Money Monday: Planning your Wedding Budget

Happy Monday!!

Today we're going to chat a bit about planning your wedding budget. Can you do this quickly and easily? Yes indeed you can! Below, I've listed a super basic breakdown of the items most commonly included in a wedding budget, and their associated percentages. Use this template to get your budget off to a fantastic start! 
Based on your priorities, you may spend more or less in each category, but usually you should expect to spend around these averages.

Almost half of your total budget will go to your reception costs- venue, food and beverage. The remainder is divided amongst all of your other wedding pros, photography, videography, florals and decor, entertainment, attire and music.

If you find that one of your pros doesn't quite fit these expectations you'll need to compromise and move money from one category to another. OR you can adjust your budget up to make room. Remember your budget is a living document- it can and should change as you get more information about what your vendors cost.

Looking for a spreadsheet template to use? Click here to download the TME Quick and Dirty Wedding Budget Template. Perfect for getting those ducks and dollars in a row the easy way!

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8 Ways to Infuse Culture into your Wedding Day

Multicultural weddings are our speciality - and in a state as diverse and rich in culture as NJ, almost every wedding is multicultural!  Today I’d love to tell you about my 8 favorite ways to infuse your global flair into your wedding day. 


The Food
My number one suggestion for adding culture to your wedding day is the food. This one’s a no brainer- make the menu follow one or both of your cultures.  Fusion cuisine is incredibly popular right now. If the cultural dishes clash a little too much, consider doing one culture for the cocktail hour and the other for dinner- or have one featured a the rehearsal dinner and the other for the reception. You can even have elements of each other’s cultures cuisines spread throughout your entire engagement period- have cultural food at the engagement party, the shower, the bachelor and bachelorette parties. Jazz it up and have fun with it- the food is one of the best and most memorable parts of any special event!

The Music  
This is another easy one.  Music adds great atmosphere and emotion to an event.  If your fiance is Caribbean, walk down the aisle to a steel drum band- if you’re hispanic, some Spanish inspired acoustic guitar for the cocktail hour, African drums for your grand introduction- You can add cultural music to your ceremony and to the reception- you can have as much or as little as you’d like- from one song, to an entire dance set.  

Speaking of dancing, that’s our number three!  So many cultures have traditional dances that are performed during weddings and other milestone celebrations. Do the hora, the tarantella or any other traditional folk dance.  Not only is it a ton of fun, it’s a great way to get both sides of the family involved and learning about each other’s backgrounds.  In fact you can have your families learn a traditional dance together- or bring in dance instructors for the reception to get your guests in on the action too! Sounds like a fun pre-wedding activity to me!  

The Decor
Here is one of my favorite thing about planning and designing multicultural weddings- they tend to be just GORGEOUS! Culture usually translates to color, texture and pattern, and your wedding day decor can totally pull that in.  If you’re having an interfaith ceremony, say, Hindu and Christian - you can still marry under a gorgeously decorated mandap. If you’re having a Jewish ceremony, talk to your florist about designing a chuppah with elements of other cultures infused. Your flowers can reflect lucky colors, your centerpieces can incorporate sacred symbolism, even your stationery - from the invitations down to the menu cards, can pull in a cultural motif. 

Your Dress
One of the easiest ways to bring in a cultural motif is through your big day attire.  So many cultures have traditional wedding costumes- they can be incorporated into either the ceremony or reception.  Maybe wear the Western style gown for the ceremony and then you can do a costume change for a special moment, and create a whole new feeling for part of the evening.  If you were ever looking for a reason to get that 2nd dress, this could be it!  You can do a costume change for a special dance, or ceremony- or you can have your parents dress in traditional attire and set the tone that way.  Or you could switch it- wear your traditional costume, be it a sari, a gele or obi, for the ceremony and switch into western style for the reception.  You can also rock traditional wear all night long.

Another way, is to find designers that incorporate a traditional feel into their western style gowns- perhaps one with an obi sash or dramatic sari-style draping.

The Ceremony
In current pop culture there tends to be a lot of glossing over of the ceremony (an idea of let’s get to the party!), but in my mind it’s VERY important (it’s the reason for the party after all!)  Some people don’t realize this, but you can customize the heck out of your wedding ceremony these days.  There are wonderfully talented officiants who specialize in creating and customizing ceremonies to your exact cultures, history and love story. This is awesome for multi and intercultural couples because you can have a ceremony that reflects where you came from AND where you are going, and make it just as fun as the rest of the celebration!  You can add ceremonies to the main ceremony- a celtic handfasting after the ring exchange, or jump the broom when it’s all over.  You can even add elements from other religions- breaking the glass if one of you is Jewish, crowns if one of you is orthodox christian, walking the 7 steps if one of you is Hindu.  
Ceremonies can also be added to other parts of the wedding celebration- a mendhi ceremony for the bride and her maids, a Chinese tea ceremony to honor your parents.

Another great way to bring in culture is through Entertainment - bring in dancers, musicians, performers, acrobats, anything that you think would pique the interest of your guests and agree with the culture you are emphasizing. Entertainment is an often overlooked part of weddings, but it really does well to fill in the slow moments that tend to happen between grand introductions and dinner being served.  

Other celebrations - when planning a multicultural wedding, don’t discount the other pre-wedding celebrations. You can add any of the previously mentioned aspects to all of the other festivities as well- the engagement party, the shower and other family gatherings.  

A few things to remember- first, this wedding and marriage is about both of you coming together to create something greater than either one of you separately.  Don’t forget to give equal billing to each other’s cultures, as it’s probably a big part of why you are together today.  
Second, American IS a culture!!  So if you’re feeling like maybe only the “ethnic” side of the equation is getting attention, speak up for your regional culture too (a love of New Orleans Jazz could lead to quite a unique ceremony or reception)!  You’re embarking on a great journey of love and excitement and compromise- enjoy it!


10 Questions to ask your wedding planner before hiring them.


So you're recently engaged and looking for a wedding planner.  Ever wonder what you need to ask during your consultations?  Here are a few key questions to get you the best information so you can make an informed decision.  The answers to these questions shouldn't make or break your choice to move forward with someone, but they do provide food for thought.  

How long have you been in business?
More years doesn't always mean better, but it does mean more experience. Fewer years doesn't always mean cheaper, but it does mean less experience. 

Do you have referrals from previous clients?
Do they have past clients who can vouch for them? Who have had a pleasant experience? Ask for references, and actually contact them! Don't go by images in a portfolio alone.

Do you have liability insurance/business license?
This is important for a few reasons: first, many venues require that all pros working under their roofs have a minimum amount of insurance in case something goes wrong. Having a business license means that this person takes themselves and their services seriously. Not all localities require licensing for wedding planners and their businesses, but many do.

Is this your full time job? If not, what else do you do?
This is a controversial question - when I first started, I was not a full time planner. Having a planner who isn't full time doesn't mean you'll get worse service, but it does mean that if you contact them at 2pm on a Tuesday, you may not get them. 

Tell me about a time something went wrong -What happened and how did you handle it?
You want to look for cool confidence, and an ability to take charge.

What do you love about weddings?
This question gives you a peek into their personality and why they got into this business in the first place! This is key since you'll be working so closely on such an important event.

Have you ever worked at our venue before?
Once again, this shouldn't be a deal breaker if they haven't, but having someone who is familiar with the lay of the land can be very helpful.  

What do your services include?
Because you need to know this, obviously! Bonus if they have something to reference or a website to send you to.

Do you take commissions/finders fees from any vendors?
Some planners do use this business model with much success, while some choose to pass any savings on to their clients. The main thing you're looking for here is honesty in any case.

Do we need to work with your vendors or can we choose our own?
Some people have a dream team they recommend, and some have a team that are a requirement. Decide if you want to be able to choose.  

As always, I hope this helps and happy hunting (and wedding planning!!)


A Bride's Guide to Wedding Planning Packages


Full service, Day of Coordination, Wedding Day Management, Wedding Planning- what does it all mean??  In your search for a wedding planner, I'm sure you've come across a few different names for what different planners offer. This can definitely cause confusion if you're trying to compare the packages of two or more planners as you decide who to hire.  You know I'm all about clarifying confusing situations so here's a rundown of what all this terminology means. Now bear in mind, different planners include their own twist on each specific service, so this is not an exhaustive list or explanation. Let's jump in, shall we?

What is Full Service Planning?
Full service planning is usually a planner's most comprehensive service level, meaning that you'll end up getting more time with your planner, more meetings and more services. The goal is to help you plan your wedding from scratch. Often featured are: 

  • Unlimited contact (emails, phone calls, etc) throughout your engagement
  • A large number of planning meetings or attendance at your choice of vendor meetings, dress fittings, etc.
  • Full vendor research, recommendations and coordination
  • Guidance on the entire planning process
  • Wedding Budget set up and management
  • Complete Day of Coordination

Sometimes featured: a combination of planning and design, additional services like invitation and rsvp management, a really customized planning experience and fun surprises.

What is Partial Planning?
Partial planning is usually less involved than full service- you can expect the following:

  • Contact to start within a certain amount of time prior to your big day, say 4-6 months or so.
  • Fewer planning meetings- usually in the range of 4-6.
  • More opportunity to do your own research and legwork (which is great for some, but not always desired for busy couples).
  • The chance to add on a la carte items to create a more customized service.
  • Complete Day of Coordination

What is Day of Coordination?
Day of coordination (which is really a misnomer) is really final details planning, meaning a company comes in about 2-3 months prior and ties up all the loose ends and makes sure nothing is missed. The goal here is to organize the day and be on hand so everything goes off without a hitch. You can expect the following:

  • 2-3 planning meetings or calls to collect all of your wedding details, starting at about 2 months prior.
  • A main focus on the logistics of the day itself (who needs to be where with what, why and how).
  • Vendor coordination
  • Ceremony rehearsal management
  • On site management- sometimes also called Wedding Day Management.

Now, Day of Coordination is usually the least expensive option because it happens towards the tail end of the planning process.  Full service is always the most expensive because of it's all-encompassing nature, and Partial Planning tends to fall somewhere in between.

All of that being said - not all planners do these three options. For example, here at TME- we are anti-package. Every service we offer is custom, so almost all of our clients fall somewhere in the "partial" range. Some planners only offer Day/Month of,  while some focus specifically on Full Service.  When you're researching, be sure to ask your prospective planners what they specialize in, and why.  
Good luck in your search!

Need info on our planning services? Click here!

You said YES!! Five things to do FIRST!

They asked.  You said yes!  Congratulations, you are officially engaged!!  Welcome to the whirlwind that is wedding planning! What was one of the first things you did?  Jump on the Internet and Google wedding planning?  Yikes... I bet you felt just a little overwhelmed (or maybe a LOT overwhelmed). There’s a LOT of information out there-  and it’s easy to be bowled over by it.  It totally doesn’t need to be that way.  Here’s a guide on the first five things you need to do:

1) First, Announce in style! Looking for a different way to announce your engagement? Check out these 3 unique ideas!

  • After the requisite calls to parents and immediate family, use your phone to record an announcement video, and make it viral on YouTube. Vine or even Periscope it!
  • Host a huge Google Hangout and announce it face to face!  That way, your family and friends can see your glowing faces as you spill.
  • Put together a dinner party, and just before dinner is served, make the announcement!  Or if you can stand it, wait until after dessert!

2) Second, be boring- Discuss the non-fun stuff first. I know you want to get to the gowns and flowers and stuff, but hold on one second- before you start dreaming massive dreams, sit down with your other half and get down to brass tacks.  There are things you MUST discuss before moving forward with the planning:

  1. Your budget
  2. Your guest list
  3. Your priorities

Why? Well these three items are intricately connected to each other and to the ultimate vision for your day.  Your budget determines how much is available to spend (obviously), and your guest list determines what you can spend per person.  Your top priority will determine what category gets the most money allocated.  When you’ve found the ultimate balance between the 3, then you can move ahead. It will save you a ton of headaches and heartaches down the road.  Use our Quick and Dirty Guest List Template to get started!

3) Third - Get your vision straight. What kind of wedding are you looking to have?  Your discussion of guest list, budget and priorities have probably helped narrow down a few things, and now you can start thinking about style. First, pick a date. The season can really shape your wedding style.  Hop on Pinterest and visit a few wedding blogs - look for gorgeous images that speak to you - think colors, textures, themes, ideas, gowns you love, dresses for the bridesmaids, flowers, favor ideas, etc.  You'll probably find yourself drawn to the same kind of look over time.  As you do this, a look will start to form in your mind and you can start making choices as far as what venues and vendors fit your style, and what wedding items to invest in.

4) Get a plan in order. Once you've set a date, and gotten an idea of your numbers (guest list, budget and priorities), your wedding style, you can start with your plan. Grab a wedding day countdown or checklist- we have one here. Some are more comprehensive than others, so always look for one that suits your planning style best.  Don't be afraid to custom make your own.  Or, if you've hired a planner, they can do that for you- then have one that will take you all the way up to your day without missing a beat.

5) Finally, just be engaged! The first few months of wedding planning can be a whirlwind, and it's important to take a step back and remember why you're doing it all in the first place!  Put the tablet away, hide the bridal magazines under the sofa, and spend some time with that awesome fiance of yours.  Just be together- hold hands, go for a walk, do something fun, or just sit and talk.  The wedding can wait- these little things are the gold a solid marriage is made of.

**This article is an update of one we published wayyyy back in 2011!

Need some MORE planning printables? Check here!  

TME Tip Tuesday: Dressing your Bridesmaids

It's that time again- Tuesday, and time for another TME Tip!  Today we're chatting about the lovely ladies you have standing up with you on your wedding day.  Don't feel the need to search for one gown that works for everyone- it is more than acceptable to find different gowns in the same color, or even gowns in many different colors.  Let them be comfortable in what they are wearing. It will make for a much more pleasant experience for everyone!


Let them eat.....cake??! Tasty Alternatives to Wedding Cakes

Today is National Donut Day!  Now if you've been hanging with me for any length of time, you'll know that the food is one of my favorite parts of any celebration, and dessert is no exception. I absolutely love cake but I know that not everyone does!  What's a couple to do when they really aren't into cake? There are so many options out there! And so, in honor of National Donut Day, I give you one of my favorite boards over on our Pinterest - Not Cakes!! You can make a stack out of almost anything and call it your cake - So if a traditional cake is not your thing, I highly encourage you to GO FOR IT!  Besides, dessert is suppose to be fun!



What do you think? Would you ever have a Not-Cake at your wedding?  Happy #NationalDonutDay!

When Things Go Wrong - The Wedding's Running Late!

If I've learned anything in my years as a wedding planner, it is that it really isn't IF something goes wrong, it is WHEN.  I haven't done a single wedding where we didn't have an issue of some sort. Now I know what you're thinking- I must really suck as a planner then, right?  Yeah, not so much.  The thing is that when you get a large team of pros working together, along with 150-200 assorted guests, multiple venues and a tight timeline... something is just bound to happen. So we've put together this series to discuss some of the issues we've seen and how we've resolved them.

Many people have the misconception that a wedding planner's job is to make sure your wedding day is perfect. Not quite. Our real job is to make sure your experience of the day seems perfect. That means that we run interference when anything does go wrong.  If we weren't there to do so, either the couple or their parents would have to step away from the celebration to handle the situation. The vast majority of the time, we take care of any snafus that arise before the couple even knows something is amiss.

Here are some common wedding day issues we often run into and how we handled them:

What happened: The wedding is running late!

How we've handled it: I've had this one happen on a number of occasions. Once, a wedding ran so late that we weren't sure it was even going to happen! (It did).  Sometimes it's just the client's prerogative; sometimes a key player (like the officiant) doesn't show on time.  Sometimes, traffic causes issues.  No matter what the why is, our goal is always to keep the guests as calm and entertained as we can, while simultaneously keeping the other wedding pros apprised of the situation.  We check with the venue to see if guests can have water or soft drinks, ask the DJ or ceremony musicians to play some filler music, and update everyone as often as we can.

Next week, we'll cover another issue we've tackled- when something or someone goes missing!

Until then, Keep Celebrating!