Posts in the 'tips' Category

{Real Bride: Mellzah} 3 Things This Broke-Ass Bride Looks For In A Wedding Vendor

It can take a lot of time and effort to find the right vendor for any part of a wedding. And while lots of websites have list upon list of key questions that you should ask each and every vendor, here are the things that send up little flags for me personally as to whether I’ll consider doing business with a vendor.

1. Timely responses to my phone calls and emails! First  things first–let’s talk about timeliness.  I expect that as a prospective client, when I come a-knockin’, that my email will be acknowledged within a reasonable time frame; say, a week.  I don’t even expect to have all of my questions answered at that time, a “Hey Mellzah, got your message, I’ll have time to give you a full reply next week” response will suffice (provided that they do actually then respond to me within the time frame they’ve now set for themselves).

I don’t expect anyone to sleep with their phones under their pillow or devote their lives to email outside of business hours, but if a vendor doesn’t reply to an inquiry within a reasonable time frame, they’ve already sent me a message: “Your business is not important to me.” Think about it: when you go out to interview for a job, you’re on your best behavior–you arrive on time, you’re clean and well-dressed, you go out of your way to impress the interviewer because you want the job, even if your natural proclivities tend toward lateness and merely occasional swipes of deodorant, because you want their money.

As a personal example of businesses doing it wrong, when I was searching for my ideal venue,  I ended up cutting two I had initially loved off of my list: one had asked me if I wanted a tour, and when I responded in the affirmative, fell off the face of the earth and never replied to me again. The other, while beautiful, has negative review after negative review on Yelp for “weeks of no contact” “emails constantly ‘getting lost'”, “urgent voicemails left with no response”…it’s not something that inspires confidence. My personal belief is that if a business doesn’t impress me while still in the honeymoon stage of trying to get my money,  they’re certain to treat me even more poorly after they have it. On the flip side, when a business responds to my questions promptly and thoroughly, I’m nearly overwhelmed by the urge to fling money at them.

2. A decent website, with GOOD photos. My friends, it is 2012 and there is no reason for a vendor to not have a website. Perhaps back in 1997 when AOL billed for internet time by the minute and it took you the better part of an afternoon to download a picture of a unicorn it was fine to go without, but in this day and age, if you’re a vendor who doesn’t have a website, you pretty much don’t exist to me. The one paragraph blurb you paid out the nose to have placed in the back of Seattle Metropolitan Bride & Groom doesn’t begin to give me enough information.

Websites are the single best way to answer a ton of questions that many, if not all, potential customers will have, so you don’t have to answer them individually, saving you an assload of phone and email time. Seriously–put tons of information on your website.  Rates, packages, promos, reviews, FAQs–on a well-organized website, no one is going to say “Great googly moogly, I am overwhelmed by this readily available information and wish I could go back to the days of calling someone and maybe not ever getting a response or having to call again later when I remember a question that I forgot to ask earlier and then a third time when I need a clarification!” A great website with a ton of information directly influenced my decision for a wedding and reception venue.  I refer back to it when I’m trying to figure out what size tablecloths I need or what length aisle runner I need to construct if I want it to run from the door to the altar. It has been an invaluable resource to me.

Speaking of websites: those babies had better be loaded up with pictures. GOOD pictures.  I’m not spending three hours on Pinterest at a crack because of all of the compelling text, and if the pictures of your venue/food/rentals suck, it tells me that you accept mediocrity, and that if you aren’t trying when you advertise yourself, you’re not going to try any harder for me.  Venues:  If all I see when I visit your site are photos of the same fountain or fireplace from several different angles, you are telling me that there’s something wrong with the venue, because it’s the same trick apartment complexes use on Craigslist to hide the fact that their apartments have shag carpeting and no windows by only showing photos of their modern business and fitness centers.

If you’re a working photographer without a significant amount of photos on your website, this is an even bigger problem to me: how do you not have work available to show? This is your product! It’s what you do!  I saw a local photography company host a sale on one of those “deal a day” websites and the only picture they had to show was a blurry (not artistically blurry, just poorly-focused) first dance photo.  There is no price low enough for blurry, bad photographs to make it a good deal! If you’re a photographer and I can’t see your work, if you can’t show me a full wedding from beginning to end after I’ve inquired, if all you can show me is one lucky shot that you captured out of 300 weddings photographed, it is an enormous red flag to me.

3. A better than average reputation. I always take individual Yelp reviews with a grain of salt, as I know that people (a) are more likely to write about a bad experience than a good one, (b) like to complain, (c) write bad reviews in the hopes of getting special treatment or perks that they would not receive otherwise in the hopes of getting their negative review retracted, (d) are generally unreasonable douchebags (read: “I visited a steakhouse and there weren’t enough tofu options.” ), but a significant number of bad reviews is likely to sway me.

I place more emphasis on my monkeysphere; do my non-douchebag friends know or have had interactions with this business?  I put out a call on Facebook recently to ask my friends if there were any local photographers that they knew or recommended. A few recommended a friend of theirs (whom they had not hired); another friend wrote me privately and told me that he had previously considered this same photographer a friend, but that she had offered to give them a significant “friend discount” for their wedding and then pressured them to sign a deal with her that was $1,000 higher than the going local high-end photographer rate, taking advantage of the fact that they hadn’t shopped around on price. Given my friend’s personal allegation of this photographer’s dishonesty, I am not even considering her in my ongoing search for my photographer.

I love planning lavish parties, and this isn’t my first rodeo–friends still talk about the insane circus sideshow themed birthday party I threw in 2008–so I’m no stranger at throwing gobs of money at vendors to bring my party vision to life. I’m also colloquially known as Seattle’s equivalent of Kevin Bacon; I connect people. So when a vendor impresses me, I intend to use them for future events, and I’ll recommend them to friends as well. Vendors can’t have a “well, they’ll only get married once so it doesn’t matter how I treat them” attitude. It matters.  Websites. Reputation. It’s how you’ll get my business. Timeliness, honesty,  and respectability is how you’ll keep my business.  Because when it comes down to it, I’m just one person and it doesn’t really matter whether I hire you or not…but I’m far from the only person who holds these viewpoints, and the steps you take today will ensure whether or not you have a healthy future business.

Ask Liz: Musical Guest Chairs?

Yes. Please. (Courtesy of Style Me Pretty)

Dear Liz:

If we have enough tables and chairs for everyone, why can’t they just sit wherever they want? It seems like a hassle to figure out who is going to sit at what table, and like we’re herding cattle. Do we have to have assigned seating for our guests?


Tables For None

Dear Tables,

Well, nooo, you don’t have to have assigned seating, but I think it’s worth it. There are two cardinal rules for wedding guest management: 1. Don’t confuse them 2. Don’t make them uncomfortable. And a little structure is necessary to avoid both of those.

I’m trying to think of a good analogy. Okay, it’s like if you and your fiancee decided to go see  the Avengers on opening night. Sure, you can sit where you want, but there are a ton of people in the theater.The row you would usually sit in doesn’t have two open seats. Neither does your second choice, and you end up spending anxious minutes looking for seats, until you finally end up in the fifth row, with a raging, eye-strain induced headache during the movie. Now imagine that situation while you’re all dressed up, and trying to be on your best behavior and not offend anyone. At least in a movie theater, you’re dealing with total strangers in jeans. Figuring out where to put your guests is a minor hassle, yes, but again, the alternative is a tight-smiled game of musical chairs. And, if you don’t want to print out place cards, you can use one one big table chart, instead.

Dear Liz:

I graduated from Veterinary school last year, so my degree is in my maiden name. I’m getting married in August, and I’m planning to change my last name to my husband’s.  I want to do this for a lot of reasons, but we’re also planning on having kids soon, and I really want us all to have the same last name. But when I told one of my bridesmaids, she was shocked that I was doing it, because my medical degree is in my current last name.  I’m pretty sure I still want to change it, but I’d like a second opinion. What do you think?


Doubtful Doc

Dear Doc,

Actually, it would be a third opinion, but really, the only one that counts is yours.  If your reasons sound good to you, that’s all that matters. This probably isn’t the first time someone’s objected to something you’re doing wedding or marriage-wise, and even though you’ve only got a few weeks to go, it probably won’t be the last time, either! And I’d bet good money that if you decided to keep your maiden name (such a weird phrase these days), there are people who would give you a hard time about that, too. You can’t win, so don’t play.

Dear Liz:

This photographer calls back. There's one near you, too.

I love this one photographer I found online, but I can’t get in touch with  him! Since last week, I’ve called and emailed three times, and no response.  What should I do?


Waiting by the iPhone

Dear Waiting,

Cross him off and contact the next photographer on your list. If he isn’t getting back to you after all that, he’s not interested enough in your business to get your business. It could be that he will get back to you eventually, hopefully with a good excuse, like he was out of the country on vacation, or trapped under something heavy for most of the week. But,  it’s my experience that his apathy will only get worse after you sign a contract. There are plenty of photographers that will get back to you within 24-48 hours, like they should. Find one of those.

So, have you been to wedding or had a wedding that didn’t have assigned seating? How did it go? How many people have given you flack for changing or not changing your name? Let us know in the comments below!

See you at the end of the aisle



The Unknown Wedding Unknowns

Flowers will be one thing we'll talk about at the workshop.

So the past week, I’ve been working on the 10k Wedding Workshop website. Built it in iWeb, which turns out was my first mistake, because it has a lot of “junk” code that’s not compatible with servers any more.  Stay with me, I have a point, other than the blatant plug. But check out the workshop, it’s virtual, so if your budget is in the non-existent to $15,000 range, it will definitely help you plan a beautiful wedding, no matter where you live. And use the code 10kten for $10 off.

Anyway. I tried uploading the site to the server, and nothing showed up. The company that hosts the server uploaded it, but it came up hinky.  Manually edited the code myself  (also known as “the second mistake”) and the whole site disappeared. Yup.  I then decided to copy what I had into a WordPress blog (heart in the right place, but still, “third mistake”). Cris from  Kiss My Tulle kindly helped me out. That took until midnight.

The next day I asked my host server to re-direct the domain name to the blog? They told me that they could have set-up a WordPress website for me from the beginning. And then did it  in the five minutes I was still on the phone.  ?!!!?!!!

And I should have known better, because it’s the unknown unknowns that will get you every time – the stuff that you don’t know that you don’t know. And we run into them a lot in Wedding World. Deciding on the perfect place to put the DJ, only to find that there are no plugs there. Or that the ceremony and reception areas need two separate speakers. Or that the venue doesn’t allow fresh flowers on the floors. Or candles on the tables. Or sparklers on the property. Or that you can’t take wedding party pictures in your hotel lobby. Or that your florist doesn’t take checks. And the photographer doesn’t take credit cards.

And I can go on and on. We want what we want, in the way that we want, and it doesn’t occur to us that it might not work.

There are two things to learn here. No. 1: Notify and ask. Notify your venue and your vendors how you plan to decorate, and how you want your wedding to run. Be very clear and then see what they say. Find out where your vendors are allowed to go (hint: churches and synagogues are very particular about where photographers can stand). If it’s going be on fire, or it might leave a stain,  or leave a mess, ask your venue about it. Actually, before you purchase or rent anything, ask you venue manager, especially about delivery and set-up. If there’s a song you have to have, ask the D.J. if he has it or can get it for you. Right now, you’re thinking, wait do we know about the aisle flowers? Dunno, do you?

Hmm. I hope they got permission for this. (Courtesy of Belle Magazine)

A lot of time vendors will ask you questions themselves. But any time you add or subtract something, the first call is to the folks who are working for you. Wedding vendors know wedding stuff, and I already gave you list of stuff to ask about, so that’s a good start! And continue to keep them informed as you get closer to the day. The past 3 days of my life would have been so much easier if I had just notified them what I was trying to do, and asked, you know, the freakin’ website company what they could to help me with my website. But no.

And the second thing? Early “Bride” Registration, and a payment plan for the 10K Wedding Workshop ends on Monday. So, you’ll actually save $30 when you register today. In most places that are not L.A., that’s almost a tank of gas. :-)

But seriously, what’s the last unknown wedding unknown that you’ve run into? Or do you want to know what questions to ask? Let me know in the comments below!






Three Big Assumptions YOU’RE Making About Your Wedding


Photo: Puruhito Photography

A while back, I wrote Three Assumptions They’re Making About Your Wedding, a list of what people really won’t stop bugging you about, ever. But after talking to a lot of couples in the past few weeks, I’m starting to realize that you’re making a lot of assumptions about your wedding too:

1. That the minute you step into Wedding World, everyone is trying to rip you off.

This one drives me a little nuts, as you can imagine. Wedding World can get expensive, but a lot of that is because you’re buying in bulk — One $40 centerpiece is going to cost less than 10. One hundred meals at $50+ a person is going to cost more than one.

You’ve heard it a million times, and I’ve heard it a bunch recently: “Once you put the word “wedding” in front of something, it doubles the price.” It’s even considered a money-saving strategy to lie about the event you’re planning, in order to get a lower quote. First of all, that never works, eventually they figure it out, and second of all? It makes you look like a jerk.

Another reason is that weddings do require a little more effort than your average party. If you think about the combination of logistics and meeting expectations,  it’s a lot of work to give you the wedding experience you want. Some of us charge more for that than others, true.  But just because you can’t afford it, doesn’t mean it’s a scam — you just can’t afford it. It’s like the Christian Louboutins I keep stalking at Nordstrom. Love them, cannot afford them, so I’ll have to stick to Nine West at Macy’s for now. And like sticking to your budget, I don’t mind that much, because Nine West shoes are comfortable.

Bottom line: You do not have to hire me/that photographer/that venue if the price is uncomfortable for you. Instead, figure out what you can get with what you can afford.

2. That you have to do things the way they’ve “always” been done “traditionally.”

You only really need five things to get married: You, your intended, an officiant, a marriage license, and a public affirmation that you want to get married. The rest of your wedding is up to you,  so, do what you want! If you don’t want to walk down an aisle, don’t walk down the aisle. If you don’t want to sit, on display, at a sweetheart’s table, sit with your friends at their table. Long tables instead of rounds? Go for it.  If you don’t want cake, have cookies. If you don’t want to wear a white dress, wear black. Create a wedding that you’re going to love and your guests will remember. Why not? Don’t ask “Can we do that?” ask, “How do we do that?” There’s always going to be someone around with an answer.

3. That your wedding exists outside time and space.

On your wedding day, it is still going to take however long to get from point A to point B, and then twice that to get back again. If it rains, it’s going to rain on you. If it’s 100 degrees outside, it’s going to be 100 degrees on you. If you have to be out of your venue by 10pm, 11:00pm is not going to work. If your photographer is contracted for 6 hours, seven hours is not going to fly. The bar, like at your favorite restaurant, needs enough bartenders to serve all its guests. If there isn’t a kitchen, one needs to be built. If there is a kitchen, it needs to be staffed. Just like your favorite restaurant, guests need to have a place to sit, and a reasonable amount of time before they eat. And I could go on.

But, A) you’ve never done an event this big before, and B) you’re picturing the forest, instead of the trees that make it up. Example: you want to serve coffee to your guests. You order the coffee maker, but forget about the cream pitchers. Or the sugar pot. Or the coffee, for that matter. Because it always comes with it, right? Map it all out, and plan accordingly.

So, what other  assumptions have you discovered that you’re making about your wedding? Do you have any questions about how to let them go? Let me know in the comments below! See you at the end of the aisle,


Ask Liz About Guest Lists and Guest Blocks

I know, I know, two weeks in a row. People email me and ask stuff, stuff you might want to know, too, and I didn’t want to wait. This is not a precedent. Most likely. :-)

Only so much room...table and budget-wise. Photo courtesy of Brett Arthur Weddings

Dear Liz,

My mother is contributing to part of our wedding, so when she told us we had to invite certain friends from her college days, I obliged even though our guest count is already higher than I’d like because every guest means another $100+ in catering and I know that keeping the guest count low is one of the best ways to keep costs down.

At the time, she assured me that one of her college friends didn’t need a plus one because we’re not super-close and he and his SO are not engaged, married, or living together (which was apparently what Emily Post told my mother should be the deciding factor on whether guests get a plus one). We addressed the Save the Date just to him, but when my mother spoke to him, he hinted that he and his SO would be attending.

Now she says I should plan on both of them attending, but I feel that she should be able to politely explain that we’re on a budget and we’re also up against the space constraints of the venue so we’re not able to accommodate plus one’s for every guest. Obviously, if they both show up, we’ll graciously accommodate them, but I think there’s plenty of time to clear up this confusion and avoid guest creep. She’s offered a lump sum so my groom and I will have to absorb the cost of the extra plus one (whom we’ve never met). What’s the appropriate way to handle this?


List Locked

Dear List,

Well, there are a couple of things going here, both of which can get pretty touchy.  First of all, these are your Mom’s guests, and I get that you don’t want to put her in  position where she has to un-invite them to her daughter’s wedding. Definitely start by telling her that, and that you’re grateful for the money she’s given you.  Leading with the truth is always a good idea! But remind her that It’s $100 + (be VERY specific about the cost) if he brings his SO. And then stop talking and let her reply.

Do NOT go into how you may have cut your own guest list to accommodate both your budget and the venue. Do NOT go into how you don’t understand why she didn’t ask you if it was okay first, or just tell him “No” in the first place. It’s done, and that’s only going to put her on the defensive.

If she does ask about the money that she already gave you, tell  her that you’ve already it used for whatever you’ve already used it for. Again, be specific. And calm. If you haven’t used all of the money yet, tell her what you were going to use it for.

She will probably do one of two things, or maybe both. She will say that she will give you the money for the extra guest, or say that another $100 or so isn’t a big deal. Since, again, you don’t want to put her in an awkward situation, you should give her the option of paying for the SO, if she wants.

But here’s the second thing: you’re worried about this extra guest, sure, but you’re really worried about the next extra guest. So, however it is that she responds, remind her that the venue capacity is X, and right now you stand at Y. You (use “We” since you’re all in this together) can’t invite any more people after this, especially at $200+ a couple. Ask her if she can agree  to draw the line with this couple. Ask, not tell.

And remember – don’t get angry, just be calm and clear. Good luck.


Such a simple building to be so filled with questions, you know?

Dear Liz,

I’m SUPER confused about his whole hotel block thing. First, we live in the middle of the Texas Hill Country. Our families are coming for a week to 10 days before the wedding to help, and a lot of our guests are from out of town. I’m happy to find a block of rooms at one of the two hotels in the 20 minute drive radius from us but… how do I do that? What’s the budget for something like that? Do I have to pay a deposit for the rooms? What if I reserve ten rooms and only 2 people book? Am I stuck covering the remaining rooms? Or do I just list a bunch of hotels on our website and let people handle reserving them themselves?


Room Blocked

Dear Blocked,

Call each hotel and ask for their sales or catering department. Not reservations. They are the ones who deal with larger bookings. I talk about this in my book, but what you want is called a “complimentary” block of rooms. They might have another term for it, but basically, you tell them you need 10 rooms for your guests, or however many, and they give you a discounted rate, and a deadline for when they need to be booked. Rooms in your block that are not booked lose the discounted rate after the deadline, but you’re not responsible for paying for them. Usually you have to sign a contract to that effect.
There is also a second type called a “closed” block. It starts out the same – you reserve 10 rooms,  they give you a discount and  a deadline to book them, BUT if a certain percentage of rooms isn’t booked, you have to pay for them. So, say you reserve 10 rooms, your contract says that you’re responsible for 80 percent of them, but by the time your deadline comes around only 7 have been booked? You have to pay for the 8th room.

The complimentary block is preferable, obviously, but if you do have to sign a contract for a closed block, stick to the minimum number of rooms that they will let you reserve, and start keeping track a couple of weeks after you send out the invites. And you can always add more rooms to either block later on. Subtracting isn’t as easy, though. And, with either block type,  ask how many days out it’s  good for. In other words, some of your guests are coming the day before the weddings, your families for over a week. Make sure that the rates they give you apply to all of those days.

So, are you having problems with your parent’s growing guest list? Any questions about securing a hotel block? Let us all know in the comments below!

See you at the end of the aisle,



Ask Liz: “Broke” is A Four Letter Word

Dear Liz,

This is NOT all there is...

I thought I was just another BAB until I came to this site, now I think I am THE BAB.  I see these posts where people have $5,000 budgets, and I have no idea where they come up with that kind of bank!  My fiance and I are both teachers and neither of us have family to attend, let alone help pay for, a wedding – I’m thinking we’re going to have to jump over a broom in the backyard and it’s breaking my heart.  Any advice for a DESTITUTE ass bride?


99% Frustrated

Dear 99:

Yeah. Pretty much any number before the word “thousand” is a lot of money if you don’t have it to spend or spare. So, don’t feel bad about it. But here’s the thing: The “wedding” that everyone has in their brain is expensive – Extravagant bouquets and centerpieces, Chiavari chairs and 5-tied cakes and such. Getting married? Not so much. Getting married will set you back a couple hundred bucks at the most. All you need is you, your fiance, a minister, and a witness or two. Find out exactly what the rules are in your state, and go from there. I’m not necessarily saying that you need to elope, although it wouldn’t hurt to check out any pretty courthouses around you, as back-up. What I am saying is that there is a lot of middle ground between your backyard and The Ritz.

You can’t afford Vera Wang, but you can probably afford a beautiful pre-owned dress, or pick one from the latest and nearest bridal shop sale. You can’t afford a sit-down dinner for 100, but you can still find a beautiful place to get married – a park, a mountain overlook, something beautiful with a view. But it’s also a matter of what you’re okay with. If all your friends and family are there to watch you get married, where would you be comfortable doing that? Are you comfortable going out to dinner afterwards with a small group and then staying at a hotel? What is the smallest affordable thing that’s going to make it a “wedding” for you? Focus on that. What can you do with what you have where you are? You’d be surprised.


Yup. You Gotta Go Find It.

Dear Liz,

I’m contacting you because I’m starting to get disheartened and losing faith that I’m going to be able to have my dream wedding.  I’m trying to pull off a “Love is Paradise” theme with limited funds. I’m not even thinking of a lavish wedding, just one that is meaningful, fun, and best of all represent my fiance’s and my love for each other. But, my wedding is in June and the dress I absolutely fell in love with isn’t possible for me to get anymore because I can no longer afford it. What can I do?


Trouble in Paradise

Dear Trouble,

Wow, that sucks. I always say that in many cases, The Dress is always going to be The Dress, and it’s very difficult to change bride’s mind about that. But The Dress doesn’t make a wedding. As you’ve said, the two of you have created a beautiful, wonderful day to share with your family and friends, and whatever you’re wearing, it’s still going to be a great day. Just keep repeating that to yourself, and actively look for moments that prove it!

That being said, there are often times in life where we are blocked from what we need by what we want. Feel free to mourn the dress that you lost, but don’t let it get in your way:  You need a dress that’s in your price range, so start looking for a dress that’s in your price range. Keep looking until you find one that you’re happy with. As in, “Oh, wow, I look great!’ You might not find one that you love as much as the original, but then again, you might. There’s only one way to find out.


Dear Liz,

I love this site! It’s been a great resource for planning a “budget” wedding (although spending $10,000 on one day’s festivities, no matter how important, still seems like a lot for me!). At this point I feel like I have a lot of the big pieces under control–dress, venue, caterer, DJ–but the one thing I haven’t been able to find is a great photographer who fits into our budget. I love all the gorgeous photos, and if I had 3,000+ to invest in them, I would. But my photography budget is maaaaybe 1,200, tops, and it seems almost impossible to find someone within that price range whose photos don’t look like  they were taken in 1992. Any advice?

– Camera shocked

Dear Shocked,

I’m not promising that it’s still not going to be a slog, but try this – who are the photographers in your area that you really like? Make a list of at least three of them and start calling. What you’re looking for is smaller-priced packages for less hours and less extras. Come to them with your budget, and ask them if it’s possible if you just want 4-6 hours of coverage, as opposed to 8 hours. 4- 6 hours is tight, but if you’re willing to nix getting ready pictures, and seriously consider a First Look to save time (ask if you don’t know what that is), you should be able to make it work with your timeline.

It might take a few tries until you find someone who can help you, but one thing is important – DO NOT SACRIFICE QUALITY. Keep looking for what you like until you find what you want. If you run out of choices, hit up the next bridal show in your area, and/or check out or the for more names and pictures. Don’t give up!

So, what’s your latest budget or financial crisis? Or do you have more advice to add to mine. Let’s work it out in the comments below.

See you at the end of the aisle,



{Real Bride: Katie} Pre-Valentine’s Day Engagement Tips!

Well, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, which means that Mr. Officer and I have been engaged for almost a year already. Yikes, where did the time go?! Aargggh, that means our wedding is right around the corner….there’s so much to do!

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that little panic attack out of my system, I’m ready to talk about getting engaged. I know there are some readers out there that are anxiously awaiting their chance to freak out about invitation ink colors and veil lengths, so this one is dedicated to you!

Valentine’s Day just isn’t complete without conversation hearts
Photo via Necco 

1. The ring you hate is just as important as the ring you love: before we got engaged, Mr. Officer and I were in New Hampshire visiting family when he suggested that we should stop by the jewelry store to look at rings. It was at this point that I launched into a very long and boring speech about getting someone’s hopes up. After I calmed down a little, I decided that maybe I should give him some ideas of what I actually like in a ring. So, I emailed him some pictures of rings that I really liked along with  a few I hated. I’m glad that I did, because apparently he was really surprised by taste in rings (i.e. he thought I would like a solitaire that was on my dislike list).

2. Don’t underestimate the power of involving the parents: okay, I know this is super old fashioned, but I’m telling you, it really is worth the extra effort. About a month before we got engaged, Mr. Officer and I were in Philadelphia visiting my parents when Mr. Officer asked if I could show him where to find the bathrom (a valid request since it was in a weird location). Little did I know that while I was in the bathroom, Mr. Officer had sprinted back down the stairs to ask my parents for my hand in marriage. In this modern age I think we can all agree it’s simply symbolic (I mean come on, I’ve been living on my own for 10 years), but my parents really liked being involved in the process. I was touched that Mr. Officer kept this chivalrous tradition alive, and my mom has told me a couple of times that my dad really appreciated the gesture.

3. A simple, heartfelt proposal can be better than a super elaborate, public one: somehow it’s become a cultural norm that the proposer feels it’s necessary to come up with some crazy, elaborate and expensive way to ask the proposee to marry him/her. That’s a lot of pressure for the poor proposer, but I also think a giant billboard just would have made me feel awkward. Quick family anecdote – when my grandparents were dating, my grandfather accidentally proposed to my great-grandmother……on the phone. It was WWII and my grandmother wasn’t home when he called from bootcamp, so my grandfather told her mother “If Pauline wants to get married, I have leave coming up soon, sooo…….” My grandmother obviously agreed, and they’ve been married for over 70 years and counting. Similarly my mom recently told me that my dad produced a ring while muttering something super romantic like “So, do you want this?” and now they’ve been married for over 40 years. Apparently it runs in my family (sigh), but I’m really glad that Mr. Officer opted to scrap his original plan, which involved a special presentation at a fancy restaurant (especially since the restaurant told him that we wouldn’t be the only newly engaged people there, prompting many jokes about a mass engagement room).

Is it necessary? I’m not convinced….
Photo via Evilflu

4. Keep it to yourself for a while: Mr. Officer told me after the fact that he had asked my parents, so I knew my parents already knew, but I still decided to wait a little bit. I really wanted to just appreciate the moment with my new fiance, and I wasn’t thrilled about spending my first night as an engaged person glued to the phone. I’m so glad that we waited, because it allowed us to really focus on the excitement of the night and each other. Plus, sharing good news with loved ones is always a great feeling, and it kind of gave me something to look forward to the next day.

5. Enjoy the attention: when you are ready to start telling people, get used to enjoying the attention. Feel free to flash the ring around and tell random strangers that you just got engaged. People love to get in on the action and live vicariously through your good news. Plus, you might be surprised by the number of people that want to give you free stuff. We didn’t tell the bed & breakfast where we were staying that we got engaged and the innkeeper told us after the fact that she would have comped us some champagne and treats if she knew. Rats, we missed out on free bubbly and snacks……don’t be like us!

Day-Of Planning Tips: Surviving the Wedding Day Photo Shoot

No matter how you break down your wedding day schedge, there’s almost definitely going to be some time that is solely dedicated to photography. For some camera-shy people, this is a nightmare, but a necessity if you want to have a Christmas present for Grandmammy this year.  For other people, posing for photos is a fun side adventure on the wedding day where you can circuit through nifty locations and explore unique photo setups.  For complete lunatics, like your humble blogger here, posing for photos is a fun way to spend a random Saturday afternoon.  My insane hobby of amateur modeling gave me a huge advantage in organizing and executing the photo shoot portion of my wedding day, and now I pass that wisdom on to you.

Logistics, logistics, logistics

The first thing you need to figure out is your timetable.  How much time do you have to devote to posed photographs, and at what point in the wedding schedule will you be taking these pictures?  Talk to your photographer about how many shots she thinks she can get within this time.  Once you’ve worked out time, you need to work out your shot list.  Again, talk to your photographer about her usual shot list, and sit down with your partner and make a list of every iteration of family and bridal party you want together in photographs.  Is the number of must-have shots you have way over the figure your photographer gave you regarding your timetable? If so, begin the brutal cutting process (no, you don’t need solo picture with every single member of your wedding party, especially if there are eleven of them).  Or are you lucky and have oodles of extra time?  Well you, my friend, can start to think about LOCATION.

If you are going on a photo tour…

Brides who hate the idea of a wedding day photo shoot, brides who don’t have a lot of time with their photographers, and brides who like keeping things simple can all ignore this section and move on to the next.  For the lunatics who remain, who are planning on being photographed in multiple locations on their wedding day, I have one suggestion I URGE you to follow: Do a dry run of the whole location circuit.  On the same day of the week that your wedding is, at the same time of day.  Get a feel for the traffic.  Actually driving from place to place will give you a much more realistic idea of how many places you can go in your timeframe than the Internet will.  Figure out where everyone will park.  Assess the crowds.  Will you spend a lot of time waiting for the background to clear before the shutter can click? Are you going to be one of five bridal parties vying for time in front of [insert photogenic landmark here]?

Here’s another pro tip: pay attention to the sunlight.  This is where doing your dry run at the same time of day you will on your wedding day becomes important.  The weather was fantastic on my wedding day, and I’m not complaining, but boy was the sunlight intensely in our eyes when we went to the Mount Washington overlook.  It was basically impossible not to squint, and when our photographer suggested we close our eyes until the moment he took the picture, the results were even more terrifying.

Enlist a whip

Ok, so you’ve worked out a realistic, doable schedule of shots and locations.  Now you need someone to keep you on that schedule.  Depending on your photographer’s personality, it could be him.  But some shooters get lost in their art and forget that you have, you know, your own freakin’ wedding ceremony to get to soon.  You need someone to make sure that things keep moving.  If you have a wedding planner or a day of coordinator, they’re an ideal candidate for the job.  If you don’t, get someone in the bridal party to be the task master.  Just don’t leave it up to yourself to keep things going smoothly.  It’s too much stress to take on, and few bridal ensembles include a watch.

Even with a whip to keep things moving, you should be prepared to cut locations or shots if things run long for reasons outside of your control.  Which means you need to take care of the most essential shots first!

Keep it light

Ok, so you know the ridiculously ubiquitous wedding shot of the bridal party mid-jump?  I have some strong love-hate feelings about the jump shot.  But something that must be said in its favor is that it gets people laughing and loosened up.  This makes them look better in photos, and it also makes the photo shoot portion less of a drag than it would otherwise be for your less hammy bridal partiers.  You don’t have to accomplish this by making everyone jump for a photograph, but try to break up the monotony of “Mom you stand with the Groom. Ok now Groom and Dad. Ok now Groom and Mom and Dad.” ad nauseum with some goofy and irreverent photos or even just with JOKES in between the posed pictures.  It’s your wedding day, have some fun!

[Photos by Lou Stein]


Do you have any tips for how to make a wedding day photo shoot go smoothly?


Five Non-Hardcore Green Wedding Tips That You Might Actually Use

Green is definitely a big wedding thing these days.  And, while most people would love to have a green wedding, there are also a lot of things that most people aren’t going to do either. Like, you might buy vintage wedding rings or a pre-owned dress (says the wedding planner who had both), but you’re probably not going to send out plantable invitations. Which leads to another challenge: Getting your wedding guests to join in the greening too. That doesn’t always work. And a lot of green options can be expensive, too. Seeking out soy based-inks? Hemp silk bridesmaid dresses? Taking the train to Vegas for your bachelorette party rather than flying or driving? Seriously? Greening can be simple, and it can cheap, and it take very little extra effort on your part. In fact, it might save you some. Here’s what’s really worked with my brides:

It’s easier than it looks.


Gah! And it’s flying out in all directions! You’d send out e-invitations but you’re worried about your older relatives who don’t have email. Plus, the invitations are soo … pretty. Yeah, I know. 1. Sign up for a free wedding website that gives your guests the option to RSVP online. Put the wedding site address on your invitations, plus a contact phone number or email. That’s two less pieces of paper that you’ll have to buy per household, plus the cost in return envelope stamps that you can put towards the cake. Or the bar, for that matter. I know what you’re thinking: what if everyone doesn’t RSVP online? Truth? Everyone isn’t going to send an RSVP card in, either. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to track down stragglers either way, so you might as well err on the side of your bank account and the environment. 2. Seek out e-options wherever else you can. I wrote about this a while back. Make cloud computing work for you. When you get a contract, upload into Google docs or the online storage of your choice. I’ve even taken a picture of my signature and turned into a jpb so I can insert it into pdfs and docs, but not everyone is the security daredevil that I am! Weddings can be VERY paper heavy, minimize where you can. Scan and email, baby. Speaking of which, get as many of your guests’ email addresses as you can. They will come in handy, trust me! 3. Ditch the place cards, and use a seating chart on an easel, or in a frame or on a mirror or … . Etsy has a ton of choices, too. My last couple that did this had their guests sign the chart, too, and it’s hanging on their wall right now. Worried about your guests forgetting their food choices? They will. Make sure your caterer and/or venue manager has a list of guests by table and entree. ALWAYS BACK-UP. 4. What can you recycle and where? Ask your venue if they have recycling cans and if so, to use them. Have your DJ announce that guests can take the centerpieces home, or offer the leftovers to a local friend or family member that gardens. I hear roses make good mulch. If you are going to have place cards or programs, print them on recyclable paper — and then recycle them. I’ve even carted away this stuff for my brides — they conveniently pick up on Mondays in front of my house. This goes for aluminum cans, bottles, and paper goods too. Don’t head for the black trash can if you can get to the green one.

Gas emissions vs. Your Wedding

People love their cars. It’s a problem. We relish the freedom to come and go when and where we please, polluting the air, enriching the oil companies, and otherwise destroying the planet. We mean well, bless our hearts. 5. Wedding websites are a good place to encourage your guests to carpool, if they’re up for it. That gives them more time to spend with folks they haven’t seen in awhile, and saves time and gas. If you can swing it, rent a shuttle that will take your guests back and forth from the hotel, and emphasize that it can be used by guests that aren’t staying at the hotel too. This will also cut down on the drunk driving. It’s a Win-Win, and probably not as expensive you think. But really,  it’s mostly about the paper.

So, what other easy ways have you found to green up your wedding? Are you looking for more options? Let us know in the comments below!