Wedding Guests

A Few Bits of Randomness

by Melissa on May 15, 2012

A few things I realize I never shared with you all about our wedding, but none of which really warrant their own full post!

Our Save the Date

We designed this ourselves and used one of the photos from our engagement session. A perfect infusion of fun and geek.

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Our Favors

We toyed with a lot of ideas for favors, but ultimately settled on customized flashlights ordered from Ebay. Our campground wedding venue had virtually no lighting outside the buildings and pavilion, so we wanted to make sure guests could find their way around and back to their cars when it was time to leave. Truly practical! And no DIY time consuming-ness necessary! Oh, and the kiddos got glow necklaces, bracelets, and glow sticks.

We could’ve opted for a slightly cheaper flashlight, but those ones used watch batteries instead of AAA’s. We wanted folks to be able to use their flashlights forever, and who actually changes things with watch batteries? We figured folks would use things more if they could just swap out AAA batteries when they needed them! Even today, more than six months after our wedding, our guests still tell us they use their flashlights!

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Our Programs

Also self-designed, and quite fun if I do say so myself!

Front

Print

Back

 

Our Thank You Cards

Keeping with our photo theme, much like our invitations, we created these thank you cards in iPhoto. Rockin’

Cover

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Inside

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Simple, clean, and easy. Oh, and only about $1.49 each (including the envelopes!)

 

One of the first things that gave our day-of-coordinator a near heart attack was that our Save-the-Dates didn’t match our “color scheme” (whatever that was anyway. Fall colors with sapphire blue). And then that our invitations didn’t match our invitations.

So what! Seeing everything together here, I think everything went together beautifully, even if they didn’t “match.”

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If you have RSVPed “Yes” for a wedding, there are very, very few reasons for not coming.

Those reasons include your death, the death of a loved one, or a serious accident or illness you or a loved one experienced. “Having to work last minute” is not a valid excuse. But if you do, for whatever reason, decide that the wedding that you RSVPed to is no longer a priority, the bride or groom had better have a text or e-mail or voicemail from you apologizing profusely. I’m still annoyed with one of my friends who RSVPed but never came and never gave any sort of explanation. My feelings won’t be hurt if you RSVP “No.” But if you RSVP “Yes,” and then don’t come, grudges will be held.

Don’t write checks in bride’s married name.

If you decide to give a check to the bride and groom as a wedding gift, please do not write the check in the bride’s “married” name. The bride’s last name does not magically change simply because vows were exchanged. There’s waiting for the official copy of the marriage certificate from the county. Then there’s a trip to the social security office involved. Then a trip to the DMV. Then paperwork that has to be submitted to all the bride’s bank accounts. I think for even the most proactive bride, this will take at least three weeks, and I’m guessing that most couples will want to cash their checks before that. And of course, all this is assuming that the bride wants to change her name. So, pick one name (bride’s maiden name or groom’s name), write the check in that name, and then just write in the memo line or something both of their names. I had to give an extra explanation at the bank any time I tried to cash a check written to my first name + Ken’s last name. Luckily we have a joint account, so at least one name matched. But I’m sure if I tried to cash that same check on the account that was just in my name, they wouldn’t have let me cash it.

Write a thoughtful note in your card

I’m not a terribly sentimental person, but I did smile a bit more at the wedding cards that included lovely, personalized notes. It doesn’t have to be an essay or anything, but just some kind words or a favorite memory of the bride or groom or whatever. Anything other than just signing your name. This is a lesson learned for me going forward too. Typically I always just sign a card and put it in an envelope. I now have a greater appreciation for a nice thoughtful note!

Think twice about your gift

Okay, okay. I know that ETIQUETTE says that guests can buy the couple whatever they think is useful, regardless of whether it’s on your registry. And, maybe I’m a shitty person, but registry gifts, cash, checks, or gift cards are really the only acceptable gifts. Anything else is a HUGE annoyance. The bride and groom have to write a phony thank you card thanking you for something they don’t even like, and have to waste their time trying to return or sell a gift they did not want. Cash, check, or gift card for a store that they registered at. That’s it.

Don’t call them or ask them to hang out in the days before or after their wedding

Even if you’re coming from out of town. Especially don’t ask them to pick you up from the airport. No offense, they just won’t be able to focus on hanging out. Instead, they’ll be focusing on all those wedding tasks hanging over their heads!

 

If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to being a super wedding guest! What else am I missing here?

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Our Wedding Website

by Melissa on March 26, 2012

Creating a wedding website was one of the first wedding-related projects I undertook. Ken is a web developer and would cringe any time we would receive a wedding invitation that included a 40-character long URL to their wedding website hosted at The Knot, so I knew that we’d have to have our own domain.

But, right after out engagement, he told me that he had already registered a personalized domain just for our wedding. How sweet! But now, it was up to me to actually create the site.

I wanted something minimalist and that didn’t require a whole lot of coding knowledge because, while I knew that I could ask Ken any time I had a question, I didn’t want to bother him with it.

I installed WordPress on our customized domain and then found a theme called Adventure that I really liked after probably WAY too much searching. Our website originally included six pages:

  • Home Page – Just consisted of a menu bar and a slideshow of images of the two of us
  • The Engagement – The story of how we got engaged
  • Wedding Details – This page included information about our venue, the date and time of the ceremony and reception, attire suggestions, directions, and information on accommodations and hotel room blocks. We also included a brief story about our wedding venue hunt and how we chose Prince William Forest Park.
  • About Us – Details about ourselves like where we work, where we went to college, and what our hobbies are. This was good so that each side of the family could learn more about us!
  • Registries – Contained links to our registries
  • Contact Information – Our e-mail addresses and a link to our wedding Facebook group (more on our Facebook group in a future post)!

Subsequently, we added two additional pages

  • RSVP Here! – Since we provided an online RSVP option for our guests
  • Wedding Photos – After the wedding, we provided links to all our wedding photos on our website. Then mentioned in our wedding thank you cards that folks could check out our site and view all the photos. (Although we had put all our photos on Facebook, there are a considerable number of folks not on Facebook who hadn’t seen them).

Here’s what our homepage looks like:

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The large photo changes every 3 seconds (in every browser except IE. IE users only see this photo). We had 38 photos of ourselves that would rotate through on the page.For instance, here’s another photo:

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There you have it!

I really, really loved the simplicity of our wedding website. I installed Google Analytics code on the site, and so I could see how many of our guests actually checked the website after we sent out our Save-the-Dates. It was great!

What did you all do for your wedding website?

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One thing I’ve learned while blogging is that people get themselves worked up over the strangest things. One of the most popular posts here at SuperNoVABride is "Asking your guests not to take wedding photos? Are you crazy?" that I wrote in response to a few blog posts I had read. Talk about controversial!

A recent commenter, who agreed that guests should be allowed to take pictures at weddings, pointed out something that was also an issue at our wedding.

So, I’m about to backpedal a little bit. I do have one exception to my argument that you should allow guests to take photos at your wedding.

Do not allow guests to take photos during formal portraits. For some couples, this won’t be an issue. They’re whisked off to a different location to have their portraits taken in between the wedding and the ceremony. While we had our own bride and groom portraits taken before the wedding ceremony, we set aside about 15 minutes after the ceremony to take family portraits.

The location where we had our portraits taken was set back about 20 feet from the path that guided guests from the ceremony location to the reception location. A few overly eager family members tried to take their own photographs while the professional photographers were taking theirs.

Why was this problematic? Well, it only mostly happened with photos with the ring bearer and flower girl, was that they were getting a bit thrown off by all the different cameras and ended up sometimes looking into the wrong camera. In fact, this even prompted our photographer to say in a playful voice, "Hey, look at my camera, don’t look at them," while trying to get the attention of our two-year old flower girl.

So there. I admit there is an exception to my sweeping statement that you should never forbid your guests from taking photographs.

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An absolutely amazing photographer.

I looked long and hard for a great photographer. And we found one. And I am still on an absolute high after receiving our wedding photos about two weeks ago. They are stunning.

An amazing photographer can make even a simple, inexpensive wedding look like a million bucks. Conversely, if you spend all your money on food, decor, a wedding dress, etc., and then skimp on a photographer, your wedding can look cheap, regardless of how much money you spent to make it look amazing.

Our photographer was our biggest wedding expense of $3210 – more than we spent on food, and more than we spent on our venue. And now, we have these incredible photos to last us a lifetime. Much, much longer than any food or decoration!

Something unique and fun

For us, this expense was board games. Yes, we had board games at our wedding. Why? Well, a few reasons. 1) Prior to taking dance lessons, Ken and I never liked to dance. That made weddings, especially ones where we didn’t know many people, very awkward for us when we were guests. We wanted to make sure everyone had fun at our wedding, even if a guest didn’t like to dance or didn’t know anyone else at the wedding! 2) Of the 147 people that RSVPed to our wedding, 33 were kids! We wanted to make sure they had fun at the wedding too! So, we bought about $300 in board games, decks of cards, and poker sets. We also had LED frisbees and small Nerf footballs. (We wanted to rent a moonbounce too, but our venue wouldn’t allow it). As I look through our wedding photos, I practically cry with joy seeing how much fun people were having playing those games. Grownups, kids, teenagers … they were all having a blast playing games. And seriously, how often do you see a teenager having fun at a wedding? This was a great expense, and made the wedding memorable for our guests! 

So, pick something fun and unique and trust me, it will be a worthwhile expense!

A few, high-impact decor pieces.

As brides, we tend to get weighed down with the “details.” And how can we help it. All those shots of “details” on Style Me Pretty and in Martha Stewart Weddings! But … details are damn expensive! So, instead of individually wrapping all your silverware sets with twine, or tracking down the best prices on striped straws to and mason jars for your signature lemonade cocktail, just focus on a few big impact decorations. Perhaps huge pieces of muslin fabric draping your ceiling. Or an amazing lighting scheme. Focus on the big picture items, and the details won’t matter!

 

What was your most important expense for your wedding?

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Our Wedding Welcome Bags (on the cheap!)

by Melissa on January 9, 2012

Several months before our wedding, I gave an overview of what I intended to include in our wedding welcome bags. I’m pleased to report that our wedding welcome bags were a success at our November 11 wedding.

In that previous post, I mentioned that 1) I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on the contents of the bag (i.e., no bottles of wine or $4.50 pieces of chocolate shaped like the Washington Monument). But, I did want to include some useful, inexpensive (or free!) contents. Also, as silly as it may sound, it was very important to me that the bag itself be reusable. Not necessarily for environmental reasons (although that is a big bonus), but because I knew folks would probably throw away the contents of the bag eventually, but at least the bag itself would remain useful. Therefore, I didn’t want to use a paper gift bag.

The Bag

So, I purchased 20 of these bags in royal blue from Cheap Totes for $1.49 each. We had blocked off 20 hotel rooms, so I assumed that that would be a safe estimate for the wedding welcome bags. (Total: $40.79, including shipping)

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Brochures and Attraction Information

I picked up brochures from the Fairfax County Visitor Center storefront in Tysons Corner Mall. Tracking down brochures was more difficult than I anticipated. I thought I would be able to pick some up at our local AAA office, or at DC hotels with brochure kiosks. But apparently our AAA doesn’t carry brochures for local attractions, and those brochure kiosks are too pedestrian for fancy DC hotels or something.

But, randomly, one day when Ken and I were at Tysons Corner mall shopping for suspenders to go with his suit, we tripped over a nice storefront operated by Fairfax County. The lady in there was super helpful, and we picked up 20 brochures each of several “lesser known” DC attractions, like Mt. Vernon and Old Town Alexandria.

Local Maps

Yes, I realize that maps are a bit old-fashioned nowadays, but I still thought they would be a nice touch. I used my AAA membership to get 20 maps of the DC Metropolitan area, with a focus on Prince William County (where our wedding was being held), a street map of downtown Washington, DC, and a free local magazine called DC Metro Mag. All free!  I also picked up some pocket metro maps (available at any metro station).

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Personalized information sheets

This was probably the longest task of the welcome bag process. I created a “Guest information sheet,” that included:

  • Directions from the hotel to attractions Ken and I recommended
  • A list of nearby eateries and their addresses
  • A list of nearby stores, like Walmart, the Supermarket, and CVS and their addresses
  • Directions from the hotel to the wedding venue

I printed these out, double sided, just on regular paper. I realize that a lot of folks put a lot of time and effort into making theirs look pretty, but I just went with a simple table layout, printed it, and voila!

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Snacks

I purchased a box of 30 snack-size bags of chips from Costco for $9.99, a case of water for $6.99, and a huge bag of Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses (separated into small plastic baggies of about 8-10 kisses each) for $6.99. (Total: $23.97)

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Note and Tag

I wrote a very quick note using some fun gift tags I already had around the house (purchased from an Etsy seller years ago). Then I tied the note tags around the bag’s handle.

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Assembling the bags

This was super easy, and took less than an hour. I set up a mini assembly line on our dining room table, and laid out the brochures, DC Metro Magazine, and Guest Information Sheets (forgive the crappy cell phone picture below. Apparently I didn’t take a real photo with my real camera of the actual assembly line)

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First, I put the brochures, DC Street Map, DC Metro Map, and Guest Information Sheet in blue folders that I purchased from Amazon.

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Then I put the folder in the bag, followed by DC Metro Magazine and a Fairfax County Tourism Booklet.

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Then I added the snacks to the bag.

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And voila! We had 20 welcome bags ready to be dropped off at the hotel. This task was completed in early October, more than a month before the wedding, so wedding welcome bags are definitely something you can check off your to-do list far in advance!

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Total cost: $64.76. Not too shabby!

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Wedding Guests and Online RSVPs

by Melissa on October 17, 2011

We designed our own invitations and RSVP postcards. The full invitation reveal for the blog will come after the wedding, but to give a hint, I’ll need to record a video of my invitations for you all to get the full effect.  But, here’s the front of our RSVP postcard, just to give a taste:
Our DIY RSVP postcard
In addition to our RSVP postcards, we offered our guests an online RSVP option. I had read on a few wedding advice sites that online RSVPs aren’t a good idea. 

  • To state the obvious, not everyone is comfortable using technology or even has the technology to reply online
  • Using a mixed online RSVP / paper RSVP is just too complicated

But, we decided to give it a whirl. Our RSVP postcards included the following RSVP options:

  1. Gladly Attend
  2. Regretfully Decline
  3. This postcard is so 20th century. I’ll RSVP online at www.[InsertOurWeddingWebsiteHere].com

We simply included an “RSVP Here!” page on our website. On that page, we embedded a Google Form that we created. Our Google Form contained the following fields:

  1. Name
  2. Can you attend? (Y/N)
  3. Names of Adults Attending (Large text box)
  4. How many Children Attending (Small text box)
  5. Names and ages of Children Attending (Large text box)
  6. Your e-mail address (small text box). in case we need to send last minute updates!
  7. Notes (large text box)

Out of the 44 RSVPs we received thus far (for a total of 122 people, or 42% of all the people that we’ve invited), 20 of those RSVPs were submitted online!  That’s 45%. I think that’s a damn good online RSVP rate. And it’s not demographically predictable. We’ve had folks in their 60s RSVP online and folks in their 20s mail in their RSVP.

As an added bonus, we also use the RSVP form ourselves. When we receive an RSVP in the mail, we enter the information right away into the online form. Then we just have one spreadsheet to track all the RSVPs! And, I’d just like to point out that Ken has taken the lead on tracking the RSVPs and is doing a great job.

I’m so lucky to have an involved groom!

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I’ve seen quite a few mentions on blog posts and on Twitter in the past few months about couples  asking guests not to take photographs at their wedding.  Why?  Well, a few reasons.  First, professional photographers claim they can no longer capture emotion on guests’ faces because guests’ faces are either blankly staring at an LCD screen, or their head is looking down at the LCD screen to inspect the photo they just took.  And the lights from guests’ cameras can affect the photographs that the professional takes.

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Here goes.  Asking guests not to take photographs at your wedding, in my opinion, is not only a terrible idea, but insanely rude.  Did you ever stop to think that guests want to capture their own memories of your day?  From their own perspective?

I mentioned a few months ago that we actually purchased ten digital cameras to have on hand for our guests at the wedding because we want all of them to take pictures.  My fiancé and I are huge photography fans (albeit amateurs), and we love photos.  The more photos, the merrier!  In fact, I get really disappointed when I’m not allowed to take pictures.  I almost walked right out of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona last year  when I found out I couldn’t take pictures inside.  If I can’t take pictures, what’s the point?  So, I would have a similar reaction if someone told me I couldn’t take pictures at their wedding.  (*side note* Of course I did end up going through the Picasso Museum to see the art, but I’m still pissed that I couldn’t take pictures)

Contrary to popular belief, your wedding is not just about you.  It’s also about your guests.  As Meg from A Practical Wedding says “Your wedding day is not just your day, it’s the day of everyone who loves you.”  It’s about thanking them for being there to celebrate your big day.  And, if they bring their camera, it’s because they want memories of being there with you to celebrate!

And no, it’s not the same if you promise your guests that you’ll send them the link to your wedding photos.  For those of us that love taking pictures, we want the photos to be from our perspectives, not someone else’s perspective.  How we experienced the wedding, or whatever event, not how someone else experienced or viewed it.

So, you don’t want your wedding photos to be full of your guests taking their own wedding photos?  Get over it!  Photography evolves continuously.  If you got married 75 years ago, you maybe would have one formal wedding portrait, if you were lucky.  If you got married 40 years ago, your wedding photos would probably be yellowed and discolored from age and the poor color processing that was used at the time.  Until very recently “photojournalistic” style wedding photography was rare, so your pictures would have consisted of formal, posed photos.  So, with a few exceptions, there wasn’t much “capturing emotion” in those photos either.  During your father daughter dance, you were told to turn and smile for the camera during the dance.  Not much emotion in that!

And until very recently, you were lucky to end up with any more than, say, 100 or so photos (like from my sister’s wedding in 1997), because professional photographers were much more careful and selective about the shots they took because film and was very expensive.  And getting prints of your wedding was also very expensive.  Be thankful, not resentful, that you have so many people taking photos on your wedding day!

So, what I have to say is, get over it.  You should feel lucky that you have so many people who want  to capture memories of your big day.  Professionals and non-professionals.

As a final anecdotal note, I question how much of a problem this really is.  At the last two weddings I attended, sure, there were folks taking pictures.  But maybe only about 10% of the guests.  There are plenty of others who will be there for your professional photographer to capture their emotions.

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A lot of folks from my family’s side will be coming to Washington, DC  from out of town and staying in Canvas Bags Wedding Welcome Bagshotels, so I really like the idea of a welcome bag to be waiting for them at the hotel room when they arrive.  I think it’s a nice way to demonstrate our appreciation for traveling to celebrate our wedding day.

But, I’ve been trying to figure out what to include in it.  Here are some initial thoughts.

  • Road Map of Metropolitan DC Area – I can get these free from the local AAA office since I’m a member.  I realize road maps are a bit old-fashioned at this point, but it’s a nice touch!
  • Printed Driving Directions from the hotel to locations they might want to visit
  • Lots of brochures (DC, Northern Virginia, etc.) – These would be free from the local tourism offices.
  • Metro Map – including what stops to use for key landmarks and a list of metro fares
  • List of nearby restaurants and their price ranges
  • List of contact information in case they get lost on the way to the wedding.  I’m not sure who’s contact information I would provide though.
  • A reminder of the wedding day events and start time!
  • A highlights page, pointing out some things they may want to check out in the DC area, going beyond the basics of the National Mall, including pointing out lesser-known areas they may want to visit, such as Old Town Alexandria, Mt. Vernon, etc.
  • Some sort of welcome snack, TBD. Maybe a small baggie of variety snack-size candy bars, a small bag of chips, and an apple or orange.  I realize there are a lot of “local” type candies you can buy, but I don’t want to spend that much.  For instance, there are candies in the shape of like the White House and Washington Monument, but they’re close to $4.00 each!  Although I do feel a little bad saying that considering the fact that the guests have to spend money to get to the wedding.
  • One or two bottles of water
  • A quick thank you note telling our guests that we’re excited they could come and can’t wait to see them at the wedding.  Maybe this could just be a gift-tag type note attached to the welcome bag handle

All of the paper items could go in an inexpensive folder.  I think I would print things out on heavier cardstock paper so that it would look a little nicer

And then we would need just a plain canvas bag to put everything in.   Most of the items would be fee, but I’d have to figure out the average per-bag cost if we included some candy, fruit, and bottled water, plus the cost of folders and cardstock.

What do you think?  Anything I’m missing?

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