Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Indoors or Outdoors, Whatever Works For You.

In any given year, HJ plans an equal amount of indoor and outdoor ceremonies. I’d like to think that it goes without saying that our indoor ceremonies tend to be more common during the winter months and August (when D.C. truly proves that it is STILL a swamp), but it might not be so obvious that our outdoor ceremonies tend to occur more in the spring.

When is it proper to hold an outdoor ceremony? What should you consider when determining the location of your ceremony?

Although we try to stay away from absolutes in our industry, we feel comfortable delivering this one:


You cannot hold an outdoor ceremony in the dead of winter.

You cannot – under any circumstances – ask ceremony guests to stand outside in the freezing cold. This means that the months when snow is most likely to fall are unsuitable for an outdoor ceremony. We feel comfortable giving this ultimatum due to the fact that your dress probably won’t provide the necessary warmth to prevent you from turning blue while saying your vows.

With that out of the way, let’s turn to other considerations:

Whether your ceremony is religious.

Some religions require that its marriage ceremonies occur in sanctified spaces. Catholic churches, for example, may not recognize ceremonies not happening inside a church. Contact your minister or priest to determine your religion’s stance on outdoor ceremonies.

The guests that will attend your ceremony.

Do you have a number of elderly guests who find it difficult to walk on uneven ground? Does your guest list include 35 young children who might find it impossible to resist ripping out the grass? Will your style-savvy female guests have their heels stuck in the mud while you say your vows? Considering your guest type and personalities allows you to avoid gripes about the outdoor ceremony from being the main topic of conversation during your reception.

The typical weather for that time of the year.

Yes, last year’s D.C. fall was mild and barely contained a drop of rain, but that’s not normal. Previous year weather records, such as hot days, rain amounts and abnormally chilly days for the month of your wedding are important to note when determining whether an outdoor ceremony is right for your wedding. However, remember that the term “typical” is not a guarantee of the weather the atmosphere will produce on your wedding day.

The cost of renting chairs and a stage.

Unless your venue offers a prepared outdoor ceremony site, it’s likely that you’ll have to outfit one to suit your needs. This means renting chairs, an aisle runner and a stage to serve as an altar. You also need to decorate the stage with skirting and floral arrangements. Ensure that your budget can handle these costs.

The size and other elements of the outdoor space.

After you’ve considered all these elements and have an outdoor ceremony space in mind, seriously analyze whether that space can comfortably accommodate all of your guests. After adding an aisle runner and a stage or altar, you might find that the space left over to seat your guests is quite small.

Our First and Foremost Suggestion for Outdoor Ceremonies: Have a Backup Plan You Like

Don’t plan an outdoor ceremony when you absolutely hate the indoor alternative. If it rains, is cold or even if it is extremely hot outside, you just might need to pull the ceremony indoors at the last minute. Therefore, make sure that you like the indoor option your location provides, and that it will be available on your wedding day.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Up or Down? The Do’s and Do Not’s of Your Do.

The dress is purchased, veil ordered, shoes selected. What’s a bride to worry about next? Her hair! Although most brides have much more than just their personal appearance to plan, many spend the most time worrying about just that. We here at HJ are extremely familiar with – and in fact anticipate – the inevitable question: “What should I do with my hair?”

Let us just say that hair is, first and foremost, personal. It’s your decision about how to wear it, what to do with it and how to treat it before your wedding day. The trend that has existed for many years now is for brides to grow their hair long to wear down on their big day, but that (by no means!) is what you absolutely must do with your precious locks.

We encourage you to keep decisions about your hair personal. You can listen to what your mother, bridesmaids and fiancé have to say about what style or look would appear best on you, but let it end there. Don’t do what other people want you to do just to please them.

Why? We want you to be comfortable. If you’ve never put your hair into an updo before, don’t try one on your wedding day – you just might feel as though your head is heavy or that the style is going to fall apart. If you’ve never dyed it before, don’t get highlights five weeks before your wedding. If you always wear it curly, don’t dry it straight.

Why? We want your photos to look nice. Having an extremely different hairstyle sticks out in photos. Every time you look at your pictures, you just might end up thinking about how you tried that crazy hairstyle. Your photos might make you question whether you actually liked your hair on your wedding day, rather than remind you of the day itself.

Why? Your hair works best when it’s used to what you’re doing with it. Okay, we understand that hair isn’t a sentient being that can react to its environment, but it does conform to the demands you usually put on it and respond to its typical treatment in a more predictable way than if you tried tackling it with completely new methods. Brushing, drying, washing…keeping to your routine makes it more likely that you will like how your hair looks when you walk down the aisle.

Why? We want you to realize that your hair should reflect your dress, but not be dictated by it. Sure, certain hairstyles might suite the décor or feel of your wedding dress better than others, but your dress should not determine your hairstyle.  

Unfortunately, there’s no rule about updo hairstyles. If you like how your hair looks and feels when up and if it stays up when in an updo, go for it! However, if your hair doesn’t stay in an updo or never seems to look right, consider another style. Having it all swept to the side, half up and half down or another way may better fit your and your hair’s needs.

Although there’s no tried and true rule about hairstyles, we do have a few suggestions for you to avoid:

Yes, that's a cow's head.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Digital vs. Living Wedding Planners


Google “online wedding planner” and you’ll be bombarded with websites that promise to do everything from balance your budget to create a seating chart. The Knot, Wedding Wire and Wedding Channel are, perhaps, the most well-known of these online planners, but being well-known and reliable are two very different things.

Many brides try to substitute an online wedding planner for an in-person planner. Whoops! Here’s why that’s a huge mistake.

They’re Not Adaptable

Here, adaptable refers to malleability. Sure, you can change a website’s format, font or appearance, but you can’t change its organizational structure. Therefore, while you may be able to add an extra column to the offered to-do list, online planners have limits, some of which could seriously impact your planning process – server changes or crashes might mean your entire planning is gone in the blink of an eye.

They’re Not Familiar with the Area

Wedding planners know the areas in which they work. They can tell you which venue is scheduled to undergo renovations, which photographer is notorious for having a bad attitude or whether your ceremony location needs altar flowers. No matter how many third parties add to “chat” forums on an online planning website, nothing compares to first-person, experienced knowledge.

They Can’t Forestall Problems

A good planner prepares for everything; a great planner (like HJ) predicts what could become a problem in the future. Online planners help you plan, but not anticipate future hiccups. Being blindsided is never fun, particularly when it comes to your wedding.

You Can’t Take Them with You

Even though you might take your laptop or iPad everywhere, I’d recommend you not carry it down the aisle. On your wedding day, you won’t appreciate needing to lug around and turn to a computer screen at the salon, hotel, church, reception venue…

The Don’t Execute Your Wedding

A planner’s job culminates on your wedding day. Placing flowers, setting up favors, ensuring that the soup you selected is correct – all that can only happen in-person. Computers and online sites don’t have arms…making it pretty clear that they can’t execute the specifics that make your day unique. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Stick to the list: registry advice for every couple

Although few may admit it, most couples fantasize about creating gift registries.

Creating a registry is equivalent to buying new household goods for free. Couples are able to select anything they want, but the cost for the item falls to guests. Don’t worry, creating a registry is not greedy; guests like giving gifts just as much as couples like receiving them. Giving a gift allows guests to show their appreciation for being included in your celebration and support for your relationship.

Registries developed in the 1920s, when the department store Marshall Fields in Chicago (a place this author visited regularly throughout her childhood) created handwritten lists of a bride’s china pattern, flatware and glassware selections. The purpose of these lists was to guide guests in their gift choices. (That china department was amazing, although as a 6 year old I probably didn’t appreciate it at the time.)

See…it’s tradition to give gifts.

Today, registries have – of course – gone high tech. Most are digitized and use a (very fun) UPC scanner for their creation. New registry types have also evolved, with charitable donation, home savings and honeymoon fund registries available to modern couples. Emily Post (see here for how much HJ loves Emily Post) approves of these registries, stating that, since the purpose of a registry is to purchase items the couple wants, non-china-focused registries are acceptable.

Some couples choose not to register. That’s just fine. However, a word of warning from a former bride and wedding planner: you will receive gifts nonetheless. No matter how strongly you indicate that you do not want them or how many times you mention the name of your favorite charity for donation purposes, guests will give you gifts.

Not registering means that guests are on their own to determine what to gift you. It might also make it more difficult to return a gift you don’t like it or increase the chances that you receive multiple of the same item (a common event after a bride or groom’s slightest mention of needing something; recently I chatted with a bride who received five sets of pots and pans!).

Okay, so now you know that it’s okay to register for whatever you want (new lawn mower, hubby-to-be?). However, what you might not know is that it’s NOT OKAY to tell any guests about it. Yes, it seems totally backwards and the opposite of the statement that guests like giving gifts, but its etiquette (Emily Post again!).

It is impermissible for couples to share where they’ve registered. This means that this information cannot appear anywhere on the invitation or other notification about the ceremony and reception. Why? While it’s customary to give gifts, it’s not customary to expect them. You don’t expect guest you invite to you house for dinner Friday night to bring you a gift, do you?

Again, though, don’t worry. You or anyone else can share this information verbally after being asked. This is how most registry information is shared amongst guests.

The exception to the rule (and there always is one), is on bridal shower invitations. This exception exists because the purpose of a shower is to “shower” the couple with gifts. Therefore, at these events, gift giving is expected.

So go ahead and register away. Whatever type of registry fits your needs or personality, guests will appreciate you providing them with direction.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Who doesn’t love brunch?

Centuries ago, after the wedding ceremony and subsequent breakfast celebration, guests were sent on their way with little-to-no fanfare. Over time, however, weddings expanded into multi-day affairs and, with their evolution, began including day-after brunches.

Today, the day-after brunch has become a common component of many weddings. It’s not surprising that this is the case; everyone loves Sunday brunch; it’s yummy, includes food items not usually found on other menus and (most of the time) includes alcohol. Couples view it as a way to spend more time with their guests and send them off in style; guests view it as one last time to celebrate; hosts (if not the couple) view it as one last time to demonstrate hospitality.

We have a few recommendations regarding brunch:

First, remember that not everyone will come, but must be invited. This includes in-town guests. It’s proper etiquette.

Second, set a menu or make it a buffet (the latter usually works best). This avoids the lengthy time it takes to create individually ordered meals.

Third, if you decide to offer alcohol (it IS brunch, after all), limit your offerings to one or two drinks. Your budget will thank you.

Fourth, remember that the couple (i.e., you!) needs to show up for the whole or vast majority of the time. It’s okay to walk in a few minutes late (you will have celebrated late the night before, after all), but you must stay until almost all attendees depart.

Fifth, printed invitations are required, regardless of the brunch’s formality. Emails are insufficient.

Overall, the planning and operation of a brunch should be managed the same as the rehearsal dinner, but with one big exception: provide a timeframe and not a specific time. For example, brunch can be held from 9-11, not 9. The difference is that the former allows guests to come and go as they please, depending on their departure or sleep schedule.

However, hosting a brunch is also an additional wedding expense, and by no means is a traditional wedding component. Therefore, couples should not have any misconceptions that they must or are expected to host a brunch, advice that extends to the couple’s parents and other hosts. Although a kind invitation (who doesn’t appreciate a free meal?), throwing a brunch isn’t required.