Bonus column: Martha Stewart
Wedding widsom and practical solutions for all of your pressing questions about the big event.
Q: Wedding cakes are so pricey! Will serving a small one at each reception table save more money than offering just a single big cake? — Addie, via email
A: Not really, says contributing editor and New York City pastry chef Jason Schreiber, and multiple cakes may even end up costing you more. That’s because you’re paying for labor and work-intensive add-ons — like sugar flowers and piped icing — not size. “The time and effort that goes into making 15 small custom cakes is not remarkably less than that of a single larger one,” explains Schreiber. “Plus, if your order takes over a bakery’s refrigerator space, you might be charged extra to make up for lost business.”
The more cakes you have, the more accessories you might be responsible for, too — there’s the cost of renting a dozen stands instead of just one, for instance. There’s also the additional slicing fee charged by some venues, which can be anywhere from $1 to $8 per slice; table cakes almost always give you more servings than needed, and you may have to pony up for the difference.
If you just love the look of table cakes, however, there are ways to keep costs down. Buy standard buttercream- frosted cakes from a retail bakery rather than ordering custom, and decorate them with a simple topper. Display them in lieu of floral centerpieces, and you’ll reduce your flower tab, impacting your overall budget.
Q: Do I need to send the couple a gift if I don’t attend the wedding? — Mary, via email
A: The short answer? Yes! The bride and groom thought long and hard about whom to invite and you were designated a VIP. The choice to RSVP “no” is yours, of course, but it’s nice (and expected) to return the love, and extend your congratulations, with a present. Choose one out of joy, not guilt. “The gift doesn’t have to be extra expensive to make up for your absence,” says senior editor Brooke Porter Katz. “The couple will appreciate the thought, and that’s what counts.”
Q: I love our venue, but I hate its carpet — an unappealing swirl of dark greens and burnt oranges. I had envisioned pastel colors for our wedding, but I don’t want them to clash. Help! — Keri, via email
A: “Don’t worry — you can still decorate with light colors,” says contributing editor Cassidy Iwersen. “The trick is to pull eyes away from the carpet by focusing on the more pleasing details in the room.”
She recommends drawing from the carpet’s palette to find coordinating soft colors, like moss and melon, and incorporating those shades into table linens, chairs and centerpieces. A lighting designer can help, too, by strategically illuminating above-the-floor focal points, such as hanging garlands or stately mantelpieces.
Rest assured that no one else will be as bothered by the carpet as you are — people likely won’t even notice it. “Once tables, chairs, a dance floor and guests fill the room, the carpet will seem to fade away,” says Iwersen.
Q: We’d like gifts made only in countries that have worker-friendly labor laws. What’s the etiquette for including that on our website? — Kendra, via email
A: While we totally applaud your efforts, the key is to present guests with a solution, not a problem, when they’re trying to buy you a present. Curate a registry that’s populated exclusively by items that meet that criteria, and they’re likely to shop from it (universal registries, at sites like MyRegistry.com, let you add gift ideas from any online store).
You can include a note on your wedding website explaining why you chose the items, and that it’s important to you to support goods made in countries that promote healthy-worker agendas. If you come off as well-meaning, not preachy, your guests will sympathize. Many people are buying more consciously these days, supporting eco-friendly or made-in-the-USA products (check out Martha Stewart’s American Made Market on Amazon.com, for example).
If someone misses the message, skips the registry and purchases something with a provenance you’re not sure of? Send them a gracious thank-you note, then return the gift to the store, or even sell it and donate the proceeds to workers’ rights charities without the giver ever knowing.
Q:My invitation envelopes are maroon, and I’d like them addressed in white or gold. Will the post office take issue? — Natalie, via email
A: Officially, the U.S. Postal Service bans envelopes in highly saturated shades, but it does accept colored envelopes and cards as long as they don’t interfere with the reading of the address. If the writing is legible, the letter is deliverable, and white or gold writing would be readable on maroon.
However, there are some mailing missteps that could lead to the dreaded “return to sender,” including envelopes that are addressed with blind embossing (save that technique for your monogram). And oversize, uniquely shaped or too-heavy pieces need extra postage (for specifics, head to usps.com/businessmail101).
One last tip: “Many post offices will hand-cancel mail for free if you ask,” says senior editor Jaime Buerger. “This means envelopes will be processed by a person, not run through a machine that could damage the invites you’ve no doubt labored over.”
Q: I like the idea of matching dresses, but my bridesmaids run the gamut from petite to tall and plus size. How can I flatter them all? — Ashley, via email
A: If you visualize all of your attendants in the exact same dress, A-lines look great on just about everyone, says senior associate fashion editor Carrie Goldberg. That said, she recommends loosening the reins a bit by outfitting the group in a color you love, but letting each person choose her cut. The easiest option: Pick a brand that offers several silhouettes in the same shades and fabrics ( J.Crew, for example, offers 13 versions of navy silk-chiffon gowns). Not particular about fabric? Give your girls even more freedom by supplying them with swatches to take shopping for their own dresses, so they all end up with the right shade of blush, mint, gray or whatever you fancy. Either way, each of your best friends gets the style that makes her feel, well, best.
(Got a question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)