Wedding Planning in Omaha, NE 2017

By this time of the year, there have been many weddings celebrated (Congrats newlyweds!). Although there’s still plenty of action happening before fall sets in, the nuptial agenda is winding down for most of us. That’s not to say there won’t be a beautiful winter wedding or two coming up; with less of a well-defined “wedding season” in favor of the freedom to set the date anytime you please, year-round affairs have become commonplace.

Rewinding back to where it all begins, for those who recently got engaged or who are ready to begin the planning process, let’s get into those details!

Getting engaged is a beautiful thing and one of life’s most memorable moments, as are the wedding festivities that follow. Many future brides and grooms are at that point in their journey now or will be soon. With much planning ahead it may seem overwhelming, but should ultimately be as enjoyable as possible as you put together all of the details to bring your vision to life. While this is an expansive list of items to cover, as each wedding is unique and there is so much to explore, there are certain essentials and guidelines that don’t change much.

You’ll be making a lot of decisions together, that’s a given. With the guidance of our local experts, the process and your experience during it will be less stressful and more pleasurable – a memorable one in all of the most wonderful ways.

{Save The Date: Selecting The Venue & Setting The Scene}

It’s best to have a few dates and venues in mind as the very first step. Then you’ll begin narrowing those down based on the availability of those venues, booking details, and research on other events or happenings that are going on at the same time to determine if there’s reason for eliminating them as possibilities.

Some of the main things you’ll be taking into consideration beyond availability on a specific date would be location, occupancy to accommodate your guest list, set-up and amenities, décor and ambiance, vendor partnerships and any restrictions on bringing in your own, and then there are potentially others based on your preferences. When meeting with the representatives at each venue, ask any and all of the questions you can think of that would impact your decision. You can even call to inquire about the specifics before setting a meeting to conserve time and energy.

There are many fantastic venues here in the Omaha Metro and outside of that but still in the area, with each having unique characteristics that make them desirable locations for a wedding, reception, or other related events.

Sue Bennett-The Club at Indian Creek

Sue Bennett
The Club at Indian Creek

“It’s important that every wedding couple feels confident with their venue choice as they embark on their wedding planning; it’s usually the first decision they will make and all other plans revolve around their ceremony and reception venue,” advises Sue Bennett with The Club at Indian Creek. “We would love to be your wedding venue of choice!

The Club at Indian Creek combines natural beauty and stylish settings to provide the best in casual elegance for any event. Our ballroom can be divided into two smaller rooms to accommodate events ranging from a small intimate shower or rehearsal dinner to a large reception of up to 400 guests. Our caring, experienced event staff will help you create a unique event that reflects your own personal style. We have an outdoor ceremony area overlooking our beautiful 27 hole golf course, and best of all, we are open to the public – providing you with a private club atmosphere without the expense of membership to an exclusive facility.”

She also mentions a couple things to keep in mind that deviate a little bit from what’s traditionally been considered the norm and the reasons why.

“Fridays seem to be returning as the day to host your 2018 wedding! The Club at Indian Creek is excited to be your partner as your wedding venue of choice any day of the week, but for many couples, an off-day wedding-perhaps a Friday or Sunday-is more appealing. This is especially true for those who don’t have a lot of time for wedding planning and preparation. Lower airfare is often available for your out-of-town guests during the week. Some hotels and restaurants require a lower minimum number of guests for off-day weddings. If you’re on a tight budget, such savings can make a difference. Another reason for the growing popularity of off-day weddings is the chance to spend more time with your family and friends. Many couples plan weddings lasting several days, or longer, so they can pay more attention to those who traveled to be there. For example, the wedding ceremony could be held Friday, with activities planned through your honeymoon departure on Sunday. But even if an off-day wedding isn’t your first choice, it offers many social, economic and emotional advantages. If properly planned, off-day weddings aren’t cookie-cutter weddings, but instead, can be the chance for you to make each moment of your celebration a memorable pleasure.

Also, many couples feel the need to hire a wedding planner to assist with their day-of wedding arrangements, but that might not always be necessary. For example, The Club at Indian Creek not only provides you with an Event Coordinator for the day of your wedding to oversee everything at the venue from start to finish, but we also meet with every couple during the planning process to assist with decision making and planning.”

Speaking of modern trends that depart from tradition, travel has become much more popular too. To set the stage for just about any wedding-related milestone – engagement, ceremony, honeymoon – there are places all over the world that are suitable contenders.

Dana Smithberg
The Vacation Store & The Cruise Company

“The Vacation Store & The Cruise Company have plenty of expertise to offer, with over 30 years spent helping our clients plan their dream weddings and honeymoons,” says Dana Smithberg with The Vacation Store & The Cruise Company. “We are here to assist and walk you through every step of planning your destination wedding and/or honeymoon, or a trip to a beautiful place where you plan to pop the question (or the champagne if the trip is in honor of your recent engagement).

For an engagement affair to remember, what’s more romantic than proposing on the beach or how about an elegant cruise ship? Let us help plan a getaway that is truly one she will never forget! Already engaged? Why not celebrate with a trip! Take the time to celebrate your engagement, check out your special destination and relax before all of the crazy wedding planning begins!

Destination weddings continue to a hot trend, and many have taken the idea of getting married abroad to a whole new level! Couples today are looking to tie the knot in unique locations while doing so in style, all within their set budget. From the small and simple private wedding to the large and extravagant celebrations, there’s something for everyone! And along with the ceremony and reception, they’re doing everything from an arrival day welcome cocktail party by the pool to a ‘day after the wedding’ bonfire on the beach, complete with s’mores and drinks.

Another current trend is incorporating excursions. Adventure has definitely been on the minds of many destination couples. Whether it’s snorkeling in Belize, hiking in the mountains of Italy, or boating on the coast of Australia, wedding couples are customizing these experiences to their interests as well as what their guests will enjoy.

When planning a destination wedding or honeymoon, the earlier you start, the more availability and options you will have to choose from. We suggest one year in advance of your date if possible. At The Vacation Store & The Cruise Company, our services are complimentary; we never charge a service fee. Make sure to ask one of Destination Wedding Specialists about free wedding packages or how the Bride & Groom can go for free! Come see us, we’d love to discuss what you have in mind and show you all of the possibilities!”

You don’t necessarily have to travel the world to achieve the feel of a destination wedding either. If the scenic beauty of nature, the charm of the countryside, outdoor chic, or something similar is how you’d describe the setting of your dream wedding, the Lied Lodge & Conference Center at Arbor Day farm is nearby in Nebraska City, and fits the bill perfectly.

Patricia Pierce-Lied Lodge

Patricia Pierce
Lied Lodge & Conference Center at Arbor Day Farm

“Across our 260-acre property, the beauty of nature creates the perfect location for any ceremony or reception, from traditional to casual,” says Patricia Pierce with Lied Lodge & Conference Center at Arbor Day Farm. “It delivers big time for couples wanting an inspirational backdrop for their event. We offer indoor and outdoor venues in unique settings, including a rustic barn and historic mansion. Whether your wedding or ceremony is large or small, the options are truly endless.

Coming up in 2018, Lied Lodge & Arbor Day Farm will be offering a new venue location — The Meadow. The space, located on the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park grounds, is an open area surrounded by towering evergreens with Arbor Lodge Mansion as the backdrop. It can be used for both ceremonies and receptions.

If the perfect engagement setting is what you seek, the 50-foot tree house at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure is an option I’d recommend considering. Any couple looking for that type of unique idea can certainly find it throughout the Lied Lodge & Arbor Day Farm property.

My advice to any couple seeking a wedding venue is to visit in person for a guided tour of the property. The perfect start is looking online, but seeing it in person is a must. A personal tour of the venue allows you to meet the staff you’ll be working with on all the details for your big day. At Lied Lodge and Arbor Day Farm, our staff is with you every step of the way, offering experienced support and high-quality customer service. In fact, one of our team members was recently awarded the Nebraska Tourism Frontline Customer Service Award, a testament to the caliber of professionals we have here. We take pride in our work on each and every wedding. Here at Lied Lodge and Arbor Day Farm, we make wedding planning easy for the bride and groom so they can focus on making memories that will last a lifetime.”

Ed Schaefer-Bellevue Berry

Ed Schaefer
Bellevue Berry Farm & Pumpkin Ranch

Bellevue Berry Farm & Pumpkin Ranch is another charming destination with plenty of possibilities. “There are so many different things we can do here for weddings as well as engagement parties and pre-nuptial events,” says Ed Schaefer with Bellevue Berry Farm & Pumpkin Ranch. “As a family-run business, you get a level of personal service, including flexibility with accommodations, that is often hard to come by. In our lengthy time hosting these types of events, we’ve done quite a bit of different things and found ways to make everything so much easier when it comes to planning and execution.

Across 80 acres on our property, we can set up outdoor weddings anywhere, and have four different indoor facilities of varying sizes and motifs that also have outdoor areas with firepits. We can accommodate small, intimate affairs all the way up to ones with guest lists in the hundreds. Some are fully decorated in a western theme decked out with antiques and all, while others are less decorated; any one can be made to look however you like. Overall we are considered an ideal destination for those who are envisioning a rustic feel, but the spaces can be transformed based on your vision, whether that’s country western to elegant and sophisticated. We have a very talented in-house decorator that can lend her services if you like, and are happy to recommend other vendors too.

For the meal served at the reception, we offer a buffet-style spread with selection of two entrees and four sides, and it’s all you can eat. There’s quite a bit of range as far as our fare goes and you can expect a quality meal no matter what you choose. We take pride in our team’s culinary talent and use fresh ingredients, many of which are grown and raised here on the farm. As far as the bar, we also have that completely covered for our clients.

Our most requested offerings above and beyond the venue, catering, bar services, and decorating are the special touches that really make it a memorable affair. Campfires for an engagement party, or after the rehearsal dinner or wedding, and hayrack rides to picturesque locations on the property for the immediate family and bridal party photo session, are the most popular. It’s also a plus for many that we’re kid friendly, complete with play areas that are lit up at night, and pet friendly as well.

With packages that cover the essentials and the opportunity to add what you like past that, planning a wedding can be done without being too terribly time-consuming or overwhelming and you’ll get exactly what you want.”

Back to venues here in the Omaha Metro, there’s soon to be a brand new one in town, which is always exciting. In fact, the Omaha Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District is the first full-service hotel to open in Omaha in more than a decade. It’s location in the Capitol District, an upscale urban dining and entertainment destination in the heart of downtown Omaha, is ideal for wedding-related events, let alone the impressive amenities the hotel itself will have to offer.

Jennifer Murphy Marriott Omaha

Jennifer Murphy
Marriott Omaha Downtown Capitol District

“The Omaha Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District has event space both indoors and out for weddings of any size, including a rooftop pool deck, the only one of its kind in Omaha,” says Jennifer Murphy with The Omaha Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District. “We can host any wedding event from ceremonies to receptions, rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, brunches and more. All of our function rooms offer an option of natural light that will stream through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

In my role as events manager, I serve as a wedding planner for couples and am dedicated to turning the vision of your wedding into reality. I love to consider every aspect of the entire wedding weekend. All of the little details add up to a very special experience for your wedding guests, both on the wedding day and in the days leading up to and following the celebration. We’ve put together a selection of special packages that think beyond the wedding itself, such as getting-ready-room packages and welcome amenities for out of town guests.

Our hotel offers many options for wedding dinners of all sizes, but there is one new type of meal service we are bringing to the Omaha area. We are offering a custom creative dining experience for events; this type of services applies restaurant-style ordering at the table with a curated event execution. Wedding guests can order their preferred meal choice the evening of the event, with options available to suit each individual’s tastes and the ease of the selected meal being served tableside. This also saves a lot of work for the bride, who won’t have to track what each guest would like for dinner in advance.

Overall, when planning, understand what is most important to you on your big day. Obviously, the goal of weddings is to get married, but the engaged couple and their families should discuss what they want next on the list. For some it is the look and décor, for others, it is the entertainment and feel of the event, while for some the food and drink are the most important element to complete their day. My advice to any newly engaged couple is to discover what you want and communicate this to all of your vendors. These are professionals who will take the specifics of your vision and make it happen – it is what we do every day.”

{The Reception: Eat, Drink & Be Merry}

When it comes to weddings, there’s quite an emphasis on entertaining your guests and making it a memorable event for all. The décor, the fare, the flowers, the music – all of these along with any other special touches you add will set the mood and make it magical.

While it’s common for special event venues to provide catering and bar services for those who book the space, others may not but will be able to present you with recommendations. Only once you’ve had the opportunity to discuss with your venue what is offered and/or allowed should you make your selection. It’s essential to understand the specifics of whether booking that venue means you are entering into an agreement to use their exclusive catering services or partners, or if you have your heart set on a specific company, that you are able to bring them in. Every venue is different, as is every caterer and wedding vendor for that matter, so it’s advised to meet in person and explore what is possible before making the final decision.

Catering is an art and there is a lot of talent and diversity to be found here in the Omaha Metro. As such, there are plenty of options out there to fit any taste and budget. When selecting a menu, the more you have to choose from at each price point, the greater chance you’ll have of arriving at a meal that matches both. Just Good Meat is a perfect example, with the ability to customize a meal that incorporates any type of meat you could imagine, along with offering a large selection of homemade sides, and even options as to how it is ultimately served. For the backyard or outdoor reception, Just Good Meat can bring its food truck on-site, or as with any wedding, their staff can set up a spread or perform a full meal service. Or, for those working with a limited budget, you can choose to have someone stop by the store and pick up your order, which is ready to be set up and served when you arrive at your destination.

Sean Fuller-Just Good Meat

Sean Fuller
Just Good Meat

When it comes time to establish a budget, catering is typically one of the first areas to work the numbers depending on whether it’s provided by your venue or not. “While on average plates can run from $15 to $20, our plates typically cost between $8 to $10, and sometimes even less,” says Sean Fuller with Just Good Meat. “Since very few people have unlimited wedding funds, couples have to make sacrifices to stay within their budgets. With that in mind, we’ve made it a point to have plenty of options for excellent, quality fare available so that our customers can feel confident in whatever they select, and strive to make the entire experience very convenient and positive. Planning a wedding and wedding reception can be so much fun as it’s full of possibilities, but that can also make things stressful at times. Choosing a business with plenty of experience and solid offerings can help relieve so much of that stress so that everyone can relax and enjoy themselves, because that’s the whole point.”

Jim Sobczyk-Cornhusker Beverage & Bridal

Jim Sobczyk
Cornhusker Beverage & Bridal

As for the bar, there will be important decisions to make in planning to accommodate your guests here too. “There should be options for everyone, and to make that easier to estimate, we suggest dividing the guest list into four age groups for planning purposes,” says Jim Sobczyk with Cornhusker Beverage & Bridal. “For the partygoers who are minors, you’ll want to factor in punch, juice or soda. As you’d suspect, for those 21 to 35 years old it is the exact opposite. They are consuming the most at the party and the 35- to 55-year-olds are right there behind them. But, the 21- to 35-year-olds are typically drinking more name brand beer and liquor than the other age groups. Predictably, the 55-year-olds and older are the first ones to leave and do not drink as much in general. They lean towards liquor opposed to beer.

This idea carries over to engagement parties as well. In fact, in certain cultures, the engagement party is even bigger, with more beverages being poured, than the wedding reception itself. After all, an engagement party is a good way to have fun and introduce people to one another before the wedding day arrives, similar to a rehearsal dinner but on a larger scale.

Whether it’s the reception or another wedding-related celebration, if you’re not opting to stock a full bar, a signature drink works nicely. It’s the perfect solution for those who only want to offer beer and wine, but at the same time, don’t want to completely overlook those who enjoy liquor. Everyone has their own preferences for alcohol, so it’s important to keep that in mind and try to cater to that if at all possible.”

Sweet treats are yet another wedding reception staple with unlimited variations. There’s still plenty who go the traditional route of a beautiful wedding cake, while others are getting quite creative with their dessert, or doing the cake plus one or more dessert items. Whether you have a classic tiered cake in mind or one that’s decorated uniquely, want to serve your favorite treat or have a themed spread, or would like a dessert table with an assortment of indulgent options because it’s always nice to have choices, The Omaha Bakery can bring your dessert dreams to life. And for all of the other affairs leading up to the big day, you certainly can’t go wrong with serving a decadent dessert either!

Should you need anything for your set-up and don’t want to allocate a part of the wedding fund to buy it outright, you might want to consider rental. With a division dedicated to serving wedding clients in the Omaha area since 1968, Honeyman Rent-All is a trusted resource for party and event rentals, and has quite the extensive inventory to offer. With backyard wedding and receptions remaining on trend, Honeyman Rent-All has everything you’d need to complete the transformation – and even has another division with equipment rentals if you want to do some work to the property to get it whipped into shape!

{Everything Else: More Must-Know Wedding Tips}

Now let’s sum up everything we’ve discussed thus far and add a few extra recommendations in the mix for good measure. We’ve been honored to promote local clients who have been named Best of The Knot, so as one of the most well-respected resources for all things wedding, we picked a few tips to share from their article titled “30 Essential Wedding Planning Tips and Tricks.” It’s a fantastic compilation as-is, but we revised with our own recommendations based on what we’ve learned from consulting with local experts over the years.

*Get an idea of the approximate number of guests you’ll be inviting BEFORE you book the venue. As a rule of thumb, allow for 25-30 square feet per guest. Once you add in the tables and chairs, dance floor, stations, decorations, and room for the vendors to work, it’s really not as much space as it seems like based on the measurements alone.

*Before picking a date, decide on several and research anything that would make them a no-go. This includes major events happening that could impact your big day, including anything that would affect guest attendance, traffic, and/or hotel availability. (We’ve all been invited to a wedding on a Husker game day, so although it’s not necessarily a full-on blackout or avoided at all costs, it does mean that those who have their heart set on a Bye weekend need to plan WELL in advance.)

*The weather – while it’s something you can’t control, you can plan accordingly for certain factors that you know might be at play based on the date, time, setting, etc. You want your guests to be comfortable so they are able to enjoy themselves. If you have your heart set on an outdoor wedding with tents, try to avoid the months where rain or extreme heat are most likely. The same actually holds true with winter weddings; make sure the areas you’re entertaining guests will be properly heated, especially if it’s a large open space.

*Having a system for organizing everything is essential. A binder is the most common; keep all correspondence with vendors, contracts, inspiration photos for vendors, meeting notes, etc. together in one place. Having an email account dedicated specifically to the wedding will also be immensely helpful, along with storing vendor contact information on your phone. (Also, keep an emergency contact sheet or phone with your vendor contacts readily accessible on your wedding day—it may come in handy in case your limo driver gets lost or you decide you’d like your photographer to take some behind-the-scenes shots.) There are really great apps to investigate too, as new and improved ones are being introduced all the time like any other app. Put together a wedding planning schedule and follow the steps succinctly. And keep a paper trail for everything – any adjustments, additions, addendums, changes of any kind to the original agreement. Sending confirmation details to establish correspondence is never a bad idea. Considering that it’s not at all unlikely that the same contact may not be working there to vouch for you a year down the road, it’s critical.

*Use your credit wisely. Budgets do vary quite a bit, with some opting for a very small or minimal affair, but for the most part, weddings are costly. If you consolidate all of your expenses on one credit card that offers nice benefits, you can use those to offset other expenses. You can rack up airline miles to use when booking your honeymoon or the money back can go towards your balance.

*Planning for enough fare to feed your guests can be a little tricky with the last-minute RSVP’s and even unexpected attendees sometimes. An experienced caterer will factor in a meeting with you to fine-tune everything closer to the date. As the duty of a good host, you should also make sure to factor in feeding your vendors who are on-site providing services at your reception. Of course you’ll remember your photographers, videographers, entertainers, and others playing key roles, but don’t forget the low-profile folks too; perhaps you’re having a live band, which probably has roadies accompanying them to set up and tear down, or your photo booth might have an attendant. Furthermore, some vendor contracts will require you to provide the same meal you are offering your guests, so it’s wise to look for this before you sign the dotted line. While generally for buffet style meals this isn’t such a major expense or request, if you’re serving plated meals with entrees like lobster tails or filet mignon, you may want to consider cutting costs by having your caterer make a separate (but still hearty and delicious) meal plan for your vendors.

*As for the serving of the drinks, or even if you have a cook-to-order meal being served (i.e. the common trend for outdoor weddings of having a food truck), you’ll want to make sure that the wait times are kept to a minimum. Be clear with your venue/vendor about what your expectations are as well as the number of guests who will be in attendance so they can staff accordingly. For the bar, a rule of thumb is one bartender per 50 guests. If you have a signature cocktail that’s more complicated than the pour of a few ingredients – anything that needs to be stirred, shaken, ornately garnished, muddled, blended, etc. – or that isn’t being made in large quantities ahead of time, designating an extra station/server is advised.

*For allocating funds, try the Magic Formula: 48-50% of your budget assigned to the reception, 8-10% for flowers, 8-10% for entertainment/music, 10-12% for photo/video, 2-3% for invitations, 2-3% for gifts, and 8% for miscellaneous items. That being said, it’s ESSENTIAL to reserve an extra 5-10% of your money for surprise expenses – printing extra invites because of mistakes, damaged items, additional tailoring needs, umbrellas for a rainy day or fans for a scorcher, etc.

*Be clear on your policy about children. You have four choices: 1. Welcome children of all ages with open arms. 2. Have an “Adults Only” wedding (and try to be clear about the age cut-off in a polite way). 3. Include immediate family only. 4. Hire a child care service to provide services at the reception venue, your hotel block, or a family member’s home. It’s wise to avoid selectively inviting/excluding children, with an exception for the youngsters in your bridal party.

*Go over any other ground rules. In a place of worship, is there a dress code or is flash photography allowed? For an outdoor venue, are tent stakes, playing music, sectioning areas off, or decorations that involve trees, etc. allowed?

*Finally, when it comes down to the last month of your planning (and when you’re particularly harried), look at your mile long to-do list and cut three things. Yes, you heard right, eliminate three things out of the equation. Not crucial things that you just don’t feel like doing, such as picking a processional song or confirming final details with all of your vendors. Eliminate only the over-the-top tasks like hand-painting “Just Married” signs or baking treats for gift bags. Cross them off and make a pledge not to think about them again or go back and forth, just take a deep breath and move forward.

If you’re one of the lucky couples who will soon be exchanging “I Do’s” witnessed by all of your loved ones and well-wishers, and with all of the celebratory events surrounding the occasion, you’ve got some serious planning to do before that day comes. Rest assured you’re in good hands with the caliber of professionals we have here in the Omaha Metro, so make sure to use them early and often!