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.