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X steps to a simpler wedding | Manolo for the Brides

Keeping it simple

Picture from British Cosmo Bride/Photo by Nick Scott

Unless you’re going to city hall to tie the knot, your wedding will probably be anything but simple. Hosting a party for 50 or 100 or 500 people is always going to be somewhat complicated. Your favorite venue may not be available exactly when you want it. The caterer you adore may not normally offer the vegan options that will placate your mother’s side of the family. And it can sometimes feel like everyone from your bridesmaids to your FFIL can’t make a single decision without consulting you!


The good news is that while weddings are almost always chaotic, you can take steps to make yours a little less so. Here are a few tips that may help you stay sane as you walk boldly toward wifehood (or husbandhood, for that matter).

Pay your own way
Taking gifts of matrimonial money from loved ones often means taking their input under consideration as well. Just like too many cooks ruin the soup, too many meddling relatives can ruin a wedding. Footing the bill yourself means that you can do your own thing without feeling an ounce of guilt. Of course, you should say no nicely, but by all means feel free to say no!

Don’t DIY
Who hasn’t considered sitting down and whipping up two hundred handmade botanical paper invitations? But before you get your flower press out, consider this: The weeks and months between “I will” and “I do” fly by in the blink of an eye. What seems totally doable now may not seem as doable when you have a ton of other to-dos on your plate. Pros are your friends!

Choose a coordinator
I’m not saying you have to spend big bucks on a professional day-of coordinator by any means. A responsible friend or relative with a comprehensive timeline can ensure that you don’t spend your wedding day overseeing the operations of the caterer, the band, the baker, and the florist while simultaneously getting ready and avoiding your future spouse’s prying eyes. Not having to keep track of everything means less to worry about.

Ditch the favors
My informal poll revealed that almost all of your guests will prefer edible favors, but I can guarantee you no one will bat an eyelash if you do away with the bombonieres altogether. It’s one less expense and one less thing to obsess over.

Opt for easy outfits
As tempting as it is to spring for a huge bead-encrusted, poufy gown or a traditional morning dress ensemble, remember that you’re probably only going to wear your wedding day duds once. Choose comfortable clothing that is both easy to put on aaaand easy on your budget. There are plenty of gowns and suits out there that are classically attractive and quite formal. Remember, elegance doesn’t always require embellishment.

Buy online
Shopping online for invites, ceremony accessories, and even your florals is like walking into the world’s biggest superstore and being told that every price you see is negotiable. If you’re not married *rimshot* to the idea of going shopping with mom and your MOH, you can save yourself a ton or time and money. Naturally, I must plug my book here: iDo lists some of the best wedding vendor and retail sites out there!

Nix the mega-menu
No one has ever starved to death because they weren’t fond of the reception meal, so don’t think you have to satisfy every tummy in attendance. Some people don’t like beef, fish, or the vegetarian dish…so let them eat cake! Limit your menu options to a few dishes, and don’t worry about impressing anyone with haute cuisine. People’s favorite dishes typically involve basic comfort foods, so you really can’t go wrong with something as basic as a Thanksgiving dinner. On the other hand, if you know you’ll have lots of vegetarians in attendance, lose the meat altogether and serve something nearly everyone will enjoy, like a choice of pasta dishes.

Obviously there are hundreds of other ways you can simplify your wedding, from holding it on a Sunday morning — mmmm, brunch — to limiting the number of attendants to cutting the guest list. A reception can be simple AND chic, so don’t think that cutting down on the chaos has to mean serving sloppy joes and Coors Light. Simplifying is about making things easier on you and your spouse-to-be, not going for bare bones broke on the simplicity scale.

Now that I’ve had my say, I’d love to hear how those of you who have planned weddings or are already married have kept things simple!

9 Responses to “Keeping it simple”

  1. Wendy August 4, 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    We kept things simple by having a small wedding party: my sister and his three brothers. No wedding party at all is also a great option. I think it really cuts down on the chaos because you have fewer people asking you what their responsibilities are, what they should be wearing, and when and where they need to be. It also made it a lot easier to pick out bridesmaid attire, because I only had to worry about what would look good on one person, instead of having to choose something that would work on 5 different body types and colorings.

  2. Kira August 4, 2008 at 2:27 pm #

    My two best decisions that kept things simple(r):
    – No seating arrangement. Somehow everyone ended up finding a seat just fine. Plus it also contributed to people mingling without worrying about taking someone else’s place. Also at the window: escort cards, table numbers, place cards, etc.

    – Limiting the alcohol selection to beer and wine. We selected two beers (a “light” and an amber), a white wine, and a red wine. Again, no one seemed to mind a bit.

  3. Audrey August 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm #

    I sometimes think our reception was the simplest thing, but it was so relaxing and I had such fun that it just seems perfect. We used a catering service provided by a local grocery store to provide the various platters and just set up a buffet style picnic table of sandwiches and fruits/veggies, etc. There were no seating arrangements and we actually didn’t have any formal things like first dances, organized speeches, announcements, etc. We just showed up last and mingled. Even though we told him he didn’t have to, our Best Man surprised us with a lovely speech. We didn’t even have music or dancing, we were supposed to have music but we totally forgot about it and passed the time playing croquet in the grass.

    Of course my ILs ended up providing various wines and appetizers to nibble on before we arrived, we hadn’t planned on any adult beverages given the time of day and had so much food left over that we ended up donating half of it to a local food shelter, but it was their house so who’s going to argue?

  4. Evie August 4, 2008 at 7:23 pm #

    I love the idea of cocktail or dessert-and-champagne receptions; they really simplify everything, and you can still go as fancy or casual as you want.

    We’re doing an afternoon reception at a family member’s lakeside home, and serving a selection of appetizers and cupcakes with wine, beer, and sparkling cider. Fewer linens, tables, and tableware to rent, less money spent on food and alcohol, and the cocktail atmosphere allows everyone to mingle and puts less pressure on the hosts to be the center of attention. We’ve only had one person complain that we’re not having a traditional sit down dinner, and she’d find something to complain about no matter what 😉

  5. Claire August 4, 2008 at 7:55 pm #

    I don’t care if it’s posed: that is one of the cutest wedding pictures ever. Maybe because her shoes are so awesome, I don’t know, but it suddenly makes me reconsider the whole bridal gown thing.

    Good tips, too. I’ve noticed at the caterer I work for: when the wedding itself is simpler, the bride and groom always seem to end up spending more time with family and friends. That’s what makes warm fuzzy memories, not the five-course meal.

    …Of course, I have a selfish interest: simpler weddings are easier for the caterer, too. :)

  6. Meg August 4, 2008 at 9:31 pm #

    We did it in Vegas, paid for it ourselves. Kept it fairly simple by 1) keeping the wedding small — one attendant each, only 25 people in attendance total. (Family and our attendants who are close friends), 2) doing as much we could ourselves — printed out invites, programs, made centerpieces (with only two tables, that was easy), we did splurge on the cost of the favors (personalized playing cards), but could have downgraded or skipped those 3) not upgrading anything — could have spent a lot more on fancier flowers, etc, but went with the basics of what our package provided, 4) family style wedding dinner w/champagne toast only — we had our choice of a few things for each course, so we could be certain there was a non-beef option for the one person who needed it and no shellfish for my FIL (allergies), and 5) we had set up our rehearsal dinner to be no-host, but my in-laws surprised us and paid. It was small, but it was intimate and everyone who attended has raved.

  7. TeleriB August 5, 2008 at 2:18 pm #

    * Morning ceremony, brunch reception catered by local university

    * Guest list < 100

    * Used basic folding chairs and tables that came with rental site. No one cared that the chairs weren’t covered in fabric. Caterer had tablecloths, etc.

    * Leveraged the relatives and friends with spectacular talent and a desire to help. The graphic artist SIL did the invites and took our photos; the homebrewers provided the fabulous beer and wine. Heck, the SIL even made labels for the wine bottles that matched the invites!

    * Burned our own CDs and put them all into a multi-CD player. More music than we could listen to, our geek music favorites, no risk of “Electric Slide.”

    * Centerpieces were glass bowls with floating candles from Oriental Trading Co. Cheap, easy, pretty.

    * Table cards were also favors – $1 picture frames from the craft store (actualy slightly more expensive frames on sale) with guest’s name and table number printed on paper, cut out, and put into the frame

    * Friends very experienced with large event set-up/tear down cleaned the rental site, broke down tables, chairs, etc., without even being asked.

    * Main dessert was catered chocolate fountain. Cake was for cutting only, just a Duncan Hines box mix with jar frosting I made the night before. We put some washed fall leaves from the front yard on it to decorate.

    * Hair down, simple DIY makeup, simple dress, flats

    * Only flowers were bouquets and corsages.

    On the other hand, we still don’t have our album put together and we’re coming up on a three-year anniversary.

  8. Matt August 5, 2008 at 2:48 pm #

    These are all some great tips and advice for keeping it simple. I have seen so many situations that could have been so easily avoided if the wedding had just incorporated some simplicity and took it back a notch.

    DC Bridal Specialist
    Mervis Diamond Importers

  9. HW August 5, 2008 at 5:54 pm #

    Definitely keep it simple. Spend less money…and the guests have a more enjoyable time.