Don't be a flake....

I cannot stress this enough. SKIP THE GLITTER!!! The microfine body glitter may look great on the bride or the girls, but weddings are a day of hugs. And as the love spreads, so does the glitter. What looked amazing on the skin now looks like and photographs as a horrible case of dandruff on a suit or tux.

Want to look heavier in your pictures? Didn't think so...

Bouquets not only add weight to your hands, but some can actually make you look heavier in pictures! If you are wearing a white gown and carry a white bouquet, the flowers will appear to add inches to your figure wherever it is placed. Colored flowers on the other hand appear to subtract inches from your figure wherever it is placed. The same holds true for the bridesmaids. If the color of their flowers match the dress, they will add inches. If the flower color differs from the dress, they will appear to subtract inches!

And watch those bare arms! Many formal pictures are taken with one shoulder towards the camera. The tendency is to keep your arm tight against your body. Check out what happens to you arm in a mirror. First, hold your arm tight against your body as you would if you were holding a bouquet. Now, move your arm slightly away from your body. Your upper arm looks noticeably thinner!

I can't find my seat :-(

There are two common ways to arrange the seating cards. Some do it alphabetically by last name. Others so it by table number--all the "Table 1" cards are together, all the "Table 2" cards are together etc. For everybody's sake, please PLEASE have them put in A-B-C order. Imagine being the first on line and there are over 120 cards to looks through. I know my last name begins with a "C" so if the cards are in A-B-C order, I know about where to look. But if they are in table order---how do I know what table I am seated at? Now I have to read each and every one. And so does everyone else. If each of 120 guests averages just 30 seconds to find their card, you have just lost an hour of your reception!!! Gasp!!!!

What's for Dinner???

Menu cards on the tables are a nice touch. The guests know what is coming and if there is a choice of entrees, the staff can move quickly from person to person to take orders without having to explain the options to each and every guest. As the hall will ask for the guests to be seated while the staff takes orders, you really want this process to go as quickly as possible so the party can get started! IMPORTANT!!! Reception halls are dark. Often very dark. Make sure you use an extra large font so people can actually read the menu card!

Allow enough time between the church and reception

I cannot stress this one enough. Ask ANY photographer, videographer, priest, minister, rabbi or other celebrant how many weddings start on time. The reality is every bride swears things will start on time, but maybe 1 in 50 actually does. 1/2 hour to an hour late is not uncommon. And what suffers in the end is the length of your reception. Your reception has a contractual end time. If you and your guests arrive late, your reception ends when you contract says it will end.
So how does this happen? So very many reasons. Here is a typical day for a NJ wedding.
  • Photographer arrives at brides house 1pm.
  • Service begins at 2pm.
  • Cocktail hour 5pm.
  • Reception 6-10pm.
Here is what really happens:
Photographer arrives at 1pm. And the bride still has to get dressed. You see, there have been so many little unanticipated things to do the morning of, and the minutes just kind of added up. Perhaps there was traffic getting to the hair dresser or back, a bridesmaid or two was late and you were all driving there together, phone calls asking for directions, gathering up all you will need to put in the limo, and just answering questions about the final details.
OK. So just running a little late. Just have to get the gown on and we will be ready to start taking all those beautiful pictures! Uh-oh. This is one of those gowns that get laced up the back. Took them just a few minutes at the bridal shop to lace it. No exaggeration ladies, I have seen it take 45 minutes for your friends and family to do. Too tight and you have back cleavage. Too loose and the gown won't stay up. It takes time to get it right.
Ideally at the house the photographer needs to get the bride with any parents or step parents that are there, both alone and in groups. Bride alone, bride and bridesmaids, the bride with each bridesmaid, leaving the house, getting into the limo etc. But one bridesmaid is stuck in traffic. Major accident on the Parkway. She can't go straight to the church. So you will have to wait. Or perhaps the limo got stuck in traffic, parent are late, one person called out sick at the hairdresser so that took some extra time. And getting everything you need and yourselves into the limo took way longer than you thought. Bottom line, all the little delays really add up. And this is why virtually every bride arrives at the church 15 minutes late or more.
Lets say you are one of the one in 50 that actually arrives on time. It is 2pm on the dot as the limo pulls up to the front. Actually, if you wanted your service to begin at 2, you are late. The limo may have a good parking space, but whoever drove from your house with you gets the worst parking spaces. You need to wait for them to park to get started. And it takes time for everyone to get out of the limo. And guests are still arriving. And you want pics of you and your dad by the limo. And everyone needs to be lined up in the back. And the runner pulled. And the parents seated. The 2pm service is now starting at 2:15. Also when the celebrant tells you how long they expect the service to be, they are not counting the processional or recessional time at all.
So the processional starts at 2:15. And it is a short quick one so the service is underway by 2:20. And it is a short one. Just a half hour. Done at 2:50, and ready for the receiving line by 2:55. Arriving on time has you 25 minutes behind schedule at this point. Imagine if you were the 49 out of 50 that arrive late?
Next is the receiving line. There is a detailed post about this previously, but in a nutshell, 120 guests, 30 seconds with each, that would be an hour. But you will talk fast. 15 seconds per guest. And the receiving line is done by 3:25. Time for the toast by the limo and to head inside for pictures. It is now 3:35.
Let's see, first there is the bride and groom and her parents. And his parents. And both sets of parents. And add the grandparents and aunts and uncles to each side. And the brothers and sisters. And the brothers and sisters alone with the bride and groom. And the bridal party. Just the guys. Just the girls. Maid of honor and best man. And, and.....count on at least a dozen formal shots to be taken. And then the bride and groom alone. It takes time to gather who you need in each photo. People run to the bathroom, out to smoke, to their car for something, go outside to talk to someone. So it can take 2-3 minutes or more to gather the people and take the picture. The larger the group in the picture, the longer it takes to set up. 45 minutes is a reasonable amount of time for the family formals. It is now 4:20. And now it is onto the park for pictures. Everyone heads to the limos and get settled, and you are on your way to the park by 4:30.
The park is just 10 minutes away and you are fortunate and hit no traffic. 4:40. By the time you park, unload and reach the spot you want and get started, 4:50. And you also want pictures by the cute bridge. And the flowers. And the lake. And....
Your photographer is really quick and you are ready to head back to the limo in just a half hour. It is 5:20. By 5:30 you are all settled and on your way to the reception. Again you are lucky and there is no traffic. It is 5:40. You gather all your things from the limo and head to the bridal suite. It is 5:50. The DJ walks in and starts lining you all up for introductions. But wait--what about cocktail hour? I just want to relax for a bit! I choose the food so carefully. And I missed it? Nooooooooooo!
Needless to say, time has a way of just going on your wedding day. This scenario had a 3 hour gap between the start of the church and the start of the reception. Imagine if the cocktail hour started at 4! Or if you had been late for the service. Or if the service was longer than a half hour. Or you hit traffic.
I cannot stress enough--ALLOW ENOUGH TIME BETWEEN THE CHURCH AND RECEPTION. Your guests will find something to do with an hour or two of their lives. But missing and hour or two of reception you have planned for your entire life is something you can never get back. And just say everything involved with your reception cost $10,000. The hour missed was worth $2000. Wow.

The crowd laughed, and the Flower Girl cried

A flower girl and ring bearer can do no wrong as they walk down the aisle. Whether they walk, run, have to be carried, cry, carefully lay down each petal, or throw everything in the basket all at once, the kids are always a hit. Much of the time their walk down the aisle is met with laughter as they are just so darn cute! For some of the more sensitive kids, that can be a problem. They are trying sooooo very hard to do a good job and they are being laughed at. And they begin to cry. If you are having a flower girl or a ring bearer, just let them know this:
"Sometimes at weddings, when grown-ups are happy they laugh."
This way, if they do hear laughter as they go down the aisle, it is just the sounds of happy grown-ups at a wedding! And it really is!

The Ring Shot

The "ring shot" is a time honored tradition. The bride's hands are placed gracefully over the groom's and a beautiful close-up photo of the sparkling rings is the result. Sometimes. Had your engagement ring cleaned lately? Oooooopppps!

Some things should not be one-sided

Getting married under an arch? An arch can provide a beautiful frame above and around a couple during the wedding ceremony. And it can be the UGLIEST thing in your wedding photos and video. An arch is typically a fairly basic somewhat mangled metal frame that comes to life when it is decorated with flowers, perhaps some lights, ribbon or whatever you would like. And gee--you only need to decorate one side because that is what the crowd will see. And that, my friends, is the problem. Most people only worry about the front. But photographers and videographers want to see your face. And as you face the officiant for the ceremony, the best shot of the two of you is most likely from the opposite side of the arch. You know--the side that is nothing more than an ugly bare metal frame with twisted wires showing! Yuck!

Her arms went up but the gown did not...

Strapless gowns are still the most popular choice for the bride and her bridesmaids and needless to say, you really, really, REALLY want that zipper to stay closed all night long. Fortunately, there is a small hook and eye fastener at the top of the zipper to protect against such disasters. But......what if the hook and eye fails? Trust me. They do. And more often than anyone would like! Sometimes the thread holding the hook and eye to the dress is nice and secure, and sometimes it is not. To insure you or your bridesmaids will not end up as part of some mass email, take the time to sew the hook and eye nice and secure.

So that's what those holes are for!

The makers of tuxedo pants have found a way to help the guys pull their shirts nice and tight. There are holes inside the front pants pocket. Feel around and up high--they are there!
Best man tip: Under the circumstances, the front pants pocket might not be the best place to keep the rings! (or your keys, or your money...)

These shoes are KILLING me! (For the guys)

Attending a wedding as a guest and dread the thought of your uncomfortable dress shoes? There is a way out! More and more guys are opting for a nice comfortable pair of solid black sneakers. What? Never saw any of the guests wearing sneakers before? Exactly. It is not something anyone really notices. But they are there!

These shoes are KILLING me!( For the gals)

Dread the thought of dancing the night away in your heels? Good news! Flip flops are in! Head to Old Navy and pick up a pair of white flip flops for the bride and color coordinated flip flops for the bridesmaids and you are good to go!

The Dance (or two?)

That first dance song. Sometimes it is an easy choice--the song playing when you had that first date as an example. And sometimes, well -he has the perfect song. And so does she. Soooo---use them both! The bride's choice can be that special first dance of the evening. And the groom can pick that special last dance of the evening.
"And now, it has come down to the last dance of the evening and I would like to invite our bride and groom up to the dance floor for a special song entitled '___________' . Let's put our hands together for our bride and groom as they make their way to the dance floor! "
(insert sound of WILD applause here for YOU!!!)

Where's the elevator??

When choosing a reception hall, consider your guests with disabilities. Just because everyone is the picture of health when you book your hall does not mean it will remain that way for your wedding. One unexpected guest with a disability turned out to be the bride! She broke her knee just before her wedding day. Sadly, there are many places that are not very accessible. It is not fun for a guest to sit alone in the reception room upstairs just because the cocktail hour is down a flight of stairs. Or for guests that cannot make their way to the reception room at all. The only way into the Old Mansion in Elizabeth, which no longer exists, was up a staircase. And if you needed the restroom--more stairs. Believe it or not, there are still reception hall rooms out there that are not accessible.
Some halls do have access between the floors by going outside and walking around the building. But again, sometimes the walk is just as hard as doing the stairs. Especially in bad weather.
Also consider the location of the restrooms. Is there one nearby for guests who cannot go "over the river and through the woods" to the other side of the reception hall? As an example, the large ballroom at the Richfield Regency in Verona has its restrooms down a flight of stairs. But an additional restroom is located on the same level as the ballroom for guests unable to use the stairs.
Bottom line, do not assume a reception hall has easy access to rooms or restrooms. You really need to ask.

But how do I get there from here?

Time to send out the invitations! The hall has provided you with directions cards for all you guests. Yes!!! You tuck them into the envelopes and off they go! Your guests open the invitation and are relieved to find directions enclosed. Not everyone has a GPS or access to Mapquest.

The service is over, the bubbles have been blown and the guests get into the car and pull out the directions. Lets see--from 80 and points north, 287 and points south, the Garden State Parkway, Route 46, Route 3 Arrrrrrgh! If I don't know how to get to any of these roads from the church, how do I get there from here??? Uh-oh.......

Provide your guests with directions from the ceremony location to the reception location. Receptions are much more fun when the people show up! Have additional copies at the ceremony location to pass out to the guests who forgot the directions at home. You might even include the estimated driving time and the cocktail hour start time as well. One bride even provided local businesses in the area of the reception for those who might be in need of a drugstore, Starbucks or a White Castle fix!

On occasion, I have seen directions cards provided at the reception guiding guests back to all the major highways to help them find their way home. What a great idea!

The Receiving Line

After the ceremony, most brides and grooms have a receiving line. You as a couple stand together with your parents in a line. The bridal party often lines up as well opposite the couple and their parents. As the guests exit the ceremony location, they extend their wishes to the new couple and their families and often engage in conversation.

If you have 120 guests to meet and greet, and spend just 30 seconds with each, the receiving line alone will take ONE HOUR!!! 240 guests coming? The receiving line could take TWO HOURS!!! And in making all the plans, somehow allowing time for the receiving line gets lost in the shuffle. Forgetting to budget for this time is the number one reason couples never see their cocktail hour or have a minute to relax before the reception begins.

Tip #1: Budget enough time to allow for 15-30 seconds per guest for the receiving line. If the receiving line moves quickly, you will be grateful for the extra time you now have.

Tip #2: Let everyone in the receiving line know to keep it moving. "kiss" "kiss" "kiss" ....There is plenty of time to catch up on the 20 years since you have seen cousin Billy with him at the reception.

Tip #3: If your ceremony and reception is all in one location, strongly consider skipping the receiving line all together. Typically a half hour is allocated for the ceremony followed by a one hour cocktail hour. If your receiving line takes an hour, the poor guests at the end of the line never see the food.

Reception Immediately Following...

When you book a hall for your reception, you sign a contract for a specific time.

Cocktail Hour 6-7pm. Reception 7-11pm.

Yet many invitations simply state "Reception Immediately Following".

So----let's just say your service was at 3pm. After allowing time for the service and the receiving line, your guests could be on the way to the reception by 4:30. By 5pm they have arrived and are ready to hit the food and the bar. They are greeted by a staff member who tells them the room will not be ready for an hour. Your guests cannot understand why. The invitation said "Reception Immediately Following" and they expected to eat NOW!!! They are not happy.

On the other hand, your service might have been scheduled for 4:30. It is now 6:00 and the guests are still milling around outside the church chatting. It is 6:30 before they head off to the reception. They find their place cards and head to get something from the cocktail hour. And the staff is busy clearing away the food. Cocktail hour is over!?! But the invitation said "Reception Immediately Following!"!!! And they expect to eat NOW!!! They are not happy.

If your cocktail hour is from 6-7, say so on the invitation. If your reception is from 7-11, say so on the invitation. Many guests need to hire babysitters while they attend your wedding. It is really helpful if they know how long they expect to be out.