Whether you’re just engaged or soon-to-be-wed, there is no need to get stressed about prenuptial problems. Wedding coordinator Sarah Davis has helped hundred of couples plan their perfect wedding day. Here, she addresses some of the most common wedding etiquette dilemmas.
Seating: The seating plan often turns into one of the biggest logistical juggling acts of the wedding. At a traditional wedding, where the parents of the bride and groom are still married, then the top table doesn't generally pose a problem. But, if parents are divorced and remarried, it can seem impossible to keep everyone happy.
Tricky family politics can sometimes create a difficult atmosphere. In these instances there are always other options, you can for example forget the idea of a ‘top' table - each of the parents can be allocated their own table with their relatives, leaving the bride and groom to sit on a sweetheart table and enjoy each other’s company during their first meal as man and wife.
It's much better to be able to sit comfortably at the reception and see relaxed family and friends having fun. A sweetheart table also works well if one side has more family than the other, so it doesn’t look uneven, and if your party is small it increases the numbers of tables in the room.
Numbers: Planning your wedding guest list can be difficult and it is important to sit down as a couple and decide on your shared vision. Do you want a small affair involving just very close family and friends, or are you keen to gather as many of your nearest and dearest together as possible? Do you want to invite people for the whole day or will you have a separate guest list for the evening reception? Create a draft guest list with all those people who you definitely want to invite. Once you have done this you can work out which package will best suit your requirements.
We have something for every bridal party here at Shottle – the estate package is perfect for large weddings: we can stage the service in the orangery and the evening party in the marquee. Or smaller, intimate, weddings work beautifully in the lounge during the day and the orangery in the evening. Unlike many Derbyshire wedding venues there is no need to worry about numbers here at Shottle Hall - we can almost always accommodate any size wedding party.
Cost: It is wise to set a budget for your wedding to stop your costs spiralling out of control. But, if you’re on a tight budget you may want to think carefully about the time of year you choose for celebrating your big day. Mid-week weddings, or dates out of season, are usually significantly cheaper than a Saturday in August.
Another great way to reduce the cost is to have a small intimate wedding ceremony and breakfast and invite a greater number of guests to join you in the evening.
We are always happy to offer couples ideas to suit their theme and not all of them have to break the bank. We have seen some fantastic ideas where couples have made their own favours, table plans and finishing touches to make their day unique.
Children: For every bride who coos over flower girls and toddlers in tuxes, there's another who prefers not to have children sliding across the dancefloor on their knees. Although neither is right or wrong, and no matter where you are on the love them to leave them spectrum, letting people know your decision requires a certain degree of decorum.
Unlike decisions about menus or music, those related to children should be handled early on to allow parents to make alternative arrangements if required. But, many people are opting to provide a wedding crèche service which takes care of the younger guests, while the grown-ups enjoy their day too. Some couples employ staff from their child’s nursery for the day, or we can recommend professional childcare providers.
Making an effort to entertain the children attending your ceremony and reception can go a long way with your guests too. If you don’t hire help, you could fill children's activities boxes with colouring books, small toys or even games to keep them entertained and out of trouble.
However, we always advise couples that they should not be frightened to say ‘no children’: it is their special day and no one else’s. In actual fact, many parents welcome the opportunity to relax and enjoy a day away from their little ones.
Menu: The wedding menu can take many forms, from a simple self-service buffet to an elaborate five course meal served by our waiting staff. We offer individually-priced dishes, which allow you to create your very own wedding breakfast, with something special for all tastes, including exciting vegetarian options and set children’s meals.
But many couples panic that they are not choosing a menu which will suit everyone’s tastes. The best way round this is to tell people on the invitations what the menu is and ask about dietary requirements - we will always try to accommodate them, as well as provide vegetarian options.
Remember though, it is your wedding and you should order a meal you are going to love. We can also organise a tasting evening to help you decide.
An over-enthusiastic mother/mother-in-law-to-be: Difficult family situations and interfering mothers can add pressure to an already tricky process, and the run-up to your dream day can become stressful. It helps if you assign both mothers a particular job — this might be asking them to help with the favours, or to look into transport options. If you let them feel involved and a part of the process, you should be able to restrain the meddling!
Bridesmaids: While bridal parties can range from a single bridesmaid or maid of honor to more than a dozen attendants, some wedding experts say that a good rule of thumb is to have one groomsman and one corresponding bridesmaid for every 50 guests. Remember, however that this is your day and you can have as many people as part of the Bridal party as suits you, anything goes – we’ve had wedding parties here with 10 bridesmaids, and often there is more than one best man!
But if you are worried about offending anyone, bear in mind there are plenty of other roles good friends can play if they don't make the cut – perhaps you can invite them to do a reading or distribute the order of service programs.
Music and first dance: This is an area a lot of couples struggle with. When it comes to picking music to walk down the aisle to it is important to think about the meaning of the words particularly for a civil ceremony as there can’t be any religious connotations to readings or music used. Timings are important too; it doesn’t take very long to walk down the aisle, so don’t pick something with a really long intro.
Many couples panic about doing a first dance, but again there are ways to avoid it being an awkward - and painfully long - shuffle. Some couples opt to take dancing lessons so that they have a routine to follow, or at least they don’t tread on each other’s toes. Others arrange for their DJ to invite parents, bridesmaids and ushers on to the dance floor to join them as soon as possible.
Recently, we had a couple who organised a flashmob-style routine with ushers and best men wearing fancy dress and dancing to the YMCA! No one expected that and it was a great fun way to get the evening party started!
Suppliers: You are free to use whichever suppliers you prefer, but if you are worried about picking people who won’t let you down we can certainly make recommendations. Shottle Hall is a member of the WVSA –an organisation designed to uphold standards across the industry. All our recommended suppliers belong to this organisation and so you have assurance that they operate to the highest standards.
Wedding planner: Some brides wonder if they need to employ the services of a wedding planner. However, we find most brides love planning their wedding down to the very last detail, although not everyone has the time. Every Shottle Hall couple is allocated one of three wedding coordinators at their initial planning meeting and they work with you right up to – and including - the big day itself, so there is always someone from Shottle to support you, from I do to the last dance.
Gift list: Times have changed and many couples have already set up home before they get married, so the idea of asking for a new kettle or an iron is outdated. Asking for money as your gift list is now quite routine, but some couples worry that older guests may be offended.
If you are concerned about this, it helps to make your guests feel as if they are giving money to a particular cause, such as your honeymoon.
Many travel agents have the option for guests to securely transfer money towards their holiday of a lifetime. Some companies even offer specific elements of the holiday as a gift, such as a night's hotel accommodation, car hire, transfers, a meal in a specific restaurant, diving expenses, ski passes etc.
On the other hand, you can explain that you are saving up for something specific, for example a new kitchen, house extension etc. Just make sure you give a reassurance that the money will be spent wisely.
These are just a few wedding day dilemmas that couples face when planning their special day, and a few hints and tips to help. Just remember, if you have any questions or dilemmas of your own just ask us - there’s no such thing as a silly question and we have seen so many great ideas and experiences that we can share with you.