You're sure to be exhausted by the end of your wedding day, but unfortunately, the planning doesn't end when the last guest leaves. Here's what to do ASAP — and what you can leave for a later date.
There's a lot to do immediately after the wedding, says Sharon Naylor, author of more than 20 books on wedding topics, including The Bride & Groom Thank-You Guide: A Thoroughly Modern Manual for Expressing Your Gratitude — Quickly, Painlessly and Personally! and The Busy Bride's Essential Wedding Checklists. Luckily, we're in an age where the bride and groom don't necessarily leave for their honeymoon right away — they may stay to close down the party, handle the after-tasks and maybe even continue on to an after party, she says. Since many brides and grooms are paying for and planning their own weddings, they're the ones who will want to meet with the banquet hall manager and wedding coordinator to handle post-wedding business.
Parents and attendants can also volunteer to take on post-wedding tasks, Naylor says, but make sure that they're sober. (A buzzed bridesmaid is not the best person to hand out tip envelopes.) Your best bet is to appoint a post-wedding ambassador and a backup ambassador, says Naylor; just to be sure you've covered all your bases. Here's what needs to be done post haste:
• Paying the piper. Immediately after the reception, sit down with the banquet manager and wedding coordinator to hand over final payments, Naylor says. Be sure to get a receipt that's stamped "paid in full," with the signature of the manager and the date. This will serve as proof of payment in the case of an administrative snafu, she says.
• Giving feedback. While it's still on your mind, take a moment to thank the entire staff for their work on your big day, Naylor says. If the band is packing up, let them know exactly what you loved. If the bartenders are still around, thank them for a job well done. Experts love getting positive feedback, she says.
• Picking up the pieces. Immediately after the reception, either you or someone you've designated ahead of time should collect any keepsakes, decorations, rented items, gifts or personal belongings that have been left at the site.
• Tipping time. Either you or your delegate should hand out tip envelopes to the musicians, DJ, wait staff, bartenders and parking attendants who contributed to your event.
• Taking back the tux. Tradition dictates that the best man return the groom's tuxedo on the first business day after the wedding.
• Preserving your flowers. Your bridal bouquet can be a beautiful memory of your wedding for years to come — if you take care of it, that is. One option is to have your florist preserve your blooms, but be sure to get it to her as quickly as possible after the wedding. You can delegate this task to your mom, sister or maid of honor. If you'd rather go the do-it-yourself route, hang your bouquet upside down with string or wire, and store in a dark, well-ventilated location, such as a shed, garage, attic or large closet.
The following tasks can wait until you've unpacked from your honeymoon.
• Cleaning your dress. Your gown may not look dirty, but the smallest trace of dirt or sweat can turn the fabric yellow over time. Visit a cleaner you trust within a week or two of the wedding, and be sure to mention any stains you've noticed, whether from grass, wine or makeup. Trust this task to your mother or maid of honor if you'll be honeymooning longer than typical newlyweds.
• Telling the world. Once you've settled back into daily life, be sure to update your wedding website with photos and comments about the big day. This is also a good time to send wedding announcements to those who weren't invited to the ceremony and place an announcement in your local newspaper.
• Exploring the spoils. Have fun opening your gifts, but don't put off returning duplicates or unwanted items. The sooner you return them, the less hassle it will be.
• Choosing your photos. Get together with your photographer to review the proofs from your wedding and select your favorites. Don't forget to give your family and wedding party a chance to choose one or two for themselves.
• Saying thanks. Post-honeymoon, experts recommend making thank you notes a top priority. (Ideally, you should mail them out within two to four weeks.) Addressing the envelopes before the wedding can help speed up the process. Don't forget to express your appreciation to friends and family who helped with decorating, cleaning up and getting you to the venue on time.
• Changing your name. If you're making a name change, start spreading the word as soon as you receive your marriage certificate (usually two to three weeks after the wedding). Be sure to contact the following people or institutions:
The Social Security Administration or relevant government agency. Visit www.ssa.gov for details on how to change the name on your Social Security card.
The Department of Motor Vehicles. An important piece of identification, your driver's license will come in handy when informing other companies of your name change.
Your landlord or mortgage company
Your insurance companies
Medical professionals (doctors, dentists, etc.)
Utility companies (phone, electric, cable, gas)
Credit card companies
• Changing your status. When it comes to insurance and health benefits, getting hitched affects more than just your name; it also changes your status. Post-honeymoon, both you and your groom should confirm your newlywed status with all employers and insurance companies.
Congratulations! You've made it through the wedding and everything that comes after. Breathe a sigh of relief, and get ready to move on with the rest of your life.
Jenny Stamos Kovacs writes about health, nutrition, psychology, work, money and love for magazines such as Self, Shape, Glamour, Women's Health, Prevention and Woman's Day.