Wedding Do's and Don'ts

Obviously I have been to quite a few weddings. Between the thirty or so I have coordinated and the fifteen or so I have been to as a guest, I have seen all kinds of weddings on all kinds of budgets.  Every wedding is different and every bride and groom wants different things, but there are some pretty standard shoulds and should nots, for both brides (and grooms) and guests.  So here are all the things I have learned as a coordinator and a frequent wedding guest:

DO pay attention to wedding etiquette.  This goes for all involved.  Brides, if someone on your guest list has a serious significant other (dating for more than a few months) they need to be invited.  You wouldn't want to go to a wedding without your honey, and your guests don't want to either.  Guests, pay attention to what is written on the envelope.  If there is no "and guest" after your name, that means the couple has not accounted for you bringing a plus one.  It might seem like one more person is no big deal, but if everyone follows that train of thought, you're looking at a lot of extra people.

DON'T have a cash bar!  Can't stress this enough.  Most brides these days are on a budget and cutting the liquor is an easy way to save money, but it is also a HUGE inconvenience to your guests.  Even if you only offer Bud Light and two buck chuck, your guests will be much happier than if they have to fork over their hard earned cash for a drink.

DO incorporate personal details into your big day.  Your guests want to walk away feeling like they celebrated YOU.  Whether it's a slide show of baby pictures or table names of places you've been, bring something into your wedding that is about you guys as a couple.

DON'T get too wrapped up in traditions.  After your first dance, mother/groom dance, father/bride dance, bouquet toss, cake cutting, garter toss, etc. there won't be a whole lot of time left for dancing and mingling.  As a guest, the dancing and mingling is the fun part, sitting around for an hour after dinner is not.  Pick the traditions that matter the most to you and leave the rest behind.  Or find a way to cut down on the time of those traditions (do all parent dances at once, or have your bridal party do a joint speech).

DO take your guests into consideration.  I know this is YOUR day and it should be about what YOU want, but keep your guests in mind.  They are spending money to be there, both on your gift and for traveling expenses.  Make sure you have a comfortable environment for them.

DON'T forget to say hi to all of your guests.  I spent most of my night out on the dance floor, but I also think it is very important to acknowledge all of your guests.  They are coming out to support you and they deserve at least a hello, a hug and a "thank you for coming."

DO start on time.  As a former stage manager, it always irritates me when a show starts late and your wedding is one big show.  Most guests arrive early anyway so don't make them sit there longer than necessary.  I always advise my brides to start no more than fifteen minutes past your printed invitation time.

DON'T forget about your littlest guests.  Parents of your younger crowd will thank you if there is some sort of activity (crayons and a coloring book, for example) to keep those little hands busy.

DO consider your audience when deciding on your music selections.  If you have a mostly twenties aged crowd, a swing band is probably not going to get them out on the floor.  On the flip side, if your guests are mainly your parents' friends, a house DJ is only going to irritate them.

DON'T forget to take a moment and take it all in.  This is your day and you want to remember all the details.

Hopefully these tips will help you craft a day that is fun for you AND your guests!

Three Keys to an Awesome, Rockin' Wedding

I get asked over and over again, what are the essentials for an awesome wedding?  I started thinking about this topic recently after the totally awesome wedding of my friends Dustin and Sara.  One of the bridesmaids and I had a convo about how we mentally rank the weddings we have been to on a scale of one to awesome.  Which led me to think about my top three weddings (as a guest, not a coordinator or a bride).  And those three weddings have three very important things in common...hence, the three keys to a totally awesome, rockin' wedding...

1.  Booze.  I understand that there are some groups out there that for religious or personal reasons, don't want booze at their weddings.  Respect that 100%.  However, for the vast majority of weddings, alcohol is a key component.  Why?  Alcohol means people are loose, happy, and willing to dance.  All of my top three weddings had an open bar (though not all of them had a huge budget).  An open bar might sound expensive, but it doesn't have to be.  If you have a venue that allows you to bring in your own booze, then it can actually be very reasonable.  If that's not an option, go with beer, wine, and a signature cocktail.  But if you want people to hang out at your wedding and have a good time, booze is the way to go.

2.  Hand in hand with an open bar: good music.  At your ceremony, the music should be thoughtful.  Pick songs that mean something to you and are significant in your relationship.  For cocktail hour and dinner, give your DJ lots of input on what you would like to hear.  During our cocktail hour, we played the first dance songs of all of our married guests and everyone loved it.  If you can hire a live band, it makes a huge impact.  Live bands tend to be loud and energetic, which helps your guests get into the dancing spirit.  If you don't want to go the live band route, make sure you find a DJ who gels with you and your vibe.  If you are going to go the iPod DJ route (which I don't recommend), make sure you edit the songs appropriately so there is no gap in between music.  The gap means people will take that opportunity to sit down.  If dancing is one of the main focuses of your wedding, make sure you spend a good amount of time on the dance floor, if people see the bride and groom boogying, they will boogy too!

3.  Personal details.  Giving your guests unique and personal details will make your wedding stand apart from the million others they have been to in the past.  Think about what makes you and your significant other different from everyone else and bring those elements into your big day.  Here are some examples from weddings I have been to in the past:

My good friends Mike and Brianna used books as their Mr. and Mrs. chair signs...

And they used Scrabble letters and book pages in the guys' boutonnieres...

My friends Ashley and Khalil used green apples as their escort cards since Ashley is a teacher...

And their sense of humor led to one of my favorite wedding photos of all time (courtesy of Nick Charrow)...

Sara and Dustin used vintage travel post cards for their centerpieces...

And they incorporated their love of wine into their guest book...

Let's recap.  If you want a totally awesome, rockin' wedding, here's what you need: an open bar, good music, and personal details.  That combination will lead to an amazing wedding that you and your guests will never forget!

Wedding Recap: Amanda and Jacob

I had an amazing time a couple of weeks ago coordinating the wedding of Amanda and Jacob.  Their wedding was held at the Huron Substation in Los Angeles, which was a new venue for me.  I loved everything about the venue, from the exposed brick to the outdoor ceremony space.  Plus, the venue manager was extremely helpful and very laid back (which was definitely in keeping with the vibe of this wedding).  Amanda was one of those brides that I rarely heard from after booking.  She had all the details of her day figured out and really just needed me to come in and execute her plans.  Everything was labeled (yay!) and she was detailed in her set up requests (and gave me pics, which is always a good idea).  And while she had her plans and her ideas, she was very relaxed about the schedule and the flow of the wedding, which made for an awesome party for the guests.  Here are some highlights from the big day!

This was the guest book and gift table, which was located inside the front door of the space.  They had guests find their birthday on the calendars and sign their names (which is a brilliant idea). I was a big fan of the art deco calendar!

Amanda's idea for centerpieces turned out just beautiful.  There were a variety of bottles in all shapes and sizes and Amanda did the flowers herself.  The lace table runners were provided by her mother in law and the mercury votive holders added just the right amount of glitz.  The wood tables belong to the venue and they really complemented the look of the wedding.

This huge chandelier is one of the highlights of the space.

Amanda made these flags for the guests to wave at the end of the ceremony.

Providing guests with cocktails before the ceremony is becoming more and more of a trend and I have to say, I am totally on board!  It really sets the tone for a fun evening.

I am in love with this outdoor ceremony space (which was also the cocktail space, and later just a general hang out area).  Their ceremony was short and sweet, and very personal. (Sorry for the blurry iphone pic!)

The ceremony space also held the oh so awesome candy bar at the end of the night.

And this was a dancing crowd!  Seriously, some of the best wedding dancing I have ever seen!  These guests had the moves.

I had an amazing time working with both Amanda and Jacob and I was so happy to get to help make their beautiful vision come to life!

Just Engaged? Here's What to Do First!

Hello lovely readers!  I thought I would give y'all some tips on the first steps in wedding planning.

1.  Jump up and down, squeal, cry, call your girlfriends, send out lots of pictures of your ring, call your parents, call his parents, call your siblings, stare at your ring for a few hours, buy some wedding magazines.  Got that out of your system? :o)

2.  As unromantic as this sounds, one of the first steps is to determine you budget.  Who is going to chip in and how much are they going to contribute?  You really can't make actual plans until you know exactly how much you have to work with.  Once you have the amount you can spend, work out a rough outline of a budget (note that this will probably change over the course of the planning process).  Figure out what is most important to you and your betrothed and dedicate the majority of your funds to those areas.

3.  Once you have a budget and know about how much you are going to spend, make a first draft of your guest list.  This by no means will be your final invite list, but before you can approach venues or caterers, you need a rough guest count.

4.  Think about how you want your wedding to feel.  Decide on some of the basics.  Indoor/outdoor?  Time of year?  Formal/informal?  Get some general details figured out (make sure you include your spouse on this!).

5.  Decide on your "must" list.  Every couple with have their own list of non-negotiables.  Want to get married on your anniversary?  Your date is a non-negotiable.  Have to have your bridesmaids in pink?  That is a non-negotiable.  Always dreamed of a live band?  Non-negotiable.  Try to keep this list to two or three things or your planning is going to be difficult!

6.  Start researching venues.  Your venue is going to determine many other factors of your wedding--caterers, vendors, music, feel, look, etc.  It can also influence your colors, your date and your guest count.  Keep those non-negotiables in mind.

7.  Once you have your venue picked out and reserved, the fun stuff really begins.  Now you can think about cake tasting, flowers, photographers, music and all the other details that make wedding planning fun.

Hope you're off to a good wedding planning start!  For all you newly minted brides, congrats!