Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Your job is to...

Last week, we discussed determining how many bridesmaids and groomsmen you should ask to participate in your wedding. This week, we’re going to talk about what you should ask those attendants to do.

The main jobs of a wedding attendant are to 1) help and 2) support. By support, we mean provide encouragement, well-wishes, and in general be happy about the marriage into which the bride and groom are about to enter and to willingly express that happiness. If you doubt whether an attendant can fulfill obligation #2, I recommend that you seriously consider whether it’s worthwhile inviting him or her to participate in your wedding: nothing, and I mean nothing, dampens a joyful spirit faster or more thoroughly than a vocal, ill-wishing wedding participant.

It’s task #1 that most brides and grooms struggle with. Often, we here at HJ are asked: “What, exactly, should we have our attendants do?” We’re unsurprised by the fact that we are asked this question, given that our clients have not only hired us to perform many, if not all, wedding-related tasks, but also because our brides and grooms usually take it upon themselves to undertake many tasks themselves. When all is said and done, there are very few wedding tasks on our wedding couples’ to-do lists that are assignable to attendants.

However, we encourage all of our couples to take full advantage of their attendants. By accepting an invitation to participate in a wedding, an attendant has made themselves open to performing tasks, running errands, and in general being helpful to the bride and groom. And, since planning a wedding is hard and time-consuming work, it’s always smart to take advantage of any extra and offered sets of hands.

Before I begin listing the tasks that are acceptable to ask a wedding participant to perform, I must point out that the majority and most complex of tasks are normally given to the Maid of Honor or Best Man. Through accepting such a high-ranking position, these two attendants have agreed to provide more assistance than other attendants.

Tasks normally performed by the Maid of Honor or Best Man:

Choosing bridesmaid or groomsmen attire and accessories: taking more than one attendant along on this task makes it incredibly more complicated (once again, more opinions = more problematic). Your Maid of Honor and Best Man can help narrow down choices and provide input on cost, which will help the decision to not only be made faster, but to also be one that considers attendants’ thoughts and checkbooks.

Providing information about where the couple is registered: since it’s considered uncouth to detail where a couple is registered on a wedding invitation, the Maid of Honor and Best Man are a great way to tell guests which stores the couple has chosen.

Signing the marriage certificate: although not required by every state (some only require the presiding individual’s signature), it might be the Maid of Honor and Best Man who place their names on the marriage certificate, making the ceremony official.

Maid of Honor: laying out the bride’s train prior to her walking down the aisle, holding the bride’s bouquet during the ceremony, and bustling the bride’s dress prior to the reception.

Best Man: holding the rings from right before the ceremony until they are needed during the couple’s vows.

Tasks normally performed by all attendants:
  • Planning and hosting pre-wedding parties, including bridal showers, and bachelorette and bachelor parties.
  • Attending the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.
  • Running last minute errands: did the bride forget her eyeliner? Call a bridesmaid to pick some up.
  • Tasks you MAY ask attendants to help with:
  • Assembling wedding items, including invitations, favors, signs, or anything else that will be used during the ceremony or reception.
  • Helping elderly or watching underage guests. If you’re worried about Great Aunt Ida being comfortable or navigating the stairs at your venue, ask a groomsman to help her out. If you think that your 13 year old cousin might try to snag some adults-only cocktails, ask a bridesmaid to keep an eye on him.
  • Bridesmaids: keeping track of the bride’s accessories, such as her purse or shawl.

Please do not ask your attendants to:

Plan your wedding for you. It’s fine to ask your Maid of Honor to check out the venue you’ve chosen, but having her along for all seven venue visits might be a bit much. Remember that this is your wedding and that you and your fiancé should plan it together.

Pick out attendant gifts. These gifts are meant to be a thank you to your attendants for their assistance. Having attendants choose what they receive dampens the meaning of the gift.

Engage in excessive setup. Yes, your attendants can be called upon to help you set up some items for your wedding. However, they are not your decorators. Our rule of thumb: your venue should be two-thirds of the way decorated before you ask attendants to chip in. So, think again if you plan on having them decorate an empty room or reception hall from scratch. Keep in mind that it’s impolite to ask guests to set up for a party to which you have invited them.

Clean up. Your attendants are not the cleaning crew or garbage men for your wedding. Although we understand that you may need some assistance sufficiently vacating your venue, it’s always impolite to ask guests to clean up after themselves, no matter what type of party.

These are the main tasks performed by attendants either before or during a wedding. Depending on the circumstances, there are dozens of other tasks that attendants may choose or be called upon to perform, but the ones I focus on here are those that they are most commonly assigned. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I have ___ bridesmaids.

A question we’ve received lately is how many bridesmaids a bride should have and whether there is there a ‘normal’ amount? And, what are my bridesmaid’s responsibilities?

The quick answer: there is no ‘normal’ amount. You should have as many as you would like, as makes sense, and is reasonable.

Once, I was an attendant in a wedding with 11 bridesmaids. Although having that many ladies together before the wedding to celebrate the bride was fun, organizing that many was a pain. Not only was the processional extra long (the pianist had to play three songs while the bridesmaids were walking down the aisle), but none of the church’s pews were large enough to hold us – requiring us taking up two pews and pushing back where guest seating began even further (a problem in a big wedding). There also wasn’t enough room at the altar for all of us to stand. Despite the minister’s recommendation that we create an ‘arc’, our group ended up looking like a messy mass of ladies at the front of the church. Most disappointingly, this mass prevented me from seeing the couple during the ceremony.

Moreover, this couple decided that they wanted symmetry, and that they therefore needed 11 groomsmen. I remember hearing that the groom struggled to find 11 men he wanted to participate in his nuptials.

Another time, I was one of three bridesmaids. The smaller size of the bridal party didn’t make it any easier to wrangle because the other two bridesmaids were pretty uninterested in being involved in the wedding. The altar was also too small for three bridesmaids and I ended up standing behind a tree, once again missing the ceremony.

You see, it’s not the number of bridesmaids that matters. Rather, it’s the logic of that number. Here’s what goes into that logic:

The size of the altar: if it’s small, it’s unlikely that the altar will accommodate a large number of bridesmaids. This requires you to seat you ladies during the ceremony, possibly taking up the first few pews that are normally set aside for family.

The length of your aisle: planning a long walk? Remember that each of your bridesmaids also need to make that trek. If you’ve a lot of attendants, consider sending them down the aisle in pairs to cut down on the amount of walking time and ensure that your ceremony stays on schedule.

Dressing your ladies: more ladies = more opinions. Be prepared to make a semi-autocratic decision when it’s time to dictate what your attendants will wear on your big day.

Gifting to your ladies: more ladies = more ‘thank you gifts’ = more $. Can your budget handle thanking a double-digit-sized bridal party?

Pre-wedding plans: most brides like to spend time with their attendants before they walk down the aisle. We encourage this, finding that it’s a great way to have some fun and calm a bride’s nerves. But, remember that the larger the party, the more people you have to organize and fit into a space together. If you plan on having your dozen bridesmaids with you as you dress, you might need a suite and not a small hotel room.

The number of groomsmen your fiancé plans on having: if you want symmetry at the altar, you’ll need to ensure that your groom can conjure up men to match your ladies.

The people you actually want in your wedding party: yes, it’s tons of fun to have yourself and your relationship be the center of attention around the time of your wedding. However, everyone is celebrating you no matter what, so it may be unnecessary to have every single one of your friends, cousins, and female family members as a bridesmaid. People who might appreciate being excluded from being invited to be a bridesmaid:

Mothers of young children: they’re busy and might like being able to care for their child prior to the ceremony.

Friends or family members who are in school: participating in a wedding can be expensive. Students might find the cost of a dress, accessories and the celebrations in your honor beyond their reach.

Friends who don’t know your other bridesmaids: being the odd-man-out can be uncomfortable. If, for example, you met all but one of your bridesmaids in your sorority, you might consider whether the one friend you met elsewhere will really have fun standing by your side, or if she’ll feel out-of-place.

Our advice is to choose the number of attendants that your wedding can accommodate and to surround yourself with ladies who will be joyful, helpful, and kind on your wedding day. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

And next is…

Can you imagine organizing Princess Diana's processional?

With today’s increasingly complex family structures becoming more, well…complex, couples are turning to us more frequently for advice on how to organize their processional. As an example of just how complex a processional can be, Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette contains 15 entries regarding the subject; it’s no wonder brides and grooms are confused.

In a traditional Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Episcopal wedding, the simplified order is:

Grandparents and other honored guests
Parents of the groom
Mother of the bride
Clergy (may enter at altar)
Groom and groomsmen (may enter at altar)
Bride’s attendants
Maid of honor
Ring bearer and flower girl
Bride and escort

Phew, that’s a lot! Since this is a “simplified” version, too, it omits many important details that your wedding coordinator manages, such as when the groom and best man enter and when the music that accompanies the attendant’s progression begins.

Today, though, couples can have two sets of parents, step-parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, important relatives and friends, and step-grandparents that must be accommodated. Have no fear, we can help you ensure that everyone gets down the aisle in a manner that not only looks nice, but is also swift and easily understandable. There are, however, a few rules before we dive into these options:

  1. Family members or friends who are unable to make it down the aisle on their own for whatever reason must be provided an escort and additional time to make the walk and be gently seated
  2. Young children, younger than the age of three, should be accompanied by an adult – they usually don’t make it down the aisle on their own otherwise 
  3. Timing is somewhat important. The closer to when the bride enters, the more special the person is.
  4. The rule of the day is “realistic”. If your step-mother or mother is going to have a conniption about their position in the processional, it just might be easier (for your sanity) to limit the processional to the members of the wedding party, read: bridesmaids and groomsmen. Although this might not be what you want, it could save headaches.

Okay, let’s begin:

Step-grandparents: unless you are extremely close to them, they don’t traditionally walk down the aisle. However, if you would like them to, have them enter before your grandparents are escorted.

Step-mothers: presuming that she is not escorting the bride down the aisle, a step-mother can enter after grandparents, but before the bride’s mother. She may be escorted by an usher, groom, or the bride’s father, if he is not walking her down the aisle.

Step-fathers: may escort the bride’s mother down the aisle. If the bride’s mother is walking the bride down the aisle, step-fathers usually do not join in the processional unless accompanying a grandparent.

Very close friends and relatives: after grandparents, but before parents.

Adoptive parents: the same as a parent. If a bride or groom has adoptive parents and biological parents, who enters first depends on which set the couple is closer to. If the couple is closer to the adoptive parents, they enter closer to when the bride enters.

Step- or half-siblings: usually do not participate in the processional unless they are a member of the wedding party.

With these options, a modern-day processional in which a bride’s father is escorting her down the aisle could look like:

Very close family members and friends
Parents of the groom
Step-mother of bride and escort
Mother, and step-father (if applicable) of bride
Clergy (may enter at altar)
Groom and groomsmen (may enter at altar)
Bride’s attendants
Maid of honor
Ring bearer and flower girl
Bride and escort

Or, for a mother and father both escorting the bride:

Very close family members and friends
Parents of the groom
Step-mother of bride and escort
Clergy (may enter at altar)
Groom and groomsmen (may enter at altar)
Bride’s attendants
Maid of honor
Ring bearer and flower girl
Bride and mother and father

For a couple with a set of adoptive parents:

Very close family members and friends
Parents of the groom
Biological mother of bride and escort
Biological father of bride
Adoptive mother of bride and escort
Clergy (may enter at altar)
Groom and groomsmen (may enter at altar)
Bride’s attendants
Maid of honor
Ring bearer and flower girl
Bride and adoptive father

The rule is to do what makes sense and is efficient! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Please, have a slice of….pie?

As weddings continue to become more personalized, cakes have not been left alone. No, dear readers, cakes have, in fact, come under the knife during wedding planning.

Don’t despair dessert lovers. Even though a traditional wedding cake has sometimes been given the axe, the idea of an after-dinner dessert has uniformly been upheld. So, even though couples sometimes forgo the multi-tiered confection that is a traditional wedding cake, guests are always provided with something sweet to cap-off their meals.

What couples have chosen in lieu of a cake, however, has surprised (and delighted!) us:

Dessert tables: holding everything from éclairs, brownies, and black-and-white cookies, to mini-napoleons and small pots de crème, dessert tables are designed to give guests a wide (if not downright huge!) variety of choices to select from to satisfy their sweet tooth. A dessert table allows couples to choose literally dozens of their favorite desserts, but also runs the risks of having a heftier impact on a budget. The variety of desserts to prepare and the need to accommodate all guests with dessert options can make a dessert table expensive.

Candy bars: are you a chocolate-covered pretzel, Mike and Ike, gumdrop, or gummy bear lover? If so, a candy bar might just be up your (sugar-coated) alley. Couples who love over-the-counter candies may gravitate towards a candy bar, in which numerous candies are offered side-by-side in separate containers. Guests are usually allowed to fill up individual bags with their choices, to either munch on during the festivities or snack on later at home. Couples love being able to stock a bar with their favorite candies, but m ay be surprised at how much the containers holding those candies actually cost.

Pies: out with the cake and in with pies, some couples are shouting. Couples having outdoor weddings or weddings during the summer months have been opting for fruit-filled pies instead of cake. We’ve seen one flavor offered and served (such as apple) as well as multiple pie flavors offered and guests being allowed to choose their favorite. Pies are a favorite among couples marrying over one of the major summer holiday weekends, such as the Fourth of July. Surprisingly, despite their being more pies to make, pies often have a similar cost to cakes, mainly because they require less decoration.

Cupcakes: we’ve seen them both stacked to resemble a cake and laid out on long tables (a la dessert table style), but regardless of presentation, cupcakes are a delicious and comfortable alternative to a traditional wedding cake. Cupcakes don’t need to be cut and allow couples to serve multiple flavors, but aren’t so far from a wedding cake that they put conventional-leaning guests’ (gramdma?) noses out of joint at the lack of a cake. Cupcakes do, however, require a little more work on the baker’s part, just because there is numerically more cakes to decorate.

Whatever you choose, remember that cutting the cake can be a fun tradition – and a tradition that you family members may insist on seeing occur. Therefore, even if you choose a non-traditional dessert, you might consider engaging in the “cutting of the pies” or having a small, 3-4 slice mini-cake available to be cut. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Do you like my five-inch heels?

Yes, yes I do love your shoes, as a matter of fact. I love all shoes – they’re my favorite accessory and I sometimes literally drool over a beautiful pair of Jimmy Choos (they’re just so comfortable and pretty!)

When I began shopping for my wedding shoes, I thought “red, high-heeled, and something eye-catching.” Almost as soon as I thought of these characteristics, my mother began emailing me photos of shoes that matched those requirements; some days, I’d wake up to more than 10 shoe-related emails in my in-box.

Yet, when it came time to actually purchase my shoes, I went complete the opposite: off-white, low heel, and pretty but basic. I loved my wedding shoes.

Wedding shoes are a great way to show off a bride’s personality (red!), style (Jimmy Choo!), or taste (glamorous!), but they are, in the end, shoes that she will need to wear for hours and hours. At the end of my wedding – and the day after – I was more than happy that I had chosen a low-heeled shoe: my calves and feet would have been much more sore than they were had I worn something different for nine hours.

Choosing a wedding shoe requires balancing practicality and taste, which is not always easy. During the task, HJ recommends considering:

The length of time you’ll be in the shoes. It’s not only the length of the ceremony and reception that we’re talking about, but also the time during photos, when getting dressed, and other times during the day when you’ll be in full wedding garb. Usually, this time is 2-3 hours longer than most brides believe.

The length of time you’ll be standing and walking. Trust us, it’ll be a lot. Many brides don’t remember sitting down at all except for the time they actually ate dinner, and even that time is shorter than it is for guests because couples visit tables during the meal. You’ll also be walking to photo locations and up and down and aisle.  

Your budget. My closet is full of Manolos, Sandersons, and Choos. However, those were purchased over time and not when I was also buying dinner for 100 people. Fancy shoes are great, but if they don’t fit into your budget, remain realistic and remember that the amount of time that anyone will actually see your shoes is quite short and that, during most of your wedding, they’ll be covered by your dress. Feel free to ignore these considerations if you’re wearing a short dress.

The surfaces upon which you’ll be walking: this is a HUGE consideration, and one that many brides overlook. In fact, it’s such a large, important consideration, that I’m breaking it up:

Rocky terrain. Are you getting married in the mountains? If so, you’ll likely have some rocks to contend with. In this situation we recommend very low heels or flats with non-slip soles. Yes, we recommend shoes with rubber or other similar soles. They may be more difficult to find, and you may have to have special soles added to your shoes if you can’t find them (any shoe repair shop should be able to add those for you for a nominal charge), but they’ll be worth it when they prevent you from falling and breaking an ankle or otherwise hurting yourself.

Grassy terrain. Getting married outside always – and we mean always – means that your heels will sink into the grass. Sinking heels is fine if the grass is dry and dirt packed solid, but if not, you’re assuring yourself a stuck heel and a groom that needs to pull your heel out of the ground before recessing, not to mention the risk of splattering dirt onto your dress or groom. For grassy terrain, we recommend thick heels or flats.

Wet or snowy terrain. If your wedding is in a location that experiences lots of rain or snow (think Seattle), you also have to prepare to walk on slippery, wet surfaces. Here again, we recommend shoes with rubber soles.

I encourage you to purchase the shoes you like, but also the shoes that make sense. I also encourage you to scuff-scuff-scuff! the soles and wear your shoes several times before you walk down the aisle…nobody wants to see you slip!