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!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why Sunday?

Jewish weddings are often held on Sunday evenings.  Wedding guests might wonder: "Why Sunday?  Don't they know we have work tomorrow?"

What you may not know is that choosing a date for a Jewish wedding can require the strategy of a five star general.  Jewish law prohibits weddings on certain dates.  One of the most basic rules is that weddings may not be held on the Sabbath.  The Jewish Sabbath runs from sundown on Friday evening to sundown on Saturday evening.  In the spring and summer, the sun lingers in the sky for quite a while, which doesn't leave much time for a Saturday evening wedding.  So Sunday is often the next best choice for a full length wedding celebration.

But the restrictions don't end there.  Jewish weddings may not be held on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, Shavuot, and the day before each of these holidays.  After Passover, weddings generally may not be held during the Omer period, from Nissan 23 to Sivan 2, meaning much of April and May is off limits.

Jewish weddings also should not be held from the 17th of Tammuz through the 9th of Av on the Jewish calendar.  These dates correlate to about three weeks in June and July.

While picking a Jewish wedding date may seem like a challenge, the good news is that the choices are narrowed down.  Check out Chabad for more specifics on choosing a date for your Jewish wedding.  And it's always a good idea to talk to your rabbi before committing to a specific date.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Wedding Day Roles to Honor Your Loved Ones

Mazel Tov! You’re engaged and now it’s time to pick your wedding party. Choosing your wedding party often presents the challenge of honoring those close to you without offending other friends and family that may be left out. Once you’ve selected your bridesmaids and groomsmen, you may realize that there are people who you would like to include but you just don’t know how to fit them into the wedding. No need to stress. The Jewish wedding provides a variety of wedding roles so that you can include all of the special people in your life.

Expand the Party: Don’t feel constrained by traditional notions that there should be one usher for every 50 guests or there should be an equal number of bridesmaids and groomsmen. These are merely guidelines. One of my favorite wedding moments was when I saw a groomsman wink because he had two bridesmaids on his arm as the wedding party walked back down the aisle at the end of the ceremony. The audience laughed and loved it, and that small but memorable moment only happened because there was an uneven number in the wedding party. So consider simply expanding your wedding party without worrying about the proper numbers.

Get with the Program: If your wedding party is at maximum capacity, you can include more people in your wedding day as program attendants and guestbook attendants. Program attendants hand out programs as guests enter the ceremony. Guestbook attendants greet guests and encourage everyone to sign the guestbook. Both are excellent jobs for your gregarious friends or family members.

Show us the Way: If there are married couples that you are close to, you can include them in the processional as unterfirers. The unterfirers are two married couples who escort the bride and groom to the Chuppah. In the processional, an unterfirer couple comes after the maid of honor and before the bride with her parents and after the best man but before the groom with his parents. Traditionally, each unterfirer carries a lit candle. Having unterfirers in your wedding is a wonderful way to show your admiration for their marriage.

Witness This: Before a Jewish wedding ceremony, the couple will sign a Jewish marriage contract called the Ketubah. While the content of the Ketubah has changed over the years, Jewish law still requires that two witnesses sign the document. For the Ketubah to be recognized in Israel, the witnesses must be Jewish males that are not related to the bride and groom. However, conservative and reform rabbis may allow women and relatives to sign. Serving as a witness and signing a document that will hang in the home of the couple is a great honor to bestow upon a loved one on wedding day.

Raise your Voices: Today you can often customize your ceremony to reflect your personality and style. In addition to the ceremony’s traditional blessings and vows, ask a friend or family member to do a reading or perform a song that is meaningful to you. Those who aren’t in the wedding party can certainly share in the action at the pre-wedding dinner or wedding reception by giving a toast or blessing. These speaking roles are another way to show your friends and family how special they are to you.

Don’t let choosing your wedding party cause strained relationships with your loved ones. There are plenty of additional wedding roles so that those very important people in your life will feel included on your big day.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What's in a Name?

The name of this blog and the name of the Jewish Wedding division of my business has special meaning.  Bashert or Beshert is a Yiddish word meaning "destiny" or "meant to be." It is used in reference to a soulmate or perfect match. 

The Jewish concept is that before a child is born, G-d has already made his or her match.  And later in life, we go in search of our bashert or intended spouse. I saw one blogger who put it nicely:  Whether next door or on the other side of the world, "Divine Providence will lead every person to find his or her bashert." My grandmother also used to touch on the idea of a bashert saying, "There is a lid for every pot."

I love the idea that my husband and I were destined to be together.  Indeed, there must have been someone up there bringing a girl from Alabama and boy from San Francisco together.  In tribute to this idea that fate brought us together, my wedding ring is engraved with the word "Beshert" and my husband's says "meant to be." 

For those of you planning your weddings, mazel tov on finding your own bashert! I hope this blog can help you to plan your perfect day!


I'm so excited to start this wedding blog! I'll be posting on at least a weekly basis giving you tips, ideas, and advice about planning your wedding.  Some posts may give general wedding planning info, but the blog will focus on putting together a beautiful Jewish ceremony and reception. I love feedback, so feel free to post your comments and send me your wedding planning questions. Let's get planning!