To Intro or Not to Intro, That is the Question… of the week?

For the last few years there has been a trend away from doing the big long introduction line at the start of wedding receptions. You know, the part where the band leader announces all of the bridal party, parents of the bride and groom, flower girls, ring bearers, third grade teachers etc. People have begun to ask me if they really need to do all of that. I say, if you have to ask, then probably not.


It’s one of those things that people do, because it’s tradition, but this is your wedding and it can be as traditional as you want it to be. If you need help deciding, here’s some pros and cons.
Cons:
  • The introductions can take a long time. That’s up to an extra 20 minutes between you and your first course!
  • You have to get your entire bridal party lined up all over again. At this point they’ve probably had a couple of drinks, which makes them less like the responsible adults that you trusted to stand by your side on this most important day of your life, and more like unruly 6th graders… I’ve heard.
  • No one remembers the order they were placed in for the ceremony.
  • The bouquet bridge!
  • There is no champagne in the staging area…
Pros:
  • Photo-ops a plenty.
  • One more opportunity for everyone to see how masterfully you’ve outfitted your posse for the event.
  • You won’t be totally alone out there when the first dance starts.
  • You get a chance to show off your musical taste with another custom song selection.
  • It’s a chance to break the ice and infuse a little fun into the room before the first dance.
Like I said, if you have questions about whether or not to do it, you may want to skip, just make sure you run it by your parents first, especially if they are footing the bill!
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Say What You Need to Say: Then Give the Microphone Back!

In my seventeen years of weddings I’ve seen a lot of great speeches. They’ve run the gamut from tear-jerkers to pants-wetters and everything in between. This July a best man wrote his own blues tune and did a whole number (with props) while the band accompanied him. In August, I played a wedding where the best man was a stand-up comedian, I was laughing so hard I was crying by the time I had to get back up on the stage.

Unfortunately for every great speech I’ve witnessed there have been twice as many complete flops. I’ve seen drunk speeches, whispered speeches, mean speeches and embarrassing-beyond-the-realm-of-funny-speeches. You don’t have to have the oratory skills of Barack Obama to bring home a great wedding speech. You can do it, whether you’re the best man, the maid of honor, the bride, the groom or mom and dad.

You can be as straightforward and to the point as you want. If you have more experience talking in front of a large group, you can really wow the crowd with jokes, anecdotes, props and songs. Either way, knowing your limits is important.

Amy

Here are some tips for giving a great speech or toast:

  1. Don’t get drunk! I mean it. It’s not funny, it’s just sad.
  2. Speak directly into the microphone. This may seem like a no-brainer, but most people have no clue how to use a mic. You can’t hold it like a news correspondent. They have the added benefit of a lavalier mic. Check out the way they point it at the interviewee. They tilt it towards the person’s mouth. That’s what you should do, to yourself.
  3. If you’re worried about what to say, short and to the point usually gets it done.
  4. Personal stories are great, but make sure they make sense and are universally relatable.
  5. Stop saying um… um, ok?
  6. Don’t get drunk!
  7. If you plan on using props, keep them simple. Ask if you can stash them on the stage or bandstand before you have to get up. Oh, and don’t use the giant roll of paper trick. It’s way overdone. Not funny anymore.
  8. If you’re too shy to speak, ask to be let off the hook. Seriously, it’s not mandatory. I’ve seen people shake with fear up there. I’m sure everyone would rather you be comfortable than terrified, there’s always someone else in the crowd that could do it.
  9. Stand still. Try not to sway, shift or walk around too much. It makes people seasick, and it takes away from what you’re saying.
  10. Only open with a joke if it’s funny, and I mean funny when you’re sober.
  11. Don’t get drunk! Seriously, I didn’t write this three times by accident.
  12. Don’t over rehearse. If you speak from the heart it is usually best. Unless there’s a song involved, then – rehearse.
  13. Don’t curse. If you’re following tips 1, 6 & 10 you probably won’t, but really now, cursing is f***ed up.
  14. Bring your champagne with you if you intend to ask everyone to raise a glass. It looks weird if you’re the only one without one.
  15. Don’t run away with the microphone. When you’re done, turn around and hand it back to the person that gave it to you. We hate having to chase people.

Following these steps, planning ahead and staying focussed will help you master almost any speeching situation. Remember, everyone is on your side – and once you’re through it, you can go have a drink… but don’t get drunk!



True Tales of PNS: The Great Floral Massacre of 2004.

Those of you who have been with me since the beginning know a thing or two about the symptoms of and treatments for Pre-Nuptial Syndrome, or PNS (see Surviving PNS: Pre-Nuptial Syndrome, 2/24/09). Some might refer to those that suffer from this disorder as “Bridezilla”, “Bride From Hell” or just plain “Bitch!”, but I say these women are afflicted! PNS can so permeate the soul of a good and decent woman that she becomes unrecognizable to those around her. Stress kills, but PNS? That’s a horse of a different color. It’s stress drunk with power!

As an example, I will use a case study. A bride I knew back in 2004, a sweet woman on a mission – to have the most perfect wedding… EVER! DAMN IT!! We’ll call her Jody, because I don’t know anyone named Jody. Everything started out normal. Jody was like any other bride, excited, determined, thrilled at the prospect of celebrating her big day and starting her life together with her new husband. Let’s call him… poor bastard? I mean Jeff. Jody went through all of the usual steps of wedding planning. Chose the venue, chose the band (in my opinion, she chose the best one), picked out flowers, a dress, cake, champagne – all of it. Now, let me say, I’m not exactly sure what triggered Jody’s PNS. It could’ve been anything. Invitations, favors, anything. Until the day I saw her in action though, I thought PNS was abruptly cut off by, well – the wedding! Not necessarily.

Jody’s ceremony was at 5:30pm, with a cocktail hour to follow at 6pm and dinner and dancing from 7 – 11. It was at about 5:57pm that I witnessed one of the most perplexing and horrifying displays of PNS craziness that I’ve seen in over fifteen years in the wedding business. The ceremony had just finished. It was a beautiful afternoon on the water at undisclosed location in New Jersey facing the Manhattan skyline. The hard part was over, right? The fun was supposed to start. (You all know how I feel about the cocktail hour.) As the band was setting up in the main room of the venue, the cocktail hour was going on outside on the deck and in the bar area. Jody entered the main room, where the tables had been set and the flowers had been placed a few hours earlier. The centerpieces were a well put together mix of roses and lilies with sprays of dendrobium orchids. I never got a chance to ask Jody what the orchids had done to so upset her, but before anyone could stop her, she was attacking! The dendrobiums were her target. Jody proceeded to rip every orchid from its happy home amidst the other happy flowers there to make her day special and beautiful. The orchids ended up in the trash and Jody ended up missing about 25 minutes of cocktail hour. The photographer had been looking for her, Jeff thought she was fixing her makeup, her mother had given up on trying to stop the madness and all I could do was wonder why at that moment she would care about those bloody orchids.

It was PNS, but it carried through the actual nuptials to become something more complex, something more sinister in it’s effects on the bridal brain – RDD: Reception Dysmorphic Disorder. Jody was probably unclear with her florist about her extreme hatred of all things dendrobium. It’s possible the orchids were never discussed at all, and the florist took a little creative license, which would have been fine… any other day. Unfortunately, what looked like a stunningly decorated room to everyone else, looked like a giant crap-fest to Jody. She couldn’t help it. She had built everything up so much in her mind, that was the only thing it could look like. It’s like perfectly normal sized women that think their jeans make their asses look fat. The problem is, at that point in your wedding day, if you haven’t stopped yet to realize there’s something bigger going on than a party – no one can help you. Except maybe the bartender. Jody chose a time at which most of us would say “let’s party” or “whatever, I’m married now… champagne for everyone” to freak out. She was still in planning mode, and at that moment – the planning is over. Let go and let party, ladies.

By the end of the first dance Jody was fine. She was smiling, laughing, dancing and having a great time. The crisis had passed. She enjoyed the food, the music and her guests all night. The evening ended with hugs and best wishes, just as it should. So how can you avoid a floral massacre or ice sculpture decapitation or bridesmaids’ jewelry meltdown of your own? Keep the points below in mind, and they should help talk you down.
  • Put the elements together in advance and be specific.
  • Make sure you discuss your dislikes as freely as you discuss your favorite things with all of your vendors. This will help you avoid discovering something you find hideous (like Jody’s dendrobiums) at your reception.
  • Remember the difference is in the details, but your guests are nowhere near as picky as you are. Once you’re in it, it’s probably best to let it go and focus on the positive.
  • Your wedding should at least be as much about your marriage as it is about your menu.
  • Surround yourself with people that calm you, especially if you are a Type A person to begin with.
  • Hire people you trust. Find a wedding coordinator that you can communicate well with and let her handle it… you’ve got a party to get to!



A Good Band Should… and Probably Would.

Today an online friend asked for my input on a Band vs. DJ blog. I was happy to help, especially since it is a topic I have covered here before. I read a post that was sent to her by a DJ, just below mine. This Dj was very diplomatic and sang the praises of live bands for the excitement they bring to any event. She then went on to detail some cons on bands. One was price. I can’t argue that. Bands cost a lot more than DJs. Then she said something about most bands being unable to play music from all eras and something about pleasing grandma. So not true! At least where I come from. Bands have to play everything. Ask grandma. she’ll tell you to get a band. Anyway, all of that got me thinking. Maybe people don’t know what a top level, professional event band should be capable of.

You band should be able to…

…play music that you can enjoy with your grandma, your dad, your niece, your sister and the lady from your mom’s tennis club that you had to invite, and play it well. Look for a varied and extensive song list. Then ask for recordings or video to make sure the songs on the list are recognizable as… well… the songs on the list.

…take requests for special songs like your first dance, parent dances, cake cutting, last song (if you want to specify – some people do, some don’t) or anything else that comes up. If you have songs in mind already while you are searching for a band, ask for them in advance. If not, the leader should be able to help you with those choices by giving you lists and suggestions.

…string the songs together so the action keeps going on the dance floor. Nothing is worse than a band stopping to select their next song while you are standing out on the floor ready to dance. That kind of thing sends me straight to my seat, or the bar! Make sure you hire a band with a strong leader that has experience. Leading a band is not an easy job. Choose someone you trust and can relate to. They will be reading you and your guests all night to keep the party on the right track.

…shift on the fly. There shouldn’t be a “set list” for the music at your wedding. The band should be able to roll with last minute changes to timing of food or speeches. Sometimes the best man has a lot to say. Aside from some basic needs (electricity and enough space for the equipment), your band should be able to set up just about anywhere in the room you (or your event coordinator) want them to be.

…provide music for your ceremony and cocktail hour if you want it. Ask what kind of additional services your band can provide. Don’t assume that because most of the night will be spent playing dance music that your musicians can’t also play jazz or classical. Most professional organizations have access to musicians outside of their main band as well. You may be able to book a specialty act through them and have just one person to deal with, which makes it much easier to stay organized.

…control the volume. It’s not as easy for a group of 6 to 10 people to turn down their volume as it is for a DJ (who has a master volume control), but real pros should have a sound system that is present and powerful without blowing Aunt Lisa out the back wall of the room. Bands play with dynamics. Slower, softer songs are supposed to be quieter than swing or classic rock. A good band should be able to start soft and ramp up to the louder stuff as the partygoers ramp up.

…dress for the occasion. Your band should find out how you would like them to dress before your wedding day. They should also be able to suggest attire for the band based on your event’s time, location and level of formality. If your reception is a luau on the beach, you don’t want a bunch of tuxedo clad musicians to show up to play.

…help you through the planning process. Like every vendor you hire, the band should be professional and experienced. They should be willing to take your phone calls when you are freaking out because your fiance wants your first dance to be “Bootylicious”. They should suggest ways to enhance your day and take some of the stress of planning away. Make sure you get trustworthy people all around, but especially when it comes to the band. They end up running so much of the party and music sets the tone for the whole evening. The band leader should be able to work well with the staff at your venue and be in communication with photographers and videographers so you don’t miss out on capturing any priceless moments. Like one of your bridesmaids getting drunk and dirty dancing with your Uncle Frank. I’m just saying… I’ve seen a lot.

Everything I Ever Wanted to Know About the Party I Learned at the Cocktail Hour.

Don’t underestimate the power of a good cocktail hour to set the tone for an amazing reception. So often this wonderful little section of the event gets forgotten in the planning process. It can be thought of as an add on: passed apps, fondue fountain, martini bar bla bla bla. Worse yet, the guests of honor sometimes miss it completely in favor of photo ops. This is the golden hour when guests get to mingle regardless of seat assignment or family affiliation. The open bar has just opened. There are apps and snacks everywhere. It’s your first chance to party as a married couple! There are no real traditions to uphold during the cocktail hour, except cocktails. Which, after all, is one of everyone’s favorites.


My first bit of advice is try not to miss it. Your photographer will probably want to get a lot of pictures taken during this time, but make sure you get to enjoy at least half of the cocktail hour. I’m all for great photos, but you need to unwind after all the “I Do’s” and whatnot. How about having your photographer follow you around paparazzi style? When you stop to chat with a group of friends or family she can just ask you to pose for a brief moment, then you can all go right on chatting, drinking, mingling and most importantly  – eating.

Don’t forget to eat at your wedding, it’s key. You’ll need your strength. You don’t realize what a long day it is until you are in the midst of it. You can get a lot of this eating in at the cocktail hour, without having to slow down your interaction with all of your guests. Everyone will want a chance to talk to you and congratulate you. With one-bite passed apps and amuse bouche platters you can have practically a whole meal and you won’t have to stop the conversation. Which is good, because you probably didn’t get to eat lunch!

The cocktail hour is also an opportunity to show a little of your personal style in the food/drink department. My husband and I knew we had to have sushi at our cocktail hour. We went out for sushi on our first date, we both love it and it was a great story to tell our guests as we mingled. Everyone thought it was cute – people love a good tie in like that. It doesn’t matter what it is. Maybe you met in Buffalo – so you have wings. You beat him in a hot dog eating contest? Pigs in a blanket on a NYC style hot dog cart. Is your man from Maine? Mini lobster rolls. It works for drinks too. If you are going to Paris on your honeymoon – feature all French wines. Yankees fans? Beer bar with commemorative pinstripe cups. Big Sinatra lovers? Martini time! Really, I could go on all day. Take something special about the two of you and incorporate it. It will make the whole event more personal, and maybe some of your guests will learn something about you and your new spouse that they never knew before. Don’t be afraid to ask your caterer if they can provide something that isn’t on their standard menu, but make sure you discuss price – there may be some additional charge.

The same idea goes for music. It’s best to keep it low key, but low key doesn’t have to be boring. Turn the tables on tradition. Tie the music in with your food and drink selections, or ask the musicians to play your favorite genre of music only. Quesadillas? Mariachi. Champagne and Caviar? Strolling violins. Tandoori? Sitar. From steel drums to jazz duos I’ve seen it all. How about a string quartet that plays classic rock or a solo pianist playing all Broadway love songs? It really is up to you. For the most part the music at the cocktail hour is background, but when people stop to listen, it should be something worth listening to.

The cocktail hour is my favorite part of any event. What can I say? I love tiny food. Variety is great, but it doesn’t make up for putting real thought into it. Instead of having the endless buffet of everything you can imagine (unless of course, you met in Vegas) try focusing on a few items that will really tell your story. Tie in the music and choose a signature cocktail and you’re good to go. Think outside the box and you’ll have an hour of ice-breaking, party-kick-starting fabulousness!

I’ll look for my invite in the mail.

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.