It's a rare bride who doesn't relish a few pretty decorations and details that are just right. Here a few things — practical and philosophical — worth splurging on.
"Don't go into debt. Don't break your parents," advises Platon Mantheakis, catering and events manager at The Jacksonville Inn. "You're starting a partnership you hope will be successful for the rest of your life. You need to be responsible from the very beginning."
It's very important to make the wedding yours. What are your favorite colors, flavors, themes? Is it a garden or countryside wedding? Classic? Beach style? Modern/contemporary? Exotic? Holiday?
"When guests look at the food, the setup, the ceremony, they will understand who the bride and groom are," Mantheakis explains. "When you are genuine about what's important to you, people will feel part of something unique and special."
Don't skimp. Order custom stationery or create your own by hand or on the computer. Bridal magazines and the Web have hundreds of ideas. Enlist friends to help assemble and address envelopes. (If you're on a budget, do without programs and use that money for invitations.)
A well-fitted dress
"There's nothing worse than too baggy or too tight," says Laurel Walter of Twist Designs in Ashland.
Yours will depend on budget and personal taste. If you carry a single rose, guests will remember that beautiful bloom. Perhaps only the groom, not the groomsmen, wears a boutonniere, and only the bride has a bouquet. "From home-grown flowers to a florist, there is no other option; flowers are a must!" Walter says.
Decorations and centerpieces
Forage, forage, forage! "Attach flowers or crystal beads to a simple branch put in a clear, vertical, glass vase," suggests Walter. "You could spray-paint the branch or leave it natural. Or mound colorful fruit in a bowl."
You can do without favors, but be sure to give your attendants a token of appreciation. "Make them something — a spa basket or a craft," says Walter. "It should be something personal from you. Send a thank-you card with a note to get together in a month and look at pictures. Or better yet, a picture of the two of you at the wedding in a frame you pick out."
Actions speak louder than items. "Think about how Grandma's going to get in and out of the venue," says Mantheakis. "Don't forget you have a diabetic cousin. If you're bringing someone from another culture, accommodate their diet and seat them with people who may understand their culture."
Your guests have taken time out of their lives to be part of your celebration. Honor their generosity in nonverbal ways: Make sure there's easy parking and seating for older guests. Outfit restrooms with hand sanitizer, wet wipes, gum, lotion, a lint roller.
Everybody will be looking at the bride, so she should remember to smile! She may also give a hug and a kiss to the person who walks her down the aisle.
"People will be watching the relationship between those two people," Mantheakis says. "You need to show that you have appreciation for the people who brought you to the altar."
When the groom enters, the ceremony has not tightened up yet. "If your mother-in-law has taken her seat, go over and give her a hug, shake your father-in-law's hand and let them know you're going to be a good husband and a good friend," suggests Mantheakis. "It starts here in front of everyone. Honor them."
At the end of the day, it will likely be these selfless acts of kindness and simple beauty that guests — and the bride and groom — remember most vividly.