Monthly Archives: September 2014

71 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Vendors

By:

Deborah Witt

You know you need a great venue, cake designer, florist, caterer, DJ and photographer. But other than help you pull off the wedding of your dreams, do you really know what you need each of them to do? Maybe if you’re an event-planner by trade, but probably not if you’re like the rest of us. The fact is you’re not only taking on the role of bride-to-be, you’ve just become the operations manager of what will essentially become a small village for a day. Exciting, yes. But also more than a little overwhelming.

Take a deep breath, we’ve done the initial hard work for you. We asked a few of our favorite wedding designers to share the top questions every bride should be asking each of her vendors before signing the dotted line.

Photo Credit: SUSAN STRIPLING

Key Questions That Apply to Every Vendor

Put these six important questions at the top of your list:

1. How long have you been in business and how many weddings do you do each year?

2. Can you share recent references and examples of your work? (In the case of your venue, be sure to ask to see recent pictures of weddings in the space you’re considering.)

3. Do you have liability insurance? (If not, you’ll very likely want to take out your own policy to cover unexpected mishaps such as a guest tripping over the photographer's tripod and getting hurt, or to repair or replace rented linens that were scorched by the votives in your floral centerpiece.

4. What’s your payment structure and cancellation policy?

5. What’s your backup plan should you fall ill or otherwise not be available at the time of the wedding? In the case of the venue site, what’s their plan if the weather takes a bad turn or another unforeseeable circumstance occurs?

6. What are your travel and/or overtime fees? (Unexpected travel fees may crop up if your ceremony and reception are in different locations or if you’re hiring out-of-town vendors.)

Next:

What to Ask Your Site Manager

“So many points about your event begin and end with the space or location you choose,” says Amy Cagginello, owner of Amy Champagne Events in Milford, Connecticut. “It’s key to know exactly what to expect from your venue.”

Photo Credit: DAMION HAMILTON FOR SASHA SOUZA EVENTS venue and flowers

1. How many people can you accommodate and how long will I have use of the event space?

2. What are the per-person charges? And are there additional service charges or other fees such as gratuities or overtime costs?

3. Do prices differ based on the time of day and/or day of the week? What is your payment and cancellation policy?

4. What time can my vendors arrive to set up/clean up? Can any rentals or decor be dropped off the day before and picked up the day after?

5. Are tables, linens, etc. provided or will I need to rent them elsewhere?

6. Am I able to use an outside caterer and/or cake maker? Is there an extra cost to do so?

7. Can we bring in our own wine, beer, champagne or other alcohol? Is there a corkage fee?

8. Are there any restrictions regarding music? Is there an on-site technician to help with any lighting or sound problems that may crop up?

9. Is there parking on site or do you offer valet parking? If not, where can guests park?

10. Do you offer an on-site coordinator? If so, what services are included and will she/he be there on my wedding day?

For Outdoor Spaces:

11. What’s your weather contingency plan?

12. Can the space be heated or protected, if necessary? And if so, are those supplies on hand or would they need to be rented elsewhere?

13. How do you meet the technical needs of other vendors, such as a DJ, caterer or videographer? (Is there an on-site technician, for example.)

Next:

What to Ask Your Florist

“The flowers are often the first thing your guests will notice,” says Shawn Rabideau, of Shawn Rabideau Events & Design in New York City (who began his wedding career as a florist). “What florists do impacts the entire look of your event, not to mention your budget.”

1. Do you have a signature design style? Will you be doing the arrangements yourself or using another floral designer?

2. Do you offer specific arrangements or can centerpieces, bouquets, etc. be customized?

3. What bloom recommendations can you suggest that fit within my budget and my theme/color story? What flowers will be in season for my wedding?

4. Have you done any weddings at my venue?

5. What can you suggest to help me get the most from my budget? And are there extra fees for containers or other vessels?

6. Is there a price difference between similar blooms? (Ideally you should see an itemized price list of flowers under consideration.)

7. Can you provide other decor, such as trees, arches, votives, and what are the additional costs?

8. Will you work with my cake designer to provide coordinating blooms for my cake? Is there an additional fee for this?

9. How far in advance are the arrangements/bouquets created? How are they stored?

10. Do you charge a delivery and/or set-up fee? Will you pick up any vases, etc. after the ceremony, or is that my responsibility?

Next:

What to Ask Your Caterer

If the caterer’s food tastes great you’re done, right? Not quite, says Napa, California–based event designer Sasha Souza. It’s not enough that they can prepare delicious meals, she says — they also have to be able to handle the size and scope of your event and have fantastic service.

catering SHAWNA YARBROUGH STUDIOSEVEN PHOTOGRAPHY

1. What foods do you specialize in? Do you have set menu options or can you create a custom or themed menu?

2. What would you recommend given my budget, guest count and event theme?

3. How do you handle tastings? (Ideally each dish should be presented as your guests will see them, and you and your groom shouldn’t have to take a bite from the same serving.)

4. What’s the price difference between a buffet and a sit-down meal, and between passed appetizers and appetizer stations? How are your fees broken down?

5. Do you provide linens, utensils, serving table decor, etc.? How about tables and chairs? What colors and styles do you offer?

6. Will you be overseeing the meal service at the reception, or do you have an on-site manager to coordinate these things? (If the caterer won’t be present, it’s always a good idea to ask to meet whomever will be in charge ahead of time.)

7. Is there a cut-off date for making menu changes?

8. Are you licensed to serve alcohol? (If not you may need to hire a separate bar service.)

9. How much do you charge for vendor meals? (Musicians and photographers get hungry, too!) Can leftovers be wrapped for guests or donated?

10. What’s the ratio of servers to guests? How will servers be dressed?

Next:

What to Ask Your Cake Maker

“You want a ‘wow’ factor here!” says Rabideau. “And that can happen if you’re clear with your cake designer about your wishes, and listen to their ideas, too.” Taste and presentation are only part of the equation. You also need to know if they can handle the specifics of your wedding.

cake DAMION HAMILTON FOR SASHA SOUZA EVENTS

1. What are your specialties and/or top flavors and fillings? Can you do gluten-free, organic, or vegan cakes?

2. Can I view examples of cakes you’ve baked and decorated? (Many newer cake makers may have photos in their portfolios of cakes they assisted on, but you want to see what they’ve done from start to finish.)

3. Do you work with set designs or can you design a custom cake to match my theme?

4. Can you outline your pricing fees? For example, do you charge for a cake tasting, are there additional fees for cake stands, cutting knives, toppers, etc.?)

5. Will you work with a recipe I’ve provided? If so, will there be an additional cost?

6. What icing options do you recommend for the cake style I’m looking for?

7. If I want fresh flowers on my cake will you work with my florist to include blooms that coordinate with my floral decor?

8. How far in advance is the cake actually made? How is it stored and transported?

9. Will you preserve the top tier of my wedding cake for my first anniversary?

For Outdoor Spaces:

10. How will my cake hold up to the elements? An unprotected table won’t be able to shield your wedding cake from stiff ocean breezes, high temps or humidity. You’ll want to know how your baker handles outdoor venues.

What to Ask Your Photographer and Videographer

The images of your special day are so important, “yet many couples only focus on the pricing, or base their choice on portfolio alone,” says Cagginello. But there are many more details to focus on.

MICHELLE VANTINE PHOTOGRAPHY

1. Do you specialize in weddings? (You don’t need a weddings-only shooter, but you do want someone who’s comfortable with both the ceremony and the reception.)

2. How would you describe your photography style? And can I see a portfolio of your work — beyond what’s on your website?

3. How/when do we go about creating a shot list? What information do you need from me before the event?

4. What is your working style on the day of the wedding? And how many shooters will cover the day?

5. How much time do you need to set up? And for how long will you shoot?

6. What type of equipment do you use? Do you have backup equipment on hand?

7. What’s the length of time for delivery of proofs? And what is the ordering process?

8. Can you provide me with a detailed price sheet? What do packages include?

9. Do you have a minimum number of hours? Will you stay if my event is running late and what are your overtime fees?

10. Will my wedding be your only job on that day? If not, what are the hours I can count on and what happens if you can’t make it to my wedding?

For Videographers:

11. How long is your editing process?

12. Is there a cost for a video “tease”? (This is typically a 1-minute video short to share on social media.)

Next:

What to Ask Your Musicians or DJs

“DJs and musicians set the tempo for your party,” says Rabideau. “You want to make sure you find the right professionals who can keep your guests entertained.”

THREE NAIL PHOTOGRAPHY

1. What genres can you cover? Do you have any particular specialties?

2. Do you have a DVD from a previous wedding you performed at that I can view? And where can we see you perform live?

3. Can my fiancé and I give you “do play” and “no-play” lists?

4. Do you have ideas to encourage more guests to dance? (For example, are they willing and able to deviate from their set list to try and energize the crowd?) What’s your game plan if you notice guests aren’t dancing?

5. Do you provide the sound equipment or does it have to be rented elsewhere? And do you have backup equipment should something go wrong?

6. Do you have a technician who stays on site if there’s a problem? (This is especially important if you have an outside event, or are booking a venue that doesn’t typically handle weddings.)

7. Do you provide any lighting design? What kind of space/staging requirements do you have?

8. Does your pricing include set-up and breakdown? How much time do you need for set-up, breaks, breakdown?

9. How many breaks do you need and for how long? Will you play recorded music during breaks?

10. What will you be wearing — can I make specific attire requests?

  

Top 10 Questions to Ask All of Your Vendors

By:

Deborah Witt

You know you need a great venue, cake designer, florist, caterer, DJ and photographer. But other than help you pull off the wedding of your dreams, do you really know what you need each of them to do? Maybe if you’re an event-planner by trade, but probably not if you’re like the rest of us. The fact is you’re not only taking on the role of bride-to-be, you’ve just become the operations manager of what will essentially become a small village for a day. Exciting, yes. But also more than a little overwhelming.

Take a deep breath, we’ve done the initial hard work for you. We asked a few of our favorite wedding designers to share the top questions every bride should be asking each of her vendors before signing the dotted line.

Photo Credit: SUSAN STRIPLING

Key Questions That Apply to Every Vendor

Put these six important questions at the top of your list:

1. How long have you been in business and how many weddings do you do each year?

2. Can you share recent references and examples of your work? (In the case of your venue, be sure to ask to see recent pictures of weddings in the space you’re considering.)

3. Do you have liability insurance? (If not, you’ll very likely want to take out your own policy to cover unexpected mishaps such as a guest tripping over the photographer's tripod and getting hurt, or to repair or replace rented linens that were scorched by the votives in your floral centerpiece.

4. What’s your payment structure and cancellation policy?

5. What’s your backup plan should you fall ill or otherwise not be available at the time of the wedding? In the case of the venue site, what’s their plan if the weather takes a bad turn or another unforeseeable circumstance occurs?

6. What are your travel and/or overtime fees? (Unexpected travel fees may crop up if your ceremony and reception are in different locations or if you’re hiring out-of-town vendors.)

What to Ask Your Site Manager

“So many points about your event begin and end with the space or location you choose,” says Amy Cagginello, owner of Amy Champagne Events in Milford, Connecticut. “It’s key to know exactly what to expect from your venue.”

Photo Credit: DAMION HAMILTON FOR SASHA SOUZA EVENTS venue and flowers

1. How many people can you accommodate and how long will I have use of the event space?

2. What are the per-person charges? And are there additional service charges or other fees such as gratuities or overtime costs?

3. Do prices differ based on the time of day and/or day of the week? What is your payment and cancellation policy?

4. What time can my vendors arrive to set up/ clean up? Can any rentals or decor be dropped off the day before and picked up the day after?

5. Are tables, linens, etc. provided or will I need to rent them elsewhere?

6. Am I able to use an outside caterer and/or cake maker? Is there an extra cost to do so?

7. Can we bring in our own wine, beer, champagne or other alcohol? Is there a corkage fee?

8. Are there any restrictions regarding music? Is there an on-site technician to help with any lighting or sound problems that may crop up?

9. Is there parking on site or do you offer valet parking? If not, where can guests park?

10. Do you offer an on-site coordinator? If so, what services are included and will she/he be there on my wedding day?

For Outdoor Spaces:

11. What’s your weather contingency plan?

12. Can the space be heated or protected, if necessary? And if so, are those supplies on hand or would they need to be rented elsewhere?

13. How do you meet the technical needs of other vendors, such as a DJ, caterer or videographer? (Is there an on-site technician, for example.)

Next:

What to Ask Your Florist

“The flowers are often the first thing your guests will notice,” says Shawn Rabideau, of Shawn Rabideau Events & Design in New York City (who began his wedding career as a florist). “What florists do impacts the entire look of your event, not to mention your budget.”

1. Do you have a signature design style? Will you be doing the arrangements yourself or using another floral designer?

2. Do you offer specific arrangements or can centerpieces, bouquets, etc. be customized?

3. What bloom recommendations can you suggest that fit within my budget and my theme/color story? What flowers will be in season for my wedding?

4. Have you done any weddings at my venue?

5. What can you suggest to help me get the most from my budget? And are there extra fees for containers or other vessels?

6. Is there a price difference between similar blooms? (Ideally you should see an itemized price list of flowers under consideration.)

7. Can you provide other decor, such as trees, arches, votives, and what are the additional costs?

8. Will you work with my cake designer to provide coordinating blooms for my cake? Is there an additional fee for this?

9. How far in advance are the arrangements/ bouquets created? How are they stored?

10. Do you charge a delivery and/ or set-up fee? Will you pick up any vases, etc. after the ceremony, or is that my responsibility?

Next:

What to Ask Your Caterer

If the caterer’s food tastes great you’re done, right? Not quite, says Napa, California–based event designer Sasha Souza. It’s not enough that they can prepare delicious meals, she says—they also have to be able to handle the size and scope of your event and have fantastic service.

catering SHAWNA YARBROUGH STUDIOSEVEN PHOTOGRAPHY

1. What foods do you specialize in? Do you have set menu options or can you create a custom or themed menu?

2. What would you recommend given my budget, guest count and event theme?

3. How do you handle tastings? (Ideally each dish should be presented as your guests will see them, and you and your groom shouldn’t have to take a bite from the same serving.)

4. What’s the price difference between a buffet and a sit-down meal, and between passed appetizers and appetizer stations? How are your fees broken down?

5. Do you provide linens, utensils, serving table decor, etc.? How about tables and chairs? What colors and styles do you offer?

6. Will you be overseeing the meal service at the reception, or do you have an on-site manager to coordinate these things? (If the caterer won’t be present, it’s always a good idea to ask to meet whomever will be in charge ahead of time.)

7. Is there a cut-off date for making menu changes?

8. Are you licensed to serve alcohol? (If not you may need to hire a separate bar service.)

9. How much do you charge for vendor meals? (Musicians and photographers get hungry, too!) Can leftovers be wrapped for guests or donated?

10. What’s the ratio of servers to guests? How will servers be dressed?

Next:

What to Ask Your Cake Maker

“You want a ‘wow’ factor here!” says Rabideau. “And that can happen if you’re clear with your cake designer about your wishes, and listen to their ideas, too.” Taste and presentation are only part of the equation. You also need to know if they can handle the specifics of your wedding.

cake DAMION HAMILTON FOR SASHA SOUZA EVENTS

1. What are your specialties and/or top flavors and fillings? Can you do gluten-free, organic, or vegan cakes?

2. Can I view examples of cakes you’ve baked and decorated? (Many newer cake makers may have photos in their portfolios of cakes they assisted on, but you want to see what they’ve done from start to finish.)

3. Do you work with set designs or can you design a custom cake to match my theme?

4. Can you outline your pricing fees? For example, do you charge for a cake tasting, are there additional fees for cake stands, cutting knives, toppers, etc.?)

5. Will you work with a recipe I’ve provided? If so, will there be an additional cost?

6. What icing options do you recommend for the cake style I’m looking for?

7. If I want fresh flowers on my cake will you work with my florist to include blooms that coordinate with my floral decor?

8. How far in advance is the cake actually made? How is it stored and transported?

9. Will you preserve the top tier of my wedding cake for my first anniversary?

For Outdoor Spaces:

10. How will my cake hold up to the elements? An unprotected table won’t be able to shield your wedding cake from stiff ocean breezes, high temps or humidity. You’ll want to know how your baker handles outdoor venues.

What to Ask Your Photographer and Videographer

The images of your special day are so important, “yet many couples only focus on the pricing, or base their choice on portfolio alone,” says Cagginello. But there are many more details to focus on.

MICHELLE VANTINE PHOTOGRAPHY

1. Do you specialize in weddings? (You don’t need a weddings-only shooter, but you do want someone who’s comfortable with both the ceremony and the reception.)

2. How would you describe your photography style? And can I see a portfolio of your work— beyond what’s on your website?

3. How/when do we go about creating a shot list? What information do you need from me before the event?

4. What is your working style on the day of the wedding? And how many shooters will cover the day?

5. How much time do you need to set up? And for how long will you shoot?

6. What type of equipment do you use? Do you have backup equipment on hand?

7. What’s the length of time for delivery of proofs? And what is the ordering process?

8. Can you provide me with a detailed price sheet? What do packages include?

9. Do you have a minimum number of hours? Will you stay if my event is running late and what are your overtime fees?

10. Will my wedding be your only job on that day? If not, what are the hours I can count on and what happens if you can’t make it to my wedding?

For Videographers:

11. How long is your editing process?

12. Is there a cost for a video “tease”? (This is typically a 1-minute video short to share on social media.)

Next:

What to Ask Your Musicians or DJs

“DJs and musicians set the tempo for your party,” says Rabideau. “You want to make sure you find the right professionals who can keep your guests entertained.”

THREE NAIL PHOTOGRAPHY

1. What genres can you cover? Do you have any particular specialties?

2. Do you have a DVD from a previous wedding you performed at that I can view? And where can we see you perform live?

3. Can my fiancé and I give you “do play” and “no-play” lists?

4. Do you have ideas to encourage more guests to dance? (For example, are they willing and able to deviate from their set list to try and energize the crowd?) What’s your game plan if you notice guests aren’t dancing?

5. Do you provide the sound equipment or does it have to be rented elsewhere? And do you have backup equipment should something go wrong?

6. Do you have a technician who stays on site if there’s a problem? (This is especially important if you have an outside event, or are booking a venue that doesn’t typically handle weddings.)

7. Do you provide any lighting design? What kind of space/staging requirements do you have?

8. Does your pricing include set-up and breakdown? How much time do you need for set-up, breaks, breakdown?

9. How many breaks do you need and for how long? Will you play recorded music during breaks?

10. What will you be wearing—can I make specific attire requests?

  

Get Married on a Private Island

By:

Jennie Nunn

Consider the concept of a private island resort: Inherently romantic, it conjures feelings of being gloriously swept away and blissfully secluded. There’s also the posh factor — since you’re among very few guests. Now you can sail away to such fantasylands and bring all your closest friends and family, since many private island resorts offer wedding packages. From Maine to Fiji, we’ve scouted the best island backdrops for your big day. Are you ready to be the happiest castaways?

Royal Davui Island Resort, Fiji

A private hideaway since the 1800s, the 10-acre Ugaga Island was given to a tribal leader in exchange for defending the nearby Naceva Village. Today the reef-ringed island is a postcard-perfect example of a true Fijian escape. The sugar sands are home to only 16 thatched-roof villas, which are all built in the traditional manner. Each has a sumptuous four-poster bed, private deck and sweeping views of the Beqa Lagoon.

davui island
Photo courtesy of Royal Davui

The boutique property’s open-air lobby and Banyan Restaurant are ideal for welcome drinks and pre-ceremony cocktails. There’s a lookout point fit for small ceremonies aptly named Love Shack and, of course, there are innumerable spots to swap vows in the sand. While you escape for a special bride-and-groom-only picnic on a secluded private cay, your guests can enjoy the spoils of being on a far-flung tropical island, paddle boarding and snorkeling and enjoying a luxe spa. Decorated with Fijian artifacts and local artwork, the breezy spa features Pure Fiji organic products and indigenous ingredients such as banana leaves.

royal davui island resort
Photo courtesy of Royal Davui

Adventurous guests will want to go off-property for white-water river rafting on the Upper Navua River (wedding packages start at $3,115 and include a Fijian choir, a Fijian lei, a Fijian warrior guide and escort, registration and documentation fees, a champagne toast and a couples massage; royaldavui.com).

Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, British Virgin Islands

Situated east of Tortola in the sparkling Caribbean Sea, Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina is a veritable playground for wedding parties. The sprawling 230-acre island features 52 plantation-style suites with mahogany-and-rattan furnishings and oversize bathrooms, as well as seven butler-serviced, multi-bedroom villas.

scrub island
Photo courtesy of Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina

The resort’s exclusive 55-slip marina is also home to a sailing school where guests can learn to hoist, tack and come about in the picturesque waters. Daytime activities include scuba and snorkeling, island-hopping trips and swimming with dolphins. But the biggest draw is the beach there are three, including Honeymoon Beach, which is reachable only by kayak.

scrub island resort
Photo courtesy of Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina

Weddings here can be held in a variety of locations across the tropical expanse; the resort arranges guest transportation. Host a no-shoes-required rehearsal dinner featuring Caribbean rum cocktails and a live steel-drum band (wedding packages start at $150 per guest and include buffet dinner, two-hour open bar, coffee service and champagne toast; scrubisland.com).

Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse, Maine

Lighthouses are a marquee of Maine, AKA “Vacationland” and the state that boasts the longest coastline in the U.S. The rocky expanse is dotted with offshore islands, many of which are private family residences. This inn, located at the entrance to the channel of Booth Bay Harbor, was once a station house and working lighthouse that dates to 1892. In recent years, the interior has been exquisitely restored and appointed. Guests have exclusive access to the inn and entire island beyond, including the cozy parlor room, kitchen with fireplace and outdoor lawn area.

cuckolds lighthouse
Photo Credit: Bob Mitchell

Innkeepers and proud Mainers Dan and Barbara Aube can assist with all your wedding needs, including help with setup and catering and shuttling guests to and from the island via boat. Host a sunset ceremony and savor the 360 views before digging into a down-home, traditional Maine lobster bake dinner and dancing under the stars (wedding packages start at $6,000 and include site and service fees, private launch transfers and overnight lighthouse accommodations for the couple; innatcuckoldslighthouse.com).

Legally Wedded: All three locations require marriage licenses. Couples must present legal ID and proof of marital status in each location. They must apply in person in Maine and the fee for the license is $15 per person. There is no waiting period. Fiji requires passports and proof of residence in addition to furnishing two witnesses, completing an application request and providing fees that total about $117. The British Virgin Islands has a waiting period of a single day and couples must apply in person with two witnesses, as well as furnish proof of residence and a fee of about $220.

  

9 Things Bridesmaids Don't Realize Annoy the Bride

Whether you're a first-time bridesmaid, or have 27 dresses hanging up in the back of your closet, it's good to keep in mind bridal-party faux pas, so we chatted with real brides to find out their pet peeves. Here are nine things you didn't realize were annoying the bride in your life, plus practical tips for avoiding these mistakes.


Photo Credit: Jennifer Eileen on Wedding Chicks via Lover.ly

1. Being MIA

Why it's annoying: By not responding to emails, missing showers, or skipping out on favor-making night, you are slacking on your duty to support the bride and might make her regret asking you in the first place.

How to avoid it: You don't need to drop everything else in your life to be a bridesmaid, but you should make it a priority. It doesn't take much effort to reply enthusiastically to her emails with wedding details, and if you can't make a shower or bachelorette party, go the extra mile and send along a gift or card after picking up the phone to tell her why you won't be able to make it.

  

How to Save Money on Your Wedding Vendors

By:

Elaine Stewart

Browse budget advice by category:

Stationery
Entertainment
Catering
Flowers and Décor
Wedding Cake

Your Venue

Elegant options abound but costs vary significantly, so take this expert advice into account before you start scouting locations.

bride looking out the window

Getting More For Your Money
The venues that offer the best value are dedicated event spaces, like hotels and banquet halls (generally speaking, sites with prescribed wedding packages). This is because many services you would otherwise need to hire come included, and bundling them together makes your dollar go farther. When shopping around for a venue, “The number one thing is to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples,” says planner Claudia Hanlin of NYC’s The Wedding Library. “Bringing-in always costs more because you have pick-up and delivery charges for every single thing.” Many brides make the mistake of thinking an outdoor wedding at a family member’s home will result in a big savings. There’s no site fee, but the cost of transforming a backyard into a full-service reception space (tents, lighting, dance floor, portable toilets) can exceed even the most lavish pre-set package.

Paying Less For Places
Another way to save, says Hanlin, is by holding your ceremony, cocktail hour and reception in the same venue — such as a church or synagogue with an attached hall, or a restaurant with multiple party rooms. The cost of a few extra hours on property is considerably less than renting an entirely separate space, and you won’t have to pay to transport guests between locales. Religious and charitable organizations tend to rent for nominal fees, as do government-run sites like cultural institutions and state parks. Plus, what you do pay to rent these places benefits the community. Parks, in particular, can be great bargains, considering they often include scenic backdrops.

Naturally picturesque locales don’t need much adornment, which reduces your decor budget. The key is working with what you’ve got: “In California there are a lot of missions that rent for very little,” says Sasha Souza, the Napa-based event designer, “and they often already have benches in place so you save on furnishings.” Similarly, if your site features a stone patio, consider using that as the dance floor rather than renting one.

Pro Tip: At first glance, the fee for renting an empty loft may seem like a steal compared to a ballroom. But as soon as you factor in all the vendors (caterer, servers, bartenders) and rentals (tables, chairs, china, glassware, linens), you’ll see the price tag go way, way up.

Next: Stationery ►

Stationery

There's so much info to share with your guests before and on your big day. But all those printed pieces add up. Here’s how to get pretty paperie without paying a pretty penny.

stationery

Comparing Print Prices
A significant factor in stationery costs is your choice of printing method. At the most expensive end are engraving and letterpress techniques, where the script is artfully raised off the page. If you like this formal feel but don’t want to pay top dollar, consider thermography — it's much less costly. Offset printing comes next on the price scale, while digital printing is very economical — especially for incorporating multiple colors. Because offset and digital printing are cheaper to produce, stationers recommend using them for all your day-of needs, like ceremony programs, escort or place cards and menus. “These pieces are often left behind at the end of the night,” says Karen bartolomei, founder of grapevine design studio in boston. “Splurge on the items that will be delivered to your guests’ homes.”

Saving by Consolidating
The more elements there are in a wedding invitation, the higher the price. One insert that’s easy to eliminate is the reception card. “If you’re getting married in a church and having your reception at a loft, print 'Dinner and dancing to follow at tribeca rooftop' on the invite itself,” says Cheree Berry of Cheree Berry Paper in St. Louis, MO.

Rather than printing and sending out a veritable booklet of guest logistics in early mailings, stationers now recommend putting travel and lodging details on your wedding website and printing the URL on your save-the-date cards. Day-of items can be scaled back, too. Rather than calligraphed escort cards, print names and table assignments in a nice font on fine paper and display them in frames, or write them on a chalkboard.

Next: Entertainment ►

Entertainment

From the melody that plays as you walk down the aisle to the band or DJ that gets guests out on the dance floor, memorable music is a must. Follow these tips to save on the soundtrack to your soirée.

bride and groom first dancePaying Less For Live Acts
Musicians are almost always more expensive than DJs, so hiring instrumentalists to perform at your ceremony and cocktail hour, plus a band as the main act, will cost top dollar. But cash-strapped couples don’t necessarily have to forfeit live entertainment. If you’re having a religious service, check your venue contract before booking anyone, says Deanna Jones, of NYC’s The Deanna Jones Orchestra. “Often you are already paying for a musician at your church or synagogue and just don’t know it.”

If that’s not the case, look into nearby civic organizations and music conservatories. “In some areas, you can book an excellent jazz group or classical trio from a community theater or symphony for a donation or nominal fee,” Jones says, and pre-professional students may charge even less. For reception music leads, explore your city’s nightlife scene. A group that performs in local bars or clubs tends to be more cost-effective than a traditional wedding band. As with venues, you may get a bargain rate by holding your wedding on a weekday or a weekend in slow season. Saturday events incur the most competition for services, so they yield the highest price tags.

Thinking Outside the Band
DJs typically cost less than bands, and some couples prefer them because of the greater variety of songs they can play and the fact that they don’t take breaks. Although iPods let individuals create a playlist and “spin” their own tunes, DJs double as emcees — introducing the bridal party and announcing special dances and toasts. They also provide and hook up speakers, which you may have to rent unless your venue has a built-in sound source.

Lastly, don’t overlook talented friends and family members. Asking your choir-star cousin to sing a hymn at your service or some college buddies in a cover band to play your first dance track adds the excitement of a live performance for free.

Pro Tip: When it comes to booking a band for your reception, size matters. A five-member group will almost always cost less than a nine-piece orchestra (not to mention individual tips and the number of mouths you will have to feed). 

Next: Catering ►

Catering

Refreshments are an important part of every party, but feeding all your friends and family can eat up a good chunk of your wedding change. Here’s how to get more bite for your buck.

wedding food

Planning Frugal Fare
You can reduce almost every wedding expense by editing your guest list, but nowhere does that tactic have more impact than in catering costs. Think about it: Food and drink may run hundreds of dollars per head, meaning that 10 or 20 fewer chairs will result in significant savings. If you can’t get your numbers down, buffets may come in as a budget-friendly option because you don’t have to pay for waiters; however, it’s important to serve less expensive fare that can be easily prepared in bulk.

If you prefer sit-down service, request that guests make their dinner choice in advance. “Taking an order at the table means the kitchen has to have eighty percent of every option available, which costs a lot more,” says Seattle-based caterer Lisa Dupar. She recommends including an entrée selection line or insert with your invitations so the chef can plan ahead. Also, giving guests fewer choices to begin with (filet mignon or wild mushroom risotto, for example, instead of a meat, fish and vegetarian dish), or the same sides with each alternative, is less work for the cooks.

Barely noticeable omissions or substitutions can have a profound effect on your final bill, too, says Brian Kiefer, a senior sales consultant at the Chicago-based caterer Food for Thought. “If you’re serving a beautiful salad with seasonal veggies and simply leave off the cheese, you’ll save one dollar per person,” he says. Whipped potatoes cost less than fingerlings but make an equally fine side. And if you must have a fancy food like lobster on your menu, offer a small portion as an appetizer rather than an entrée.

Nixing Excess Expenses
If your catering budget is tight, don’t fall into the common trap of overestimating how much your guests will consume. Do you really need assorted passed hors d’oeuvres, a made-to-order sushi station and a mammoth crudité platter at your cocktail hour? “Pick one hearty, filling display — like a local artisan cheese table with fruits, breads and crackers — and have that be it!” says Dupar.

Another way to cut back is by shortening the event. “Costs are driven by length of time, so stick to an hour or less for cocktails,” says Kiefer — noting that, on average, people consume one canapé every ten minutes—and consider trimming an hour off the reception. For even deeper savings, skip dinner altogether, and opt for a brunch, afternoon tea and dessert, or late-night cocktail reception. If you stay flexible and open to new ideas, you'll find lots of creative approaches to throwing a great party that will also save money.

Pro Tip: Don’t get talked into splurging on top-shelf liquors. Go with one or two signature drinks in addition to red and white wine and two types of brews. And if the drinks are passed on trays as guests enter the room, most won’t even realize the bar has been scaled back.

Next: Flowers and Décor

Flowers and Décor

Nothing says “wedding” like bountiful blossoms — but bouquets, centerpieces and other floral arrangements can make your budget grow out of control. Here’s how to nip overspending in the bud.

decor

Choosing the Blooms
Flowers can be as dramatically different in price as they are in appearance. The best way to get more for your money is by selecting seasonal blooms that can be purchased locally rather than shipped in. As soon as you set your date and location, ask your florist to suggest flowers that will be available in that place and time of year. You can also save by using a less expensive flower en masse. It makes a striking statement but requires less effort for your florist than arranging multiple blooms, says Hanlin.

Alternatively, by using cheaper blooms like carnations at the base of your arrangements, you can get away with fewer, more prominently placed pricey blossoms. Chicago-based event designer Marina Birch boosts centerpieces with inexpensive greenery, like ferns and ivy. “Any kind of leafy filler adds a lush, organic touch and volume, so arrangements don’t appear skimpy,” she says. For ceremony decor, Souza counsels couples marrying in a large church to skip the flowers because they’ll be overwhelmed by the space; just place wreaths on the entry doors.

Non-Floral Looks

Souza loves using hardy perennials like succulents and chicks-and-hens plants in reception displays instead of fussy, fragile blooms; they aren’t pricey and can be replanted and enjoyed long after the event. Branches, topiaries and tree-trunk slices make great nonfloral centerpiece elements, too, while embellishing with fruits and vegetables adds texture for far less than a flowers-only arrangement.

Purchasing decorative items like candelabra or vintage vessels is often cheaper than renting them, says Hanlin, and you can always sell them after the wedding. If your floral budget is really limited, stick to adorning the center of the room (no one will notice if the perimeter is a bit sparse) and find other ways to spruce up the table and chairs. Many venues offer basic linens in an array of shades besides white, and a profusion of one color looks purposeful rather than penny-pinching. Similarly, standard ballroom seats can be dressed up by tying ribbon into bows on the backs.

Pro Tip: “One trick I love is going with the house china but adding colored napkins and wine goblets from a rental company,” says Hanlin. “It looks as if you’ve done a custom table, but you haven't.”

Next: Wedding Cake ►

Wedding Cake

A decadent confection makes a fitting grand finale, but that fancy finish may not come cheap. Here's how to sweeten your deal and score a cost-conscious cake.

wedding cake

Impressing For Less
Some brides are surprised to learn how expensive wedding cakes run. But they have to look as good as they taste, and that takes effort. “The cake is a dessert, but it also plays a decorative role in the reception — similar to the flowers,” says pastry chef Cheryl Kleinman of Betty Bakery in Brooklyn, NY. When a couple’s eyes are bigger than their budget, a baker might suggest preparing a “fake” cake, made of iced tiers of cardboard or foam except for the tier that’s sliced during the cake-cutting ceremony. The guests are then served pieces of an inexpensive cake that’s cut in the kitchen.

Alternatively, you can have a diminutive but dramatic cake that serves 35 presented on a pedestal stand on the escort card table; this way guests notice it when getting their seat assignments but later eat slices of an unseen sheet cake.

Scaling Back on Sugar
Although cakes are priced by the slice, it’s not likely that every single person will indulge — so you can usually get away with ordering a confection that feeds just 75 percent of attendees. Square cakes yield more slices than round ones, and rich flavors like chocolate make people full faster, meaning you can order less and cut thinner slices.

To further cut costs, have your cake divided into very small pieces to be passed on trays during the dancing; this way, you may only need to budget for 25 percent of the guest count. Finally, while it's fun to work with a pastry chef, it isn't absolutely necessary. If your venue has an in-house caterer, consider booking their baker to save on delivery fees. And consider offering a number of single layer cakes in a variety of flavors displayed on a collection of pretty cake stands.

  

Host a Tea Party-Themed Bridal Shower

afternoon-delight
Photo credit: Elegant Affairs

Andrea Correale, celebrity caterer and president and founder of of Elegant Affairs, gives us the inside scoop.

When planning a tea party, what’s the vibe to strive for?

“These affairs are feminine and elegant, with a fun, girly element. Picture an English tea, with beautiful teacups and scones and pastel colors. Very proper and dainty. Set the tone with your invitations: Choose a formal, feminine font on heavy paper.”

What should you serve?

“The great thing is that tea foods won’t break your budget. You’ll want to feature light, delicate fare and a selection of desserts. Often, I suggest that the girls and the mother of the bride try their hands at making tea sandwiches — of course you don’t have to do that if you don’t want! Think cucumber sandwiches, for example. You take thin-sliced cucumbers (seeds removed) and arrange on pressed bread with a little butter. A favorite cost-effective idea: deviled eggs. Yes, just the way they served them at cocktail parties in the 1950s.”

You can also do deviled eggs in a salad; spice them up with gorgonzola and bacon or go southwestern with diced onion or chipotle. Carry the theme through with chocolate-accented cookies shaped like tea bags for a festive finish (see recipe, below).

And the “proper” beverages to serve?

Hot teas, of course, as well as chilled lavender or chamomile teas. A bellini cocktail made with peach nectar and prosecco (less expensive than champagne) is wonderful. I also like a traditional kir royale, made with prosecco and raspberry liqueur, topped with a fresh raspberry. Put out sugar cubes, not regular sugar, and rock candy sticks to use as stirrers.”

Must tea parties be small? And what time of day is best?

You can have groups of 50 to 100 people, or you can keep your shower very intimate. For a larger crowd, do a fabulous tea buffet on a dining room table. Use three-tier tea stands on which you can arrange your sandwiches and pastries. Traditionally, tea is served at 4 p.m., but noon or 1 p.m. is just as good.”

What about décor?

If your mom has a silver tea set, go for it! Or maybe someone has crystal goblets or a cake stand you can borrow. Use a nice linen or a lace or floral design for a tablecloth — nothing that looks contemporary. Tie each napkin with a beautiful ribbon bow. For centerpieces, fill antique-style teapots or teacups with one type of flower (a few pink or white tea roses, for example). For single use, silver-plated is an inexpensive option. Another affordable idea is to go to an event rental company for vintage-style three-tier stands and dishes (plastic or paper are fine) for an appropriately old-world effect.”

What about favors?

Small individual boxes with a variety of teas, or little potted plants in teacups, are perfect. The ladies will love them!”

Another idea: Make these adorable tea bag cookies ►

  

Time Crunch: How to (Quickly!) Plan a Wedding

Although many brides and grooms take up to a year and a half to organize their weddings, other couples want to make it snappy. “I'm getting more calls from brides who would like to get married in a couple of months,” says event planner Julie Pryor of Pryor Events in Los Angeles.

There are plenty of reasons for having a wedding in a hurry-from a job change or military deployment to just plain eagerness to tie the knot. Here, some pros' tips to ensure that even with fast-and-furious planning, your wedding goes off without a hitch.

bride

1. Make the first month count.
Wedding timelines usually start a year before the big day. So what’s a bride to do when she’s just six months out (or less)? “First, set your budget and make all your major decisions and purchases,” recommends Christine Paul of Christine Paul Events in New York City.

“That means booking your ceremony and reception sites, purchasing or ordering your gown and the bridesmaids' dresses, hiring a photographer and deciding on the honeymoon.”

You'll also want to sit down with your fiancé and set your priorities. For example, your top three might be great jazz music, authentic Italian food and a first-rate photographer. “Once you’ve done all that, you’ll be right on track with brides who’ve been at it for months,” says Paul.

Tip: Enlist the help of your friends. Give them jobs they'll feel comfortable doing, like managing the RSVP list. You'll be glad you did.

2. Be flexible and creative.
You may find that some of your first choices aren’t available. For example, many popular wedding locations are reserved a year in advance. So learn to be flexible; a fabulous venue could be a place you haven’t yet imagined. “Instead of the more obvious choices, perhaps a friend has a beautiful beach house, or you could get married in a local park,” says Paul.

Open your mind to different dates and times as well. Sometimes it’s much easier to find and secure a place for a Friday or Sunday — or earlier in the day. The better able you are to come up with creative alternatives, the happier you’ll be with the end result.

3. Ask for help.
Event planners may be hired to do the entire wedding, or simply to handle a few tasks you can’t fit in or even just to manage things on the big day itself. Researching vendors to learn who’s right for the job is time consuming, and a good wedding planner with a network of reliable vendors can figure out the logistics quickly and easily.

4. Enjoy yourself!
Remember to take time to soak it all in. Sure, you’ll be in a hurry, but taste-testing dishes and listening to bands is still fun. Luckily, you’re already on top of this. “Brides who’ve gotten their weddings together in six months or less have told me they actually enjoyed the process,” says Paul. “They had less time to stress out and found the preparations surprisingly exciting.”

5. But will it cost more?
In many cases, you’ll receive the same treatment — and fees — as any other bride. In other words, giving shorter notice to vendors and other service providers doesn’t mean you’ll be getting a higher fee. And, says Debi Lilly of A Perfect Event in Chicago, “Don’t assume you should refrain from negotiating prices just because you’re on a short timetable. Negotiate whenever and wherever it seems reasonable.”

Although there shouldn’t be rush fees for booking your venue, your band, your florist or most other vendors, Lilly notes, “You can expect to pay extra for hurrying your and your bridesmaids’ gowns and maybe the invitations or favors.” So try to make quick, smart decisions. You really don’t have time to be fickle about the colors of your bridesmaids’ dresses or about whether to have roses or white orchids for your bouquet. Chances are, you won’t regret your choices — especially when you find you’ve eliminated costly “rush” fees.

Photo Credit: Mango Studios

  

How to Choose Your Wedding Colors

By:

David Tutera

Ever since you announced your engagement, you’ve probably been repeatedly asked this question: “What is your wedding color scheme?” It is important, and it’s also one of the first questions I ask when I meet a bride.

color-stories-1

Photo Credit: Marring Visuals

Color is actually an extension of you, as a bride, and the hues you choose will affect everything — from the ink and paper choices of your invitations to your bridesmaids' dresses to your bouquets and floral centerpieces to your tablecloths, your specialty cocktails and even your favors. And oh, yes, the cake!

color-stories-3

Photo Credit: Marring Visuals

OMG! This is a huge decision. So let’s step back a minute and think about color in everyday life. Color can create a mood and affect the energy of a space. When you paint a room in your home, the choice of color will evoke a feeling. Yellow is happy and exciting, and it makes me think of the morning sun, so I love it for a kitchen. Red is associated with passion and adventure, while blue is calming and peaceful. In my home everything is splashed with color — from a red kitchen to a purple bedroom, and everything in between. For some people that may be too much, but for me different colors create different experiences — and isn’t that what life is all about?

color-stories-4
Photo Credit: Marring Visuals

So color is a very personal choice, but when I ask brides about their color schemes, most tell me that they want all white or shades of pink. Now these are safe, but less daring than I’d like. My advice is, add personality — your personality — by choosing a splash of color. Together, consider your favorite colors as well as your season and style.

What do certain colors mean to each of you? (The pink of the peonies in your mom’s spring garden? The blue of the summer sky at the beach?) Now purchase inexpensive paints, brushes and paper and start splattering. Be a little crazy, a little Jackson Pollock! Or pick up paint chips at your local home improvement store, and play with different combinations. You might be surprised by what you both like.

color-stories-5
Photo Credit: Marring Visuals

Shades of the Seasons
I try to avoid color schemes that are too predictable. For example, a fall wedding that’s orange and brown makes me think of Halloween and pumpkins. “Harvest” colors are too clichéd; you don’t want your wedding to be too “themey.” Instead, consider taupe or burgundy with copper and a hint of lavender. Fall is perfect for being fashion forward with unique colors.

Spring: Spring colors are usually all about pastels, but change it up a bit by adding deep splashes of plum or coral.

Summer: Go for bold yellows, purples, reds and blues. Or select different shades of a color: Coral, salmon and a deep burnt orange would be stunning.

Winter: All-white is gorgeous, but add a splash of lavender for warmth. Or go for a metallic, like pewter, silver, copper, bronze or gold, for depth and richness.

Your wedding is a blank canvas just waiting for you to paint it in your special colors. Have fun creating a masterpiece!

  

Fantasy Wedding Inspiration

“I try to approach weddings in a very theatrical way,” says Preston. So what more fitting a big-day venue than the Smith Center, a theater complex rich in Art Deco details and soaring sight lines. The ceremony was held in the grand lobby, followed by a reception for 250 on a sweeping stage.

“The bride understood the importance of drama,” Preston says. “Together we created something powerful.”

beautiful wedding

The custom-built gilt-framed ceremony altar covered in roses, peonies, orchids, white stock and hydrangea; the stairs lead to the vast concert hall where the reception was held (on stage!). The couple’s child was wheeled down the white-carpeted aisle in a rose-covered carriage.

elaborate ceremony chuppahfloral wedding carriage

The sweetheart table featured swans, which were created with crystals, feathers and fresh flowers.

white wedding centerpieces

In a floral nod to the culinary experience to come, a rose and crystal pink pig is placed at the head table.

floral pig

The other table arrangements featured soaring centerpieces with roses, peonies, orchids and hydrangea. Each towering centerpiece was further embellished with crystals.

white wedding centerpiece

white wedding centerpieces

Gold accents were everywhere, from stemware to flatware to the menu cards, which featured a regal crest.

gold gobletsgold menu card

The pièce de résistance: “We created a tall centerpiece dripping with garlands of pearls and attached the escort cards to the ends,” Preston says. “It’s important that my guests are transported to another world. My goal is for them to say, ‘OMG, I have never seen anything like this!'”

escort card table

The lavish, sugar-blossom wedding cake by Sylvia Weinstock featured tiers of chocolate and red velvet. “The most exciting part of a wedding is the element of surprise. It could be a change of lighting or a new scent in the air. I know I’ve succeeded when at the end of the evening the guests don’t want to leave.”

sylvia weinstock wedding cake

All photos courtesy of ALTF Photography