How to plan a perfect wedding

By Annette R. Richmond

From photographers to flowers, music to transportation, planning a wedding can be more like a full-time job.

The important thing is not to let the details overshadow the joy of the upcoming occasion or even the pleasure of simply browsing through a selection of gowns such as you might find at Tatiana's Bridal at 96-20 Jamaica Ave. in Woodhaven, or Ariana Studios and the Wedding Plaza at 217-14 Northern Blvd. in Bayside.

According to wedding sources, the average U.S. wedding costs $20,000 to $25,000, with New York tipping the scales at a little higher level. Now more than ever, as more couples are covering much or sometimes most of the wedding expenses, it is critical to set a budget and stick to it.

Businesses such as Tatiana's Bridal and Ariana Studios offer an array of services in addition to gowns, including tuxedo rental and D.J.s. Tatiana's Bridal, named for the owner's daughter, has dresses beginning at $250. Owner Angela Baker-Brown assures prospective brides not to worry about gowns and says that even “if you are getting married in two weeks, we can usually accommodate you.” Sample designs can be seen at www.arianastudios.com.

Shereen Williams, a wedding consultant and owner of Joy! Wedding and Event Planning believes that no matter who pays, the couple's wishes must come first and be clear. “It is really important for couples to decide right away what is most important to them,” Williams said. “Perhaps they want tons of flowers and don't care if the bride wears a less expensive dress. If they want a live band instead of a DJ, then that can cost several thousand dollars.”

While your budget will alter somewhat depending on your priorities, a good guideline is as follows:

60 percent to 70 percent toward the reception;

15 percent toward printing, transportation and ceremony gifts;

5 percent to 10 percent toward photography and videography;

and 10 percent toward the bride and groom's attire.

Added Williams, “The couple needs to make sure their vision is aligned with their pocketbook.” The honeymoon and rehearsal dinner are usually separate from your wedding budget.

While the cost of a wedding planner obviously adds to your overall budget, Williams and other wedding professionals can offer a couple peace of mind, which is priceless. (Williams may be reached at 917-699-4109, email eventsbyjoy@aol.com.)

Just as your dress has to be impeccable, so, too, does your hair and make-up. A professional can help determine the right look. In preparation, make-up artist Nita Carroll of Fabulous Faces provides a consultation to discuss the bride's tastes and offers a make-up dress rehearsal. (Carroll can be reached at 914-912-3323.)

Flowers can be critical in setting the tone at the ceremony and reception. Flower Michele (www.flowermichele.com) has been serving the New York Metro area for over 15 years and uses a couple's choices of colors and personal taste to help make floral decisions for the wedding day. Couples come in to the shop with organizers with pictures of things they like and what they don't like, giving the store a sense of the direction that they want to go in.

With six months to plan, it is imperative to keep your checklist handy so you and/or your wedding planner can address key tasks at just the right time.

Many photographers or videographers such as Forever Video in Rego Park (www.forever-video.com), offer packages that include copies of the DVD or VHS, up to eight hours of wedding-day coverage, as well as the groom's preparation and the cocktail reception.

Take the time to visit several different photographers/videographers in their studios and examine wedding pictures they have taken in the past.

Whether doing it yourself, with your parents, or with direction from a professional wedding planner, the details might seem too many to fathom.

Additional resources offering helpful tips are available including magazines such as Elegant Bride and Modern Bride and books like “How to Have an Elegant Wedding for $5000 or Less” by Jan Wilson and Beth Wilson Hickman and “How to Have a Big Wedding on a Small Budget” by Diane Warner.

Still, beware, as even the most prepared bride and groom might experience a wedding-day mishap such as a late official or an errant ring bearer. Things do just happen, so do not worry about it.

Most important to remember is that the wedding will still take place, your union will be formed and nothing can ever spoil that.

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