, what do you think of my Three Rules? Try following them yourself and let me know how it worked for you! I sincerely believe these are simple, straightforward ways to make your wedding awesome and completely enjoyable for you and your guests. Good luck and happy planning!

3 Simple Rules to Follow for the Best Wedding Ever: PART TWO: Focus on the Feel

A few weeks ago, I started a mini-series on the blog highlighting my top three tips for the Best Wedding Ever. Part One was the 2 Week Rule: Make a timeline for your planning that ends 2 WEEKS before your wedding. And stick to it. Definitely read that one first! Today I give you Part Two: Focus on how you want your wedding to feel, not how you want it to look. 

Seated Couple

As with Part One of this series, there are a few subcategories to this rule:

1. Don't impulse buy your wedding venue. Wedding planning should start at "30,000 feet" and should always start with the season and the venue. Which season? Indoor or Outdoor? Formal or casual? How big will it be? Before you even start looking at venues, a consensus should be met between the couple and whoever is paying for the wedding on these basic elements. Then you can hone in on where you want to start looking. Once the search for a venue (and with it, the date) begins, you have a baseline to judge your choices. Does this ballroom fit the style and feel we agreed on? We wanted a rustic, romantic wedding with 80 people... OK, no? Let's move on. There are SO many venues out there to choose from, it can be overwhelming when you start looking. It is also really, really easy to swoon over a gorgeous wedding venue when you walk in, and even talk yourself into the extra cash it will take to pay for it because the wow factor is blinding you. Next thing you know your rustic romantic wedding for 80 has turned into a 200-guest black tie affair, just because you fell in love with the look of a venue. The way to avoid impulse buying when you're venue shopping is to always come back to those basics of what you agreed you wanted for the feel. Does this fit US?

Photo Credit: Nikki Cole Photography

2. Think about how you want your guests to experience your event. Yes, your wedding is all about you. But it's really not. If you wanted to just get married, you could go elope somewhere and skip all this rigmarole. You chose to have a wedding because you wanted to throw a party, and a party is ALL about the guests. If your guests are having a fantastic time, your party will be fantastic. This is the part where it helps to have been to a few (hundred) weddings as a guest, which won't happen if you're the first to get married (that's when you hire someone like me!). If you're lucky enough to have attended even a couple of weddings, you probably have a memory of some really great and really not so great moments as a guest, so start with those.

When it comes to guests' experience, I'm a firm believer that the general timeline and layout make all the difference in the world. This is an area that tends to get overlooked, so hear me out. As your timeline for your wedding day is starting to take shape, stop and mentally walk through your day as a guest for a moment. Is there awkward downtime between the ceremony and reception? What will your guests do during this time? (And don't say "that's not my problem", because it most certainly is). How far are your guests travelling? Where will they park? When will they get to say hello to you? How long will they be seated for dinner? Who will they be seated with and why? Every decision you make for the structure of your event should be viewed through the eyes of your guests, based on how you want them to feel. The nicest and most memorable weddings I've attended had one thing in common -- a great flow to the event, and a feeling that I was looked after. More often than not, your guests have gone to some lengths, financially and otherwise, to be at your wedding. When your guests feel like their comfort and happiness has been taken into consideration, they are much better partiers!

3. Let your agreed upon "feel" guide your decision making. There are SO many decisions to be made when you're planning an event like a wedding, and it's easy to head down a rabbit hole with decorations and formalities that takes you far, far away from your original inspiration. The easiest way to make sure every detail fits together and creates the vibe you're going for is to come back to that original conversation you had at 30,000 feet. We said we wanted a rustic, romantic, small wedding. Does the drapery and uplighting really go with that? Should we even do a bouquet toss? There is no formula for the perfect wedding, and there's no rule book for what you "have" to include. I find a lot of weddings end up feeling cookie-cutter (or worse, an over-done mess) when the bride and groom just go ahead and include all the American wedding traditions even when they don't fit the feel they were going for, or they don't fit the couple. You may fall in love with a table setting in a magazine with crystal glassware, a giant floral centerpiece and tons of candles, all in your color scheme. But if you wanted a more laid-back feel for your event, this table isn't right for you. It's beautiful, just not for your wedding.


4. It's a wedding, not a photo shoot. Photos are important, don't get me wrong. They help you remember and relive your wedding day for the rest of your life. But if you're planning a wedding, think for a second about how many decisions you've made (timing, decorations, formalities) because of photo opportunities. I have been a bridesmaid and a wedding planner for so many weddings that just feel like a day-long photo shoot. It's miserable, and the whole day ends up having a slight air of falseness to it... Like all of this is just for show, for the cameras. Do yourself a favor and find a journalistic-style photographer who excels at candids and story-telling. You'll get amazing photos without feeling like you're posing all day. And the photos will tell the true story of your wedding, not a contrived story that your photographer posed for you. You want to be there, in the moment, all day long. You want to feel real emotion and let the day happen as it will without breaking up the flow of events just to take pictures at every corner. Trust me on this one--find a photographer that will work in this way, and you will not regret it.

When you're the guest of honor at your own wedding, it doesn't really matter how the room looks, plain and simple. You'll be on cloud nine, and if your main focus of your planning was on the feel of the event, you will be immersed in the setting, and feel as wonderful as you dreamed you would. You will not regret spending extra time thinking through logistics and making careful, personal choices for your wedding day. These are the things that really make a wedding feel special, even if they aren't as much fun to plan as centerpieces and dresses.

3 Simple Rules to Follow for the Best Wedding Ever: PART ONE - The 2 Week Rule

 This weekend was all weddings for me. It kicked off Thursday night with a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner for a wedding I was coordinating Saturday. At the dinner I was seated with an engaged couple, and the groom-to-be (go figure!) was picking my brain about the best advice I could give them for wedding planning. Friday night I had dinner and drinks with a friend getting married in a month who told me I gave her a few simple tips that have made a world of difference for her during the planning process. Then last night, I coordinated (and thus attended) my first wedding of the season, refreshing my bank of advice and renewing my ideas and energy for all things wedding! All of this had me thinking -- If I had to give someone my Top 3 Tips as they were starting to plan their big day, what would I say? Well, after a wedding-themed weekend and some thinking, I've come up with 3 simple rules. If you follow them, you will thank me! This week is PART ONE: The 2-Week Rule.

(Part TWO can be found here)

Make a timeline for your planning that ends 2 WEEKS before your wedding. And stick to it. K&A WEDDING

There are some subcategories to this rule:

1. Wait, I need a timeline for the wedding day AND a timeline for planning the wedding day? YES, YES, YES. You have how many months to plan your wedding? 6? 11? 17? You can't just dive in and assume it'll all get done without a plan. That's how couples end up sleep deprived and "over it" by the time their wedding rolls around. Make a giant list of all the pieces, big and small, that need to fall into place, and make sure it's a "working list" -- I recommend using Excel, so you can easily reschedule as you add projects and appointments. Everything from picking out a venue and finding a dress to printing programs and getting your nails done should go on there. Nothing should be overlooked, because believe it or not it's the little tiny things (like remembering to wrap your bridesmaid gifts and write a thank you note to the minister) that keep the couple up until all hours the week of the wedding. There are lots of resources online you can start with, and we here at Katherine Elizabeth Events are working on our own planning tool we hope to roll out later this year. Planning for the planning is SO key to a stress-free engagement.

Photo credit: Krista A. Jones

2. Especially if you are DIY-ing or on a tight budget, pick out the design and materials for your projects early. (Programs, menus, table numbers, place cards, favors, welcome hotel bags, etc.) What do I mean by this? If you want to make your own programs and menus, go pick out the paper and embellishments 2 months ahead even if you aren't ready to print yet. That way you can shop around for exactly what you want (or work with a designer on the perfect custom design) and have all the decisions made and materials ready when the ceremony and catering details are ironed out. I can't tell you how many brides and their mothers walk into Paper Source (where I've worked part time for the last year) the WEEK OF THEIR WEDDING looking for paper for programs and menus. You do NOT want to be doing this the week of your wedding. Before you say, "but I don't know how many guests I'll have!" I'll tell you honestly--you can end up spending more money waiting until the last minute getting the exact amount you need than you will if you buy more than you might need at the best price 2 months ahead of time.

Better yet, hire someone like me to take care of your paper pieces, and I'll make sure you're well ahead of schedule! (Try to contact me at least one-two months out!)


3. Work backwards from 2 weeks before your wedding, not your wedding day, when setting an RSVP deadline. As I just mentioned, it's true--a lot of these details (favors, programs, welcome hotel bags) can't be firmed up until you have a final guest count. If your RSVP deadline is only 2-3 weeks before your wedding (as many websites say it should be) that gives you one week to collect the stragglers (THERE ARE ALWAYS STRAGGLERS) and then the two weeks before your wedding to get all that stuff done with your final numbers. In addition to buying a rough estimate of materials way ahead of time, I also recommend setting an RSVP deadline one month to 5 weeks out from your wedding. The reality is, with the exception of a handful of people, most of your guests will know if they're coming or not. Why put more last minute pressure on yourself?

4. Make time during these two weeks to cultivate the marriage you're about to enter. Planning to be "done" early leaves you time to go on a date. Sounds ridiculous if you haven't been there, but it's SO important to think about. The week of the wedding, my fiance and I built in a night for just us -- we went out to dinner and didn't talk about the wedding. We shared a fantastic meal at a restaurant we had been dying to try, and basked in the excitement of what was to come with all of our family and friends coming into town to celebrate our love. If we hadn't planned for our planning to be done 2 weeks out, we wouldn't have been able to fit this in.

So why do you want to be "done" 2 weeks for the big day? Well, mostly because you won't be. No matter how well you plan, there are always last minute details you didn't think of. If you plan to fill those two weeks with construction and assembly of welcome bags and favors and programs, the un-planned stuff will add a ton of stress. Also, if you finish all your wedding related projects two weeks out, you get a little more "out of your head" with all of it. Giving yourself a little break between the planning and the actual wedding is AWESOME. If you're going, going, going, right up until the rehearsal, you don't have any time to decompress and separate yourself from it before it actually happens. I've heard so many brides say that they felt like they didn't really "take it all in". This is the secret to doing that--you have to separate the planning from the experience of the day. If you think of your wedding starting the Monday before it actually happens, and force yourself to finish projects before then, you will enjoy all of it SO. MUCH. MORE.

And here's the real meat of this piece of advice that no one thinks of until they're a bride: all these extra last minute details take up precious time that should be spent on things like beauty sleep and the day-to-day aspects of your life you don't think about (like doing laundry and cleaning your house and working out and eating well). You want to be and feel your best on your wedding day, and in the days leading up to it. That means taking care of yourself!

All of this advice comes from personal experience, both in seeing what last minute projects do to brides' stress levels, and in feeling what not adding last-minute stress felt like when I was a bride. For the most part,  I was done with my wedding projects two weeks out. My bridesmaids commented on how I was so relaxed, and this is the number one reason why. My wedding was long distance so my hands were slightly tied with having a few projects lined up for the week of the wedding when we arrived in town. But, the week before that, we had time to focus on ourselves, our home and the marriage we were about to enter into. We worked out every day, ate well, and I had time to clean my apartment, top to bottom. I cleaned out closets, I dusted and vacuumed, I tidied up in a way I hadn't done in months (because let's be honest--wedding planning is top priority for most nights and weekends). Returning home from our wedding to a fresh, tidy home was AMAZING. It felt like a fresh start, and it was the perfect start to married life.

Check out PART TWO of this series: Focus on the Feel, not the Look of Your Wedding

Everything you need to know about Wedding Hashtags (6 DOs and DON'Ts)


It seems as though, these days, every wedding incorporates some form of modern technology in the planning and execution of the big day; from wedding websites and online RSVPs to self-service photo booths and crowd-sourced videos. One trend that's gaining major ground is the wedding hashtag; a simple, FREE tool (which is hard to come by in the big wide world of weddings) that makes it easy to collect social media content related to and posted from your wedding. Hashtags can get out of hand... #weddings #newblogpost #writingonaplane #gopatriots #justgotabloodymary. When people use them in this way it's really just to be cute, and defeats much of the purpose of a hashtag (#imguiltyofthis). If you work in the social media world, you know the point of a hashtag: to "tag" posts, tweets and photos relevant to a topic or brand with the intention of making that content searchable by that tag. When I searched #doyourjob yesterday, I got a huge stream of Patriots fan photos; food prep for Super Bowl parties, pets dressed in Brady jerseys, and even a life-size stuffed Patriot mascot laying next to a dude in bed. Just what I was hoping for.

So, tagging all the social media posts (your friend's selfie on the plane headed to your big day, the video of your walk down the aisle, the photo of all your college friends hungover at brunch the next day) is an awesome idea, right? You've hired a photographer to take the pretty, posed shots, but there's something about those less than perfect snaps that you want to collect and save. With a wedding hashtag, days, weeks, months, years(?) down the road you can search for your tag on your favorite social media platform and it's like reliving your day all over again through the eyes of your geusts (I do this probably once a week with mine--there are over 100 photos!) Are you sold? As you're starting to think about your wedding hashtag, here are some tips:

1. DO create a unique hashtag. Create a unique hashtag. Create a unique hashtag. Create a unique hashtag. I literally feel like I cannot say this enough. And by unique, I don't necessarily mean clever or cute. I just mean UNIQUE. Like, no one else will use this hashtag, possibly ever. It seems like a no-brainer to me, but I am constantly seeing couples choosing generic hashtags that aren't going to get them to that end-goal of being able to collect just their wedding content. Just yesterday, I saw a couple using #MattandAshley. Do you know a couple named Matt and Ashley? Chances are, you'll meet at least one in your life if you haven't already. Go to Instagram right now and search #mattandashley. The photo collection is all over the place; from at least 5 different weddings and about 17 different couples named Matt and Ashley (including a few tweens, which is just awkward.) If the whole purpose of a hashtag was to be able to easily search and find photos and posts from their family and friends at their wedding, Matt and Ashley missed the mark. Unless your name is super unique (like my friends #kiraandwillem), I'd stay away from anything that's simply your names, even if it includes any form of "wedding" or "2015". Even if you don't see it in a search today, there's bound to be a duplicate out there eventually if you keep it that generic. It's only January, but come June every weekend your social media feed will be packed with tagged wedding photos, and chances are, yet another "Matt and Ashley" will be tying the knot. There are lots of ways to make your hashtag unique to your wedding. Adding at least one of your last names is a great first step, or referencing the location or the date. If you're feeling creative, try to think of a pun or a play on your names combined. The most important thing is to search for your hashtag and make sure it's not already out there. My hope is that as more people learn about this trend, a sort of etiquette will evolve and there will be fewer duplicates. But to be on the safe side, make it unique to you!

2. DON'T make it too complicated. Before you go too crazy coming up with a unique and clever hashtag, keep in mind that you want it to be memorable and easy to both read and type. Choosing something like #mattandashleyweddingcapecod2015 may make your hashtag unique, but it's also sort of obnoxious. It doesn't even fit on one line on Instagram and takes up 32 of your precious 140 characters on Twitter! And don't do an anagram like #MAATTK (Matt And Ashley Tie The Knot) because that's just silly, and not in a good way. Try to keep it short, sweet and simple. Options like #CotterCapeWedding, #CapeCodCotters, #AshleyTakesCotter or #CotterMcKnaught2015 would all be great options for the "Matt Cotter and Ashley McKnaught" wedding. (Adding the year is a good idea if your names are more common, since you only have one year's worth of weddings to compete with.) If at least one of your first or last names is uncommon, you can definitely get away with something as simple as a combination of your names, adding the date or year as security. My maiden name (Egan) is very common, but my groom's name (Rotio) is not, so we were able to get away with simply #eganrotio. The chance that another Rotio is going to marry an Egan in this lifetime are pretty slim.

3. DON'T pressure yourself to come up with something clever. The fact of the matter is, not all names are created equal when it comes to wedding puns. If one of your last names is Nott, Wring, or Glover, you have some cute options (#AmyandNickTietheNott, #HePutAWringOnIt, #thegLOVErs2015). But if it's Egan or Scizewski, you're going to have a hard time making a cute wedding pun (although for my Bachelorette we did use #LastRodeoBeforeRotio which was genius). At the end of the day, it's just a tool, and you want your guests to use it. It's not going to have any effect on the amazingness of your wedding. Just pick one that works and move on. There are WAY more important things to be creative about (like signature cocktails and day-of stationery!).

4. DO make sure you let your guests know what you've picked! These days, many young wedding guests who use social media hashtags will ask around to see if there is an "official" hashtag before they post any content. If there isn't one that's been publicized, they'll make up their own (may times leading to the #mattandashley predicament). If you want a successful hashtag, it should be clearly communicated to your guests. If you make it a point to ask your guests to use a hashtag, this will also encourage people who don't normally tag their posts to tag the ones from your weekend, making your collection bigger and better. Including the hashtag on your wedding stationery is a great way to let your guests know. It could go at the bottom of an informal ceremony program, on a welcome note for hotel guests or on a small sign on the bar or the guestbook table. You can even create a #hashtag tutorial like the one we included in our welcome note to our guests:


The older generations don't always understand these new-fangled technologies, and it's nice to include them instead of just assuming they won't be a part of it because they don't understand. No one wants to ask, but they want to know!

5. DON'T go overboard. Remember, this is a wedding, not a marketing event. Don't get me wrong--I love a well-branded wedding. But putting your hashtag on everything from coasters to koozies to table menus is tacky. And the more you push it on your guests, the more you run the risk of shifting your guests' focus from their real life experience of your wedding to their sharing of it on social media. You don't want to look around at your wedding and see everyone on their phones.

6. DON'T live-tweet your own wedding. Ok, so I don't actually think anyone out there is live-tweeting their wedding, but seriously.. for the love of all things Holy, do NOT have your phone on you! You have surrounded yourself with plenty of people who will keep an eye on the time, the details, and making sure everyone shows up when and where they should. This is your day. Take the rare opportunity to be phone-free and soak it all in. Believe me, there will be plenty of photos and videos taken by your family and friends. Leave it up to everyone else!

Have you seen any cute wedding hashtags lately? What are you planning to use for your big day? Leave a comment!

5 Reasons why I'm a terrible Blogger (and why I love lists)

So I love lists. Some might say I'm obsessed. My entire Notes app in my phone is just list after list after list, and most of my personal Google Drive is just spreadsheet after spreadsheet (which are really just more organized, detailed lists). If I'm having a particularly stressful day, the best way I find to immediately relieve stress is to write down all the things I don't want to forget, which is usually what causes stress for me. Once it's down on paper, I'm good. Whatever tiny little thing I just remembered to remind myself not to forget is now written down and locked in.

Lately, I've been thinking about how I can get myself to be a better blogger. I know I have a lot to share with the world, I know I'm a decent writer, and I know it's great for business. But HOW do I get myself to make time and space for writing on a regular basis without it feeling forced?

I think this calls for a list. And what better way to kick off my new activity (I know, we'll see...) than to follow in the footsteps of many a blogger before me.... ["Top 10 things you only know if you have a baby boy", "Top 10 Reasons to love (insert city/town/area of the world here)", "5 Easy Ways to Add Spark back into your marriage"]. Here goes.

5 Reasons why I'm a terrible Blogger:

1. I don't really read blogs. There, I said it. I stumble upon blogs. I read my cousin's blog. Pinterest (which I'm sort of over these days) directs me to blogs. I'm a big fan of photographer Michelle Gardella's blog, but I admit to only reading it a few times a year. It's just not my thing.. there are so many people out there who write, and many who actually have found a way to make money doing it, and so I am sort of a distant admirer of them. I have friends who have a daily routine of catching up with their favorite blogs like my fiance catches up with the news. I'm just not that into it. Obviously this poses a problem for me.. how am I going to get into blogging if I am not a blog reader? It's like trying to write a novel if you're not into books. Huh?

2. I don't have time. Ok, so this is everyone's excuse for everything, I know. I don't have time to cook, I don't have time to work out, I don't have time to clean the house, do the laundry, call my grandmother. It's usually bullshit and we all know it. How many hours do I spend mindlessly staring at my phone... on the couch, waiting in line, waiting for the coffee to percolate...? [Sidebar: My latest disgust with myself is in how much time I spend on my phone in the morning when I wake up. I keep telling myself I need to leave my phone charging in another room at night and buy a real life alarm clock. Maybe I should actually do it.] So maybe, just maybe, if I took some of those minutes out of my week and wrote a post, I would totally have the time. But then I have to ask myself, would I enjoy that?

3. My Blog Name. So, a little background (unless you've read the 3 posts I've written in the last 2 years and know this already). The blog idea came to me when I was starting to think about going into business in the wedding industry. I wanted a place where I could collect my work, sort of like a portfolio. So I got going taking pictures and telling stories, and.. then.... I..... stopped. I photographed and told stories about maybe 5 things I had created and then I stopped keeping up with it. Oops. And so the blog name, "Handmake and Tell" (which, by the way, I still think is super cute) is purely related to my crafting and DIY inner self, and not so much related to the business I now want to support by blogging (even though that part of who I am is WHY I am in business...) So, what to do? I could rename it and start over, but that just feels like every journal I started in grade school. I'd write two entries and the next Christmas I'd get a new journal and say, "This is the year I'm going to keep a diary".. and so on. I could re-brand the blog and change the tagline to something wedding-related or at least something that is more generic. I still love the idea of having a crafting blog. It's something I love, love, love to do, and after my own wedding is over, I'll have SO many DIY stories to tell. Or I could just. not. blog. I think option two is what I'll try to go with, but stay tuned..

4.  (I'm only at number 4?) No, but seriously. It's not that I don't have time, it's just that I am not great at setting a time limit for writing. I've been writing this for 30 minutes already, I haven't picked out a photo to include with it, and I am already stressing that I have to wrap this thing up and get to "work". I think the secret here is to see this writing as part of my business; part of my "work". Part of working for myself is finding ways to distinguish between work and life, and reminding myself that some of (ok, a lot of) the things I do for my work are actually FUN and that's OK. That's why I'm doing this! So even though writing this blog post is (ok, sort of) fun, and it takes up some time, it is still "work" and should be counted as part of my workday. Ok, I might be able to live with this.

5. What's my Message? What do I want this blog to be? I'm slightly obsessed with branding, and I really don't want to just start blabbing on here about the random stuff happening in my life. That's what Facebook is for, right? If this is going to help me take my business to the next level, I am going to have to have a message. Obviously I can blog about all different kinds of things on here and have them relate to each other in some way, but WHAT is that relationship? DIY? Weddings? Creativity? I think the re-branding of the blog is the first step in this process, and then I can have a clear answer when I ask myself, Does this belong on the blog? Because right now, I'd have no idea.

Well, that wasn't so bad. Maybe I'll just start with some "list" posts. Stick with the comfort zone until this post-writing thing becomes habit.

Wish me luck!