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Tips to planning a wedding

Wedding season is just around the corner, and many couples are busy making plans for their spring and summer weddings.

Since the cost of an average wedding is between $10,000 and $15,000, engaged couples and their families need to make some wise business decisions as they are planning.

Weddings involve many business transactions including wedding attire, invitations, flowers, photography, catering, music, facilities, transportation and travel packages. Every bride and groom wants their wedding to be perfect and with proper planning it can be.

Here are a few suggestions to help prevent problems before, during and after your wedding:

Decide what type wedding you want (large or small, formal or informal), and time of year. Begin planning as far ahead as possible. A big wedding may take a year to plan. Many books and magazines are available that offer ideas as well as checklists and timetables.

Once you have made basic decisions, get your date placed on the church's calendar, and book a caterer and a photographer. Brides, be aware that in most cases, it takes a minimum of 3 months to get your wedding dress delivered unless you are fortunate enough to buy one off the rack.

Research the businesses you are considering working with. Talk with other couples to learn about their experiences with them.

Review samples of work and services before booking. If you will be using a band or D.J. attend one of their performances. Look at photo albums and videotapes done for other couples. Get descriptions of, or better yet, try to sample menu items for the rehearsal dinner and the reception. Check out samples of flower arrangements. Most cake decorators have a picture portfolio of cakes they've done. Ask them to bake a small sample of the cake recipe they will use so you can sample it.

Get a written contract for everything. The various contracts should state exactly what is included and not included in the price. For example, will the caterer provide servers, dinnerware, flatware, and linens? Will the reception hall have plenty of tables and chairs? Will they provide someone to set them up? Does the price of the photos include engagement pictures, an album or proofs? Are the names of the band members and songs included in the contract? Does the contract for the florist and the cake caterer include delivery and set-up times?

Be particularly clear about all policies and penalties for canceling or changing your plans or orders.

Make sure your caterer and florist have a copy of church policies for the sanctuary and/or reception hall. Some churches don't allow regular candles, and some are very strict about the types of food or punch that may be served. The same is true for music. Some churches have strict rules about the type of music sung or played in a service.

Confirm all services that you've booked one or two weeks prior to the event. You don't want any unpleasant surprises on your wedding day.