Sunday, August 29, 2010

House Party

Recently, a vendor mentioned to me that there’s a new fad entering the wedding world called the House Party. From what I can understand this is a second bridal party which serves as a way for the bride and groom to ask whomever they’d like to join in their wedding festivities. Apparently, the House Party can be equal in size to the original bridal party or can be an even larger group than the bridesmaids and groomsmen that may serve as traditional attendants.

I myself have never experienced this House Party trend, but I am here to tell you that this is neither a new, nor a brilliant phenomenon for two main reasons. Number one, because one of my best friends, Anne, executed a similar method of wedding party expansion for her wedding in 2003 – seven years ago. I also used the same strategy, but with a slight twist, for my wedding 4 years ago. Number two, we had reasons for adding additional attendants. This was not something that we decided to do because we wanted everyone and their grandmother involved in our wedding in order to seem important, which is the reason some of the current guests of honor are creating such massive wedding parties and even more massive faux parties, according to local vendors.

My friend Anne has a huge family, so when she got married she realized that most of her bridal party spots would be taken by her 3 sisters, her sister in law, her cousins and two nieces which did not leave any room for our college clique of 5 lovely ladies. With that being said, she had us walk down the aisle together before the bridal party, wearing our own design of a dress in a similar shade of color as the bridesmaids.

When I got married, I had a situation where family and childhood friends filled most of the “traditional” spots so I took Anne’s idea one step further. I actually included my “college crew” as bridesmaids, but because we did not want to ask more guys just to fill in the spots, I had them walk up the aisle along and they all wore black, while the bridesmaids walking with groomsmen wore red. I also wanted to find a way to honor the grandparents that could not be with us on our wedding day, so I had each of the girls carry a blue flower and deliver it to an altar, set at the front of the church, which had each of the grandparents’ pictures on it and a vase in which to set the flowers.

The girls were involved in showers, the bachelorette party, gifts, the day-of preparations, etc., but I just needed a creative way to fit 9 girls in a bridal party what was supposed to only include 4 couples!! Everyone that I chose to participate in my wedding was either a family member or a friend that is still, 4 years later, considered family. I feel that in picking your bridal party, that’s the way it should be. This is not a competition to see who can have the biggest group, and sometimes that’s what I feel goes on when people start adding House Parties to the wedding.

A good rule of thumb is to ask people who have been with you for the major events leading up to the wedding and the people that you know will be with you and that you want with you when times get rough after the wedding. Besides, if you ask every Tom, Dick and Harry that you’ve ever met to be a bridesmaid, how will your real friends feel? Not very special. And if you have an uneven number of bridesmaids and groomsmen, do not just ask someone in order to keep the numbers even. Have the girls walk up alone and have the guys at the altar with the groom already. If you have more girls than guys, have your maid of honor walk alone or when there are more guys than girls, give one lucky girl two groomsmen as her escorts. The point is, there are ways around having unnecessary attendants and there are definitely other spots to fill in a ceremony rather than creating a House Party. Let’s keep things in perspective and have some kind of standard when choosing the most special group of friends and family to stand before our community and advocate this harmonious occasion!!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Evolution of Dance

I started writing this week’s blog early yesterday morning based on a video that I received last weekend. The video was of a bride and groom doing their first dance which was choreographed, and I use that term loosely, to the Evolution of Dance mix. My original point when I was first writing this was to tell people not to do “choreographed” dances as their first dance, but as I researched further, I realized I have to be a bit more specific. I have learned that the song, the reason and the people make all the difference in the world in determining whether or not you should join in with this trend.

First things first, the Evolution of Dance should be off limits from here on out. As a rule, if that is what you are planning to use as your “surprise choreographed” dance, please save yourself and your guests and just dance to “I Will Always Love You.”

Secondly, the surprise of having a choreographed dance is no longer a surprise. It’s now a trend that everyone knows about – the uniqueness has worn off. The only way to actually make this dance unique is the same way you would make a traditional first dance unique: pick a song that no one else has used.

When using the Evolution of Dance as the song for your first dance, you are using a mix that was created by someone else, therefore it’s not unique and it’s also not your idea, just in case you thought you were being creative. Also, taking the signature moves from each of the 30 songs in the mix (i.e. the Twist, the Hokey Pokey, the YMCA and the Chicken Dance) is hardly considered choreography of the unique kind. Furthermore, if songs like Cotton-eyed Joe, Thriller, YMCA and I Like Big Butts have nothing to do with your relationship, and I hope they do not, then do not use those songs as your first dance.

While researching this phenomenon, I found over 1,000 wedding dance videos to Evolution of Dance and that is only for one particular mix. Although every video is entitled “This is the best one I’ve ever seen!” all of the “choreography,” songs and executions are exactly the same. Does that sound unique to you? Here’s an example of what I am talking about. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9XfzvuVhhs

With all of this being said, I do believe that, when done correctly and by the right “cast,” a performance at a reception can be a great addition, but the first thing you need is a rhyme and a reason. For example, my brother Randy is always challenging people to a dance off or breaking into a dance-fit of some sort at parties/receptions. My sister and I have danced all of our lives and our whole family is known for being on the dance floor (even those without professional training). When Randy gets married, it would not be a surprise to see him celebrate with a little Michael Jackson routine, but with his own twist, of course. Perhaps a family dance to a Jackson 5 favorite would be a treat, but regardless, it would be acceptable and, if I know my family, something that has never been seen before.

When it’s relevant because you are a teacher of dance, a talented performer or someone known for having that outgoing, “get up and dance” personality, you are assuring your guests a great treat! As a matter of fact, I’d be willing to bet that none of the couples out there using Evolution of Dance have a relevant reason for such a show – relevancy typically equals creativity – but for those of you with the “dance” bug and no unique ideas, God has graced us with TLC’s “Rock the Reception.”

This show creates an end product that follows all of the guidelines that I would give to my couples – they get to know the couple and use an original song and choreography that matches their personalities, typically the bridal party (or at least the best man and maid of honor) are brought in to dance with the couple, the dance is only 3 minutes instead of 6 and the couples actually dance instead of doing hand motions or silly cliché movements.
Take some time and check out the proper way to execute this trendy specialty dance. This will truly be a surprise to your guests - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8xWmlgjUpc&feature=related

p.s. Girls, learn how to dance while wearing your heels!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wrap It Up

I received a phone call this afternoon from the mother of a former bride asking me for help with her daughter’s baby shower. One of the questions that this mother had was about having a “show shower” which is a shower where the guests bring the gifts unwrapped thereby eliminating the 90 minute task of watching the guest of honor open them. This has been a new “fad” for some of my younger brides and has become a hot topic for them and their mothers. This new party idea is not one that I believe will make it very far in the wedding world if the baby boomers have anything to say about it.

It has been my experience that our mothers’ generation believes that receiving an invitation asking for an unwrapped gift is completely rude. My mom thinks that when she brings a gift to a shower, it should be opened in front of everyone, admired by the bride (or guest of honor) and she wants the gift to have some intimate time with the person who received it. She wants to be acknowledged for the time and effort it took her to purchase the gift and I am sure she believes that the only way to achieve this is to have the guest of honor take her time and effort to unwrap the gift (in particular in front of friends and family at the actual shower).

I have given a “show shower” in my own home. Yes, it’s true. I sent out invitations that made guests believe that the bride-to-be and I are rude and classless by asking for an unwrapped gift! Seriously, the concept was hard for people to grasp at the time, but once the guests realized how much more time there was to spend with the bride, everyone seemed to really appreciate it. We had a table set out to display the gifts so people could take a look at them throughout the shower. Toward the end, we turned the table and had the guests sit and watch while the bride went through all of the gifts showing what each guest had given. She still thanked everyone and we still saw each person’s gift, but it only took 30 minutes, rather than 90 minutes.

Although I feel that when I am invited to a shower, or party, my gift being recognized is not that important, I realize that for other generations, it’s a sign of respect. For most people, they expect to go to a shower and have things done the way it’s been done for centuries before. It’s an understanding that they will be served dry finger sandwiches, punch with no alcohol, paste-like dips with tortilla chips and they will sit for 90 minutes making excited faces over the tea set that grandmamma passed down to the bride (bridal shower ideas are a different blog – coming soon). For me, etiquette is handled on a more case by case basis.

I believe that for this particular “fad” everything depends on your guest list and the theme of your shower. People create expectations based on what you guide them to expect. Doing a “show shower” as a bridal shower is not good etiquette. Typically, this is the more cookie cutter, sophisticated event with family and older generations of guests. However, if it’s a couple’s shower or something a bit more casual where the guest list consists mostly of younger friends rather than older family members, it will probably be a fun alternative to opening gifts.

The “show shower” that I threw at my house was a SAINTS themed couples shower thrown during a Saints game on a Sunday afternoon. Everyone knew what to expect.
In the same token, if you are having a tea given by my your future mother in law, you better get the excited face ready as it is your duty and only fair to give your guests what they expect and arriving with unwrapped gifts is not a fair expectation.

Some traditions, depending on the circumstances, are not meant to be changed and as long as we have mothers and grandmothers, this is one of them. Leave the fun, new traditions for the parties given by your friends and keep the traditional events alive for your mom and her baby boomers. A little compromise never hurt!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Choose Wisely

While on my wonderful vacation last week, I had lunch with a friend of mine whose conversation quickly turned our relaxing lunch date into a blog-worthy work session.

It seems a friend of hers is getting married and although she is not a bridesmaid, her friend expects her to do all of the work of a maid of honor, plus more. The ridiculous requests of this bride-to-be got me thinking about expectations placed on bridesmaids and why we pick the maids we pick. Do we expect too much, do we make it easy for our friends to say “yes” and if we do not expect them to participate at all, why did we ask them? Furthermore, if you have a friend that you love spending time with so much and cherish her opinion more than any other, why was she not picked to stand beside you on your special day?

All of these questions are worth asking yourself before you pick your bridesmaids starting with why we pick the girls we pick. You should be asking yourself: Am I just asking this friend to be in my wedding because she had me in hers? Do I feel an obligation? Is my mother making me ask my cousin so my aunt does not get upset? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you need to think long and hard before asking a “friend” or family member to commit to such an important job.

You should be asking yourself: Has this person been there for the important events in my past? Will this person be there for the important events in my future? Does this person support me and my future husband? Will she be a reliable friend when the road gets rough and will she have a blast with the preparations of my wedding? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then you’ve found your bridal party!

The next question you should be asking yourself is, “What do I expect from my bridesmaids?” The truth is we want to believe that our friends and family are just as excited about our wedding as we are, and sometimes that is the case. Other times, while the excitement and joy may be there, they can not always show it in the ways we’d like. For instance, expecting your bridal party to put their life on hold, leave work, or run over for a cry-fest every time you have a wedding mini-crisis, is just not realistic (that’s what your wedding planner is for!). Also, expecting your bridal party to pay for your lavish tastes is also a major no-no.

Another friend of mine, while on this wonderful vacation, spoke to me about her bride-to-be friend who expects her, as a bridesmaid, to pay over $300 for a Vera Wang dress and take care of the expenses that come from traveling to Puerto Rico, since that is where the wedding will be held. Along with those expenses comes the cost of showers, gifts, hair and make up on the day of the wedding, shoes and a bachelorette party, just to name a few.

I can definitely understand a destination wedding and I can certainly understand a Vera Wang dress, but most of my brides who have asked for such a huge financial commitment have covered some of the cost in order to give their girls a break and make it comfortable for everyone no matter their position in life at the time. If you choose your girls for the right reasons, it should be more important to make it feasible for your girls to participate than to cause them to drop out due to your outlandish requests.

The bottom line when it comes to bridesmaids is – pick the girls you love the most who will make the most out of your wedding excitement and who will try the hardest to be a part of it. It is true that it’s all about the bride, but I find that the bride who does not enter into the wedding preparation with that mind set, enjoys her engagement and wedding a whole lot more. She also enters into marriage with a lot more friends! After all, the wedding only lasts a day, but if you choose the right bridesmaids, those relationships will last well beyond the style of that Vera Wang dress. Be aware of what you are asking and who you expect to rise to your challenging requests.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wearing White

Last night I had the pleasure of being involved in the wedding of a life-long friend and everything was perfect! The weather held out for us, the day ran smoothly as each of the 13 bridesmaids got our hair and make up done and the first glimpse of the flowers delivered to the house proved that this would be a wedding that none of the guests would soon forget. What I can not forget, however, is our limo pulling up the church for the ceremony and seeing not one, not two, but three guests walking into the church wearing…… WHITE!!!

I did not think this would be a topic that I would have to cover, but perhaps everyone needs a refresher course. While some professionals will tell you that the “no wearing white to a wedding” rule is dismissed, I am here to tell you that it is still in full effect and everyone should take it seriously!

Wearing an outfit with white in it is fine, but wearing an all white dress, or pants suit for that matter, is a major “no, no”. I believe in the past, before bridal gowns of this elaborate caliber came into the picture, other guests wearing white just made it confusing for the wedding attendees who might now wonder which of the white wearers were in fact the blushing bride.

In most cases today, there’s no question about who the bride is, but there’s a courtesy that each guest should give to the bride. That courtesy is not wearing white. If you had a birthday party and one of your friends showed up wearing the same dress as you, the birthday girl, how tragic would that be? When it comes to a wedding, consider any dress that is white to be the equivalent of you showing up wearing the same exact gown as the bride.

Rules are certainly meant to be broken, changed, bent and in some aspects ignored, but this is a very simple tradition that is here to stay. White is for the bride at a wedding, a wedding shower, a wedding luncheon or a wedding rehearsal. If you are attending something that has the word wedding involved in it and you are not the bride, find another color and wear white when it’s your turn. That simple color of white is what defines the bride as the most important person in the room so do not compete with her. You’ll never win!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Great Expectations

A friend of mine emailed me yesterday asking me how much she should spend on a gift for a bridal shower that she’s invited to, yet she is not invited to the wedding. Of course my answer is $0. Everyone knows that you only invite guests to the shower that you plan to invite to the wedding.
I decided to give this bride the benefit of the doubt by assuming that she is having a destination wedding and that is why this guest was not invited to the wedding (as this is the only acceptable reason for this). Just then, another email came in. It was my friend now asking me how much she should spend on the engagement shower gift and the couple’s shower gift.
Where should I begin?
Whether it’s a destination wedding or a traditional 400 guest blow out in your home town, the rule of thumb has always been that each guest gets invited to one shower throughout the engagement process. With the number of different parties and celebrations given around weddings these days, that’s a tough rule to follow. I am not 100% sure where I fall on the issue when it involves a couple having a traditional wedding, but when it comes to a couple having a destination wedding, my feelings are pretty concrete.
I can certainly understand wanting to have an intimate destination wedding just for you and your groom to share this most special time together. Combining the honeymoon with the actual act of getting married is a great idea, but when doing so, you miss out on some of perks that come from having guests and your guests miss out on the perk of seeing you get married.
The massive blow out that you would have had, better known as your reception, is the biggest thing that destination wedding couples say they want. Some couples solve that issue by coming home from their wedding/honeymoon and having a grand party inviting their friends and family to celebrate along with them. That is a perfect solution, for you, but it still does not change the fact that you did not invite those guests to be a part of the wedding it self.
With that being said, I do not think you should expect to get all of the bells and whistles that come from family and friends who were asked to be involved in the actual wedding. Most couples that decide to have a more intimate wedding do not expect any of this and all they want is to be married and create an experience that only the two of them will know. On the other hand, some brides want the best of both worlds.
An engagement party to celebrate the engagement is completely acceptable and a bridal shower is fine as well, but having both an engagement party and a bridal shower, or going any further with other festivities such as couples’ showers, etc. may be pushing the envelope.
In my opinion, if you decide to have a destination wedding of any kind (whether just you and your groom or a few close friends and family members) an engagement party is your best bet to celebrate the actual engagement with the ones you love. When you return from the honeymoon, have a great big party to celebrate the marriage to the one you love, but leave it at that!

Friday, June 25, 2010

If the Shoe Fits

Last weekend I had the pleasure of standing in a wedding rather than working at a wedding, and my friend, the bride, had hesitation about the shoes she would wear on her special day. Should she wear the white satin shoes to match her white satin dress, or should she step outside the box and wear the shoes matching her beautiful bridesmaids? “Step outside the box,” I always advise and so she did!
Her stiletto heels with the satin ruffle across the back mocked her dress perfectly, saying “I’m a traditional bride with my pretty, perfect shoes.” But when dancing on the dance floor, lifting up her dress ever so slightly to show off her foot décor, they also screamed, “I’m not like any other bride in my RED shoes and I’m having the time of my life while wearing them!”
Okay, so maybe they weren’t making that big of a statement, but I have had brides in the past wearing blue shoes and red shoes and sometimes pink shoes. Often times the color that the bride chooses for her bridesmaids is her favorite color or her color scheme for the entire wedding. A perfect way to incorporate yourself into your wedding theme is through something as simple as your shoes, and it is also a great way to show off your personality.
The color of the perfect wedding shoe is not the only way to show who you are; it’s the style that tells the story.
According to Peggy Post in Emily Post’s ‘The Definitive Guide to Your Wedding Experience’, the bride traditionally wears shoes matching her dress color and fabric. She also states that comfort is now more important than traditional style. She specifically states that you should avoid stiletto-heeled shoes and of course, I could not disagree more.
On your special day, pick a shoe that fits your personality and your style, not necessarily your feet for 10 hours straight. If 5 inch Manolos are what you’ve always dreamed of, then give them your best shot and I’ll meet you in the back of the reception with some back up flip flops if your feet start screaming so loudly that you can’t hear the music. Some brides are just like me – they can wear those shoes all night and never think twice. Others just want them until the pictures are taken and the dancing starts and to me, that’s perfect!
Whether your desires lead you to the flat ballet slippers or funky flip flops, the chuck tailors or Jimmy Choos, it’s all about expressing yourself and being comfortable with how you finish off your look – most of us finish off our looks with the right shoes. So if on your wedding day, you decide to step outside the box and wear something that doesn’t seem the most traditional, at least make sure it screams “Here comes the bride and she’s not like any bride you’ve ever seen!”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coordinator versus Planner

I hate to touch on such an important topic before I gain more followers, but I’m sure I will touch on this again, so here goes. It is pertinent that every bride/client understand exactly what the difference is between a coordinator and planner, especially before they decide to hire or deny one of the two!

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the word coordinate (or coordinating) means to place into proper order or relation; adjust. I define the word as taking something that someone else has done and shuffling it around until you reach a sensible end result!

On the other hand, Webster’s definition of plan (or planning) is to devise a scheme for doing, making or arranging – to make plans. According to this untitled professional, a planner is exactly that – someone who plans and executes the plan that brings the project to life and completes the goal.

The difference between these two words is essential when considering who to work with for your special day. As an example, majority of my clients who request “day of” services are essentially asking me for help coordinating (although my package offers more than that). They have already made the plans and they simply need someone to come in at the end of the project to sort through the details, finalize the process and tie it up in nice pretty bow!

My full service brides typically need a lot more than that; something more like a planner.
They have ideas of what they want, but no time to gather the information, collect the data, make final decisions and execute the actions to get us to the main event. Planning requires more action and research rather than organizing and confirming.

My reason for wanting to define the terms is because there are many venues that provide a coordinator which is very helpful to the bride on the day of her wedding. However, nine times out of ten, this luxury is not always a helpful addition throughout the actual planning process. Checking up on the arrival times of your vendors is very helpful, but sometimes additional help is needed and brides are not aware that the help they need is in fact available to them and not included in the package once they see the words “On Site Event Coordinator.”

In most cases, those coordinators are managing and perhaps even planning the details that are directly related to their venue, staff, contracted vendors, etc. Most on site coordinators are not coming with you to pick flowers or sitting down to discuss your budget and pricing the different vendors that you are interested in working with. Task lists, financial confirmations and finalizing orders with additional vendors are not typically involved in their title of coordinator either.

Whether your needs require a coordinator, a planner or even a consultant (which is a topic for a different day), make sure you know what the title involves before you dismiss the thought of digging deeper to find what works for you. Having a coordinator included in a package seems like a great perk, but finding out their limitations is essential in order to know how sweet of a deal the venue/vendor is offering!

To clarify, and make sure my definitions are not taken out of context, a coordinator is very helpful and necessary, especially an on site coordinator. But in any case, even in the case of hiring an independent planner, it is still important to look at the full picture and have the facts before deciding whether you need more to accomplish what you want! Just because something is included in a package does not always mean it is something that fulfills all of your needs!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Welcome to "Bride's Best Friend - A Wedding Planner's Perspective"

Welcome to the first post of "Bride's Best Friend - A Wedding Planner's Perspective"!

My name is Kelly Sherlock and I am a Wedding/Event Planner in New Orleans. My profession gives me great insight into women of today and our modern etiquette, traditions, desires and more.

Being one of the top destinations for weddings in this country, "small" is not exactly the adjective that would best describe the majority of New Orleans weddings. Even when the guest list appears to be intimate, the additions that make a true New Orleans experience well surpass the fun, simplicity and expectation that come from most other cities.

Making the most of your wedding experience, whether as a local or an out-of-town bride, can be best achieved by hiring a wedding planner. From venues and vendors to favors and final payments, I am with you every step of the way to guide you to your dream come true. The typical wedding planner is expected to help you with such things as what vendors to use, what traditions to follow and how to carry out the details. Going beyond the expected is where I differ!

Taking the time to know my girls and treat this "job" as something more, is the main reason that most of my brides and I become best friends while planning their weddings. As the relationship builds and the trust is established, my brides will come to me with anything and everything they need (wedding related or not) and I will never change that. They invite me into their homes to meet their families, they confide in me and trust my advice and they utilize me to mediate against anyone in their way!! These are the reasons that I know my job, I know my clients and I know women of today.

The experiences that I have had working with brides living all over the country with diverse backgrounds and their own tastes and desires, made me realize that the brides of today are unlike any other generation of brides. The etiquette of our mothers and grandmothers is long gone and this generation has no intention of bringing back the "traditions" and definition of what was once "proper".

However, today’s brides may find it difficult to plan the wedding of their dreams because they are women with careers, families and responsibilities. But these commitments do not make them want their dream wedding any less. Modern brides have their own minds and have no desire to conform to the norm or the expected. Family traditions, religious symbolism and cultural customs are still important to these nostalgic brides, but "keeping up with the Joneses" has taken on a whole new meaning.

This blog serves as an updated version of etiquette; a discussion of new traditions that have come along as well as old traditions that are still with us (all according to my experiences). This is also an outlet for situations that occur when you are engaged - the stress, the joy, the in-laws, the planning, and the madness! Most brides go through similar situations with similar concerns and similar questions. Anything short of real planning questions (vendor referrals, etc) can be answered on this blog (after all, why buy the planner when you are getting the information for free?).

Feel free to post questions and post comments to my responses as well. I will have a few stories now and then but mostly, I will be picking questions that are emailed to me through my website
www.kellysherlock.com, through this blog, or have come to me verbally.

I hope you will find this blog useful, but most importantly, I hope that you will find this blog to be true and helpful in convincing you that you are not alone in the concerns, desires or excitement that may come from being engaged. Our lives as women are not what they were even twenty years ago, however the desire to get married and have the wedding of our dreams may never change; how we, as women, deal with these evolutions and expectations changes every day.

Congratulations and stay tuned!