same-sex wedding checklist – 9-11 months before…

for the 2nd installment of my same-sex wedding checklist…

now’s the time to really start nailing down your vendors. photographer, caterer, band and/or DJ, florist, etc.  once you know what your venue will and won’t allow and will and won’t provide for you, you need to start figuring out who you want to help make your day.

remember, you don’t need ALL of these vendors.  you can ask friends, neighbors, or do it yourself.  whatever works for you.  but this is a list of some of those to consider.  we had friends who helped us out, a lot, but not everyone has a crafty grandma or florist best friend.  and in those cases, you need to find one.

so, for the vendors:

  • caterer: what kind of food do you want? buffet or sit-down? what meal are you aiming for – brunch, lunch, dinner, passed hors-d’oeurves? what will your caterer provide for you?  sometimes they have their own linens and serving dishes, sometimes you need to rent everything – including chafing dishes, pitchers for water, and even coolers.  will the caterer be serving as well?  will they provide water/tea?  get all of the details here.
  • photographer: the biggest piece of advice that i’ve learned from reading so many wedding blogs: choose your photographer based on their own style, not the style that you want them to have.  remember, they are professionals.  this is their career, their art, and most likely a huge part of themselves.  don’t ask them to change for you.  so, review many different photographers work and get an idea of what kinds of pictures they take, then go from there.
  • videographer: not necessary, although a huge bonus.  this is someplace where you could even ask a friend to hold your personal camcorder for you and then find someone later to put it all together for you.  you don’t need to splurge, but i can tell you from experience, you probably won’t remember so much of your wedding ceremony and what was said, so to be able to watch it months later on video is priceless.
  • florist: florists don’t just put together centerpieces – they also can do things like boutonnieres, bouquets, ceremony flowers, headpieces, or corsages.  this can also get pricey.  ways to cut down on florist costs: use the same flower arrangements in your ceremony and at your reception, use seasonal flowers or even silk flowers, have your bridesmaids carry single stems of a flower that matches the flowers in your bouquet or use greenery in the groomsmens’ boutonnieres, or try to do as much as possible yourself or with the aid of family and friends.  also, consider using wholesale flowers or those from a local farm or farmer’s market.
  • band/DJ: do you want one or both?  do you know someone who could just be in charge of your ipod for you?  what kind of music do you want for the ceremony, for dinner, and then for dancing?
  • rental places: chairs, tables, linens, dishes, glasses, lighting, tents, hot air balloons – you name it, you could probably rent it.  what does your venue provide and what do you need to supply?  they may have it all, or you may need to think about the most basic items, such as port-o-potties (we did!).
  • invitations/calligrapher/stationary: in this case, think about if you want all of your paper goods to go together – invitations, table numbers, menus, programs, and thank-you cards.  they certainly don’t have to, but it’s something to think about. do you want to make or design your own wedding invitations?  go green and do on-line invitations? go all out with formal letter-press?
  • cake/desserts: little known fact – sometimes your caterer or venue will charge you an extra fee to cut your cake!  what?! yup.  be sure to ask about that.  and think about alternative desserts such as cupcakes, pies, donuts, an ice cream bar – the possibilities are endless!  and have some fun with this, who wouldn’t enjoy a cake-tasting?
  • transportation: how do you and your partner want to get to and from the ceremony/reception?  do you want to provide transportation for other members of the wedding party?  how about the rest of your guests?  maybe you could think about adding the number to local taxi companies to your directions or even a map of the local public transit system to help cut down on any drinking and driving.
  • officiant: do you want to hire someone to do this for you?  if so, start looking into your options and make sure you meet several times with them to talk about how you want your ceremony to go.  if you live someplace where a friend or family member could apply for a one-day license, start looking into that possibility and make sure they get started on the paperwork required.
  • hairstylist/make-up: do you want to go to a local salon or bring your favorite hairstylist to you (we did!)?  if you are planning a destination wedding or a wedding in a place other than where you usually get your hair/make-up done, you might want to scope out the local salons and have a few trial runs.  guys, this can apply to you as well – you may have some ladies in attendance who want to know where to go the day-of…

you don’t necessarily need to sign contracts with all of these vendors at this time, but at least begin searching and asking questions.  some may book quickly so it’s better to be too early than too late.

other things to consider around this time:

  • engagement party: who doesn’t love a good reason to party?  this could be a great opportunity to get family and friends together to celebrate your engagement.  but this doesn’t need to be a “party”, it could be any sort of gathering that works for you.  you could go all out and plan a guest list and order invitations, or you could just do a backyard bbq.  either way, make sure those you invite to the engagement party are those you plan to eventually invite to your wedding.
  • choose your bridal party/grooms party.  this doesn’t just mean bridesmaids or groomsmen.  this could include a flower girl, ring bearer, readers during the ceremony, ushers, or any other important role in your ceremony.  another great thing about gay weddings is that you don’t have to follow any specified rules, so if you want someone important to you to play a role in your wedding day, create a role for them!  there are so many cute ways out there to ask people to be a part of your day that i could write a whole blog post on them, in fact, i did write about one! but do some research and find what works.
  • start thinking about any specific traditions or customs you want to include.  do you want to have a traditional religious ceremony? do you want to write your own vows? do you want to include a tradition such as a candle lighting ceremony or unity sand? was there something that one of your parents did in their wedding that you want to replicate? this will help you shape your ceremony and help you when talking with your officiant about how the ceremony will proceed.  you can also start thinking about this in terms of your reception.  do you want first dances? cutting the cake? toasts?  all of those items will eventually need to be planned out with your wedding planner, DJ, or band, so you want to start thinking about them early.
  • clothing! now is the time to start to decide on what you might want to wear!  i, personally, love this part.  but i know many gays and lesbians who do not enjoy shopping, especially shopping for fancy dress clothes.  but, if you think you want to wear something formal, you will most likely need to get your order in sooner rather than later to allow time for shipping and alterations.  if you would rather go with something more casual, you probably don’t need to purchase anything now, but you can begin browsing websites, magazines, thrift stores, on-line bridal gown re-sale sites or tux re-sale sites, or other on-line clothing stores to get an idea of what you and your partner are envisioning.  also, for two men or two women, you need to think about if you want your outfits to match, to coordinate, or do you not even care at all…  do you want to see what each other is planning to wear before your wedding day, or keep it a secret until that “first look”?
  • gift registry: there are some great traditional and alternative gift registries out there and now is the time to start playing around with these!  if you want to go traditional, think about the store that has the most practical items you and your partner will use in the future.  it’s a lot of fun to register for every kitchen gadget out there, but are you really going to use that quesadilla maker more than once?  maybe you would rather have several of your guests pool together to help pay for your honeymoon.  or make a donation to the human rights campaign.  you can also create your own registry using sites like wishpot or amazon where you can register for items from multiple on-line retailers in one place.  and yes, those working on gift registries in the stores are very helpful, but they may also “guide” you into registering for things you know you will never need.  think realistically here.  do you need table settings for 16 in both formal and casual place settings?  if you do, great, register for it, if you don’t, don’t feel compelled to add it to your list.  and remember, registries can always be edited before items are purchased so you can change your mind later.  and try not to peek to see what’s been purchased prior to your shower/wedding – it kind of takes the fun out of actually opening the gifts…