Our 13 Top Tips for Cutting Down the Guest List

Our 13 Top Tips for Cutting Down the Guest List

Need help making the list of your VIP’s? Here, some expert advice for deciding who should make the final wedding guest list cut.
by The Knot

Money Talks

If you’re running into conflicts curbing your guest list, consider who’s footing the bill. Because the bride’s parents traditionally pay for the wedding, they usually have more say over the list. If the groom’s side is paying, flip that. Or, if you’re throwing your own bash, allocate a specific number to each side.

Slash and Burn

If you like, start by making as big a list as you can — the fantasy list. Then get ready to wield the pen as a hatchet and whack that list into shape, cutting ruthlessly until you are within budget. Reducing the guest list is the only way to truly cut costs.

Pick Your Priorities

If you have your heart set on a small country inn but plan to invite 200 people, it’s not gonna happen. Figure out which is more important to you: more guests or a specific venue.

Battle the Guilt

A wedding is not an excuse to round up every long-lost friend you have known since you were 10 — focus on people who matter now. Don’t feel guilty when you run into someone you haven’t seen in years and aren’t planning on inviting to the wedding. Otherwise, you’d be inviting everyone you’ve every met.

Child’s Play

If you’re having a large number of guests 10 and under, hire a babysitter to watch kids them during the ceremony (have him or her sit with small kids in a separate room, if necessary). Or, set up a children’s table or room at the reception, complete with favors, crayons, coloring books, small toys, and games. Consider hiring special children’s entertainment, such as a caricaturist or clown.

Happy Meals

Ask your caterer to prepare kid meals so they don’t have to eat — and you don’t have to pay for — grown-up meals.

Choose Your Words

If you don’t want to invite kids, make sure the outer and inner envelopes of your invitations are addressed in such a way that it’s clear children aren’t included (Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Anderson as opposed to The Anderson Family). If anyone RSVPs with their kids anyway, it’s okay to call and gently explain your preference.

Take a Seat

When it comes to seating guests at the ceremony, the general rule of thumb is one usher for every 50 guests.

Talkative Tables

Want to ensure you’ve created perfect, party-friendly tables for your guests? Here are some things to consider: Put people with similar interests and of similar ages together; put an even number of guests at each table (people tend to pair off in conversation so you don’t want to leave anyone out); and put the dance lovers near the dance floor — they’ll get the party rocking.

Stick to a Schedule

One of the simplest, most useful things you can do for out of town guests is provide a wedding itinerary. After sending out your invitations, mail guests an additional clever, elegant, or interesting communique with a complete rundown of the events leading up to and following your walk down the aisle. You can also create a wedding web page for an easily refrenced one-stop-shop for guests to check up on everything you have planned.

Set Them Up

Recommend different places for guests to stay. Look for locations near your ceremony and reception sites, and start calling around about six months beforehand to check on large-scale availability for the days surrounding your wedding, and to inquire about special group rates.

Show Your Appreciation

Comfort the jet-lagged and travel-weary with a little something left in their hotel rooms. Imagine their delight — walking into their temporary living quarters to discover a basket of fresh fruit, a bouquet of flowers, a tin of local chocolates, or a bottle of chilled bubbly.

Abide By a Buddy System

Out-of-town guests who are traveling alone? Create a buddy system. Appoint a kind, willing family member to welcome the guest to town and offer his phone number for questions. Your buddy probably won’t get woken up at 4 a.m., but the knowledge that he’s there should help nervous travelers.

How to Get a Marriage License

How to Get a Marriage License

Your union won’t be official until you obtain your marriage license. Here’s everything you need to know before you head to the marriage bureau.
by The Knot
Bride signing marriage license
photo by Lens CAP Productions

Amid the blur of organizing your wedding and honeymoon plans, it’s surprisingly easy to forget that you actually have to get married on paper. A marriage license is basically your permit for eternal love—the legal confirmation that you and your partner are free and eligible to marry one another. Sure, it’s paperwork, but it’s still exciting (not to mention necessary).

So where do you even start? The Internet will likely be your best bet here. Most, if not all, states have a government website with ample information on what materials and documents are required and the office’s contact information. (Psst—check out this helpful website on US marriage laws.)

Once you know in which municipality (city, district and county) your nuptials will take place, you’ll need to locate where to obtain the license. It might be city hall, the city or town clerk’s office, or the marriage license bureau in the county where you plan to wed. For example, in Connecticut, marriage licenses are issued by the municipal clerk’s office in the town where you’ll be married, whereas in Iowa, couples may apply at any county registrar or recorder’s office. In some states, like New Jersey, you can simply download a marriage license brochure and the license itself to be filled out by you and your spouse-to-be.

Other than the physical paperwork, it’s important to be wary of timing. Some states require a several-day waiting period between granting the license and your nuptials taking place. Also, most marriage licenses are only valid for a window of time—anywhere between 10 days and a year—during which you must have the ceremony, sign the license (together with your officiant) and file for a certified license and marriage certificate.

Requirements do vary by state, but they all want to confirm the basics: that you have proper identification, that you’re not currently married to anyone else (if you previously were, you need proper divorce or widowhood papers) and that you’re of legal age to marry. A good checklist of necessities includes:

  • Birth certificates
  • Parental consent if underage (usually under 18); you may also need court consent in this case
  • Photo identification (driver’s license, state ID card, passport or birth certificate)
  • Social Security number
  • Proof of citizenship and/or residence
  • Divorce decree if divorced
  • Death certificate if widowed

With all of this general information in mind, we’ve listed the top nine best US destination wedding spots and their specific marriage license processes. Read on to find what you’ll need.

Florida

  • Fee charged, but it’s lower for Florida residents who have completed a premarital prep course
  • Waiting period: three days for Florida residents (waived if couple completes the above-mentioned course); no waiting period for non-residents
  • Issued by county; apply at any county clerk’s office
  • License valid for 60 days
  • Click here for general information, then here for clerks of court offices by county.

Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Fee charged; varies by county and required at time of application
  • Waiting period: none
  • Issued by clerks of local county marriage license bureau (Clark County); both parties must appear in person
  • License valid for one year
  • Officiant has 10 days to submit documentation after the ceremony
  • Click here for all Clark County marriage license requirements.

Maine

  • Fee charged
  • Waiting period: none
  • Issued by county; apply from local municipal clerk’s office
  • License valid for 90 days
  • Click here for general information and here to filter by county, city or town.

Massachusetts

  • Fee charged; varies by town or city and required at time of application
  • Waiting period: three days
  • Issued by city or town clerk’s office
  • Valid for 60 days
  • Click here for general information and here for a clerk’s offices by city and town.

Napa Valley, California

  • Fee charged; varies by county and required at time of application
  • Waiting Period: none
  • Issued by county clerk’s office; both parties must appear in person
  • License valid for 90 days
  • Click here for all Napa County marriage license requirements.

Newport, Rhode Island

  • Fee charged
  • Waiting period: none
  • Issued by city or town clerk’s office
  • License valid for 90 days
  • Marriage must take place in the presence of two witnesses who are 18 years or older
  • Click here for how to get a marriage license in Rhode Island.

New York City, New York

  • Fee charged
  • Waiting period: 24 hours
  • Issued by city clerk’s office; both parties must appear in person at one of the five borough offices
  • License valid for 60 days
  • Click here for marriage license info from New York’s Office of the City Clerk website.

Aspen, Colorado

  • Fee charged
  • Waiting period: none
  • Issued by any state county clerk’s office; both parties must appear in person
  • License valid for 35 days
  • Click here for all Pitkin County marriage license requirements.

Tucson, Arizona

  • Fee charged
  • Waiting period: none
  • Issued by justice court offices; both parties must appear together in person to
  • License valid for 12 months
  • Click here for Pima County’s Office of the Clerk.

Are Wedding Loans a Good Way to Cover Costs?

Are Wedding Loans a Good Way to Cover Costs?

Join us for a class in Personal Loans 101.
by Rachel Torgerson
Colorful glassware in burgundy and blue with gold chargers on a lace tablecloth at a wedding reception
photo by We Heart Photography

With the national average cost of a wedding hitting an all-time high, it’s important to remeber that it is possible to have an amazing wedding on any budget. The keys are saving, setting priorities and sticking to the number you start with. We’re not saying it’s always easy to do. For example, if you have $10,000 and you want a New York City wedding, you may have to skip the Saturday night sit-down dinner idea. No matter where you live, though, saving and paying for a wedding is an important part of the planning process.

While you may be considering taking out a personal loan or using credit to pay for your wedding, there are plenty of other ways to save on wedding costs. (Lots of helpful links at the bottom of this piece to help you get there.)

That said, there is a ton of information out there about paying for the wedding with personal loans or using a credit card. It shouldn’t be your go-to method, but if you’re considering those options, use this as a starting point.

What are “wedding loans”?

First things first: There’s no such thing as a “wedding loan.” You can’t just walk into a bank and request a wedding loan. What we’re talking about here is using a personal loan for the purpose of funding your wedding. Most financial advisers would tell you to stop here and not pursue wedding loans. “Taking out a personal loan is kind of a last-ditch effort,” says Lauren Lyons Cole, certified financial planner and personal finance contributor for financial-planning website Mainstreet.com. “The problem with personal loans is that most often people are taking them out because they’re trying to spend cash they don’t have. I would also lump in credit card spending here, because I think a lot of people pay for wedding-related things with a credit card and they may or may not have the cash to pay it off in full.” Personal loans are good for starting a small business, but maybe not as a quick fix for a down payment on your venue. That being said, taking out wedding loans isn’t unheard of, and there are a few ways to go about getting a personal loan to help cover wedding costs.

Should you get a wedding loan?

This means you’d be covering your wedding costs with money you don’t have, be it from a personal loan or a credit card. This is a decision to make with your partner, becuase it will effect financial decisions on your marriage later. It’s important to talk about whether or not that financial burden is something you want to deal with when you get back from the honeymoon.

Below is a list of the ways to cover the costs of a wedding with loans. (Again, this is just to inform you on how it’s done—we don’t recommend it!)

What are other ways to cover wedding costs?

Using an Online Personal Loan Company to Pay for the Wedding

A ton of Internet loan companies have sprung up over the past few years, and most offer crowd-sourced loans. Here’s how it works: Online investors front money for you once you’ve been approved by the company in much the same way you’d be approved by a bank. Then you pay them back including interest in the same way you would a bank. Some good sites (read: trusted) for online wedding loans are Prosper, Upstart and LendingClub. Sites like these will have you safely fill in your information, then bring up the types of loans (and the personal loan rates) that you qualify for. “People that apply can have their money as soon as three to five days,” says Sarah Cain, director of communications at Prosper. “Marketplace lending is a newer method, but a quickly growing option for consumers. Credit cards are great for making a purchase at the point of sale, but not a good option for borrowing money long-term. There’s a faster, easier, smarter way to borrow, and being online allows us to be available 24/7.” If you’re interested, you can move forward with the application process for your wedding loan. If not, just stop there.

Taking Out a Home Equity Line of Credit to Pay for the Wedding

This one is only for homeowners and usually for parents paying for their children’s nuptials. The idea behind a home equity line of credit is that you borrow against the mortgage on your home. Again, though, it’s not a good idea. Neither the financial experts nor we would recommend doing such a thing. “I’ve seen parents take out a home equity line of credit, which is basically borrowing against the value of your home,” says Lyons Cole. “Especially for a lot of parents, if you’re throwing a wedding, you’re probably mid-40s to 50s, you’re not that far away from retirement, you probably just put your kid through college—there are so many expenses and pressures put on a parent, and chances are you need that money for something else.”

Using a Credit Card to Pay for the Wedding

We should warn you that most financial advisers are wary of credit cards and lines of credit when it comes to alternative ways to pay for your wedding. For Lyons Cole, this is one of the fastest ways to get into deep debt. “Obviously, as a financial planner, my advice would always be to create a budget and only pay for things you can afford,” says Lyons Cole. “Don’t go into credit card debt for a wedding.”

That said, if (and only if) you have the cash to pay for your wedding, a credit card can be a good option. Here’s why: Using credit can protect your money from fraud and earn you points for flights and even hotels (hello, honeymoon!). Just try not to pay for wedding things with money you don’t have yet, and you’ll be fine.

Extending Your Engagement and Saving Up for the Wedding

Ding, ding! This is the way to go. Avoid wedding loans and take some time to create a wedding budget and truly save up for the things you want. There’s no harm in a long engagement. Many times, venues are already booked more than a year in advance anyway. Having one will allow you to have enough time to truly plan the wedding and save up for the items that are nonnegotiable, and even splurge on a few things you’ve always hoped to have. “I would rather have you postpone your engagement six months to a year to save money,” says Lyons Cole. “Paying forward by saving is much better than paying backwards with debt.”

How much money can you get with a wedding loan?

Personal loans can range from anywhere between $2,000 and $35,000. The same goes for online companies. “Prosper offers three- and five-year-term loans, but just like other loans, you need to pay back your loan through Prosper on time. If not, it will negatively affect your credit,” says Cain. “On the flip side, those that take out loans and pay them off on time or early can improve their credit score.”

How do you get a wedding loan?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, getting a wedding loan may not be the best idea out there. But if you’re still reading and you’ve made up your mind, here’s everything you’ll need to get a personal loan to cover wedding costs.

Make Sure You Have Good Credit

If you’re looking to get a wedding loan, you’ll have to ensure your financials are order. The biggest factor is your credit score. According to Cole, anything above 700 is considered a good credit score. You can still get a loan with a lower score. You’ll just have to pay more for it with a higher interest rate. (That’s sometimes referred to as a bad credit personal loan—not something you want!) Over at lending website Prosper.com, you’ll need a score of 640 or higher to qualify for a loan, says Cain. To figure out your credit score, there are a number of free credit score sites. (We trust KreditKarma.com to easily figure out your credit score.)

Have Your Financial Documents in Order

Beyond the credit score, your bank will want to take a look at your proof of income, bank statements and any other debt you might have (student loans, mortgages, etc.). You’ll have to check with your local bank to find out what specific documents and qualifications you’ll need. In other words, online wedding loans require many of the same types of documentation as any other loan. “At Prosper, to make the process go smoothly you should have basic income and identity documentation on hand when you start your application. For example, that would include W2s, driver’s license and Social Security card,” says Cain.

Just because we have to say it again: Don’t feel like you have to turn to a wedding loan to pay for your big day. There are lots of ways to save and cut wedding costs. We know budgeting for the wedding can be arduous, and there are just some things out there that are too cool not to have, but we simply have to impress upon you that starting your future in debt is not a good way to kick off your marriage. Need a basic rundown of a simple wedding budget? Looking for expensive wedding dates to avoid? Or need simple planning advice to get a handle on the whole process? We’ve got you completely covered, below.

Ultimate Guide to Cutting Your Wedding Guest List

Ultimate Guide to Cutting Your Wedding Guest List

Trimming the guest list is a common planning pain point—follow this guide to help condense your headcount (and minimize stress).
by The Knot
photo by The Schultzes

Your guest list determines so many other details, and the more guests you add to your list, the more everything costs. Making sure your head count includes everyone important, without contradicting your budget, can be a balancing act. If you’re having trouble cutting down your guest list (say, your venue only holds 150 comfortably but your list has already exceeded 250), rest assured that this dilemma is a common occurrence with a few relatively painless solutions. Here’s how to crop that list without hurting feelings or experiencing guilt.

Make an A-List and B-List

Your A-list consists of the must-have invites you can’t imagine not being at your wedding, like your family members and close friends. They’ll receive your first round of invitations. Anyone not essential (no, we don’t mean people you don’t like, but rather colleagues you might be able to skip) should be added to the B-list. These are people you’d enjoy having at your wedding but who cannot be extended an invite in the first round. (It’s completely fine to add plus-ones to your B list too, and if it turns out you do have the budget for your nephew’s new girlfriend to come, you can always invite her at a later date.) If you start getting RSVPs and it turns out you have enough “regrets,” (between 10 and 20 percent of those invited will likely decline) then start sending invites to your B-list in order of importance.

Set Cutting Rules (and Stick to Them)

The easiest way to cut the list is to come up with firm rules and actually stick to them. We promise it’ll be easier in the long run and you’ll avoid potential drama down the line. What do we mean by “rules”? First, If neither you nor your spouse has ever spoken to, met or heard a person’s name before, don’t invite them. If it’s a friend of your parents, and your parents are being generous by footing some or all of the bill, that may be a different story. Maybe work out a compromise with them where you promise to cut one of your own chosen guests for every one of their chosen guests. Second, leave out anyone neither of you has spoken to in three or more years (or is related to). That means old high school or college friends you’re pretty sure you’ll never see again, or second and third cousins whose names you can barely remember. Finally, if there’s anyone on your list who’s only included because you feel guilty about leaving them off (maybe you were invited to their wedding or they’re friends with lots of people who are invited), cut them. You shouldn’t feel like you “owe” them an invite to your wedding—it’s your day, and you should be surrounded by friends and family that you really want to be there.

Go Adults Only

Not crazy about inviting kids to the party? Don’t feel bad about having an adults-only wedding—so many couples decide to go that route, whether it’s a budget and spacial issue or more a matter of atmosphere. It’s also perfectly okay to have children in your wedding party and still have an adults-only wedding. Just be careful to not make exceptions and let other family members or close friends bring their kids to the reception. Otherwise some guests might get offended if it looks like you selected which children were and weren’t invited. Inviting children to the ceremony only isn’t fair either, since it’s not fun for them to have to go home and see the other children going to the party.

If you hear that family members aren’t happy your little cousins, nieces and nephews aren’t allowed to come, that’s expected. But remember, it’s completely fair for you to want a child-free wedding (especially if it will help you stay within budget and venue limitations). If you need to, call and explain that you’re sorry, but due to budget constraints you can only invite adults.

Exclude Coworkers

Even if you’re close to your colleagues, you might consider cutting them from the list if you’re in a pinch. The easiest way to avoid a headache is not to invite any coworkers at all. But if you’re close to some of your coworkers (you socialize outside the office and regularly text or call them) and everyone knows it, it’s fine to invite them. Just don’t hand them their invites at work or make a big deal out of it. Keeping wedding talk to a minimum at the office is smart anyway. However, if you work on a smaller team and are considering inviting a handful of coworkers, you should invite the entire team or skip them altogether. As for your boss, invite them if you have a friendly relationship, along with a plus-one. If you don’t, you’re certainly not required to ask them to attend.

Be Firm About Plus-Ones

When it comes to plus-ones, sometimes things can get a little dicey, but hopefully these guidelines will make things easier for you. You should offer plus-ones to anyone who’s married, engaged, lives together or is in a long-term, committed relationship (if they’ve been together for at least one year). Extending a plus-one to everyone in your wedding party is a courteous move they’ll definitely appreciate. This doesn’t mean you have to force each bridesmaid and groomsman to bring a date to your wedding if they don’t want to (there’s a chance they’ll decline anyway), but it’s important to make the offer because they’ve been there for you from the start. Otherwise, guests who are casually dating, coworkers or single friends whom you’re not especially close to (or who will know other guests) do not require a plus-one.

26 Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding

26 Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding

We get it: Weddings are expensive. But you can cut costs without anyone missing, well, what’s missing.
by Meredith Bodgas
Blackberry champagne wedding cocktail with sugared rim
photo by Philip Ficks

Reception

1. Cut the guest list. This will slash your catering costs and save on invitations and even the number of centerpieces.

2. Think off-peak season and save thousands.

3. Hold your ceremony and reception in one spot—it will cut travel time for vendors you pay by the hour.

4. Skip the Saturday wedding.

5. Have bigger tables so you need fewer centerpieces and tablecloths.

Flowers

6. Use more greenery than flowers.

7. Swap out costly flowers—did you know peonies can be five times more expensive than roses?

8. Stick to just one or two kinds of flowers.

9. Buy flowers that are in season.

10. Include nonfloral pieces, like seashells or fruit.

Food & Drink

11. Skip the main course—just have passed hors d’oeuvres or stations.

12. Offer beer, wine and a signature cocktail instead of a full bar.

13. Skip the champagne toast.

Cakes

14. Order a small one- or two-tier cake and then supplement it with a larger sheet cake (hidden in the kitchen).

15. Keep the add-ons simple.

16. Use fresh flowers, not sugar ones.

17. Skip exotic fillings like guava and mango.

Stationery & Favors

18. Get single-page invites to save on postage.

19. Give out one favor per couple.

20. Make your cake the favors.

21. Have favors double as escort cards.

22. Email your save-the-dates.

23. Make your own menu cards , escort cards and wedding favor packaging.

Photo, Video & Music

24. Have a photographer you love but can’t afford the prices? Ask them if they have an associate shooter who will do your wedding for less.

25. Opt for a smaller band.

26. Hire a band or DJ who can do both the ceremony and the reception.

What Should Your Bridesmaids Pay For?

What Should Your Bridesmaids Pay For?

Don’t keep costs a secret.
by Catherine Jessee
bridal party
photo by FLORA + FAUNA

We know that asking your bridesmaids to pay for certain things can be tough, and it can get awkward when your expectations don’t line up with theirs—especially when they’re doing so much to support you already. Whether it’s coordinating the bridal shower or bustling your dress at the wedding, be honest about what you expect from your crew, up front about all costs associated with their commitment, and willing to compromise wherever you can. If you’re gracious and understanding, they will be too. To get the conversation started, here’s a complete guide to what bridesmaids are and aren’t typically expected to pay for.

Costs:

Hotel and Travel

Traditionally, how your bridesmaids get to the wedding and where they stay is on them, but they should feel comfortable discussing their financial needs with you. If it’s in your budget, consider going halfsies on travel and accommodations—you can definitely help them out by reserving hotel room blocks so the prices are at a discount.

Wedding Ensemble

Bridesmaid dresses, shoes and accessories (including jewelry, unless you’re gifting it to them) are their responsibility.

Bridal Shower  

Depending on who’s hosting, your maid of honor and bridesmaids are often expected to foot the the bridal shower bill. But if your family is hosting (or cohosting), a portion of the costs and responsibilities—from décor and activities to food and beverages—will fall on them.

Bridal Shower Gift

One wedding gift is usually enough (see below) and a bridal shower gift is by no means required. But if the party has a fun theme like a lingerie swap, it’s possible to participate without purchasing a huge gift off the registry—or another huge gift altogether.

Bachelorette Party

Your pals are responsible for all décor, activities, food and drink on your hen night.

Wedding Present  

In money, time and effort, your bridesmaids are paying for a lot, so don’t be shocked or offended if they don’t get you a wedding gift. If they do plan on gifting you something, they can always go in on one thing with other bridesmaids. You might prefer to receive one nice gift over several less expensive ones anyway.

Covered:

Bouquets, Corsages and Other Floral Accessories

The bride and her family are expected to pay for the bridesmaid bouquets and other floral accents like corsages.

Wedding Day Transportation

Traditionally, the bride and her family are responsible for coordinating and covering day-of wedding transportation ( to and from the hotel, ceremony and reception) for all guests and the wedding party. However you, your fiancé and your families divide it up, your bridesmaids shouldn’t have to worry about this one.

Hair and Makeup

This one’s a little trickier, but if you request that your bridesmaids get their hair and makeup done professionally, then you should pay. If you’re impartial, but your bridesmaids insist on using a professional glam squad, offer to split the bill or pay for it as their bridesmaid gift—otherwise, they can cover their own beauty services.

Accommodations the Night Before the Wedding

If you plan to spend the night in a shared hotel suite with your pals on the eve of your wedding, expect to cover the costs. Your bridesmaids may have already split a room with a plus-one for the duration of their stay, and they shouldn’t have to pay for yet another room

Writing Your Own Ceremony Vows? Read These Tips First

Writing Your Own Ceremony Vows? Read These Tips First

Writing your own vows might seem daunting, but it’ll be worth it when you’re up at that altar. Here are some tips and tricks to get you through it.
by Simone Hill
Bride and groom during vow exchange ceremony
photo by Perpixel Photography

Read lots of vow examples for inspiration.

Start by reading traditional, by-the-book vows from your own religion if you practice a certain faith, and others as well, to see what strikes a chord with you. Incorporate these samples into the original words you write or simply use them as a jumping-off point. Once you’ve found a few you love, consider what it is about the style that draws you to those vows in particular.

Agree on format and tone with your fiancé.

Decide how you want your vows to come across. Do you envision them as humorous? Poetic and romantic? Go over the logistics too. Will you write them separately or together? Will they be completely different or will you make the same promises to each other as you would with traditional vows? Some couples do a little of each. Finally, will you share them with each other or keep them a secret until the wedding day?

Jot down notes about your relationship.

Take some time to reflect on your fiancé. Think about how you felt when you first met, what made you fall in love and when you knew you wanted to spend the rest of your lives together. Write it all out to get your creative gears turning. Here’s a handy list of questions to help get you started:

  • Why did you decide to get married?
  • What hard times have you gone through together?
  • What have you supported each other through?
  • What challenges do you envision in your future?
  • What do you want to accomplish together?
  • What makes your relationship tick?
  • What did you think when you first saw your fiancé?
  • When did you realize you were in love?
  • What do you most respect about your partner?
  • How has your life gotten better since meeting your mate?
  • What about them inspires you?
  • What do you miss most about them when you’re apart?
  • What qualities do you most admire in one another?

Come up with one or two, or many, promises.

They’re called vows for a reason, so the promises are the most important part. One tip: “Include promises that are broad in scope, such as ‘I promise to always support you,’ as well as very specific to the two of you, like ‘I promise to say “I love you” every night before bed,'” wedding celebrant Christopher Shelley says.

Write it all out.

Now that you have notes, you’re ready to establish a structure and write your first draft. Speechwriting expert Robert Lehrman suggests a four-part outline: Affirm your love, praise your partner, offer promises and close with a final vow. Another way to organize it is to start with a short story and then circle back to it at the end.

Avoid clichés.

Now that you have your first draft, it’s time to make edits. Borrow from poetry, books, religious and spiritual texts, and even from romantic movies, but don’t let someone else’s words overpower your own. You want your vows to sound like you and relate to your relationship, and that won’t happen if every word is borrowed from other sources. And if you find yourself relying on cliché phrases (you know, those sayings that have been used over and over so many times they no longer sound genuine) to get your point across, Shelley suggests coming up with a specific example from your relationship that has a similar message. For example, instead of saying, “Love is blind,” you might say, “You’ll always be the most beautiful person to me, whether you’re in a T-shirt and jeans or dressed to the nines.”

Take out anything too cryptic or embarrassing.

You’ve invited your family and friends to witness your vows in order to make your bond public, so be sure everyone feels included in the moment. That means putting a limit on inside jokes, deeply personal anecdotes and obscure nicknames or code words. Wedding celebrant and author Maureen Pollinger says, “Think about how your vows will sound to you 10 years from now.” Have a friend or family member read it over ahead of time for feedback, if you’re okay with sharing your vows beforehand.

Shorten your vows to one to two minutes, max.

Your vows are important, but that doesn’t mean they should drag on. “When someone says something in a very meaningful way, they don’t need to say it over and over,” Pollinger says. Pick the most important points and make them. If yours are running longer than two minutes, makes some edits. Put some of the more personal thoughts in a letter or gift to your fiancé on the morning of your wedding and save any guest-related topics for your toasts.

Practice out loud (seriously!).

It might sound a little awkward, but this really is the best way to prep. “When you practice, don’t just do the same thing over and over. Listen each time—then do it better,” Lehrman says. Your vows should be easy to say and sound conversational. As you recite them, listen for any tongue twisters and super-long sentences, then cut them. This is also the time to practice the delivery. “Stand straight, look at your spouse and use your hands expressively—but only use small gestures,” Lehrman says.

Make a clean copy for yourself.

The paper you read from should be legible, so even if you’re working on it right up until a few moments before your ceremony, use a fresh piece of paper free of cross-outs, arrows and notes. And give some thought to the presentation too because “it will end up in the photos,” says Annie Lee, wedding planner and founder of Daughter of Design. “I suggest a nice note card that matches the wedding colors or a little notebook or pad. You can handwrite it or cut and paste the computer print to fit within that.” And it also makes a nice keepsake to hang in your home later on. Have a backup plan too. Pollinger points out that some couples find themselves too emotional to speak (it happens!), so have your officiant either prompt you by quietly saying the vows first or read the vows on your behalf.

Just Engaged and Completely Overwhelmed? Read This Now!

Just Engaged and Completely Overwhelmed? Read This Now!

Simply put, the key to a glitch-free wedding is smart planning. Spare yourself multiple headaches by making a plan and sticking with it—and our helpful wedding planning tips, tools and apps are perfect for staying organized and minimizing stress.
by The Knot
Bride using laptop and phone to plan wedding
photo by Getty Images

First of all, congratulations! If you haven’t started basking in the glow of being engaged yet, we highly recommend it. And while family members and friends will definitely want to know all the details and plans (you know, the ones you haven’t made yet), don’t be afraid to tell them you’re just enjoying this special time together for now. And when you do decide that you’re ready to start wedding planning, let us help. Not to brag or anything, but we’re kind of pros at this. So, first things first…

Stay Organized

This one’s pretty obvious! The more organized you are, the less chance there is that something will go wrong. If you’re someone who likes to handwrite your plans, pick up The Knot Ultimate Wedding Planner & Organizer. Keep all your wedding information in it: receipts, contracts, ideas, dates, times, locations—everything. If you’re more of a smartphone addict or just always on-the-go, the amazing The Knot apps work in place of (or in tandem with) the binder for all of your wedding planning needs, including managing your guest list and website details, finding fashion inspiration and more.

Start Your Personalized Checklist

Once you determine your wedding date, create your personalized wedding checklist on The Knot to figure out what your to-dos are on a month-by-month basis. Don’t stress yourself out in the beginning by setting to-do dates that might prove to be unrealistic—let us guide you on which essential tasks to do when. PS: We know that it may seem a little scary to try and get as much done as possible in the first few months, but that way, the last few months won’t be as hectic. You’ll thank yourselves later—promise!

Set Aside Weekly Time to Plan

Choose a day or two during the week when you’ll focus on wedding planning (or choose a time to do one or two things every day if you’re pressed for time). It’s also good to sit down together and plan. This eliminates confusion—i.e., the groom thinking he’s supposed to call and check on hall rentals when the bride already has it narrowed down to what will suit their needs. Even if you’re just perusing The Knot Real Weddings page for real inspiration, finding local vendors or booking a venue with our Venue Concierge team (it’s free!), clearly allocating time for wedding details can only help you in the long run.

Divide and Conquer (While Communicating!)

This is the best way to get things done. You and your partner should both be involved every step of the way. Make a list of details to be taken care of, then divide the list in half and choose what you each want to do—your groom may not be concerned with exactly which flowers you carry, and maybe you’re not picky about what tuxedos he and his guys wear (or maybe you are!). But even though you have your checklist, it’s good to over-communicate. Be sure that if you’re sharing duties that you’re also sharing the details. It’s okay to take care of certain things by yourself, just make sure you’re telling each other about it so the caterer isn’t contacted twice. And when the planning gets tough, create your official wedding website with us! It’s free and a fun thing to do if you can’t look at any more cakes for the day.

Be Flexible and Fair

So, you really didn’t want the ushers in tails and top hats. And maybe your partner doesn’t want the wedding cake to be lemon with pecan icing. Each of you is going to want things that the other doesn’t care for, but flexibility is a must. Be willing to bend. If you really object to something, let your objection be duly heard and noted. This may come up the most when you start deciding on your guest list and budget, but with our Wedding Guest List Manager and Wedding Budget Calculator, it’s easy to keep track of each choice you make.

Details, Contracts and Negotiations

When dealing with wedding professionals (caterers, florists and so on), be sure to clarify all the details and your expectations during the initial discussions. Make sure you get a contract specifically stating dates, times and locations, and spell everything out; it’s not about being difficult, it’s about paying for and receiving exactly what you want to make your day spectacular! Try to negotiate the best deal for goods and services, but don’t sell yourself short on important things just to get a better price.

Most importantly, be sure to read the fine print on every contract before you sign it, and make sure you’re aware of cancellation policies and fees. Also ask if there’s a grace period to cancel just in case you change your mind about the service or vendor, or something happens and you need to postpone the wedding (better safe than sorry).

Happy planning!

Real Wedding Vows You’ll Love

Real Wedding Vows You’ll Love

Take inspiration from these real couples who wrote their own romantic wedding vows.
by The Knot
Vow exchange ceremony
photo by Ashley Seawell Photography

Whether you want to get your guests giggling or grabbing for the tissues, penning your promises will truly personalize your wedding. Steal ideas from these self-written vows from real couples who crafted custom ones.

Jevan to Alithea

“I promise to love and care for you, and I will try in every way to be worthy of your love.
I will always be honest with you, kind, patient and forgiving.
I promise to try to be on time.
But most of all, I promise to be a true and loyal friend to you.
I love you.”

Amy and Russell to one another

“You are my lover and my teacher,
You are my model and my accomplice,
And you are my true counterpart.
I will love you, hold you and honor you,
I will respect you, encourage you and cherish you,
In health and sickness,
Through sorrow and success,
For all the days of my life.”

Laine and Shane to one another

“I promise to be your lover, companion and friend,
Your partner in parenthood,
Your ally in conflict,
Your greatest fan and your toughest adversary.
Your comrade in adventure,
Your student and your teacher,
Your consolation in disappointment,
Your accomplice in mischief.
This is my sacred vow to you, my equal in all things. All things.”

Anne and Gabrielle to one another

“I take you to be my partner for life,
I promise above all else to live in truth with you
And to communicate fully and fearlessly,
I give you my hand and my heart
As a sanctuary of warmth and peace
And pledge my love, devotion, faith and honor
As I join my life to yours.”

Anne and Mike to one another

“On this day,
I give you my heart,
My promise,
That I will walk with you,
Hand in hand,
Wherever our journey leads us,
Living, learning, loving,
Together,
Forever.”

Kristin and Josh to one another

“I believe in you, the person you will grow to be and the couple we will be together.

With my whole heart, I take you as my wife/husband, acknowledging and accepting your faults and strengths, as you do mine.

I promise to be faithful and supportive and to always make our family’s love and happiness my priority. I will be yours in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, in failure and in triumph. I will dream with you, celebrate with you and walk beside you through whatever our lives may bring. You are my person—my love and my life, today and always.”

Alex to Michelle

“I promise to encourage your compassion,
Because that is what makes you unique and wonderful.
I promise to nurture your dreams,
Because through them your soul shines.
I promise to help shoulder our challenges,
For there is nothing we cannot face if we stand together.
I promise to be your partner in all things,
Not possessing you, but working with you as a part of the whole.
Lastly, I promise to you perfect love and perfect trust,
For one lifetime with you could never be enough.
This is my sacred vow to you, my equal in all things.”

Danielle to Gregory

“You have been my best friend, mentor, playmate, confidant and my greatest challenge. But most importantly, you are the love of my life and you make me happier than I could ever imagine and more loved than I ever thought possible… You have made me a better person, as our love for one another is reflected in the way I live my life. So I am truly blessed to be a part of your life, which as of today becomes our life together.”

Jessica to Greg

“I remember once how I told you I did not believe in soul mates. I will never forget your reaction. Shocked and a little hurt that I did not think we were. But as time went by, your love made me believe.”

Mallory to Eddie

“I promise to comfort you when the Falcons lose and drink beer with you when they win.”

Ryan to Tara

“You know me better than anyone else in this world and somehow still you manage to love me. You are my best friend and one true love. There is still a part of me today that cannot believe that I’m the one who gets to marry you.”

Erin to Dash

“I will, in good times and bad, cheer for the Tar Heels.”

Dash to Erin

“I promise to buy taller shoes so you can wear heels.”

Christy to Meg

“I feel truly blessed because I’ve found a love that transcends and grows, despite state lines, early morning commutes, barking beagles and conflicting seasons.”

Yuval to Dina

“I see these vows not as promises but as privileges: I get to laugh with you and cry with you; care for you and share with you. I get to run with you and walk with you; build with you and live with you.”

Anja and Ben

“The feeling hit me the moment we made eye contact in class. It was so immediate and powerful—far deeper and inexplicably beyond any calculation of time and place. You don’t describe a feeling like that. You also can’t replicate it or force it. You just let it flow in and around you. You go where it takes you.”

Christopher to Ken

“I promise faithfulness and patience, respect and lightheartedness, attentiveness and self-improvement. I will celebrate your triumphs, and love you all the more for your failures.”

Bill to Megan

“Our open attitude toward finding adventure together in life is something that I cherish. I love it even more when those great experiences take the form of us making up a home-cooked meal together with a lot of great wine and music. I would marry you for your risotto alone!”

Ronnie to Megan

“I call you ‘My Megan’ because you are my everything. You are my light, and you’ve shown me more love than I’ve ever known.”

John to Brittany

“I promise to hold your hand every night and to never let us lose our spark.”

Lois to Devin

“I’ve always had goals, aspirations, things I wanted to do. But when I met you, I learned what it was to dream. You dreamed of traveling, but not just out of the state; you dreamed of visiting Spain, Italy and places I’ve only read about. I’ve learned to dream of the things I deserve.”

Adam to Lauren

“I vow to have the patience that love demands, to speak when words are needed and to share in the silence when they are not.”

Gregory to Chandler

“Until today, the day that I told you I loved you, the day that I knew I was going to marry you, that was the best day of my life.”

Eddie to Allie

“I promise to be your navigator, consoler, sidekick, best friend and your husband. Finally, I promise you myself.”

Kendall to Justin

“In sickness and in health: I promise to take care of you, even when you’ve over-indulged the night before. For richer or for poorer: I promise not to spend all our money at Nordstrom.”

Are Wedding Loans a Good Way to Cover Costs?

Are Wedding Loans a Good Way to Cover Costs?

by Rachel Torgerson
Colorful glassware in burgundy and blue with gold chargers on a lace tablecloth at a wedding reception
photo by We Heart Photography

With the national average cost of a wedding hitting an all-time high, it’s important to remeber that it is possible to have an amazing wedding on any budget. The keys are saving, setting priorities and sticking to the number you start with. We’re not saying it’s always easy to do. For example, if you have $10,000 and you want a New York City wedding, you may have to skip the Saturday night sit-down dinner idea. No matter where you live, though, saving and paying for a wedding is an important part of the planning process.

While you may be considering taking out a personal loan or using credit to pay for your wedding, there are plenty of other ways to save on wedding costs. (Lots of helpful links at the bottom of this piece to help you get there.)

That said, there is a ton of information out there about paying for the wedding with personal loans or using a credit card. It shouldn’t be your go-to method, but if you’re considering those options, use this as a starting point.

What are “wedding loans”?

First things first: There’s no such thing as a “wedding loan.” You can’t just walk into a bank and request a wedding loan. What we’re talking about here is using a personal loan for the purpose of funding your wedding. Most financial advisers would tell you to stop here and not pursue wedding loans. “Taking out a personal loan is kind of a last-ditch effort,” says Lauren Lyons Cole, certified financial planner and personal finance contributor for financial-planning website Mainstreet.com. “The problem with personal loans is that most often people are taking them out because they’re trying to spend cash they don’t have. I would also lump in credit card spending here, because I think a lot of people pay for wedding-related things with a credit card and they may or may not have the cash to pay it off in full.” Personal loans are good for starting a small business, but maybe not as a quick fix for a down payment on your venue. That being said, taking out wedding loans isn’t unheard of, and there are a few ways to go about getting a personal loan to help cover wedding costs.

Should you get a wedding loan?

This means you’d be covering your wedding costs with money you don’t have, be it from a personal loan or a credit card. This is a decision to make with your partner, becuase it will effect financial decisions on your marriage later. It’s important to talk about whether or not that financial burden is something you want to deal with when you get back from the honeymoon.

Below is a list of the ways to cover the costs of a wedding with loans. (Again, this is just to inform you on how it’s done—we don’t recommend it!)

What are other ways to cover wedding costs?

Using an Online Personal Loan Company to Pay for the Wedding

A ton of Internet loan companies have sprung up over the past few years, and most offer crowd-sourced loans. Here’s how it works: Online investors front money for you once you’ve been approved by the company in much the same way you’d be approved by a bank. Then you pay them back including interest in the same way you would a bank. Some good sites (read: trusted) for online wedding loans are Prosper, Upstart and LendingClub. Sites like these will have you safely fill in your information, then bring up the types of loans (and the personal loan rates) that you qualify for. “People that apply can have their money as soon as three to five days,” says Sarah Cain, director of communications at Prosper. “Marketplace lending is a newer method, but a quickly growing option for consumers. Credit cards are great for making a purchase at the point of sale, but not a good option for borrowing money long-term. There’s a faster, easier, smarter way to borrow, and being online allows us to be available 24/7.” If you’re interested, you can move forward with the application process for your wedding loan. If not, just stop there.

Taking Out a Home Equity Line of Credit to Pay for the Wedding

This one is only for homeowners and usually for parents paying for their children’s nuptials. The idea behind a home equity line of credit is that you borrow against the mortgage on your home. Again, though, it’s not a good idea. Neither the financial experts nor we would recommend doing such a thing. “I’ve seen parents take out a home equity line of credit, which is basically borrowing against the value of your home,” says Lyons Cole. “Especially for a lot of parents, if you’re throwing a wedding, you’re probably mid-40s to 50s, you’re not that far away from retirement, you probably just put your kid through college—there are so many expenses and pressures put on a parent, and chances are you need that money for something else.”

Using a Credit Card to Pay for the Wedding

We should warn you that most financial advisers are wary of credit cards and lines of credit when it comes to alternative ways to pay for your wedding. For Lyons Cole, this is one of the fastest ways to get into deep debt. “Obviously, as a financial planner, my advice would always be to create a budget and only pay for things you can afford,” says Lyons Cole. “Don’t go into credit card debt for a wedding.”

That said, if (and only if) you have the cash to pay for your wedding, a credit card can be a good option. Here’s why: Using credit can protect your money from fraud and earn you points for flights and even hotels (hello, honeymoon!). Just try not to pay for wedding things with money you don’t have yet, and you’ll be fine.

Extending Your Engagement and Saving Up for the Wedding

Ding, ding! This is the way to go. Avoid wedding loans and take some time to create a wedding budget and truly save up for the things you want. There’s no harm in a long engagement. Many times, venues are already booked more than a year in advance anyway. Having one will allow you to have enough time to truly plan the wedding and save up for the items that are nonnegotiable, and even splurge on a few things you’ve always hoped to have. “I would rather have you postpone your engagement six months to a year to save money,” says Lyons Cole. “Paying forward by saving is much better than paying backwards with debt.”

How much money can you get with a wedding loan?

Personal loans can range from anywhere between $2,000 and $35,000. The same goes for online companies. “Prosper offers three- and five-year-term loans, but just like other loans, you need to pay back your loan through Prosper on time. If not, it will negatively affect your credit,” says Cain. “On the flip side, those that take out loans and pay them off on time or early can improve their credit score.”

How do you get a wedding loan?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, getting a wedding loan may not be the best idea out there. But if you’re still reading and you’ve made up your mind, here’s everything you’ll need to get a personal loan to cover wedding costs.

Make Sure You Have Good Credit

If you’re looking to get a wedding loan, you’ll have to ensure your financials are order. The biggest factor is your credit score. According to Cole, anything above 700 is considered a good credit score. You can still get a loan with a lower score. You’ll just have to pay more for it with a higher interest rate. (That’s sometimes referred to as a bad credit personal loan—not something you want!) Over at lending website Prosper.com, you’ll need a score of 640 or higher to qualify for a loan, says Cain. To figure out your credit score, there are a number of free credit score sites. (We trust KreditKarma.com to easily figure out your credit score.)

Have Your Financial Documents in Order

Beyond the credit score, your bank will want to take a look at your proof of income, bank statements and any other debt you might have (student loans, mortgages, etc.). You’ll have to check with your local bank to find out what specific documents and qualifications you’ll need. In other words, online wedding loans require many of the same types of documentation as any other loan. “At Prosper, to make the process go smoothly you should have basic income and identity documentation on hand when you start your application. For example, that would include W2s, driver’s license and Social Security card,” says Cain.

Just because we have to say it again: Don’t feel like you have to turn to a wedding loan to pay for your big day. There are lots of ways to save and cut wedding costs. We know budgeting for the wedding can be arduous, and there are just some things out there that are too cool not to have, but we simply have to impress upon you that starting your future in debt is not a good way to kick off your marriage. Need a basic rundown of a simple wedding budget? Looking for expensive wedding dates to avoid? Or need simple planning advice to get a handle on the whole process? We’ve got you completely covered, below.

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors.

XO Group Inc. and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, financial, accounting or similar advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, financial, accounting or similar advice. You should consult your own advisers before engaging in any transaction.