For brides- and grooms-to-be, choosing invitations and registering for gifts may seem like a minor part of the wedding planning process, but it's actually a very critical part because these two elements involve your wedding guests.
Wedding and receptions guests are an enormous part of the special day without guests, even a few guests, the event wouldn't be the same.
Soon after the wedding date has been set, couples should put some thought into who they will be inviting to share their special day. Although this may not seem essential, it will set the stage for the entire wedding ceremony and reception planning process.
Brides, grooms, and the parents of each should prepare a list of people they would like to attend the ceremony and reception. If you have a large family or circle of friends, it may be necessary to limit parents to a certain number of guests, depending on your wedding budget.
Nancy Armbruster, owner of Nancy's Cards and Gifts, said that it typically takes her about a week to 10 days to order and receive invitations.
"If the bride and groom are going to use their parents names on the invitations, they should double check the spelling of their names," she said. "People can choose any wording they would like for the invitation or we have about seven different books that they can look through and pick wording and invitation styles from."
Invitations should be mailed four to six weeks prior to the wedding date or even earlier if you have guests who will be traveling a long distance. And, brides typically choose pretty postage or stamps with hearts, birds or flowers.
It's always a good idea to order a few more invitations than you think you'll need, Armbruster said. She suggests at least 25 additional invitations. The extras can be used for corrections, last minute additions to the guest list and for keepsakes.
"It can get really expensive if you have to order more invitations after the fact," she said. "By ordering 25 more invitations than you need, you can get them at about a quarter of the price."
A good idea is to ask the person or business you are ordering the invitations from if you can receive the envelopes right away. This way you can begin addressing them, a process that can take weeks.
Be sure to save your mailing list, this will make sending thank you cards easier the last thing a bride wants to do is look up all the addresses of guests a second time.
For more formal weddings, other stationary items may be needed. Place cards, pew cards, announcements, response cards, napkins and thank you notes can all be ordered in the same style and at the same time as the invitations are ordered.
"If the bride and groom are going to serve a meal, I always suggest a response card," Armbruster said. "This will really help the caterer with how much food needs to be prepared."
Personalized invitations can be designed by the bride, artists or friends and offer a less expensive alternative to having them professionally done. This requires more time, so plan ahead.
Remember that invitations and stationary should reflect the personalized style of the bride and groom, and like all other elements of planning a wedding, there's no right or wrong here.
"When we picked out the invitations, we wanted to go simple and pretty like the rest of the wedding," Bride-to-be Marla Linton said. "We used our color theme in the invitations and we didn't pick the most expensive ones. We tried to be budget conscious."
If you do not receive an RSVP within two weeks of the wedding, have a representative of the bride (usually the maid/matron of honor) call guests and ask if they will be attending.
Be sure and make a special note of guests who live out of town and plan to send those guests accommodation information, directions or a map to the wedding location, parking information and transportation schedules.
Try to arrange moderately priced accommodations for guests. Most hotels will give wedding parties a block room rate that is typically lower than their regular room rate.
Gift giving is easier when the bride and groom register at retail stores. Traditionally, the bride registers for gifts she would like for her new home, but today, couples share the gift registry and list items that they both may use. Everything from kitchen appliances and home decorations to garden tools, sporting goods, camping gear and lawn furniture most retail stores have a gift registry
"So far, we've registered at the Kitchen Shop and Wendll's Wondrous Things," Linton said. "I'm planning on going to Sweetwater Trading Co. and Linenworks this weekend as well as Nancy's Cards and Gifts."
Linton said Nadine Daszkiewicz, owner of the Kitchen Shop, was very helpful with the gift registry.
"She made some really good suggestions for items that I know I'll really use," Linton said.
Daszkiewicz said that sometimes brides and grooms feel strange about registering for gifts.
"This doesn't mean you're asking for presents. People, friends and family, are going to buy you something when you get married, that's a fact even if you write 'no gifts please' on the invitation. Why not make it easier for your guests. Save them a lot of time and aggravation by letting them know what you need," she said.
Daszkiewicz also added that registering for gifts is fun, free and easy.
Cindy Chotvacs, owner of Linenworks Bed and Bath, said that too many times her customers are frustrated because they don't know what to buy the couple.
"More people come in to buy a gift for couples who are not registered. They want to buy the couple something something they would like. But if they are not registered, they have no idea what they would want, what colors of linen they want for their home, or even what their bed size is," she said. "Most people like knowing what the bride wants and that they bought a gift she'll like and use."
Chotvacs said she suggests the bride be sure and tell retailers what the color scheme is of her home.
"If you're buying a gift for the home, knowing what colors the couple likes can really help make the gift purchase easier," she said.
Next week: Let them eat cake: Ordering the Wedding Cake and Catering