Now that the big day is over I can look back and offer opinions based on my personal experience and how things went for our wedding. Overall everything was fantastic, but I have to admit there were a few standout decisions that I would recommend to any bride, and of course a few hiccups that I hope others could avoid. I want to do a big recap with photos and a reflection from myself and the new husband (still getting used to that) but for a quick take-away I will offer the following.
1. Use a central hotel and recommend it to all of your out-of-town guests via a Save the Date card, website, or even word of mouth. The hotel we booked was so much fun because all of our friends and family that we don't get to see often could gather easily in the lobby - which they did for Friday evening cocktails, post-wedding debauchery, and Sunday morning breakfast. The only event we organized formally was the Sunday breakfast (more on that later), but having everyone stay in the same place made the gathering just happen. Bonus points - most hotels where you block rooms will offer a significantly discounted rate to your guests - ours was about 25% off.
2. Host a post-wedding get together. So worth it to be able to recap the evening and have time to catch up with your guests in a more relaxed setting. We were torn between a pre-wedding cocktail party and a post-wedding breakfast. When Friday night came around I was so anxious about the next day and tied up with rehearsal/rehearsal dinner, I needed some quiet time to collect my thoughts and prepare myself. Sunday morning came along and we were still on a cloud from the excitement of the previous day. Do your gathering on your terms - it can be anything from a formal Sunday morning brunch at a swank restaurant (just be sure guests know to pack the proper attire) to bagels, munchkins and a box o' joe at your parents house.
3. Hire a day-of-coordinator. It is less expensive than you would think! If you really, really can't cough up the cash, find a trusted and organized friend who can help you with the logistics that day. (Maybe an engaged pal you can return the favor for). You will be too busy that day (you know, getting hitched) to fret over whether the caterer arrived in time, if the lighting is right, or if the guests know where to put their coats. Most DOC's will also pack up and deliver any of your gifts and keepsakes (think cake topper, special DIY items). If you are in the DC/Baltimore/Philly area, of course you know who to call!!!
Next up - The DONT's