Is a wedding program worth the time and cost, or should couples save by skipping them? Our real brides help you decide!
Wedding blogs, Instagram accounts, and Pinterest pages are filled with “must have” items to achieve the perfect wedding, but all of those great ideas can quickly become overwhelming for brides-to-be. It’s a challenge to sift through all of those creative wedding ideas to decide which ones are worth it, and which ones will end up being a waste!
I’m here to heIp. If you’ve been following the Ask a Real Bride series, you know I’m all about the practical: my goal is to help you enjoy your wedding day, not add to the pressure! I love gathering real-life advice to help brides navigate the planning process and invest their time and money in the most meaningful and effective wedding elements.
With that in mind, I posed the following question to my Instagram followers:
Our readers chimed in with a few “wedding wasters” I’ll be sharing in future posts, but there was one that came up a few times!
One of the most common answers: wedding programs and menus!
Though they might not take up a huge chunk of your wedding budget, there is a cost to creating a custom wedding program, in both money AND time. When I got married ten years ago, the program was one thing I decided just wasn’t worth it to me, and I put my dollars and energy toward things I thought would have more of an impact on my guests’ experience, like the menu, bar, and entertainment.
So what about our real brides? Are they spending on custom programs and menus?
The results are evenly split! With no clear majority opinion, I wasn’t sure how to process this topic. So I turned to two of my trusted wedding industry experts: Jenny Dansby of Threefold Events, and Sarah Hanna, calligrapher, artist, and designer. I hope their expert opinions plus real-life advice from brides and grooms will help you decide if custom programs and menus are worth it for your wedding!
Say “Yes” to a program:
1. If your ceremony is unique or requires audience participation
“Programs are necessary when there are non-traditional elements to a ceremony OR you want guests to participate (ex: sing a hymn, recite something).” –Jenny Dansby, Threefold Events
No one likes feeling lost or confused! Explaining cultural and religious traditions is both interesting and helpful for guests who want to follow along and participate. If you’ve planned some unique elements for your ceremony, the program is a great place to explain why you chose certain songs, readings, or other ceremony elements.
2. If your bridal party is large
Choosing your bridal party can be difficult, so many couples adopt a “more the merrier” strategy. If that’s you, the program is a nice way to “introduce’ all of those special people to your guests, especially if your bridal party is a mix of your family, your future in-laws, and friends from different seasons of life (childhood, college, and the workplace).
3. If you wish to incorporate your theme
I love when couples commit to a “look” for their weddings: whether it’s a crest (like the one pictured above), their monogram, a font or a color scheme, the program is a way to create continuity and a cohesive feel.
If any of the above reasons speak to you, it’s probably a good idea to invest time and money into creating custom programs for your guests! If you’re looking for wording and examples, check out this post from Minted: it’s filled with wording ideas, examples, and essential tips.
Say “Yes” to a menu:
1. If you are having a seated dinner
“If your dinner is seated, menus are a must!” –Jenny Dansby, Threefold Events
A detailed description of each dish not only makes a meal more enjoyable, but also helps avoid any allergies or dietary restrictions your guests may have.
2. If your menu choices tell a story
The custom menus pictured above are from Sarah’s wedding to her songwriter husband, and their menu reflects their passions and talents. I’m still in awe of the way they tied each dish into their family histories, wedding venue, favorite places, and their unique story as a couple! Even better is the “musical pairing:” as each dish was served, the band played an accompaniment that perfectly complemented the meal: a perfect match for all five senses to enjoy!
If your menu choices include a nod to your heritage, dishes from a favorite trip, the meal you ate on your first date, or have any other significance to your story, use the menu to share their meaning!
But don’t guests just throw them away?
Most guests do in fact toss the programs and menus. But is that a good reason for skipping them altogether?
I love this insightful perspective from Sarah:
“I definitely think that a creative or beautiful menu/program is worth the money. That said, I rarely keep them.
BUT the “they’ll just get thrown away” argument that people give isn’t compelling. Think about this: guests don’t keep the flowers, or the artisanal cheese board, or the signature cocktail! It’s all about creating a feeling of celebration, joy, and graciousness. You vote with your wallet, so put the money where you feel will have the most impact.” –Sarah Hanna
The Verdict: Custom Programs and Menus are Worth It!
Thanks to our real brides and wedding industry pros Jenny Dansby and Sarah Hanna, this is one topic where my opinion changed as I gathered intel and heard from real brides, wedding planners, and designers: even though I skipped them for my wedding ten years ago, if I were getting married today, I would most definitely spend the time and money on a custom program and menu! Not only do they create a cohesive feeling for the day in terms of style and theme, but they also are a way to tell your guests a story about your ceremony, bridal party, and your menu, making them all the more meaningful.
You probably won’t regret it!
Most couples who invest in a program and menu don’t regret it, so chances are that you won’t either!
Ready to get started on your programs and menus?
If you used a designer for your invitations, they can probably help you create all your wedding day custom paper. If you went the DIY route for your invitations, you can easily do the same for your programs and menus: Minted offers a huge selection of programs for every style, along with helpful tips for wording. If you really want to go for it on your own, a few brides I know used sites like Canva to create something truly one of a kind. No matter what you choose, your guests are sure to appreciate the thought and attention you pour into your wedding day details!
Let me know what topic you’d like us to tackle next! And if you’re interested in learning more about etiquette, gift giving, and celebrating in style, be sure to subscribe to the RegistryFinder GiveIt blog for weekly posts on wedding etiquette, bridal showers, wedding trends, and of course, wedding registry guidelines and tips! And as always, be sure to refer your guests to RegistryFinder.com, where they can