Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Registration Game

A close friend of mine has scheduled her wedding next October in Florida. She and her fiance have not yet selected a venue, caterer, florist, theme, invitations…well, they haven’t selected anything - we’ll just leave it at that.

During a holiday party, however, when I asked the bride whether she was stressed (hey, I had to know!), she said that the only thing she was worried about was registering.

Talk about surprising! When I married just under two years ago, the best part of the planning process was registering for gifts. It was so much fun, and I’d be lying if I said that I’d never thought about it before I was even engaged.

Yes, while growing up many girls dream about their dress, shoes and flowers, but alongside those thoughts I also dreamed of registering. In thinking about why this was the case (and whether it was abnormal of me to be so excited about registering), I realized that I could attribute my excitement about registering to two of my personality traits: I love to 1) shop and 2) make lists.

Registering boils down to those two things: shopping and list-making.

However, I could very easily also understand my friend’s anxiety. Choosing whether, when and where to create a registry much less what to put on it requires planning. Not creating a registry means establishing a completely unpredictable gift-receiving situation; creating one that is too small or that contains too many expensive items could reflect poorly on the couple.

Now, back to that holiday party and the questions I answered. For ambiance, imagine a gingerbread house, several empty bottles of wine and at least a dozen plates of devoured appetizers.

Should I even register? It seems outdated and our wedding will be small.

Yes. Every couple should register. Wedding and bridal shower guests will give presents to you, no matter how much you insist that nobody will or should bring anything. Creating a registry is a kindness towards your guests because it takes the guesswork out of what to get you two newlyweds to start your life together; this is even more kind for those guests who may not be familiar with your tastes, likes or dislikes.

My culture traditionally gives gifts of cash. Do I still need to register?

That’s awesome - I’m Polish and cash is de rigueur at our weddings - but yes, you still need to register. Someone you invite, who learns about your wedding or who you might never even have thought of the entire time you were planning your wedding will want to send you a gift that isn’t cash. Unless you want to make it more likely that you will receive something you won’t need, like or use, you’ve got to register.

Aren’t people just going to buy me whatever they want anyway? Why do they need a list?

Yes, there are always going to be people who ignore your registry. I hate that, it’s super annoying; after all the time you spent creating a list for your guests, it’s frustrating to receive something not on it. The exception to this is hand-made or heirloom gifts.

Stick to the list people, always stick to the list.

Where should I register?

Register at stores that are accessible either online or in-person to your guests. When selecting your registry locations, consider the ease of purchasing and sending a gift from the registry. That local boutique may have the best cream-and-sugar set you’ve ever laid eyes on, but you’re not going to receive it if a guest has to call and order it over the phone.

What should I register for?

Ah, here’s the part where lists come into play. Here’s one of the best pieces of advice (although there are lots) you’ll ever receive from HJ: make a list.

While you’re in the midst of wedding planning, pull out a piece of paper when the idea of registering first pops into your mind. Title it “Registry” and keep it somewhere specific. Whenever you think “We need that”, “That would be helpful”, “That’s an awesome gadget”, “My hubby-to-be would love that” or anything else that’s similar. Jot it down.

Okay readers, digest all that for the time being. Next week I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of where to register and what to register for. You know what that means: more list-making!

**Does anyone besides me see the link between Santa’s “making a list” and registering?**

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Vendor, Check Please!

Last week’s oh-so-interesting topic of the “communal wedding pot” prompted a question to my in-box:

“So who pays for what if you don’t have a ‘communal pot’? I know what Emily Post says, but what she says doesn’t really fit my situation. We’ve got multiple sets of parents, step-parents, aunts and grandparents willing to help pay for our wedding. They don’t want to just give us cash. Who pays for what?”

First, dear reader, kudos on starting your research by reading Emily Post. HJ’s feelings about Ms. Post are quite clear.

Yet, despite our awe of the etiquette icon, we understand that her rules may not always be so easy to interpret in today’s world of duplicate and adoptive families. In fact, sometimes today’s often-implemented rule of “the more the merrier” makes applying her rules downright confusing.

Don’t despair, however, HJ is here! (Insert image of us flying to your side, wearing pink capes with monogram ‘HJ’s, please!)

The 2006 version of “Wedding Etiquette” advises couples to “consider the options and make compromises.” That’s helpful advice in some aspects (by basically reminding brides to remain calm), but unhelpful for actually telling brides who pays for what when multiple hands are offering. Fortunately, a quick turn of the page provides a more detailed description of who pays for what.

You want to know “who pays for what” when multiple parties are paying for a wedding? Our advice: follow the idea of the rules as closely as possible.

Traditionally, the bride’s family paid for the ceremony and reception elements, including the bride’s attire. The groom paid for the logistical aspects of the marriage – i.e., the marriage license, transportation and lodging of himself and his groomsmen and the rings. See any dividing line? We do! The groom paid for everything required to get to the bride and take her away to be his wife, while the bride paid for everything while the groom was at his destination (i.e., her side).

AHA! That’s two broad categories for couples to divide expenses into:

Anything before or after the wedding pertaining to the groom getting to the bride’s side or changing her from a daughter into a wife = GROOM’S BILL.

Anything during the process of marrying the couple = BRIDE’S BILL.

With this in mind, write down your expenses and categorize them appropriately. You’ll find it’s much easier to assign expenses to your Great Aunt Pauline, Step-Uncle Steven and Half-Brother Bryan by simply looking at the chart.

Our second piece of advice is to not be nitpicky. For example, yes, Emily Post says that, traditionally, the groom paid for the wedding party’s corsages. But corsages are flowers worn at the wedding. Therefore, place them in the ‘Bride’s Bill’ category and move on. Thinking about it too much makes things complicated and holds up the wedding planning process. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Communal Pot

We know we’ve touched on the topic previously, but it’s one that never gets old: money. Every day – and pretty much all day – we planners deal with it, and mainly yours. Fortunately, our goal for money is the same as yours: to make it stretch as far as possible.

However, what we’re finding more often are contributions being made in the form of a cash or check. The result of this is that the category of “your money” becomes an overarching one that includes contributions from many different family members and friends. It is, therefore, a type of ‘communal pot’.

This name might conjure images of a group of wedding-gown-clad brides sitting in a circle and sharing a witches’ cauldron of stew. But, while we guess that’s acceptable, we’d like you to spare an equal amount of focus on the ingredients in the pot.  

In a ‘communal pot’ every participant brings an ingredient to contribute to making the stew. Carrots, potatoes, chicken (can you tell its lunchtime?)…all are mashed (yummy…mashed potatoes…) into one savory dish. In a ‘communal wedding’, multiple parties contribute an item for a couple’s wedding; a mother-of-the groom might make invitations = carrots, an aunt the floral arrangements for the altar = potatoes and a friend programs = parsley (every stew needs seasoning). In a ‘communal pot wedding’, multiple parties contribute money to the couple to spend as the couple sees fit: cash = any ingredient desired.

These gifts, however, are sometimes less easily spent than received, mainly because many of our couples are unsure 1) what to spend this money on, 2) how to report it being spent and, 3) what to do if they choose not to spend it.

Because we like helping (it’s our job, after all), and because we particularly like helping couples on the verge of marrying, here’s some help:

By logic, a contribution to a communal pot can be used any way the recipient wishes. After all, if a specific type of purchase was intended, that specific purchase would have been made by the giver. For example, if Aunt Sallie really wanted you to use the money to purchase invitations, she would have purchased those invitations for you.

By social custom, there’s no need to discuss how a gift of money was spent. After all, you don’t explain how you spent Aunt Sallie’s Christmas gift of $25.00, do you?

By right, you do not have to do anything with that gift. A gift is a gift and, once given, is the recipient’s property.

And, to be super helpful, here’s a precise, entirely appropriate sentence:

“It was really nice of Aunt Sallie to gift us that present; we put it to good use for our life together.”

Done and done. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Interview Nobody Hates

Most of the world hates job interviews. They’re awkward, uncomfortable and chock-full of multiple people boasting about their accomplishments while simultaneously trying to determine just what the other person is about.

However, as those of you who have been reading us for some time know, there’s an exception to every rule (and if there’s not and our couple is unhappy, HJ will create one!).

In this instance, the exception to the general dislike of interviews is the interviews for with selecting wedding vendors. Unlike other types of interviews, wedding vendor interviews are ridiculously fun!

Vendor interviews are the complete opposite of a job interview. In a job interview, everyone is unsure of whether the two respective parties are a good fit. In a vendor interview, the couple and vendor either fit or don’t, but that decision is made either during the interview or immediately afterwards.

In a vendor interview, a couple (and whomever else they’ve brought with them) gets to check out samples of the vendor’s work, thereby eliminating the need to try to figure out if the vendor is exaggerating their capabilities. In turn, the vendor gets to talk about how skilled they are, show off those skills and discuss just what they think they can do for the couple on their big day – things most vendors find ridiculously fun. In a vendor interview everyone wins!

The best part about a vendor interview, however, is that there are very few circumstances when a couple leaves one confused about whether they should hire the vendor. The fact that the vendor’s work can be literally viewed (read = here’s my work and here’s me, do you like?) rarely leaves a couple wondering if they and the vendor are a good fit. Therefore, even if it takes one or two interviews with different vendors, most couples know the specific vendor they want to hire and are comfortable with their decision.

The best way HJ can explain this phenomenon is that couples just know when they’ve found the right vendor. Be it a floral arrangement that exceeds their dreams, an estimate that falls below budget, an idea for d├ęcor that is so creative it blows their mind or the most beautiful wedding dress the bride has ever seen, couples often just FEEL that it’s the right vendor.

If we could teach feelings we would, but we can’t. Therefore, the best advice we can give when selecting a vendor is to seriously consider your immediate reaction when leaving your meeting with him or her. If you were unimpressed by their work, interest in your event or level of creativity, it’s quite likely that vendor is not the one for you. If you were overwhelmed by their ideas, it’s also quite likely that the vendor is not the one for you.

If, however, you walk away comfortable and looking forward to putting that little “check” in the box next to that vendor to mark your selection as made, it’s MORE THAN LIKELY that you’ve found your vendor.

Because vendor interviews are the task that most couples spend most time completing while planning their nuptials, it’s a very good thing that they’re fun. Fun jobs = fun times = fun experience. And that’s what wedding planning should be – fun!