Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Save Serious Money - Do you need a DJ for your wedding reception?

The most difficult weddings to plan aren't the $300 per head, no expense spared, all weekend long extravaganzas. While those do present interesting challenges, through the years I have found that the greatest challenge is planning a wedding on a budget.
The easiest way to keep costs down is to cut out the parts of your wedding you don't need. If you find yourself skimping on your invitations, your flowers, or anything else, ask yourself: do I need this at all?
If you want your wedding reception to be an all-night dance fest with lights, effects, and an emcee to keep the energy up, then yes, you need a DJ. And, if you don't spring for a good DJ, you will regret it because a terrible DJ will ruin your wedding. However, if all you want your DJ to do is make a couple of announcements and play songs you picked out, you don't need to hire a DJ at all. All you really need is a sound system, a microphone, an Ipod, and a "designated sound person".
Most basic jamboxes do not have a place to plug in a microphone, and in any case aren't powerful enough to fill a large room with sound. If you have a friend with a nice sound system, ask if you can borrow it for your wedding. If that isn't possible, rent a sound system. If you're in the Raleigh-Durham area, I like the ones at Deejays because they're easy to use and pretty inexpensive: you can rent a two-speaker sound system, with a microphone, for less than $200.
Make a wedding playlist on your IPod at least a week before the wedding, and have your designated sound person hook it up to the sound system at the appropriate time. Your designated sound person should also use the microphone to announce the important events (the big ones are your entrance, the father-daughter dance, the mother-son dance, your first dance as a couple, the cake cutting, and your departure), and pass the microphone to the Best Man, Maid of Honor, and others for toasts.
    Quick tips:
  • Make sure your IPod is fully charged for your big day!
  • Do a "test run" of the entire sound system at least a couple of days before your wedding. Make sure the IPod, speakers, and microphone all work together without popping or feedback. Make sure your designated sound person knows how to set it up.
  • Discuss the timing of the reception with the designated sound person, so they know when you want your important announcements to happen, and which songs you want played for your special dances.
  • Bridezilla tip: Your designated sound person is not your servant. Nobody should be pressured into lending out expensive sound equipment, or making announcements in public against their will. Ask a friend, a family member, bridesmaid, or an usher well in advance and don't throw a fit if they say no. This is not a job to spring on someone at the last minute. Remember that first and foremost, this is a guest at your wedding.
  • Make sure the designated sound person has your IPod before your reception. Give it to him / her the day before, just to be safe.
  • The designated sound person should: set up the sound system before the reception, plug in the IPod, make announcements at the appropriate times, and make sure the Best Man has the microphone for the toasts. Overall, this won't take more than 20 minutes of their time the day of, plus about 30 minutes of time before the wedding for planning.
  • Don't forget to write your designated sound person a thank you note after your wedding.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Are you having a DJ at your wedding?

If you already got married, just answer based on what you did at your wedding.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What's a bride to do in a recession?

I was hesitant to do a "recession-themed" post since it seems everybody else is doing enough talking about it. But after I had two of my brides try to cancel their weddings on me in the last 24 hours, I thought I'd share my perspective.
Think carefully before you cancel your whole wedding. I am not a financial advisor, and I have seen sad situations where it's better for the couple to cut their losses and lose deposits than spend even one more dime on the wedding (think "major medical emergency"), but in many cases an extreme money-saving measure can backfire. Read your contracts. You might get a few of your deposits back, but the "biggies" like your reception venue, your dress shop, and your caterer probably won't give you a refund, especially if it's late in the game. I don't give refunds and it says so right on my contract. Even if you cancel two months out, my helpers and I have still put hours of work into your wedding, and two months isn't always enough time to get another bride to fill your place.
What's a bride to do? Downsize. As long as you haven't mailed your invitations, you can cut that guest list and save big on catering costs. Many reception venues charge by the person so you will save there too--at Deejays banquet halls in Raleigh, cut your guest list from 300 to 100 and you'll save more than 50%. With fewer tables to decorate, you will also save on tablecloths, decorations, and flowers.
If you've downsized and you're still in trouble, downgrade. If you can't cancel, call your vendors and see if you can switch to a cheaper package. Most will oblige; I have found that as long as you don't cancel your wedding entirely, the majority of vendors will work with you if you give enough notice. Sit down with your caterer and discuss less-expensive menus; buy fewer prints from your photographer and skip the album; fewer and less-elaborate flower arrangements from your florist; a smaller and plainer cake from your baker, and so on. If you've already ordered your dress from a shop, you're out of luck, but if you're having your dress made, you may be able to simplify the design and save some money there.

How has the recession affected your wedding plans?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More Holiday Wedding Tips - The Hidden Holidays & The Etiquette of a Holiday Wedding

This is Part Three of my series on holiday weddings.

I thought I was being thorough in my holiday coverage, but Elegala has a whole list of minor holidays to avoid in 2009 and 2010, including Christian holidays that change every year (eg, Palm Sunday, Easter), Postal Holidays (MLK, Columbus Day), Mother's Day, Labor Day Weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, and even Superbowl Sunday (unless you want a lot of unhappy groomsmen!)

The people at Elegala warn brides away from these dates, but in my experience, some choose these dates on purpose. I even had a bride book me for Mother's Day weekend this year. I called around and most of my favorite venues--Deejays Banquet Halls, Brier Creek, all the hotels--were booked up, some for Mother's Day parties, but some for other weddings! Poor moms! I ended up marrying her under a lovely tent in her cousin's back yard. At least she didn't have to pay Mothers Day prices for flowers.

Some brides choose three-day weekends like Labor Day, Memorial Day, and even Columbus Day on purpose, assuming that a three-day weekend for their guests means better turn-out. In my twelve years of counting RSVPs, I haven't found that it makes much difference. I've also noticed that there tend to be more last minute no-shows to holiday weddings, so be prepared for that.

There is a lot of debate about whether or not it is polite to marry on a day that most people would prefer vacationing or just relaxing. I don't feel that any wedding date is "rude" since nobody is required to attend a wedding. Rude behavior would be pouting or throwing a fit when Uncle Ted decides to go on his annual fishing trip with his family instead of going to your wedding. Any bride who chooses to marry on a holiday must bear in mind that some of those nearest and dearest to them will be unable to attend or choose not to.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More things to think about when you're having a holiday wedding - The Cheese Factor

We dealt with the logistics of a holiday wedding in my last post. Now let's talk about aesthetics.

So you're getting married on Valentines day. You've got your venue, your caterer, your wedding planner--everything.

Holiday weddings can be fun, but they can also be cheesy, even tacky and obnoxious, if you go too overboard with the theme. This can be a fine line. There's a reason you chose the holiday, and after all, there's no point in paying the extra money to get married on Valentines Day or New Years Eve if your wedding looks like it could have happened on any of the other 364 days of the year.

But how much is too much? Only you can be the judge of that. For example, the first cake would be fine at a V-day wedding. In fact, it would look fine at any wedding. It would be a good choice if you wanted to acknowledge the holiday, but in an understated way. The second cake says "Valentines Day" a little louder. I'd imagine the bride who went with this cake had red table linens and rose petals, maybe even little heart-shaped boxes with favors for all the guests. (By the way, these pictures are not from my weddings. I am not a very good photographer in general, and for some reason pictures I take of food are especially heineous. The first two are from Cinda's in Raleigh, the third I found online). She would incorporate Valentines Day in the little details without beating people over the head with it.

The third cake practically screams Valentines Day. It would be great for a fun, over-the-top kitchy Valentines day for a Bride and Groom with a sense of humor. By the way, I love the new "topsy turvy" cake trend but watch out because they're hard for the inexperienced to cut.

(If you are wondering, Why pictures of cakes?, well it's because I believe the cake sets the tone of the wedding. I don't make any decorating decisions until I know what the cake will look like.)