Monday, December 30, 2013

Bring on the food…TRUCKS!

The appearance of food trucks at weddings has not necessarily taken us by surprise, more like created joy in us. This is because food trucks pulling up alongside a reception space are, at the very least, welcomed with smiles and – usually – clapping. Therefore, when a bride or groom requests one at their wedding, we are more than happy to work to accommodate their request.

Why Food Trucks?

One reason why food trucks have become the rage is because of their relative ease in organizing. Since food trucks often only operate until about two on most days, their earnings are relatively steady and somewhat limited to what can be sold during their normal hours of operation. Typically, food truck owners are happy to drive their vehicles up alongside any reception location to earn the extra money that comes along with a special request.

Moreover, income from a food truck appearing at a wedding reception is guaranteed because most food trucks have a minimum that they charge. This guarantees that the appearance is worth the food truck owner’s time.

Food truck owners also know the city’s permitting requirements. Although acquiring a permit is the couple’s task, food truck owners can point them to where and who to ask for such a permit. They can also tell couples exactly what type of permit to acquire. However, the increase in food truck appearances at our weddings has also resulted in us having extensive knowledge about permitting issues.

How Food Trucks?

We recommend that food trucks appear at your reception after the main meal. Essentially, one of the best ways to use a food truck is as a late-night treat or even a sending-off (i.e., favor) gift. In this use, you send your guests home with full tummies and your guests receive a unique “thank you” for attending your celebration.

There are, of course, other times when a food truck can appear at your reception, but this is the main time that the appearance of a food truck is most appreciated and useful. The exact timing of its appearance depends on your reception hours.

We do not recommend that a food truck appear outside your ceremony location either before or during the ceremony. This just creates a mess and distracts from your exchanging your vows. It is, however, acceptable to use food trucks to supply your cocktail hour food. To provide a variety of appetizers, though, you usually must have multiple trucks.

What Food Trucks?

There really is no limit as to what type of food truck you can have at your wedding. Choosing the type of truck is similar to choosing what type of food to serve at your reception:
  • What do most people like to eat?
  • What options are available from a food truck? For example, is there a vegetarian option?
Our advice is to stay clear of anything in which the only option is very spicy. Make sure that what the truck serves is something appealing to the majority of your guests. Since dessert food trucks (cupcakes, pies, etc.) are also available, you could also offer your guests a late-night, sugary treat.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Adorning Your Bridesmaids

Your bridesmaid’s outfit for your wedding doesn’t end at a dress and shoes. Jewelry, shawls, and even hairpieces are necessary to round out the attire you’ve chosen for your closest ladies to wear.

What should you require that your bridesmaids wear? Should you purchase accessories for them? Where can you acquire these items?

Shawls and Wraps

A bridesmaid once told me that Pashmina shawls were “out of style”. Guess what? She was wrong.  Pashminas and other types of shawls are by no means “out of style”. In fact, they’re still very much in style – a simple walk through any upscale department store shows as much.

Not only are shawls and wraps available in a range of colors, but they are also offered in different patterns. Moreover, many are rather simple – meaning without any frills or décor - allowing bridesmaids to use them again in the future.

A wrap or shawl serves one essential purpose: keeping a bridesmaid warm. For this reason, they’ll never be out of style. In fact, I couldn’t help but notice that the bridesmaid with such opinions about her Pashmina wore it all night during her friend’s mid-March wedding. 


Sending a bride down the aisle without jewelry isn’t a crime, but it does end up leaving your attendants looking unfinished. Moreover, a lack of jewelry on bridesmaids can become obvious in pictures.

You may choose for your bridesmaids to wear the exact same jewelry, jewelry within the same color scheme, or jewelry that is the same but with each bridesmaid wearing different pieces. An example of the last option is one bridesmaid wearing a necklace and earrings in a specific jewelry style or color while another wears earrings and a bracelet of the same type.  

Most bridesmaids are more than willing to wear whatever jewelry the bride selects – even if it’s just a selection of “all silver or gold please.” However, the important thing is for a bride to select what she wants and to make it known: a task helped along by the fact that most bridesmaids will pose a question regarding the issue at some point during the planning process.


No, we don’t mean toupees (however, some groomsmen may need this assistance!)! We mean fascinators, flowers or some other adornment that your bridesmaids will place on their lovely (full) heads of hair.

Hairpieces are tricky. Many bridesmaids aren’t used to wearing them and often have quite specific views about what they’re willing or unwilling to put on their heads. However, the key to including any hairpiece in your bridesmaid’s attire is uniformity. Multiple types of adornments, which often happens whenever bridesmaids are allowed to select the hairpiece of their choice, look awkward in photos.

Note, however, that not every bridesmaid needs to wear a hairpiece. For example, it is perfectly acceptable for only five of ten bridesmaids to wear the fascinator the bride chose. The key is uniformity among whatever number of bridesmaids agrees to the hairpiece and to not have only one bridesmaid, even if she is the maid of honor, wear a hairpiece. One bridesmaid wearing a hairpiece will stand out and look strange.

A bride interested in having her bridesmaids wear hairpieces should pick them out herself and either put them on hold at the store for each bridesmaid to purchase herself or purchase the item for each bridesmaid.  This ensures that the particular piece chosen is actually worn.

With hairpieces, it’s also important to provide bridesmaids with a professional (read: hairdresser) to apply them as appropriate. This ensures uniformity within the pieces’ appearance, reducing awkwardness.

Should You Buy These Accessories?

Accessories are a great bridesmaid gift: the bride ensures that each bridesmaid has the specific item chosen for them and bridesmaids do not have to spend more money purchasing items for their role. You might consider purchasing accessories for your bridesmaids if:

  • They are expensive
  • They are unusual or unique; because not all stores carry the same items, it might be difficult for bridesmaids to find the item chosen if they live scattered throughout the US
  • They are custom made
  • Doing so is within your budget

Make it known to your bridesmaids if you’re planning on purchasing accessories for them, they’ll thank you for saving them time and money.

Where Can You Purchase These Accessories?

A key to purchasing any bridesmaid accessory, regardless of whether you’re gifting them as a “Thank You” for their participation in your wedding, is to keep them mid- to low-cost. Purchasing items for several ladies quickly adds up to a large expense.

Although you can bargain hunt at traditional stores, if you really want to purchase nice items at a reasonable cost, consider gently used items, such as those offered by Most jewelry and other bridesmaid accessories have been worn once and only for a few hours, and most resale websites and shops offer high-class and style items at less than retail.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sending ‘em Out With A Bang

Color coordinated candy is fine and yummy, but when it comes to wedding favors it has become quite…well, boring, to give to guests. So, what can you send your guests home with as a “Thank you for spending time with us” that’s both unique and wanted?

One thing we tend to recommend for almost all favors is that they be useful. Non-useful favors (although we hesitate to label them such because of some guests’ love of them) such as figurines or fans are often tossed in the trash, meaning that your spent money was literally wasted. Therefore, we recommend that couples gift something that someone somewhere will appreciate and use.

When choosing favors don’t worry about how long it’ll be useful for. Rather, focus on whether it is inherently useful. There is no specific “useful life” for a favor. Some favors, such as silver monogrammed cup, can have a useful life of years, while others, such as chocolates, can have one that lasts just minutes.

Favors we love and have seen guests devour and appreciate include:


Food is always a hug hit, and can range from a few cookies to a bag of upscale bread mix. Some ideas for food favors are:
  • Mini hot chocolate packages or a pre-made hot chocolate mix with a couple of donut holes on a stick
  • Cake pops decorated in the colors of the wedding
  • Cookies in the shape of the couple’s initials
  • Small jugs of milk and chocolate chip cookies
  • Specialty foods from the cities in which you and your new spouse grew up
  • S’more packages: gift all the ingredients your guests will need to create s’mores at home
  • Mixed fresh fruit or cherries in small bags
  • BBQ rubs, hot sauces or other seasonings
  • Caramel, chocolate or strawberry sauce
  • Individual bottles of specialty olive oil, maple syrup or honey
  • Small bag of coffee beans
  • Refillable gumball machines: fill with gumballs or nuts of your choice and your guests can continue refilling with their favorite treats long into the future
Food-Related Favors

If you don’t want to necessarily give food but like the idea of gifting something that guests can use when drinking or eating, consider:

No guest is ever so crass as to be upset over a donation made in his or her name. Select your favorite charity or one that has special meaning to you and your new spouse and donate a set amount per guest. Indicate that this donation has been made by posting a sign on each table or other conspicuous place where guests will see it so that they know not to look for a favor.

In reality, there are innumerable options for what you can gift your guests. What, exactly, you choose to gift is up to you, but you might consider:

The wedding’s theme and mood. Giving a silly favor at a formal wedding might make the gift seem out of place. Similarly, gifting a favor in colors that are not reflected in some portion of the wedding décor may make it appear as though the gift was an afterthought.

The gift’s packaging and guest travel. Liquids won’t make it through airport security and some drinks, like milk, require refrigeration. Make sure that the majority of guests and your reception location can accommodate refrigerating liquids.

Your tastes. Don’t gift anything you wouldn’t want yourself. It’s pretty likely that not all guests will take a favor, resulting in your returning home with several.

Shop around and have some fun when selecting favors – it’s the perfect opportunity to select something you love that showcases your personality and reflects your event.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Decorating your Escort Card Table

The staple decoration for an escort card table is a floral arrangement. Whether in the form of branches, a vase with flowers or some other flower-based arrangement, most escort card tables are adorned with blooms. But, what if you’re not interested in having a lot of flowers at your reception or want to make your escort card area a little more exciting?

Recently, we’ve encouraged our brides to step outside the box when it comes to escort cards. The result has been eye-catching, unique, and personalized displays that not only draw guests to select their cards, but also reflect the mood and atmosphere of the event.

Picture Frames

A selection of framed photos of the couple is always a big hit. Some couples choose to only show photos of themselves as a couple, while others display photos of themselves from birth through the time of the wedding. Regardless of what’s displayed in them, however, keep the frames uniform, meaning either the same frame or within the same color scheme, to avoid their overpowering the table and escort cards. Also consider having them monogrammed with the date of the photo to make the display more engaging.

A Mini Bar

If you’re serving a specialty drink, offering it alongside the escort cards means that the space escort card table double duty. Butlers or ready-made drinks in decorative glasses allow guests to begin celebrating and pick up their cards at the same time.

Spotlighted Table

Spotlight a glass table with a LED parcan placed underneath it in a color that compliments but does not exactly match the rest of the event’s decor. For example, if lilac is your main color, use a deeper shade of purple to showcase the table. This adds ambiance but still allows the table to stand out, ensuring that guests see and pick up their cards. When all cards have been picked up, you can flip the lit table and use it for another purpose, such as a candy or dessert bar.

Puzzle it Out

Choose your favorite photo and have it made into a puzzle. Place puzzle pieces onto the table and let guests piece it together while they grab their cards. Have markers nearby so that guests can write warm wishes on the completed puzzle, which you can frame and hang in your home after your event.

Float Your Cards

No, don’t literally submerge them in water! That would just make a mess!

Many event designers offer box tables, which are akin to a memory box in table form. With glass on all sides, you can fill the box portion of the table with whatever you’d like, such as colored water, rose petals, or wine corks. Rest your cards atop the table and, each time one is picked up, more of your unique display will be revealed.

Whatever your fancy in decor, don’t overlook your escort card table when budgeting for décor and designing your wedding. A well-decorated and designed escort card table will not only look great in photos, but will also act as a conversation piece.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lights, Lights, Lights!

When it comes to budgeting and planning, an aspect many couples overlook is lighting. However, since almost every venue can benefit from lighting of some sort, incorporating finances and planning time for the task is almost never wasted effort.

Lighting in venues usually consists of fluorescent or dim bulbs. These options tend to wash things out or not really provide too much light, resulting in photos appearing dim. Moreover, this lighting may only come in one brightness level – very high and without dimmer switches – and color – stark white - resulting in your venue’s ambiance appearing hospital-like.

There are three main types of lighting that can enhance the overall ambiance and design of a wedding:


This type of lighting provides just what its name suggests – lights that shine upward. For example, uplighting can be placed on the floor to shimmer up the side of a wall or on a tent pole to enhance the tent’s roof angle.

There are two main types of uplighting: LED lights and parcans. LED lights tend to provide very strong light, but come in shades of color that can be tweaked to reach the perfect color of the couple’s choice. Parcans, however, tend to be weaker in the brightness of the color they provide, making them perfect for shorter buildings. Yet, parcans only come in a few colors, making color choice limited.

The color of either type of uplighting need not be permanent throughout the wedding. It is quite common for a couple to choose one color for their uplighting during the cocktail hour and another for the reception, with the color change occurring during any room flipping. Usually, the color for the cocktail hour is neutral, such as amber, while that for the reception is more party-centric, such a pink or purple.


Pinspot lights shine down from above to highlight a specific object or space, appearing much like a small spotlight. Usually, they are placed above a table to showcase a floral arrangement or a cake, whatever is on the center of the table. This type of lighting is particularly useful to highlight those items upon which you spent a lot of money. Usually, they only come in white.

Dance Floor Wash

This type of lighting shines multiple lights onto a dance floor, either to create a more party-like atmosphere. It is also used in situations in which there is not a specific dance floor due to the venue’s floor lending itself to dancing without installing a specific dance floor , such as a marble floor. In this instance, it is used to identify a set-aside space for dancing.

Dance floor washes are available in a variety of colors, both neutral and bright. Many times, couples use it to darken a space, which typically leads to more guests dancing.

How and Where to Use Lighting

Lighting should be placed in areas where guests may mingle, such as cocktail hour spaces, balconies, and the reception area, as well as in areas that you would like to create ambiance and increase safety, such as staircases. When choosing where to put lighting, think about where your guests will spend time and how you want that space to feel.

Lighting Cost and Installation

You can spend anywhere from approximately the same what you spent on your cake to thousands of dollars on lighting. If your budget doesn’t allow for much lighting, go with uplighting as it tends to provide the most light and ambiance at the lowest cost.

Most DJs can provide basic lighting. However, if you seek something more complex or a combination of multiple lighting types, hire a lighting expert. These experts not only have experience on what to set up where for the most effect, but also work with venue managers to determine any extra power requirements necessary to install the lighting for your event.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Raising the Bar on your Bar’s Decor

Many times, although décor is painstakingly planned for every part of a wedding, couples overlook adorning the bar. The bar, however, is often a place where every guest travels and also where many stay for lengthy periods of time. As such, it provides the perfect backdrop to add special elements to or tie in your wedding’s theme.

Decorating a bar does not need to be difficult, mainly because the space does not require anything overly intricate or detailed.  After all, the main focus of the bar is serving drinks and something intricate or detailed may just get in the bartender’s way. In fact, you may find that large or complex decorations are removed to ease the bartender’s work or are knocked over by eager guests.

Our guidance, therefore, is to keep items simple and low. Simple because there is less chance of the décor getting in the way and low because a bartender can pass drinks over it, leading to the bar not becoming smaller even though adorned. Décor ideas meeting these two recommendations include:

Jars containing candy or other snacks: a low, crystal or glass bowl containing your favorite treat will quickly be emptied by guests. The same is true for small plates of appetizers that can be periodically refreshed throughout the evening because, trust us, bar dwellers love to munch!

Plate(s) of chocolates: a small plate or two of your favorite chocolates will quickly disappear. Chocolates are better served on a plate so that they can be easily accessed and won’t melt together should the room become warm.

Photos: framed pictures of the couple or other important members of their family, such a children or pets, give guests something fun to look at and discuss while waiting for drinks. Just make sure that the photos are no larger than 5x7 so that it remains out of the guests’ and bartenders’ way. Along these lines, you can frame two of your wedding invitations and flank both ends of the bar with them.

Fun straws: fun unique straws in a decorated holder catch the eye and serve a purpose: making drinks more fun and entertaining! Remember, bars serve more than just alcoholic drinks, so these straws can be quite a hit with kids.

Mad libs or other games: if you want to make sure that guests remain entertained while hanging out at the bar or waiting for their drinks, place mad libs designed for your wedding or other similar games, such as “Would you Rather” question cards, in a bowl or other small container. At the end of the night, you will likely that find these games were spread throughout the reception, proving just how entertaining they were.

Song request cards: allow guests to think of their favorite songs while ordering their drink and write them down to later hand the DJ. The result will be a packed dance floor: guests love to dance to their favorites! 

Now, those recommendations are for the bar itself. Sometimes, though, you’ve got space on either side of or behind the bar that just begs for décor. Behind the bar, a projected monogram, photos, or slideshow give guests something to look at that is entertaining and couple-focused. On the areas surrounding the bar, try providing candy bars (chocolate on one side, non-chocolate on the other), snacks or games. These will entertain guests without creating too much of a traffic jam because of their placement.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Flowers on a Budget

When it comes to wedding flowers, some brides cringe. It’s difficult (we know and understand) to spend money on something that will only last for a few hours – no matter how beautiful or necessary. However, since few weddings are entirely flower-free, it’s usually a necessary evil to open the wedding budget to include flowers.

Fortunately, this does not mean that wedding flowers need to break the bank. In fact, there are several easy ways to cut down on the cost of flowers.

Go small: small bouquets and boutonnieres show up just as much and as well as larger ones during the ceremony and in photos. Usually, cutting down on the size of a bouquet and boutonniere can reduce their cost by $2-$3 each. 

Don’t provide for everyone: sure, your bridesmaids may need a bouquet, but does each of your groomsmen really need a boutonniere? What about Aunt Ida and your grandmother, do they really need a small bouquet? Chances are that they’ll be just fine without one, especially if you explain budgetary restrictions to them.

Repurpose: altar arrangements look great on bars, bouquets can be used on the cake table or as centerpieces, and boutonnieres can actually be used to surround the cake or on buffet tables. Guests love seeing the bouquets and other flowers up close, so don’t hesitate to allow those costly blooms to work double time.

Use more than just flowers to decorate tables: long ago, brides discovered that non-floral arrangements on tables looked just fine, if not more interesting. Mirrors, candles, and photo frames can often be bought in bulk, reducing the per-table decoration cost.

However, if intricate or large, alternative arrangements can become just as expensive as flowers. To avoid this, make sure to do a total cost calculation of the items you would like to use as centerpieces prior to purchasing them. Once you have the total cost, divide it by your number of tables to obtain a per-table cost. If this cost is approximately the same as the estimate provided to you by a florist (usually around $200 per table), consider scaling down your design.

Buy used: if you’re in love with non-floral arrangements adorning your tables, consider buying used décor. Websites such as NextWed have vases, mirrors, and even gently used candles for a fraction of what they cost new.

I recently discussed a newlywed’s wedding flowers and fell in love with how she purchased her flowers:

First, she found a local floral wholesaler and visited them during the day. While there, she wrote down the names and per-stem cost of the flowers that she liked that fit her general color scheme.

Next, she went home and calculated the per-item bouquet and boutonniere cost for the flowers she liked the most. When she found that it was too high for her liking, she substituted cheaper flowers from her previously created list. This way, she tweaked the cost of adorning her wedding party until it coincided with what she wanted to spend.

Third, she researched the cost of vases for her table centerpieces by checking Craigslist and NextWed. On those sites, she found she could obtain vases and other glass flower holders for a dollar each. She then calculated the total amount having three vases of each type and cost that she selected on each table.

Fourth, finding the per-table vase cost acceptable, she returned to her floral list and chose a single or two blooms to insert into each vase. She tweaked the list of what she wanted for each table until it met her budget.

Fifth, after having created her bouquets, boutonnieres, and table arrangements, she turned to her ceremony site.  With what remained of her budget she decided upon using a single bag of rose petals (which she had priced at the wholesaler) for the aisle. She also liked the idea of roping off the aisle, and returned once more to the web to find cloth for that purpose. The cost of the cloth was $10.

Next, she detailed where flowers would be repurposed to ensure she had enough. Bouquets were sent to the cake table while boutonnieres graced the space between buffet stations.

Seventh, she calculated the total cost for all of her flowers and items required to display or use those flowers: $600. Finding that acceptable, she placed an order at the wholesaler for the items she chose and asked her maid of honor to assist with creating bouquets the night before the wedding. The maid of honor’s thank-you gift for helping was dinner and a nice bottle of wine to imbibe while piecing together flowers from the bride’s list.

Finally, when all was said and done, she returned to the Internet and NextWed to re-sell the items she could. Overall, she recouped $200.

Viola! The bride spent $400 on flowers for an outdoor wedding for 150 people. How impressive is that?!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Integrating East and West

Recently, I attended the wedding of a Texas-born Indian bride to a Florida-born groom. Although completely modern in their personal styles, the bride took the wonderful and incredibly fun step of incorporating several Indian marriage rights and cultural elements into her wedding. 

What was so great about her incorporation was the fact that it was seamless, engaged everyone, showed the couple’s personality, and in no way made anyone uncomfortable or confused. Upon leaving the reception, I decided that the items she chose and methods she used were the perfect representation of how to blend East and West into a wedding:

Choose Simple Elements
Explain Those Elements
Incorporate Other Personality or Heritage Traits

Indian wedding ceremonies can span several days. This bride’s did too, but didn’t include every celebration normally occurring during a traditional Indian wedding week. In actuality, the bride only had a Mehndi party. This party, which involves painting the hands and feet of the bride with henna, was held on Thursday. According to tradition, only women attended and the bride wore Indian dress. Although very few guests had ever been to a Mehndi party before, because it was held earlier in the week and had a relaxed atmosphere, none felt awkward and everyone joined in decorating hands, feet, or ankles.

During the ceremony, the bride and groom participated in a short Indian ceremony: the groom presented the bride with a gold heart-shaped charm. This event was short and, because its elements and meaning were explained in the ceremony program, all guests understood what was occurring and why. Trust me when I say that there were more than a few tears in guests’ eyes when the groom placed the charm around the bride’s neck.

During the entrance, the bride surprised everyone by changing out of her traditional, white American wedding gown and veil and into a red sari. She surprised everyone even more by busting out a few dance moves that perfectly evoked Bollywood during her entrance. Combining the surprise and dancing energy increased the excitement in the reception hall and truly got the party started. There was no dull moment in that reception!

Did I forget to mention that the groom changed out of his western suit and into a Sherwani for the reception? To the American eye, a Sherwani looks like a long coat over a pair of snug-fitting trousers. The transformation from West to East, therefore, was complete and uniform by the time the couple entered the reception.

The couple chose a cake topper that was pure Indian and placed it atop a traditional, white (and ridiculously yummy) cake. Once again, West and East met.

Numerous Bollywood-esque songs were played during the reception. Indian and non-Indian guests alike participated in making the dance floor scorching hot during those songs.

The couple also introduced several Florida and Texas elements: bar-b-que was served for dinner and maps of Florida and Texas acted as guest books. The wedding, therefore, wasn’t just a blend of East and West, but also a blend of the bride and groom.

The way the couple blended East, West, and other aspects of their background made sense and was fun. However it also reflected their personality and helped guests get a sense of whom they truly were.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Bridal Shower

Arranged marriages began to decline in American in the 1800s. With their demise, so too ended the tradition of a bridal dowry. In turn, this meant that brides were no longer sent to their new husband’s household with a multitude of items and money to help set up a home.

Yet, brides still needed something to bring with them to their new home, especially since society wasn’t quite yet prepared for them to contribute to a marriage by working outside the home. The result: bridal showers.

Bridal showers developed as a way for friends and family to provide gifts to a bride who would otherwise lack worldly goods to bring with her when officially a wife. For this reason, guests at a bridal shower are expected to bring a gift. Additionally, most gifts are designed for domestic use, usually in the kitchen (the bride’s traditional domain).

This history behind bridal showers means that there are a few rules for guests, the hostess(es) and the bride:

For Guests

Gifts are expected. The term “shower” refers to “showering the bride with gifts”, which is, as is know known, akin to providing her with a dowry. An invitation to a bridal shower requires bringing a gift with you to the event. In fact, shipping one before hand is pretty much a no-no unless it was mailed because it was fragile or easier to travel without and will be available at the event to open. Don’t be the guest who didn’t provide a gift for the bride to open - the discomfort isn’t worth it.

Gifts should be from the registry. A bride sets up and creates a registry to tell guests what she needs for her “dowry”. Respect her time, consideration, and energy by sticking to the list.

A helping hand is always appreciated. A gracious guest offers to help in whatever way she can, even if it’s just to carry a plate of sandwiches to the buffet table. This demonstrates an appreciation for the hostesses and a desire to create a great experience for and take care of the bride.

For Hostesses

Provide shopping guidance. Its entirely acceptable – even desired by most guests – to tell invitees where the bride is registered. After all, how else will they know where to shop so that they can stick to the bride’s list?

Expect gifts. Even if the bride has specified that guests should not bring gifts to the shower, some will. After all, it’s tradition to do so. Have a designated space set aside to receive gifts and allocate time to open them before the guests.

For the Bride

Register with a nod to tradition. Tradition dictates that gifts be domestic-focused. In fact, many bridal shower guests expect to gift something to be used in a kitchen, bedroom or bathroom. Even if you need absolutely nothing for any of those rooms, register for items to fit in them anyway and plan on (secretly) returning them in the future. Many guests, especially elderly ones, are offended if all you register for are items they deem unnecessary (such as an Xbox). This doesn’t mean that all of your gifts have to be traditional.

Don’t expect a lack of gifts. For the most part, shower guests are familiar with the need to bring a gift. Therefore, stating that no gifts should be brought might not be as effective as anticipated. If a guest brings a gift in contravention to instructions otherwise, graciously accept and open it in her presence.

Open those gifts. Part of a shower is allowing guests to see what was gifted. Guests like this because it helps them see the bride’s “dowry” and check out new gadgets and products. It’s not conceited or show-offish to open gifts before shower guests.

The most important part for all hostesses, guests, and the bride is to have fun. A shower is a celebratory event, after all! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Maids of Honor and Special Privileges

If you watch TLC, you know that “Friday is Bride Day.” Typically, this means marathon runs of “Say Yes to the Dress” and “Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaid Edition” for a good 24 hours.

When watching one such marathon a few weeks ago (during lunch! I didn’t spend ALL DAY watching!), I was struck by the Maids of Honor in many a “Bridesmaid Edition” episode. These ladies seemed to feel themselves entitled to provide input for, dictate, or choose numerous aspects of the bride’s wedding, including bridesmaid dresses, bridesmaid accessories, and – shockingly – the hierarchy of other bridesmaids. In one episode, two bridesmaids started bickering in a wedding dress shop over which one should be designated the Maid of Honor. Can you imagine the bride’s horror? On “Say Yes to the Dress” this entitlement often took the form of the Maid of Honor believing she had the right to veto or approve a bride’s choice of gown.

If you’ve read the 2013 Summer/Fall edition of Washingtonian Bride and Groom, you’ll likely have encountered the article discussing how brides should treat their Maid of Honor. I liked this article (which appears near the end of the publication) because it provides a semi-gentle reminder of the fact that brides need to treat their attendants, and especially their Maid of Honor, with respect and gratitude. This includes not being too demanding, understanding the attendant’s budgetary limitations, and not expecting a Maid of Honor to drop everything at any time to help with wedding plans.

But, what about how the Maid of Honor should treat a bride? This, in my opinion, is as important a topic that which the Washingtonian article addressed. And so, brides, here is guidance about how your Maid of Honor should behave:

She should be polite and courteous at all times to everyone: this includes bridesmaids they don’t like, family members who are being overly demanding or aggravating either the bride or groom, and vendors who are rude. This rule isn’t too surprising given that politeness is expected in society; however, a Maid of Honor has a special place in a wedding and is often viewed as a semi-representative of the bride, especially if the bride is running the show with no wedding planner. Therefore, it’s particularly important that a Maid of Honor always be on her best behavior.

She should keep her opinions about the couple to herself and smile: nobody wants to know if she thinks the bride and groom shouldn’t get married or won’t last long, if the décor is satisfactory, or what she would have done to plan the wedding.

She should accept whatever dress and accessories the bride selects: remember “27 Dresses”? In that role, Katherine Heigel states something along the lines of “It’s their day. I want to be there for my friends; if they want me to wear a silly dress, what do I care?” This should be every Maid of Honor’s modus operandi.

This doesn’t mean that a bride can’t ask her Maid of Honor to help select bridesmaid dresses or that the Maid of Honor can’t provide a gentle, honest opinion about which dress she prefers. What it DOES mean, however, is that the Maid of Honor can’t throw a fit about a bride’s choice or have specific requirements (long, short, one-shoulder) about the dress. Think of it this way: the Maid of Honor doesn’t know every aspect of the wedding, how would she know what dress will fit best with the wedding’s atmosphere and décor?

She should do what is expected or asked of by the bride – provided she has agreed: this includes throwing a bridal shower and organizing a bachelorette party, if the bride so desires. It also includes completing any tasks that she has willingly taken upon herself. Note: “willingly taken upon”. This means that she must complete, in a timely manner, those tasks that she has agreed to perform – meaning, in turn, that the bride must ASK her for assistance or she must offer her help.

She should be available on the day of the wedding: this essentially means being at the bride’s beck-and-call. Although a Maid of Honor may have family members, children, or a date, what comes first on the day of the wedding is the bride. Anyone accompanying her should understand this. This may mean that her children need a babysitter or at the very least to have someone specifically assigned to caring for them.

She should be timely: please, please, please, be on time. It sets the example for the rest of the bridesmaids and helps the bride be on time. This is respectful of the bride’s hard work in creating a timeline so that her day goes off without a hitch.

She should be happy: if she can’t be happy for the couple or can’t stop focusing on herself, she never should have accepted being a Maid of Honor.

Reviewing all these “shoulds” reveals a common link: selflessness. A Maid of Honor is, first and foremost, selfless when it comes to helping the bride both before and on the wedding day.

So, what is a bride to do if she learns that her Maid of Honor is less than desirable? Talk to her calmly and gently, explaining what she would like and how she’d prefer her planning with her Maid of Honor to progress. If the Maid of Honor isn’t receptive, it might be time to appoint another (either in addition to or in lieu of) bridesmaid to the job who the bride believes might be more helpful. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

“It may seem odd, but….”

The venue is gorgeous, but where do you put a dance floor?

For many couples, venue searching is (hands down, usually) THE most stressful aspect of wedding planning. After all, venue searching presents the perfect trifecta for wedding stress: size, cost, and appeal. Sheesh!

There are the regular questions to ask at a venue:

How many people can the space hold?
What space will I be allowed to use for a cocktail hour?
Are there any restrictions on event times?
Where are the guest bathrooms?
Are there any noise restrictions?
How do you handle parking?
What tables and chairs come with the space?

However, there are also a few unique questions to ask. These questions provide in-depth information about the venue, which can help couples feel more secure when making a choice.

What entrance do servers use? The means by which servers enter and exit the kitchen should be unobtrusive. A doorway in the middle of a venue can result in servers being the main item in photos or numerous run-ins between guests and servers.

What permits do I need? Most hotels are set up for events and do not require couples to acquire special permits for their ceremony or reception. This is not always the case for private clubs, museums, or other special venues. For these locations, couples might be required to obtain alcohol or special-event permits.

Where is the band or DJ usually located? Power, amplification, and speaker placement are key to ensuring that reception music can be heard and enjoyed. Most venues have a specific location (or two) where a band or DJ works best, but some might not. This may affect the ability to use the space or require more thought about floor plan layout.

Where is the dance floor typically placed? At most receptions, the dance floor is centrally located. However, if the venue has an out-of-way location for the band or DJ, the dance floor might not be adjacent to the music source.

Are there any changes or renovations planned between now and my event? Although venues cannot predict emergency repairs or changes, and although some might not know of the property owner’s future plans, most venues have a good idea of any changes, renovations, or construction that will occur within the next year. Changes or renovations may impact the color scheme, size, view, or availability of a space – all of which can seriously affect a reception.

Where are cocktail musicians usually placed? Where musicians will be located during a cocktail reception is often overlooked because most venues do not have a specific location for placement. In this case, ask for several location options and also inquire into how cocktail tables, food stations, and bars would be set up in these circumstances. If the venue has a piano, ask whether it can be moved and, if so, to where so that it can still be played.

What are the limitations regarding floral arrangements? Florists are usually familiar with local venues, but don’t necessarily know every rule for every location. Additionally, rules can change on the venue’s whim. Ask for a list of what flowers and other décor (including candles with open flames) that you can and cannot have at the venue and whether that list is subject to change.

Does any furniture stay in the room? Inquire into what the venue will let you move out of the reception and cocktail spaces and what must stay. Large tables, chests, or heavy pieces can often not be moved, which not only impacts décor but also table layout.

Are there restrictions on how the furniture that stays can be used?  The grand table that stays in the room might be beautiful, but you might not be able to place any food or drinks on it. That may mean that it can only be used for place cards, which you had in mind to put somewhere else. Asking how you can use furniture that stays in the room tells you how you must arrange your cocktail hour and reception spaces.

Where do you typically place bars in this space? Nothing can impede a room’s flow more than having bars placed in awkward areas. Ask not only where bars have been placed in the past, but also where they are prohibited from being located and how servers access them. This ensures that drinks are easily delivered to your guests in a timely manner.

Choosing a venue is a difficult decision. The more a couple knows about a space and how it can be used, the easier it is to select a reception location.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The 1800’s Wedding

The history of weddings can be divided into two categories: those occurring before approximately 1830 and those after. The timing affected where the wedding was held, what the bride wore, and what guests were served.

Prior to 1830, weddings were very different affairs from the grand, all-night dance parties prevalent today. Typically, a bride and groom married in a church in the morning and followed it up with a brunch-focused reception at the bride’s home.

There also was no true wedding cake at these weddings, not as we know it. In fact, couples served either a bridal pie or loaf of bread. A glass ring was hidden in the pie, the lucky “finder” of which was said to become the next to marry. The bread tradition is a little more disconcerting: it was broken over the bride’s head to symbolize her impending loss of virginity and guests subsequently picked crumbs off her head, dress, and veil to obtain some of her good luck. Yech.

Other foods left out for guests were quite simple - eggs, bread dishes, perhaps some fruit. What was offered was what the bride’s family could afford and, more often than not, what they could make from what they grew or bartered.  Food was served buffet style, because families usually didn’t have enough dishes for everyone.

Why was this the case? Well, during the very early 1800s, much of the U.S. workforce was involved in agriculture. The lifestyle of a farming family simply did not lend itself to extravagant dresses or parties. Then, the economic panic of 1819 hit, the result of which was a change in the nation’s economic focus from agriculture to industrialized production and urbanization. More people had money and lived in cities where more food and locations were available, and so weddings became more extravagant.

With this increased extravagance, gone were at-home receptions. Couples still married in churches, just later in the day, followed by an evening reception.

It was in the 1830s that brides began wearing white dresses and that parties were held outside the home. Prior to this time, it was considered impractical to purchase a white dress, much less one specifically for a wedding, so the bride wore her best gown. The white wedding dress craze (which lasts today) is attributed to Queen Victoria’s choice of the color for her wedding gown.

Food served to guests also changed, and in came wedding cakes and full dinners.  American wedding cakes weren’t like British ones (i.e., fruitcake), but rather similar to what we have today: traditional sugary cake with filling and frosting. (Yum!)

The other food might surprise you, but just because it consists of items not commonly eaten in today’s society. Dishes included cold game (think pheasant), oysters, ices, and poached meats served with aspic (galantines). Food was served buffet style, in the form of how it was traditionally served at a large gala.

Although perhaps not so yummy by todays’ standards, these dishes were luxurious in the 1800s – hence their being served at extravagant celebrations. Of course, you’ll likely select different foods for your reception, but now you know the history that you’re up against.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

See you at the rehearsal dinner!

D.C. weddings are unlike other weddings. Not only does the D.C. atmosphere add a unique touch to each celebration, but weddings in the District are, many times, also akin to destination weddings.

After living here for a little while, I learned that it’s quite rare for someone to be actually from the District. The closest many come to being “from the District” is having grown up in one of D.C.’s outlying suburbs.

Instead, what’s common is for brides and grooms to be from somewhere else, like another state entirely, but to have resided in the District for some time, either years or months. For whatever reason, perhaps their jobs or love of D.C., these couples decide to have a wedding in the District.

The result of this is that almost every guest attending a D.C. wedding is from out of town - or at least far enough away that driving home at the end of the night is difficult. This adds up to – voila! – a destination wedding in the District!

This leads to problems with creating a guest list for a rehearsal dinner. Traditionally, a rehearsal dinner provides out-of-town guests with a welcome, an opportunity to see the soon-to-be married couple, and a meal. It is a “thank you” to those who chose to travel long distances for the wedding. With everyone from outside D.C., however, couples marrying in the District are often unsure who to invite to a rehearsal dinner, or how to draw the line on whom NOT to invite.

The debate is understandable. Inviting every out-of-town guest can lead to a huge rehearsal dinner and, in effect, a second wedding. Not only does this increase the cost of the rehearsal dinner and impact a couple’s wedding budget, but it also means spending more energy planning and organizing something other than the ceremony and reception. 

Before diving into how to avoid turning your rehearsal dinner into a second wedding reception (a pre-reception, if you will), I must explain that guests understand. Guests are not clueless; they know that a couple isn’t originally from D.C. and understand why there is no scheduled traditional rehearsal dinner. 

We’ve yet to encounter a guest who is offended by not being invited to a rehearsal dinner…but only when NOBODY was been invited to a rehearsal dinner. That’s right, its an all-or-nothing situation, folks.

This leaves couples with a few options:

A dinner for immediate family and the wedding party only: this means that no guests are invited to the rehearsal dinner. This option is more than suitable for almost any large wedding, including those where the majority of guests are from out of town.

A cocktail reception for everyone: opting for a relaxed cocktail party with light appetizers means that all guests get to mingle with each other and the couple. It also means that the couple must do much less planning and budget spending for their rehearsal dinner.

A combination dinner and cocktail hour: invite immediate family (grandparents, parents, and siblings) and the wedding party to dinner, then follow up with a cocktail party for all guests. This option requires a little more planning, but allows couples to give every guest something special the night before their nuptials.

A Sunday brunch: morning and mid-day meals are less expensive than dinner. Hosting a day-after buffet brunch in which guests can arrive and depart whenever they want usually takes less of a toll on a couple’s wallet and requires less planning. Eliminating alcohol at the brunch often makes it more affordable.

Whatever option is chosen, the rules are to

  1. Stick with it – exceptions for aunts, uncles, and friends can’t be made without leaving some guest feeling excluded because an exception wasn’t made for them.
  2. Don’t explain – unless asked directly, there’s no reason to tell guests your reasoning behind not having a rehearsal dinner. Doing so opens you up to a barrage of requests for exceptions.
Happy planning!