Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I’m at table number…Merlot?

As you already know, escort cards tell your guests what table you’ve seated them at, while place cards tell them what seat at the table is theirs. You also already know that place cards are not mandatory, but that escort cards regularly make an appearance at weddings.

However, when it comes to the table numbers identified on escort cards, the rules are not so clear. Many couples choose to forgo the traditional numerical system of labeling the tables at their reception and to instead use unique monikers. We’ve seen names of cities that couples have traveled to or lived in, favorite types of wines, local landmarks, and historical figures be used in lieu of traditional numbers or Roman numerals.

We applaud these couples on their creativity. But…

Warn couples considering doing the same thing to:

Make sure that the names, places, or other words that are used instead of numbers are clear to read and understand. For an American couple, being seated at table “Benjamin Franklin” is pretty straightforward in that it’s easy for them to read the name, understand who it belongs to, and identify it on a table stand. However, seating the same couple at “Reykjavik” might present some problems. At the very least, those guests might be embarrassed at not knowing how to properly pronounce “Reykjavik” or that its the capitol of Iceland. And, as always, a clear, easily readable font is helpful.

Present the unique table identifiers in a logical way, whether alphabetical, by distance from each other on a map, or time when they occurred in the couple’s life. This makes it easier for guests to find their tables.

With those considerations in mind, we offer several options for unique table names:

The names of presidents. Although perhaps a slightly more DC-centric idea, using the names of former or the current president is a fun way to tie U.S. history into a wedding.

Favorite wines. If you and your fiancé love merlot, pinot noir, and chardonnay, name away!

Countries or cities in which you’ve lived. If you and your fiancé have lived in many different places, naming your reception tables after those locations is a sweet way to remind your guests (and each other) of how far you traveled to find one another.

Favorite vacation spots. Whether exotic (Fiji!) or more tame (Boston), table names reflecting vacations you’ve taken together display your adventurous spirit to your guests.

Favorite songs. Are you really into music? Share your love of music and each other by naming your tables after some of your favorite songs. It’s sweet if the titles contain the word “love”, but it’s not necessary. We just recommend you stay away from anything vulgar or offensive.

Love in different languages or famous or favorite quotes about love and relationships. What better way to reinforce to your guests what the day is all about?

Landmarks. This idea allows you to make each table number sign in the shape of the landmark containing the name of the landmark. You can stick to the landmarks available in the city in which you’re throwing your wedding, or select ones you’ve seen that are your favorites.

However, we suggest you avoid:

Random animal names. No guest wants to be sitting at table hippo, unless your wedding is actually in a zoo.

Offensive names. Yes, we always remind you of that.  

Symbols or pictures with no words. These table identifiers just confuse guests. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bottoms up!

Signature cocktails have been all the rage at weddings for awhile now, but it’s only been within the last few years that venues and caterers have been promoting them as a special addition to their reception packages. We must admit we love the idea of a special drink that reflects our couple’s personalities and tastes.

Yet… (of course, there’s always a “yet”)

Picking a signature cocktail isn’t always easy. It’s also not necessarily something that every couple wants: one of our brides chose red wine as her signature cocktail because it was her favorite drink.

When selecting a signature cocktail consider:

The composition of your guest list: have you invited lots of children and is the wedding outside? One of our brides had specially mixed “hard lemonade” at her outside wedding; it was all we could do to keep the tempting yellow liquid out of youngster’s hands. If you’ve a lot of children or guests who don’t drink alcohol, consider making your signature drink non-alcoholic. In our experience, a non-alcoholic signature drink makes non-drinking guests feel very special.

Your venues rules: if your venue doesn’t allow red wine, it’s unlikely that its management will allow you to serve a drink with red tinting. So, if you really want sangria, and only sangria, as your signature cocktail, consider your venue’s rules before selecting a package containing the option.

When and where the drink will be served: there’s no rule that your signature cocktail must be prepared and offered to guests throughout your reception. Commonly, the drink is pre-made and ready and available during cocktail hours, but it’s availability during the reception is limited to only those that ask for it. In fact, this schedule is the status-quo at many venues. During cocktail hours, specialty drinks are usually passed on a tray, while they’re created on an on-demand basis at the bar starting at dinnertime.

Any additional costs your selected specialty drink may incur: although a component or easy addition to many catering packages, some venues or caterers may have a limited definition of “specialty cocktail”. It’s common for venues and caterers to limit what you can select or put into your specialty cocktail to what is in the level of bar service you selected. Therefore, if your bar service provides non-premium liquor, you may be unable to use a premium liquor in your specialty drink. Although obtaining the specific ingredients for your specialty drink is usually easily done for a charge, we encourage you to consider whether the cost is worthwhile. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Welcome, have some swag!

Welcome bags are not exactly a new addition to weddings; they’ve been around for a few years. However, recently these bags have become much more full and personalized than they were before. Are you curious about whether to offer a welcome bag or what to put in it? Well, you’re in luck because today I feel like discussing these pre-wedding goodie bags.

A pre-wedding goodie bag? Yep! That is exactly what a “welcome bag” is – something given to out-of-town guests in recognition of their arriving at the hotel you selected for your wedding. They are not usually given to guests who live locally because these guests are believed to be familiar with the lay of the land and to not need anything, since they did not have to pack a bag and travel to the location of your wedding. Guests understand this division, and do not baulk at the fact that some of them receive these extra treats; trust us, therefore, when we say that there is no expectation or requirement to provide welcome bags to all of your guests.

This doesn’t mean, though, that you should automatically include welcome bags in your wedding plans. The main considerations when deciding whether to gift welcome bags are the size of your wedding and the number of guests traveling long distances to your event. Review your guest list and count how many guests you expect to stay in a hotel to obtain a rough estimate of this number. If the number is large, seriously consider whether you want to offer welcome bags. Why? Because:

They cost money. The total cost of a welcome bag includes the bag itself and any décor (such as stickers) you affix to the bag, the contents of the bag and – here’s the whopper – any delivery fee the hotel charges. In some hotels, this charge could be as much as $5.00 per bag, which when multiplied by the number of bags to be delivered adds up to a significant amount. Oftentimes, hotels charge the same fee regardless of whether you instruct its staff to deliver individual bags to guests’ rooms or have the front desk clerk hand them out during check-in.

They have to be delivered to the hotel. A hotel isn’t going to put the bags together for you, and many times won’t even accept ready-to-be-delivered welcome bags until the first day that your guests are scheduled to arrive. This means that either you or someone else must deliver your welcome bags to the hotel at the start of your wedding weekend. Also note that staggered guest arrivals subject your bags to sitting around for longer, increasing the chances of their becoming lost or damaged.

Okay, you’ve decided that you really want and can afford to offer welcome bags. Great! So, what are you going to put in them? Hmmm…..

Information about your event, of course! Welcome bags are the perfect place to provide guests with the weekend’s schedule, transportation offerings, and other information they need to know so that they can enjoy all the events you have planned.

Information about the area. Are you getting married in a large city that offers lots to do? Tell your guests about the best activities the area has to offer! You can also take the extra step and tell them about some of your personal favorite activities, be they mainstream or less-known.

Snacks. Hotel mini-bars are expensive; providing your guests with some treats they can enjoy in the afternoon or evening is always appreciated. Snacks that reflect the area or are created by a local store are a fun way to interject local flavor into your gift bags. If you’ve the time, energy, and are good in the kitchen, homemade snacks are always a unique treat, too.

Water. Unless it’s offered for free in the hotel lobby, bottled water is always welcomed in a welcome bag.

Enough for everyone. If you’re giving a bag to each family and not each person, make sure that the bag contains enough all.

There are, of course, some warnings:

For summertime weddings, avoid foods that can melt – especially if guests are staying in a non-air conditioned hotel. Think of the mess, and the wasted money! Also avoid foods or drinks that need to be refrigerated, as traveling guests may not have a refrigerator at their disposal.

Food and drinks are always welcome, as are small pieces of memorabilia or fun gifts, such as candles. However, remember that whatever you gift that’s not edible requires guests to pack and bring home with them. Read = avoid large, non-edible items. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cheers! How to Give a Good Wedding Toast

Although the heartfelt sentiments shared in a toast given at a rehearsal dinner or wedding reception are usually endearing, there are a few instances when the contents of toasts have made us cringe. Today, we provide advice on how to give a good wedding toast.

Nothing secret or private.

A toast is not the time to share something that the couple would not like their closest family members and friends (much less the vendors and employees they’ve hired to help at their reception) knowing. A good rule of thumb is the “public knowledge” test: if you’re not sure whether the couple would appreciate something you want to say being public knowledge, don’t say it. Note that this rule applies to the couple’s feelings of privacy, and not your own.

Keep it short.

Toasts are a wonderful way to share short memories, anecdotes, and advice, but are not the main purpose of a wedding reception. Keeping your toast on the short side allows guests to enjoy the food and experience the entertainment the couple spent so much time selecting and organizing for them. No longer than about seven minutes is a good guideline.

Only speak when invited.

Giving a toast is a privilege extended from the couple to specific members of their families or friends. If you’re not asked to speak, don’t ask for time behind the microphone.

Focus on the couple.

The day, after all, is about the couple, and so should be any toasts given in their honor. Therefore, steer clear of stories that involve other guests, regardless of whether present at the reception. Doing so avoids conflict, particularly conflict that may affect the bride and groom.

Avoid controversy.

Political or religious views shouldn’t be expressed in a toast. There’s no way of knowing who shares your views or how you might anger those guests who do not.

No exes.

Mentioning prior relationships, girlfriends or boyfriends in a wedding-related toast is always a no-no. Remember, the day is about the couple, not their dating history.

Don’t disparage the wedding or marriage in general.

Making disparaging remarks about marriage at a wedding reception is rude – it tells the couple that you do not agree with their decision. It’s also advisable to not comment on any elements of the wedding. For example, although you might not like fish, the couple put thought and effort into each of their decisions.

Write down what you want to say and practice.

Giving time and consideration to what you will say and writing it down not only ensures that you won’t violate any of these guidelines, but also helps you remain calm and focused while giving your toast. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a sheet of paper in your hand while toasting the happy couple.

Don’t drink too much.

Yes, you might be nervous about giving a toast, but having more than a drink or two prior to standing before the crowd opens you up to flubbing or making mistakes. Refrain from imbibing too much before giving your toast to avoid saying or doing something you regret.