Would you ever want a surprise wedding?
This. This gets me. Even though I don't think I'd personally be on board with someone else planning my wedding, I think it's so wonderful to see a partner that is so in tune with his fiance's needs. Plus, how freaking cute are they?
Would you ever want a surprise wedding?
Today, it's story time. I was visiting my brother and my sister-in-law-to-be in Chicago this weekend to celebrate their engagement, and hopefully tomorrow I'll give a recap of the event and also ALL OF THE FEELINGS about when someone close to you is getting married.
Anyway. On to story time.
My first job out of college was as a wedding planner for a very smart, fashion-savvy designer. She was one of the elite planners in Manhattan and very, very good at her job. She also pounded home the effect of good client service: you do what the client wants unless its excruciatingly unreasonable (which probably would only be something equal to "Could you get actual moon dust to light my entire wedding? If it's not too much trouble." Everything else was fair game.)
And so, after months and months of assisting with all of the logistics for a very expensive, multi-day wedding, there we were, day-of the wedding, and I am in full-on planner mode.
Which means, I am sweaty from head to toe, seemingly leaking dirt out of my pores, my hair is in a greasy, lopsided half-bun, and I've got one broken flip-flop. I'd been literally running around 4 acres of land. And this was only Day 1 of the wedding weekend.
About two hours before guests start arriving, the MOB comes up to me whilst I was securing the 9,000th pin onto a table runner. I still had about four hours worth of things to get done in 90 minutes, so her visit was met with a suspicious glance and a deep breath.
"I bought a surprise for Bride and Groom and they just arrived this morning. Do you think you could transfer these into this?"
"These" were three DHL boxes, each the size of the entire Sex and the City Boxed Collection (on VHS). This was a large satin hat box with two enormous satin ribbon ties.
"Sure," I said hesitatingly. "What exactly is in the packages?"
"Butterflies! I want you to release them at the end of the ceremony."
She proceeded to explain to me that butterflies went dormant when cooled, but alighted INSTANTLY at the sight of sun or the warmth of the human touch. So after checking in with my boss (and having her hopefully say "No, there's no time. We have too much else to do." which of course, she did not) I was ushered into their tiny cellar with no windows to begin the process of extracting 100 white butterflies from their freezer-packed chariot.
Needless to say, it did not go well. The mere opening of each package was enough to get them to stir, and my grip on their fragile wings was enough to warm them into flight. I'd reach into the DHL box to grab one (while keeping my arm on the lid so none of the others would stir and fly out), hurl it into the satin hat box and quickly clamp the hat box closed.
Now if this sounds inhumane and very, very cruel, it was. I practically cried while I did it because I probably killed more butterflies than I saved. And this was before the advent of smartphones, so I had no resources or tools at my disposal to come up with a clever alternate solution that would save these poor creatures. The DHL boxes were a touch too square to fit in the round hat box and an attempt to simply dump the butterflies into the hat box meant that the cover would be off too long to keep them secured. Thus, the inevitable method of plucking and thrusting butterflies.
So there I am, thrusting and crushing butterflies into a hat box when an intern of mine comes down to assist (apparently I was taking too long). After she suggests dumping all the butterflies into the box (not gunna happen, sister), we take on the project together. So here we are, two college educated women, one having just graduated from a top tier school, the other on the way to a BS from Cornell, standing in a cellar, surrounded by half-winged butterflies limp-flying around our heads, while approximately one-third of the remaining butterflies rustle their wings violently in our satin hat box.
After extracting a mediocre 30% (and talking myself down from the "I'm quitting right now" ledge) of the butterflies, my intern and I trudge upstairs, leave the butterflies in a cool, shady spot and continue on with our work (of which we only have 30 minutes left to do).
The ceremony goes smooth-ish (more on that another time), and when it comes time to RELEASE THE BUTTERFLIES, my intern and I pull open the satin hat box and about twenty white butterflies limp sadly out of the box. I shake it a little more to get any remaining butterflies out, but after nothing happens I look down.
Apparently, butterflies can't be contained in an airtight hat box for an hour and a half. Lesson learned.
I stifled a sob (I really do think butterflies are beautiful creatures so this was a really difficult task for me) and closed the box, knowing I would have to dump them in the trash later.
Later in the evening, I was chatting with the photographer and asked him if he got any photos of the butterfly send off. He laughed.
"Oh is that what that was? I thought it was a little butterfly family that just happened to be floating by. I think I got a few snaps. Thought it was just luck."
And now I will never, ever, ever work with DHL butterflies again. Perhaps paper butterflies, hung from a wire. Now that I could get on board with.
Any wedding horror stories? I've got about a million.
(photo by Horia Varlan)
Happy Friday, friends! Currently, I'm in Chicago, trying out as much deep dish pizza as I can and taking advantage of the urban yoga scene (and hell, everything else urban. I miss me some city life. Wahhh). This week was the Oscars and though I didn't watch, I did manage to catch up on all the fun fashion choices throughout the week. In other news, I've been writing for a really famous magazine online (eek!) and trying to organize my writing a liiittle bit better so I'm not writing ALL DAY one day and then watching Netflix the next day. Anyway.
Yes, I DO love the Oscars (and all of the dresses to go with it).
Speaking of all of the Oscar dresses, here is every single "Best Actress" dress since 1929.
Are you doing a bouquet toss? One feminist's take on the history of its tradition.
Once, at my first wedding ever that I assisted at, Zac Posen was actually there. And so this is a bit nostalgic and also awesome at the same time.
Why we don't diss David's Bridal.
Do you feel that the word "husband" doesn't quite get it right.
This is who your perfect partner is.
My officiant is charging me extra for a rehearsal the day before the wedding. We wrote our own ceremony...do we really need to have a rehearsal?
Good question. Of the logistical nightmares, getting everyone together the day before your wedding (especially if a lot of your wedding party is traveling) is on the list. You definitely don't have to have a rehearsal of the ceremony (particularly if you don't have a bridal party) but I'd recommend it as it does take some of the jitters away...if not for you, then for the people who are walking down the aisle ahead of you. I've had bridesmaids so nervous that they were going to mess up that I literally had to tell them where walk every time another bridesmaid before them went down the aisle. And they weren't even the ones getting married!
It's also a good time to have all the important people in the same place so that you can give them an overview of the next day, plus hopefully answer any questions that are still lingering ("Mom, you need to be at my room at X time. Bridesmaids, you need to be ready at X time because the photographer is getting to your room at X time") and then you can be done with question answering for the rest of the weekend (hopefully).
BUT you don't need to do it with your officiant present (if she's charging for it) or even at the venue. The point of a rehearsal is more so everyone knows where to go, where to stand, when to walk on the way back, answer questions, take some jitters away by demystifying the process, etc.
Did you have a wedding rehearsal? What benefits did you see from having one?
If you’re anything like me, you buy Martha Stewart Weddings, Martha Stewart Living, aren’t even close to engaged or owning your own home, and walk head high daring someone to judge. Mostly because I have a distinct inability to feel self-conscious about certain things (youngest of four kids), but also because the bottom line is that Martha (and her staff) knows a thing or two about how to make things look nice at a relatively low cost.
I’m not inherently crafty; in fact, I tried to create an ad hoc vision board once out of glue and poster board and got supremely bored in the middle of the project because none of my shapes were fitting together. But, I’m a sucker for completion so I forged forward and finished my vision board and now I hardly look at it. So, crafty-ish perhaps.
Anyway. Back to Martha.
The lady gets a bad rap. She’s always pointed to as some sort of homemaking icon, which is to simplify her a little too much for my taste, since she is really so much more than that (like a talented businesswoman whose products are diversified across so many industries). The truth is that she really makes doing things yourself cheap, innovative, and look really good.
So, while I don’t always agree with all the things that Martha does (like insider trading or anything that has to do with gardening simply because how does anyone have the time to plant thousands of bulbs every year?), I do think that she has good, practical advice for any wedding at any price point. Because even if you’re spending $500,000 on your wedding, sometimes, making glitter table numbers is fun, easy, and can be done with your partner while watching the latest (extremely dramatic) episode of Scandal.
So go ahead. Love Martha. Head held high.
I’m not going to lie; living in Montana leaves much to be desired in the way of style icons. A no-tax state means that sidewalks often go unshoveled and streets are plowed-ish but not plowed-enough-to-walk-down-sans-snow-boots.
Which means that my attempts at fashion are often always trumped by snowboots, scarves, and sleeping-bag-esque jackets. And I don’t care who you are, that shit always looks frumpy.
But fortunately, I’m traveling today, and even in the airports of the Midwest (Minneapolis and Chicago) I’m feeling slightly optimistic and style-inspired.
Chief among my fashion envy were the amount of frothy decorative scarves. Scarves in Montana must be for warmth or else they are for naught. But the scarves here! The scarves and the casually draped blazers and the slouchy open cardigans. I even saw one girl with grey tights, fashionable walking boots, a forest green dress and the above mentioned slouchy open cardigan. She looked so warm! And comfy! Now if only my sidewalks were shoveled well enough so that I didn’t have to wear the same pair of boots all winter long (sadly, that is not an understatement. Last week my partner actually asked me if I owned any other pairs of shoes. *sigh*)
Cue my ideal airport outfit (minus the fabulous jewelry and designer anything) and here’s to being inspired by real life instead of hopelessly trolling Pintrest in the hope that the weather will change.
Keeping with the trend of me totally effing loving business named after two things/individuals, I'm totally effing loving Riley and Grey right now.
I found Riley and Grey through a client of mine (technically, she's a client of the wedding planner I freelance for during the summers). Since I'm the resident tech/organizational expert, we've been working together exclusively to create her website. Now, we all know that I am a huge sucker for Weebly (the site which this website and most of my bridal websites are built on) because of the ability for Weebly websites to be customized easily as well as the ease of composing a Weebly website.
Ease + customization are my jam.
Also, admittedly, since Weebly doesn't niche market, they don't have many "wedding-esque" templates. At least not the kind that your friends TOTALLY DIE OVER. They have perfectly nice templates that can be customized if you're a nerdy website tech geek (like me). But again, there is no TOTAL ANNIHILATION FROM DESIGN PORN on Weebly.
Enter Riley and Grey.
This is wedding web design porn. This is the ultimate gorgeously organized, fun to look at, shit that makes your friends say WOW, of websites.
The price tag is a tad hefty for those of you who are super DIY. At $240/template for a year (to start with), you aren't saving much money if you chose to do your website on Wordpress.com or Weebly (these websites can be about $80 - $100 if you go for a custom domain name and fancy applications. Obviously, they are free if you do none of that).
But if you want a nicely designed wedding website and don't have the skills to do it yourself, the templates over at Riley and Grey are among the prettiest I've seen. And after you've purchased.
This sounds advertorial, but I swear no one paid me to write this. I'm simply in the throes of designing a clients' website and am like "WHY. WON'T. THIS. HEADER. FORMAAAAAT! NEITHER RILEY NOR GREY WOULD DO THIS TO MEEE!" So really, this is an ode to ease and simplicity which are above wedding web design porn on the list of my life values.
I'm not gunna lie, I've been watching A LOT of videos this week, courtesy of Jimmy Fallon and his latenight takeover of The Tonight Show. Thus, celebrity charades (and how about Emma Thompson's pants, eh? Love 'em).
On to the links!
How to make over a house (with chevron and THE BEST inspiration boards ever).
Are you worried about having space when you move in/get married?
The perfect recipe for late night snacks at your wedding (or, just, always?)
Want to have return address labels that are SO simple to make and aren't from a printer?
Yes. This. Also, Valentine's Day hilarity (a week late).
I know we've all already seen this but SERIOUSLY. SHE IS SO CUTE.
Yes. Yes I think we should stop shaming each other's wedding dresses.
What have you been reading this week?
This past Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's was the first holiday season that I've spent with a significant other. While we traveled back east to New York for Thanksgiving with my family, Christmas and New Year's were completely ours. Though I love spending the holidays around a gaggle of family, I was excited to have my first holiday with someone who I am considering starting a baby family.
I mostly got caught up in the tradition of it all. I wanted to have a cookie-filled Christmas Eve, with trips to midnight mass (I am Catholic), and us each opening a Christmas present before we went to bed. I wanted there to be thousands of things that WE DID that we could repeat every year to remind us from whence we came.
And then, we ended up having dinner, opening a present, laying on the floor and playing board games until well past midnight. No church, no cookie baking. Just dinner and board games. Which is basically like a Tuesday night for us. And it was wonderful.
Which made me think: weddings are full of traditions. The first dance, the first kiss, the father-daughter dance, having an engagement ring AND a wedding ring. And sometimes, it seems like tradition foisted upon us not by our families or our friends or anyone we necessarily hold dear, but by other people...that we don't really know.
Who let weddings get this way?
And it's fine if you want your wedding to have all of those American wedding traditions. But it's also fine to NOT want ANY of those things. To not want a first dance, to not want a buffet dinner, to not want a 5pm ceremony time, to not want your guests to wear shoes. Whatever.
While I hesitate to say the ubiquitous phrase "It's YOUR wedding! Do what you want!," I will say that you do have some choice when it comes to deciding what you keep and what you toss.
Think About What's Important
Food? Wine? Treating your guests? Whatever is the most important thing when planning your wedding should be your primary motivator in planning. You want favors but you don't know how
Make A List of Throw Away Traditions
Now, make a list of all the things that make you totally roll your eyes during a wedding. Tell yourself no matter how many times your mother-in-law-to-be says "BUT YOU NEED DO THE DOLLAR DANCE!" you are the ultimate decision maker.
Get Creative by Bringing Personal Elements from Your Lives Together
Is your partner a motorhead? Use little car keys or miniature motorcycles as escort cards. Love to play boardgames? Spell something cute on each table in Scrabble letters. Use your story to help shape the experience for your guests. n
I've talked a little about photography before (and have a great photo list sample to help you organize your most wanted shots). But when it comes to the nitty gritty of photography contracts, I thought I'd let the experts do the talking. Introducing Jesse La Plante, Denver wedding photographer, who's helping us demystify some of those contracts people have been sending your way.
So you’ve found your perfect photographer and want to hire him or her for your big day. Inevitably, the next step will be to sign a contract. For most of us, this can be a little intimidating; we can’t all be lawyers! But you do need to inform yourself before putting your pen to that paper. There’s a plethora of information on the web that can help guide you through this process, but what better place to start than here? While this list certainly isn’t comprehensive—there are as many different contracts as there are couples getting married— it’ll give you a good idea of the kinds of things you should be looking for in the fine print.
Having the rights to print is becoming more and more important to couples. In fact, for many brides- and grooms-to-be, it’s a prerequisite. When meeting with your photographer, be sure that you’ll receive a physical printing release (a document signed by the photographer that you’ll be able to show your printer). You’ll also need the digital negatives, which literally means the Raw files directly from the camera, but has evolved into a sort of buzzword that refers to the large, print-ready JPGs, edited by the photographer.
I’d like to note that a printing release is not the same thing as a copyright release. A copyright release designates ownership. Your wedding photographs will forever remain the intellectual property of your photographer, meaning you won’t be able to make reproductions for financial gain. A printing release allows you to make prints for personal use only.
Hours of Coverage
Not sure how long you’ll need your photographer day of? Don’t worry, nobody is. This is something you’ll want to flesh out with your photographer. First, decide if you want “getting ready” photos. If so, take your ceremony time (let’s say 5:00) and subtract 1 ½ hours. Now you have your start time (3:30). Next, estimate your ceremony length (let’s say 30 minutes) and add that to 5:00, meaning your “formal” photo session will start around 5:30. This will put your ceremony entrance at 6:30, and after your cocktail hour, dinner should run from 7:30 - 8:30. Speeches, cake-cutting and formal dances will take you to around 10:00, and if you want all the dancing, partying and general good times documented, you’ll want your photographer until at least 11:00.
Obviously, every wedding is different, but the above schedule is one that I’ve seen many times, and it’s no coincidence that my most popular package includes eight hours of coverage.
One final component to consider: does your photographer allow you to add more time if things are running late? And believe me, things are always running late.
But which photographers?
Having two photographers (primary plus second shooter) has become commonplace. But many of the larger wedding photography companies out there substitute photographers based on availability. Will the two folks with whom you built trust in January be the same two individuals who show up at your wedding in July?
I think this is as good a time as any for a shameless plug. When you book Jesse La Plante Photography for your wedding, you’re guaranteed to have the same two photographers (Jesse and Moira) with you for the duration, from the initial meeting to the delivery of your images after your wedding. Moira and I have been shooting weddings together for nearly six years and, rest assured, you won’t have to worry about me pulling the ‘bait and switch’ and bringing a portfolio-building photo student as my second shooter.
Do I get a refund if __________?
Do I get a refund if my photographer runs out of gas on the way to my wedding and can’t make it in time? Absolutely. Do I get a refund if it rains and I don’t get all the photos I wanted? Absolutely not. Do I get a refund if my photographer drops his camera in the fountain and loses all of our images? Of course. Do I get a refund if my church accidentally double-booked my wedding day and we can’t have our ceremony? Nope. Do you see the pattern here? If forces beyond the control of your photographer contribute to a lack of photos, you won’t be entitled to a refund. But if you miss out on photos due to circumstances for which your photographer is directly responsible, you have every right to a refund.
But this is a two-way street. If you cancel your wedding for any reason, your photographer will keep your down payment. This is usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-50% of your total bill and due upon signing. In fact, this is the very reason your wedding photographer requires a down payment. He or she probably had several couples interested in your date, and if your wedding doesn’t happen, regardless of the reason, your photographer is now left with an open date.
This is a relatively small thing, but depending on the price of your wedding package, it could be quite a large thing indeed. In the state of Colorado (where my business is located) if you buy a $3,000 photo package and your photographer has already embedded sales tax into his or her pricing, he or she is really only getting $2,770.08. The other $229.92 is going to the government. If your photographer charges sales tax on top of his or her listed prices, you’re looking at $3,249 out of pocket. Again, this is small beans, but determining exactly what you’ll be paying prior to signing the contract is a good practice of the informed consumer, especially since little things can add up to put you over budget.
This isn’t so much something to look for in your contract as it is something that couple after couple asks if I put in my contracts. Let the record state: unequivocally, no! While it sure is nice to have a bite to eat during the course of an eight-hour shoot, and you probably don’t want your photographer’s blood sugar to drop during your first dance, I deem it unnecessary to put the needs of my belly in a legally-binding business document. That said, whether or not you’re contractually obligated, feeding your photographers (and all your vendors, for that matter) is just the right thing to do.
Jesse La Plante is a Denver-based wedding photographer working primarily in the photojournalistic style. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in photojournalism from Central Michigan University in 2007 and is a member of the WPJA (Wedding Photojournalist Association). To view more of Jesse’s work and to read more of his informational articles, check out his blog, website and Facebook page.