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.