Questions You Must Ask


What do you do about wedding details that, well, you haven’t thought about? Our wedding experts answer questions you must ask before your big day.

Q: What’s my real budget?


It’s easy to have one large number in mind for your wedding budget. But it’s a different story when you start breaking that budget down, line item by line item. “People should ask themselves what kind of food they’re interested in, whether they want a DJ or a live band, how intricate do they want the table settings to be and so on,” says Kate Martin, owner of Beautiful Days in South Berwick, ME. “All of that adds up.” Knowing what each item costs will help you better determine a realistic overall budget for your wedding.

Q: What’s my vision for the wedding?


While it’s easy to know what you like or dislike, it’s hard to translate that into wedding details. Heidi Hamblett, owner of Flowers by Leslie in Portsmouth, NH, says that you don’t always need to know specifics. “I ask a lot of questions,” she says. “You can learn a lot from just talking to someone and that helps create a vision if you don’t have one.” She suggests looking at websites like Pinterest for inspiration. “The more information I have, the easier it is for us to come up with a vision,” she says.

Q: What are the pros and cons of a “first look” photo session?


A “first look” photo session is a time for couples to break with tradition and see each other before the ceremony in an intimate, private photo shoot. But how do you know if it fits with what you want on your big day? Liz Caron of Russell Caron Photography enjoys shooting first looks because couples usually express their emotions “in the moment.” Grooms also have an opportunity to shine and the couple can have pictures taken with special guests or in the setting of their choice. “When there’s a first look, brides and grooms alike say afterward what a relief it was to accomplish one of the day’s most stressful events – the excitement of seeing each other – sooner than later,” she says.

However, both Russell and Liz acknowledge that first looks aren’t for everyone. Some couples don’t want to share overly emotional moments in photos or rush to get ready before the ceremony in order to have time for the shoot. “A couple should never have a photographer pressure them or force them to do things in any way that isn’t their preference,” Liz says.


Q: What’s my backup plan if the weather changes?


New England is known for its picturesque landscape, but locals know the weather is unpredictable. It can be sunny and warm one day, rainy and cold the next. Hamblett strongly recommends having a backup plan in case an entire outdoor wedding needs to be moved inside at the last minute. “That’s one of those things that you don’t want to think about, but you have to plan for,” she says.


Q: If there’s no wedding coordinator involved with the wedding, who’s in charge of the floor plan and the day’s agenda?


A wedding coordinator is a huge help with all aspects of wedding planning. Couples who choose to handle details themselves, however, need to develop an agenda for the wedding day and a floor plan and/or seating chart for the reception and any after-events. “If they’re at a venue that does a lot of weddings, they might have a standard floor plan,” says Martin. “Otherwise, it’s up to the client to design the floor plan.” The same goes for designing the day’s agenda. Martin’s advice to make it easier for everyone: “If you don’t have a planner, trust a helpful friend to handle all the details and keep that from being left to the bride.”


Q: Who’s providing dishware, flatware and glassware?


Caterers typically are responsible for providing the correct dishware, flatware and glassware at the reception. “We assume that responsibility for our clients, but we want them to have a say in it,” says Craig Williams of Churchill Events in Portland, ME. Pick dishware that fits with your overall wedding theme (for example, more formal flatware, dishes and glasses for a more formal reception).


Q: What activities require a written contract?


All activities and agreements for your wedding require a written contract, says Martin. “If you don’t have something in writing committing (vendors) to you, then you don’t have something to fall back on if something happens,” she says. A contract between you and each one of your vendors ensures that they’re accountable if they don’t show up or don’t provide the agreed-upon services. The agreement can also include a backup plan. “In my contract, it says that if for some reason I’m unavailable, then I’ll find a substitute that we – the couple and I – both agree on,” says Martin. While a wedding may be one of the most romantic and special days of your lives, it’s still important to acknowledge that it is also full of important business transactions.

All in all, this attention to detail not only prevents unexpected stress on your big day, but ensures that everything is exactly what you envisioned.