Wedding Gift Etiquette

There are few things in life more difficult to figure out than the “rules” that apply to weddings.  It’s perhaps toughest to know what’s proper when it comes to giving presents. Here’s a brief look at current-day wedding gift etiquette.

What To Give

Many wonder whether it’s acceptable to give cash or checks. The answer, according to the Emily Post Institute, is definitely “yes.” However, customs do vary in different regions, so cash may be more welcome in some areas than others.

If you’re planning on giving something tangible, it’s best to stick with the items listed in the bride and groom’s gift registry. That way you know that the couple will appreciate and need whatever you’ve given. It’s fine to give something they haven’t chosen in a registry, if you know them well and can be sure that they’ll like what you’ve selected.

Wedding Gift Etiquette

The biggest issue for most people is how much to give. recommends spending around $75-$100 on someone you don’t know very well, and $100-$125 for a friend or relative. They’ve also surveyed their members and found the average expenditures were $79 for friends, and $146 for family members.

It’s also acceptable to give less if you’re having financial issues. In this case, a good idea is to select something inexpensive from the couple’s registry, or a less expensive but more personal gift. They will certainly understand, and will appreciate that you’ve made the effort.

When To Give

“Everyone knows” that you have a year to send a wedding gift. Most etiquette experts, however, say that’s not really true. They recommend giving the present at the time of the wedding; at the most, they say, it should be sent within three months. Anything more than that is considered rude.

Another common fallacy is that it’s not necessary to give anything if you’re travelling a long distance to get to the nuptials, or if a couple is having a “destination wedding” which entails a lot of extra expense for guests. That’s not true, either. It’s perfectly acceptable to spend less on a present if it costs a lot more to attend the event, but you should still give a gift as well.

Two more beliefs that many people have:

  • It’s okay to give nothing to a couple, if you didn’t receive anything from them.
  • If you gave the bride something for her shower, it’s not necessary to give anything else for the wedding.

Those are both incorrect. Once again, it’s considered rude to play the “you didn’t give me one, so you don’t get one” game. And it’s proper to give engagement party, shower, and wedding gifts; experts suggest taking the total amount you want to spend and allocate 20% for the engagement gift, 20% for the shower and 60% for the nuptials.

When Not To Give  

There are a few times when it’s acceptable to not give a present. If you’ve already given the bride or groom something for their first wedding, there’s no need to give another gift for the second, although it’s certainly a nice thing to do.

And, of course, if the wedding is cancelled at the last minute there’s no need to give the couple anything at all. In that case, the couple should return all gifts that have already been received.

Do you have your own opinions about wedding gift dos-and-don’ts? We’d love you to share them.

Bachelorette Party Ideas – Skip the Boring House Party!

It often seems that guys have all the fun during the week before a wedding. All they have to worry about is getting their tuxes, while women have a million little details to take care of. Meanwhile, the groom gets to have an epic bachelor party; the bride is usually lucky if she can spend a few quiet hours with her best friends under the guise of a party.

Things don’t have to be that way – there are a lot of great bachelorette party ideas that let a woman have just as much fun as her husband-to-be before the big day. Of course, females can celebrate the same way many of their male counterparts do by going bar-hopping or heading to a casino. But many prefer doing something with a more feminine feel. Here are some suggestions.

Think Before You Drink – And Ask Before You Plan

arrest or accident

Nothing ruins a fun night more than a drunk driving arrest or accident. If alcohol will be a part of the partying, make sure that there will be designated drivers, limousines, taxis, or some other way to be sure everyone gets where they’re going safely.

One other thing that can turn a great idea into a terrible evening, is planning an event that the guest of honor won’t enjoy. It’s best to check with the bride before you make any decisions, to find out what sort of party she’d like to have – or more importantly, what type of night she doesn’t want. You don’t want to hire male entertainment only to have her annoyed and unhappy, and you don’t want to plan a quiet gathering at home if she’s ready to go out and paint the town.

The Traditional

bachelorette party ideas

Perhaps the most traditional “bride’s night out” involves going to a male strip show, or to a drag show featuring female impersonators. The Chippendales are the best-known male dance performers; they play throughout the country and around the world so it’s hard to time your event to catch them, unless you live in Las Vegas where they perform year-round. There are many local clubs in every area which feature male strippers, however, and it’s almost impossible to visit one without seeing at least a couple of bachelorette party groups in attendance. Drag shows are more likely to be found in larger cities, and if they don’t offend the group’s sensibilities, they’re a lot of fun. Some drag clubs even let you make a full night of it, offering dinner as well as a performance.

White limousine seen in London, England

Another popular choice is renting a limo and hitting a few night spots for cocktails. That’s often combined with a naughty “scavenger hunt,” in which the guest of honor has a number of sexy challenges to accomplish such as kissing random men, walking down a busy street drinking from a penis-shaped water bottle, and convincing a guy to surrender his underwear. It’s also customary to supply something that clearly identifies the bride-to-be, like a baseball cap with a veil attached.

Traditional Bachelorette House Party

The final traditional choice is a house party. This can be a sedate affair with tea or wine and conversation if that fits the group’s nature. It can also be more rowdy, with loud music, drinking and male strippers if that’s more in keeping with the bride’s wishes. There are also a lot of fun options which fall somewhere between the two extremes. Just a few suggestions: a game night (either with “normal” games like Trivial Pursuit or more risqué party games which can be found at novelty stores), a poker night complete with cigars and scotch, or a panty-gift party at which everyone presents the guest of honor with unique pair of funny, sexy or x-rated panties.

Girly Excursions

brides night out


Many women want to go “somewhere” for the bride’s night out, but aren’t really interested in heavy drinking and carousing. Here are some ideas that might satisfy the more feminine side of partiers.

  • Dessert Crawl – It’s possible to spend a night on the town without getting drunk, with this twist on the more common “pub crawl.” Instead of visiting bars, the group piles into a limousine and hits a number of high-end pastry and ice cream shops for a decadent, sweet and very fattening feast.
  • Bar Trivia or Karaoke – This allows the drinkers at the party to indulge, while letting everyone have a great time together. Of course, scoring well at bar trivia might be easier for the non-drinkers, while Karaoke might be more fun for those who’ve had a few cocktails.
  • Comedy Club – Once again, guests can imbibe – but the purpose of this outing is to enjoy each others’ company and have some laughs in a fairly low-key environment.
  • Slumber Party – Rent a fancy hotel room or suite, pack up the jammies and chick flicks and take everyone to a grown-up, stay-up-all-night party. Pillow fights are optional, but may break out after a drink or two.
  • Visit a Spa or Get a Mani-Pedi – These don’t really classify as parties, but are terrific ways for the girls to spend time together and do something to pamper themselves. If the bride has been going crazy planning her own wedding, they’re outings she’d probably appreciate as much as anything else you could plan.
  • Take a Class Together – Again, this isn’t really a “party” idea, but is another fun bonding excursion the group can take with the bride. It can be an exercise or dance class, a cooking or pastry-making class – or even a skydiving class for those who aren’t faint-of-heart.
  • Ride the Giant Coaster – Another fun spot for a non-traditional outing is the amusement park. It’s a wonderful place to let the guest of honor forget all about the upcoming wedding, and just spend the day feeling like a kid one last time.

There’s no reason for women to ignore venues usually considered “bachelor party” havens, like upscale steak restaurants, cigar bars, tracks – or even strip clubs for a few laughs. Some groups who can afford the cost and have the time, opt for a bachelor-style road trip to Vegas, Atlantic City or New Orleans. Those excursions are becoming so popular that they’re worth examining more in detail.

Vegas Bachelorette Parties

las vegas

Once upon a time, only the very rich could consider a Vegas bachelorette bash. Today, with cheap air fares and hotel rooms available much of the year, almost any bridal party can afford a trip to the city many consider “party central.”

There are three ways to approach the planning:

  • All-inclusive packages
  • Do-it-yourself trips
  • “The World’s Largest Bachelorette Party”

It’s important to note that all of these options still require you to book your own flights to Las Vegas, and for most you’ll also have to book your own hotel rooms.

All-Inclusive Packages

There are two types of “everything included” bachelorette party packages you can book.

The first is a party that’s planned for you by a major Vegas resort-casino. Most of the big hotels will be happy to accommodate your party, and some like the Palms and the Hard Rock have special bachelorette packages which they promote regularly. They usually include rooms (or suites, depending on your budget), VIP club admission, meals and beverages. Each hotel’s package has a little different twist; for example, bottles of champagne, all-you-can-drink nightclub tables, or spa experiences. Prices can vary widely; for example, the Palms (one of the more expensive choices) offers bachelorette packages with starting prices ranging from $1500 (including the Barbie Suite) to $55,000 (with two nights in their “Sky Villa”), while lower-end hotels like Harrahs will set you up nicely for well under $1000 as long as you’re not arriving during a peak week. Be sure to call the hotel rather than trying to book online.

The second category of package deals is arranged through an outside agency rather than a hotel. For that reason you’ll need to book your room(s) separately, although some of the party planning companies also offer discounts at big hotels. Your meals, clubs, entertainment and transportation can all be planned for you depending on how much you want to spend; you can choose anything from spa and salon pampering to cabana sunbathing, Chippendales shows and “pole dancing” classes in addition to dining, drinking and clubbing. Less-expensive packages start in the neighborhood of $100 per attendee, while the more lavish choices can easily run a few hundred dollars per person.

Do-It-Yourself Trips

Lots of bachelorette groups on a tight budget or with a “spur of the moment” mentality prefer to make all of their own arrangements. Unless you’ve chosen a week when an enormous convention or event has Vegas tied up in knots, this is pretty easy to do. There are so many great restaurants, spas and nightclubs in the city that you’ll have a good choice of options even at the last minute. You may run into difficulties if you decide to hit up one of the hottest clubs on the Strip, but you’d be surprised what a group of girls with a bride-to-be in tow can accomplish when they’re willing to offer a generous tip at the door. (This suggestion should also be kept in mind when you check into your hotel; letting the desk clerk know that you’re a bachelorette party, asking if there’s any possibility of an upgrade, and letting it be known that you’re willing to tip them for their help – $40-$50 will usually do it – can often work wonders.)

Doing it yourself can also give you the freedom to break off into smaller groups or depart from the usual “pool-spa-meal-club” bachelorette routine, since Vegas offers a wealth of entertainment possibilities. Everything from gambling (of course!) to off-road ATV excursions and hot-air balloon or helicopter rides are the type of unusual but fun activities your bridal party can enjoy before getting down to the more serious partying. Two final notes: most casinos will be happy to set up a separate table for your party to gamble and drink at; and unless you want to rely on taxis or rental cars, you might want to make a few advance calls to book limos in advance in order to avoid exorbitant last-minute rates.

“The World’s Largest Bachelorette Party”

This is only an option if you can plan your road trip for a specific weekend, but it’s a fun way to hold a bachelorette party with a summer break feel. The TAO Group, which runs some of the biggest and best restaurants and clubs in Vegas, has staged the WLBP for the last several years during the summer. The most recent one was hosted by Wendy Williams and Brandi Glanville (of Real Housewives fame), and included open bars, sunbathing, a turn on a runway with designer clothes, some meals (and discount prices for others), admission and VIP privileges at the hot LAVO and TAO nightclubs, gift bags, prizes and other goodies for just $125 per person. Without question, it’s a zoo – but isn’t that the perfect environment for a final weekend bash before getting hitched?

Atlantic City and New Orleans Bachelorette Parties

atlantic city

Atlantic City doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, but it’s a much cheaper getaway choice for those living in the Eastern US, and still offers a chance to get away and party it up before a wedding. The casino-hotels are all located within walking distance, and most have a nice range of spas and shops, restaurants and clubs on premises. There are a number of male strip clubs close by as well.

New Orleans


New Orleans has become a popular option for bachelorette parties in recent years, because all you have to do is walk onto Bourbon Street after 10pm in order to find the perfect atmosphere in which to get tipsy and a bit crazy. You can take in jazz and strip performances, visit rock or karaoke clubs, or just watch the amazing parade of people as you sip your hurricane or pound your beers. There’s also an incredible selection of fabulous restaurants, a nearby casino, and a wealth of sightseeing and shopping opportunities for daytime entertainment.

The Possibilities Are Endless

Use these ideas as inspiration, and you can come up with a bash that will be memorable and fun.

Have any other suggestions for a great bride’s-night-out? We’d love to hear them!

Small Wedding Ideas – Budget-friendly Suggestions

Everyone’s been to at least one enormous wedding. There are so many guests that it’s nearly impossible to spend much time with the happy couple. In fact, it’s so crowded that it almost seems that you’re in a fancy train station, rather than at an intimate celebration with friends and family.

Many brides and grooms who’ve been through that type of experience decide that for their own big day, they would rather have a smaller, more memorable event. Others opt to downsize their ceremonies and receptions in order to save money. Either way, there are many small wedding ideas which can make the day really special.

Small On A Budget

Smaller weddings can definitely mean big savings. If your motivation to “go small” is primarily based on finances, here are some budget-friendly suggestions that will also let you have a day you’ll always remember.

  1. The Guest List – This is always the key to keeping the numbers down. You may have to make some difficult decisions, but every name you eliminate will cut tens or hundreds of dollars from your budget.
  2. The Ceremony – Think about getting married in front of a justice of the peace, which will be a lot less expensive than a big church wedding. If you want a religious ceremony, ask if the church has a small chapel available, and if a layman can perform the rites instead of a priest or minister.
  3. The Reception – Inviting fewer guests creates more alternatives for the reception. A small group can easily fit into a church social hall, a private room at a family-style restaurant, a clubhouse at an apartment complex, or your home or backyard – all relatively inexpensive (or free). For a church wedding or home reception, many decide to just offer hors d’oeuvres and wine, or sandwiches and punch. After all, the point of a small event is to be with close friends and family, not necessarily to feed and entertain people.

Small Wedding IdeasSmall With Money To Spend

  • The Guest List – This is still the major factor in controlling the size of a wedding. One way to deal with the “disappointment” of some friends and family is to have a separate, low-key cocktail reception after you get back from the honeymoon.
  • The Ceremony and Reception – The choices are endless when searching for the perfect venue for a small group. Let your imagination run wild: beaches, small inns, private mansions, gardens and parks, wineries, barns, private clubs – when accommodating 200 people isn’t a concern, it’s easy to be creative and find a location that’s going to be memorable and fun. Take advantage of the small numbers to do something most people wouldn’t expect at a wedding, such as splurging on expensive champagne or a chamber music group, or pampering guests by supplying limousines for everyone.
  • Other Possibilities – When dealing with a small group, there are several elaborate options available, such as wedding vacations or destination weddings at exotic locations. They can end up costing even more than a traditional large event but will give you several days to spend with close friends and relatives – and priceless memories.

One of the biggest challenges when deciding on a small ceremony and reception is explaining the reasons for the decision to those who aren’t invited. The best way to do it is to be honest about wanting an intimate gathering with just a few people. Then invite the rest to an informal gathering or for a personal visit after you’re settled – and get ready for a memorable small wedding with those closest to you.

Have you staged your own low-key wedding? Share your ideas and experiences with us.

What Is a Reasonable Wedding Planner Salary?

The venue, the catering and the dress are three major expenses most people know will put a huge dent in their wedding budget. But often, there’s a fourth big expense.

Those who are hosting a large group of guests, or want an elaborate ceremony and reception, often find that they need a professional to coordinate all of the elements which create a memorable event. The question then becomes: what should we budget for a wedding planner salary?


event planner salary

Types of Fees

There are three primary ways that wedding planners charge for their services.

  • Hourly Fees – Usually, experts charge by the hour if used on a “consultant” basis. Most people who choose this option are early in the planning process. They’re primarily looking for advice on vendors, locations and prices – or some creative ideas – before doing all of the actual work themselves.
    Hiring someone to fully coordinate the big day and paying them an hourly rate would quickly become cost-prohibitive. However, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to get valuable input before planning the event. In a smaller city, consultants charge in the neighborhood of $50 per hour; in large cities, prices can run $100-$200 per hour or even more.

  • Wedding Day Fees – Many people want a professional to make sure their big day goes smoothly, so they don’t have to worry about details while they’re busy getting married and celebrating. However, they would like to do the actual planning themselves, either to save money or to ensure everything will be done exactly the way they’ve pictured.
    The best option, in this case, is to hire a planner for a “Day of Coordination.” Her work would actually begin a week or two before the event. She would set up a full timeline for the day, interact with vendors to check schedules and be certain everything is on track, and make sure nothing has been forgotten in the plan. She then takes charge on the day of the event, orchestrating the occasion and being the go-to person if there are problems.
    The budget for a wedding day coordinator should allocate from $500-$1000 in smaller cities to $1500-$2000 in larger ones, with even higher prices sometimes charged for a large number of guests or a very complicated affair.
  • Full-Service Fees – This is the way wedding professionals set their prices if they are going to take charge of staging the event from beginning to end. Their work begins with buying “save the date” notification cards and doesn’t end until the last pieces of confetti and rice are cleaned up.

In between, they do everything from negotiating with vendors (they often get volume discounts on things like catering and venue rental) to choosing the linens and music – with your input, of course. Everything goes smoothly all the way through the process, and the service will certainly cost top dollar.

Wedding planner fees for a complete package start at several thousand dollars in smaller cities, and usually cost between $3000 and $5000 in major cities. And if the only thing you want to worry about is showing up on time, the planner will do everything, putting together a dream day without your involvement at all. That can run as much as $10,000.

Some planners still use an older fee model, charging a percentage of the total wedding budget. That charge can vary between 10 and 20% of the overall spending, and it’s probably not the best choice if you’re trying to keep track of how much the event will cost.

How To Decide?

Many people will make their decision on a wedding planner salary based on their overall budget for the occasion; hiring a full-service planner may just cost too much. However, if money isn’t an issue, the best way to decide is to be honest about how much you would like to participate in the process.

If the most important thing is making sure that the nuptials go exactly the way you always envisioned, a consultant to help get things started or a wedding day coordinator may be the best choice. Either choice allows the bride to make all of the major decisions personally. If the details don’t really matter and you’d rather focus on the honeymoon instead, a full-service planner is probably the way to go, freeing you from the burden of negotiating with linen companies and bargaining with bartenders.