Survivor, Wedding Reception: The Courtesy Basket

This week, a brief musing on one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind. The wedding restroom courtesy basket. It’s far better than an actual restroom attendant, which always sort of freaks me out. I feel like I need to make a point of bringing a dollar with me to the ladies room every time, and how about the ones that don’t really do anything but sit there? I digress. The courtesy basket is like your favorite grandma’s giant purse that always has exactly what you need.


Gum? Why yes. What goes better with an open bar than *Trident?
Bobby pin? Sure thing. I thought I felt a hair out of place.
Tylenol? You betcha. Why not get started beating that hangover early?

I think my favorite courtesy basket item is the Tums or Rolaids they always put in there. Does this say more about the food or about our ability to control ourselves in an all-you-can-eat cocktail hour buffet situation? I’ve never needed antacid at an event myself, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

On the subject of courtesy baskets, I’m all pro. Really, I can’t think of a single con. I mean seriously, free tampons? Especially if the venue you’ve chosen provides one for you. If they don’t, definitely put one together. It’s a good job to give one of your bridesmaids, maybe the one that just missed out on the coveted maid-of-honor position. It makes your guests feel welcome and that you care about their needs during the course of your wedding. It’s a long day for everyone, and chances are at around 9:00pm or so, someone’s going to need some hand lotion or hairspray. I once saw a woman beat a wicked case of static cling at a Christmas party with just a bit of Jergen’s on the stockings – it was amazing.

Some of the most popular items to put in the basket… these will be specific to the ladies room. For the men’s I’m guessing, some Zantac, aspirin and the latest issue of Playboy, I don’t know.

  • Emery boards – a snaggy broken nail can kill an evening.
  • Hairspray – not just for hair, can also stop stocking runs.
  • Feminine products – go for a variety pack on this one…
  • Pain killers – OTC products only please!
  • Deodorant – I never really understood this one. How smelly are you going to get? Opt for the spray kind, it’s a little less gross.
  • Breath mints, gum or mouthwash – I say skip the mouthwash, unless you plan on putting a bunch of dixie cups in there. Tic Tacs work the best.
  • Clear nail polish – again, for stockings. I don’t think anyone is giving themselves a manicure during your reception, and if they are… you hired the wrong band!
  • Hand lotion – moisture is our friend.
  • Tissues – sometimes people cry, but also the most popular wedding months are smack in the middle of allergy season.
  • Q-Tips – again, I’m not sure. I’m going to say makeup application.
  • Band-Aids – For buffet table mishaps and carving board slip ups.
  • Sewing kit – some people care when a button falls off. For me, if nothing’s hanging out, I’m waiting until Monday to take care of that one.

You can be as creative as you want with this little tidbit of planning. You know your guests better than I do. Also, you know what you would want to have on hand, but don’t expect to get any of these items back at the end of the party (except maybe the deodorant). It’s free stuff. You put it out there, and people will take it. The upside is, they will think you are extra cool and classy for having given them the opportunity to do so.
*any mention of specific products does not constitute an endorsement of said products by SingerAimNYC… except for Tic Tacs.

How to Effectively Hire a Vendor… Or Not.

This week’s entry is not about how to choose the right vendor, let’s assume you’ve already done that. Now, it’s time to book them… officially, not just in your mind.


There is so much to do when it comes to choosing all of the vendors for your event, that by the time you’ve actually decided on one it can seem like your job is done. For the vendor however, this is not the case. There are contracts to sign and deposits to pay before the deal is official. So, even if you are 100% sure in your mind that you want Franco Falencia’s Floral Design to create the decor for your event, Franco really has nothing to go on until it’s official. (Don’t bother googling Franco, he’s not real. If he was though, I’m sure his work would be fabulous).

First things first. Don’t ask for a contract if you don’t intend to sign it. If you want to see what is in the contract before you make your final decision, ask for a sample. Most vendors will have one when you meet with them, or if you are booking remotely they can email or fax one. This will be a blank or one with sample information filled in. If you ask for a contract specifically for your event, the vendor assumes you intend to book with them and will be sending in a signed copy with a deposit. Which lead me to my next point…

Turn your contract around quickly. Especially if you have been extended any sort of discount off of the book rate for the services you will be receiving. It’s a courtesy and it makes for a great working relationship with your people. From the vendor’s standpoint nothing is worse than having a contract out in the world just stagnant. It is at this point that we start to wonder if you have changed your mind, found someone else, joined the circus or moved to South America. Trust me all sorts of scenarios run through our minds. Remember, this is how we make a living, your deposit is someone’s paycheck. If something comes up that causes a delay on your end, be honest with your vendor. Chances are they will be willing to work with you, as long as they know what’s up. If they aren’t, well maybe they weren’t the right people for you in the first place.

An open dialogue with your vendors is the best way to avoid any snag ups or confusion or worse yet losing them to someone who’s more on top of things than you are. Read all contracts carefully and ask questions. If there is something in it you don’t like, ask if it can be changed. At this point you are not obligated to anyone. If there is some information the vendor needs that you don’t have, i.e. what you want the band to wear at you event, ask if that can be determined at a later date. Write in any extra information or considerations. I personally hate blank spaces in contracts. They leave room for questions, issues and last minute problems.

Communication is equally important if you have decided not to hire a specific vendor for one reason or another. The phone calls and emails you keep getting are coming in because you haven’t answered them. A good vendor works their office diligently. Until they’ve heard a no, you are still a possible yes. (Of course anyone who keeps calling or emailing after you have clearly told them that you went with someone else, you have my full permission to pummel… verbally). Simply answer one phone call or email with a polite “thank you for your time, but we’ve decided to go with someone else.” There’s nothing personal here, it’s not like avoiding phone calls from your ex, or your crazy Aunt Harriet, and we won’t be offended if you’ve decided to go with someone else. It’s a competitive field. There’s just as much rejection as acceptance. Some vendors may ask what influenced your decision so that they can improve their service in the future. It’s OK to be honest and you should be.

If you are still undecided, give vendors an idea of when your decision might be made, or tell them when to follow up with you. Always make sure your have your first choice vendor contracted before you blow off your second or third choices, you may end up needing them after all. If you take a long time to make decisions, your first choice may no longer be available by the time you get to booking them.

The key to all of it is communication and professionalism. The people you are dealing with are pros, treat them as such. They are there to help you through this process. Ask questions and be up front. You’ll take a lot of stress out of the whole thing for both you and your vendors. If you find someone difficult to communicate with or unwilling to make any compromises, you may need to go back to the choosing stage and skip booking them altogether.







Your First Dance and You – Happy Together?

This is something I have been wanting to address for a very long time. This issue has been near and dear to my heart since the first night I stepped onto the bandstand to rock a wedding. The first dance. This moment can be terrifying or exhilarating for the happy couple. Choice makes all the difference. The styles can be as varied as the couples themselves. Some are sweet and touching, some are down and dirty and others are tried and true. From Let’s Get it On to I Wanna Grow Old With You, I’ve seen the gamut. I say if you can bring a tear to this hardened professional’s eye (or make me laugh, for that matter) you’ve done a good job at choosing.


On the subject of laughter however, you want to have people laughing with you, not at you! My biggest and best piece of advice when choosing a first dance song? Listen to the lyrics. All of the lyrics. If this seems like a no brainer to you, good, you are well on your way to a moment that will be memorable for all of the right reasons. If not, then listen up. I will give you some guidelines for song choice that should help you avoid any songs about infidelity, break ups or mass murder.

Listen extra carefully to the lyrics, especially if the song you are considering is sung by a moody pop artist, i.e. Dido, Zero 7, Coldplay or U2. “White Flag” is not a love song, unless your idea of love is crazy stalking. “With or Without You” has too many options, for both of you, and you want to avoid any references to porn and/or drugs. You can do this by paying special attention to the verse, that’s usually where these references are inserted into pop music. Even if the chorus proclaims love and unending desire, you want to be sure these proclamations are directed towards a human being and not a motorcycle, turtle, or humpty-back camel. In fact, avoid any form of the word hump! You are probably on the safer side if you are looking at a country cross-over ballad or anything your parents might have had at their wedding.

OK, another important aspect of a first dance is that you are supposed to actually dance to it. Danceability is a big factor that should inform your decision. For this, there is a sliding scale, directly related to your ability to dance. If you have “Dancing With the Stars” style moves under your belt, or your fiance attended the Alvin Ailey School you are in the clear here. I’m guessing you can throw down to just about anything. For the rest of us however, try dancing to the song before you fall in love with it. Even the most confident person can be shaken by flying solo on a dance floor. At my wedding, people were just not getting the message to join in and my husband and I just kept cracking up. It doesn’t matter if it’s slow or fast as long as you are comfortable doing whatever dance it is.

So in the end, it’s up to you. Be as creative as you want, and mindful of the pitfalls. It is always better if it is a song that means something to the two of you, but if you want some examples (based on experience) of what not to do I’ll give you a few…
  • White Wedding, Billy Idol – Yes this song references a wedding, not the kind you want to have.
  • I’ll Make Love to You, Boyz II Men – Making love is beautiful, but this song’s almost porn! Maybe it’s those sexy Boyz voices.
  • Pretty much all Rolling Stones songs.
  • She Will be Loved, Maroon 5 – You’re gonna want to check out that verse…
  • Kelly Clarkson, she’s just angry.
  • The Sweetest Thing, U2 – not so sweet really.
  • Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol – Beautiful song, but if you can hear it without thinking of death you’re a better man than me.
There are a lot of good choices that are off the beaten path, no one wants to be cookie cutter. Some of the first dance highlights of the last few years include…
  • Crazy Love, Van Morrison – Classics never die!
  • I Would Walk 500 Miles, The Proclaimers – This one is fun for everyone, and has a great message.
  • She’s Got a Way, Billy Joel – Again, a classic. More about the bride than the groom though.
  • Like I Am, Rascal Flatts – A great and catchy country ballad that we don’t come across too often.
  • More Today Than Yesterday, Spiral Starecase – OK, my husband wouldn’t want me to give this one up. It was ours. Retro good times for everyone!




Band or DJ: How Much Do You Know About You?

So, you may think that for me this would be a cut and dry case of band band band. Since I am a wedding singer myself most people probably wouldn’t even ask me this question, but there is no answer that’s right for everyone. There are several factors to consider before deciding on the answer to that age old question, band or DJ?


OK, maybe it’s not an age old question, but is one that can define the tone of your wedding. Entertainment can make or break a party.

A live band brings an air of excitement to any event. There is something about watching and listening to real people making music right in front of you that takes the whole experience up a notch, and your wedding is a once in a lifetime event. A professional band should be able to cover all types of music, but this is an especially great choice if you are into rock, swing, Motown, alternative, and genres generally utilizing live instruments to create their sound. If your fiance proposed to you at a Bruce Springsteen concert, trust me, you’re band people.

However, if you are into electronic music, hip hop or techno, or you and your fiance never miss a Saturday night out at the club, then a DJ might be a better fit for you. A great DJ can play his or her turntables like an instrument, and this way you will know exactly what the songs are going to sound like. If you practiced your first dance to the CD for all those months, you can dance it exactly the same way that night.

Of course, I have to address the elephant in the room, cost. Bands cost more than DJs. That’s just a fact. There’ no way around it. Even with all of the equipment a DJ has to invest in, there is still less overhead for them than for a band, and less people to pay. So, if cost is the number one factor in your decision making process, you may want to hire a DJ. Determine your budget before you start your research, and be upfront about it with potential vendors. You might end up getting a great deal.

If you have the cash there is always the option of both, to give the evening two distinct flavors. You can alternate between the two, or start the evening out with one and end with the other. Also, many bands have the capability to DJ a portion of your event, and there are DJs who perform with singers or musicians to fill out their sound. Really, your wedding should be a reflection of your personal style, and you should have a great time at it. Decide which musical backdrop will facilitate a good time for you and your guests and go for it!



Surviving PNS: Pre-Nuptial Syndrome

Pre-Nuptial Syndrome, or PNS affects millions of brides each year, specifically targeting the busy bride with a unique vision of the perfect wedding.


You may be suffering from PNS if you have one or more of the following:
  • A phone full of vendor emails and no contracted vendors as of yet.
  • More meetings after work than during.
  • A stack of bridal magazines taller than your refrigerator.
  • Kleinfeld’s on speed dial.
  • Six bridesmaids whose unique vision of the perfect wedding is directly at odds with yours.
  • Champagne taste and a Bud Light budget.
  • A fiance that doesn’t understand why you want to lose seven pounds before your first fitting.
  • A mother whose unique vision of the perfect wedding is directly at odds with yours.
  • Three dozen invitations samples that all look the same, or …
  • An overwhelming desire to skip it and move on to the honeymoon!
Planning a wedding can be one of the most stressful things a person can go through in life. I think it’s right up there with moving, but it doesn’t have to be. It should be one of the most exciting, joyful and memorable times of your life. It should be fun. You should enjoy trying on beautiful gowns, checking out bands and tasting wine (a personal favorite of mine). This is a time to focus on you, your fiance, your relationship and what makes it special. PNS can be held at bay if you just remember why you have begun the wedding planning process in the first place. The man you love has asked you to spend the rest of your life with him and you want to celebrate that with all of your friends, family and loved ones (and whoever else is on your parents’ guest list).

If simply remembering that doesn’t help, here are some steps you can take to avoid falling victim to Pre-Nuptial Syndrome.

  • Prioritize: Make a list of everything you need to do between now and the big day (leave room at the bottom of the page, this list will likely grow). Number these items in order of importance to you. For some “dress” will be first. for others it will be “flowers” it doesn’t matter, as long as you are comfortable with it. Although, the first thing on everyone’s list should probably be “venue”. Without that, there is no wedding.
  • Delegate: Find a couple of allies and lean on them. Make sure they are up for the challenge first, and that their unique vision of the perfect wedding is not directly at odds with yours. If you have to, pay them (a wedding planner is money well spent, if you have it). Maybe your mom has a knack with flowers, put her on it. Is your fiance musically inclined? Let him research the band. Does your maid of honor have impeccable fashion sense? Let her get to work picking out potential bridesmaid’s dresses (this also keeps the heat off of you in the event of a bridesmaid mutiny at the dress store). In the end, these choices belong to you (and your fiance), but if the myriad choices can be narrowed down by trusted associates, why not? You do it at work, do it in life.
  • Relax: There are a lot of things that seem like a huge deal while you are planning your wedding that turn out to hardly matter in the end. As someone who has seen hundreds of weddings and receptions as well as lived through her own, take it from me, there has never been a more appropriate time for the old cliche – don’t sweat the small stuff. Make sure you take plenty of time for you during this process, and don’t forget about your husband to be. It helps to remember that you are in it together.
  • Trust: Hire vendors that you are certain will do a great job. These are people who listen more than they talk. People who are professional and have the experience to roll with any last minute changes, unexpected guests, missing flower girls – whatever might come up. They should also be people you feel comfortable communicating with. Remember, these are the people that will make your unique vision of the perfect wedding a reality. Get recommendations if possible, ask for referrals from anyone you are thinking of working with. It may be easier to ask certain questions of someone who has already been there, plus you know you are getting more truth than sales pitch.

PNS isn’t 100% avoidable, but it can be treated with calm, organization and preparation. If that doesn’t work, there’s always a martini and a trip to the spa.