When it comes to planning a wedding, staying organized and scheduling everything well in advance can mean the difference between a day that’s magical and one that’s a disaster.

Love In Bloom

Get your ceremony and reception sites booked, finalize the number of attendants in the wedding party and choose your wedding colors before visiting a florist, says Toni Garner of Toni’s Flowers and Gifts. Having those details already in place will make it easier and faster for your wedding florist to help you achieve the kind of look you want.

Some flowers, such as roses, are available year-round, but others may be out of season and more expensive or difficult to obtain, so come prepared to work with your florist and be receptive to different choices. “It’s important to keep an open mind,” Garner says.

Some couples choose to have a few arrangements for the wedding ceremony and reserve the bulk of their floral budget for the reception, says Elizabeth Wallis of Petal Pushers.

For maximum impact, Wallis suggests choosing arrangements with larger blooms for the ceremony. Ferns and greenery also can add visual interest to the ceremony, she says.

Consider having your florist make a bouquet for your wedding portrait session, Wallis says. This bouquet can serve as a test run and help you and your florist determine if any changes need to be made before the big day.

The groom’s and groomsmen’s boutonnieres often center on a flower used in the bride’s and bridesmaids bouquets, according to Wallis.

Old-fashioned rules for wedding flowers no longer hold true, according to Wallis and Garner. Though tradition dictates that bridal bouquets are all-white nosegays or cascade-styles, most of today’s brides opt for less fussy arrangements with a splash of color, Wallis and Garner say. Hues of pink, coral and peach, as well as natural-stem bouquets have been very popular for the past few years, according to Wallis.

Most of today’s brides choose a throwaway bouquet in addition to their bridal bouquet, says Garner, so if you plan to hang on to your bridal flowers, ask your florist to make a mini version to toss at the reception.

With This Ring

When buying wedding jewelry, “the number one thing is to shop with a reputable jeweler,” says Michael Guillory of Moody’s Jewelry. Guillory advises against purchasing rings online or from unfamiliar vendors and suggests couples look for jewelers that are accredited by the Jewelers’ Association of America and the Gemological Institute of America.

If you’re just beginning the search for an engagement ring, allow for at least two months before the proposal, especially for custom or special-order designs, says Michelle Holdgrafer of Bruce G. Weber Precious Jewels in Tulsa.

A classic round solitaire diamond set in white gold or platinum is the top engagement-ring pick for many of today’s brides-to-be, but if you’re planning a surprise proposal and are unsure what your fiancée would like, Holdgrafer suggests enlisting the help of her family or
her closest friends.

Style is important when choosing wedding jewelry, but couples also should factor in their lifestyles when shopping for rings, according to Guillory. “You want the piece to be functional with whatever you do,” he says.

Plan on allowing at least four to six weeks’ lead time when purchasing wedding bands, Guillory says. Special orders or rings made in uncommon sizes may take longer to finish, he says.

 Most of today’s couples opt for white gold or platinum bands, but for those with very active lifestyles, cobalt chrome is an excellent alternative metal for wedding rings, Guillory says, noting its strength and durability.

If size is a factor when choosing an engagement ring, consider having a halo of smaller diamonds added around the center stone, Guillory suggests. The halo can add up to 30 percent more visual effect to the piece.

Ask your jeweler about the four Cs – color, cut, clarity and carats – when choosing diamonds for wedding jewelry. Current popular diamond cuts include cushion cut, emerald cut and round brilliant, according to Guillory.

“The cut of the diamond is where all of the brilliance comes from,” Holdgrafer explains, adding that a superb cut can often compensate for any small imperfections a stone might have.

Sweet Endings

Once you’ve settled on a wedding date and number of guests, make an appointment for a cake tasting and consultation, says Emiline Bauder of Nibbles in Tulsa. Most bakeries will have a specialist on hand who has considerable experience with wedding cakes.

Before your consultation, check the bakery’s website for examples of its wedding cakes, Bauder says. Bridal magazines and websites such as Pinterest also are good sources of ideas for wedding cakes, she says.

The classic wedding cake flavor is vanilla with buttercream icing and sometimes a fruit filling, such as raspberry or lemon. If you want chocolate or red velvet, though, don’t hesitate to ask for them, says Jamie Calkins of Merritt’s Bakery. To offer variety and to accommodate different tastes, ask your baker if he or she can make each tier a different flavor.

Since some guests may like another slice of wedding cake and the newlyweds often choose to freeze the top tier of their cake for their first anniversary, make sure to order extra servings, Calkins says.

Traditional tiered or stacked cakes aren’t the only option for wedding sweets, Bauder says. For an alternative, consider a tower of cupcakes or a dessert table with a variety of treats. Petit fours are a popular choice, too, says Calkins, adding that some couples also choose the groom’s favorite dessert, such as cheesecake or pie, in lieu of a traditional groom’s cake.

If you have elements of the wedding incorporated into the design of your cake, make sure to have color swatches, ribbons and other details delivered to your baker no later than two weeks before the wedding, Calkins suggests.

For larger receptions, consider supplementing the main wedding cake with additional sheet cakes, which can be kept in the kitchen and sliced at dessert time, Bauder says. Doing so helps couples avoid the extra cost of additional tiers, which are more elaborate and labor-intensive.

Location, Location, Location

Warmer months and Saturdays are the most popular times for weddings, and popular sites often book months or a year or more in advance. Make sure to reserve your reception venue as early as possible, says Tulsa Convention Center’s Kathy Tinker.

 Be prepared with a comprehensive list of questions for the venue’s wedding coordinator, Tinker says. Any pertinent information, such as the number of attendants, wedding colors or whether or not the couple would like a special cocktail to be served at the reception also should be provided to the coordinator.

“It helps us to have as much information as possible about the bride’s vision for the wedding day,” she says.

When researching a potential venue, be sure to ask what is included in the cost of having a reception there, Tinker says. Include on your list of questions such things as menus, whether linens and seating will be provided, and availability of wait staff and whether food or beverages from off-site providers will be allowed.

You're Invited

Many couples choose to frame a copy of their wedding invitation as keepsakes, says Miss Jackson’s Ron Allison, so consider the size and shape of your invitations when shopping for wedding stationery. Invitations with unusual shapes or designs may be harder to frame than traditional rectangular ones.

Be sure to send out your invitations well in advance to give guests plenty of time to RSVP and make travel plans, says Margie Brown of Margo’s Gifts in Tulsa. “We’ve had some close calls,” she says, adding that a minimum of six weeks should be given, but several months’ notice is ideal.

Traditional engraved invitations with calligrapher-addressed envelopes are still popular with today’s couples, but if your heart’s set on a whimsical or colorful design, there are plenty of options available, according to Brown and Allison.

For a themed or destination wedding, don’t be afraid to get creative with invitation design, Allison says, recalling one client who sent invitations for a beach wedding in boxes filled with sand.

If you’re planning on a long engagement, save-the-date cards are a good idea for guests, Brown says. Save-the-date cards often are sent up to a year before the wedding.

Ask if your wedding stationer sells wedding planner guides, says Brown, adding that these guides often feature helpful planning tips and room for storing and organizing important wedding papers.

Picture Perfect

One of the best ways to find a wedding photographer is by word-of-mouth, says Chris Humphrey of Chris Humphrey Photographer. Start with recently married friends or family members and ask to see their wedding photos and what they liked about their photographer, he says.

“You get more personal information by talking with friends and family,” Humphrey says. “That referral is usually pretty honest.”

For high-volume wedding months such as May, June, September and October, plan on giving eight months’ to a year’s notice when booking a wedding photographer, according to Humphrey. For other times of the year, at least six months’ notice is a good rule of thumb.

Schedule engagement photos and bridal photos six months beforehand, suggests Encre Photography’s David Spence.

For fun and to add a personal touch to engagement or bridal photos, consider bringing a few props that have special meaning, Spence says, adding that the internet offers a wealth of ideas for wedding photos.

Before booking a consultation with a wedding photographer, check online for examples of the photographer’s work, Humphrey says.

“Online galleries are a huge benefit to brides,” he says. “They get to look at a photographer’s work and see a style they can relate to and see themselves being photographed that way.”

Also important is finding a wedding photographer you can trust and with whom you have a good rapport, says Humphrey.

“Don’t rely just on the photos,” he says. “You need to really communicate and not be afraid to ask the tough questions.”

Happy Honeymoon

To avoid the headaches that come with planning the perfect honeymoon, visit with a travel professional, says Karen Wheelock of Spears Travel. Many travel agencies employ honeymoon specialists who can help you narrow down your options and tailor a vacation to fit your interests and your budget.

Book early – at least three to six months in advance – to get the best value for your honeymoon, says Julie Sondgeroth of World Travel. “You can put down a small deposit and pay the rest off over the next few months,” she says.

Before consulting a travel professional, couples should talk to each other about what their dream honeymoon would be, how long they want to spend at their destination and what their budget will be, Wheelock says.

Passports typically take about a month to be processed and sent back, so if you haven’t registered for one, make sure to do so in plenty of time before the wedding, Sondgeroth says, adding that traveler’s protection insurance is another essential for honeymooners traveling overseas.

Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean are current honeymoon hotspots, according to Wheelock and Sondgeroth.

 For a no-hassle honeymoon, consider an all-inclusive luxury resort. Many popular honeymoon locations feature all-inclusive resorts, which cover everything from transportation costs to food during the entire trip, says Sondgeroth.

The Dress

Plan to begin shopping for your wedding dress at least six to 12 months before the wedding, says Jane Kelly of J.J. Kelly Bridal in Oklahoma City.

One key to having a successful bridal gown appointment is to limit the number of people you bring with you, Kelly says. Too many conflicting opinions can lead to unnecessary stress and frustration for the bride-to-be. “Friends are great to bring along, but we tend to look at gowns as if we will be wearing them,” she says. “You should only bring people who have your best interests in mind.”

Bridal magazines are excellent tools for finding your dream gown, but the initial visit to a bridal salon is an opportunity to get even more ideas, Kelly says. Some brides come into a store with a certain style in mind, but end up choosing something completely different from their original vision.

“Most girls end up changing their minds,” she explains, adding that an experienced bridal consultant can help guide brides-to-be toward gowns that flatter them the most and fit with the overall style of their wedding.

Strapless and ball gown styles are still the most popular wedding gowns with today’s brides, Kelly says, but many are opting for more fitted gowns and those with flared bottoms.  

When sending your gown to the cleaners, make sure to use a reputable company that specializes only in wedding gown preservation, she says. Most bridal salons will provide referral information for gown preservation specialists.

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