Don’t know what to start or what to do when? This week-by-week schedule will make the wedding planning a bit easier.
My 15 year old daughter (my oldest!) read this article and I think she may finally trust me to marry her off when the right time comes.
See, while I haven’t married off my own children just yet, I have planned, shopped for, and coordinated close to 100 weddings for my Links girls (who lost a parent) as well as family and friends. Prior to submitting this article, I sent it to two friends who have recently married off their daughters and both were saving and telling me “I wish you had told me this before!”
So here is the article, a culmination of many tricks and tips learned along the way. If you love to shop with your daughter, you’re in luck because kallahs require lots of shopping and this will be fun! (If you don’t, I’ve got some help for you, too.)
First, let’s establish a few important foundations:
- There’s a great line in the business world: You can have it quick, cheap, or quality — pick two out of three. Quick and quality? Probably won’t be cheap. Quick and cheap? Might not be quality. Cheap and quality? Probably not quick.
Before beginning to shop and set up for a wedding, think about what’s important and realistic for you. If you have a short engagement, you won’t have time to compare prices. You may also incur rush fees on some items. Be realistic. (By the way, if you have an eight-month engagement but leave things for the last minute… see above)
- This article is being written for a broad audience. In some communities, booking a kosher venue is easy and the caterer is part of the establishment. In others, everything must be transformed to make it kosher. Some communities have budget-friendly takanah options and there’s no need to find your own music, photographer, or florist as it’s part of the package. Some communities celebrate weddings more lavishly and options abound. Additionally, wedding customs vary not just by community but by family.
We couldn’t possibly cover it all and would appreciate your comments below so we can make this list as helpful as possible for ALL families.
- To my mind, the greatest gift a family can give the chassan and kallah is the gift of shalom. Therefore, many of my tips will include ideas for flexibility.
Many of our Gedolim and Rabbanim put aside “shalom money” for things they didn’t plan for but are important to someone in the wedding party.
Another place where shalom tends to be tested is in the issue of timing. By nature, I’m a stickler for time. I know this and therefore built in buffers because not everyone else is. I will say this, though: Every single wedding party that I created schedules for has thanked me and said they had no idea you could have the day of the wedding run so smoothly. There’s a science to it and I’ll share it.
OK, let’s begin! These checklists are for a 6-week engagement. You can always do LESS per week if your engagement is longer but it’s hard to figure out how to do things in such a short time period so we’ll use that as our starting point.
First 1-3 days post engagement: (regardless of how long the engagement is)
- Book and confirm a hall. Once you have a date you can work on vendors:
- Book caterer
- Book mechitzos
- Book lighting
- Book photographer/videographer
- Book band/singer/DJ
- Book badchan
- Book flowers
- Book makeup & hair stylists for kallah and crew
- Dressers are not a must but they can be a huge help for families with lots of girls to dress, especially little ones
- If you’re doing any customization of a wig, order NOW!
- Book hall for Shabbos Sheva Brachos
- Book makeup, sheitel touch-ups, and hair for Shabbos Sheva Brachos
- Get a gown and headpiece for the kallah
- Book a kallah teacher
- If hair removal is needed, schedule consult and set up a calendar
- Schedule all sheva brachos
- Guest list
- Set up gift registry
- Begin the hunt for an apartment!
- If it’s an unfurnished apartment, shop for furniture now! If not, it can wait
- If you don’t need customization, do wigs now
- Schedule wig appointment for mother of kallah
- Book any flights needed for out-of-town guests
- Arrange hosting for any Shabbos Sheva Brachos guests
- Buy all gifts for chassan
- Find gowns for all other members of the family
- Shop for all men’s and boys’ clothing & hats
- Shop for clothes for kallah and give in alterations (especially during busy seasons, as they may take up to 2 weeks)
- Shop for linen (especially if you require any monogramming or customization)
- Shop for housewares and recruit a family member to tovel
- Shop for undergarments, robes, and pj’s
- Set up health insurance, car insurance, renter’s insurance, and life insurance
- Order hostess packages for Shabbos Sheva Brachos
- If the apartment needs any work, begin now
- Shop for cosmetics
- Shop for pharmaceuticals
- Shop for towels
- Shop for tichels/bandanas/bands/snoods
- Shop for shoes/boots
- Pick up dry cleaning
- Pick up alterations
- Haircuts for men and boys in the family
- Check that all lighting, plumbing, and locks work well in the apartment
- Some have the custom to visit kevarim of deceased parents, grandparents, or ancestors and “invite” them to the wedding
Week Before the Wedding:
- Shop all grocery items, including perishables
- Unpack all housewares
- Make the beds
- Refill any prescriptions and/or lenses
- Pick up gowns
- Make a schedule for day of the wedding and email it to the family
Day Before Wedding:
- Order food for prep at the hall
- Some family and friends divide Tehillim to be said the day of the wedding as a z’chus for the chassan & kallah
Day of the Wedding:
- Appoint someone to be in charge of younger children so the kallah can have her space
- Try your best to stick to the schedule but expect imperfection.
- If the couple is sleeping in the apartment after the wedding, leave 1-2 lights on inside and outside so they don’t walk into darkness after the wedding.
I just read this list… and I work full time! How do I do this?
Obviously, if it’s a longer engagement and you have Sundays to work with (winter Motzoei Shabbosim and summer Fridays work well too!), that’s great. If not, here are some tips:
- Frum-owned housewares, linen, and lingerie stores in NY/NJ often have options for private appointments for kallahs. Do not meet your kallah at 5 p.m. when neither of you have eaten or sat down all day! If she/you/both finish work at 5, meet up for a light snack and make the appointment for 5:45 or later. Trust me, that 30-minute eating break will make many more “yeses” happen in the store.
- Some stores have great websites but you still may want to shop in-store. Add items to your online cart, and then see if the store would allow you to email the cart so you can go in to try on your selections.
- If you don’t live in a community where that’s doable or you need more time, take off one day during week 1-2 and one day during week 5, as well as the day before the wedding. Plan those days well. Make a schedule a few days before that includes everything you need to accomplish that day.
- If you’re shopping in an area with bad parking, here’s where you can use that friend who keeps asking how she can help! Have her drive you around and wait in the area while you shop so you can save on Ubers but still not deal with the headache of parking.
Where to save… and where NOT to save:
- Don’t save on kallah classes. Don’t even ask about prices until you’re booking someone. I’m serious. Inquire with newlyweds, their mothers, and mentors you trust to find someone who is a good fit for your daughter. Just as with many things in life, our daughters don’t always need the same thing we do. What is it that your daughter needs in the personality of a kallah teacher to be able to learn well? Choose that way. Price will come later.
- Some of you might not agree with me on this but here’s my theory: linen, blankets, pillows, pots, and mixers are things people generally use for years. That’s where I like to have quality. Clothes that vary by the season… slippers that will be changed in a few months… that’s where I can afford to go a little lower if need be.
- If your child is 4, 14, or any age but not married, listen to me: Every time an invitation comes in, check the address and add it to a Google Sheet. Only use Google Sheets! Share it with your spouse (and with your kallah!) so they can add people too and it’s all in one place.
- Oh, and you will thank me for this one: In addition to the columns of name, address, zip, etc., put two more columns: Category & Details. Category is where you categorize by shul, school friend, workmate, business colleague, neighbor, relative, etc. Each entry should have a category. It’ll make it much easier to sort. For instance, if you made this list for your son’s bar mitzvah and you moved a year later and now don’t have much contact with those old neighbors, you can simply sort by category and easily remove those names. Details are only needed for some entries. It’s where you put a maiden name, etc.
- Before shopping for food for the apartment, double check with the chassan to see if he has any food allergies or sensitivities. You’d hate to buy tons of gourmet cheese only to discover the chassan is allergic to dairy!
- Additionally, find out if there are any high-risk allergies in the extended family so you can let the caterers of the wedding and any sheva brachos know.
Family and friends are so excited to help out but honestly, giving a job sometimes feels like another job! You know that super geshikt sister-in-law? Give her the tasks you need to outsource and make her the point person for people to call. Often, a kallah may live in Anywhere, USA, but get married in NY/NJ. Having friends to do some of the pickups can be the only way to make things work.
Outsourcing ideas include:
- invitation stuffing and mailing
- picking up dry cleaning and alterations
- babysitting little ones on long shopping days
- supper the week of the wedding
- breakfast and/or lunch the day of the wedding
- taking clips or pics for relatives who want to keep up with the wedding they couldn’t make
- taking care of elderly relatives at the wedding.
From the Trenches:
- If you can help it, don’t have the makeup artist who does the kallah do more than four additional faces. It’s just asking for things to be stressful.
- Find out before if the caterer will be OK with you bringing outside food into the hall for the day of the wedding. If so, order mostly dry foods so people can feed children without worrying about getting dirty. I usually take plain bagels. Lots of them. The non-crumby, no sesame-seeds type. This I hand to any hungry child… all day long. Sushi is wonderful for many teens and adults as long as they don’t add the sauce. It’s dry and easy to eat neatly. If the kallah isn’t fasting, make sure she drinks well. Many kallahs are too excited or nervous to eat well so I suggest a light protein or fruit shake. This works well for the mother of the kallah as well. Coffee all day is not ideal.
- I generally don’t plop kids in front of screens (in fact, I have one of the greatest collections of board games) but I will fully disclose that when I made weddings, my little ones had to hang out in the hall for many hours and we had more screen time in that day than the rest of the year combined. Toveedo is a great tool because they can go from one thing to another without big people needing to help.
- If the wedding is local, send the kids to school for as long as feels right to you. This provides the kallah and adult members of the family the time to focus on their own things. Have one of the friends or family pick them up at 12:00, 2:00, 3:00, whatever and bring them to the hall then. The first grader will insist “nobody does this” but when she’s the kallah and has a first-grade sister, she will bless you. It’s a special day and a deeply spiritual one and having a kid who’s already kvetchy at 5 p.m. from too much prep time isn’t good for anyone.
- If you can, move into the hall for the day. Do all services in the hall. This way, whoever is ready can begin single shots and there’s also no holding up a family for someone who’s always late! This is especially true if you don’t live in the same neighborhood as the hall. I cannot count how many chassanim and kallahs have been late to their weddings because of a sudden standstill in traffic between Brooklyn and Lakewood or Monsey….
Special Extra Things:
Here’s my personal caveat: Special extra things are just that… extra. I’m including them because for some families, these are what makes the simchah. For others, each of these can be stressful or not doable. Please don’t let something that’s beautiful but not right for you interfere with the truly important things of the day.
- Hafrashas Challah: In some communities, there are women who come with a freshly made dough to the hall so the kallah can be mafrish challah on the day of her wedding. Some of these women will then bake the challah and have it ready as the seudah challah at the wedding.
- Tefillah Cards for the Chuppah: There are many chuppah-card gemachs with printed tefillos for people to say under the chuppah. It mitigates idle chatter and also engenders many tefillos to be said.
- Paying for Another Wedding: For those who can afford it, there are programs that allow you the opportunity to pay for another wedding taking place the same evening as your child’s wedding. It’s a wonderful feeling to know you’ve enabled another set of parents to experience joy at their child’s wedding.
FOR EXCLUSIVE CONTENT AND A PEEK BEHIND THE SCENES, MAKE SURE TO JOIN OUR WHATSAPP STATUS HERE.