I am man. Man good. Man want woman. Woman not take man if no wedding. Woman plan wedding since baby. Man say 'What is wedding?' Man stay out of way. Woman happy. Man show up at wedding in tux. Woman happy. Man say 'I do' when hit in ribs. Woman happy. Reception have beer. Man happy.
There you go, it's as simple as that. Weddings schweddings, a piece of cake - a piece of wedding cake, even. No? Oh, alright then, perhaps not. In fact, the planning of a wedding ceremony can be a complex thing, right down to the very semantics of it all. I mean is it a 'ceremony' or indeed a 'celebration'? A subtle difference, but an important one to think about nonetheless. This Entry presents a host of brilliant tips and sound advice garnered from the memories and the very real experiences of different folk from all round the world.
There's often a feeling that your big day can become something you have little control over. From the catering companies to the church, from the photographer to the proprietors of venues used for receptions, it can seem that your wedding is very much in the hands of everybody else. One way around this is to have a home-made wedding.
My mother did the catering. Dad built the stage. I designed the sound and music. All my relatives and friends helped cook, clean, set up and take down. People from my sister's life, past and present, were all there to share the happy occasion in the small town of Granite Falls, Washington, USA. There were no 'professionals' involved. It was purely a Yost/Tengelin/Bowers/et al production.
That wedding will live on as my fondest memory of my family in general, as well; all of us working together to create one magical moment.
One Researcher kindly gave us a breakdown to what is described as a 'perfect home-made wedding':
- Wedding dress was made by friend, a wizard dressmaker
- Hair and makeup was done by mother/daughter team
- Bridesmaids' dresses/accessories were bought for half price after formals (proms) died down, chiffon scarves home-made
- Cake was made by another friend
- Flowers - were bought from the flower markets in bulk; a talented aunt helped arrange them
- Venue was to be a local park, changed to parent's backyard with tarpaulin when it rained
- MC was a friend of family's, who happens to be a professional comedian
- Photography - was negotiated to get good deal for negatives and unlimited film and time
- Video - was done by three guests who each brought videos. we got our best man to splice best bits
- Guys' suits - were hired
- Wedding car - was borrowed; a fab antique white Mercedes from friend who chaffeured us
- Reception - was held in a family-owned reception house - small and intimate, but able to accommodate 120 guests!
Though it was done economically, it never felt like we did it 'cheaply' because everyone pitched in with as much, if not more love than goes into lavish 'wedding-coordinated-to-death' affairs.
The following bride's tale is another advert for home-made weddings, and while the marriage didn't quite make it, one suspects that the memories of that day and the ones preceding it are quite priceless:
I had a home-made wedding, too. I grew up in a farming village, and this was quite typical of a local wedding. My mother made my gown - she was a dress maker/designer, and it was wonderful. While she made my dress, I made her's. We had our sewing machines set up across the table from each other, and it is one of my fondest memories of my dear Mom. A neighbour made and decorated my cake, another neighbour, a prize-winning horticulturist, did the flowers, and the local church auxiliary did all the rest. I was married in the church I had gone to Sunday School at, and the reception was back home, in our turn-of-the-century farmhouse. One of my Dad's best friends gave the Toast to the Bride. He'd known me since I was tiny. Problem was, I married someone from the city, who thought the whole thing was primitive, and the marriage only lasted three years.
Counting the Cost
Weddings are so expensive, and that means somebody is making a lot of money. It's in their interests that young newly-weds break the bank, and the pressure to do so can be quite intimidating. If you really love your partner then you won't need anyone to remind you that it's love that counts - not the country of origin of the capers on your grilled skate. When one Researcher heard that one particular wedding was to cost £15,000, they made an interesting point about glossy magazines:
Ughh! £15,000. Actually, when I was looking at glossies (magazines) on tips for weddings, I was disgusted at some suggestions. They all think you have bundles of money, and that the only thing you would ever dream of spending it on is a wedding. Hmmmm, got news for them... I have also heard figures of $20,000 - $30,000 (Australian) being bantered about as the average wedding cost. Some poor sods actually take out loans - like whatever happened to the actual marriage being the important thing?
Priorities, dahhlings! Priorities.
Bubbles Instead of Confetti
Confetti, the ticker-tape of wedding celebrations, is such a powerful symbol of matrimony. And, as one Researcher remarked, confetti's just like love - it lasts a short time and is swept out with tommorow's rubbish. Cynical, yes, but maybe there's a grain of truth in that. Love so often flares up spectacularly, only to fade away to nothing again, and confetti is a reminder of this, the transitory nature of things, much like falling cherry blossom petals. That's not to say we shouldn't marry or fall in love - of course not - but we should really enjoy the good times for what they are, while they're happening. Anyway, if confetti doesn't grab your fancy, how about... bubbles:
I bought party-sized bubble makers to replace confetti and rice, as we were getting married in a public garden (which turned into my parent's garden when it rained, oh dear). The bubble makers were given to guests as they arrived, and were a hit with young and old alike. Added bonus - bubbles in wedding photography looks super-sweet.
And someone else was taken with bubbles, it seems:
I came across a brilliant alternative to confetti at a wedding I went to deepest Devon (England) last September. The marriage took place at an idyllic stately home, the owners of which didn't want its gardens spoilt by the little bits of pastel-coloured paper horseshoes and bells. So my friends, Leoarna and Paul, asked guests to bring along rose petals, pot pourri and, my favourite, pots of blowing bubbles. The bubbles made such a lovely scene, and the pots kept the kids and the rest of us (steadily getting drunker) amused for hours.
But where do you get them? Are they the standard kiddie-bubbles? Or something else?
This was a hunt and a half. We visited two dollar shops (bargain basement places), but they were selling bubble makers in mini-champagne bottles for one dollar each. Add this up over 120 guests, and you get an expensive deal! Then my husband found little fun-sized bubble makers at a stall in Castle Hill, Sydney (Australia). I presume they exist elsewhere. Another friend found some in Bowral, NSW, (Australia as well). These came in packs and sold for about $3 each pack.
I would suggest first going to your local bargain store, five-and-dime, whatever they are called. If they don't have them, ask them whether they have come across any in their travels. Usually places which buy loads of 'stuff' on consignment may know who else stocks them if they don't.
We've also heard of people throwing bread at weddings instead of traditional confetti. This is reasonably eco-friendly and a hit with the pigeons, but can make the bride and groom look a bit crusty. Companies even advertise the use of monarch butterflies; everyone is given easy-to-open individual boxes from which they release the butterflies at the appropriate moment. This however, sounds potentially cruel and, let's face it, a bit unnecessary.
Give Discos a Rest
It seems to be that people are a bit tired of the customary wedding 'disco' where the younger crowd think it's all a bit naff1 and the older lot do variations around the theme of 'crap dancing', the kind that British comedian Jaspar Carrott identified as having lots of moves which involved the 'dancer' (usually male) sticking both his thumbs up and grinning a lot. So, it's time to think of something different for the reception. How about a wee bit of Scottish barn dancing?
I haven't been to that many weddings, but the reception/evening do at a lot of them consisted of a disco. Personally, I hate discos, but people seem to go for them on the grounds that they appeal to the broadest age range. (Oh, yeah? Since when?)
Different ethnic groups have their own customs, but for a typical western wedding please, please, please try something different. How about a barn dance? It's good fun and anybody can do it. When I got married (nearly ten years ago now! Yippee!!) we had a ceilidh - sort of a Scottish barn dance. Everybody enjoyed themselves. You could even try line-dancing! Just give discos a rest. Please.
And another candidate for the ceilidh...
Neither of us are any good at waltzing and we just couldn't stand the sight of all the 'grown ups' either doing reasonable couple-dancing or looking totally ridiculous trying to dance on their own, and all our friends trying their hardest not to look quite as silly but usually failing as the drink sets in...
We even went to some Scottish Country Dancing lessons to try and polish up our skills before the day, but unfortunately I was the only man, and we were the only people there under 50. I'm sure one little old lady was over 90... Well at least it shows that everyone can have fun.
Making the Day Short and Sweet
The following is a slightly bitter account of a wedding, that, for one person, went on far too long. It's bit harsh, but there's a point in there somewhere, mainly that a little bit of planning might avoid the kind of thing you're about to read. Because you wouldn't want to have this said about your ending:
I have become perplexed of late at people and their weddings. When did it become tradition to torture guests? I went to a wedding last month. The groom was late, hence the wedding started 20 minutes late. I arrived 20 minutes early, so I had already been waiting for 40 minutes while trying to keep my seven year-old quiet and occupied. The bride had chosen eight, yes eight, songs to play during the wedding. Each one was at least three minutes long, and were very secular to be playing at a church. Read here loud heavy guitar and sexually suggestive lyrics. Because of this, my church has instituted new rules about the music that can be played during the ceremony. During each song, there was an awkward pause where the wedding party just stood and stared at each other. The only advantage to this was you couldn't hear all the babies crying from sheer boredom and torture.
Then, the wedding party proceeded to take pictures after the ceremony for around 45 minutes. Everyone was supposed to drive to a location the bride and groom had chosen to have the reception at (which was a 45 minute drive, also). Upon arrival, the guests were supposed to have drinks and dinner while waiting for the bride and groom, but the bride changed her mind; she called the caterer at the last minute and told them not to serve till they arrived. They didn't hire anyone to serve the alcohol, so somebody's cousin's mother's boyfriend rolled up his sleeves and gave it a run till he got tired about 15 minutes later. So after that, you just got up and got it yourself. So, the bride and groom arrived at the reception 1 hour and 30 minutes after the wedding was over. Cold food was then served. Over half the guests had already left, and the bride's mother had the gall to complain to me about paying for all that uneaten food and finding out who were her 'real friends'.
Then, the groom's family proceeded to beat on their glasses once a minute till the bride and groom kissed, which became very annoying after the 30th time For whoever is getting married soon, it is not just your day. Don't expect to torture people and them be happy about it!
Ouch. However, here's an altogether jollier approach to the problem of time. And the sentiments expressed seem to make a whole bunch of sense too:
Fortunately, we took time into account quite early on - my mother-in-law-to-be can't stand for long periods of time and my fiancée has ME2So for one thing the wedding and reception are all in one place, for another, the ceremony itself is nice and short. We have a couple of songs that a friend of ours is singing, but they're short and she's a trained opera singer so at least people can enjoy them! It's quite a simple statement that we want to make - we decided 18 months ago that we wanted to be together for the rest of our lives, and at that point the word 'marriage' was just funny We'd like our friends and family to join us in celebrating our love for each other. It's not just our celebration, we're asking them to join in and we can't do that if the people have to spend the day waiting for us!
Avoiding Duplicate Gifts
For some couples, avoiding duplicate gifts is a bit of a problem - unless they've asked for money; in that case the guests can duplicate all they like - so we've got a few tips to stop you getting ten toasters.
Write your list in a spiral bound notebook, with each item on a separate page. It can then be passed round family and friends and each one tears out the page of the item they choose to give. Check it periodically in case someone with a twisted mind has written something awful (eg marble kitchenware) on a blank page.
Go to a store and use their 'Bride's Book' service (wedding list to anyone else). Only make sure you register in plenty of time. Surprisingly enough, some shops, if they are busy, will not let your friends and family spend money at their store because they don't have the staff or the storage space to look after your list.
Use h2g2 for all those net-savvy grannies and cousins out there. Write your list as a Guide Entry, get all your family and friends to register and they can then visit your wedding list page.
But wedding lists are a bit dodgy, aren't they? Ok, they're practical and avoid the problem of duplication but there's an implicit sense of 'I'm getting married, so you owe me a present', that kind of vibe. Or as one Researcher put it:
Everyone I mention wedding lists to reels back in horror as if I'd asked them to come to the wedding in obligatory munchkin outfits handmade out of the finest silk.
Incidentally, here's a good idea:
Friends who got married just after moving into a new house. There was a pergola in the back garden that had nothing growing up it so I bought them two climbing roses called Wedding Day and Honeymoon. They flower every year around the time of their anniversary and they get to appreciate them all over again.
But lest we forget the whole bloody point of a wedding in this merciless business mercenariness... we'll finish with the following:
Neither the wedding nor the engagement are about the gifts that people bring; both are about us and our decision to spend the rest of our lives with each other, making that commitment public and sharing our happiness with our friends and family.
A Spanish Wedding
One of our far-flung intrepid Researchers has just returned from a wedding in the north of Spain where he picked up a few great tips on how to make a wedding run smoothly.
Young children are infamous for crying at the wrong time. At this particular wedding, all the parent/baby seats were near the exit so the first sign of a wail, the kids were given to a nanny to be pacified and then brought back when they had quietened down.
When it comes to the reception, hire two or three babysitters who will look after the little ones while you get slightly legless. The arrangement at this particular wedding was that the nannies looked after the kids until midday the next day. This gave parents the chance to go out, get merry and get over the hangover before picking up the little darlings.
Every guest at the wedding is given a photo of the bride and groom before they leave, thus ensuring that everyone has a memento of the big day.
All the men were given cigars and the women were given cigarettes - strange but true.
The nannies in Spain were little old ladies who knew the bride's mother and were more than happy to help out.
I have three god children - one nine, one six and the youngest is 18 months. I took these three treasures to a wedding. For the eldest, I made him take an active role and he was an usher, taking people to their seats - he loved it. He was so pleased that he actually sat and talked to people rather than running around irritating everyone. My god daughter, six, was slightly more difficult but what we did was let her throw rice at all the guests as they were leaving, but the real trick was that we gave her the rice before the service and asked her to count it. Terribly cruel maybe but extremely effective. My godson of 18 months was a pure treasure, quiet, agreeable and even went up to the party for ten minutes before he was whisked away by one of the nannies.
Flowers are an integral part of any wedding. There are two options when choosing flowers: silk or the genuine article. There are ups and downs to each choice.
Silk - lasts forever, leaving you with a lasting memory of your special day for all time. They look very nice at all times, and you don't have to worry about bugs or browning. However, fake flowers are notoriously tacky.
The Real Deal - smells good, they blow beautifully in a breeze, and they look exquisite. However, they die very fast, and you have to clean the mess afterwards.
The solution seems to be... a little bit of both. Use silk flowers for the displays on the sides of the seating arrangements, and use real flowers for your bouquet and any freestanding displays.
Best Man Advice
The traditional speech made by the groom's best man has often been a cause for controversy. The pressure on the best man to be funny means he sometimes feels he has to reveal secrets - secrets best kept quiet - much to the consternation of those who really didn't want to know that the groom once had sex with a goat in a field on a Lads' camping weekend in Aberystwyth. Here's three basic tips to help keep it tidy.
The Speech - Yes embarrass the groom but remember his maiden aunts are present so moderate it accordingly.
Calm Him Down - This means stay calm yourself.
Stag Night - The groom must enjoy it so don't go over the top from what he would do normally. Also, plan it well in advance of the wedding, a week or two so that any misadventures have some chance of being remedied, should they occur when you are not looking.
The House of Usher
And here's what someone has to say on ushering, intimating that, on the grand day of the wedding, the balance of power lies with the usher.
In my considerable experience of being an usher, I have gleaned a few timely insights:
- The real seat of power at any wedding is held by the usher.
- While the creature of the spotlight may be the best man, the creature of the shadows is the usher.
- A wedding should be run like a military operation. Key things to watch out for are stragglers, tourists, the uninvited, the best man, his mum, his girlfriend.
- Think Harvey Keitel in 'Pulp Fiction' cool.
There's nothing worse than rubbing your hands in anticipation, waiting to open the wedding photographs, only to find that they're a major disappointment. One theory suggests that you should never ask your friend or relative who's an outstanding landscape or fine art photographer to shoot your wedding as wedding photography is a very different kind of photography. Your friend probably won't like doing it, Aunt Edna will be upset that you don't have the standard wedding photographs, and the relationship will end up strained. The advice is to hire a regular wedding photographer to do all the standard stuff, and ask your friend to come and take whatever photos he or she wishes as well. But, as ever, we've got room for disagreement on the matter...
I'd have to disagree on this point. For our wedding we got a friend to do it who was 'semi-professional' (ie he was hoping to be professional). He had a great time and the photos turned out beautifully. The thing is to find someone who wants to do it and has some experience in composing pictures.
We saved a heap of money, and I think ended up with better photos than all those I'd seen as 'examples' of professional photographers work. In this case I think that's cause our friend cared about the subjects he was photographing.
Anyway, check this out for a killer-diller tip, passed on by two canny Researchers...
Buy disposable cameras for all the tables and let the relatives take whatever photos they want. If the photos end up lousy, it's their fault.
If you can afford it, buy a load of disposable cameras and give them out as presents. That way, people can take hundreds of photos and have them developed at their expense, then send the results to you. Smart.
Inspired. But a word of warning: disposable cameras are an excellent idea, but if you happen to have invited any friends with a closet exhibitionist streak and intimate body piercings, make sure you take the cameras for processing. Don't leave it to your parents.
How To Get Married
Here's a concise h2g2 guide on how to get married. We haven't written one on how to get divorced yet, so if you could hold on for a while, it'd be much appreciated.
Find a partner. Ideally, fall in love.
Start a year in advance. No less. If you have just got engaged, and you've got to make it fast for some reason you'll have to make compromises.
For blokes, get a best man who will be less nervous than you. It's nice if someone can spend the day calming you down rather than vice versa. For girls, you will need someone to tell you how great you look and how wonderful the day is going while simultaneously sorting out things, a good organiser I guess. Ask people a long time in advance, that way if they say no you can ask someone else in the fullness of time (ie when everyone has forgotten) without them feeling second best. Get an equal number of ushers from each family. People love being ushers because they are included in the run of things but have virtually no responsibility.
If the wedding list thing will pose problems, simply ask for gift vouchers for a nearby department store (eg John Lewis). They are as good as cash but not as tacky, easy to buy and will be needed if you plan to buy a house and fill it with stuff. It takes the burden off the guests as well.
Do not listen to anyone else's specific ideas, they will only confuse you. If you make all the decisions on your own then if it's a fiasco, then at least it was your fiasco. Anyone with any sense will not try and influence you unduly anyway, that includes parents who (with all due respect) should not interfere either - even if they are paying for the whole thing. Hold on to your own ideas, if someone else forces you to do something and it turns out to be awful then you will hate them.
Make sure that you know weddings are an industry. Try and avoid things that are clearly overpriced. I know a £10,000 wedding dress looks great, but that's the deposit on a house gone on a dress that, after all, is worn once. Avoid all of the bridal magazines showing you stuff that will make you feel as if what you want is cheap or tasteless. If you want to wear red or lime green, do so.
Get married in the afternoon. It means that people can get there on time and you will be less likely to sleep in.
How many to invite ? If you've money to burn then invite everyone you can think of. Or else, do it in this order:
- Immediate family
- Close friends
- Extended family (cousins, smaller children)
- People you work with
If you want to keep some semblance of control, don't invite over 100 people. In any case, don't invite people you don't like whether they are family, workmates or whatever. They will annoy you and/or spoil things. Don't invite anyone who is a crashing bore when drunk or anyone who is known to get violent when drunk - there is no time like someone else's wedding to turn yourself into an arse.
When you send your invitations out, do not panic. Everyone will send them back at the last minute. Expect 70% yes if you invite family, 80 - 90% of friends. I have read 40 - 50% in some of the books - it's a load of bull from the days when you invited hundreds of people you didn't know as a social etiquette thing.
When it comes to venues, there are millions. Ensure that it is close to where you live, not everyone else. This is because you are the important element in this thing and it should be at your convenience - obviously, the bride has to have things around that she is happy with (hairdresser, makeup stuff etc) and the hire-suits need to be returned afterwards. Try booking a limo from 250 miles away - it isn't easy.
Get a vicar that you like, the older the better. They have a character all of their own.
After the service... clap. It's a great way to finish and it breaks the tension. Go on, everybody wants to (and they do it on 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'). Your call.
At the reception, don't have a free bar, it costs a fortune and everyone will get drunk (duh!). Drunk people can be fun but they can be violent, lecherous and nasty. Make the first drink on the house if you like but wine with the meal is nice (and maybe brandy afterwards).
Live music at the reception can be surprisingly cheap. Discos can be surprisingly expensive and are sometimes too 1970s. Some guy bellowing into a mike at full volume and Tina Turner might be your thing, but it isn't mine. Live musicians who gig locally obviously must be decent, local DJs won't necessarily be. Don't forget that a fair proportion of the people you invite will be 50 years of age so drum-n-bass may be a bad choice.
Seating at the reception can be tricky. It will take you a lot longer than you think. There's no magic formula.
Food can be tricky. Make sure that suitable meals are provided for nut-allergy sufferers and vegetarians, and that heavy drinkers are given small glasses (only kidding). Ensure that children are seated next to their mothers or have a child only table with a razor-sharp adult there.
Have an MC3 to announce things (arrival of bride and groom, speeches etc). Don't buy one in, ask someone with a loud voice and a big smile.
Leave early. If the reception is in a hotel, an old trick is to get a taxi for about 11pm to pick you up, drive down the road for a bit (say 15 minutes), come back to the hotel, park in the back and let you in the back door. From where, you can nip up to the honeymoon suite or whatever. Thus, after what I guarantee is the most tiring day of your life, you can kick back and relax - or whatever...
Have a breakfast the next day with the close friends that attended; that way you can simultaneously show off and slag everyone who made an arse of themselves.
What? What the hell is a whimsical cake? Well, apparently they're very popular at those 'cool, in and hip' weddings. The cake is still three-tiered, but it lists at odd angles and the proportions are not quite right giving it a real 'cartoony' effect, which people either love of hate. They are made out of fondant which is rolled out with a rolling pin and draped over the cake. It is tough, and you can stack the cakes easily without tearing the look. Whimsical cakes are good for those who hate the traditional washed-out, boring, not good-tasting, vanilla cakes.
The Bridesmaids' Dress
Ahh... The Bridesmaids' Dress. It sound's like an Agatha Christie novel. But when planning a wedding, it's very important to remember the bridesmaids' dresses. These creations come in a variety of colours such as puce, indigo, saffron, seafoam and baby pink. They are usually sewn out of the most uncomfortable material found on the planet (ie organza, tulle and taffeta). It seems that the goal of these dresses is to make the bridesmaids look as dumpy and unattractive as possible in order to let the bride appear as the most desirable, most beautiful creature in this world. Please note that the satin shoes must be dyed the same colour as the dress.
Pagan's do it in a Circle
Pagan ceremonies tend to be different in that they are usually very personal to the couple and the alcohol tends to be plentiful and homemade...
Actually, I have been privileged to attend two pagan ceremonies, both were very different but lots of fun. One was a very small ceremony, just friends and close relatives, held in a private home on Winter Solstice. The other was held outdoors during summer at a pagan festival that drew over 400 people. The wedding was the highlight of the weekend.
Both couples had been together for several years and each was 'grand' in its own way. There was no doubt that they were married in every sense of the word. I think the thing to keep in mind is that a wedding is basically an announcement to the community that you, yes, you are now part of a marriage. It all depends on how you choose to make that announcement.
And the following provides a rather beautiful fleeting glimpse, as if espied through a clearing in the trees, of another gentle pagan ceremony.
On Beltaine, the spring festival, it was held in the woods next to a spring creek. The high priest or priestess used spring water to bless the chalice, rings, etc. It was the most beautiful wedding I have ever attended.
Stop Planning and Enjoy!
Bear in mind that any time you throw a number of people together and encourage them to drink and have a good time, things have a way of following an increasingly chaotic pattern. Plan the big stuff carefully well in advance: send invitations in good time; make sure the venues concerned are booked (and confirmed); double check that you can feed everybody (not forgetting vegetarians); ensure the bar will be open and properly stocked.
But don't sweat the little stuff. On the day itself, relax and don't fret about anything that doesn't exactly follow your imagined course of events. Just arrange that between them, your best man and chief bridesmaid have a mobile phone, the number of the local taxi firm, a pen and paper, some cash and/or signed blank cheques, and leave them to sort things out. That's what they're for, not just to look good in the photos.
And don't - under any circumstances - tell anybody where you're heading on honeymoon. Not even your best friend. Especially not your best friend.
A Final Check-list
Think carefully (both of you) about the type of wedding you want. If your parents are to be involved in some way, or at least will attend, it is nice if you don't offend them by doing something that they really hate. Even if they are paying for it, however, it is your wedding - don't ever forget that.
Some people have started putting disposable cameras on the tables at the reception so that afterwards you can have loads of pictures of your nearest and dearest enjoying themselves. Be careful if you have the sort of friends who will do moonies and take photos of that sort of thing. Unless you want to do it yourselves.
Don't forget to have some part of your attire that your (future?) offspring can tease you about and show all their friends. Bad haircuts and too-wide or too-narrow lapels are good for grooms.
Double, triple, quadruple check everything. Keep it all together in a file, computer or organiser. Get someone else to have a look now and then; you sometimes can't see the big picture when you are concentrating on hundreds of details. Get insurance.
Remember if you're inviting people with kids, the kids (especially small ones) will need to be occupied but that the parents also want to listen to speeches. A play corner is a good idea if you can beg borrow or steal a few toys. If you have kids running around, make sure that they aren't running round the wobbly table where your beautiful cake is...
Don't forget to include some of the more boring and everyday things on your present list - washing up stuff, irons, pegs etc - these things don't buy themselves, and are really useful.
Enjoy your day. Don't let anyone tell you their disaster stories. It is not the end of the world if you see each other before the ceremony. It isn't the end of the world if the mothers-in-law are wearing the same hat. It is the end of the world if a giant asteroid hits your church halfway through the ceremony. Even if a 'disaster' does happen remember this: in later years you will most probably look back and laugh your socks off.