2.18.2009

Reception Certerpieces

If you are like me, you were shocked to find out the cost of flowers, let alone, the cost per centerpiece for your reception. Something as simple as a small bouquet of flowers in a vase will cost at least $28 per piece. That's not cheap, especially when you have 20-30 tables. So here are a few ideas for centerpieces that wont blow your flower budget.

If you want flowers
Consider a single floating flower, like a gerbera daisy. For some additional color, consider adding some colored glass pebbles to the vase or tie a bow around the vase. If you want to set the mood, place 6-8 tea candles around the table, the light will reflect off the vase and glass pebbles. You can find cheap clear vases at your local craft store, watch the weekly coupons for the 40-50% off certain items. There are usually specials on vases and home decor, ribbon, fabric, and more. If you start shopping early you may be able to cash in on these specials. You can also rent vases, if you are using your florist for the centerpieces they may have vases for rent. You'll probably save more money if you do your own centerpieces, especially if you simplify them.

Another option is a potted plant. You can find aluminum buckets or terracotta pots at a reasonable price. Then pick out your potted plants and put your centerpieces together. Add a bows around the pots and even use the soil to plant the table numbers into. These also make great gifts for vendors, friends and family who helped out with the wedding.

If you like the statement of the vase, but don't want the expense of flowers
A vase with water can have many purposes. First, the floating candle. Not only can you create atmosphere with candles and light reflecting off the water, but you can choose your candles colors and add the details to match your wedding. Are you having a fall wedding? Include some fall leaves submerged in the water. You can also submerge rose petals, lemon or lime slices, rocks or sea glass to the water, spicing up the centerpiece and keeping with whatever theme you are going for.

If you want a living plant, but not flowers, try lucky bamboo. Add rocks or colored glass pebbles to the vase to help them stand. These also make great gifts, as they are a living plant with low maintenance needs.

A live animal?
Another option, which has been controversial in the past, is fish. Yes, I said fish. This is especially unique if you are having a beach theme wedding. Some people are against using a live animal for a centerpiece, but I think it's a rather cute idea. There are a few things to consider though. First, don't use goldfish unless you want to worry about floating fish on the day of your wedding. No-one want to eat while looking at a dead fish. Use Beta instead, just don't put them in the same bowl, or bags in transport, it wont be a pretty site. If you aren't familiar with Beta, they will eat each other.
Also, you have to find homes for all the fish, so try and think of this ahead of time rather than forcing guests to go home with a new pet. If you want to add a plant to your fish habitats, don't use any toxic flowers. The most common plants that are safe are the peace lily or a philodendron. I've seen a floating gerbera daisy and orchids used, but I am not sure if they are safe. It's best to look into this before torturing your live centerpieces.

Dry centerpieces
Maybe water isn't necessary, perhaps it just needs to be filled, with....something. The sky is the limit, it just depends on your theme and colors. Here's a list of vase fillers that will make for great centerpieces. Some even have a dual purpose.
  • For a winter wedding or an outdoor wedding, fill your vases with pine cones. Tie a bow around the vase to include your wedding colors. Other winter wedding ideas: apples or cranberries.
  • For a spring or summer wedding, use lemons or limes, these are nice and bright, and even have a great scent.
  • For a fall wedding, collect some fall leaves, mini pumpkins or oranges.
  • For a beach wedding, use sea shells, sea glass, sand with a candle, or a combination of the three.
  • Use candy! Not only can you find candy in almost any color, but it's edible! Fill a vase with lime green jelly beans (or pink or red, whatever your colors may be). You can also use the vase to plant your table number cards, and of course, add a ribbon for an addition touch. Candy ideas: Lemonheads, jelly beans, gumballs, candy canes, Hershey kisses...OK, really, I could go on forever. I would suggest keeping it on theme using color.
  • Other ideas: Rocks, coffee beans, sand (natural or colored)

None of these ideas are restricted to the season, it's all up to you and your colors or theme. These are just some suggestions.

I like the bouquet, but not the traditional flower bouquet

Consider a bouquet made from something other than flowers. Some of these ideas include flowers, but help to limit them. If you want to use some flowers, mix in pine cones, lemon halves, apples or berries. These all put out a great scent as well.

The nontraditional bouquet has grown in popularity. If you know how to do it, Origami can be a unique and beautiful option. Plus, you can send your guests home with them. These can be simple or wild in color, it's completely up to you!

If you want to stretch your wedding budget, consider a dual purpose centerpiece. What about combining your wedding favors into the centerpiece with a lollipop bouquet? Also, instead of a wedding cake, do individual cupcakes and display them on each table. You can create little tiers of cupcakes, or create a cupcake bouquet. Check out some examples here!

There you have it, some ideas for centerpieces. These are some alternatives to the traditional flower bouquets, and are hopefully cheaper as well. But it's up to you to be the bargain shopper. The more your use vendors, the more expensive it will be. So try creating your centerpieces yourself, keep an eye out for those craft store sales, and ask your friends to help. Check out flickr.com and search for wedding centerpieces. You'll find an array of visual ideas there too. Good luck, and have fun!

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2.06.2009

When should I send out wedding invitations?

You're getting married in 4, 8 or 16 months? When you're newly engaged, the first thing to think about is setting the date. It seems to be the first thing people ask after saying "Congratualtions!" Setting the date is obviously the first thing you need to determine before you know when you are sending out invitations.

So when do you send out those invitations, when is too soon, and when is cutting it too close. Well here are some things to think about when making this decision.

Set the Budget
First, you need to set your budget and figure out how many people you will invite to the wedding. The best way to increase or decrease your budget is by headcount, so think about who your friends really are if you are trying to save a few dollars. Creating a guestlist, even a rough one, will help you when getting estimated on your wedding invitations. And remember, you don't need an invitation for each person on your guestlist, you only need enough for each family or couple. This is sometime an obvious detail that is easily overlooked.

Getting anxious?
Sent out save the date cards. If you at least know the city you are getting married in, sending out save the date cards can be helpful for out of town guests making plans to travel. You can send these out 4-6 months in advance, and as far out as 12+ months in advance for a destination wedding.

Printing the Invitations
You probably wont dive into the design and printing of your invitation until you have the major details of your wedding, such as the venue, directions, where you are registered (if you find this appropriate for your invitations, it's a personal decision), and the proper wording you prefer. You can find samples of invitation wording at http://www.theknot.com/. Follow this link to find the Invitation Wording Wizard: http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/wedding-invitations.aspx.

So when do you send them out?
As a general rule, wedding invitations are sent out 8 weeks in advance and and RSVP should be requested 4 weeks in advance. If your invitations take a week (at the most) to be delivered, this allows your guests 3 weeks to reply on time, and 5 weeks for those procrastinating guests. Most vedors, specifically the cater, require a headcount 2 weeks in advance. Giving the 2 weeks grace period will allow for a more accurate headcount, even though it's almost impossible to know exactly who will come to your event without sending their RSVP, or who will pull a no-show last minute.

Don't forget to include:
- The invitation including the name and address of the church or venue.
- Directions to the venue(s)
- RSVP cards with postage. You can save $0.11/stamp on postage by making RSVP postcards instead of a RSVP card with a separate envelope.
- A website for additional information about your wedding (hotels to stay, directions, where you are registered, etc.) This website can be a the bottom of the invitation or on the directions/map. Avoid putting this on the RSVP card because your guests will send this back to you and no longer have that information.

For some wedding vendor and idea references, including some wedding invitation vendors, visit http://kincaidesigns.com/Links.html#weddings.

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11.17.2008

Pre-Holiday Savings

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6.19.2008

Live Music, Disk Jockey or Solo Artists?

How do you choose the music for your wedding ceremony and reception? Today, couples are breaking outside the box of traditional wedding music. They've come to realize that it's their wedding, and there is no right or wrong music to walk down the aisle or to play during their father-daughter dance at the reception. Not only does this make for a unique and memorable wedding, it also makes couples even more confused than ever.

So, how do you begin to choose your music, live entertainment, disk jockey, quartet, solo artist, or musical compilation? Well, as we learned from the Sound of Music, we "start at the very beginning."

1. What is your budget? You'll have to divide your budget for live entertainment between the ceremony and the reception. Usually the reception is the more expensive of the two, since it's usually longer and most musicians and DJ's are paid by the hour.

2. What kind of music do you want at your ceremony? Traditional or modern? If you want traditional, many churches have an Organ or Piano player that can be included (for an extra fee) with your church reservation fee. Or, you can hire a piano player for the ceremony for about $100 per hour. If you want a more modern take for the ceremony music, figure out what type of music you want played and hire a solo artist or band that can play it. I chose some Enya music for my ceremony and a friend learned the piano rendition of the music and was accompanied by a violinist. It was beautiful and unexpected. And no, I did not hire a vocalist to attempt the musical artistry of Enya.

3. What kind of music do you want at your reception? The location of your reception can restrict the type of music played. Is the location big enough for the setup of a live band? Is there a stage? A dance floor? Do you want a reception with dancing or a more formal dining event with piano music in the background? You'll have to ask yourself these questions before you proceed to the next steps of choosing your live entertainment.

Choosing your live entertainment
When choosing your live entertainment, remember they are being hired for more than their musical entertainment abilities — they will usually double as the MC (Master of Ceremonies.) They should be enthusiastic and experienced at performing during wedding receptions and very conscious of the time, since both couple and the guests tend to be distracted.

Hiring a Band
Before spending your precious wedding planning time on band auditions, make sure your venue can host a live band. Ask the venue how many tables will be set up based on your guest list, where the dance floor will be (if applicable), and if there is room for a band's setup.

Also, how long is your reception? Since a band is live entertainment, they tire more easily. Ask them how long they will be able to play, and if they need breaks, make sure the breaks are lined up with the cutting of the cake, a slide show, bouquet toss or some recorded music to fill in the gaps. You don't want your guests thinking the reception is over. A live band will usually announce they are taking a short break, but will return soon.


As far as the type of music goes, a band can only play what they know. Make sure they know the type of music you want at your reception. Some bands only specialize in country, rock, jazz, etc., while other bands can play a little of everything, making for an excellent alternative to a DJ. Sometimes a live band that can play anything makes for the best "party" receptions because they can get everyone to participate.

Make sure you see them perform, don't rely on a tape. They've probably spent time in a studio, recording multiple takes. A tape or cd does not give you a good idea of their LIVE entertainment capabilities. Hold auditions, see how they perform and evaluate their personalities. They will be the voice and the face of your entertainment at your reception.

Hiring a DJ

A DJ is a great alternative to a live band, especially if you want all your favorite songs played. Just remember, a DJ is only as good as their music collection. Ask about their collection of music, and how it's organized. Most DJ's should have their music organized on their computer or an ipod of some kind, tell them what kind of music you want, any favorite songs you have, songs you hate, and to make up a playlist for you to see. Always approve the playlist before the wedding, and let them know if you want your guests making requests. Although it's fun for your guests, you don't want any surprise songs at your reception.

Hiring a Solo Artist
This doesn't mean a one-man band. I'm talking about a pianist, violinist or a wedding singer. If you are going for a more traditional atmosphere, a solo artist might be your best bet. If you choose a pianist or violinist, they will probably be used as the "background" live entertainment, meaning, they'll be the background music in a mingling atmosphere. I chose to use a pianist for the first 2 hours as guests arrived and they began to hit the food. But after the 2 hours, the events started; cutting the cake, first dance, father-daughter dance, and then the party music began to play. However, due to budgeting issues, we chose an entirely different route for our reception music. We burned 4 hours of cd's, with all our favorite songs, and in the order we wanted them to play.

Burning your own CD's

Burning your own music onto cd's or using a playlist from your ipod is a great alternative if your budget doesn't allow for live entertainment or a DJ. Choose the songs for the couple's first dance and father-daughter dance, then make a playlist with all your favorite music. Don't forget to assign someone, a friend or relative, to manage it. They wont be required to be a DJ, but someone has to play the couple's first dance and father-daughter dance songs, then make sure the rest of the music plays as planned. Plus, you'll have to hire an MC, or have a friend or relative take on this challenge. Some couples think this isn't necessary, but someone has to keep the wedding moving and get the attention of your guests by announcing the important events.

Summing up
Well, that's all I have. I chose to use a solo artist for the beginning of my reception, then I burned cd's for the remainder of the event. I've also been to wedding with both a DJ and a live band. All of these choices can be a hit or a disaster, so do your research, ask for references, make them auditions and approve playlists. Don't forget, it's your wedding, so you can do no wrong. Make it memorable and fun, and remember, you can't hear the music in the photographs, so if the music does go wrong, you don't have to hear the music over and over again. Good luck.

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6.02.2008

Choosing a wedding photographer

Choosing a photographer today is much different than it was 5 years ago. When I got married, only some photographers had switched over to digital. Many of the photographers I met with were still using film. I, myself, wasn't on the digital bandwagon yet, so I chose an excellent photographer who shot with traditional film. She was great, and I don't regret using her, but I do wish my photos were digital. I will have to take on the painful task of scanning in my negatives if I want my photos on a disk.

Today, most photographers use professional digital cameras, and you can see your photos as early as the reception. So, now that we are in a digital photography world, what do we look for when selecting a photographer?

Do I like their work?
When you meet with a photographer, you will have the opportunity to see their portfolio. Make sure they specialize in weddings. Although they will have other work in their book, they should know the ins-and-outs of shooting a wedding. When looking through their book, ask yourself if you like their photos. It's a matter of opinion, you don't have to understand the art of photography, you either enjoy their work or you don't. Do they specialize in photojournalistic photography or formal photography? Are their photos natural, or does it look like they use special digital techniques to enhance their photos? If they are digitally retouched or enhanced, does it look real, fake, awesome, or awful? Overall, do you find their photographs appealing?

Are they creative?
Most photographers are artists, well, they should all be, but no-one is stopping someone with a camera from calling themselves a photographer. Is the photographer creative, do they have offer suggestions that you might not have thought of? Are their photographs unique, do they capture moments that some people might miss. A great photographer has done enough weddings to know what moments are priceless in photographs, and which moments might even be missed by some. Ask them to see photos of an entire wedding, rather than one or two of the best shots from various weddings. This will show you if they are consistent, or simply lucky to have gotten one great shot.

Are they easy to talk to?

Do they make you feel comfortable when meeting with them? Make sure they are concerned about your priorities, after all, it is your wedding. If they seem like they aren't listening to you, or they insist on color photographs when you want black and white photographs, then run. You are interviewing them, and if they aren't right for the job, they don't hire them. Just because they are professional photographers, doesn't mean they fit your taste, style, or are listening to you priorities. Remember, they will be with you all day, so they should make you feel at ease.

How many photographers or assistants will be there?

One photographer will do, but two is better. When the bride is getting ready, the photographer should be there. When the groom and his groomsmen are hanging out before the wedding, the photographer should be there. When guests are arriving, guess what, the photographer should be there. But one photographer can't be in two or three places at once. Some photography studios will send out 2-3 photographers and assistants with multiple cameras, lenses, lighting accessories, etc. Since many brides are looking for photojournalistic photos as well as some formal photographs, more than one photographer will be necessary. If you are only doing formal photos, then they should have an assistant to deal with the lighting and equipment. This will make for a smooth and relatively quick photo session if the photographer doesn't have to adjust everything for each photo.

Are they worth it?
It doesn't matter how great a photographer is if they break the budget. Shop around, there are affordable photographers that will meet your criteria. Don't settle for less than you deserve, it's your wedding day, and when the day is done, all you have are the photos. I adjusted our budget to allocate more money to photography, but that was a priority of mine. It's well worth it. Make sure you ask the right questions when you find a photographer within the budget, find out what you get with your package and get it in writing. Do you get proofs, a photo album, one 8x10 photo, etc. Sometime the more expensive photographers include these extras and it's worth it.

Ask for references
It can be awkward to call a complete stranger to ask about their wedding photographer. But some people have very strong opinions about how their photos turned out, or how the day went with the photographer around. Ask the photographer for references, and make sure to contact them.

Questions to ask your photographer or Photography studio:

• Do you specialize in weddings?
• What style of photography do you specialize in?
• Do you shoot in color, black and white, or both?
• Do you have photos of an entire wedding I can see?
• Do you have a shot check-list? (Download a checklist for reference)
• What photography training do you have? How many years have you been photographing wedding?
• Will you actually take our photos?
• If not, who will. Can I see their portfolio?
• Will multiple photographers be on location?
• Will they have assistants?
• Is there an extra charge for assistants?
• How prepared are you for unexpected disasters? (Film exposure, dropped camera, malfunctioning camera, disk space, etc.)
• Do you have a back-up if you can't make it to the wedding?
• How early will you arrive? How late will you stay?
• What do you charge for overtime?
• Do you have any other events booked that weekend or that day?
• How many pictures will you take?
• Do you develop your own film?
• Can we buy our negatives from you?
• Do you post our photos on a website?
• Can I get our photos on a disk? How much will it cost?
• How soon will I have my proofs?
• Do you have references I can call?
• Can I see a sample contract?

Download a wedding photography checklist right now. Use it as is, or as a guide, either way, it'll be a huge help so you won't miss out on those important photo opportunities.

wedding photography checklist

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5.13.2008

Do I really need a wedding video?

This will be short and sweet. Yes, I suggest getting a wedding video. If it's really important to you, have it professionally done with proper editing and music. It can be an awesome piece you can watch on your anniversary or show your kids. If it's something you need to sacrifice in the budget, then have a friend video tape it. (I know some videographers are screaming right now, sorry, but some brides can't afford a wedding video and they must choose between video and photography.)

Personally, I regret not having even a simple video of our wedding ceremony. As the bride, you spend months planning a wedding, picking out the flowers, the dress, the music for the ceremony, etc. It's not until after the ceremony that you realize you were the last one in the church (or whichever ceremony location you choose), and you were the first one out, leading the wedding party. I wanted to watch my friends walk down the aisle, hear the music I had chosen, and even see some faces of our guests...but, I missed it. The worst part is, you are so nervous walking down the aisle, trying not to trip and making sure to smile, that most of the wedding is a blur.

So, if not for the occasional walks down memory lane, get a video so you can watch and enjoy all the planning that went into it. It should be the wedding you dreamed of, and I wouldn't want you to miss it.

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3.07.2008

So you're thinking about proposing...

So you’ve finally met the one you want to spend the rest of your life with, forever and ever, until death do you part. Before you just flash the words “Marry me Sarah” on the big screen at a baseball game, or drop the ring in her champaign at dinner, please read these quick tips. It’ll save you your sanity, maybe some money and ensure you have a memorable proposal. After all, she will remember this moment forever, whether it’s a success or a disaster.

Before you head out to purchase her engagement ring, there is some key information you should be armed and ready with. First, do you even know what style of jewelry she likes? Have you found her stash of wedding magazines with her favorite pages bookmarked? If you are shopping blind, you could end up with anything. You’ll find it more difficult to say “no” to the salesman’s desperate attempts to convince you that the bigger the diamond, the better. Instead of heading out blind, here are a few ways to ensure you are at least in the ballpark of her jewelry taste.

1. Ask her best friend. Yes, it’s true, they have spent hours hanging out looking at wedding magazines. They know what each other’s favorite wedding gown styles and are and possibly even the diamond cut she gravitates towards. If you are really lucky, she’ll have the magazine with the pages bookmarked from their last hang out.

2. Go shopping with her. If you have talked about marriage, then it won’t be a surprise to walk into the jewelry store the next time you’re at the mall. Just keep some mental notes, contrary to popular belief, you can still surprise her with a proposal, even if she knows it’s coming. Try and remember the ring she looked at, but she thought it might not be in the budget. She may have no idea what you are willing to spend, and that could be the ring she really wants. (By the way, you can expect to pay about 2 months salary on an engagement ring.)

3. Look in her jewelry box. You can tell what style of jewelry she gravitates towards by looking at her jewelry collection. While she may not have any diamonds (or, she might), you can tell if she likes simple, intricate, vintage, white gold, yellow gold, etc. If you can’t tell what style she likes, and all you see is “jewelry” in her jewelry box, take a photograph and ask one of her girlfriends, or your mom. Women understand this and they will help you out.

By the end of your investigation, it would be helpful to head into the jewelry store with your partner's ring size, her preference in materials (white gold, yellow gold, platinum, etc.), her style preference and a budget of what you’re willing to spend. When you are choosing a diamond, remember that bigger isn’t always better. You have to look at the stone from all angles, literally and figuratively. A diamond varies in clarity and color, and in my opinion, I would rather have a smaller quality diamond than a large diamond with poor clarity and color. You can ask the jeweler about the difference and they’ll explain this too you.

When you choose your diamond, you should receive a certificate. Your certificate simply means your diamond has been certified by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) or AGS (American Gem Society). It basically holds the details of your diamond, including measurement, weight, grade, etc., on a certified document. It serves as proof of your diamonds authenticity and value. Remember, if your diamond doesn’t have a certificate, you are trusting the authenticity and value claims of your salesperson.

Make sure you view your diamond under a 10x loupe magnification and have your salesperson show you the inclusions. It’s important to know your diamond for future cleanings, rhodium re-coating (for white gold) and ring inspections. You should bring in your ring every six months to have your diamond checked and to maintain any guarantees that your diamonds will stay put on the ring.

Ok, so you know what she likes for a setting, which diamond you want and why you want it, and now you even know the blueprints of your diamond. It’s time to order your engagement ring. It will take a few days for your ring to be ready, so in the meantime, you can plan the big moment. This part is up to you; just remember to think about what she would like and how she’ll remember this day. Don’t worry about being perfect, and if part of your plan goes astray, just improvise. She’ll never know what your original plan was.

Oh, and I may not be speaking for everyone, but I am speaking for most people…women don’t want their diamond engagement ring stuffed in cheesecake or drown in champaign. For one, she can’t put it on right away, you have to have it cleaned. And two, if she doesn’t find it in time, she could chip a tooth or even swallow it! This would definitely be a mood killer. Be creative, but remember to keep it romantic and classy, so she’ll look back and smile on the memory forever.

Good luck and presumably, congratulations.

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