So Excited to Appear in Bridal Guide with my Budget Tips for Wedding Catering, Cakes and Drinks!

What a great start to this Monday! First, I received my first copies of my newest book, (which almost spent the night out in the rain after UPS left the box outside without ringing the bell! Whew!) And now, my article “Eat, Drink, Save” is featured in the January, February ’18 issue of Bridal Guide! Check it out, and find a whole pile of realistic, smart and budget-saving steps to get more from your wedding menu, cake and desserts and bar list!

my cover bg bridal-guide-jan-2018

Free Wedding Worksheet! From my book “Your Wedding, Your Way”


You can’t dive into wedding planning without first knowing what you and your groom really want for your big day, and setting up a wedding plans Priority List helps you protect your plans from well-meaning parents who have their own suggestions. With your priorities listed out, you know where the biggest chunks of your wedding budget will go, and you’ll be able to tell your parents that you’ve already decided on the location for your ceremony, the kind of cake you want, etc.

These free wedding planning worksheets will save the day:

Our Wedding Priority Lists

Bride’s Top Priorities:






Groom’s Top Priorities:






Lesser Priorities Others Can Help With







From my bestselling wedding book Your Wedding, Your Way, Question of the Day: Rehearsal Dinner Guest List Solution

brides guide to freebies
This great wedding planning question came in to my column at, and it’s a dilemma for a lot of parents. So I thought I’d share it here, in case you’re facing the same rehearsal dinner guest list questions:

Hi Sharon,
I am the Mother of the Groom planning a rehearsal dinner in July. My husband and I have our own idea of who is invited to this affair, based on 30 years ago, but today’s generation of 20 somethings have a different idea! My problem is considering what the Bride and Groom want-inviting all guests to the rehearsal dinner who will be coming in to town for the wedding, “after all they have to have someplace to eat dinner”, will turn the Rehearsal Dinner into another, although slightly smaller,’reception’. Most of my family will be the out of towners, all of whom my future daughter in law has met and knows very well. The only guests she doesn’t know are some close friends of ours from high school and college, who wouldn’t expect to be invited to the rehearsal dinner. Where do we draw the line in inviting guests to the Rehearsal Dinner? I thought it was supposed to be a time for the B & G to say thanks to their wedding party, and anyone else involved in the ceremony, and give gifts to them. That would be very awkward with alot of other guests around who they will be seeing the next day.
Thank you for your thoughts.


Hi Terry!

The trend of inviting all out of towners to the rehearsal dinner has actually faded out a bit now, given the economy and the expense of the wedding. While it’s completely understandable that the bride and groom want to have their out of town guests’ dinner provided, what’s being done now, more often, is just the immediate family and bridal party invited to the rehearsal dinner — for the reasons you mentioned — and out of town guests provided with a list of nearby eateries, or a cocktail party planned for LATER the night before….after the rehearsal dinner. The out of town guests get the picture that they’re not invited to the rehearsal dinner (which may be early at 6pm) when they’re invited to a Welcome Cocktail Party at the hotel, where drinks and light hors d’oeuvres are served. They can take their time arriving, unpacking and mingling, perhaps going to the hotel lounge on their own to eat, and then they know they’ll see you all at the cocktail party later. It keeps costs down, creates a festive atmosphere for that night, gives the bride and groom quality time with their guests, and keeps the toats and gift-giving at the rehearsal dinner to the smaller group.

It’s always the host’s choice of which plan to do…if the bride and groom really want all of the guests at the rehearsal dinner, then think about doing a heavier-appetizers cocktail party for all to keep expenses lower, limit the bar list, and have the bride and groom give their bridal party members their gifts at an earlier arrival time set for them. Toasts can still be made, so this might be a good compromise plan.

Talk to the bride and groom to see what you can arrange…they might be looking for more relaxed time to spend with a greater circle of incoming guests.
Sharon Naylor

Win It! The First Copy of my New Book “The Bride’s Guide to Freebies!”

My new wedding book has arrived! And I’m giving away my own, personal, very first copy to a lucky bride who wants to find out how to get great freebies for her wedding…without selling out, and without risking wedding disasters.

Check out what Bridal Guide’s editor-in-chief had to say about it:

“The definitive guide for couples looking to slash their wedding budgets without sacrificing style. Sharon Naylor spells out which freebies are accessible and which not to expect for free. A must-read for couples who want a fantastic wedding and a debt-free start to married life.” — Diane Forden, Editor in Chief, Bridal Guide

With the average cost of weddings today at over $20,000, it’s no wonder that today’s savvy, budget-conscious brides are looking for deals to get the wedding of their dreams at a fraction of the cost. But in today’s world where extreme couponing and the number of wedding sweepstakes competitions is on the rise, for the modern bride, discounts and bargains are simply not enough. For these brides, only free will do.

Enter The Bride’s Guide to Freebies, the book that shares insider secrets on how to potentially get thousands of dollars worth of merchandise and products for your wedding for free. No, this is not a book of suggested bargains and discounts. Rather, this book provides freebie-finding strategies on everything from the dress to the food to the entertainment, information on what to say (and not say) to score lots of swag, and how to foster positive relationships with vendors that result in spectacular add-ins. And each and every tip and strategy featured in the book is designed to give the budget-conscious bride the ultimate payoff: lots of wedding goods and extras… for absolutely zero money.

Visit my site for more info on this book, as well as my 35 additional wedding books, and get your copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble if you’re not the lucky winner chosen on December 5th!

Here’s how to enter: RT this post on Twitter, or leave a comment here sharing what you’d love to get for free for your wedding plans! Good luck!

FREE Checklist for Bridesmaids, for Perfect Wedding Timing


 It’s time for another Free Chapter from one of my books! This time, I’m sharing my Planning Timeline from my new book “Bridesmaid on a Budget,” so share this with your bridesmaids to keep them organized and in the loop!

Bridesmaid Planning Timeline

Not sure what to do when? We have your complete planning timeline and checklist here for your use! And here’s how you can customize this list to suit the extra little things your bride is likely to ask of you, and that you may want to plan on your own: just cut and paste this checklist, copy it to a new doc file, and type in your own tasks!

For the big stuff, like the deadline for sending your payment, set your phone or computer’s alarm or reminder service to give you the heads-up that it’s time to pay up! The bride loves it when her bridesmaids are on time, and no one has to make that awkward phone call to tell you to get it in gear!

Here you go!

12+ Months in Advance:

____ Send the bride and groom a pretty engagement card, congratulating them on their wonderful news!

____ RSVP to any engagement parties to which you’re invited

____ Buy and wrap a gift for the engagement party

____ The minute the bride has the wedding date and location set, put in your request for time off of work.

____ When the wedding date and location are official, with the bride’s okay and room block info set, book your travel and lodging. (With your date, if you’ll bring one!)

____ Create your organizer plan, whether it’s a binder or a spreadsheet, to keep yourself on schedule.

____ Offer to help the bride find her ceremony and reception locations, especially if you have attended weddings at some of the places she wishes to tour.

____ E-mail the Maid of Honor to offer your help, as well as any contacts you have who may be helpful in group party planning

9 to 12 Months in Advance:

____ Follow the Maid of Honor’s lead in getting to know the other bridesmaids, such as her invitation for you all to e-mail each other if you’re local to one another. Carpooling may be an option!

____ If the bride invites you, join her at wedding expos.

____ If the bride invites you, join her as she shops for her dream wedding gown.

____ If you plan to get in shape for the big day, begin a health regimen, or kick your workout routine into higher gear.

6 to 8 Months in Advance

____ Start sending dress suggestions to the Maid of Honor, CCing the bride, if you find a fabulous dress or designer you’d like considered for your wedding day wear.

____ Have your measurements professionally-taken by an expert seamstress, to get the perfect dimensions for ordering a dress that will actually fit you!

____ Join the bridesmaids in the official search for your wedding day bridesmaids dresses.

____ Deliver your size card and deposit money for the official dress order.

____ Review your finances and budget for the expenses coming up!

____ Ask the bride or Maid of Honor what the plan is going to be for shoes and accessories – wear your own silver strappies, or join the group in ordering matching heels.

____ Offer to help the bride with any planning tasks she has going on right now.

____ Find yourself a date, if you don’t already have one!

4 to 6 Months in Advance:

____ Join the bridesmaids and Maid of Honor in discussions about the bridal shower plans.

____ Volunteer to take on any bridal shower planning tasks you’d like to work on.

____ Join the group in searching for the perfect bridal shower location.

____ Be able to tell friends where the couple is registered, if you are asked.

____ Deliver any payments due for your dress or shoe orders.

____ If this is a destination wedding, check your passport to see if it will be valid, or apply for a new or renewed passport now.

2 to 4 Months in Advance:

____ If your dress has arrived, make your appointments for your dress fittings.

____ If you’re buying a dress at a department store, still make appointments for dress fittings.

____ Buy your wedding day undergarments and shoes, in order to wear them at the fittings.

____ Offer to help the bride with any wedding planning task she has going on, such as making involved DIY projects or collecting addresses for the invitations.

____ Work on all the plans for the bridal shower, and pay your share of the bridal shower expenses.

_____ Buy and wrap the bridal shower present.

____ Ask the bride what she wishes as far as your wedding day hair and beauty appointments; not all brides ask their ‘maids to join them at the salon, so you need to know what you’ll be doing on the morning of the wedding to get gorgeous.

1 to 2 Months In Advance:

____ Host and pay for the bridal shower.

____ Help the bride keep track of who gave which gift.

____ Plan the bachelorette party, and send invitations to select guests who will join you.

____ Pay for the bachelorette party, and host it in honor of the bride.

____ Offer to help the bride with any planning tasks she has going on, such as making favors or creating the seating chart.

____ Return your response card immediately upon receiving it…with a sweet note written on the bottom!

____ Continue with your dress fittings as needed.

3 Weeks in Advance:

____ Pick up your altered and pressed gown from the seamstress, and store it in a very safe place.

____ Offer to help the bride with any wedding planning tasks she has going on.

____ Take the bride out for a de-stressing activity such as a hike, a walk through the park, a concert, a movie, girls’ night in.

____ Confirm your travel and hotel plans.

2 Weeks in Advance:

____ Offer to help the bride with any wedding planning tasks she has going on.

____ Get your pre-wedding haircut, color, and highlights.

____ Write the bride a lovely letter to give her at the rehearsal dinner.

____ Buy the wedding gift and wrap it, or have it sent to the bride and groom’s home.

____ Confirm your beauty appointment.

____ Purchase any stockings or accessories you will need for the big day.

1 Week in Advance:

____ Break in your new wedding day shoes, wearing them around the house or out on your driveway so that the bottoms get scuffed a bit for safe traction.

____ Check in with the bride to get an updated itinerary of where you need to be and when.

____ Offer to help the bride with any last-minute tasks.

____ Travel to the wedding location the required number of days in advance, such as two days prior, to be there for pre-wedding events and helping.

The Day Before the Wedding:

____ Arrive on time, or early, at your hotel, and unpack completely so that you’re available for all pre-wedding events.

____ Set out your dress – steam it to remove wrinkles, if necessary, and all of your accessories.

____ Check in with the bride to see if there’s anything you need to pick up for her.

____ Attend the arrivals cocktail party and greet guests if the bride and groom are not in attendance yet.

____ Attend the rehearsal.

____ Attend the rehearsal dinner.

____ Join out-of-town guests back at the hotel for a post-rehearsal-dinner mingling event, if planned.

____ Join the bride at her place to help her prepare last-minute items and tasks.

____ Take plenty of photos!

____ Go to bed early – tomorrow’s a big day!

On the Wedding Day:

____ Arrive on time, if not slightly early, at the location where you will join the brides and the other bridesmaids.

____ Attend the wedding morning breakfast.

____ Join the bridesmaids at the salon for hair and makeup, or prepare your own hair and makeup at the bride’s chosen location.

____ Dress for pre-wedding photos.

____ Help the bride dress and prepare, as needed.

____ Pose for pre-wedding photos.

____ Help the bride gather any items necessary, such as the groom’s ring, marriage license, emergency bag and other essentials.

____ Be sure you have your purse, keys, cell phone and other essentials.

____ Accompany the bride and bridal party to the ceremony location, and let the excitement begin!

____ Participate in the wedding ceremony.

____ Stand in the receiving line, if required.

____ Pose for post-ceremony photos.

____ Participate in special introductions and dances at the reception.

____ Help the bride with any needs during the reception.

____ After the reception, help the bride gather any belongings to take home, and pack her gifts in the car.

____ Direct guests back to their hotel, if needed.

____ Attend the after-party.

Even MORE help is available in my book Bridesmaid on a Budget! And check out my additional planners and idea books for bridesmaids: The Ultimate Bridal Shower Idea Book and The Bridesmaid Handbook.

Visit me at for more bridesmaid tips and advice.

Your Wedding’s During March Madness? Don’t Fight It…Include It

Collegiate garters at

Mid- to late-March is one of the smartest times for a budget wedding, but it’s also primetime for NCAA March Madness. If it’s just hitting you now that your guests are going to be disgruntled about missing the games, if you’re disgruntled about missing the big game, or you’re worried that everyone’s going to be watching the games on their phones during the reception…here’s how to drop the stress and work March Madness into your wedding weekend. Your bracket-obsessed guests will love you for it, and your day can become even more you when you’re both college basketball fans as well.

  1. Theme your desserts. It’s too late to change your wedding cake into a Tarheels-blue confection (if you’d even want to) but you can get or make college-color and –logo cupcakes, cake pops or cookies to add to your dessert bar, or serve at your welcome cocktail party, rehearsal dinner, or after-party.
  2. Name your drinks. Having signature cocktails is a big trend at the bar, so give your drinks hoops-themed names, like ‘The Layup’ or ‘The Half-Court Shot.’ If you have favorite players or coaches, name drinks after them. Syracuse fans could serve the ‘Orangeman’ creamsicle cocktail.
  3. Make a team spirit photo display. Separately from your elegant family photos table, make a photo display of you and your friends at college games, with your faces painted, cheering a big win. Perhaps this can be an easy, free décor feature at a wedding weekend event, like a barbecue at your house (with the games on TV, of course.)
  4. At the rehearsal dinner, put guests at ease by saying, “We not only allow watching the game on your phone, we encourage it!” They’ll love not having to hold the phone under the table, getting the evil eye from their spouses.
  5. Make your introduction into the reception just like the start of a game. Play stadium music, and have the emcee introduce each member of your bridal party, and you, by ‘name, position, and alma mater’…which is really fun when the ringbearer walks in while the announcer says, ‘Jacob Smith, ringbearer, Park Elementary Schooool!”
  6. Copy television sports ‘player’ introductions with an easily-shot and friend-edited video showing each of your bridal party members in serious, ‘game-face’ saying their name, position and alma mater.
  7. Borrow a friend’s child’s Nerf basketball hoop set and toss your bouquet to make a basket, if you weren’t planning to toss it to the single ladies.
  8. Wear a garter in your school colors.
  9. Accept that guests will watch the game on their phones during the reception. Don’t get angry about it. Guests don’t have to be 100% focused on you the whole time, but have the emcee say before big moments like the toast, “May I direct your attention to the dance floor for the happy couple’s first dance?”
  10. Consider having the television on at the bar during the reception. During the later hours of the reception, when it’s just dancing and dessert time, guests will love your consideration, and also love getting the chance to watch a game with friends they haven’t seen in a long time. Yes, they’re going to cheer and get loud, but that’s just how it goes. It’s not going to work asking a friend to ‘shush’ them, but the site manager can approach the group to ask them to dial it down if they’re getting too loud or using R-rated language at bad ref calls.
  11. Bring your after-party to a great sports bar, so that guests can watch all of the games, snack on bar food, and even win giveaways that many sports bars run during March Madness.
  12. Take photos of your alumni friends to send in to your college alumni newsletter…many colleges’ social pages feature alumni groups at weddings.

March Madness might not have been in your wedding dreams when you first started planning, but when you adjust and bring in basketball elements now, with easily-planned last-minute details, your wedding becomes a tremendous success for all.

Sharon Naylor is the author of over 35 wedding books, Follow me on Twitter @sharonnaylorwed


Free Wedding Worksheet! From my book “Your Wedding, Your Way”

You can’t dive into wedding planning without first knowing what you and your groom really want for your big day, and setting up a wedding plans Priority List helps you protect your plans from well-meaning parents who have their own suggestions. With your priorities listed out, you know where the biggest chunks of your wedding budget will go, and you’ll be able to tell your parents that you’ve already decided on the location for your ceremony, the kind of cake you want, etc.

These free wedding planning worksheets will save the day:

Our Wedding Priority Lists

Bride’s Top Priorities:






Groom’s Top Priorities:






Lesser Priorities Others Can Help With







From Sharon Naylor’s bestselling wedding book Your Wedding, Your Way,

Wedding Planning First Step: Your FREE Excerpt of “Your Wedding Your Way”


It’s time for another free excerpt of one of my top new wedding books! This time, using this freebie from my book Your Wedding Your Way, you and your groom will talk about the basics for your Big Day, just to get your style set, and combine your wishes.


Chapter 2

How to Decide What You Both Want for Your Wedding Day

 You both have to be in agreement on the various ways you will create your wedding your way. The best way to get in agreement is to talk about everything. Here’s a little quiz to get the discussion started. Take this quiz together, and use different-colored pens to check off your answers and make additional notes. Don’t worry if you’re not in total agreement right now—few wedding couples are at this stage. You’ve already gone through the checklist in the introduction about why you’d like to have a nontraditional wedding, and now you’re getting in a little deeper.


1.         How comfortable are you when you’re at formal celebrations, such as black-tie weddings and dress-up events?

            a.         Very comfortable. I love getting dressed up, looking my best, and enjoying “the good life” at formal weddings.

            b.         Somewhat comfortable. Being in high heels or a suit is fine for the first few hours, but then I’d rather be home in pajamas, watching television.

            c.         I hate it. Nothing’s worse than being forced to wear high heels or a suit just because someone wants everyone to look good in their pictures.

2.         What’s the best location for your wedding?

            a.         Right here in our hometown, which is going to be gorgeous at the time of year we’re getting married, and it’s close for all our guests to get to.

            b.         It would be dreamy if we could get married at our favorite vacation destination that we go to every year, get married on the beach at sunset, and have foods from our favorite restaurants there.

            c.         Someplace we’ve never been before, like our dream destination ofHawaii. And to bring everyone else with us? That would be amazing.

            d.         Someplace not in our hometown, but also not a five-hour flight away, either.

3.         How do you feel about an outdoor wedding?

            a.         It’s perfect! Nothing says “wedding” more than gorgeous scenery, everyone in the gardens, surrounded by flowers.

            b.         I’d be too worried about the weather and bugs ruining the day.

            c.         I’m all for it if the place we book has an indoor ballroom we could move into if it rains.

            d.         I’ve always hated outdoor parties. Who wants to bring sunblock to a wedding and sweat through her dress?

4.         What is the worst part of a traditional wedding?

            a.         Having the same old food.

            b.         Having the same old music.

            c.         It’s expensive no matter how you plan it.

            d.         Having to go by the rules of a church or reception hall.

5.         How important is it for you to invite everyone you know to the wedding?

            a.         Very important. It wouldn’t be a wedding without all our relatives and their kids, and all our friends there.

            b.         Not too important. I’d be happy with just a small circle of close relatives and friends.

            c.         I really don’t care, as long as we get married.

6.         How do you feel about a wedding being funny, having laugh-out-loud moments?

            a.         That makes it great! Our guests would love it, so we’re going to insert some humor in the ceremony and in the emcee’s wording at the reception.

            b.         That would offend our parents and other relatives.

            c.         I think weddings should be solemn and serious—funny toasts and the like should be done at the rehearsal dinner only.

            d.         We’re all for it if any toast-makers want to be funny, but we’re not going to plan special comedy moments for our big day.


You’ve just discussed some basic, fundamental issues as you co-create your personalized wedding day. These questions may have even sent you off on tangents, discussing your thoughts and suggestions for your dream-wedding day, planned your way! Notice there’s no “scoring,” no “if you circled mostly B, then . . .” rules. This exercise was just to get the discussion on the table. Take notes on every inspiration that arises as you work through this section. Some ideas will work and some won’t, but that’s the creative process.