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Blushing Bride and Gracious Hostess in One

A very wise woman once said that consideration for the feelings and sensibilities of others was the reason behind all etiquette. This maxim holds true even when you are planning your own wedding. This is why although the bride is undoubtedly the star of the show, she must also be a gracious hostess. If you are about to face this challenge, here is a simple timeline containing the different tasks where your skills as fiancée and diplomat must be put to use to make your guests comfortable.

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Setting the Date for the Wedding

Many couples pick a wedding day based on a special occasion in their lives as sweethearts, while some choose a date during the off-peak season. For other couples, the availability of the pastor, the church, or the venue is the determining factor. No matter why you choose a particular date, one of the things you have to consider is how convenient it will be for your guests to attend. If none of your guests is coming from out of town, then this becomes a simpler chore.

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Six to Eight Months Before

Six to eight months before the wedding, the bride-to-be would already be wearing her engagement ring and the members of the bridal entourage would have been chosen. Most couples would have set the date for the wedding. The place for the ceremony and the reception would probably have been reserved.

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The exchange with your guests begins at this time. You should also start sending out your “save-the-date notices”, especially to people who will need to travel a bit to attend your wedding, around this time. If you really want your guests to be able to make it to your big day, inform them early enough so they can make the necessary arrangements. This way they can fix their schedules, take time off to travel, save for the trip, and maybe make plans stay an extra day or two.

Remember that sending a save-the-date card is as good as sending an invitation. You cannot send this type of notice and then omit sending an invitation later. The people you send this notice to are people you seriously want at your wedding.

Of course, you will need to enclose an RSVP card for a more accurate estimate of how many guests you will have. Enclose a self-addressed envelope with the necessary stamps to make it easy for your guests to respond quickly. Make sure your RSVP cards contain the information your guests need from you. It should also ask for information that you need to know.

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Ideally, the RSVP card will tell your guests:

  1. When you expect the reply. Somewhere the card should say, “The favor of your reply is expected before (date)”. If you prefer, you can choose a more informal style and say, “Please let us know before (date)”.
  2. Where the ceremony will take place.
  3. What time it will take place.

If you have not yet settled the time and place for the wedding but you are sure of the date, and you don’t want to hold off the save-the-date cards too long, go ahead and send them. That way, the people on your guest list will at least keep that day free – even if the lack of detail won’t allow them to make all the preparations, they might want to start on.

Ten Weeks before the Wedding

It is time to send out your wedding invitations. Hopefully, by this time you will have bought your wedding rings, picked out color schemes, and made arrangements with your florist. You should also know when your caterer expects the final number of guests at your wedding. You can now set aside some serious time to sending out your wedding invitations.

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Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Send out invitations at least 8 weeks before the wedding.
  2. If you have many guests from out of town, send out invitations 10 weeks before.
  3. Set the RSVP cut off at 5 weeks before the wedding.
  4. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with the invitation.

This would be a good time for you to create a wedding website! A wedding website would be the ideal method to update your guests about everything is coming along. You could even post a video excerpt of your engagement part and/or proposal, along with pictures of your engagement ring. Obviously, it is also an excellent way to inform them of details that can affect their own preparations. For example, if new construction is going to start along certain roads that people from out of town normally take, etc. Your website will also make it easy for everyone to see any special discounts for your guests.

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One Month Before

Check all the RSVPs and call those who haven’t responded. There will be people who have not gotten around to responding. While this is rude and irritating, do not allow it to fray your nerves. Just give them a call instead so you can give your caterer the final number of guests.

You can now make reservations for those who accept your invitation, if they have asked for your help in this matter. Making the reservations for your guests is one of the special things you can do to make them feel their presence is important to you. It will also allow you to give them a small welcome gift with a short note from you.

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Your welcome gift need not be extravagant. Hotels and inns sometimes prepare their own fruit baskets or chocolate treats for their clients; if they do, you don’t need to duplicate those. Make a small packet of snacks or delicacies your place is known for with a short “Welcome to our wedding!” note. Include your contact information, directions to the venue, and a copy of the wedding itinerary. You can also add a list of suggested places for them to visit while they are in town.

When Guests Arrive

When the guests from out of town start arriving, some of them will give you a call to let you know they are around, and some of them won’t bother you but will just appear at the wedding. If you have the time and the energy, go ahead and entertain them. However, your welcome packet should be enough to tide them over until the wedding and after.

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At the Wedding Reception

The receiving line is one way to make sure all your guests are welcomed personally. The line should include (preferably in this order) the mother of the bride, the father of the bride (if he so wishes), the mother of the groom, the father of the groom (if the bride’s father is joining), the bride and the groom. The best man and the maid of honor can be part of this line but if they have other duties, they can be exempted.

Greetings for each guests need to be brief in the reception line because you do not want to have a long queue of guests interminably waiting to be “greeted”. You can arrange for very light canapés and cocktails to be served in the area so that guests can have refreshments and chat while waiting for their turn to be “received”.

Many informal weddings have done away with the receiving line. If this is your plan, you and your groom will have to take time to go from table to table while people are eating so you can thank them personally. This is a nice way to have a picture taken with your guests, and one of the advantages of today’s technology is you won’t have to spend a fortune printing photos.

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The Thank You Notes

A little thank you note on top of the place settings for dinner would be a nice gesture. This, together with your wedding souvenir, will help your guests feel appreciated. However, an even more important note is the one you write after the wedding. This note is meant not only to acknowledge any gift you received; it is most of all meant to let guests know that their presence meant a lot to you. This does not have to be a long note (three or four short lines will do), but it is best handwritten.

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After the Wedding

You can do other things to make your guests feel at home. You can ask someone to host a breakfast for them after the wedding, and have pictures or footage of the wedding shown for everyone to see. You can arrange for guests to be taken to the airport or the bus terminal when they go home. You can maintain your website and upload pictures of the wedding, the wedding ring you now proudly display along with your diamond engagement ring, pictures from the reception, and some of you on your wedding trip so they can share in your joy.

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Despite the hectic schedule and the stress, you can do many things for your guests. It can all seem overwhelming but ultimately, your ability to combine the responsibilities of being a bride and a hostess will come from a desire to take care of people who come to your wedding because they care for you.