Does it matter when we cut the cake at our wedding reception?

When you’re planning your wedding, you’re sure to have a lot of questions about finding the right wedding gown, the wedding-planning process, choosing and managing... Read More

When you’re planning your wedding, you’re sure to have a lot of questions about finding the right wedding gown, the wedding-planning process, choosing and managing your bridesmaids and groomsmen. All of this can be just as stressful as planning the big day- that’s why we are here to answer all of your wedding questions!

Timing isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about the traditional cutting of the cake at a reception. For most of us it conjures up an image of a couple feeding cake to each other with their hands. Cutting the cake does provide an unspoken signal to guests: namely, that it’s okay to leave without being thought of as rude. In days past, the cake was cut at the very end of the reception, and for some guests it was the magic moment that meant they could leave what was usually a long evening. Today, as a courtesy (especially to elderly guests), the cake is cut early on during the reception so that guests are free to leave when they are ready. The cake is typically cut after dinner is over and before the dancing gets in full swing.

I want a non-white wedding dress: how do I convince my traditional mother?

I want my wedding dress to be a color other than white. My mother, a traditionalist, is having a fit about this. She’s footing the bill, so how can I make her understand that times have changed?

Start by arming yourself with the facts. Tell your mom that colorful dresses are a sizzling hot trend in bridal wear. In addition to being quite fashionable, colorful dresses can also be very meaningful. Yes, white represents purity, but so does blue. All the other colors of the rainbow have their own significance, too. For example, purple symbolizes spirituality and yellow represents joy and happiness.

You may even be drawn to a color because it makes you feel great, or it has something special to do with your relationship with your fiancé (it’s the color of the shirt you wore when you first met, or the precise shade of pink of the first roses he sent you). After you explain your desire for color, offer to take your mom out dress shopping with you. She may need to see for herself just how beautiful colorful wedding dresses are. When you find the right one for you, she’s sure to be wowed by how radiant you look in it.

What does the wedding party actually do?

The honor attendant is usually a close friend or family member who not only organizes and hosts a shower for the bride, but also helps her get ready on the wedding day. She wears a dress that she usually pays for, which matches or coordinates with the other bridesmaids, and she sometimes carries a slightly more elaborate bouquet than the other attendants.
The bridesmaids are select friends and family, who are usually about the same age of the bride. They attend pre-wedding parties and also help out with some wedding preparations. They wear matching or coordinating dresses (usually paid for themselves) to the ceremony and are customarily given a gift by the bride as a token of appreciation.

The best man is often the groom’s best friend or a close family member. His formalwear matches the ushers’ and he pays the rental fees himself. He hosts the bachelor party, holds the ring during the ceremony and leads the other men in the well-wishing.

Ushers are also close in age to the groom. They are usually chosen by the groom, and their primary function is seating guests at the wedding. They each wear and pay for matching formalwear, and the groom usually gives each man a present as a thank-you for participating in the wedding.
Children between the ages of 9 and 14 are best suited for the duties of candlelighters, junior bridesmaids or junior ushers. These attendants wear coordinating dresses or formalwear. Parents pay for their children’s attire when asked to be in a wedding, unless otherwise notified by the bride or groom.

Do I need place cards at my reception?

Place cards, which are found at each place setting, are not required, and eliminating them is an easy way to save time and money. Seating cards, however, are another matter. They assign guests to a particular table, and I highly recommend them if you want to prevent a free-for-all (12 guests fighting it out at one table; two lonely souls at another). Creating a seating chart is never fun or easy, but it is preferable to listening to your mother-in-law complain about her table by the buffet line for the next 30 years.

I hate my engagement ring? what do I do?

You must absolutely tell him how you feel! And together you can pick out an engagement ring of equal or lesser value. Most guys will understand that your opinion counts for a lot, since YOU are the one who will be wearing the ring—and literally wearing it every day! And guys are cautioned all the time to discuss ring styles with their partner before making a purchase, so you have good reason to speak up.

However, it is NOT okay to say you want a different ring because you think the stone is too small or of poor quality. Because that’s like saying, “You didn’t spend enough money.” You would never want him to feel that his choice was inadequate in that regard—surely he bought you the most beautiful ring he could afford, so if everything else about the ring works for (metal, stone shape, style) then hold your tongue. Five years from now you can discuss upgrading to a diamond of better quality.

Do you have to serve dinner at your wedding reception?

Our ceremony starts at 7:30 p.m., and the reception will follow directly at 8:00. Do we have to serve dinner?

In most parts of the country, eight o’clock is a reasonable dinner hour; realize that guests will have spent their normal dining period getting ready for and driving to the wedding. If cost-cutting is your motivation for skipping the meal, remember that the food doesn’t have to be elaborate. Instead of pricey filet mignon or lobster, go with a less expensive chicken or pasta dish. Talk to caterers about your budget and your options. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Can we only let some guests bring their children to our wedding?

A lot of our guests have kids, but we don’t want our wedding to feel like a circus. We plan to write “Adult Reception” on the invitations, making exceptions for the flower girls and their brothers, and for children of people who are flying in. Will other guests be insulted?

Once you open up the guest list to kids outside of the wedding party, you’ve got to invite all guests to bring their offspring (though not everyone will want to) or make a strict age-related cut-off (no children under five, for instance). Set up an on-premises nursery overseen by a baby-sitter recommended by a friend or by your officiant. You won’t save any money (you’ll have to pay the sitter and feed the tots), but you will take a load off guests’ minds and preserve the atmosphere you’re after. When you write out the invitations’ inner envelopes, list the names of every person who is invited, including the children. Include a printed card that says there will be a supervised children’s room.

Can my fiancé ask two friends to be best man?

It’s perfectly fine for your fiance to have two people stand up for him. His friends can split the best man duties and even do a tag-team toast.

Should we offer non-cake desserts at our wedding reception?

A slice of cake is the perfect way to end the meal, and you’re not obligated to provide your guests with other selections to choose from. Sure, some couples opt for a dessert table to accompany cake service, but rest assured your guests aren’t counting on it.
However, if you’re looking to add a little variety to dessert, here are a few options that won’t break your wedding-planning bank: You could arrange for plated truffles or chocolate-covered strawberries to be placed on each reception table. Folks who don’t have room for a big slice of cake (go figure!) at the end of a filling meal might still want a little something to satisfy their sweet tooth. Another idea is to set up a fruit station after dinner. It’s a refreshing addition to dessert—especially on a hot summer’s night. Whether you decide to add extra sweets for dessert or not, just remember that as long as guests get their coffee and cake, they’re good to go.

Should my bridesmaids’ dress color be season-appropriate?

Unfortunately, too many people fall prey to the idea that there’s only one “proper” way to do a wedding and you’ll be laughed at if you don’t serve the right meal and wear the right color. But that’s just not the case. Your bridesmaids can wear any color you love, no matter what the season. They should, however, stick to materials that are appropriate for the weather. While some fabrics transcend season or climate, others might look wrong next to the clothes the guests wear. Flimsy chiffon in December would seem odd among the wool coats of Minnesota but would be perfect in balmy southern Florida. And heavy velvet in July is downright mean pretty much everywhere. So go on and pick your favorite shade, whether it’s ice blue or hot pink, and find a great dress in that hue. Trust us—it’ll look just as great in summer as it does in the dead of winter.

Is 11 a.m. too early to serve drinks to my wedding guests?

For some guests, it probably is; for others, a party’s a party no matter what time of day, and they’ll be happy to raise a glass or two. Instead of stocking the bar with hard liquors, though, take a lighter route. “You could do a bubbly bar, with champagnes and sparkling wines, or pass around Bloody Marys, in addition to serving wine and beer,” says Laura Weatherly, owner of Engaging Affairs in Alexandria, Virginia. Fruity alcoholic drinks can be both pretty and punchy, like pomegranate margaritas. Have juices and sodas on hand too, plus iced tea and flavored lemonade in summer or mulled cider in winter.

Is five bridesmaids too many for my wedding party?

I wanted to ask five of my good friends to be bridesmaids, but my fiance says that’s way too many. Now, so as to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, I’m thinking about not having any attendants at all. Does that make sense to you?

If your fiance is worried that he’ll have trouble coming up with five groomsmen, tell him not to worry—bridal parties don’t have to be symmetrical. However, you can certainly skip the tradition of having bridesmaids and groomsmen and just ask your friends to attend the wedding as guests instead.

Is five bridesmaids too many for my wedding party?

Having your reception start immediately after the ceremony is ideal, which is possible if you’re holding both at the same place. If not, don’t let guests languish for more than an hour between events. Try to choose venues that are no more than half an hour’s drive apart.

Can each of my bridesmaids wear a different color?

The key to pulling off a multicolored bridal party is unity, meaning your bridesmaids should all wear dresses made of the same material in a similar tone. If you’re opting for jewel colors, choose shades like emerald green, sapphire blue and plum—all of which look good together. If pastels are your passion, try dusty rose, pale gray and sage. Flowers should coordinate with each dress, meaning each bouquet should be a different color. But unless you want your party to look like a dance troupe, don’t play mix-and-match with the guys. Have them go with a uniform look—navy suits, black tuxedos or white tie.

Should we send both save-the-dates and wedding invitations?

Do I have to send someone a wedding invitation if I sent them a save-the-date?

It’s an absolute must to send a wedding invitation to anyone who received a save-the-date announcement. There’s a clear expectation when a save-the-date card is received that an invitation will follow; failing to send one is essentially the same as uninviting a guest—which is unacceptable. If finances have become an issue to the planning since the save-the-dates were sent, the answer is to cut back on the scale of catering, music, flowers or invitation—instead of on people already planning to come.

Who should plan my bridal shower?

Let’s start with who should not do it. Traditionally, close relatives (your mom and sisters) do not host the bridal shower, as this can be perceived as the family asking for gifts. But it doesn’t mean that they can’t help organize it—just make sure their names aren’t on the invitation. Your bridesmaids and sisters should join forces, choosing one person to spearhead the shower effort. Enlist your mom to nudge the proceedings along, so that you can retain an air of blissful ignorance.

When should the flower girl and ring bearer walk down the aisle?

In most ceremonies, the ring bearer and flower girl make their entrance (either single file or together) right after the groomsmen and bridesmaids. Then it’s your turn. If you feel they’re mature enough to stay still for the whole ceremony, they can stand directly in front of the wedding party at the altar. Otherwise, have them sit with their parents after their duties are completed. Just be sure that Mom and Dad are seated up front for easy access!

If I went to her wedding, do I have to invite her to mine?

There is no reciprocation rule. Smooth feathers by inviting them to a casual celebration, or get together when you get back from your honeymoon.

Can I mix fake flowers with real flowers?

Absolutely. However if the cost is a concern, good artificial flowers (usually silk) can be more expensive than real blossoms. So unless you’re allergic to the real deal, consider forgoing the faux in favor of in-season blooms or affordable picks like carnations (which look great in a tight bunch) and gerbera daisies. Another great way to save? Consider repurposing your ceremony flowers at the reception. Assembling simple, small arrangements into centerpieces is a great cost cutter and can be a fun DIY project for you and your bridesmaids. That said, if you do decide to go faux, beware of long plastic stems—they’re a dead giveaway and can cheapen the appearance of an otherwise lovely arrangement.

How do I handle an uneven number of groomsmen and bridesmaids?

The good news is this isn’t a problem at all! Lots of couples have an uneven number of attendants. For the processional, tradition dictates that the groomsmen stand with the groom before any of the women in the bridal party walk down the aisle. (Remember Harry standing next to Prince William, whispering how beautiful Kate looked as she made her way toward the altar?) Follow this rule and the uneven number is of no consequence.

Can we have a cash bar at our wedding?

Guests shouldn’t have to shell out for anything at a wedding reception. But there are ways to serve liquor without getting soaked. Lisa Harris, director of catering at the Wyndham Miami Beach Resort, suggests limiting the time the bar is open—you could close it during dinner or an hour before the reception ends, offering just house wines, beer, and soft drinks. Other cost-savers: Pass up expensive premium liquors (you’ll save about 15 percent), and have a sparkling-cider toast instead of passing champagne. If your caterer will allow it, buy your own liquor—that way, you can stockpile during sales and return unopened bottles for credit.

Can we ask for money for our honeymoon instead of gifts?

Registering for gifts is de rigueur, so you probably should register for a few items (surely you can use another carafe or picture frame?), just to give your guests the option. Wanting cash is fine, but banks don’t offer cash registries yet, as far as I know. Instead, have friends direct your guests to sites like and, which allow you to register for your big trip. Don’t forget to share pictures when you return!

How do I invite only certain coworkers to the wedding?

This is tricky—especially if you plan on returning to your job after your honeymoon. If you work with 10 or fewer coworkers, you really ought to invite all of them. But if you work at a large company, get the message out that you have to keep the list small, and invite only those you actually spend time with outside of work. The other option is to invite no one from your office other than your boss and your assistant, who (if you have one) most likely licked envelopes or covered for you when you were at a dress fitting. Inevitably, someone who considers you a close work ally might be wounded by not being invited. But there’s a silver lining: This may be an opportunity to establish some boundaries at the office. Worst-case scenario, you won’t get invited to said colleague’s boring holiday party—but did you really want to go anyway? I didn’t think so.

— By Anna Post

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