Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The "Perfect" Wedding

Most people will tell you that there’s no such thing as a perfect anything – not a perfect marriage, or a perfect person, and they always say there’s no “perfect” wedding. I tend to disagree with the last part of that theory as I have attended many “perfect” weddings, as far as my clients know anyway. But this year, I experienced the most perfect wedding of all – but it wasn’t because of anything I did, or anything that any of the vendors did – it was because of the bride, the groom and the family involved.
Last week, Dee White passed away leaving behind four beautiful children and the “perfect” wife. One of those four children, Barrett, got married in March of this year and I was lucky enough to be a part of that most wonderful wedding.
I was first introduced to the family in August of 2010 and we began planning from there. Because the bride and groom lived out of town, I planned majority of the wedding with the bride’s mother, Jessica. From the very first meeting with Jessica, she spoke so lovingly of her children and husband that I knew this was a family I would fall in love with, and I did. Both Dee and Jessica did everything possible to give Barrett whatever she wanted, not what they wanted. Barrett traditionally came in around the holidays, so the house was filled with all four children, and significant others, plus all of their puppies! And every sibling wanted to be involved in the wedding details, including the only brother of the four children, Neal.
I had never seen such a supportive family, starting with the parents trickling down to each of the children. I realized the true bond of this family when Neal came home in the middle of our cake tasting and announced he had passed a certification exam and everyone quickly put the cake tasting on hold. It was his sisters who pulled out the champagne to toast his success immediately and they included me in every minute of the celebration. I knew his parents were proud of his accomplishment, but I was more proud of the way they had raised their children.
People often say that when planning a wedding, parents in particular get wrapped up with the bride and the bride can certainly forget that other things non-wedding even exist. This was not the case in this family and it was refreshing to see that weddings do not always cause drama and stress. They were one of the most even keeled families to work with and it paid off on the day of the wedding.
My point in having this tribute to this special family is this: often times the stereotype surrounding weddings has more to do with the drama it can cause for a family, the fights it can lead to with the mothers and the stress of the planning. This family was proof that when things are done correctly and kept in perspective, a wedding is the happiest day of your life and the one of the best memories we have with our families – and that’s exactly what it should be. But this all starts at the top of the chain with the parents.
So thank you, Dee and Jessica White, for raising your children to rejoice in each other’s time of joy and to share special times with each other. For allowing your children to be themselves instead of pushing them to be who you thought they should be. And for reminding me what makes the “perfect” wedding – Being on the dance floor all night long with your wife and children dancing like no one is watching, enjoying each other like no one else exists and knowing that it’s a moment they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Vendor and the Wedding Planner

Once upon a time, there was a very sweet, reliable, even keeled wedding planner with great communication skills! She worked really hard to please both her clients and her vendors by trying to get her job done while avoiding stepping on toes in the process. One day, she was hired to help a client with last minute details on the day of her wedding so she began calling vendors to make sure all of the details were finalized, arrival times were set and final payments were received. Things were going well until she got the florist on the phone. She gave her routine speech and asked the necessary questions:
“Hi, this is Kelly Sherlock. I’m the day-of wedding planner for Ms. Bride so I’m just calling her vendors to make sure we have the details finalized, that you have the most updated floor plan, to see if there’s a final balance and also to get an arrival time from you so I can add you to the schedule for the venue!”
Here’s what this florist had to say:
“Well thank you for reaching out to me, but I won’t be speaking with you. I am working directly with the bride and I really hate when planners call me and try to get involved. I’ve been in this business for 36 years and I know everything I need to know – there’s nothing that I need from you, but I will be calling the bride to give all of this information directly to her”.
That florist has never worked in New Orleans again – Just Kidding!!
What actually happen was that the florist delivered the flowers late because the bride forgot to tell her that picture times had been moved up and the floor plan had changed so she did not have enough arrangements. Both things could have been avoided if the florist would have taken my call and allowed me to run through the schedule with her.
This little fable is based on a true story, but unfortunately it happens more than you think because some vendors are concerned about working with planners, and the brides need to know this so that the expectation is set up front. With so many planners popping up in the city, the good ones are hard to spot, but we do exist. The problem is that so many vendors have had bad experiences with the other planners that by the time the good ones come into the picture, the vendors are jaded with an attitude and a closed door. The reality is that although I understand that, I still have a job to do. And we all have to consider that there’s a lot of competition in this industry so I can name at least one florist, one photographer, one videographer, one limo company and one band who have done a poor job on occasion and totally ruined someone’s wedding day. Does that mean that every time I come in contact with someone who performs one of those functions in this industry, I believe that they too will screw up? That doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
My point is, everyone has horror stories, but allowing me to screw up, before you assume that I will, is very helpful to our clients – because these brides are OUR clients. Also, in the case of full service planning, I am with these brides for the entire engagement, not just one or two meetings like most vendors - so allowing me to pass along the trigger points of this particular bride and her family, is only beneficial to you. Plus, no bride wants to know that she’s paying me to take away the headaches and she’s paying you to buck that system.
As for the brides, if you are not hiring a planner until the end of the planning process, please let your vendors know that she will be contacting them the month prior and that you do not want to be bothered at that time – which is why you are paying the planner. In the case of full service, the same rules apply. If you want your planner to be the main contact and you do not want to be bothered with the details and questions, let the vendors know so that it’s coming straight from your mouth. And more than likely, if there’s a vendor that the planner will not work with, they aren’t worth the trouble they will create, but as always, it’s up to the girls.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Congratulations Randy and Brianne

This blog has covered many different topics from budgets to bridesmaids, but there’s one thing that I have consistently preached no matter what the topic – make your wedding your own. Finally, I’ve found the couple who went against every grain possible to get the wedding that they wanted and it could not have been more fun! My brother and his new wife have never been considered a traditional couple, to say the least. They were best friends before they ever got together and neither of them has ever felt the need to explain their relationship to anyone nor have they ever been fans of public displays of affection. Their wedding day was no different!

Last Saturday, they were married in the courtyard of the Board of Trade in an intimate ceremony attended by only immediately family and close friends. The vows, however traditional, were given their own twist of humor and personality and a hand shake sealed the marriage prior to the traditional kiss. The wedding pictures show a couple whose love is visible through laughter rather than a forced kiss and the family portraits displayed each person’s personality rather than robotic poses to declare uniformity.

The reception followed at the same venue where 150 friends and family members joined the party to celebrate the marriage. Rather than a “go to” song, such as, I Will Always Love You, the couple danced to a song by a North Carolina band (which is where they met and reside) and then broke into Soldier Soulja Boy, which was always a favorite of the two at any party. Rather than floral center pieces, the tables were dressed with arrangements mixed and matched to include New Orleans favorites such as lanterns, coffee beans, candles on fleur de lis candle sticks and of course the sporadic mardi gras mask.

Even with all of the touches that made this wedding their own, my favorite pieces of the non-traditional puzzle included the shoes worn by the bride and groom, the cake topper and the cake cutting. Since blue is the favorite of both Brianne and Randy, the bride wore blue platform heels while the groom sported blue Converse (with his groomsmen following suit in black Chuck Taylors). The groom had the cake topper custom made into characters from the movie “Up” – even though none of those characters bare any resemblance to them (not even the dog looks like their dog) so if you didn’t know the movie, you didn’t understand the topper. And for the cake cutting, my husband shared the first piece of cake with the bride as he is the only person in the world who could appreciate the cake the way that she could. Once the cake was cut and the traditional “sharing the first piece of cake” pictures were taken, my brother stepped in for the “token” pictures of the two of them with the cake.

Every piece of this wedding was well thought out whether it was something that the couple included in their wedding or decided not to include. And all of their vendors were flexible enough to go with the flow that represented Brianne and Randy, specifically, which is another thing I always preach – picking the right vendors. No one rushed them, slowed them down, told them they had to be somewhere that they didn’t want to be, made them take a picture that they didn’t want to take or pose in a way that didn’t fit “Brianne and Randy”. This was a night true to the two of them, the way a wedding should be, and I was just happy to be a part of it as a sister to them both!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Wedding Album

Four years ago, on September 16th, one of my best friends got married in one of the most perfectly planned ceremonies and receptions I've ever seen. Every detail was thought out and every song was perfectly timed. For 9 months leading up to the wedding, all she thought about was this wedding so much so that after the wedding was over, she apparently wanted nothing more to do with it - hence the email that we all received the day after her four year anniversary that she had finally picked the pictures for her wedding album. FOUR YEARS later??!!
Knowing that I would blog about her, Bonnie Meteye, this topic is for you!
Most brides are similar to Bonnie in that they live and breathe for their wedding day while they are planning, but once it's over, they tend to let a lot of things fall by the wayside. Not to mention, the overwhelming task of picking 50 pictures from a proof book of over 500 images can be a bit much. But even with that being said, there has to be a deadline. In most cases, the bride gets home from her honey moon eager to see her wedding pictures and has no problem hounding the photographer about when they will be online or when the proof book will be in. Once the images are able to be viewed, suddenly, the bride does not have time to make selections and finish the process. And in that same token, when the day finally does come, a year, two years or even four years later, this bride has made her selections and is ready for the book to be made, she has no problem once again hounding the photographer as if he should have planned his work week around the fact that she would re-surface so many years later.
The fact is, in any job, there is a process and a shelf life for files and past projects. The same applies to a wedding photographer. Let's just pretend that Bonnie's photographer shoots one wedding every weekend - that's a little over 50 weddings a year. If he kept up that average for 4 years, by the time he heard from Bonnie with her decision of images, he would have shot over 200 weddings. What are the chances that this poor man has nothing else to house in his studio but old weddings with the hope that the lost bride will one day come to him to pick out images for an album that was inevitably included in the package that she bought 4 or more years ago. Yay, more work at a time that he didn't expect but for free! That's just what every professional wants!
The bottom line is, these brides should have up to 6 months, tops, to get the process completed. I think 3 months should be the cut off, but most photographers are more lenient with a 6 month reprieve. At any rate, I do understand that once the wedding is over, it's hard to get back into decision-making mode, but you have to give these vendors a break. I know, at the time of your wedding, the good vendors make you feel like you’re the only client they have, but the reality is, if they don't move forward after you, you won't have someone to call in 4 years for a book. So do not make their job more difficult and leave them stuck in limbo. Be grateful that you chose a photographer who gave you so many great images, pick your pictures and move on!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Kardashian Krash

After a much needed break from this blog due to a very busy wedding season, Kim Kardashian has given me the energy to once again get fired up about the stupidity of people. I am not only talking about the stupidity that is Kim Kardashian thinking that marrying Kris Humphries was a good idea, but I am talking about the ignorance that fans have shown by being shocked that this marriage didn’t work out.
First off, I found it extremely hard to even watch the wedding, which should say a lot since weddings are my favorite thing in life. I have tried at least four different times to watch the entire 2 hour event, but somehow I still can’t make it thru. The reason I cannot make it thru is because of the ridiculousness of Kris Humphries.
I am an extreme Kardashian fan and many people close to me know that I consider myself to be the fourth Kardashian and I would marry Rob just to make that my reality. My name already starts with a K and I have the black hair and everything so it’s a great fit, but that’s a different subject all together. At any rate, I think Kim is great and I think the idea of being married is wonderful, but Kris Humphries, really? He has been an idiot since day one and the wedding special showed him as the idiot for 2 hours instead of only 30 minutes.
Even with all of this said, my irritation does not come from Kim or Kris in this situation – it comes from the fans out there who thought this was going to last. And for those of you who are talking about how Lamar and Khloe have lasted longer even though they dated for a shorter period of time, I just have one main difference which should always be the dead give-away of the future a couple will have together. When we saw the special of Lamar and Khloe getting married, did you see Lamar anywhere near the planning of the wedding? No, I think not. Yet in the two hour time period that we had to suffer through the wedding special of Kim and Kris, I believe we saw Kris crying about the details more than the bride herself. That should say something.
Essentially, this entry should be all about one of my least favorite things in the world of weddings, the Groomzilla, but I shall rant about that another day. This entry will simply serve as a warning to the brides out there; if you learn only one thing from the Kardasians, learn this – if your groom is more interested in the flowers and the ice carving than you are, run, don’t walk, away immediately. If your groom won’t even let you have the wedding that you have always dreamed of, I doubt he’ll be supportive of anything else throughout your married life. Just a thought!
In this case, Kim got what she needed from Kris, 10 million dollars for the rights to her wedding. In the real world, with a groom like that, you’ll be getting a lot of heartache and backlash from your family. It’s reality TV people – don’t read too much into it, but always beware of the Groomzilla.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It’s not about you!

When I was sixteen years old, my best friend (since the age of six) lost her father to a horrible battle with cancer. On the day of the funeral, after the service, I met my parents in the back of the church where I began crying uncontrollably for the first time since his diagnosis. The funny thing is that my immediate thought for my friend was, “Who will walk her down the aisle at her wedding?” Since I was not a person who grew up dreaming of her wedding day, that was an odd thought when you consider all of the other key moments her and her sisters would experience without their father.
The truth is no matter how cynical of a person you are and how non-traditional you think your wedding will be, most people who have relationships with their parents dream of having them involved in their wedding day. Some little girls grow up dreaming of planning their wedding with their mother while Daddy supportively writes checks and then swoops in on the day of the wedding to walk his baby girl down the aisle. The planning process is a breeze, the night flows perfectly and you can prove it all by the photographer catching that “money shot” of Dad kissing one cheek while Mom kisses the other.
Unfortunately, our parents do not always cooperate with our visions – much of the time because of reasons that could be helped – and their selfishness and stubborn attitudes prevent sane decisions. The reality is that I’ve had more than one client who had to deal with parents threatening not to attend their child’s wedding due to things not being done the way they wanted them done. In one case, I had a father follow through and not show up to the wedding at all and I am on the verge of a case where a mother will not be in attendance.
It is perfectly normal to get emotional about decisions made while planning such a big event. The wedding is essentially about the bride and the groom joining their lives, but I can see where Mom might get a bit competitive with her friends who recently had daughters get married. Wanting everything to be perfect is typical when you love someone, and we know that most parents always want everything perfect for their children. But there is a difference between the parents who want things perfect for their child – and those who want it for themselves.
When you start threatening to skip the wedding, if your child does not choose the favors that you want, you might want to step back and check yourself. When you are not even paying for the wedding and you cannot seem to stop saying the words “I want, I want, I want” that’s called selfish. And when you cut off all contact with your child in the middle of the planning process and then show up the week of the wedding just to look good to your friends, you probably do not deserve to be there.
Can any parent out there please explain to me why your child not getting married in a Catholic Church or not having the cake you were hoping for is worth losing the relationship and missing one of the most important days of their life? It is my job to up-sell and I make a living off of people believing that they need to consistently out-do the friend that married the weekend before them, but even I do not get it! I guess one of the things that sets me apart from other people in the business is that I’m still a realist, and the reality is that no amount of flowers or choirs singing at a wedding ceremony is worth jeopardizing a relationship with someone you love.
I know there are people out there who can flip this and say, “Why not just give in to your parents if it means that much to them?” The answer – because it’s not about them! It is hard enough to plan a wedding these days without having the extra drama of a parent who just needs attention.
I know this might be my most harsh entry yet, but I cannot stand to listen to one more crying bride who feels that she is at the mercy of a parent who couldn’t care less about the true meaning of her special day. You know that I will be the first to call out a bride on her attitude and I believe, especially when parents are paying, everyone needs to keep their priorities in check and pick their battles. But the parents’ threats and walking out is getting really old.
For all the parents out there who think that not inviting your seventh cousin once-removed is more emotionally draining then never speaking to your child again, please think about the parents who would do anything possible just to see their child get married. Life is short and monumental moments are few and far between, so if you are lucky enough to be on Earth to enjoy them together, sit back, enjoy the cocktails and thank God for giving you one more memory with your family!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Perfect Prep

Your wedding day is typically filled with anxiety and nerves which are perfectly normal for any bride – no matter how much you plan. The excitement of getting married and finally having reached the day you’ve dreamed of can overload even the most solid of brides-to-be with emotions she’s never felt before. However, there are ways to make the day run as smoothly as possible, keeping the stress to a minimum, and it’s all about scheduling, being prepared and going with the flow. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

1. The schedule – One of the most important things to have on your wedding day is a schedule stating the flow of the day, in particular if you and your bridesmaids are getting your hair and make-up done. Although the schedule is most important, be careful not to be too controlling with the timing. You only need to schedule the time period that it will take to complete the entire group, you do not need to map out which girl will be in the chair at each time slot. Trying to control things too much will only make it impossible to obtain your goal, causing you to fail before you begin.
2. Let them come to you – Typically, the hair dresser and make-up artists will come to the bride’s house or hotel room the morning of the wedding. Having them come to you is the best thing possible so that you do not have to account for travel time, regrouping the troops, etc. Being able to wake up and have everyone come to you often makes the bride feel more relaxed and less rushed from the start of the day.
3. Make it possible to sleep in – Starting at a time that is later than the crack of dawn helps you feel relaxed and not worn out by the time the big event takes place. In order to ensure that you can sleep in, you want to assess just how many girls are getting their hair and make-up done and how long it will take each person to get each service completed. At that point, you need to decide if it’s best to have two hair dressers or make-up artists in order to get everyone done in less time. This could mean the difference between starting at 7:30am in order to get 7 girls ready by 3pm or being able to start the prep at 11am in order to get 7 girls ready by the start of photos.
4. Check with your photographer - Before finalizing the schedule for the prep, you’ll want to check with your photographer to make sure you are giving him/her enough time to complete pictures before heading to the church. You will want to check on the arrival time of the photographer if you want your prep photographed. Ultimately, you will need your bridesmaids to be dressed and completely ready before you get into your dress. After you are completely dressed with jewelry, the veil, etc. the photographer can begin taking portraits and group shots. You will want to check with the photographer to find out whether or not a second shooter will be on hand to photograph the groom and his groomsmen at the church before the ceremony. This can change the time that he/she will start pictures of the girls depending on whether or not he/she has to leave to make it to the church.
5. EAT, DRINK and RELAX - Make sure to have lunch brought in for you and your girls so that you have something in your stomach before the night begins. Most brides do not eat enough on the night of the wedding, even when time is allotted for such, but having lunch and snacks during the day helps to keep your energy up and absorb some of the alcohol that you will be consuming throughout the event. A glass of two of champagne or wine is nothing to worry about while relaxing with your girls on the day of your wedding, but make sure you save the real party for the reception.

I should have prefaced by saying that this type of relaxation only comes from having a planner, a good friend or a great venue that provides someone you trust to set up the reception venue and make sure everything is in place. Not having to worry about when your vendors are showing up, travel schedules or who is handling the extra details at the church and/or reception venue is the top priority for any bride. Once you have that taken care of, you are free to work out the other steps to a relaxing day. Just make sure that you and your vendors know the schedule prior to the morning of the wedding and that the times match with everyone’s responsibilities. Try to have vendors come to you to avoid travel confusion and losing items. Do not forget to eat, eat, eat and have a cocktail if the spirit moves you!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The out-of-town photographer

Last month I worked with a photographer who was from out of town and wanted to take pictures of the bride and groom after the ceremony, since they were not going to see each other before the big walk down the aisle. This sounds pretty traditional, but this particular photographer wanted over an hour for pictures of just the bride and groom (not including bridal party or families). I had to explain to this professional that the reception was only three hours long so we could not possibly dedicate an entire hour to a portrait session of the bride and groom.
This is just one example of the issues that I’ve found with the sudden outbreak of New Orleans brides bringing in photographers from other parts of the country. For the most part, I find that the brides are picking these out-of-town photographers in order to gain the fresh eye that he/she brings to the table. Often times, I hear brides say that they want something different from the photos on the websites of some New Orleans photographers, being that they can appear cookie-cutter or “insert bride here,” as I like to say. By bringing in a person who does not shoot in the church or reception venue with the same city background every weekend, you get to see a new perspective in turn making your pictures seem fresh, new or different.
While the fresh eye is a perk, some may rather the carbon copy of the wedding prior to theirs if it means they don’t have to spend 5 hours taking pictures before the reception or wake up at 7am in order to be ready 5 hours prior to their ceremony.
Some people may not get this, but New Orleans has its own way of doing everything, especially weddings. We are not representative of a traditional “Southern” wedding and we know we do not have any similarities to the way it’s done up North. We do it the way we do it here in New Orleans; plain and simple.
There’s a definite protocol or formula to a New Orleans wedding, and having a local means having someone who understands the sensitive time restraints that we are working with. The locals also understand the geographic time in which to travel and how to get from Uptown to Downtown in only 3 minutes when it takes the bridal party (with police escorts) 10 minutes.
We do not often have an hour of cocktails, a two hour seated dinner and then a 3 hour reception which would allow a photographer plenty of time to play with poses and creative range. In New Orleans we have three to four hour receptions, most of time. So the photographer has a certain amount of time prior to the ceremony to take the bride’s pictures with her bridesmaids and family members, the groom’s pictures with his groomsmen and family members and then after the ceremony there’s a 30 minute window to take the bride and groom with the entire bridal party and family members. In some cases, when taking pictures in the church, the photographers are only granted 15 minutes for said pictures before the “church lady” rushes us out.
In the Big Easy, part of the nature of the beast is being able to get the job done in a timely manner without rushing the bride and groom all the while still being creative and getting the perfect shot. Although some of the out-of-town talent that I’ve seen did the research and learned how to adjust to the New Orleans way, my suggestion for the girls out there who want something “different” is to dive into the local pool and meet with your photographer. Talk to him or her about what is visually important to you. There are cons to some of the photographers who do weddings here every weekend, but most of the time their attitudes and inabilities to be flexible are where they fall short, but being creative and capturing what you want in the creative way that you want it is something that can be fixed with a simple conversation.
Before you rush out to pay double the price for a photographer that may make you miss half of your special day, dig deeper into the locals who are just as great as the “fresh eye” you think you’ll be bringing in. Sometimes they just need a push to realize how far they can stretch their imaginations. And for the local shutterbugs who aren’t willing to get more creative and less rigid, you can find another photographer just around the corner who has the experience to know that this industry is ever changing, the courage to take risks when it comes to his or her creativity and the flexibility to roll with the punches.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Onesie

I had a wedding a few weeks ago and everything was perfect, if I do say so myself. The bride was dressed in a $10,000 Maggie Sottera gown, while the bridesmaids pranced around in their purple Vera Wang floor length formals, with the groomsmen sporting simple, formal, black tuxedos and the 1 year old baby who was not on the guest list showed off her best animal-printed onesie!! Did I mention is was 11:30pm when the mother of the child decided to bring this animal-printed baby on the dance floor with the bride and groom who specifically stated on their invitation “Adult Reception?”

In case there are parents out there that do not know what I am getting at, here’s the point. First, it’s 11:30pm; why is there a 1 year old hanging out at a party at this time of night? Secondly, why do people feel that the rules do not apply to them just because they have children? If I wanted to bring 5 guests instead of my “plus 1” wouldn’t I be considered rude for that? Third, an animal print onesie – I have no comment!

Whether or not children should be invited to wedding receptions is a totally different topic all together. Children involved in weddings as a general subject seems to get a bit sticky for almost every couple that I’ve worked with or known when planning their weddings. I think it’s each person’s right to decide whether or not they invite or involve children in their special day but, trust me, I will have a future entry expressing my thought on that matter. Currently, my issue is with the guests/parents who ignore the couple’s wishes to not include little ones.

Speaking for myself, as a guest who does not have children (but does have a lot of friends and a puppy), is it appropriate for me to bring my “wolf pack” all because I think everyone should support my lifestyle? I understand that sometimes a babysitter is hard to find, but it doesn’t mean that you disregard the hosts of a party and bring the person they asked you not to bring. As a parent, there are some things that you miss out on and perhaps this wedding was one thing the parent of this “printed princess” should have missed.

My biggest issue with this specific situation is that the child was the bride’s niece (she was the bride’s brother’s baby). While some of you might think that makes the situation worse on the part of the bride, I think it makes it worse on the part of the parents. The bride was confronted by her brother and sister-in-law before the wedding and they expressed their desire to have their child in attendance and at that point, the bride explained why she decided not to include her niece. As far as we were concerned, the issue was over and done with, but I guess people will do what they wanna! The fact is this isn’t the only time this has happened and in some other cases, the children have been older – running around, screaming, jumping in pictures, sliding on the dance floor and all the while not realizing that their parents have turned them into “wedding crashers.”

Parents out there, please, try to think about your wedding day. Think about the things that were important to you. Maybe it was most important to you to have purple flowers and fried oysters. What if the florist decided that she was in a pink mood that day so that’s what she brought and the chef decided that if he slipped in fried shrimp instead, no one would notice? To some people, their guest list takes precedence and, while I’m sure your child is just lovely, it’s not personal so stop making it about your children and start thinking of other people. I’m sure that when you got married, your friends were at your wedding drinking, dancing and concentrating on you. Give them the same courtesy. After all, people are inviting you to their event because you are a person that they are friends with, not because you are the mother of “Anna Animal Print”!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Calling It Off

Recently I’ve had conversations with several different people regarding the same wedding related topic which leads me to believe that it is time to cover a subject that most brides will feel does not apply to them, until it does. The topic that I am referring to is the ever delicate” calling off the wedding”. How do you do it, when do you know you should do it and what about the money already spent on the wedding? Not to mention, what do you do with gifts that have already been received?

Since I myself fell into the category of brides who thought they would only be engaged once, I can give you some first-hand answers and advice that I hope will help the confused brides realize that sometimes calling off the wedding can be a lot less stressful than going through with a marriage that is being questioned before you even make it down the aisle.

So how do you know when it’s right to get married? Unfortunately I do not have one clear answer for that, but I can tell you that for me, I knew the wedding was bigger than the marriage. When I took a minute to stop thinking about the wedding day and thought about the days after the wedding; you know, when the honeymoon was over and we had to live together and raise a family, I realized that I was caught up in the planning of the wedding while the planning of the marriage had clearly stopped. I realized quickly that we were moving in two different directions, and I considered myself lucky to have admitted it before we took such a serious step.

After the decision has been made, what about the vendors and the money that’s been paid? Nine times out of ten, the money that you’ve already spent on the wedding is gone never to be seen again. But in rare cases, such as mine, deposits can be used toward another event. I was very lucky in the fact that my photographer, venue and florist all put my previously paid deposits toward my actual wedding, which took place two years after I called off the first one. Often times, the sooner you tell the vendor about the cancelation the better chance they have at rebooking the date and that leaves you a better chance of either getting your deposit back or being able to use it toward a later event. In most cases though, you should assume that the money is gone and will not be used again – so be prepared for that as each vendor has their own policy and it is typically listed in the contract. Especially when it comes to the venue, read the contract because it lists interim payments and minimum guaranteed payments that you are locked into once you sign and are due whether you end up having your event there or not.

The vendors are one thing, but what’s the proper way to handle gifts that were already received from guests and family members? If they are wedding gifts, they must be returned, plain and simple. If you had an engagement party or a shower and the gift can be returned, you should return it, but obviously if you’ve already used the gift, there’s nothing you can do. For example, I had an engagement party the first time around, but I did not call off the wedding until 5 months later so a lot of the gifts had already moved into the place we would live and were being used by the should-have-been groom. The gifts that were not yet touched were given back at the time we called the wedding off.

The money lost and the awkwardness of returning a gift seem to be the only things that stick into the heads of the brides or grooms who may be second guessing their decision to get married. Trust me, it is not an easy decision to come to and the months following are filled with hurt feelings, bitter questions and empty pockets. I once heard a girl talking about her wedding saying “I just keep thinking that I’ll go thru with it without thinking, like taking medicine, and then it’s just done and I’ll be fine.” The thought of this girl going to her parents and telling them that she did not want to get married after all was too much for her to consider, and that’s usually the reason people go thru with something that they question so heavily.

One of the biggest things I’ve realized by being in this business and opening up about my own experiences is that this happens a lot more often than people like to talk about. And it also enters the mind of a bride more than she’d like to admit, but I can also attest to the fact that the brides who followed their hearts and postponed or called off the wedding all together have been more grateful for their strength than the bride who wished she would have spoken up. I was amazed by the number of girls who came to me after I called my wedding off who told me that they thought about not going thru with their wedding up until the second they walked down the aisle. Those girls were all divorced within the first five years being married. On the other hand, the vast majority of girls I know who have called off their weddings are now happily married and had beautiful weddings (and despite the fact that all of our parents swore they would not pay for another wedding – they did)!

Friday, May 6, 2011

For a very special mother this mother's day......

This week’s blog is dedicated to my aunt who lost her battle with cancer two months ago. While going through her pictures in preparation for her memorial, we found her wedding album with all of her old receipts and planning details. I thought it might be fun to share the information from the past with all of you and take a look back at how pricing and details have changed when compared to today! In light of the fact that it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and also the 1 year wedding anniversary for my cousin Traci, I thought I would compare my aunt’s retro wedding to her daughter’s more current affair.

First and foremost, just to give a reference of the difference in financial status, the average salary in 1974 was $8,030.76, according to the national average wage index. In 2009 (since 2010 has yet to be updated), the average salary was $40,711.61 – that’s 5 times the money that was being made in a 35 year span.

My aunt was married on May 18, 1974. Her invitation had a picture of a bride and a groom kissing on the front of it and the scenery appears to be a forest of some sort, which already screams “1970’s.” She was married at St. Christopher Church in Metairie and had her reception at the Champagne Room on Jefferson Highway, which was one of the most expensive reception halls at that time, according to my mother! The church, from my mother’s memory, was free as long as you paid the priest and gave “a little something” to the altar boys. My aunt had a 3 hour reception for 300 guests and the package included food, alcohol, the wedding cake, engraved napkins, coffee service and the use of palm trees, which was apparently serious back then! The service charge was 15% and the grand total - $1656.25 (which breaks down to $5.52/head)

Her daughter, Traci, was married on May 8, 2010. Her invitation was on plain ivory thicker card stock with black print which is more traditional in this millennium – no picture, no fold, just a straight forward invitation! She was married at St. Patrick’s Church in New Orleans and her reception was at the Chicory on South Peters, which was brand new at the time of Traci’s wedding. St. Patrick’s charged $2,000.00 plus a coordinator fee, plus a fee to the music director and “a little something” for the priest. She had a 3 hour reception for 275 guests, which included food, alcohol, tables, chairs and linens, but no palm trees, however the Chicory provided potted plants for Traci to use if she do desired and she did!
Service charge is now 20% and the grand total was almost $25,000 (which breaks down to $90/head tax and tip included)

My aunt purchased her invitations from Gem Printing, who is still in business and a company that I use regularly today. As a matter of fact, Traci ordered her invitations from GEM as well! For my aunt, 200 invitations and printed envelopes totaled $47.18. For Traci, 175 invitations, printed envelopes and thank you cards totaled $175. The most remarkable thing about finding the Gem Printing receipt was not the price. It was the fact that the receipt is exactly the same in 1974 as it is today – the only difference is the address!

Some other comparable prices were the photographer which was $140 for my aunt and $1800 for Traci. Something that I found interesting about the photographer’s contract back then is that you paid the photographer in full once you picked up your product, not before the wedding/on the day of your wedding, and your order was ready 6 weeks after the wedding. Today, IF the photographer has the pictures ready, the bride certainly has not picked her pictures in enough time to produce an album 6 weeks after a wedding. The only other receipt I found was for flowers. I did not find a total for my aunt’s final order, but I can tell you that her bouquet was $15.00 versus Traci’s which was $150.00.

What we can learn from this look back is that although the average salary has increased by 5 times the amount it was 35 years ago, the cost of a wedding has increased by a heck of a lot more. The reception alone is more than 10 times the amount today as it was in the 70’s. I think there are several contributing factors to why weddings have become so commercial and out of control, but one of those factors has to be the very generation that this blog goes out to: The Baby Boomers. The moms that got married when my aunt got married and grew up in the same time when times were tough, money was tight and women did not have their own money. Now, moms want to give their daughters everything they had and then some and since a lot of these women work, they can do just that. So next time you are fighting with your mother over wedding decisions, remember that they just want more for you, although how far these moms will go is a different entry all together. We can at least give them reprieve this weekend – it is Mother’s Day after all!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Royal Wedding - New Orleans Style

I did not plan to write about the Royal Wedding in any way, shape or form as I have not mentioned it thus far. But Thursday afternoon, I received an invitation to a viewing of the Royal Wedding and could not pass it up. Mrs. Debbie Perrone invited me to a party that was full-on British style with all party-goers wearing the appropriate hats and gloves, but we were accessorizing our jammies of course. I was the last to arrive at 3:30 am, but the party consisted of a few waves of people arriving as early as 10:30 the night before, midnight and then the “slacker” 3:30 am arrivals.

We spent the hour and a half leading up the wedding watching the coverage of the guests arriving and, of course, judging the people who came on the screen as if we were Joan Rivers on a special episode of “Fashion Police.” Although I would love to discuss the debacle of outfits and hats that arrived to this wondrous event, I would rather give my synopsis of details and traditions that stood out to this wedding planner!

First off, the dress, since this is what everyone was waiting to see more than anything. I believe she knocked it out of the park – 100% perfect! There have been some naysayers out there who believe the dress was not unattainable enough (compared to the details and grandness of Diana’s), but I think that’s what made the dress so right for her. In a time where lace jackets are quickly making a comeback, the lace sleeves were perfectly in tune with today’s fashion, yet still showed an elegance and style that set her above the rest of the population and set her back in time to some degree. As a matter of fact, I felt that way about the entire dress. It said, “I’m classy, I’m classic and I’m royalty, but I don’t need to be obnoxious about it!”

Secondly, for me, the next most noticeable thing about this wedding was the maid of honor. Pippa, Pippa – you are beautiful. In America, brides tend to tone their maid of honor down and an American bride would almost never think to put her maid of honor in the same color as her, but Katherine’s confidence to show off the fact that her sister is stunning was fabulous. The other thing about the maid of honor role is that she was a true maid of honor like we do not see in America. She actually carried that dress around, got the bride out of the car, walked those children down the aisle. She earned her right to steal a bit of the spot light.

Third, and most disappointing, I must talk about Katherine’s bouquet. I thought it was small, plain and looked completely fake. I think because she picked a dress that had such a clean and clear pallet, she could have really made a huge statement with a gorgeous, full bouquet of flowers. It seemed like she might have forgotten to pick a bouquet for herself so they just gave her what was left in the back of the flower shop that morning. I did think that it was interesting that the women did not wear corsages. The queen and Camilla had lovely brooches and I thought they looked good and served the same purpose as a corsage would have. I think I would like to officially claim the brooch as my new idea to brides and their mothers!

Next on the list, the transportation. I love the fact that everyone arrived at the time that they needed to arrive. No dilly dally. Get out of the car and get to your spot for the ceremony! Especially the bride; she was able to get out of the car and start her walk down the aisle. I also love the fact that everyone had their own car so the schedule was laid out based strictly on each individual person’s role and when they were due to arrive to the ceremony. I imagine that the transportation schedule looked something like this:
10:13 am - Prince William and Prince Harry exit the hotel door and get into Car #1 with the car doors closing at 10:14 am – car door will reopen upon arrival to church at 10:17 am and the two will enter the church at 10:18 am stopping to shake the hands of all 5 officials and then 10 guests before settling in at the altar at 10:20 am.

Last, but not least, I loved the fact that everyone wore hats for this wedding, which gave us all something to look at and in some cases, make fun of. Seriously, I loved the traditions of the hats and dressing properly to attend the wedding. One of my favorite things, and something that I think should become a mandatory tradition, is when a couple decides to make their wedding black tie. People do not dress anymore and, in most cases, a wedding should be a proper event that is taken seriously. I think every wedding should be a fun event for the guests to use as an excuse to step out on the town and enjoy the night celebrating with the happy couple. Formal dress always makes that feeling more evident and it always makes for a better party – not to mention better photos.

This concludes the major points of the Royal Wedding, as seen by a professional wedding planner who will leave it up to everyone else to scrutinize the bride’s wedding dress (or other dresses worn to related wedding events for that matter), complain about the lack of flowers in an already beautiful church (although the trees were amazing), point out the obvious shame that was Camilla’s outfit, give credit to the amazing choir, wonder if anyone else noticed the lack of emotion during the ceremony and of course, analyze the kiss. I will say, in closing that I think we should make a bigger deal out of the first kiss at every wedding. I think it’s a dwindling detail that needs to take priority in the ceremony. Overall, it was a beautiful wedding, a beautiful bride and they are a beautiful couple. And I am thankful that their wedding created the opportunity to attend a wonderful party with wonderful ladies all gathered together to do what we do best in this city - celebrate a wedding!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Part Two of "A Planner's Plan" - The List

Last week, I wrote about the outbreak of “wedding planners”, that have joined the industry and I went through several scenarios and red flags to look for. Along with that, I promised a check list for the brides to run through when interviewing the planners. I believe that paying attention or looking for the things on this list will help you weed through the bad and hire the good!

1. Did she mean what she said? Did the contract match what she told you would be included in the package?
2. Is she promising you the world? Do the services and “promises” even sound possible?
3. You get what you pay for. Wedding planners are not cheap so if you find one that is, double check the references. No matter what, when you are pricing, if someone offers you everything for nothing, be prepared to get nothing.
4. Take vendor suggestions. The vendors work with a lot of the planners a lot of the time. Consider what relationship the planner has with the vendors that you’ve spoken with.
5. Ask questions – see if she knows about the vendors (pros and cons) that you want to use and get to know her knowledge in the industry (without expecting her to give you planning suggestions/information for free).
6. Is there a time restraint on communicating with the planner? Does she only offer you time to talk from 8am – 6pm and does she only show up on the day of the wedding 2 hours prior? Make sure that her schedule is flexible enough to work with yours.
7. Will the person that you have your initial consultation with be the person who is taking you all the way to the day of the wedding or will the event be passed off to an assistant?
8. Does she call herself a planner or a coordinator? If you want a planner, you better hire someone who knows their title or they certainly will not know their job!
9. Be wary of what services are offered, other than planning. Some planners are also hair and make-up artists, photographers, florists, etc. Being contracted with a group of people or having a staff to do these things is great, but having one person who thinks they can handle all of these jobs means that she cannot do one thing really well because she is doing many things on an average level.
10. Is this her full time job or does she have another job during the day? Does she have day time restrictions? How flexible is her schedule is for last minute meetings, drop offs, etc?
11. How many weddings does she do in a weekend? Are you one of three brides that will need her attention on your wedding day? If so, think about how she will manage to keep all of you happy.
12. Will she be attending meetings with your vendors? If the answer is no, and you are hiring her for full service, walk away as you will spend most of your planning months filling your planner in on the details of meetings.
13. Are there any other packages besides full service and day of? Ask if you can pay for just what you need and customize something in between the two extremes.
14. Does she know it’s your day? There is a difference between a controlling personality and a disciplined work ethic. Make sure you know the difference.
15. Pay attention to her personality and how it mixes with yours. If you are not comfortable enough to talk about pricing and likes/dislikes in the initial consultation, then do not hire the planner. You will have to hire someone that you can be honest with as you definitely do not want to spend 8 months planning your special day with someone that you cannot talk to.

Good luck and keep in mind that the wedding industry is filled with people who got into the field for the sole reason of making money. Just like any other profession, dealing with the “cash cow” vendors versus the ones that do it because they have a love for the job is the difference in service. The trick is learning to spot the lovers of the wedding world!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Planner’s Plan

While planning changes to my account on theknot.com the other day, I saw that there are 21 other companies advertising under the “wedding planner” section in New Orleans. When I started advertising with theknot.com a few years ago, there were only 8 – 12 planners, including myself. The number of planners doubling in only 2 years made me realize that there has to be a guideline of some sort to help the brides out there pick the best planner for them, or a legitimate planner for that matter.
After researching some of the websites for these planners and seeing posts about them on theknot.com, I am pretty confident that I can give assistance in this process – without telling each bride to simply hire me.

For instance, on one planner’s website, she has a detailed description of duties involved in her full service package. She promises to create wedding invitations, favors and gift bags for the bride-to-be and she promises 20% off of the order if the potential bride hires her for full service. My question is: what if the bride just wants a gift bag with Hubig’s Pies inside? How would this planner get you 20% off of a product that she does not produce? While many planners build great relationships with local vendors and venues, it is almost impossible to have a connection with every possible wedding vendor in New Orleans to the degree that you can promise, without a doubt, that you can get the client 20% off of anything they choose to put in a gift basket. Promises like that should bring up a red flag as it will more than likely be a promise that will not be kept.

Another service offered by this same planner is that she will “work with your guest list to develop a seating chart that will help manage the flow of your wedding day.” First off, we all know that only a small percentage of New Orleans weddings even require seating charts, so that’s kind of a nothing service. Secondly, I do not know one bride out there who would appreciate me taking her guest list filled with names of people that I could not possibly know and, at random, creating a seating chart for her reception. That seems a little silly, and it seems like this planner just needed more lines to create a full page of services offered.

The point in bringing up the two examples above is for the brides out there to really think about what is being offered and consider if the services listed will actually be helpful in taking the stress away from the planning process. Just because the contract is filled with bullet points of services offered does not mean that they are services that are worth paying for. A good rule of thumb is to look for the main responsibilities that you know you will need help with – vendor referrals, budget assistance, time lines for tasks needing to be completed, unlimited access via telephone and email, etc.

If the main points are covered, and you are looking for something else to separate one planner from another, then start looking at the extras. For instance, making a seating chart is nice, but, as a bride, I would rather someone who is going to handle getting all of my payments to the vendors so that I am not running all over town dropping checks off or wondering what is due when.

Read through the contract and double check that what the planner told you in your initial consultation matches with what the contract says. Even if the contract is one paragraph, as long as it explains everything the way that you understood it when you met initially, than you are in great shape.

Other details to pay attention to are pricing. I saw on one planner’s site that the full service package was only $1,000 - $1,500 more than the “day of” package. That should be a red flag considering the planner should be doing 80% more work for full service. And if the full service package is much lower than what you are hearing from other planners, ask yourself why that would be the case. I’ve had three clients come rushing to me months before their weddings because a planner that they hired (who was cheaper) cost them more money because she was not holding up her end of the deal. Ultimately, that planner’s actions (or lack thereof) resulted in the brides losing contracts, dates, venues, etc. so they had to fire her in the middle of the process and start fresh with me.

I have created a recap of these and many other points/questions to help you avoid situations such as that. Since this entry is entirely too long, but way too important to cut, this will be a two part entry! Look for the next blog entry which will include the “check list” and remember that, in most cases, the wedding planner is the first vendor you will hire after you get engaged. Ultimately, the planner’s job is to set the tone to make your planning process as easy as possible. The idea is to take the stress away and help point you in the direction that will bring what’s in your head to life. The right planner will save you more money than you could have ever saved on your own. As a matter of fact, the right planner should never charge you more than what she can save you. Keep that in mind when you expect to find a planner who will work for $2,000. Wouldn’t you rather save $6,000?!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Bustle

For most brides, the wedding dress is the most important outfit that she will ever pick out so naturally, more money and thought will go into this one dress than any other dress in her entire life! Some brides spend months agonizing over the perfect wedding gown traveling to places like New York just to make sure they have seen every available option: strapless or halter, long or short, lace or beading, white or cream. The lists of options are endless. The dress is almost always an item on the “over budget” list and each girl tries to think of every possible scenario before making a firm decision; weight gain, weight loss, shoe style, shoe height, body type, skin color, time of year, etc. With all of these things to consider, one of the most important things – almost always overlooked – is the dress’ bustle.
Most girls tend to think that this is something for the seamstress to figure out, but the seamstress will not be at the wedding when the bustle breaks and you are upset that your $2,000 Maggie Sottero gown is dragging around the reception while the groomsmen leave their footprints and beer drops on the train. If I had to put an estimate on the number of bustles that typically break, I would say that 8 out of 10 of my girls have either had their bustles break or bustles that did not work from the start.
Typically, the seamstress should decide on the best bustle for you based on the material of the dress and the weight of the train. The different kinds of bustles are mostly described in terms of the look they offer once the dress is in fact bustled. Some of the different types of bustles may include the Ballroom Bustle or the Double and Triple French Bustle. (For a complete list and view of the bustle styles, please see http://www.projectwedding.com/wedding-ideas/bustles-for-your-gown).
While the look of the dress after it has been bustled is important, that is not what you should be thinking about when talking to your seamstress about your bustle options. What you need to know is how the dress will actually bustle. Will you have a hook or a button or will you have string under the skirt to create a French bustle? These are the important questions to ask and this is the answer you want to hear. NO FRENCH BUSTLE – NO STRINGS UNDER THE SKIRT!!!
The seamstress will tell you that the idea of a French Bustle is simple. You will have about 20 ribbons hanging from the skirt under your dress and each ribbon will have a certain number of knots in it. Two ribbons will have the same number of knots and you will find the ribbons that match, tie them together and POOF, you are bustled. Wrong. This almost never works and the reason is because either the ribbons break, the seamstress forgets to add the correct number of ribbons, or the ribbons were not knotted correctly so they do not all have a match. If you can avoid this bustling option, you will be saving yourself from a guaranteed broken train and you will be saving the person who has to bustle you from a search party for 20 knotted ribbons.
Talk to your seamstress about having hooks or buttons added to the back of the dress to act as a bustle. Also, talk to her about having multiple (maybe three) hooks rather than just one. Nine times out of ten, even if the material is light and does not have much beadwork your moving around all night and being pulled in one hundred directions will only warrant the support of three hooks as a bustle rather than just one.
Regardless of your final decision after speaking with your seamstress, please keep this in mind as a major component to the dress picking process. No matter how pretty your dress is for the ceremony and how pretty the dress was supposed to be with that gorgeous French Bustle, it will still look like a dust rag after dragging the dance floor all night. It will be worth the extra money to add an easier and more reliable option. But also keep in mind, if the bustle does break, either carry the train on your arm all night, or hang the dress on your wrist using the lingerie hook under the bottom of the dress to keep it from dragging the floor. Do not let it ruin your fun night!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Money Dance

I had a client call today asking for some etiquette clarification pertaining to the planning of her daughter's upcoming wedding. It seemed that the bride and her mother were on two different pages for many of the traditions/new fads that are out in the wedding world. One of the main topics of disagreement was the money dance. Of course, the bride and the groom want it and the mother of the bride says NO WAY! The question is, is this a tacky way of getting extra honeymoon money or a long standing tradition that your guests look forward to?
First, let’s discuss what the money dance really is. According to Wikipedia, “The money dance, dollar dance, or apron dance is an event at some wedding receptions in various cultures. During a money dance, male guests pay to dance briefly with the bride, and sometimes female guests pay to dance with the groom. The custom originated in Poland in the early 1900s in immigrant neighborhoods. Sometimes guests are told that the money will be used for the bride and groom's honeymoon or to give them a little extra cash with which to set up housekeeping.”
While Poland is mentioned as one of the main cultures associated with the money dance, there are other cultures that embrace this wedding event as a tradition of support and wealth for the new couple. Although the gesture of extra cash for your honeymoon or the start to your nest egg is sometimes seen as an expected offering at weddings, there are people out there who see it as greedy on the part of the newly married couple.
The feeling is that your guests have given you a wedding gift, and in some cases, much more, so why keep putting out your hands for more. The argument up North can always circle around the fact that most guests give cash as their actual gift so this is simply a way for the guests to present it to the bride and groom. My feeling is that if a guest or family member were going to give money as a wedding gift, they would give it whether there is a money dance or not.
When it comes to my experiences here in New Orleans, I typically see the money dance from younger couples just out of college, give or take a few instances. For the most part, I find the parents to be against this traditional wedding dance, but it is no surprise that the bride and groom fight to have it.
I have to plead the fifth on this topic as I am not sure that I can judge a cultural or family tradition, as is often the reason a couple may decide to keep the money dance as a part of their wedding reception. Just like so many traditions before this one, someone saw this done at a Polish wedding and decided it was a great way to make money at their wedding reception. Unfortunately because it turned from tradition to fad, there are bad feelings toward what started off as a way to celebrate and support a newly married couple.
From an etiquette point of view, if you have no cultural or traditional reason to include the money dance, leave it out. It tends to look tacky when you reach for reasons for your guests to reach into their pockets.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Realistic Requests - The Bride/The Bridesmaid

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an entry about bridesmaids and their etiquette towards each other, but I did not have the opportunity to speak about the other party that drives the finances and emotions for the bridesmaids involved in a wedding: the Bride.

We all know that buying a dress comes with the territory of being a bridesmaid, but we also know that we wait with baited breath to see what dress the bride will pick for us and how much it will cost. The worst case scenario is the bride who picks some Vera Wang dress that she believes can be “worn again” (as they all think the dresses they pick can be “worn again”) that costs more than an entire wardrobe. We also know that it’s par for the course to throw and attend the bridal shower, but what about the bride who invites you to all five of her other celebrations and expects a gift for every invite given? There’s the engagement party, the stock the bar shower, the couple’s shower, the honey do shower and, of course, the lingerie shower. To top it all off, there’s the bride who, after all of that, gets upset if you do not travel to Vegas for a weekend bachelorette celebration which consists of three nights at the Bellagio hotel, dinner at every restaurant owed by a celebrity, followed up by multiple nights celebrating “with the Kardashians” at Pure.

Now, I know that not every bride is like this – everyone knows that I like to pick the most dramatic cases to illustrate points in this blog. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at a typical tab that even the most mild-mannered bride runs up for her maids.
Bridesmaids dress -$200
Hair on the day of the wedding - $50
Make-up on the day of the wedding - $75
Bridal shower - $100
Bachelorette party (if local) - $100

The total is $525 before we add shoes, jewelry, extra shower gifts and/or a wedding gift. You can see how things can get out of control very quickly, and if you are at an age where many of your friends are getting married at the same time, finances can become a big issue.

I’ve devised a little “bridal etiquette” for the brides to keep in mind when putting demands on the bridesmaids. Hopefully these are some ways to relieve the stress from the maids and give the bride a new way to think about the expenses that surely add up.
#1. If you have multiple showers that you’d like your bridesmaids invited to, please tell them directly that gifts are not expected nor will they be accepted. Everyone knows that the typical shower rule is that no one person should be invited to more than one shower. The idea of this rule is to eliminate asking the same people to bring gifts to 5 different celebrations. I think, if you want to invite some of the same guests, such as your bridal party, it is your duty to let those people know that you want them there to celebrate with you, not so you can get another gift.

#2. Please let your bridal party know that a wedding gift is not necessary either. I personally do not believe in giving the bride a wedding gift if I am standing in the wedding. I think throughout the process, enough gifts are typically given that by the end of the engagement, your bridal party has done enough for you. I do sometimes give (and did receive for my wedding) personal gifts such as a “goodie basket” for the honeymoon (thank you, college friends) or a framed picture of something that meant a lot to myself and the bride or the bride and the groom. A gift that is personal is more than acceptable, but I do not feel that the bridesmaids should be made to feel pressure to gift like the rest of your guests.

#3. A good rule of thumb, and proper etiquette, is that if you are going to make your bridesmaids do or buy something specific, as the bride, you should cover the expense. Hair and make-up are the perfect example. If you offer the option of getting hair and/or make-up done, but leave the final decision up to each girl, the bride is not responsible for footing the bill. In situations where you are bringing someone in and requiring that each girl have her hair done a certain way by a certain person, then the responsibility is on you.

#4. Some of the extras that add up and are not necessary are things like jewelry and shoes. Typically, at the bridal luncheon, the bride will give gifts to all of her maids. A great gift to give is always jewelry, especially if you have something specific that you want your girls to wear. Another “uniform” item that brides tend to fixate on is the shoes. Depending on how many girls you have, what style dress and how uniform you want to be, sometimes requiring that your girls buy the same shoes is an added expense that is un-necessary. Besides, many times, the bride tries to find a cheap pair of shoes so that the cost will not be too great for her maids. The shoes end up looking worse than if she would have given the girls a color to stick with and pick their own. A good suggestion would be to pick a color (stay neutral) and let the girls get their own or give the shoes to each girl as a gift, along with the jewelry.

As always, there are multiple sides to every story and I want to make sure to cover one of the most important things about being a bridesmaid that I do not need an entire entry to cover – If you really do not want to be a bridesmaid and be supportive to your friend who is the bride or you cannot afford the bare minimum that goes into being a bridesmaid, just say NO. Also remember that no matter who you are, when it is your turn to get married you too will want everything to be over the top and for all of our friends to want to celebrate and want to do whatever you want to make the wedding and the experience perfect. Keep that in mind when you don’t even want to go out for the bachelorette party or you are complaining about every dress that the bride picks… when it’s your turn, you can pay if forward!

When it comes to the bride, do keep in mind the small tips that I gave about being creative with the things you want and taking on some of the responsibility when forcing your girls to tackle such great financial tasks. The fact is, you are the bride and you deserve to have whatever you want for your big day, but being realistic to the situations of everyone involved is very important. Stay reasonable and understanding to the financial demands that you are putting on people and make sure you let your girls know upfront what you expect or don’t expect. Let them get excited about things by getting them involved in decisions which will not only make them feel like a part of things but also help them to pick what is most comfortable financially for them!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

For the Love of Mardi Gras

I have had many conversations recently with some of my destination brides about the thoughts and comments of their guests coming here for their weddings. Most of these guests traveling to New Orleans weddings have never been here and only have the media and MTV’s Real World to dictate the New Orleans traditions, expectations and etiquette! Since the locals know that the seven sheltered strangers from farm land picked to live in a New Orleans mansion are not true representations of what this city is about, I thought I would dedicate this week’s entry to such a topic. And what better event to exemplify the true local’s spirit than Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras is one of the most significant things related to New Orleans, especially when thought of by someone who is not from here; well, Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street. And if you use the television as your reference, the two go hand in hand, along with a lot of alcohol, nudity and the occasional spicy food. Every local knows that the biggest problem with Mardi Gras and Bourbon street being thought of together is that Mardi Gras actually does not happen on Bourbon Street. It is true that many people party there after the parades, although most of the people on Bourbon are tourists since most of the locals are on the balconies above! Regardless, the reality is that New Orleans has a lot to offer off of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras has everything to offer nowhere near it.

I’d like to squash a few other stereotypes and put some loGcal rules to the Mardi Gras season so that when you visit, it is not completely obvious that you are a tourist.
1. DO NOT flash, especially for beads – this is definitely something that someone from out of town started and everyone who ever visited followed suit – locals do not do this.
2. Do not show up five minutes before a parade and stand in front of the crowds of people who slept on the route the night before in order to conserve their spot – you will get your ass kicked and if you don’t, you should. Save your own spot or stand in the back.
3. Do not throw beads at the floats as they pass. The idea is for the riders to throw to us and because of that they are not expecting to have something thrown at them. You will not look cool or funny, but you will look like an idiot who does not get out much.
4. Do not follow the float down the street, unless you know someone riding on that float. There will be another float right behind the one that just passed. Wait patiently and get out of the street.
5. Do not fight a child for a pair of beads; actually, do not fight anyone. Beads cost nickels and dimes and are essentially worth nothing.
6. Pace yourself with the drinking. On Mardi Gras day and the weekend before, most people are out on the route for hours before the parade even starts. In order to make it through the whole day (and the whole season) – pace yourself. Do drink water and eat when you can!
7. Do not wear flip flops if you are planning to go to Bourbon Street (that is just a rule no matter when you are here).

Now, for your survival kit – pack a backpack and include the following:
1. A roll of toilet paper
2. Antibacterial hand sanitizer
3. Crackers, a sandwich or some kind of snack if you are not packing a full lunch
4. A koozie in case you switch to beer
5. A few plastic cups in case you, or a friend, need to make a drink on the route
6. A bottle or two of water – stay hydrated
7. Extra of whatever alcohol or beer you are drinking – tip – if you do not want to drag a cooler around all day, wrap your beer can in foil and then put it in a zip lock bag with some ice. This will keep your beer cold if you do not want to drag an ice chest around all day! Also, to conserve space, put your alcohol in empty water bottles.

No matter what, when you come to New Orleans, you will have a blast and if you stick with some of the local traditions and etiquette, it will be even better! The Saturday before Mardi Gras, go to Orleans Avenue and spend the day people watching and cooking out before Endymion. On that Sunday, watch Thoth on Magazine Street and then walk up to St. Charles Avenue to catch Bacchus. If live music is your thing, go hear some of the best cover bands New Orleans has to offer just outside of Harrah’s on Fulton Street before watching Bacchus, which rolls right down the street. Or head to Spanish Plaza on Lundi Gras for an outdoor concert and to see Rex arrive and enjoy a huge crowd of locals and the beautiful city setting. Even in Metairie, parades are rolling every night, so if a more family atmosphere and smaller crowds are more your speed, that’s the place for you.

Take advantage of everything New Orleans and Mardi Gras has to offer and then you can head to Bourbon Street!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bridesmaid Wars

One role that often brings or comes with controversy in a wedding is the role of a bridesmaid. The question of responsibility is always one that sneaks its way into the mind of at least one of the girls that the bride has blessed with such a sacred privilege. We do not always remember that being asked to be a bridesmaid is in fact a question and can be answered with a NO! Nevertheless, we take our chances and hope that the bride does not break the bank with her choice of dress, accessories, an overwhelming number of showers which will require an overwhelming number of gifts, etc. The truth is that the financial responsibility put on these bridesmaids can get out of control very quickly but, to be honest, sometimes it is not the fault of the bride at all.
I am sure that all of you can think about the countless bridesmaid meetings that you have attended where you and the rest of the girls have gotten together to plan the bridal shower. And I am sure that you can all agree that tensions run high when a group of girls have to agree on the planning of a party, not to mention the picking a dress – but that’s another story! You know that you always have that girl who says “Well if it’s about the money, then I’ll pay it. I do not care,” yet when the planning of the shower is over and the total cost is divided, somehow the price for the mint julep favors that the maid of honor thought would make the party perfect ends up in the final total. You are also familiar with the conversation about budget and how much the group will spend in total, but somehow, when the task list is being completed by each individual, there are always a few people who cannot stay within the budget and the shower ends up costing an extra $50 to $100 a piece. At that point, we all know that she who complains is a bad friend – at least that’s what girls want to make you believe. Well, I’m here to tell you that is not the case.
The situation is this: none of us knows each other’s lives and financial standing enough to say who can afford what. So when it comes to sitting down with a group to plan your obligations to the wedding, stick to the price that you all agreed upon and if you know that if you cannot, then you alone will pay the difference. It is called a budget; learn how to work within one or waste your own money. You cannot expect others to pay the price because you got carried away while shopping for the decorations. (Just a side note, fellow bridesmaids – understand that just because someone cannot afford something or thinks that something is a waste of money does not mean that they care less about the bride than you do.)
Often times control plays such a big role in the tension that comes from the maids getting together to agree on things. Everyone wants to think that they know the bride the best, that they are willing to the do the most and that they have the idea that will change everything. The truth is, you are all important enough to the bride in one way or another that you are in the same boat – you are a bridesmaid. Even you, maid of honor, have to understand that there are other people’s voices involved and the bride is the one that hand-picked these voices whether you like it or not.
The best thing that you all can do is get together, brainstorm ideas and come up with something that works for the majority of the people involved. Share all of your ideas, but understand that if your idea is not accepted by all, your life will go on. Put a budget in place and stick with it. If you think of something that might be a nice addition, consult all of the girls before purchasing it and if it is not agreed on by everyone, either pay for it yourself, or drop it.
Also, be kind enough to understand if there is someone who voices her financial restraints. Proceed in the most budget-minded way possible and then, if you are in good financial standing, you pick up the tab for any extras that you do not want to go without. But please note that bragging about how much more money you spent only makes you look shallow and desperate to buy the friendship of the bride.
Last but not least, do learn how to go with the flow. Learn that not everything is as big of a deal as people make it and learn that drama only makes the experience less fun, so try to avoid it. Communicate, be considerate and open to other’s ideas, but in the end, majority rules.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Playlist

Something that has come up recently that is a bit confusing to me is the bride or groom who suddenly thinks they are Timbaland and want to make an actual play list for their band or DJ. I have had brides go so far as to put the songs that they want in order of how they want them to be played. Some actually time out each individual song and each break from beginning to end; all four hours of the night. My question is, why hire a band (or a DJ)? Just plug in an IPOD and call yourself a producer.
First off, I am very much against planning things to that degree. There is no possible way for anyone or anything to live up to expectations of that caliber. The reason behind a schedule or suggested song list is to give the band an idea of the couple’s taste and to give the bride and groom a guideline of how the night will line up. I think if you have time to realize that your songs are out of order, then you are not enjoying your night and you only have yourself to blame for not being able to relinquish control – and you’ve wasted a whole lot of time and money .
Secondly, since when is everyone a music guru? I find this with a lot of couples in relation to their vendors, where the bride and groom think they know more than the professionals. If you find vendors that you trust, then you would not have to give them direction and tell them how to do their jobs. The majority of the bands playing weddings in New Orleans are bands that play weddings every weekend, more or less. Because of this fact, they should be more than experienced enough to know what will get your crowd on the dance floor or how to tell if the party is losing interest. I realize that this is giving a lot of credit to wide variety of people, since every band is different, but for the most part, they should know their job enough to know what works.
When it comes to music for the reception, I tell my girls to go through the song list that the band gives and make two lists; a “do not play” list, which is a list of the songs that the band is not to play under any circumstance even if they are offered money by a guest, and a “must play” list, which includes a few of the bride and groom’s favorite songs. These should be the only song lists that the band (or DJ) is given, other than a list of specialty songs – Bride and Groom’s first dance, Bride and Father of the Bride’s first dance, Groom and mother of the Groom’s first dance and Wedding Party Dance. You should let your band know the overall feel of the wedding or if there’s a genre that you absolutely love. Guiding them is not a problem, but thinking you know how to keep a party going with music is not okay and has the makings of the most horrible receptions I can think of.
Make sure you choose the entertainment for your wedding wisely. Do not have a band play if you know you want a variety of music that only a DJ can provide. And do not pick a brass band if you know you want cover songs with male and female singers. Investigate and search for what you want before committing to something based off of a friend’s recommendation. Most importantly, trust your choices and do not try to control every aspect of everything. Allow your band to do what they do best – entertain the crowd. After all, it is the band getting judged on their performance at your wedding and when you tell them how to do their job, they are getting judged on the boring performance they gave because of your failed music choices. If someone came to your office and directed you to do your job incorrectly, wouldn’t you be upset?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day and Night

It is no secret that weekend nights, in particular Saturday nights, are the first slots to fill up at any church and/or reception venue in the New Orleans area. The reasoning behind the choice for most people is that they will have the entire day to get ready for the main event – but does extending your prep time mean you are extending the length of your wedding? Although a nice, full day to prepare and a long, rested night to celebrate sounds like the best idea ever, I urge you to consider an option that goes overlooked and undersold yet gives you the opportunity to enjoy more of the day with your new spouse and your wedding guests:
A Day Time Wedding!

Nine times out of ten, my girls hope for an “after party,” some place to go where they can continue the celebration and keep the party kickin’. Nine times out of ten, after hosting bridesmaids and family with prep all afternoon, a 7pm ceremony and a three to four hour reception quickly turns into midnight and the hotel suite starts looking better and better.

A great friend of mine, Ashley Ricord Santos (perhaps you are familiar with her successful acting career in New Orleans) got married on a Saturday at 1pm and it was one of the best weddings I’ve ever been in. By eliminating the afternoon “bonding time,” she was able to use her time celebrating and stretch out her day in the best way possible.

Instead of having to be at a hotel early in the morning to sit around all day while all of the bridesmaids got hair and make-up done, we met an hour before the ceremony already dressed and ready to go! We had the option to come early and spend time together primping or helping the bride get ready, but the tiring process of stretching out the day with activities and mandatory bonding wasn’t necessary.

By noon we were taking pictures and by 1pm we were processing into the church. She had a fabulous reception downtown where lunch was served (instead of dinner) and everyone was feeling great because the morning hadn’t taken everything out of us. The reception ended at about 5:30pm and because it was still early, the entire bridal party, close family and a good number of the guests took the party to the rooftop of the hotel where the bride and groom were staying.

After the reception, Ashley and her husband Michael were able to go to dinner and then come join the rest of us at the “after party” and since everyone had such an easy/fun start, we were all able to keep the party going well into the AM hours. We ended up drinking the night away and having the best end to an incredible wedding day!

Let’s not overlook that another great reason for an afternoon wedding is because of price – a lunch menu can be a lot cheaper than a full dinner spread. A lot of times, there’s more flexibility in booking when it comes to the earlier Saturday hours. You just have to check with the church first to see what times they have available for the ceremony and then you can speak to the reception venue about what they can do in terms of timing and price.

The idea of spending the day with your best girlfriends sipping champagne while someone dolls you up is amazing and it is a whole lot of fun. But how would you feel if you could actually celebrate your wedding all day rather than just prepare all day – and save some money in the process? I think the engagement is enough of a preparation and on the morning of your wedding, there’s something to be said about getting out of bed and getting the show on the road so you can spend more time drinking, dancing and enjoying being married - all day long!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Can I bring a friend?

This week’s blog topic comes from one of “my girls” (better known as a bride that I am working with or have worked with in the past) who is getting married in March. Her invitations went out earlier in the month, and ever since then she has had people texting her, emailing her and facebooking her to ask about bringing additional guests, children or, in some cases, asking outright for an invitation. Most people think this blog, as with any etiquette book or article, is directed to the person hosting the party, receiving the gift or standing at the forefront of the topic being discussed. I have found that in a lot of cases, the etiquette lesson needs to be for the general public attending said event or giving said gift, as is the case here.
When preparing a guest list, many people think about the overall budget as it relates to the price per head for food and alcohol as well as the total capacity that the room can hold before they can even get into their “wish list” of the number they would like to have in attendance. Then the short list is made, which usually includes relatives, close friends and co-workers. This is just for the bride, not including her parents who will surely have the biggest portion of the guest list if they are paying. Once the bride and her parents have their short list, the groom and his parents chime in with their relatives, close friends and possibly their co-workers. By that time, the list has inevitably grown too much to consider it the short list and becomes the long list which starts getting cut.
When I got married, my husband worked in an office of about 50 people – 50 people plus a guest for each of them is already 100 guests. To put it in an even better perspective, the price per head for food and alcohol usually starts at $60/head (and this is a conservative price). 100 guests (50 of which we did not even know) times $60/head is $6,000. Because of this equation, we cut his co-workers first! Unfortunately, along with co-workers that you do not work with directly on a daily basis, this is where the college friends that you have not seen or spoken to in 10 years fall off. Also, often times people go through and take off the “and guest” if there is a potential guest that is not married, engaged or in a serious relationship. After that, you have the famous decision of whether or not children will be invited, but that is a topic for a different blog so I will not go into that.
My point is, there are a lot of things and people to consider when getting down to the final guest list. Not that anyone owes an explanation to the people who did not make it onto the final guest list or to the people that did not get an “and guest,” but I’m being courteous as obviously some of the general public is unaware of what goes into the guest list process. I do think that these same people need to know that whatever is stated on the front and inner envelope of your invitation is who the bride has invited. If your children are invited, it will say “and Family” and then, most of the time, on the inner envelope, each child’s name is listed (or “and Family” will be printed again). If that is not on the envelope, there has been no mistake! Do not call to check with the bride “just to make sure!”
As far as the etiquette goes for the people who choose to believe that technology has given them the opportunity to ease into a rude situation (that they would never put themselves in if they had to deal with the awkwardness of asking such inappropriate things face to face), allow me to clarify this for you – it does not matter if it comes via text, facebook, mail carrier, stork or telegram – inviting yourself to something that you were not invited to is rude and furthermore, asking to bring a friend is grounds for you to be kicked off of the guest list. Be understanding to the circumstances of the host and know that if they had the privilege of inviting an unlimited number of guests, you, your children, your hook up from the night before and more than likely the bartender from the bachelorette party would be on the list – but in real life, that is just not the case.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Budget Blunders

After the first of the year, many newspapers and wedding magazines will put out a “master wedding issue” to kick off the New Year and help with planning advice for those brides who just got engaged over the holiday. Besides the “planning guide,” which is an overall time line of how the planning process should flow, (this is definitely a topic for a different blog) the other most obnoxious and off-base guide they provide is the budget guide.
Let me preface by saying that I do not believe in “master guides” if you are using them as your sole method of planning. None of these books or online tools will really help you plan if you are the type of person who #1. Knows nothing about weddings, how to plan them or where to start or #2. Does not have the organizational skills to keep up with the contracts, details and especially budget. With that being said the budget part of the planning is often the most important part for brides planning their dream wedding, especially in a world where more of the financial obligation is falling on the couples themselves. As a matter of fact, the radio show “Wedding Talk” – channel 690 AM WIST talk radio Saturday mornings from 10am – 11am - will be speaking about budgeting on their show tomorrow and yours truly will be doing a guest spot giving advice and helpful hints (major SHOUT OUT)!
It is my belief that you cannot look at the money you have to spend and decide from that alone what percentage of the budget should be spent on each vendor. You cannot base your decisions off of a chart that has no ranking of what items are most important in the full scheme of your wedding and a chart that has no regard to the culture of your wedding, the number of guests, etc. Most of these guides do not allow for extras such as favors, photo booths, dessert bars, candy bars, coffee bars or any of the other personal touches that so many couples are bringing to the event these days. Not to mention the fact that most of the guides do not take into consideration that some receptions are sit down dinners and other (like most New Orleans receptions) are buffet style. The price difference in those two choices alone will make a huge difference in your budget. My point is, there is no real formula on what percentage of your budget should go to flowers and what percentage should go to food, etc. In reality, if it is important to you, spend money on it (within your means). If it is not important, do not waste your budget.
New Orleans is one of the top places to get married in the U.S. so a good bit of the weddings that happen in the city host couples and guests who are not from here. These guests come here for the culture of our city, of course, but they also want a piece of what we do best which is eat and drink. So in a place like New Orleans, where the food is like no other, why would you take money from that part of your budget and put it towards napkins?
My suggestion is to look at each vendor separately. What part will they play in the overall concept of your wedding? What have you always imagined and what will be most memorable? Whatever the answer, put your money into those things and tighten the strings on the other things. Get more creative with the things that you do not want to blow your budget on like picking a venue that does not need linens, flowers, chair covers, etc. to make it what you want - And no matter what, stop letting a piece of paper produced for the masses tell you where to spend your hard earned money!