Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why I Love Bridezillas

Bridezillas have gotten a bad rap from the media.  If you've every watched the television show called Bridezillas, you've seen loud, demanding brides-to-be snapping at friends and family.  But to me, a bridezilla is simply a woman who knows what she wants and makes it known.  As a wedding planner, I love "bridezillas!" 

The most difficult bride to work with is not the bridezilla but rather the bride that doesn't communicate.  For a wedding planner (or really any wedding vendor), communication with the bride and groom is key.  Our goal is to create the wedding that YOU want, not what we envision or what is "traditional."  So, we have to know your likes and dislikes.  A bridezilla will tell you from the get go.

If, for example, we know that you hate chair covers with bows, we can be sure that the chair covers are wrapped with decorative knots instead.  A bridezilla will say ahead of time (possibly multiple times), "Be sure to check that all of the chair covers are tied with knots instead of bows," and we will tell the chair rental company and put that on our checklist of things to do on wedding day.   A non-communicative bride won't say anything ahead of time but may complain after-the-fact that all of the chair covers had bows.  At the end of the day, the bridezilla was happy and the non-communicative bride was not. So follow the lead of the bridezilla and tell your vendors your likes and your pet peeves.

Bridezillas want their day to go perfectly, so they actually tend to be quite organized and detail-oriented.  I love this about bridezillas because they respond to my questions and meet my deadlines. If I e-mail a bride that I need their final approval on the wedding timeline by a certain date, I really do need a response by that date so that other vendors don't start calling me asking where the schedule is.  A bridezilla will respond on time, if not early.  But getting the response from the non-communicative bride takes a lot more prodding.  And trust me, we hate having to nag as much as brides hate being nagged.
One of the wedding planner's many jobs on wedding day is to handle all of the questions and issues that arise from other vendors so that the bride can relax and enjoy the day.  To do that, we have to know every detail about your wedding.  Bridezillas keep their vendors up-to-date with the latest information about their wedding.  They may even go overboard, sending weekly lists or charts.  A non-communicative bride, on the other hand, tells one vendor one thing at some point and the wedding planner another thing at some point, leaving the two of them wondering on wedding day who has the more up-to-date instructions.  In my book, the bridezilla's overly detailed, weekly e-mails beat the non-communicative bride's contradictory, out-of-date instructions any day!

In short, I love bridezillas because they communicate.  They tell me what they want, so I can make sure they do get what they want.  They keep me up-to-date, so I know every detail and can be prepared for their wedding day.  So, I say, let your inner bridezilla out! Communicate with your vendors (especially your wedding planner) so they can create the wedding that you envision.  Just keep the yelling to a minimum! ;)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Grand Idea: Ring Bearer Bowls

I have to admit that I've never been a big fan of ring pillows in weddings.  After the ring bearer walks down the aisle, what do you do with the pillow?  There's not much of a use for it, but you'll likely have trouble giving it away or tossing it since it's from one of the most important days of your life!  That's why I love Ring Bearer Bowls from Paloma's Nest.

Photo courtesy of Paloma's Nest
These small ceramic bowls are an elegant alternative to a ring pillow.  Each one is handcrafted and stamped with a loving saying.  They can also be customized with words of your choosing.  But the best part is that they can be a lasting keepsake from your wedding.  After the wedding, you can keep it on your dresser to hold your jewelry or you can even use it as an ornament on your Christmas tree. 

photo courtesy of Paloma's Nest
Rather than letting a ring pillow collect dust in a closet, I think using a Ring Bearer Bowl adds a unique touch to your wedding ceremony while also giving you a lovely reminder of your wedding day that you can display in your home.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review & Giveaway: Pear Tree Greetings

On my quest to find interesting wedding-related products, I was introduced to Pear Tree Greetings.  The company offers wedding save-the-dates and invitations that you can personalize online yourself.  If you're a funky bride with contemporary style, check out the selection of wedding invitations.  The designs are modern and colorful.
Photo courtesy of Pear Tree Greetings
It's fairly easy to create your invitations by just filling in text boxes with your invitation wording.  To save time, have your invitation wording already in mind before sitting down to order.  Many of the designs allow you to select from 25 different colors for the invitation, so you can easily match your wedding theme.  You'll also be able to customize the font for the invitations' wording.  One of the highlights of creating your invitations online -- no waiting to get a proof back from the printer!  You'll get to preview the invitation right on your screen.  

Photo courtesy of Pear Tree Greetings
Pear Tree prints all cards on 100 lb heavy matte card stock that is made of 100% post-consumer recycled material.  Prices range from about $2 to $3.36 per invitation if ordering about 100 invitations with response cards.  You can also add matching thank you cards, address labels, and favor stickers if you like.

The verdict: Pear Tree Greetings is an affordable option for modern brides.


This month we're giving away a $25 gift card for Pear Tree Greetings! You can apply it toward your online order for any Pear Tree Greetings product. 

To enter, simply leave a comment to this post by December 20th with an e-mail address to contact if you win.  You'll receive an additional entry if you become a follower on twitter and tweet to us at @CamilleMcLamb.  We will randomly select a winner on December 21st.  If we don't hear back from the winner within one week, we will randomly select a new winner to make sure someone gets the prize!  No purchase is necessary to enter.

Disclosure: Pear Tree Greetings provided the $25 gift card for our giveaway.

Do you have an idea for a wedding product for us to review? Let us know in a comment or e-mail us at

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Quick Tip: Freezing Your Wedding Cake

If you are planning on freezing the top tier of your wedding cake for your first wedding anniversary, there are some easy steps you can take so that the cake will still be tasty one year down the road. 

After the wedding, immediately remove the cake from the cake box and place it in a large 2-gallon Ziploc bag.  Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing the bag.  Put the sealed cake inside a second Ziploc bag, so that it is double-bagged.  Be sure to remove as much air as possible from the second bag, as well.  You can then put the sealed cake back inside the cake box.  Next, wrap the cake box in plastic wrap, so it is sealed.  Place the cake box in the freezer.  

When your anniversary rolls around, and you are ready to indulge in your walk down memory lane.  Remove the cake box from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator to thaw for about 24 to 48 hours.  Free the cake from its wrappings and allow it to thaw for another hour or two at room temperature.  Then serve it up and reminisce!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Quick Tip: Share your Shots with your Photog

Even if you've hired a photographer known for his photojournalistic style, you'll probably still want some formal posed shots of family and the bridal party.  It's best to give your photog a list of all the shots you want, including each grouping of different family members and bridal party members,  at least two weeks before the wedding.  Ask him how much time he will need for all of the formal shots and then factor enough time for all of the desired shots into the wedding day timeline.  It's ideal to do all of the formal groupings of family members and the bridal party photos before the ceremony and during the cocktail hour, so once the band starts playing during the reception, you can enjoy the party and dance the night away!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stop Before You Shoot! Tips for Capturing Good Video Footage of Your Wedding

Welcome back Mike Fisher from Storymix Media, who will be guest blogging about tips for shooting good DIY video footage at your wedding.


In our last guest post, we explored the reasons for capturing video of your wedding. If you have opted for getting the video shot by a non-professional, we have advice for making sure your cameraperson gets the scenes you want and the best results possible.

The key to getting the important shots and scenes for your movie is planning beforehand.  If you have a game plan, you are much more likely to be ready when those great moments present themselves. Here are some tips:

1.    Know thy equipment.  Be sure to understand the functionality and features on the camera.  A Flip cam will have very different capabilities than an expensive camcorder.

2.    What extras will you need?  Extra batteries, tapes, and flash memory cards aren't sold at the bar.  Prepare the night before.

3.    Key shots list.  Make a list of the important moments you want to capture. Here are some shots you'll want:
  • Walking down the aisle
  • Vows
  • First kiss
  • Leaving church or venue
  • Entrance into reception
  • Best Man's toast and Maid of Honor's toast
  • First dance, father-daughter dance, mother-son dance
  • Bouquet toss
  • Guests - don't focus just on the couple, but go easy on the guests' toasts
  • More than ceremony and reception - your wedding experience also includes the rehearsal, bridal shower, honeymoon, etc.  Try to include those moments too if possible.
4.   Don't forget the "b-roll."  Take shots of buildings, scenery, banners, signs, invitation, food, shoes, etc.   

Shooting Video
1.    Two cameras are better than one.  Multiple angles and more coverage will result in a better final edited movie.

2.    Nice and easy.  Be conscious of how quickly or slowly you pan and zoom.  A nice smooth movement will prevent your viewers from getting seasick due to the jerky to and fro common in home movies.

3.    Have tripod, will travel.  Using a tripod will make it much easier to get great video shots.  If you know you'll be shooting from one spot for a while, your legs and arms will thank you.  There are also great table top tripods available on the market that are easy to travel with and do a fine job keeping your footage still and smooth.

4.    Film near a stereo speaker at the ceremony.  If you have more than one camera, position one camera near a stereo speaker.  Even if you can't get good video, the audio can be added later with the appropriate footage.

5.    Get a lot of closeups of the couple and guests.  Catching facial expressions and emotions makes for great video.

For more detailed tips and explanations for producing good quality video footage, check out our blog:

In our next guest post, we'll discuss the questions to ask if you decide to hire a professional videographer.

November Giveaway!

As part of these great tips, Storymix Media is offering their Custom Wedding Video Wedding Mix package to one lucky reader.  This $200 value product is great for turning your DIY raw video into a great 20-30 minute highlight movie that will be a treasured keepsake.

To enter, simply leave a comment to this post by November 21st with an e-mail address to contact if you win.  You will receive an additional entry if you follow us on twitter and send us a tweet. We will randomly select a winner on November 22nd.  If we don't hear back from the winner within one week, we will randomly select a new winner.  No purchase is necessary to enter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review & Giveaway: Custom M&Ms

Everybody is familiar with M&Ms candies, but what you may not know is that M&Ms can be customized!  I was recently introduced to custom M&Ms and thought it was such a great idea to incorporate into a wedding reception or shower.  The process is very easy.  Just go to the My M&Ms web site to get started.  The first step is choosing colors for your M&M mix.  You can pick up to three colors to include in the mix.  There are 20 color options, so you can easily match them to your wedding color scheme. 

Next, you personalize the M&Ms by adding messages, images, or clip art.  The names of the bride and groom fit well.  You can even upload a photo of their faces that will appear on your M&Ms!  You can also choose from images of a wedding cake, wedding bells, or champagne glasses. 

Once you've customized the images and messages that will appear on your M&Ms, you move on to select the packaging.  If your planning to use the custom M&Ms as favors, you can have them packaged and sent to you already in favor bags, tins, or mini-boxes.  The favor options cost between $4.19 and $4.99 each.  But if you want to sort them yourself or display them on a candy buffet, there is a five pound bulk bag that contains about 50 servings for $129.99.

The only thing it seems you can't customize is the type of M&M.  Currently, the custom M&Ms are only offered in the regular milk chocolate variety.

Whenever I talk to brides, they are always looking for ways to make their wedding unique.  I think displaying custom M&Ms on a candy buffet or offering bags of your personalized M&Ms as wedding favors are great ways to make your wedding stand out and impress your guests. 

M&M Giveaway!

This month we're doing our first giveaway!  Do you want to try out custom M&Ms?  We're giving away three seven ounce bags of all white M&Ms customized with images of wedding bells and wedding rings to one lucky winner!  Try them out to see if you want to make your own custom mix or use them in an upcoming wedding shower or reception. 

Giveaway bags are similar to the picture but contain all white M&Ms.

 To enter, simply leave a comment to this post by October 31st with an e-mail address to contact if you win.  You'll receive an additional entry if you become a follower on twitter and tweet to us at @CamilleMcLamb.  We will randomly select a winner on November 1st.  If we don't hear back from the winner within one week, we will randomly select a new winner to make sure someone gets the goodies!  No purchase is necessary to enter.

Disclosure: We were provided with complimentary samples of custom M&Ms to review and complimentary bags of custom M&Ms for our giveaway.

Do you have an idea for a wedding product for us to review? Let us know in a comment or e-mail us at

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to Plan a Theme Wedding

Couples today are increasingly choosing not only a color scheme for their weddings but also a theme.  The challenge is making the theme evident yet tasteful.  Follow these steps for a successful theme wedding.

Make it Meaningful:  When picking your theme, choose something that is meaningful to you.  I recently had a bride who had lived in France as a child, so she planned a wedding reception with a French travel theme.  If you are a movie buff, you could do a Hollywood Glam theme.  Whatever you choose, some of the best themes reflect something about you or your interests.

Do it with Decor:  Of course, you'll want to incorporate the theme into your decor without overdoing it.  Try picking two areas of the reception room to focus on, most commonly the entry and the tables.  With my French themed bride, she used luggage tags as her escort cards to direct guests to their tables as they entered.  Rather than using table numbers, she named each table after a famous landmark in France.  The centerpieces were Eiffel Towers covered by flowers.  These touches were elegant while still showcasing the theme to guests.  Similarly, with a Hollywood theme, you could name the tables after famous actors and actresses from the black and white movie era and then decorate the centerpieces with feathers.

Mix it up with Music:  At any wedding, it's best to have a variety of music that will please both young and old guests alike.  But if you have a theme, it's fun to let it come through in a few songs during the reception.  When you make your grand entrance into the reception room, enter to a song that relates to your theme.  With a Hollywood Glam idea, you could enter to the theme song from Casablanca.  Or, as guests eat dinner, play relevant songs in the background, such as famous movie theme songs.

Fresh ideas with Food:  Add a touch of surprise with your meal by adding in the theme to your food.  For example, with my French themed bride, she had a crepe station.  If you are giving guests menu cards, give each course a witty name that reflects your theme, such as Yellow Brick Road Lemon Tart for dessert for the Hollywood themed wedding.

Finish it off with Favors:  Finally, as guests leave, hit them with your theme one last time with an a propos favor to take home. My French themed bride sent her guests home with traditional French macaroons.  But if you were doing that Hollywood theme, you could give out cute cups of movie popcorn or chocolate clapboards.

Having a theme can add some fun and whimsy for your guests.  Incorporate the theme into the key elements that we mentioned, and you'll pull off a unique yet elegant wedding.

Do you have a wedding planning question you'd like answered?  Leave a comment or e-mail me at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Quick Tip: Getting Outdoor Wedding Photos Without Staining Your Dress

On your wedding day, you'll most likely want to take photos wherever you can to get a great shot with a beautiful background.  You may be traipsing through grass, gardens, fields, or even vineyards in your gorgeous white dress.  Here's a great tip for getting those fantastic photos without staining the bottom of your wedding gown or its train. If you're taking a photo outside or in an area that could stain your dress, simply spread a white sheet out on the ground.  Stand on the sheet (or cut a hole in the sheet where you'll stand) and arrange your dress and train so that the sheet is hidden underneath.  In the picture, the sheet will be invisible while the bottom of your dress is protected.  Now you can just smile and say cheese!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Bride and Groom Gift Giving Guide

Though you're the one getting married, you're not the only one who should receive gifts! There are several people to consider giving gifts to as a thank you for their participation in your wedding.

It has become customary to give gifts to your bridesmaids and groomsmen. For ladies, the gift could be a monogrammed tote bag or earrings they can wear with their bridesmaid dresses.  For gentlemen, an engraved business card holder or a subscription to a beer of the month club are appropriate gifts.  If you have program attendants or additional ushers, don't forget to include them.  The gifts can be given at a bridesmaids luncheon or rehearsal dinner the day before the wedding.

The joy of marriage may be gift enough for the happy bride, but jewelry is an added bonus!  Grooms, get brownie points by surprising your bride with a present before the wedding.  You can't go wrong with a bracelet or earrings that she can wear down the aisle.  Send a groomsmen or your wedding coordinator to the bridal suite on the day of the wedding to give the gift to your bride as she is getting dressed with her bridesmaids.  Not only will you impress the bride, but you'll get on the good side of all her best friends.   

Don't forget about your parents.  Particularly if your parents are helping to pay for the wedding, it is a nice gesture to give them a small token to say thank you.  A gift certificate for a nice restaurant, cuff links for your dad to wear with his tux, or tickets to the symphony are great parent gifts.  Present the gifts to each set of parents privately the day before the wedding.

Give back to your guests.  For out-of-town guests,  put together hospitality bags filled with snacks and tourist info that they will get when they check in to their hotel.  It is quite common to give guests a small memento to take home from the reception as a wedding favor.  Jordan almonds are a traditional wedding favor, but couples are getting creative, sending their guests home with luggage tags, coasters, flower seeds, and photobooth photos. Wedding favors can be displayed all together for guests to take as they leave the reception, or you can put a favor at each place setting.

Use your wedding as a chance to say thank you, not only for help preparing for the Big Day but also for years of friendship of support. A simple gift can convey the message.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Where To Sit At Your Own Reception

You'll likely spend quite a bit of time planning where your guests will sit at your wedding reception and getting the seating chart just right.  Though you'll likely be on your feet greeting guests and dancing away during much of the reception, don't forget to think about where you and the groom will sit.  There are several options.

Sweetheart Table: This is a small table just for the bride and groom, usually placed in a central location within the reception room.  It can be quite romantic to see the bride and groom completely focused on each other, at least for the few moments that they may be sitting.  But if you don't want all eyes on you while you eat, the sweetheart table may not be for you. And if you want to get up to greet guests while the groom is sitting enjoying a drink, it can look odd to leave him alone at the table.  If you do opt for a sweetheart table, ask that the chairs be placed so that you'll be sitting next to each other rather than across from each other. You'll want to be able to hold hands and whisper in each other's ears!

Head Table:  The head table is typically a long rectangular table where the bride and groom sit along with the bridal party.  It's a fun option to be surrounded by your bridal party, particularly if they all are friends with each other.  But keep in mind, married bridal party members may prefer to sit with their spouses.  And if your bridesmaids and groomsmen don't already know each other, they may have more fun sitting with their own friends.

Create-a-Table:  If you prefer to sit among your guests, simply create your own table.  You may prefer to create a family table, where you can sit with your parents and siblings. Remember, sitting with the bride and groom at the wedding is an honor.  You could add in your best man and maid of honor, a godmother, or any one else that is particularly special to you. 

When deciding where you'll sit, consider where you'll have the most fun.  Then think about who you want to sit with you and where they will be most comfortable.  So when you finally do take a break from dancing at your reception, you'll sit down to a table filled with those very important people in your life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quick Tip: Dress Fittings

Once you find your wedding dress, you'll most likely need a few dress fittings. Be sure to bring your actual wedding shoes and undergarments to each appointment to ensure that you get an accurate fit and dress length.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fresh Take on the Flowerless Bouquet

Somehow flowers have become a wedding staple.  Bridal magazines and TV shows highlight fabulous weddings dripping with fresh flowers.  But there is no rule that you have to utilize flowers in your wedding for it to be fantastic.  Every bride wants her wedding to stand out in some way, so why not go flowerless?  There are some creative companies out there that offer alternatives to the traditional flower bouquets and decor.

This beautiful bouquet from The One Happy Girl is made of felt, beading, and buttons

Etsy is a great place to find artists doing innovative designs for weddings.  This incredible pomander from Whether Paperworks is made from the pages of old National Geographic magazines. 

 I love the idea of making a bouquet out of jewelry.  This bouquet by Valley Flowers and Gifts is made of vintage brooches. 

Just because these alternatives forego fresh flowers, doesn't mean they are less expensive than traditional bouquets.  These bouquets can range from $150 to $450.  But you can always join the ranks of the DIY bride and make a lovely yet unconventional bouquet yourself.  My friend Natasha made her own stunning bouquet out of peacock feathers! 

If you're feeling a little daring, you may find that flowers just don't fit.  But buttons, brooches, paper, felt, fabric, or feathers may be the answer to creating your own unique wedding style.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wedding Fashion Through the Ages

When you're planning a wedding, there are so many places from which to draw inspiration.  That's why I love the exhibit currently showing at the Chicago History Museum -- I Do! Chicago Ties the Knot.  This exhibit reminds us that we can get ideas for today's weddings from history!

The exhibit showcases 45 dresses from the past 150 years while presenting informational tidbits about the women who wore the dresses and wedding traditions from years gone by.  To add to the ambiance, as you walk through the exhibit, standard wedding tunes fill the air varying from "At Last" to "Hava Nagila" to a Lady Gaga hit.

You may envision something akin to a bridal salon with poofy white ball gowns lining the walls.  But to my surprise, upon entering, you are welcomed to the site of pink, green, and even black wedding dresses.  When I was engaged and searching for my wedding dress, I kidded with my now-husband that my dress was green whenever he would search for hints of what the dress looked like.  I never would have guessed that green wedding dresses existed at one time! 

The exhibit explained that Queen Victoria popularized the white wedding dress in 1840 when she wore white for her wedding.  Prior to that, brides wore dresses of any color for their weddings.  Often their wedding attire consisted of the nicest dress that they already owned, or they would select a new dress with the intention of continuing to wear it in the future.  Today's modern bride can learn from these ladies by spicing up their bridal style with some color.  Add a colorful sash or shoes.  Or if you're really daring, choose a pale pink or yellow dress.  It may seem avant-garde, but, in fact, you're following in the footsteps of brides from long ago!

The exhibit also displayed the cutest little outfit for a young boy, reminding me of a wedding role we don't often see today -- page boys.  Traditionally, page boys would carry the bride's train as she walked down the aisle.  If you have (well-behaved) children to include in the wedding, take a cue from historical weddings and consider adding a page boy to your wedding party. 

Chicagoans may be proud to learn that in 1924 Marshall Field's became the first store to offer a wedding registry.  Today, Marshall Field's is a Macy's, which has a convenient and easy-to-use wedding registry, allowing brides and guests to utilize the registry completely online. 

If you've watched Steel Magnolias or Father of the Bride, you may recall that in those movies, after the wedding, the bride changed out of her gown into a more comfortable outfit for her big sendoff.  This second outfit was called the setting out ensemble.  Changing clothes for the grand exit continued to be popular into the 1960s, according to the exhibit. How can you make this tradition modern?  Instead of changing out of your gown for the sendoff, just add a pretty faux fur stole or a lace shrug.  If you like the idea of completely changing into another outfit, try something a little more casual than the suits of yesteryear.  A white sundress captures the wedding feel while still allowing comfort and movement.

I Do! Chicago Ties the Knot is on exhibit at the Chicago History Museum through January 3, 2011.  The museum is free on Mondays.  If you're in the Chicago area, definitely check it out for some wedding inspiration. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wedding Videography: The Great Debate

This week we have a guest post from Mike Fisher of Storymix Media.  Many couples today may forego hiring a videographer for their wedding in order to save some money.  They may think regular photography is enough to capture the important moments of their Big Day.  Check out Mike's great advice about why to hire a videographer and alternatives to traditional videography that won't break your budget:

Wedding video has become the great divide.  Many couples consider it an essential part of the planning while others consider it a waste of time and money.  When deciding whether to hire a videographer for your wedding, here are some things to consider.

There are no do-overs

If you decide against hiring a videographer, unfortunately, the decision is final.  You can't go back in time and fix your "mistake."  Sometimes you can re-shoot some photographs, but with video, there is no chance.  As someone who decided against having a pro videographer, I can tell from painful experience how much I wish I had that footage.  You might not think you'll care, but a few years down the road when you have kids or are celebrating your anniversary, you may wish you had it.

The day will be a blur

Even though your wedding day may seem like the longest day of your life, it will be over in a flash.  Many couples feel as if they can't remember anything that happened, even the day after the wedding!  Plus, there are so many things happening during the day that you are bound to miss much of it, as you'll be focused on specific events.  A wedding video will help you remember what was said and done throughout the Big Day.

Pro equipment isn't cheap

Hiring a pro doesn't guarantee great results, so you'll need to do your homework before signing any contract.  But you can almost always count on a pro videographer to have equipment that will provide good quality footage.  A $5000 camera is going to run circles around a cell phone camera!

Photos aren't video

Many couples think that having good photos will be enough to capture the memories.  While good photography is very important and may be your favorite method for remembering your wedding, still photos cannot recreate the sounds, visuals, and emotions of video.  A photo won't capture the crack in your fiance's voice when he got teary-eyed saying his vows.  And a video of your grandmother dancing to YMCA will be much more enjoyable, since there's a good chance you were busy talking with Table 15 when it happened.

Alternatives to a pro

Some couples just can't afford to hire a videographer or don't want to deal with yet another vendor.  That doesn't mean that you have to give up on capturing footage from your wedding.  At a minimum, ask an aquaintance to shoot some video (close friends and family may prefer to enjoy the day).  You'll at least have the footage and can get it edited later by a company like Storymix Media or do it yourself at home.  Another option is to rent Flip cameras and give them to your bridal party, friends, and family to capture the intimate and personal moments.  In fact, even if you hire a pro, flip cameras are a great way to get your guests involved and capture some footage the videographer may miss while he's focused on the bride and groom.

You don't want to miss any moment on your wedding day.  Hopefully these tips demonstrate the importance of recording your wedding day so that you can make an informed decision about wedding videography.

Mike Fisher
Storymix Media

In a future post, Mike will discuss what to ask before hiring a pro videographer.  Keep tuning in!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Getting Creative with Wedding Guestbooks

Camille Victoria Weddings is proud to announce that we were recently quoted as a wedding expert in Wedding Guide Chicago!  In the summer/fall issue of the magazine, we revealed a hot trend we've been seeing -- couples getting creative with guestbooks! 

With traditional wedding guestbooks, guests simply sign their name and address into a decorative book, thereby creating a log of everyone that was in attendance at the wedding.  But ask yourself:  years down the road, will you feel compelled to pull out the guestbook and look through a bunch of names and addresses? Chances are the guestbook will sit on a shelf collecting dust.  That's why today we're seeing couples spice up their wedding guestbooks with creative new ideas.

One way to revamp your guestbook is to create a photo guestbook.  Simply get a decorative scrapbook and some instant cameras.  Ask a couple of outgoing friends to be your guestbook attendants.  They will stand by the guestbook table to welcome guests, take their photos, and paste the photos onto the scrapbook pages.  Guests can then write messages to the bride and groom next to their photos.  I had one bride who set up an old time photo booth, where her guests could take photos and then paste them into a scrapbook with a written message.  Any way that you do it, the photo scrapbook is fun for guests and creates a keepsake that you may actually look at in the future.  Check out the photo scrapbook from my own wedding!

photo by Caroline Eller LLC

photo by Caroline Eller LLC

photo by Caroline Eller LLC

Another fun guestbook idea is to simply use any book that is special to you.  I had one bride who used a coffee table book filled with photos of the university where she met her groom.  I've heard of other couples using cookbooks or storybooks.  The guests then write messages to the bride and groom throughout the pages of the book.

Consider creating guestbooks that you can hang on a wall in your home.  There are many companies on the Internet that create ceramic guestbook platters guests can sign. One couple I worked with framed their engagement portrait and the guests signed around the photo.

One of my favorite ideas is to put out fabric squares for guests to sign.  After the wedding, the squares can be sewn together to create a guestbook quilt

from bride&
There are so many ways to make your guestbook unique and fun for your guests.  Pick an idea that's special to you so that you'll come away with a guestbook that you will actually treasure into the future.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Show Off the City Sights

Your wedding may not be on the beaches of St. Thomas, but it still may seem like a destination wedding to your guests traveling from out of town.  If you have a lot of out-of-town wedding guests, make their visit into a vacation by showing them the sights of your city.  You can get free brochures about things to see from your town's tourist or visitor's center and put them in hospitality bags for your guests so that they can explore the sights in their free time.  Alternatively, you could arrange a tour of the city for your guests.  I recently had one bride who incorporated a trolley tour of Chicago into her wedding day activities!  After the ceremony, the bride and groom made their grand exit onto the trolley and traveled around the city with their guests before returning to their venue for the reception.  The added bonus of treating their guests to a tour was that they got some unique wedding photos, as you can see from some of the great shots by Dave Price Photography and Video.

No vacation is complete without souvenirs, so give your guests wedding favors with a connection to the city.  For a Chicago wedding, for example, you could give bags of Garrett Popcorn or Frango mints.  Make your wedding weekend into a vacation for your guests, and they are sure to have a blast.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Flower Girls, Ring Bearers, and Meltdowns... Oh My!

A tiny ring bearer in a mini-tux and petite flower girls with poofy dresses are such a cute sight at a wedding.  But before you plan for the young'uns to walk down the aisle, consider their ages and what is likely to happen when they are confronted with a room full of strangers watching them.

Flower girls and ring bearers should typically be between the ages of three and seven. At this age, they are usually able to follow directions, understand what they will be doing, and even enjoy the attention.  It can be tempting to dress up your best friend's one year old and put her in the wedding, but kids younger than three are much more unpredictable.  I have seen baby flower girls run up the aisle with glee at the rehearsal and then erupt into tears and screaming when prompted to walk down the aisle on wedding day.  I've had baby ring bearers that are known as happy go lucky kids, refuse to walk down the aisle and then run the other way.  Your best bet is to stick to the age guidelines and choose children no younger than three to participate in the wedding.  But if you just can't resist showcasing that adorable bundle of joy, here are some tips to prevent kid meltdowns.

Bring a Buggy ~ For babies and young toddlers, instead of having them walk down the aisle, consider rolling them down the aisle! You can decorate (or have your florist decorate) a wagon or stroller with flowers and ribbons to fit in beautifully with the ceremony decor.  An older child can pull the wagon down the aisle, eliminating the worry that the youngest kids will refuse to walk or will run the wrong way!

Use the Buddy System ~ Don't expect a one-year old to walk down the aisle alone.  Even the most energetic, cheerful kids can get scared and confused when faced with a long aisle lined with strange faces. Give young children a buddy!  The buddy will be another flower girl or ring bearer that is slightly older and someone the young child already knows. The buddy can help the young child get down the aisle and hold his or her hand if necessary.

Utilize the Power of Parents ~ There is no one a child trusts more than her own parents.  Tantrums and meltdowns seem to occur most often when the child is left alone.  If a young flower girl or ring bearer's parent is in the wedding party, consider having the child walk the aisle with the parent.  If the parents are not in the wedding party, then one of the parents can wait with the child in the lineup for the processional and be there to help prompt the child when to walk.  In case of a temper tantrum, that parent is then on hand to carry the child down the aisle (and back out the door if necessary).

Walk and Be Seated ~ You want to make the experience as easy, fun, and comfortable as possible for children participants.  Avoid making young children stand up at the altar with the wedding party for the entire ceremony.  They are likely to get tired, restless, and even cranky.  Once a flower girl or ring bearer walks down the aisle, it is usually best if they go sit in the audience with a parent or family member.

Remember the Rings ~ If you have a tiny little ring bearer, it is not his job to remember the rings.  The best man should hang on to the rings until it is time to lineup for the ceremony.  At that time, the rings should be tied on to the ring bearer's cushion.  However, tiny tots are known for their tantrums.  That ring cushion could get thrown, tossed, trampled, or misplaced.  The safest option when dealing with young ring bearers is to use fake rings on the cushion while the best man and maid of honor carry the real rings.

Be realistic when incorporating kids into your ceremony.  Considering the comfort and abilities of your youngest wedding participants in advance will help curb any meltdowns and disturbances during your Big Day.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wedding Programs: why have them, what to include, and where to put them

Wedding Programs are becoming increasingly popular at today's weddings.  Programs are certainly not a wedding necessity, but they add a nice touch.  They inform the guests of what to expect throughout the day and also serve as a keepsake.  You can have program attendants or ushers hand out the programs to your guests.  Alternatively, you can simply place the programs in decorative baskets for guests to pick up as they enter the ceremony.  Here are some examples and ideas of what to include in your wedding programs.

When and Where ~ The front of the program typically has the names of the bride and groom, the date, time, and location of the wedding.

Participants ~ On the inside of the program, recognize all of the participants in your wedding.  List parents, grandparents, everyone in the wedding party, guestbook/program attendants, readers, and the officiant.

Ceremony & Traditions ~ It is also common to provide the order of the ceremony within the program.  I recommend including explanations of any religious or ethnic customs that you'll be performing.  Your guests may be unfamiliar with the traditions and will feel more connected if they understand what is going on during the ceremony.  For example, at a Jewish wedding, you could include a short paragraph about the symbolism of having the ceremony under the chuppah and breaking the glass.

Memoriam ~ If there are deceased family members whom you would like to recognize, acknowledge them within the program with some thoughtful words.

Special Instructions ~ Provide any information your guests may need to know about the wedding day in the program.  For example, if they will be blowing bubbles as the newlyweds walk back down the aisle at the end of the ceremony, put a note in the program.  Or, if it's not intuitive where the guests will go next after the ceremony, let them know in the program.

Poems, Songs, & Writings ~ Some programs include a poem or other writing that is special to the couple. 

Message from the Bride & Groom ~ Give your program a personal touch by including a message to your guests from the bride and groom.  Thanking your friends and family for sharing in your big day will make them feel welcome and show them how much you appreciate them.

Photo by Caroline Eller LLC

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quick Tip: Guests with Gifts

While it's exciting to see a gift table at a wedding laden with large wrapped boxes for the newlyweds, it can be a problem when guests bring their gifts to the wedding.  Why?  After the wedding, it's usually the parents who are left struggling to fit cumbersome boxes into their cars to take them home for the bride and groom.  The proper etiquette is for guests to send wedding gifts to the couple before the wedding or not long after the wedding.  Since most registries are now online, it should be no problem to order the gift and have it sent directly from the store.  And when the store ships the gift directly, you are not responsible for packing it up, which means if the gift breaks in transit, the store will likely replace it.  Be a savvy guest and remember it's not just about giving a gift but when you give it. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Timing is Everything!

As you approach your big day, it is helpful to create a timeline of events for wedding day.  Your vendors will likely ask for your timeline, especially if you have a band or DJ serving as the emcee for the reception.  If you have a wedding coordinator, she can help you create your wedding day timeline and will be there on wedding day to make sure everything stays on schedule.  Basically, you'll want to lay out all the little mini-events of the day on a schedule, starting with what time your hair and makeup will start and ending with what time you'll make your grand exit from the reception.  You'll include everything from when photos begin, to what time you'll do your first dance, to when you'll cut the cake and toss your bouquet.  To get you started, here are some general timing guidelines.
  • Try to get some formal photos done before the ceremony.  Even if the groom won't see the bride before the wedding, the photographer can go ahead and take individual shots of the bride and groom, shots of the bride with her bridesmaids, the groom with his groomsmen, the bride with her family and the groom with his family.  Then, after the ceremony, you'll have less formal shots to get through as your guests await.
  • Ceremonies usually last about 30 to 40 minutes.  If you're having a full mass for a Catholic or a Greek Orthodox wedding, leave about one hour for the ceremony.
  • Following the ceremony, consider having a cocktail hour.  The cocktail hour gives your guests something to do while you finish taking photos. At Jewish weddings, you'll also use a portion of this time for the yichud, where the bride and groom will spend 8 to 15 minutes alone with each other after the ceremony.
  • Don't forget to factor in a few minutes to bustle your gown!
  • The timing for the reception can vary. The typical reception length for dinner and dancing is about four hours. Consider switching around the usual order of events.  Instead of waiting until after dinner for your first dance, you could go right into your first dance as you make your grand entrance into the reception.  Want to leave more time for dancing the night away? You can save time by doing the toasts at the rehearsal dinner instead of the wedding reception. The cake cutting can be done immediately after dinner and served as dessert or it can wait until about an hour before the end of the reception.  Any special dances, such as the father/daughter dance or mother/son dance typically happen after dinner to open up the dance floor to the guests.  The bouquet toss and garter toss should occur after the cake cutting, not long before the bride and groom are ready to depart.  The bouquet toss can even be done as the bride and groom are making their grand exit.
Making a wedding day timeline will help to ensure there is smooth sailing on your Big Day!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sometimes Less is More When it Comes to Decor

I handled the day-of-coordination for a beautiful wedding at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago that was the perfect example of how sometimes less really is more.  Because the hotel's architecture and decor is so ornate, there was no need for tons of fancy floral arrangements.  The bride chose elegant tall and low centerpieces made of white hydrangea by Ashland Addison Florist, and their simplicity allowed the venue to shine.  As you can see from these gorgeous photos by Wedding Creativo, the white centerpieces blend nicely with the golds and blacks of the venue.

Part of the point in picking a historic venue, like the Knickerbocker Hotel, is to highlight its unique features.  If there is too much going on with wedding decorations, the venue's magnificence can get lost, and your guests' heads will be spinning.  This wedding truly illustrates that if you have a unique or lavish venue, you can go with simpler flowers and decorations so that your wedding decor complements the surroundings.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quick Tip: Say What? Mic your ceremony!

It's summer time and outdoor ceremonies abound.  With the beautiful outdoors comes not only birds chirping but also wind, traffic noise, and plain old wide open spaces, all of which can make it difficult for guests to hear during an outside ceremony.  To ensure that guests are not straining to hear your heartwarming vows, set up a microphone for the ceremony.  There are several options: a wireless lavalier mic worn by the officiant or groom, a mic on a mic stand, or a handheld mic.  If your venue does not have the proper equipment available, DJs and sound companies often offer mic setup for wedding ceremonies.  Your guests are excited to share in your Big Day, so be sure that they can hear every moment!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Quick Tip: Tipping Wedding Vendors

It can be frustrating for brides to discover that after shelling out big bucks to put on the wedding of their dreams, they then have to consider an additional expense -- whether to tip their vendors!  There are a lot of different opinions out there on proper tipping etiquette.  While tipping wedding vendors gradually seems to be becoming customary, I believe that tipping should be reserved to reward excellent service and show appreciation for a job well done.  Here is my quick guide to tipping:

Makeup/Hairstylist: Expected, About 15-20% (same as regular appointment)
Photographers: Optional, $20-50 per photog
Catering Staff & Bartenders: Check your contract, gratuity is usually already included in the price
DJ: Optional, about $25-100 or 5-20% of cost
Reception Band: Optional, about $10-25 per band member given in a lump sum to the band leader
Ceremony Musicians: Optional, $15-30 per person
Florist deliverers/setup people: Optional, $5-20 each, depending on difficulty of setup
Wedding Coordinator: Optional, $25-100

The best way to tip is to put the money in a sealed envelope and give the envelope to each vendor at the end of the wedding reception or right before that vendor leaves.  Traditionally, the best man hands out tips, but today, your wedding coordinator can handle the task for you.

If it's simply not in your budget to tip, most vendors will appreciate a heartfelt thank you note.  Wedding vendors often build their business by word of mouth, so sometimes the best thank you that vendors can get is for you to simply refer your friends and family to them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What's a DOC?

Since I'm a wedding planner, you may be surprised to hear that I think you should plan your own wedding!  Planning your wedding is part of the engagement experience.  A wedding planner can certainly be a big help but is not necessary.  I believe the bride should be involved and enjoy the planning process.  However, no bride should go without a DOC -- a Day Of Coordinator.

A DOC is a wedding coordinator that you hire to manage the event on wedding day.  She is the go-to gal for all of the vendors and the bridal party so that the bride and groom are not bombarded with questions or problems that arise.

A DOC will usually start working with a couple a few months before the wedding.   She will go over the details of the wedding with you, discuss the layout of the venue, help create a timeline for wedding day, and confirm with all of your vendors the week of the wedding.  The DOC will also typically direct the wedding rehearsal so that everyone knows what to expect on wedding day.

While its tempting to have a friend or family member serve as a makeshift DOC, just keep in mind that the person you choose may not be able to fully enjoy the wedding as a guest.  Plus, the friend or family member may not know how to handle the issues that arise.

There is a lot for a DOC to do on wedding day!  A good DOC will know all of the details for your wedding so she can answer questions from vendors and the bridal party.  She will help the bride and bridesmaids get dressed, will setup any ceremony items or reception items to be used at the appropriate time (e.g. programs, wine, unity candles, guestbook, favors, etc.), and will hand out vendor payments.  One of her main jobs is to manage the timeline of the day and keep everything running on schedule.  The DOC will cue when it's time to start the ceremony, when it's time for the first dance, cake cutting, bouquet toss, etc.  And of course, the DOC is there to handle any emergencies.  At the end of the festivities, the DOC will help pack up what needs to make it home with the bride, such as the guestbook, gifts, top tier of the cake, etc. 

As an example of how a DOC comes in handy, I had a bride whose wedding was at a fancy hotel.  The hotel's site coordinator had not yet arrived, and the hotel staff was left to set up the ceremony site based on a written work order (a situation that is very common with hotel weddings).  But the work order was wrong!  As a result, the setup was wrong and the staff had a lot of questions about what to do.  As the DOC, I was able to step in to get the setup back on track.

Your venue may tout that they offer the services of a coordinator that can act as your DOC.  Be sure to ask lots of questions about the role of the venue's coordinator.  What time does the coordinator arrive at the venue on wedding day?  What types of tasks does she handle?  Is she on hand for the bride and groom before, during, and after the wedding?  Sometimes the venue's so-called DOC is actually the site's catering manager or event manager.  If that's the case, she may be back in the kitchen dealing with her own staff and may not be on hand for your needs.  Asking lots of questions in advance will help you determine whether to consider hiring an independent DOC as well. 

On wedding day, I deal with the smallest of requests:  finding an extension cord so the hairstylist can plug in the curling iron, providing safety pins, fetching water for a parched bride, adjusting the room temperature.  A DOC will be on hand, ready for anything that comes up.  Let a DOC sweat the small stuff so that you can relax and enjoy your big day!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Feeding your Vendors

To feed or not to feed, that is the question.  I often get asked whether or not it is necessary to provide meals for your vendors at your wedding.  First, check the contract for each vendor.  Some vendors require that a meal be provided.  If it's not in the contract, I would say that the rule of thumb is to feed the vendors that have been there throughout the wedding day.  Typically, the photographer, DJ/Band, videographer, and wedding planner would make the cut.  Think of it this way:  the happier your vendors are, the better job they will do!  But in all seriousness, some vendors will be at the venue for 8 to 12 hours straight, working hard to make your day perfect.  It is simply a nice gesture and good etiquette to provide a meal for them. 

You certainly do not need to give your vendors the fancy meal that you are serving to your guests.  Your caterer or venue should be able to offer something cheap, simple and quick for your vendors.  Even sandwiches are appropriate as a vendor meal.  Once you've discussed with your caterer or venue what type of meal to provide to the vendors, it doesn't hurt to call each vendor.  Tell the vendors that you were planning to provide a meal for them and ask if they plan to eat on the wedding day.  Some vendors prefer not to eat on the job and will decline the offer. But they will certainly appreciate that you thought of them!

Once you figure out what food you'll be providing and which vendors will be eating, think about where you want the vendors to eat.  Some venues may have a small separate room available where the vendors can eat.  The vendors usually eat while the guests are eating, so there isn't much action going on that would need their attention.  However, you may prefer to have a small table set up in the reception room for your vendors so that they are still on hand should anything exciting happen. 

I love answering the questions of my bridal clients! Do you have wedding-related questions or dilemmas? Post them in the comments section of this blog, and I'll do my best to answer them in future blog posts!  Happy Planning!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Quick Tip: Escort Cards vs. Place Cards

When I ask my brides about their plans for their escort cards, I almost always get a puzzled look. "You mean place cards?" they ask.  Most brides seem generally unfamiliar with the term "escort cards" and just use the term "place cards" as a catchall for all seating designations.  While escort cards and place cards are related,  they actually serve entirely different purposes.  Here is the difference so you can sound like a planning pro:

Escort cards are used to designate which table each guest will be seated at.  All of the escort cards are usually set up together right outside the reception room so that guests can easily find their tables as they enter the reception.  Written on the card will be the guests' names and their table numbers.  Couples should be on the same escort card.  For example, a card might read: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, Table 4.

Place cards are used in conjunction with escort cards.  Once guests have found their assigned tables, place cards are used to designate where at the table each guest should sit.  Though certainly not necessary, place cards are handy if you want to ensure that certain people sit next to each other or if you need to indicate to the waitstaff who should receive certain meals.  When they are used, there will be a place card at each place setting, showing who should sit there.  Each individual guest will have a separate place card.  For example, the place card will simply read: Mrs. Jane Smith.

Using the proper terminology, you'll certainly impress your vendors, showing them you are a bride who knows her stuff!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Booking a Band

A friend of mine once said to me, "I feel like I've been to my own wedding five times!"  In my hometown, the Jewish community was small, and as families went through the wedding planning process, they would pass along their vendor recommendations to their friends.  The result? A lot of weddings at the same venues with the same food and the same bands.  When it was my turn to plan my wedding, I was determined to be different.  And one of the biggest challenges was finding a band that was reliable and a party pleaser but had not been overly used in my community.

Of course, the easiest way to find a band is word of mouth.  Ask friends and family about their recommendations.  But if you want your wedding to stand out from the crowd, one way to do so is through the music, and you'll have to veer from the recommendations.

To begin your search, you can check out Gigmasters.  This is a great web site that allows you to search for all kinds of different bands that perform in your area.  There are reviews posted for some of the bands, and if you find some that seem to meet your needs, then you can go to their web sites where there will often be video clips posted of the bands' work.  When considering a band that you find on your own, always ask to see some video clips or a demo CD.  While the sound of the music itself is important, you should also see the kind of atmosphere that the band creates.

Another way to find a band is to ask your venue about bands that have performed there.  The site coordinator for your venue will probably know several bands from past events, or the venue may even have a person that specializes in finding music for parties.  Also, a good wedding planner will maintain lists of great bands for you to choose from.

Some bands may have booking agents.  If you find the band through a booking agent's web site, I recommend trying to find the contact information for the band itself and communicating directly to the band.  Booking agents are middlemen, and I have found that dealing with them makes booking a band a much lengthier process.  From my experience, they often don't know the answers to your questions and then have to contact the band every time you have a question. 

Once you decide on a band, read the contract carefully before booking.  You'll want to inquire about the band's policy on learning new songs.  They will likely only learn one to three new songs.  Ask to see their current song list, and ask if the band will follow a "do not play" list.  Be sure you know how many breaks the band takes during the reception and the electrical requirements for their equipment.  You may also want to ask if they will play recorded music that you have assembled during the break.  If you have a lot of special songs that you'd like played at the wedding, but the band will not learn them all, using customized recorded music during the band's break is a great way to fit in all the music that is meaningful to you.

Booking the band is a big decision, but before you know it, you'll be dancing the night away on your big day!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Picture Perfect

When selecting a photographer, think ahead.  Your relationship with your photographer doesn't end after you've cut the cake and jetted off to your honeymoon.  Most likely your photog will be responsible for sending your proofs, ordering your prints, and creating your albums.  Don't be left still waiting for your digital images a year after your big day.  Ask lost of questions to potential photogs, so you know what to expect throughout the process. Here is a list to get you started:
  • (For large companies) Will I get to choose the photographer that shoots the wedding?
  • (For large companies) Will I get to meet with the photographer before the wedding?
  • Will the photographer have an assistant that takes photos also?
  • What packages do you offer?
  • Do you take only a specific number of photos?
  • Do you stay only a specific number of hours or until the end of the reception?
  • What is the overtime charge if the wedding is not over before the time contracted for?
  • Do you check with me before going into overtime or leaving the wedding?
  • Do you have a backup photographer in case of illness or an emergency?
  • Do you bring backup equipment with you?
  • What is your photography style? Photojournalistic? Artistic? Traditional Posed? Combo?
  • Will you follow a list of desired shots?
  • How long after the wedding until we get to view the proofs?
  • Do I get the copyright ownership to the photos?
  • How long after the wedding until we get all of the negatives/digital images?
  • What type of albums do you use?
  • How many pages in the standard album?
  • How much does it cost for extra pages?
  • When can we expect to receive the albums?
  • How will I receive the proofs? The albums? The digital CD? (mail? Pickup? Online?)
  • Do you do any retouching to the photos?
  • Who creates the album?
  • Do I get to choose which photos will be included in the album?
  • Do I get to approve the layout for the album and make changes before it’s printed?
  • Do you release the albums to us even if others (such as the bridal party) have not paid for their orders?
Once you've chosen your photog, don't be afraid to give direction and be specific.  If there are certain locations around the venue where you want photos taken, tell the photog. If there are certain shots you want taken, give the photog a list. Don't assume that the photog will remember preferences you talked about in your initial meeting.  Whether details about your album or shots you want taken on wedding day, be sure to reiterate them to your photographer at the appropriate time. The more specific you are with what you want, the more likely you are to be satisfied when you get back your proofs.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Preparing to Find the One

You've already found the love of your life.  Your next big mission will be to find The Dress.  You'll want to leave plenty of time for your search. Keep in mind that most wedding gown shops only keep samples of dresses, so when you find The One, you'll have to place an order.  Even the dress manufacturer doesn't keep every dress size in stock.  It's most cost-effective for manufacturers to cut the fabric for many orders all at once, which means it could take up to four months just to get your dress in after you've ordered it.  And remember, once the dress arrives, there's still more to do!  You'll most likely need some alterations, so plan on about three dress fittings. With such a lengthy process, it's a good idea to start your hunt for the perfect dress at least six to eight months before the Big Day.

Before setting up appointments, do your homework!  You'll need to know if your venue or officiant have any restrictions regarding what you can wear.  For example, some churches and synagogues may require that your shoulders be covered during the ceremony.  Need inspiration?  You may have noticed that most bridal magazines consist primarily of advertisements for dresses.  Browsing through these magazines can give you a sense of the styles you like.  If you see styles or even a particular dress that you're attracted to, go to the designer's web site.  Designers often put photos of their entire collections on their web sites.  From there, you can search for the stores in your area that carry those dresses.  Then, call those stores to inquire whether they carry the specific dress you're looking for.

Be prepared for your appointments.  Bring any pictures of dresses that you like to the bridal shop.  Some shops allow customers to browse through all of the dresses in stock on their own.  Others will ask the style of dresses that you like and your budget, and consultants will use their own judgment to pull dresses for you to try on. If a consultant is pulling dresses for you, be careful!  There are gorgeous, unique dresses for $1,000 to 3,000.  If a consultant is only pulling dresses that are the top of your price range, ask to also see dresses that match your style in a lower price range.  If you want to play it safe, you can start out by lowballing your budget.   And don't forget when determining your dress budget to factor in the cost of alterations, which can range from $100 to $500.

Be open-minded and try on a variety of styles.  Even if you're set on finding a slinky satin sheath, try on at least one ball gown and A-line gown.  A dress that you thought wasn't your style, may end up being the one dress that makes you feel like a beautiful bride.

Also, be forewarned that a lot of bridal salons have a "no photos" policy.  Believe me, I know how frustrating this is!  When I was planning my own wedding, I lived in a different state from my mom and had to do some of my dress shopping on my own.  But of course, the one opinion that I really wanted on my dress was my mom's! I admit that I snuck a few photos of potential dresses to send to her.  I say, when in doubt whether a store has the "no photo" policy, shoot first and ask questions later!  But if you can't take a photo of the dress, just take note of the designer and the name of the dress, and you can track down a photo of the dress on the Internet.  

Once you've decided on The Dress, start asking questions.  You'll want to know how long it takes to get the dress in after it's ordered.  Ask if the shop does alterations on site.  Ask how much the alterations will cost and how long the alterations typically take.

You may want to go ahead and look at the shop's selection of veils.  Be aware that even veils can take about two to three months to come in, as they are sometimes cut to your specified length.

Once you've settled on The Dress, stop your search!  You don't want to end up second guessing yourself as you see other possibilities.  To avoid this, simply don't commit to a dress until you've exhausted your search and are sure that you have finally found The One.  You may end up going back to that first dress that you tried on, but you'll know that you've made the right decision.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Finding a Rabbi When You're Not a Member of a Synagogue

If you're having a traditional Jewish wedding, you'll need a Rabbi to perform the ceremony.  Finding a Rabbi can be a challenge when you don't already belong to a synagogue.

First you'll want to become familiar with the synagogues in your area in order to identify Rabbis that might be available. Local Jewish organizations will likely have lists of all the synagogues in the area.  For example, in Chicago, the Jewish United Fund's Guide To Jewish Living lists all the synagogues categorized by denomination.  Keep in mind, that if you are having an interfaith wedding, you will likely be limited to Reform Rabbis.

Start contacting synagogues and ask what the rabbi's policy is regarding performing ceremonies for non-members.  There are a variety of possibilities.  Some Rabbis will not perform weddings for non-members.  Others will simply ask for a donation to the synagogue.  And others might require that you pay the membership fee, effectively making you a member for a year.  If the synagogue requires you to pay the membership fee, ask if they offer discounted membership fees for young couples. 

Once you find potential Rabbis, set up appointments with them all to see if you are a good fit for them.  You'll want to inquire about any requirements or restrictions that the Rabbi has for the ceremony, what he or she typically includes in the ceremony, if you can customize the ceremony, how far he or she will travel, and whether you'll have the traditional Jewish marriage counseling leading up to the wedding. Every Rabbi is different, so meeting with them ahead of time will help you find the perfect match for the wedding that you envision.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Picking a Wedding Venue

Where to have the wedding is one of the first decisions to be made after getting engaged.  When I was getting married, my now-husband and I thought we'd wait a little bit before starting to plan the wedding so that we could enjoy our engagement.  But we soon realized the ugly truth about planning a wedding -- venues start booking up to a year in advance!  So if you want to make sure you have your choice of wedding dates at any particular venue, you should start thinking about your wedding venue asap.

First, ask yourself what type of ceremony you'd like to have. Have you always dreamed of a traditional religious wedding in a synagogue? Or do you envision yourself getting married outside in the open air? Today, couples can choose from a variety of different unique wedding locales: parks, historic mansions, hotel ballrooms, bed & breakfasts, golf resorts, museums, and more.

If you are planning on an outdoor ceremony, make sure the venue has a backup plan in case of rain.  Is there an indoor room that can be used on a moment's notice if the weather isn't cooperating on the big day? Having that Plan B is essential!

Next, think about your reception.  Do you want your ceremony and reception to happen at the same location?  If so, does the venue have separate rooms for the ceremony and reception or will they have to turn over the same room during a cocktail hour? It's more and more popular to keep all the events in one place so that guests don't have to struggle to find their way around an unfamiliar city.  Many synagogues now have reception facilities so that there is no need to travel to a separate reception venue. 

Think about your guest list. What is the maximum number of people that could show up at your wedding? Once you get a general idea of that number, you'll be able to narrow down venues to those that can accommodate the size of your wedding.

You'll want to check whether the venue hosts more than one wedding or event on the same day.  If so, inquire where the paths of the two weddings could cross within the space.  How will the events be separated? Is there potential for music or noise from the other event to invade your festivities?

Nowadays, part of the wedding experience is getting ready with your bridesmaids before the ceremony.  If you plan on getting dressed at the venue before the ceremony, you'll need to find a place that has extra rooms available to serve as a bridal suite and a groom's room.  Hotels will usually include in their packages smaller rooms where the bridal party can gather before the ceremony and get ready together.

Make sure you get a sense of the true cost of the venue.  A historic mansion or museum may have a cheaper rental fee, but they may not provide tables, chairs, linens, and place settings.  Renting these necessities from an outside vendor or caterer adds an extra cost that is usually included in hotel weddings.

Who do you want to do the cooking?  Do you have a specific caterer in mind or do you want to have food taken care of by the venue?  Hotels usually provide the food for the event, whereas you'll have to hire a caterer for other venues. Are you able to customize the menu, and can you do a tasting? Also, ask whether the venue allows you to bring your own alcohol, which is often cheaper than what a caterer or hotel will provide.

Check whether the venue has a list of required or preferred vendors.  Some venues may require you to choose from a list of certain florists, caterers, or other vendors.  If you have a particular vendor in mind that is not on the list, you may have to clear it with the venue. 

Does the venue have time restrictions? Often museums won't allow you to get into the space until it closes to the public for the day. Some venues may require that the wedding be over and cleaned up by a specific time.  Make sure you know what time the venue allows the vendors to get into the space to start setting up, and whether there are any overtime charges if your guests keep partying the night away.

For ideas of venue possibilities, look in your local wedding magazines at pictures of real weddings. Also, consider hiring a wedding planner.  A wedding planner will be able to point you to possible wedding venues that fit your needs.  Once you have some potential venues picked out, you have to do some leg work! Make appointments with the site coordinators at the venues to view their facilities.  At your appointments, take pictures! Pictures will help you remember the details of each locale when making your final decision. 

Once you have booked your wedding venue, you are well on your way to planning your perfect wedding!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tips for Planning A Quickie Wedding

When talking about a quickie wedding, I don't mean eloping to Vegas.  In the wedding industry, a quickie wedding can mean leaving four months or less to plan the big day.  How long does it typically take to plan a wedding?  Ideally, there will be close to a full year of planning.  There are several reasons the planning process can be so lengthy. 

First, some venues get booked up a year in advance.  So, if you want your choice of venues for your prospective wedding date, then you have to start looking early. Also, if you're getting your wedding gown at a traditional wedding dress boutique, it can take four months just for your dress to come in after it is ordered, and then it will likely need alterations. And if you've dreamed of having the most prestigious wedding vendors do your flowers or bake your cake, again you're going to have to move quickly and book them up to a year ahead.

But not to worry.  If you just can't wait to say those vows, you can absolutely plan an amazing wedding in less than four months.  Here's how to do it....

Vary the Venue.  First you've got to find your venue.  Nowadays, weddings take place in so many different locales, and that's part of what makes them interesting.  Be open-minded. Consider hotels, synagogues, gardens, art galleries, museums, yachts, historic mansions, restaurants or even your own backyard. Especially for big city dwellers, there are so many different wedding venues that you're bound to find places with availability.  If you're having trouble, go off the beaten path and look at venues in surrounding towns and suburbs.

Find an Officiant.  Jewish law actually does not require a person to be ordained in order to officiate at a wedding.  BUT states do require an ordained officiant to sign the marriage license in order for the marriage to be legal.  Can't find a rabbi to officiate in your city on short notice? In some states, cantors can also serve as wedding officiants.  Rabbis or Cantors in neighboring cities may be willing to drive even a few hours to officiate, so expand your search.  You can also look online for "wedding celebrants" in your area, which are essentially freelance wedding officiants that are often unaffiliated with any religion.  If you aren't looking to have a traditional Jewish ceremony, ask a friend or family member to officiate.  Anyone can become ordained through the Universal Life Church. Despite being called a church, the Universal Life Church is not affiliated with any particular religion.  Its main tenent is simply to do what is right without infringing on the rights of others, and it advocates freedom of religion. It only takes a few days to become ordained online and couples then have the opportunity for someone close to them to create a special ceremony.  No matter who you choose as your officiant, be sure to make sure that person complies with your particular state's laws!

Searching for The One. You already found your groom, now you need the dress!  While it typically takes months for a wedding gown to arrive and be altered through a traditional wedding boutique, retailers like J. Crew, Ann Taylor, and White House Black Market have bridal lines. You can order online and have your dress within a couple of weeks! If you're really in a bind, some wedding dress boutiques will sell you their samples off the rack. You can also look online for sample sales in your area when stores are clearing out their sample inventory. 

Dealing with the Details.  You'll need a cake baker, florist, photographer, and DJ or band. Be willing to stray from the most renowned vendors, who are likely to already be booked up.  If you're under a time crunch, you may want to seek the help of a wedding planner. A wedding planner will already have lists of vendors at her disposal, and will save you the time of having to search for the possibilities. Also keep in mind that some of the biggest trends right now require little advance planning.  For example, any bakery should be able to provide cupcakes for the very popular cupcake tower with just a little advance notice.  And if your favorite band is booked, many couples are skipping the band altogether and opting to create their own wedding setlists using an Ipod and speakers. 

With a little creativity, you can plan that wedding and be on your way to a relaxing honeymoon in no time!