Jammin' July

What is it about summer that brings out the Bob Marley? It's the intense sun, hot, sweaty days, and whiff of sunscreen that just make you wish you were at the beach with a frozen drink, jammin' to some tropical music. Obviously I can go on forever about summer and the beach because I love them, but this month's post is about music! How do you select the right kind of wedding entertainment? 

Everyone knows of the two of the major options for wedding entertainment: DJ or band. So which one is for you? Generally people will know what they want for their entertainment. DJ people love variety, the original version of songs, and often prefer music that isn't really played by a band (dance music). Band people love authenticity, the excitement of live music, and often prefer music that is played by a band. But they each have their drawbacks. I've seen weddings where the live band butchers the couple's first dance song because it wasn't in their repertoire, and weddings where the DJ can't quite catch the attention of the group to go dance. So these are things to keep in mind while you make your decision. 

One idea could be not to choose at all! Have you heard of bands that play the live music BUT keep the vocals to the original songs? This is a fun way to capture the essence of live entertainment while also retaining the song's original sound. 

If you are set on having a DJ, maybe you want to consider having some live music during dinner. A single performer can be a very classy way to pass the dinner hour - try a vocalist or solo classical guitarist. Not picky about your music and want to save some money? Go to the local high school or college to find students who are willing to play for the dinner hour. (Just keep an eye on the food.) 

Whatever you do choose, make sure to communicate with your vendor to be sure of the best outcome. Absolutely watch them perform before booking! If you go with a DJ, be sure to use a list of approved and disapproved songs; let them know whether or not you want them to take suggestions from guests; and communicate with them how active you want the crowd to be. (Maybe you want them calling people out on the dance floor or maybe you want people to not be pressured into dancing.) If you go with a band, make sure they can play your first dance song and any other must have songs; ask them about their music variety; and ask them what music is played during break times. 

Just be sure to pick the kind of music you like - it will be a long night if you aren't enjoying it out on the dance floor! 

Judge June

This month is Judge June because I am encouraging you to go forth and be judgmental! 

Excitedly planning your upcoming wedding? Well, one of the best ways to figure out what you do and do not want at your wedding is to attend other weddings and take notes! Have friends getting married soon? Take notes of what you like and dislike about being a guest at their wedding. Obviously, it is not polite to express your dislikes to your wedding host, but many of those dislikes can inform you on how you would like your wedding to feel for your own guests. Some things to take particular note of: 

Ceremony: How did you feel about the wedding ceremony length? Did you like how the bridesmaids and groomsmen entered and exited? Were there special words you expected to hear during the vow exchange? Were you comfortable (seating, temperature, lighting)? Could you hear  and see the entire ceremony? 

Reception: Did you like the table and reception layout? Was there an open bar - and if not - would you have preferred an open bar? Were there any special toasts that you enjoyed? How did you feel about the timeliness of the dinner and dessert service? Buffet or plated? How did you feel about the order of events: dinner, toasts, first dances, etc...? Were there any fun additions like a Photo Booth or sparkler sendoff? Did the reception run too late or end too early? Was it a DJ or a band? Did people dance and stay until the end? 

Attending someone else's wedding can really give you a lot of ideas for your own wedding - whether it is something you like and have to include in yours, or something so bad that you make sure your guests do not endure the same issues. So do not feel bad about judging their wedding - just remember to be polite when the bride and groom ask you how you felt about their wedding - it was likely the best day of their lives and there is no need to diminish that in their eyes. 

Destination December

Baby, it's cold outside. It's December, and here in Northern Virginia, it's dark, it's cold and I'm already dreaming of a gorgeous island getaway in the warm sun, on a beautiful beach. Well, to escape the cold and the hectic holiday scramble of December, this month is going to be Destination December!! 

Destination weddings are by far my favorite kind of weddings. (I'm not biased or anything :) But they have so many benefits if you can get over a few of their drawbacks. This week I am going to talk about a few of these benefits and drawbacks so you can decide if having a destination wedding is right for you! 

First, what is a destination wedding? A destination wedding doesn't actually have to be in some exotic location across the world or even out of the country. A destination wedding is generally just far enough away from where you live that you have to make legitimate travel plans (with overnight accommodations) to go visit the location. This distance is what creates challenges but also can create a vacation-like feel to your wedding. 

Let's start with the bad first. Travel. Travel to your destination may be time consuming and/or expensive. This will limit the amount of time you can spend inspecting things onsite and making decisions on local vendors. Not being in the area, you may have a harder time finding reputable vendors and ensuring you are getting what you have booked. If there is a misunderstanding, something goes wrong, or something is forgotten, it will be harder to fix it because you don't have your local resources and home is usually too far away to go get what you may need. It is generally harder to bring special or personalized items to decorate your wedding, especially if you have to fly to get there and the items you do bring need to be well packed in order to survive the trip. While this may sound bad, many of these same issues can arise in a local wedding as well, and if you are well prepared, and can also roll with the flow, you will be able to handle any of these issues easily. 

Now let's move into the bad that you may see as good, depending on your personal preferences. Guests. Destination weddings generally have lower guest counts than local weddings. If you can't imagine not having a huge wedding with everyone that you've ever met in attendance, then this may not be the option for you. While your closest family and friends will be sure to make the trip, there are many people that will not be able to swing the time off or the expenses. The good news here is that you will truly have the people around you who care about you the most because they will make it a priority to attend. Destination weddings may be a little pricey on your guests, so it is a good idea to make sure they feel welcomed, appreciated, and a part of the action. 

Now let's look at the good! Destination weddings are generally cheaper for you!!! YAY! Because you will likely have less guests, your destination wedding will be cheaper. Think about $80+ per head - it is far cheaper to have fewer guests. And you can have a smaller wedding without feeling like you are leaving extended family members out. You can send them an invite, but many will likely not be able to come so you do not have to feel guilty for having a smaller wedding. Destinations also often have great package deals that include fun upgrades and inclusions to save you money. 

The best new of all: destination weddings are vacations. Over the many weddings I have worked, there is truly something to be said about the inability of guests to go home after the wedding. Local weddings often have guests who need to be the designated driver, limiting their drinks for the night and leaving early to get home. Destination wedding guests stay onsite and therefore can drink to their heart's content. This means more dancing, more partying, and more guests into the later hours. This can make your wedding incredibly fun to attend. My husband and I raved for weeks about just how much fun we had dancing all night long with all of our friends at our destination wedding. Plus when your guests feel like they are on vacation, they will generally remember your wedding more fondly. 

There are a million other points to be made, both positive and negative, but I will stop here. Stop and really think about a destination wedding. Where do you envision saying I do? For me, it was photos of weddings with that gorgeous, teal ocean in the background that I wanted so badly that made us sit down and talk seriously about how this would work. Now we can't imagine a more fun, beautiful, and exciting wedding. Think it's and unattainable dream? It's not! We have a destination package that can help you get through all of the hurdles in planning your destination wedding. If you love adventure, have a dream location, or just want your wedding to be a fun vacation with all of your closest family and friends, a destination wedding may be for you. 

 

Our destination wedding in the Dominican Republic. 

Nuptial November: Legalities of Marriage

Expect to show up at your wedding, say I do, and suddenly be married? Not so fast! There is actually quite a bit that you have to do in order to be married and it will change from state to state and even county to county! 

Make sure you do your research. Some states require that you get a blood test before you can get married and some require you to bring your birth certificate. Fees vary vastly and even the number of witnesses you may need to be present. For example, Fairfax County, Virginia, requires the couple to appear together at the County Clerk's office with valid photo identification, $30 payment and their social security numbers and parents full legal names. Meanwhile, a short distance away in Prince George's county, Maryland, one of you can go alone to pick up the license with valid photo ID, a $70 payment, and your social security numbers. 

Getting married out of state? There may be residency rules that apply, meaning that you need to be in a state for a certain number of days prior to obtaining a license. And don't forget that many states require that you use the licenses within a certain timeframe such as 30 or 90 days.

Again, make sure you do your research several weeks in advance! Don't leave it to the Friday before your wedding because you may find that the county clerk's office closes at noon on Friday and doesn't reopen until Monday morning! If you have any questions or concerns, ask your planner for help. While some of these processes may be convoluted or complicated, your planner can help guide you to make it easier so be sure to use him or her as a resource! Just a few pointers to help you through Nuptial November! 

Special Edition: Honoring our Military Members

In honor of such a patriotic week, with elections, the Marine Corps 241st birthday, and Veteran's Day, this week's post is a special tribute to our veterans and active service members who have sacrificed so much to keep our nation safe. Thank you for your service! 

If you are military or have military members in your family, you understand how much our service men and women sacrifice to serve and protect our amazing country and you may wonder how you can celebrate your veterans at your wedding. Besides the traditional elements of a military wedding, there are a number of ways you can celebrate military members at your wedding.  

Make a special announcement. Plan to be announced to your reception? Why not have your DJ make a special announcement to acknowledge each service member attending your wedding. If you have many extended family members or friends in the military, you can add a line to your RSVP requesting the title of each guest so that they may be properly announced. Or you can just have the DJ request for all active and former service members to stand for a round of applause. 

Have a special song or make a special toast. You can have the DJ announce a special song to honor your veterans and active service members. If you have enough attending your wedding, have the DJ call all active service members and their significant others out to the dance floor to share a song. Do this after your first dance and parent dances so that the DJ can transition for everyone to come out on the dance floor afterwards.  You can also make a special toast if you have a personal story to tell or one or two special guests to honor.  

Have a special table or place setting. You can seat your honored guests at a special table or have a special place setting in recognition of their service. Rather than their regular setting, they may have a setting thanking them for their service or a mini flag so that guests can recognize their service. Or you could set up a side table next to the cake table to have a special honor tribute to service members with service member thank yous. 

There are so many ways you can honor and celebrate the military members in your family on one of the most important days of your life. And with a little creativity, the possibilities are truly endless. Once again, thank you to all who have served our country in any capacity. You make our country the amazing place it is. 

Nuptial November: Adding Meaning to Your Ceremony

Welcome to Nuptial November! This month is all things Wedding Ceremony!! How can you add meaning to your wedding ceremony? How should you navigate the legalities of marriage? And what are the roles and responsibilities of each attendee?  We are going into it all this month. For the first week, we are adding meaning to your wedding ceremony in some unique ways! 

The first thing you think you when you want to add meaning to your ceremony is to write your own vows. While that is a wonderful way, not everyone has the gall to write their own vows and recite them in front of their family and friends. And that is okay! It doesn't make your ceremony any less meaningful if you choose not to write your own vows. In fact, if you or your partner are uncomfortable speaking in front of groups, your ceremony might actually be better without it! The ceremony is so emotional and powerful that even great public speakers find that they have a hard time fighting back tears to recite their vows. And while a teary, emotional recital of vows can be beautiful to watch, it can also be hard to hear or understand. The good news is that there are several other ways to incorporate meaning into your wedding ceremony. Here are a few options, but feel free to be creative on your own: 

Have a family member read a passage, special poem, or favorite quote. The family member will feel honored while also adding a unique element to the wedding. One thing to note here is that your family member might be facing similar struggles you face when thinking about public speaking so be sure to come up with a gentle way to ask your family member and make sure that they feel comfortable saying no thank you.

Have your officiant read a special passage, poem, or favorite quote. You will have a bit of personalization to make your ceremony unique and special to the two of you. Be sure to bring this up with your officiant well ahead of time to make sure that this is okay with them. If this is something critical to you, be sure to bring this up to your officiant before booking to make sure they allow this. 

Plan to exchange a letter with your fiancé immediately before the ceremony or during your first look. This letter can be those vows you have been working on or it can be a fun, silly letter. Be sure to tell your photographer about this letter so they can have a chance to capture the emotional moment when you and your fiancé read these letters. 

These are just a few ideas, but creativity can make your ceremony truly meaningful. Your ceremony can have completely traditional elements, or you can make up some traditions of your own. Your ceremony is about the two of you so feel comfortable personalizing it to work for you. 

Organized October: General Tips

I can believe it's already the end of October! We are just bolting right into the holiday season and kicking it off with one of my favorite holidays, Halloween!! For this final week of October, I'm sharing a couple of general tips on staying organized throughout the wedding planning process. Enjoy! 

Guest List - Once you have your guest list, make a master address list from your guest list. You will not believe how many times you will need these addresses. Plus this will be helpful to give to your maid of honor, best man, and other family members or friends so they can easily plan things like the bridal shower and engagement party. This list will save you a lot of frustration for your engagement party invites and thank yous, your save the date cards, bridal shower invites and thank yous, wedding invites and thank yous, etc. 

Create a Wedding binder - Keep all of your wedding contracts, papers, and notes in this binder. That way you can find everything easily when needed. Make sure you keep good notes as you go along and keep these in this binder. Because planning a wedding happens over several months, you may have forgotten which DJ you were interested in booking - a peak at your notes in your wedding binder will help keep ideas and to do lists safe. 

Delegate - Your friends and family love you and want to be involved in helping your big day come about so use them as a resource and delegate some of the tasks you have. Not only will it make them happy, but it will help you accomplish your goals in an organized fashion and utilize strengths you may not have. Maid of honor alway have great makeup looks? Ask her to research bridal makeup looks. Is your fiancé a foodie? Have him or her research caterers.  

Organized October: Planning 1 2 3

Congratulations! You've started planning your wedding! And surely you've noticed by now that seemingly every decision you make for your wedding needs to happen all at once. You can't pick your location until you know how many people are coming and you don't know how many are people are coming out of the number you plan to invite. But, you can't know that until people RSVP to your invitation which can't be sent out until you have a date, time and location. You are concerned about the cost of the wedding and know that the number of people attending has a huge impact on the price, but you aren't sure how many will come or how much it will cost per person. These are all valid concerns to have and in many cases it seems like a chicken and the egg dilemma. However, part of staying organized and on track in planning your wedding is to make a game plan and know in which order you need to make your decisions. So let's jump right in! 

#1 Budget - The absolute first thing you need to do when planning your wedding is to figure out your budget. You can't make any other decisions until you have at least an idea of what your budget is going to be. This is a hard conversation between you and your fiancé and your families, but you will feel much better once you have hammered this out and come to a number. Expert tip: Don't forget here that if your parents plan to contribute to your wedding, to get an understanding up front on how involved they would like to be in the planning process. When your parents contribute a large amount of their money to this event, they may have the idea in mind that they will be consulted at every step of the planning process and if you aren't aware of these wishes ahead of time, it can lead to hurt feelings and even deep fissures in family relations. 

#2  Guest List - Yes, the guest list comes BEFORE the venue location and date! Once you have your budget, you need to take a moment to sit down with your fiancé and write out your guest list. Ask your parents to do the same and send you their lists when completed. Once you have the lists, combine them into a master list ranked in the order of importance (or at least into groupings of importance). You may have the immediate family listed first, then the close friends, then family friends, then distant cousins and coworkers. Take a red pen and draw a line where you can't imagine not having those guests attend. It's fine if that is only a few people - that will give you more options. 

#3 Location and Date - These come last because this is more flexible than your budget and your guest list. How so? Your guest list is where your money is really going to be spent in your wedding, so when you look for your venues and dates, you can see how much each venue will cost - keeping in mind that number of people you marked above the red line. If you fall in love with a location and clearly have room to spare in the budget (and in the venue) to invite more people, that is wonderful! Invite the next groups on your list until you run into your cut off number. If you are struggling to fit your "above the red line" guests into your budget, at your dream venue, then you can start to consider some cost saving methods like maybe booking your wedding on a Friday or a Sunday, or in the off-season. 

I really hope this has helped you sort out your planning game plan and has given you some actionable steps towards planning your big day. As always, feel free to reach out to me if you would like assistance in planning or designing your dream wedding! And come back next week for our last week of Organized October: just good tips on staying organized while wedding planning. 

Organized October: Think HOW

Planning a wedding is a daunting endeavor. There are so many tasks - big and small - from booking the venue to ordering sparklers for a send off. To top it off, everyone has an opinion and feels compelled to offer those opinions, oftentimes uninvited. The pressures to create a beautiful affair without missing any of the details can lead to stress and nightmares. So where do you even begin? It's important to stay as organized as possible. Being organized throughout the planning process will make the process easier and far less stressful. But the first place to start is to think about your overall goals. What kind of event do you want? What do you envision you will be doing on your wedding day? And most importantly, HOW do you plan to achieve these goals? 

These are the most important questions that many people forget to ask themselves when they start planning. So many married couples express regret over not thinking of the HOW in the beginning of their planning stage. They plan their weddings with the what in mind but then find that on their wedding day, they haven't thought of how those goals will come about. They find out too late that they want to enjoy the day rather than run the event and act as hosts, or have their family and friends act as hosts. This is why it is important to sit down and write out your goals. Does a full service or day of coordinator make more sense for you? Full service will offer comprehensive assistance throughout the entire planning process. A full service planner will always be able to handle the day of better than they would as a day of coordinator, allowing you to relax and enjoy the wedding you've imagined and created. Think of your planner as the answer to the big HOW question that is so critical to consider early on. 

Once you have your overall wedding goals in place and an idea of how you would like to achieve them, it's time to start planning! Next week, I'll be going over the large planning steps like budgeting, guest lists and selecting a venue and in which order to tackle them!