Tips to plan a wedding

From the time we’re old enough to play dress-up, girls dream about their wedding day. We all have some sort of idea of what we want our dress to look like, how we want our hair, where we want to get married and so on. What we don’t dream about, however, are the hours of planning that go into a wedding, the amount of money spent on a wedding, and the number of stress headaches that plague the bride during the whole process.

About a year ago, I was in a rather large wedding, and next year I will embark on the journey again. After living through that large and extravagant wedding, I realized that there is so much more involved than just dresses. I also realized that it’s best for things to remain as simple as possible. Let’s face it, ladies, with the exception of your mother, you’re on your own. The only thing the groom cares about is the bachelor party (keep close tabs if possible), the golf outing the morning of the wedding and the honeymoon. Planning a wedding is not easy. Everything else is up to you. Luckily, there are a plethora of places in Rockford that are geared toward the big day.

First, the bride and groom need to configure a wedding timeline. A timeline lists everything that needs to be done by a certain time frame before the wedding day. A sample wedding timeline from starts 16 to nine months before the wedding. The most important plans are made in this time frame. During this time, brides should: determine the type of wedding, choose a date, select a dress, determine the size of the guest list, figure out budget and, most importantly, choose a reception hall and make reservations as early as possible.

Rockford has a few very beautiful reception venues, particularly Cliffbreakers, which is arguably the most popular. The elegant river view atmosphere along with the convenience of a hotel next door makes Cliffbreakers a premier reception location. Susan McCarren, sales and marketing coordinator for Cliffbreakers, said parties need to be booked a year or even a year and a half in advance. McCarren said Cliffbreakers can accommodate as many as 3,000 guests. McCarren also added that dinner can be as lavish as a multi-course meal or as simple as appetizers. It all depends on what the couple wants to spend. Other wonderful reception venues include Giovanni’s, the Tebala Shrine Temple and Forest Hills Lodge.

Finding a dress can either be really easy or really difficult. This is possibly the most important task because this is how people will remember you on your day, and this, I’m sorry to say, is what other women are most critical of. The best idea is to pick out a classic look, not something too trendy because trends change, especially if you’re purchasing a dress more than nine months before the wedding. Debbie Haug of Vera’s House of Bridals said a bride-to-be should pick out a dress that is congruent with her body style and personal flair. Comfort is also an important factor that should not be ignored. You should feel comfortable in how you look in the dress, and you should be comfortable with how the dress feels. If it’s too heavy, hot, revealing, not revealing enough, or whatever else, move to the next style. Granted, you only have to wear it one day, but it can be a long day if the dress you love so much turns into a sweat box. Stay simple. The most beautiful dresses I’ve seen have been the simplest.

According to, at the nine-to-six month marker, brides should choose bridesmaids, their dresses, the color scheme, the caterer, the music, as well as compile a guest list.

Bridesmaids’ dresses, said Haug, should complement but not overpower the bride. Brides, this is where it gets tricky. Realize that the more maids you have, the harder it will be to please. Get everyone’s input and choose the dress that causes the least amount of commotion. Don’t let anyone else choose the dress. It’s your day, your pictures and your bridesmaids. You should have the final say. I will say this, however. Try to shop around at different stores and ask whether or not they offer different dress lengths. A popular out-of-town bridal store chain (which will remain nameless) does not offer length extensions for bridesmaids. I experienced this firsthand, and I was not pleased. I had to buy a dress that was too short, which made me a little uncomfortable. If you’re going to ask your friends to buy a $150 dress, make sure the store can do what it can to make them comfortable.

Six to four months before the wedding, said couples need to book the DJ or band, order invitations and party favors, shop for tuxedos, finalize church arrangements, figure out means of transportation, plan a honeymoon, put together ideas for bridal registry and choose a florist.

I visited two bridal registry stores, Target and Marshall Fields, and found that both have plenty to offer. Target has a catalog full of practical items that are reasonably priced such as small furniture, towels, bedding and appliances. A friend of mine registered at Target, and I was pleased to discover how much I could buy her for the amount of money I spent. Marshall Field’s, however, is the place to go for china and stemware. The store offers the timeless classics as well as more modern and unique styles. A sales associate for Marshall Field’s recommended that brides register for plates and stemware first and then bedding and other linens later. She said because linen styles change seasonally, you don’t want to be stuck with something you may not like seven months later. Don’t forget about the groom! Sears has all the tools a new husband will need to completely demolish that first house. They also have large appliances and electronics a new couple may need.

Selecting a florist in town is not easy. There are a ton of great florists in the Rockford area. While the amount spent depends on the size of the wedding, Doug Stock of Nelson’s Flowers in Loves Park said the average spent on flowers is $600. Nelson’s provides floral arrangements for the wedding party, the immediate family, the reception, the cake and the rehearsal dinner. Stock said they put together arrangements at most a day in advance, but mostly the morning or afternoon of the event to ensure freshness.

Three months before the wedding, the Web site suggests couples choose gifts for the wedding party and close family members, buy wedding rings, order the cake and buy reception items like the cake knife, toasting glasses, guest book and garter. Sweet Pans Shoppe offers a wide variety of glasses, guest books, candles and they have 450 cake tops to choose from. Partyland also has napkins, decorations, centerpieces and aisle runners.

Remember, brides, adequate planning will make life easier in the months prior to your big day. Give yourself time to explore all options. Hop online and search different Web sites offering diverse advice and suggestions. Don’t be afraid to ask local shops questions. That’s what they’re there for. Many of them like Cliffbreakers’ McCarren have the experience necessary to answer just about anything.

Keep in mind that this is YOUR day. Not your mother’s, not your friends’. YOURS. Don’t get talked into anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the planning process. You only get married once, well, hopefully. And finally, don’t feel you have to spend your life’s savings for one day of partying. says the average wedding costs $22,360. If you can afford it, great! If not, don’t feel you have to go into debt to make others happy. A simple wedding can be just as enjoyable as a not so simple one. Do what makes you happy and comfortable.

For a full list of the wedding timeline, visit

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