Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Having a Holiday Wedding? A few things to think about: Logistics

Every wedding date has its advantages and disadvantages. May weddings are pretty, but always more expensive than January weddings, plus there's the May rains to contend with. You'll save 20-30% by marrying on Friday, but don't expect all your guests to show.
A holiday wedding can be fun, but think carefully about your reasons for choosing that date, or you may regret it.

  • Can you get what you want? The photographer, DJ, or florist you want may not want to work on New Years Eve, or may already have personal plans. Back when I only planned weddings part time, I turned away many New Years, Christmas, and Thanksgiving weddings to spend time with my family. Conversely, your favorite vendor may already be booked--the bride I'm working with this Valentines Day booked me in early 2007. Even with the early start, I had to work hard to get her a venue. All my standbys..Deejay's banquet hall, Longview, Brier Creek, etc, were all booked.
  • Can you afford it? Expect to pay up to 50% more to be married on on-demand days like New Years Eve, Valentines Day, or July 4th, both for the venue itself and for your vendors (DJ, florist, caterer, bartender, wedding planner :D)
  • Can your guests afford it? Your out-of-town guests will face higher air travel and hotel costs if you marry on Thanksgiving Weekend, for example.
  • Can your guests even make it? Time off on the holidays is highly sought-after. If you do choose to have a holiday wedding, don't wait until 6-8 weeks before the wedding to send out your invites. Make it 2-3 months, at least.
  • Do your guests want to make it? Your parents will come, but friends and acquaintances might want to spend Valentines day smooching their own spouse rather than watch you smooch yours.

Oh boy folks, looks like this is going to be a two-parter. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Cake Tips - How to decorate the cake table

Don't use your nicest table cloth for the cake table! When my parents married, my mother had the brilliant idea to use Great Grandma Ann's hand-made lace tablecloth for the cake table. Guess what happened. Needless to say, that heirloom is not in my family anymore.

Anything you put on the cake table will get cake all over it. The table still needs to look nice, since it will be in a lot of your pictures, but don't use something you're not willing to throw away to decorate it. I recommend renting a white table skirt to go around the edge of the table, and a throw-away square yard of nice fabric from Jo Ann's to cover the table top. The colored fabric top avoids that blah white-cake-on-a-white-table look, and you won't cry when you get frosting all over it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cake Wrecks & How To Avoid

I just found the funniest site. Cake Wrecks has oodles of real pictures of these horrible, horrible cakes--all professionally made--bad enough to ruin your wedding unless you have a really good sense of humor. And people wonder why many women turn into bridezillas?
I use a handful of good local bakers for all my weddings, so I've never had a cake turn out horribly. The only way to avoid a cake wreck is to use a good baker, period, end of story.
A couple of other things to keep in mind:
If you are having your wedding in a banquet room or a hotel, find out when your vendors are allowed to arrive. This can be from a couple hours to a couple days, and you won't know unless you ask. The Durham Sheraton Hotel Ballroom only allows an hour set-up time for you and your vendors--good luck getting those 300 chair bows tied!--while Deejay's banquet room in Raleigh lets you come in at 8 A.M. to set up. No matter where you book, if you get special permission from your site to show up early, be sure it's written on your contract.
Make sure the site has everything your baker needs. The site might have a fridge, but does it have a cake fridge? If the baker needs one (most don't, but some do) and your site doesn't have one, you're out of luck.
As with all vendors, make sure it's clear who is providing what. Don't expect your baker to show up with a cake table unless it's on your contract. Usually the cake table, table cloth, cake plates, and utensils are provided by the site (if it's an all-inclusive site) or the caterer. The caterer usually cuts the cake, too.

Monday, January 19, 2009

How to make your guests feel welcome

...I don't know, maybe have enough chairs for everybody?
Since I work Saturdays and get booked sometimes more than two years in advance, I don't get a chance to attend a lot of wedding as a guest. Of course I want to attend my friends' and family's weddings but what am I supposed to do, tell the bride who already gave me half down "sorry, I'm not coming"? This is why scientists need to get moving on this cloning technology already.
This Sunday, I attended a wedding for the daughter of one of the women in my quilting group. I was invited with only two weeks notice--meaning I was probably a "B List" guest invited just to fill in numbers--which is what makes this next part all the more bizarre.
This wedding was gorgeous. I did not have a hand in planning this wedding aside from helping the bride's mother choose invitations, plus giving some general advice about which caterers, florists, etc to use. I did not plan this wedding, but I know weddings and I know $5,000 worth of flowers when I see it. And that was just the ceremony site. The reception was held at an upscale country club. Even taking into account the discounts they would have received for having the wedding on a Sunday instead of a Saturday, this was easily a $30,000 affair from start to finish.
So why, of all things to skimp on, did they choose to only have ten chairs at the ceremony site (for close family and elderly guests) and only about 80 chairs at the reception for the 150+ person guest list? After standing in heels for the duration of the ceremony, I almost didn't show up the reception. When I got there, I found that the few chairs were already claimed, and those who claimed them didn't relinquish them for the entire evening. I left before the cake was cut just because my feet were killing me. I can't imagine why somebody would spend hundreds of dollars to give sugared almonds in little bags to everybody but not spring for chairs for all your guests. This isn't New York. Heavens, you can get folding chairs for a dollar around here. The whole thing made me feel unwelcome--like a party crasher.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chair Covers - A Quick List of Tips

Chair covers are my number one way to dress up a wedding. They're far from necessary, but then, neither are foil-embossed invitations but I don't think those are going away any time soon.
Chair covers, when done right, really add to the atmosphere of your ceremony or reception. Photographers always tell me they get better pictures when the venue has chair covers. When done wrong, you might as well have your guests sitting on milk crates. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for chair covers:
1. If at all possible, try to get the chair covers from the same rental company you get the chairs from. Nothing looks worse than an ill-fitting chair cover. Too big and it looks like a sack and drags all over the floor; too small and it rides up or worse, won't fit over the chair at all.
2. If you can't get the chair covers from the same place you get the chairs--for example, if you're trying to cover the ugly burgandy-colored chairs that came with your hotel ballroom--don't rely on measurements. You wouldn't buy a wedding dress you haven't tried on, would you? Bring the chair to the rental company and make sure their chair covers fit your chairs.
3. Nice white chair covers + outdoor wedding reception = bad news. Outdoor weddings are allowed to be a little more casual. Take advantage of that and skip the chair covers.
4. Go for polyester. Cotton is too stiff and satin is too slippery. Polyester is cheaper, and looks nicer than both. If you're in the Raleigh area, I like the ones at DeeJay's: Chair Covers. Plus, if you use them in their wedding hall, they will put the chair covers on and tie the bows for you, leading to my next point...
5. Consider the time it takes to put all those chair covers on, and tie hundreds of perfect bows. It takes three of my helpers a whole hour to put two hundred chair covers on and tie the bows.
6. Consider the cost. In my area, expect to spend at least $8 for nice chairs, chair covers, and chair sashes. In NY, LA, or Chicago? Twice that.
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