Seaside Weddings: Planning the Perfect Wedding

BY Jessica Isaacs Susan Miller Katie Dickens & Pat Bradford

Ask The Expert

By Jennifer Zabinski

Based in New York City Jennifer Zabinski owner of JZ Events has a decade of experience planning upscale weddings family celebrations and corporate events from New York to Palm Beach and international locations including France Anguilla Mexico and Necker Island. Clients hire Jennifer for her unparalleled level of detail and commitment to uncompromising quality.

WBM: What is the role of the consultant/planner?

JZ: Really to be an expert a sounding board a therapist a friend all of the above. For me it’s an education. The budget should be a real working living document. But you need to give people the education as to why things cost more sometimes. Because they don’t know that what they are saying sometimes is jacking up the price.

Things can be beautiful you can mix high and low all of that is great but if people don’t know that the things that they are selecting are not necessarily in the best interest of the budget or style or anything like that someone needs to be distant enough but expert enough so they can make educated decisions

WBM: What is one thing not to miss when selecting a planner?

JZ: [A planner needs to] be able to understand the complexity of an event but also see when things are going off the rail before they become a problem. That comes from experience that can’t be taught. That’s when your gut kicks in and says “We need to rethink this.”

To understand the range of their knowledge ask: How long you have been doing this? Why do you like doing it? What is the hardest setting that you’ve worked in? How have you overcome obstacles?

WBM: Long vs. short engagement?

JZ: If there are no reasons to wait over a year I would try to keep it under a year. That is depending on seasonality and certain locations on work schedules for certain couples where they are in their jobs if it tends to be the busiest time of the year.

There are days and times of the year when flowers are more seasonal. People want to pick the spring because they love peonies and they love cherry blossom branches. That’s kind of the least priority but you have to love the time of year that you are getting married. And that really will depend on the seasonality and location of your wedding.

WBM: What is your advice for couples planning coastal weddings?

JZ: You always have to have a rain plan that is solid and well thought out. If you are forced to execute a rain plan you don’t want to be stressing out the bride and everyone. If it is fleshed out it is much easier to orchestrate and it’s less of a chaotic moment for everyone involved.

WBM: What about choosing a house of worship versus another setting?

JZ: There’s always something so special about a church wedding or a synagogue because there is that long dramatic aisle. There is something spiritual about it even if you are not spiritual. However I think there are other locations that are equally special. If you are doing a house wedding coming out of your house where you grew up to walk down the aisle is equally precious.

WBM: Should a couple include the dog on their wedding day?

JZ: Everyone gets nervous on their wedding day. The dog is such a part of their lives. It’s so nice to have something that grounds you.

WBM: What is your No. 1 piece of advice to couples who are planning a wedding?

JZ: My No. 1 piece of advice to couples when planning their wedding is make sure you remain true to who the two of you are. An event especially a wedding needs to have integrity. Your guests feel it if it doesn’t. It has to have a soul it has to reflect who the two of you are. My main goal is to make sure all of our events have integrity.


Location Location Location!

Finding the perfect ceremony and reception venues is an essential part of planning. Choosing the right ones is likely the first major decision a couple will make.

Things to consider when choosing a venue:

Style: Deciding on an overall wedding style first can help narrow the list of potential sites. Whether the couple’s style is sophisticated and elegant or laidback and low-key makes a difference in what venues will fit best.

Size: Determine whether the goal is an extravagant affair with hundreds of people or a smaller get-together with a select group of friends and family. What can the space accommodate?

Lighting: The bride and groom should visit any prospective venue during the time of day they wish to get married. If a beach or riverfront sunset wedding or reception is the goal visit venue options during this time. If the natural light is inadequate ask about lighting options.

Permits: Many outdoor venues such as public beaches and parks require submission and approval of a special event permit along with a fee. For beach strand weddings the town of Wrightsville Beach requires submission of the permit application no less than 60 days before the event. To download the application go to

Rain check: When considering an outdoor venue have a rain plan to move the event indoors or consider tent rental.

Layout: Make sure there will be enough room for everyone to be seated comfortably. If the couple desires a more intimate affair think about how to arrange the space to bring everyone together.

Party essentials: Make sure the reception site has a dance floor that is large enough. To include food and drinks in the festivities consider a venue that has everything needed on site.

The view: The Azalea Coast has a huge choice of venues with the beauty built in lending themselves to minimal d?cor and a focus on the natural surroundings.

The 411: Get as much information as possible. Talk to vendors who have worked weddings there or even couples who were married there and get the scoop on how it all played out.

The food: Consider the catering needs. Some venues will require the use in-house caterers and bakers or will ask the couple to choose from a list of preferred vendors.

Rentals: Does the preferred venue have tables and chairs or will it require rentals? Rentals can be costly so keep that in mind.

Getting ready: Is there space for the wedding party to get dressed and dolled up? If there’s not plan accordingly for transportation.

Logistics: Make sure the venue offers ample parking for the number of guests. Limited parking may require renting guest transportation like limousines a party bus or a trolley.

Accommodations: Some venues offer on-site accommodations that can keep the couple and their most important guests together throughout the weekend.

Eat Drink and Be Married

Creating a Special Reception

A delicious plentiful and beautifully presented meal is one of the keys to a memorable wedding.

“The wedding day is so special everything about that day must be special so much so the food you serve ” says chef Tommy Mills owner of Little Pond Catering.

A full-service venue will often include the use of a preferred or in-house caterer. Otherwise it is up to the wedding planner or bride and groom to research and select the right caterer.

Steve Lambros owner of Diamond Food Catering says “It is a lifetime experience a very important event the food should be memorable for your guests make it the best.”

A good starting point is creating a list of menu ideas and potential vendors.

“A customized menu is going to help you make your wedding different from all others. One that’ll stand out and that’s what you want you are trying to make memories ” says chef Marcus Buric owner of Culinary Creations.

When it’s time to make a decision make sure to have all the imperative information compiled and ready concerning the budget venue wedding date and the number of guests.

“Young people are going to a wedding each weekend these days ” Buric says. “They say ‘I know I’ll get a chicken dish a beef dish.’ I always tell them this is your menu your day. Always remember it is a special day and it’s a celebration. So make this your menu don’t make it your mom’s that she never had at her wedding. Don’t think about Uncle Jack who is allergic to shrimp so you cannot have shrimp on the menu. No we’ll take care of that with good signage. Make it yours.”

Regardless of the dining method designate one person who ensures the bride and groom sit down to enjoy their dinner during the reception. With all the photographs and action occurring the newlyweds often miss out on their own meal.

Serving alcoholic beverages

Talk to the wedding consultant venue manager or caterer when choosing a bar. Who will serve the drinks and what is affordable? An open bar is the most expensive option where the hosts pay a flat fee per person and guests order whatever they wish. A consumption bar is similar in terms of choice but the hosts pay a rolling tab meaning they only pay for what guests consume. Many savvy brides and grooms offer a limited selection of beverages with one signature drink to cut costs and help ensure guests’ safety. Free or prearranged transportation home is recommended for any option.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Caterer

Do you have a license and carry liability insurance?

Do you recommend any food choices for the style of my wedding?

Can you offer a special menu for children?

Can you offer special dietary options like vegetarian vegan gluten free or kosher? If so does it cost extra?

Will you offer me a tasting before I make my final decisions on the menu?

How will you determine the cost?

Will you provide the necessary wait staff?

Will you provide a banquet manager or an on-site coordinator?

Do you offer any rentals?

Dress for Success

Choosing the Right Gown

Although planning a wedding will entail a lot of decisions for a bride none will more dramatically affect her confidence and peace of mind on the big day like the gown.

Planning is key; the bride should make sure to start shopping well ahead of time.

“The spring bridal market is in September. That is when we will be seeing upcoming trends for the next season ” explains Joanne Miranda from Camille’s of Wilmington.

The average timespan for a manufacturer to make a gown is four months then alterations take an average of another two months.

“Typically you have a 12-month engagement. This gives the bride enough time to plan ” says Roberta Danford of Perry’s Emporium’s Wedding Dress Shoppe. “Most wedding dresses take six to nine months to arrive in our stores. Then allow three months to do alterations on a dress.”

Another consideration is the wedding portraits which steps up the timetable.

“If portraits are being done add an additional three months to that schedule ” Danford says.

A current trend in bridal gowns is elements that create dimension and movement including three-dimensional embellishments like tulle flowers feathers and tiered skirts. Strapless is still hot lace is still in and ball gowns are coming back.

“Flowy ball gowns with textured tiered skirts are starting to be brides’ favorites ” Miranda says. “Blush or champagne gowns with unique lace overlays are requested often and brides love to pair it up with gold or rose gold sequined bridesmaids’ dresses.”

Experts agree a bride should not solely focus on what is popular or trendy when choosing her gown. She should choose what makes her feel comfortable confident and radiant.

A good starting point is to consider the venue. While a long train is perfect for a beautiful old church with stained-glass windows it won’t work on the beach strand.

Planning the Perfect Day

The task list for a wedding can seem never-ending but with plenty of advance planning checking off the to-do list can be fun exciting and rewarding. As each task receives a check brides and grooms are a step closer to one of the most memorable days of their lives. The following checklist beginning 12 months in advance breaks each important part of planning into evenly distributed doable tasks.

12 months before

  • Determine a budget and who will pay for what.
  • Start compiling a wedding-planning binder to keep up with inspiration information and important documents.
  • Hire a wedding consultant if professional planning assistance is preferred.
  • Choose a date and time.
  • Choose and book a venue for the ceremony reception and rehearsal dinner.
  • Book an officiant.*
  • Begin the guest list.
  • Choose the wedding party and invite them to help plan.
  • Create a wedding registry.

10 months before

  • Start shopping for the bridal gown.
  • Research vendors.
  • Attend a local bridal show or expo and jot down ideas.

8 months before

  • Order the gown and accessories.
  • Choose and book a photographer and videographer.
  • Choose and book a band or DJ for the reception.
  • Interview and hire a caterer and plan the meals.
  • Interview and hire a florist and plan the d?cor.
  • Interview and hire musicians and plan the ceremony with the officiant.
  • Create a wedding website to share details with friends and family.
  • Review options interview and hire a stationer if you want custom invitations and save-the-dates.
  • Register for gifts.
  • Find rental accommodations and block hotel rooms for out-of-town guests.
  • Fill out a special-event permit if necessary (required for weddings on the Wrightsville Beach strand).

6 months before

  • Order bridesmaids’ dresses.
  • Book the honeymoon and update travel documents including passport if necessary.
  • Send save-the-dates.
  • Order invitations.
  • Shop for wedding bands.
  • Purchase wedding favors.
  • Book a hairstylist and schedule a trial hairstyle run.
  • Book a makeup artist and schedule a trial makeup run.
  • Book all other salon appointments including mani/pedi.
  • Schedule monthly facials.
  • Mail invitations. (for destination)

4 months before

  • Sample and order the cake.
  • Plan the rehearsal dinner book the location.
  • Choose attire for the groom and groomsmen.
  • Review options interview and hire wedding-day transportation.

2 months before

  • Finalize the ceremony with the officiant.
  • Write the vows.
  • Mail invitations. (for local)
  • Plan to attend the bridal shower traditionally hosted by a family member of the bride or the maid of honor.
  • Submit the wedding announcement to print and online publications.
  • Ensure any permits are secured.

1 month before

  • Apply for a marriage license.
  • Print programs menus and other wedding-day paper items.
  • Attend a final dress fitting.
  • Hold a final fitting for bridesmaids’ dresses.
  • Celebrate with bachelor and bachelorette parties traditionally hosted by the bridal parties.
  • If desired book and begin spray tanning appointments.

2 weeks before

  • Pick up the marriage license.
  • Review the RSVPs.
  • Submit a shot list to the photographer.
  • Submit a playlist to the band or DJ.
  • Have a last pre-wedding haircut and/or color.
  • Avoid facial peels micro-derms and laser treatments.

1 week before

  • Submit a final head count to the venue and caterer.
  • Arrange for someone to return any rentals.
  • Finalize the seating chart.

1 day before

  • Do last-minute personal appointments facial massage manicures and pedicures.
  • Enjoy the rehearsal dinner.
  • Give gifts to the bridal party and parents.
  • Assign a family member to be the photographer’s contact so he or she will know who’s who.
  • Entrust rings to the best man and maid of honor.
  • Plan gratuities for all vendors assign family member to distribute for you.

Wedding Day

  • Enjoy quality time with the wedding party.
  • Say “I do” and celebrate!

After the big Day

  • Write and send thank-you notes to guests and vendors.

Couple’s Furry Friend

Here Comes the Woof

The special people with whom the bride and groom will want to spend their big day may be their parents grandparents siblings childhood best friends or others who have played important roles in their lives. Sometimes though they’re not people at all.

More and more couples are incorporating their four-legged family members into their wedding festivities making this a popular wedding trend. Dogs can be dear friends favorite roommates and unconditional companions so it is understandable that many couples want to include them in their wedding day.

Many venues will allow dogs to be part of a marriage ceremony; the bride and groom should just make sure to ask. On the Wrightsville Beach strand dogs are permitted only from October 1 to March 31 and must be kept on a leash.

Beautiful Blooms

Wedding Flowers

In a traditional wedding floral arrangements will include boutonnieres for the groom and groomsmen bouquets for the bride and bridesmaids corsages for the mother of the bride and the groom boutonnieres for the father of the bride and the groom church/ceremony arrangements and reception center pieces.

Floral add-ons may include flower girl petals and/or a floral crown chair or pew swags a wedding archway flowers on the wedding cake topiaries hanging pomanders and a slew of other creative applications.

“Right now the most current and contemporary design focus is on natural and soft bringing in natural green garlands magnolia leaves these type things. White pinks creams are very popular right now ” says Dana Cook owner of Julia’s Florist.

The amount a couple spends on flowers can vary greatly depending on the number of arrangements selected and the distance from which the blooms were imported. Selecting local and seasonal blooms can help to cut floral costs.

For a bridal bouquet a bride can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500 with average options running around $175. Bridal bouquet shapes include round pageant cascade nosegay pomander or posy.


Making Memories Last

An album of timeless photography can become a cherished family keepsake.

“A really special wedding is captured when the couple is free of all distractions the details or the timeline and are able to be in the moment with each other ” says photographer Theo Milo.

In a day and age when nearly every wedding guest will bring either a camera or a smartphone some couples may think an easy way to cut expenditure is to skimp on professional photography. But this is the last area in which to cut corners.

A photographer is a practiced professional with a method of taking sorting editing and filing special memories.

“It is a combination of the moment and technical magic ” says photographer Michael Escobar.

Local photographers offer an array of services and packages that can meet any couple’s needs with items like engagement sessions bridal portraits ceremony and reception photography a CD of finished images wedding albums fine art printing online viewing and more. Adding drone photography is now also an option. Check photographers’ websites social media accounts and reviews. Ask to see portfolios.

A couple should plan to meet with the photographer in person and get to know him or her before the wedding day and have a list of desired shots to help the photographer understand the people and happenings that are priorities to capture.

Couples may also wish to hire a professional videographer to capture the day.

“One detail that gets overlooked is the results that a videographer can bring ” says event planner Jennifer Zabinski. “It’s one of the things I try to add on a couple of weeks before the wedding because there is something about hearing people’s voices especially people who may not be around that much longer. Those are things that really make it special.

A lot of the videographers are offering drone photography. It’s so new in terms of permitting and what’s allowed and how they are monitoring it. You have to be careful that the people you are working with actually know [about the regulations]. The laws are changing every day. It is such an evolving nuance: flying rights where you can fly and when you can fly. It is definitely a new phenomenon but it is so cool.”

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Photographer

Do your packages include the unlimited rights to your images?

What format options are there for my images to be supplied?

Will you retain the rights to use my wedding photographs for your promotional purposes?

If you retain the rights to your images can I post them on social media?

Do you require a release form?

How early do you like to arrive on wedding day?

How would you describe your style?

Do you work with an assistant or second photographer and is that included in my package?

Do you have insurance?

Will you color-correct my images?

Do you have backup equipment?

Should my event last longer than scheduled will you stay?

How long after the event will the proofs album etc. be ready?

Let them Eat Cake

Confections for a Special Reception

Every element of the wedding day is an opportunity to showcase the couple’s personality and the cake is no exception.

Anna Echols owner of One Belle Bakery in Wilmington says brides are often split into two categories when they come in to plan and order their wedding cake: half of them know exactly what they want and the other half come in with a Pinterest board full of 100 completely different concepts.

“We ask them for the theme or feel to the wedding; is it formal or informal casual?” Echols says. “Sometimes they’ll come in and the picture is a super-formal elegant cake and the wedding is on the beach and it doesn’t really go together. We try to help them with the design that fits their wedding.”

There are so many options. Some brides opt for cake and assorted desserts others choose cupcakes. A popular trend is a full dessert bar.

“Eight to 10 years ago it was all cupcakes and then we saw a transition to more unique desserts and dessert bars. One in four brides has a combination of cake and different desserts that they offer their guests at their weddings ” Echols says.

The most popular wedding cake trend is a classic design including textured butter cream and accents of flowers and pops of metallic rose gold or gold/silver either on the cake or on the cake stand. The naked cake is also trendy as are different flavors in each tier.

“Rarely does the bride pick the same flavor in the layers anymore ” Echols says.

Bridal Beauty

Looking Good on the Big Day

Every bride wants to look her best on her wedding day; not just because all eyes and cameras will be on her but also because looking her best will help her feel good allowing her to relax smile and shine.


Bridal hairstyles are limitless. It is important to schedule a trial hair run about one month before the wedding to test out different styles with the veil or hair accessories. Keep in mind what complements the gown and overall look. Upswept or side-swept hair can really highlight a beautiful neckline capped sleeves or back of a gown while a flowy style pairs nicely with form-fitting dresses like the mermaid or column gown.

“I judge by the neckline of the dress and the shape of the bride’s face ” says Frank Potter co-owner of Bangz Hair Salon.

For a seaside ceremony remember that the coast can be windy and attach a veil or hair jewelry well. Or forego the veil for a floral crown or a simple sprig of flowers tucked into an updo.


A professional makeup artist will know just how to enhance the bride’s features to look her best.

“I tell my brides you’re wearing a wedding gown. You cannot wear everyday makeup with your wedding gown. It all goes together the gown the hair the makeup the jewelry all of it ” says Danielle Forte Wilmington makeup artist.

An option instead of traditional foundation is airbrush.

“It is 100 times better than traditional foundation for the spring and summer months here all the way into October ” Forte says. “It is lightweight goes on like air. It is going to last all day and well into the night.”

If opting for a DIY apply a layer of sheer sunblock first then foundation rather than a combination product as this can create a white cast. Dust on just a thin layer of powder then a highlight on the cheekbones. A matte makeup finish should be applied only to the T-zone: across the forehead and down the center of the nose and chin. A makeup setting spray designed to control oil deflect surface shine and prevent smudging is designed for high humidity and can withstand happy tears.

For a sunny glow on the day of the wedding opt for a spray tan over a “fake bake ” as the process is easier and safe for any skin tone. Plan to begin a series of at least four spray tan appointments beginning about four to six weeks before the wedding.


A bride should consider the style fabric and texture of her dress when choosing her nail color.

“I recommend something soft. A blush pink. It goes with everything but doesn’t take away. It puts balance back into their whole look ” says Sonya Tauch esthetician and nail tech at Bangz.

A professional manicurist can offer tips on the latest trends in nail shapes and length or can choose a shade to work nicely with the bouquet’s color palette. A pedicure is also a must for a barefoot beach wedding or open-toed shoe styles.

Ask The Expert

By Amy Kennison

Celebrity makeup artist Amy Kennison has created bridal makeup looks for famous faces like Lara Trump and “The Bachelor’s” Ashley Spivey who was married at Airlie Gardens in May 2016. Amy offers her expert tips for booking and communicating with a makeup artist to make wedding-day beauty fun and as stress-free as possible.

WBM: How far in advance should a bride book a professional makeup artist?

AK: Book a professional makeup artist six months to a year in advance. Do your research. Word of mouth is always wonderful but make sure you check out the artist’s website. Does the makeup reflect your personal style? How many years’ experience does the artist have? More importantly read customer reviews. This is the tell-all in regards to service artistry skills and communication. It is crucial your artist responds to all emails quickly. The last thing you need to worry about is if he or she is going to show up on the wedding day.

WBM: Is it important to have a trial makeup run before the wedding day?

AK: Yes make sure you have your trial at least three weeks but no earlier than three months before your wedding. During the makeup application make sure to have a mirror in hand so you can see things are going in the right direction. Take photos after the trial to see how it looks before you leave. The makeup artist should be happy to change the look and make sure you feel confident before leaving the trial. Don’t leave unhappy — speak up!

WBM: What should a bride bring to her makeup trial?

AK: Bring pictures of bridal makeup looks you like. Make sure you have a similar skin tone to the image. If you have the skin color of Katy Perry then the makeup of J. Lo won’t translate very well on you.

WBM: How do you make bridal makeup last all day?

AK: A lot of brides assume once the makeup is finished it will miraculously stay perfect all night. That’s not true. You will need to touch up in order to look your best. You will need a lipstick and translucent powder. Check in the mirror after the ceremony for a quick touch up. It’s in the bride’s best interest to maintain the gorgeous look they paid an artist to create.

WBM: How can a bride prep her skin to look beautiful on wedding day?

AK: I recommend scheduling monthly facials six months prior to the wedding. Avoid treatments peels laser or micro-derms within two weeks of the wedding day. Make sure brows are shaped nicely and well-groomed.


Sparkling for the Big Day

By Alan Perry

If there’s one day a woman can indulge in truly beautiful jewelry it is on her wedding day. For brides who want a vintage feel but lack a family heirloom to wear a piece of estate jewelry can lend a chic retro look. To personalize a family heirloom talk to a local jeweler ahead of time about creating a custom-made piece from antique items refashioning the “something old.”

Don’t wait to select the most important jewelry of all: the wedding bands. Take the time to select timeless well-fitted and comfortable wedding bands as they will become both everyday accessories and treasured heirlooms. Ask The Expert

Alan Perry opened Wilmington’s Perry’s Emporium in 1991. Since then it has expanded to become one of the largest jewelry stores in North Carolina. Perry’s is known by many brides nationwide as the store with the rainy-day guarantee.

WBM: What is the important aspect in selecting the engagement ring?

AP: For me it’s the color of the stones and the proportion of the center stone in relation to the rest of the ring.

WBM: How important is the size of the stone(s)?

AP: I used to tell guys to pay cash buy what you can afford. Don’t finance it don’t go into debt. But nowadays I tell them buy what you like. It’s not about how big you buy it it’s about what you can afford and be comfortable with.

WBM: How far in advance should the wedding bands be purchased?

AP: Although there are some companies that have a 24-hour service for anything with a design allow a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of six weeks.

WBM: What is your best advice to brides and grooms in selecting rings?

AP: Go with your heart with what you like. Don’t be brand conscious.

Stationery and Bridal Registry

A beautiful paper invitation can to make an event announcement seem special and an invitee feel cherished.

Save the dates invitations RSVP cards menus programs escort cards table numbers and thank-you cards can all be custom designed and printed to match the formalness and color scheme of the wedding. They also help set the tone and feel for the event giving guests a first glimpse at what to expect.

The traditional timing for sending a wedding invitation is six to eight weeks in advance. For a destination wedding most couples send out a save-the-date notice at least six months in advance to ensure guests have time to make travel arrangements.

Couples should create a wedding gift registry as soon as possible after they announce their engagement as friends and family will wish to reference it for engagement and shower gifts. Registering in at least two different locations is recommended as is registering for a variety of items at different price points. Websites like allow couples to request honeymoon contributions.


While the wedding favor practice began in Europe by gifting guests with trinket boxes filled with sugared candies called bonbonnieres today favors have evolved to reflect the bride and groom’s personal interest and tastes.


Don’t forget the little things that help make the big day special.

Guestbook: Set out pens that won’t splatter or smear. Swap the book for a photo matte framed map or a custom piece of artwork.

Directions and signage: Help guests find the ceremony restrooms and reception.

Children’s entertainment: Provide an area with coloring books or other small quiet methods of entertainment.

The grand exit: Replace rice (harmful to birds) with real rose petals paper confetti bubbles or sparklers.

Goodie bags: Welcome out-of-town guests with a goodie bag of local treats and as many brides do a copy of a Wrightsville Beach Magazine and a map of area attractions along with hotel comforts like earplugs and extra toothbrushes.

Restroom refreshers: Upgrade the venue’s facilities with luxurious hand soap lotions and breath mints.

Gift table: Include a pretty box cage or bag for cards. Enlist someone to make sure all gifts and cards are recorded and transported safely from the venue.


How to Say “Job Well Done”

It is customary to show appreciation and gratitude to good wedding vendors by tipping. However there is not a set rate that is appropriate for all the services provided.

When determining how much to tip check the contract. Some vendors will have gratuity built into the cost. Built-in gratuity often applies to transportation services. If gratuity is not included and the bride and groom would prefer for it to be they can ask for it to be added in before signing the contract.

Next check each company or venue’s policies. Most houses of worship have guidelines for making a donation which will typically fall in the $100-$500 range. If the couple and the minister are both affiliated with the house of worship this donation can be handed right to the minister. If the marriage ceremony is performed outside a house of worship by an officiant for a set fee it is customary to tip in the $50 range. In New Hanover County the magistrate is not legally permitted to accept monetary tips; the only associated fee is $20 which goes to the state of North Carolina. In cases such as this when monetary tips are prohibited inviting the person to enjoy dinner at the reception and sending/delivering a hand-written thank you note are appropriate.

Tipping minimums for vendors are:


Bartenders:10 percent of the total liquor bill Catering manager:$100-$200 or a giftChef:$100

Servers: $20 or more each (can be given to catering manager to distribute)

Personal care services

Coat check attendants:$1 per guestHairstylist:15-20 percentHotel room attendant:$2-$5 per roomLimo or bus drivers:15 percentMakeup artist:15-20 percent

Ceremony and reception services

Ceremony musicians:15 percent of total fee

Reception musicians: $25-$50 per musicianPhotographer/videographer: $100Valet or parking attendants: $1 to $2 per car; 15 percent for valet parkingWedding planner:15 percent of total fee or a gift


Bidding Adieu

From a horse-drawn carriage to a stretch limo couples have numerous options for exiting in grand style. Wedding exits can be theatrical fun and stylish and symbolic too as the new Mr. and Mrs. depart to begin the start of their married life together.

For a seamless and memorable wedding departure ask the wedding planner to alert the vehicle driver and ask the DJ to announce the last song and request everyone assemble on the dance floor to bid adieu to the bride and groom. This leaves ample time for hugs and goodbyes before the couple makes their memorable exit.