Friday, May 31, 2013

Here ye! Here ye!

It’s here…what you’ve been waiting for…the way to get rid of wedding clutter…the way to get back some of your wedding investment…

HJ is extremely proud to announce the launch of NextWed, the premier online auction site that connects brides and grooms and allows them to sell and purchase wedding items.

Have a dozen vases of various types? Do you have no clue where you’re going to stash your ring bearer pillow or money card box? Know that someone out there would love to wear your wedding dress, veil, or even shoes?

NextWed is a marketplace for the sale and purchase of gently used and unused wedding items. Unlike other online auction sites, NextWed allows you to connect specifically with other soon-to-be wed couples, making it faster and easier to unload that dress and veil, those vases, that canopy, that…well anything from your wedding! It's difficult to find space to keep old wedding items; this is your opportunity to sell those items directly to the brides and grooms who need them.

We invite you to sell the wedding items you no longer need …flower vases, favor boxes, cuff links, ring bearer pillows, DIY projects, shoes, accessories, even your wedding dress! On NextWed, you can list anything from your Monique Lhuillier gown to those vases that cost .50¢ each. 

But this site isn’t just for couples! Former bridesmaids, listen up! NextWed is THE site to sell your old bridesmaid dresses and accessories. Why not make some other bridesmaid extremely happy by helping her save some cash on that expensive gown she must buy, and why not also make yourself extremely happy by receiving some cash back for that expensive gown you did buy?

NextWed sellers receive 80% of the sale amount of their items; NextWed buyers save up to 80% on once used or never used items.

Check out NextWed’s incredible inventory and start selling your wedding clutter today!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Dance Off

If you know how to do this, please teach me. 

As a fan of “The Office”, I’m very familiar with the unique processional the co-workers made down the aisle at Jim and Pam’s wedding. Therefore, although I didn’t consider a creative processional when it was my turn to walk down the aisle (such a thing was specifically forbidden by our church), I did consider a made-to-order first dance. After all, for a girl who bursts into spontaneous dances at random times, what better way was there to express my joy than through a fun first dance?

Note: my made-to-order dance never happened, but a spontaneous burst of small jumps at the end of the aisle expressed my joy just perfectly.

Many of HJ’s couples design a creative first dance as a way to express themselves, start their reception off in a purely fun mood, or to just show their stuff. However, we offer a few pieces of advice when planning such a surprise:

Make sure your wardrobe permits your wild moves.

We’re not just talking about shoes here, but also your neckline! Make sure that the things you want covered remain covered when you’re bustin’ a move. Also consider the size and weight of your bustle, the shape and length of your veil, and whether the shape of your dress allows you to move freely without risking any torn sleeves. For guys, don’t try the splits if you might actually split your pants.

Make sure your songs aren’t too over the top.

Although you love the most recent popular song, its lyrics might offend some of your older guests or be inappropriate for young children. Neutral fun songs (think “oldies but goodies”) are usually a safe bet.

Make sure your DJ or band knows what you’re doing.

The only ones who absolutely need to be in on any dancing surprise you might plan are those in charge of your music. Most likely, you’ll need to provide an already completed compilation (mix-tape!) of your songs; at the very least, you’ll need to tell your musicians what to play and when.  

Make sure the dance floor is empty.

We love the tradition of having a bridal party surround the couple as they engage in their first dance, but a couple planning on breaking into wild moves risks running into and possibly knocking those attendants over. Make sure your dance floor is empty so that your running man doesn’t actually send anyone running to the hospital.

Make sure your photographer or videographer knows what’s going on.

If you’ve taken the time to plan your special dance, it’s a no brainer to make sure that it’s caught on video or in a photo. After all, you’ll want to see if you hit all your marks, won’t you? If you’ve hired a videographer and a photographer, consider having one focus on you and the other on your guests to get a full view of not only your performance but also its reception.

Make sure your dance is YOU.

Are you comfortable dancing in public with all eyes on you? Are crazy and fun dance moves your thing? If so, go ahead and bust your move. If not, seriously consider whether you’ll have the guts to do what you planned. A good rule of advice: if either of you isn’t too thrilled with the idea, nix it.

Happy dancing! 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The DIY Dilemma

Do-it-yourself projects allow couples to truly customize an item or aspect of their wedding, often for less money than if they purchased a pre-made product or hired a professional. And with Etsy, Project Wedding, and Once Wed there to provide products, ideas, and guidance for wedding projects, we’re not surprised to see more DIY projects appearing on our couple’s pre-wedding-planning plates.  

But, how do you know when DIY projects are reasonable? How do you know when forgoing creating something yourself and handing over cash is a better way to handle the situation and acquire what you want?

We like DIY projects, but do not love them. Too often, we see our couple’s best plans become troublesome problems when a project turns out to be more complicated, time consuming or expensive than planned. (“The best laid plans of brides and grooms…”) Since we never like seeing our couples stressed (for whatever reason), we are sometimes wary about encouraging couples to undertake DIY projects.

When a DIY project is bantered about, therefore, we often recommend considering:
  1. The type of project: What is it that you’re trying to create and what is its role in the wedding? Small items without much impact on you and your guest’s enjoying your wedding are usually suitable for DIY projects, but items that are a focal point, large component or main element to your wedding might not be DIY-preferred. If you’re likely to be disappointed or upset by a less-than-perfect outcome to your project, you might consider purchasing what you seek.
  2. The size of the project: this refers not only to the dimensions of the item you’ll be creating, but also the time it takes to create and the amount of supplies you need. Be realistic about whether your schedule allows you the time and energy it will take to find, purchase, and put together the project.
  3. Your capabilities and experience: everyone wishes they had the creative and technical expertise to create crafts, but many of us are quite lacking in that aspect. I once tried embroidery; my friend now has a beautiful embroidered bookmark that contains her initial affixed with a large amount of superglue.
  4. The number of helping hands available to you: few of our brides complete their DIY projects on their own. Bridesmaids, family members, and friends who are willing to help shorten the amount of time it takes to finish a project. However, remembering consideration #3, don’t overlook the actual talents of those offering individuals.
  5. Cost: yes, DIY projects can be less expensive, but that’s not a rule. Oftentimes, the cost of supplies and the time and energy you put into a project adds up to much higher than what you’ve allocated in your budget. Typically, the more items you need for a project or the rarer those items are, the higher the impact on your budget.

None of these considerations is intended to deter you from digging into a project up to your elbows (just remember, craft glue can be sticky!), but rather to ensure that you are fully aware and informed of what might lie ahead of you prior to your ordering supplies. Once again, we’ve got our eye on your budget!  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Feeding the Midnight Masses

I love donuts, and will snack on them anytime, anywhere.

Recently, we’ve had several couples express an interest in providing guests with a late-night snack at their reception. Usually, this interest is followed by: “Can we do this?”

This question is always a loaded one for planners, mainly because the answer is always: “You can do anything you want, but… (insert relevant considerations here).”

When it comes to providing guests with a late-night snack, that ‘but’ consists of:

What’s your budget?

Your ability to provide a late-night snack mainly depends on your budget. If you’ve the money for a late-night snack, then go ahead and plan for it, but you might want to think twice about spending dollars on a snack that would be better spent elsewhere. The reason for this is that a snack is a bonus and not something traditionally provided to guests. Therefore, including it as part of your wedding festivities is not required.

What time do you have?

The second most important consideration when determining whether to serve a late-night snack is your event’s timeline. Almost every venue requires you to vacate its premises by a specific time and most charge penalties for not meeting that time. This means that you and your vendors must begin the break-down process well before your rental time expires, usually an hour before the premises must be empty.

The time required to serve a snack requires 1) time for setting up the snack, 2) time for allowing the snack to be chosen or delivered to guests and 3) time for the snack to be eaten. There’s no specific time to allocate to serving and eating a snack, and the time for its setup and removal depends on the snack you serve. A good rule of thumb is to consider whether you’ll be delivering the snack right on the heels of your dessert. For example, if you serve your first course at 7 PM, your last course will likely be delivered at approximately 8:30 PM, resulting in your guests being done with their dessert at approximately 9 PM. If you must begin breakdown by 11 PM, you’ve only got two hours to serve a snack in. In this instance, the snack you so carefully selected starts to appear as though a final course.

How will it get to your guests?

Having waiters deliver the snack to your guests might cost more, simply because it requires more waiters to be on-site for longer. Additionally, some venues might charge for delivering the snack because you’re asking its staff to do something unusual, namely serve a fourth course. But, even if the snack is placed at each individual place, what’s the likelihood that your guests will stop their dancing and eat it?

If it is not directly delivered to guests via waiters, how will your guests learn about and access the snack? Moreover, will the method you choose actually allow guests to acquire the snack, or does it leave open the possibility for the extra food going to waste?

What will you serve?

A late-night snack consists of anything edible, from treats selected from a candy bar to piping-hot-and-fresh tacos served from a taco truck parked next to your venue. However, a snack should be just that, a snack. It should not be a full meal or anything other than a treat to top off a semi-full stomach. After all, you will have just fed a multi-course meal to all of the guests to whom you are now offering a snack – do you want that meal to have been in vain?

What is your favor?  

Handing out a snack immediately before giving guests a favor consisting of food is redundant. A favor consisting of food can be eaten almost immediately and – since they’re usually small – serve as a snack. Therefore, serving a snack and then handing out a favor consisting of food is akin to serving two snacks right in a row. And, although snacks are awesome (writing this has definitely made me consider what’s in my pantry), two snacks just might be overkill.

If you’ve a favor made of food but also really want to serve a snack, consider the distance between the delivery of the two food items and the intention of when the favor is to be consumed. A favor consisting of a treat intended to be used on something else (such as a special marinade or a jar of homemade jam) goes nicely with a snack since it can’t be eaten immediately upon its delivery.

Happy snacking!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Lights, Camera, Makeup! MAKEUP!

Alright readers, looking for more after yesterday's post? Well, okay...twist my arm (please don't, I'm delicate). If you're searching for makeup artists in the D.C. area, here's who HJ recommends:

Bridal Artistry

Behind the Veil

Blush DC

Melissa Schwartz Jones

Real Doll Makeup

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lights, Camera, Makeup!

Coming from a person who rarely wears it, my wedding makeup wasn’t first and foremost on my mind the  minute I got engaged (every time I put on mascara I get a big “You look nice!” from my husband). Sure, I knew I wanted someone to do my makeup, but that could wait, right?

Wrong. In fact, trying my first (of two) makeup artists was the second thing I did in planning, right after hiring a photographer. You see, with eight months to plan a wedding, I didn’t have much time to find an artist. Indeed, my planner (Ms. Heather herself) was very clear (unlike the makeup I’d be wearing, get it?) that makeup was something that needed to be begun ASAP. So, like any dutiful bride, I started on that task about two weeks into planning. My mother thought I was nuts (when doesn’t she?), but, when I settled on a makeup artist less than six weeks before our wedding, she and I both realized the truth behind Heather’s words.

One of the first questions HJ Planners asks every bride is whether she plans on having a makeup artist apply her makeup on her big day. In fact, the swiftness with which we ask this question – at our first meeting – often takes many brides by surprise and usually leads to more than a few follow up questions.

We ask this very important question as soon as possible because finding the right makeup artist is a trial-and-error process, and one that takes a long, long time to get right. It’s not unusual for a bride to try two or more artists before finding “the one” for her (“The one,” get it? I’m full of these today!), and it’s also not unusual for this process to take many, many months. Yup, months, solely because scheduling times for everyone to meet can be quite tricky.

Before delving into how to search for a makeup artist, I want to talk about why makeup is such an important part of a wedding ensemble. In essence, the importance of makeup stems from its BFF-type relationship with photographs: good makeup = good pictures.

Makeup helps a bride look healthy and happy on her wedding day. Of course, many brides are exactly those two things as they walk down the aisle, but, unfortunately, unadorned skin doesn’t translate this fact into photographs very well, be those photographs black and white or color. Makeup, therefore, is a completely selfish aspect of a wedding: it helps the bride like how she looks in photographs.

The two rules about wedding day makeup are that 1) a bride must always wear more of it than she normally would and 2) she must feel comfortable with how it looks. Implementing these two rules requires the trial-and-error process mentioned above.

Searching for a makeup artist is not difficult, but finding one to try is. There are numerous artists out there who specialize in or do side-work (meaning they work at a makeup counter, for a stylist or at a salon during the week) applying wedding makeup on the weekends. Some considerations when interviewing artists:

Cost: how much does the artist charge for a trial-run? Can this cost be applied to the charges for the day of your wedding if you decide to hire the artist? How and when must payment for the day of be made? Does the artist charge for traveling?  

Products: what products does the artist use? How does she handle brides with your sensitive, dry, etc., skin? Is the artist willing to use any products that you absolutely love instead of something he or she uses all the time? (i.e., if you just love your mascara, make sure that the artist is willing to use yours instead of theirs.)

Time: how long does it take the artist to do a trial run? Is that the same amount of time it takes for him/her to do your makeup on the day of your wedding? If not, what are the times he or she allocates to a bride’s makeup on the day of?

Party size: is the artist willing to travel to apply just the bride’s makeup? If not, what is the minimum party size that he or she requires to travel to a location?

Cleanliness: how often does the artist use/re-use brushes and other application instruments prior to cleaning them? Here, ideally the answer is “never” or “we use disposable brushes.” The latter, I must admit, is rare. However, the goal is to have an artist show that they care about cleanliness; if an artist is stumped by this question, consider moving on.

Also, don’t be afraid to go it alone. A bride often knows her face, makeup style and skin type the best. Therefore, if you’re willing to dedicate a few afternoons to trying out your current makeup or making a trip to makeup counters to try new products, you might be able to apply your makeup yourself. The rule that applies in this instance is to never buy new products until trying them first – after all, makeup is part of the wedding budget! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I’m With the Band

If U2 plays your wedding reception, you're probably
going to need more amps. 

Selecting the music for your wedding reception requires making numerous decisions, the first of which is whether to hire a band or DJ. Now, I’m not going to lie, couples that choose the DJ route often have fewer subsequent decisions to make. For those that choose a band, well, the work pretty much doesn’t abate until the moment the band starts to play.

This doesn’t mean that one option is better than the other. Despite there being more work associated with it, a band can bring a higher level of energy and uniqueness to music that a DJ might not be able to match. What it does mean is that couples wanting a band to play at their reception must be more involved in the band’s selection and operation.

When investigating and interviewing bands, consider:

Whether you have ever seen or heard the band before. Hiring a band that you haven’t seen in action is pretty risky: you never know how the members will act or what music they will play.

Whether you’ve seen the band working a wedding reception. Wedding receptions require a unique level of energy; the music played at a reception must be upbeat, fun and energetic without verging on being out of control or offending anyone (risqué lyrics are a no-no in our book). Although there are always exceptions, hiring a band that has worked wedding receptions means that the band not only understands the mood they need to set, but has actually set that mood in the past.

Whether your venue allows a band to play. Some venues in locations with restricted noise levels may prohibit bands. Also note that some venues may require that any music, including that created by a band, stop at a certain hour. This will affect a band’s contract: if you hire the band for five hours, but they can only play for four because of noise restrictions or cut-off-times, you’re paying for an extra hour and getting nothing.

Whether the venue’s electric system can support the electric and amplification requirements for the band’s equipment. The instruments, speakers and other electrical equipment a band brings with them often require additional voltage, wiring or other electricity needs. A venue lacking these capabilities may mean that hiring a band just isn’t possible.

The band’s demands. Does the band require a hotel room to stay the night after they’re done playing? Do they need a special-sized loading dock? Do they request a private changing room, food or drinks? Where are they willing to store their equipment? All of these considerations affect the band’s operation and, hence, how you must accommodate them (meaning more decisions) and possibly that you must spend more money on them then what is included in their fee.

Whether a manager accompanies them while they play. Recently, I was impressed by the fact that 39 Mariner arrived at C&M’s wedding reception with a manager. Not only did the manager take care of all of the band’s needs, but he also saw to the electric requirements and ensured that the band sounded their best at all times by changing the equipment tune and volume through an iPad. Although band members or a wedding planner can often handle these tasks, the presence of an on-site manager provides unparalleled caretaking of the band and ensures that the music sounds the best it can.

In the end, do what makes the most sense for your budget, schedule and needs – and then make sure to have fun dancing the night away, regardless of what or who produces the music at your reception.