Wedding Planner Chat with Sara Bauleke, Thursday, October 30 at 11 AM

Planning a wedding? Want expert advice? Thursday, October 30 at 11 AM, we'll be hosting a live online chat with Sara Bauleke. Submit your questions now.

Old Town, VA
I am interested in breaking into the wedding planning business as the industry is a huge passion to me, what is your best advice to begin this process? My current career as a lobbyist has little to do with weddings, but I do have some event planning/management experience. Thanks!
I can't answer this from experience, as I took a pretty circuitous route to becoming a wedding planner, however there are several event planning programs in the area that are great starting points. Both George Washington University and George Mason University offer classes in event planning. First hand experience will be most useful, so putting together a strong cover letter and resume and sending that out to some local wedding planners would also be a step that I'd recommend. Most planners receive a significant number of job inquiries, so definitely highlight what unique skills, in addition to your passion for weddings, you will be able to bring to the job. 
Washington, DC
I have too many friends that I would want to be in my bridal party. Instead of having to pick & choose, I was thinking of not having any bridesmaids at all. Is this common? Are there other jobs I can have good friends do at the wedding/reception?
Absolutely! Many couples are opting to forego attendants altogether, or have only their siblings as attendants these days. Honestly, I think that the best gift you can give your close friends is some time together in the few days before the wedding, be that at a brunch, spa afternoon, or evening out. If you want your friends to do something at your wedding you can include them in roles such as greeters, program attendants, ushers, readers during the ceremony, or by asking one or two to give a toast at the reception.
what is the one element of a wedding you think should never be "cheaped out" on? what is one element of the wedding aspect you think you people can go cheaper on and still achieve what they were looking for?
Obviously, the wedding planner! In all seriousness, hiring someone who can manage the events of the day and give you the peace of mind to relax and fully enjoy yourself will be worth every penny. Personally, I’d also say that photography is an area you never want to skimp on, since once the wedding day is actually over the photos are what remain. A good photographer will capture the emotion of the day, so that you’re taken back to those moments on your wedding day when you look at the photos. In terms of someplace you can cut back, I tell my clients that guests won’t notice what’s not there, only what is. Along those lines, favors and out of town baskets are items that no one will notice if you skip.
Washington, DC
I am obsessed with the color green and want my reception to be that color. Are there any good themes or accent colors that go along with my color choice?
I love green and think it looks great at weddings. You’ve got tons of options, since there are so many different shades of green out there. According to Pantone, both Vibrant Green and Dark Citron are going to be hot colors for spring (see their spring fashion report at Personally, I love green and white because it feels really crisp and clean. Lady slipper orchids come in a white and green stripe, and I’d love to do wedding inspired by that flower. Emerald and aqua also makes a great combination that can be very sophisticated or very playful depending on how you implement it.
Washington DC
I bought a wedding gift for my cousin (an espresso machine) that I had directly shipped to his home in Colorado. The wedding is in Boston however, and I am wondering if I need to bring something to the actual wedding as well. Is a card sufficient?
With many people getting married in a different location from where they live, this isn’t an uncommon situation. Your cousin will be thrilled that you shipped the espresso machine to his home – it’s the result that virtually all of my clients hope for with regard to gifts. As for arriving empty handed, I find that it’s becoming less and less common for people to arrive at weddings with gifts. A card is more than sufficient, and your cousin and his wife will be glad to have one less item to ship back to Colorado.
My father is getting married this winter and I would like to give a toast. I have not been to many weddings and am unsure about protocol. Do I tell my dad I want to give a toast? Do I do it at the rehearsal dinner or the actual reception or both? How long should I plan to speak for? Thanks!
I’d begin by letting your father know that you would like to give a toast on the wedding weekend. It’s likely that he’ll want you to give the toast at the wedding reception, but if he asks you to give it at the rehearsal dinner instead, that’s completely appropriate. You should only give a toast at one of the wedding events, though. I always suggest that toasts should run no longer than 4 minutes and that you practice them ahead of time so that you have a general idea of the timing. As long as your toast includes heartfelt sentiments, it’s sure to be a success!
Arlington, Va
What are the rules on bridal party reciprocation? If I've been in another friend's wedding, is it a no-no if I skip asking her to be in mine? I have other friends I'd really rather ask.
You absolutely do not need to reciprocate the favor of asking friends to be in your bridal party if you stood up for them. The point of having a wedding party is to have your friends and family surrounding you on your wedding day, so your bridal party should be the people you feel closest to. If you want to include the friends whose weddings you were in, you can ask them to participate in your wedding in another way, such as greeting guests or handing out programs.
Washington, DC
I just got engaged but I know I don't want the ceremony to be in a church. What is usually done when the ceremony's at the same place as the reception? Is there still a formal ceremony program that weddings usually follow? Thanks!
Many couples opt not to have church ceremonies, so you’re not alone in this situation. When you’re selecting a site for your wedding, make sure there’s a space that can be used for the ceremony. This may or may not be the same room you’ll use for the reception, if it is, the room will be “flipped” while you and your guests enjoy the cocktail hour. For the ceremony itself, it’s typical to include vows and an exchange of rings, but other than that the rest of the format is up to you. The nice thing about having a ceremony outside of a church is that you have a great deal of leeway with regard to what you include in the ceremony. Other aspects you may want to consider including are readings, music, and symbolic acts that appeal to you personally, such as hand fasting, unity candles, or signing a keepsake marriage contract. I’ve seen wedding ceremonies that are as short as seven minutes and some longer than an hour. Your situation gives you the flexibility to create a wedding ceremony that really represents you and your fiancé as a couple.
Bethesda, MD
I've got a few weddings coming up in the next few months. They're good friends of mine so I know them well and would be able to pick presents I think they'd like. But is it rude to not buy things off the registry?
I wouldn't say that it's rude to shop off registry, but I will tell you that the bride and groom will greatly appreciate it if you do buy something on their registry. This is an opportunity for them to furnish their home together and receiving items they picked out together is sure to make them happy. If you really want to personalize a gift, I'd suggest buying something off their registry and then adding something personal to it, such as giving them some of their wine glasses with a fabulous bottle of wine you know they'd appreciate. 
Alexandria, VA
I recently got engaged and we're just starting to plan the wedding. My fiance and I have been working for about 7 years so we have savings set aside. I know my parents will offer to help pay for the wedding – but since we've been working for a while now, should I keep their contributions to a minimum? Is it rude to let you parents pay for a lot while you have money in the bank? Are you seeing more couples pay for their own weddings? Thanks Sara!
These days there are definitely no set rules on how to pay for a wedding. If your parents (or even his) want to contribute to the wedding, then you can absolutely let them. There are certainly more couples paying for their weddings these days, but the majority of my clients end up paying for the wedding with a contribution of their own money and money from both sets of parents. In many cases, parents feel very strongly about wanting to pay for the wedding, and if that's going to make them happy then there's no reason not to accept. 
Washington, DC
We are planning a wedding for March 2009. Is there a part of the event that couples look back and say I wish I would have focused more on that? I want our guests to say "Wow!" when experiencing our event.

I would say the most important thing is not to lose sight of what your wedding day is actually about: your marriage occurring while you're surrounded by friends and family. Sometimes the details become overwhelming and can take over your planning, but after the event what you'll remember most is what a great time you had with your friends and family. 

In terms of creating a wow effect, I can't emphasize how important lighting can be adding to the decor of your wedding. It's something many people don't think about, but it's guaranteed to get you the wow effect you're looking for. Let your guests walk into a fabulous space and then just relax and enjoy the party! 

Rockville, MD
How do you stop from feeling like you are losing yourself in the wedding? It seems like it becomes such a big deal -the party- that it feels like the celebration of the people and their vows gets lost. I know that our union isn't going to be STRONGER if we have unique gift bags for our guests when they arrive at the hotel, but there is so much pressure about those sort of things that it's hard not to feel bad about not doing them (when, in fact, the pressure of adding all those items sometimes makes me enjoy the process less).
Give up some of the details. I know this is completely contrary to everything you read in wedding magazines, but it sounds like your focus is where it should be – on your marriage and the fact that for once in your life all of your friends and family will be in the same room with you to witness that. Decide what details matter to you and go ahead and do those, but don't let yourself become overwhelmed by details. Also give yourself a cutoff date, it could be the Sunday before the wedding, the Wednesday before, or the wedding rehearsal, whatever works best for you, and if you have something that's not done by that date let it go. I've had clients decide not to do programs, menus, and even favors because they were adding too much stress right before the wedding. No one missed those things they decided to skip, but the clients kept their sanity and were able to enjoy time with their friends and family in the days before the wedding. 
Arlington, Va
Hi Sara! What is the trend in favors right now? Are little things of candy or whatever else still given to guests? Or donations made to a charity? Or are brides and grooms skipping favors altogether?
Donations to charity are the most popular favor choice I see. I think it's a great option as you can support a cause you care about and your guests don't head home with a favor that will end up in the trash. Edible favors are still very popular as well – my favorites when going that route are locally made items or something from the couple's home state or childhood. 
Rockville, MD
Because of the economy, my fiance and I have cut back our wedding budget a bit. I am trying to convince him we need a wedding planner– I've heard that they can cut down on costs in the long run through helping with negotiating and stuff, and i really think we need one so that I don't go insane with this process– but he keeps thinking a planner would be too expensive. Help!
Keeping your sanity is definitely worth the investment in a wedding planner! Most wedding planners offer a variety of packages, so it's likely that you'll be able to find one that can work with your budget. Be upfront when contacting wedding planners with regard to your budget – we'll let you know what's realistic on your budget and what planning package will work best for you. It may be that a partial planning package will work well for you and won't break the bank, making it easier to bring your fiance on board. 
Bethesda, MD
With all of the bridal resources available (magazines, books, websites), I am so overwhelmed! I don't even know where to start. Where do I begin?
It is overwhelming! I'd suggest going to your local bookstore to spend some time looking through the wedding planners that are available there. More than likely, one of them will appeal to you, so purchase that book and use it to guide you through your planning. Be careful not to let the wedding magazines overwhelm you too much – while they're fun to look at for ideas and inspiration, don't put pressure on yourself to recreate something you see in a magazine and don't feel that you need to include every detail the magazines suggest. Finally, I recommend reading The Conscious Bride while you are planning your wedding. It's a great book that will help you keep everything in perspective. 
Springfield, VA
Do you have any advice on how to deal with a meddlesome mother? My fiance and I are paying for the wedding ourselves but my mom keeps suggesting all these things that aren't in our budget. She doesn't seem to understand how much more it costs to upgrade to top-shelf bar or to have surf and turf instead of chicken. What should we do?
This is a difficult, but not uncommon, situation. I always suggest a straightforward approach to dealing with it – sit your mother down and let her know exactly how much the wedding is already costing and how expensive it is to add in the upgrades she's suggesting. Most people have no idea what it costs to host a wedding, especially in the Washington, DC area, so she probably doesn't realize what you and your fiance are spending already. If your mom really wants you to have surf and turf at the wedding, let her know you'll be happy to upgrade if she wants to pay the difference in cost. 
suitland, md
Kids at weddings? I just LOVE kids and would have all my friends' kids at our wedding if we could. But it just makes it SO much more expensive. We're planning on having our nieces and nephews in the wedding, so there will be some kids there. Will it bother people that THEIR kids aren't invited? It's a late afternoon wedding with the reception lasting until 10 pm.

As long as you set a clear policy on having kids at the wedding and stay consistent, your friends will understand that you aren't inviting children to the wedding. In your case, you can say that the only children at the wedding will be the ones that are in the wedding, which is a completely reasonable policy. I've actually found that many parents enjoy taking advantage of a wedding as an opportunity to have a night out without the kids, so hopefully your friends will view it in that manner! 



Unfortunately, I've run out of time. I apologize if I didn't have the chance to get to your question, but I hope that the above answers are helpful in your wedding planning. For further questions, I can be reached at Best of luck to everyone with your wedding planning!