Monday, August 30, 2010

The List of Lists!!!!

So today’s post is a bit ahead of most of us in the planning process. A friend of mine is the Mother of the Bride on the 18th, and she asked for some guidance. Here’s the deal though, if you get started on some of these lists, it will save you time and stress later on. I do have to admit, I'm a list maker...I have "to do" lists that go into the next decade. I have lists of my lists. I'm a little nutty this way. But I'd rather be the crazy list lady, than the one pulling my hair out when the limo doesn't show!!

So you’ve already got your guest list…and most of them have sent back the RSVP. You already have the list of who’s in the bridal party… you have a long list of “thank yous” to write for all the presents…but do you have all of these? Many come in handy long before your wedding, but ALL of them are good points to think of in the last 2 or 3 weeks.

The Master Vendor List

This is probably the most important list to have, and to have multiple copies of. It includes everyone you are paying for the day…from the Officiant, to the caterers to the florist, to the secretary that will open up the buildings you are using. Include all contact names, phone numbers and if there is anything left to be paid to them. Make copies. Give one to your mom, your maid of honor or personal attendant, and your “wrangler” (the person who will be in charge while you are off getting pretty, getting photos and getting hitched.)

Your Event Schedule:
This isn’t just when your readers come to the alter or when the first dance is played… this includes everything starting with the rehearsal. Don’t fool yourself, plan in some extra time to get ready and for anyone who happens to get lost. Some things to think of: What time do you need to get up to eat a real breakfast before you get your hair done? How long does it take to drive between ceremony site and reception site in horrible traffic? How late do you want to cut the cake? Remember older guests and children will be leaving earlier than you would normally think of going home.

Here’s what it should have at the very minimum: rehearsal, grooms dinner, pictures, hair & make up, dress time, dinner served, first dance, cake cutting, gift opening. Make sure to include event location, phone number, time and who needs to be there. Make sure everyone has a copy.
List of schedule/phone numbers that has ALL the members of the wedding party, parents, grandparents and anyone else involved with the wedding - include the time each party is supposed to arrive at and where so if someone hasn't shown up the personal attendant can track them down. Also include where they are staying at (i.e. hotel, home, or a friend’s house.)

Ok, now to the list of things to do in the last few weeks before the wedding:
Get the final fitting for the dress. Pick up the dress and hang it someplace out of the way.

Set your veil, jewelry, undies and shoes all in one spot, where they won’t get separated or smooshed.

Double check with your bridesmaids (and flower girls) to make sure they all have their dresses, shoes and jewelry.

Get the attendant and parent gifts out, wrapped and labeled. Put these in a box that will go with you to the ceremony site.

Check (or have your soon to be hubby check) with the grooms men and ushers to make sure they’ve had a final fitting of the tuxes, that they have shoes, shirts and ties that all match. If they are to have cuff links, make sure you’ve packed an extra set in your “emergency kit.”

Have someone designated to take all the stuff from church and reception and someone you trust to get all the gifts to the place of the gift opening and not to leave the gifts in the vehicle overnight. So, cousin Bill, who will probably go out for an hour after the reception is probably a bad pick.

Get together your programs, guest book and ceremony site decorations in a labeled box.

Get the reception decorations in labeled boxes. This includes favors, menus, cake topper and anything else the florist isn’t bringing. In the box include directions for the decorating committee. Include a “map” if you can, so they know exactly where any tables are to go.

Make sure you have a "tear down" committee. These are the folks that get all the decorations back to your home.

Make sure your beauty appointments are made, and that the bride is NOT the last one to be “done.” If anything is going to run late, it’s better a bridesmaid have a more simple hair style. The bride shouldn’t be rushed, and they have enough hairspray to make any style stay for the whole day!!

Check with the hotel(s) that you’ve reserved a block with. Check to see who is staying there, and if you are giving them all welcome baskets get those dropped off a day or so early. Make sure the wedding party if staying at a hotel and don't check in until after the reception make sure someone calls the day of and lets the hotel know it will be a late night check in.

Check with the rehearsal dinner site. Do they have the reservation? Do they have a correct head count?

Have someone (personal attendant or your mom) give a call to anyone giving a toast. Make sure that they’ve thought about it and won’t tell any story you don’t want grandma hearing. Or worse, one you don’t want your new spouse hearing!

Check with any transport companies… cars from the airport to the hotel, a shuttle between the hotel and ceremony site or the reception site. Your limo or car…make sure the times are all what you are expecting. If you don’t have a shuttle reserved, make sure a few key people have numbers for taxi cabs.

Pack an overnight bag for bride and groom if staying at a local hotel and not taking off immediately on honeymoon. If you are leaving right away (or in the morning) make sure your bags are packed and your tickets passports, etc. are inside.

Vendor final check list:
Caterer has final head count.

Photographer has a “must have” shot list, and the name of someone who will know who Aunt Martha is.

DJ has both the “must play” and the “don’t ever ever ever play” lists.

Florist has the correct corsage/boutonniere count, and where they will meet you to “pin” everyone.

Triple check with all of these vendors about times. When they will be and where they will be.

Make sure they have your cell number, your fiancée’s number and your “wrangler’s” number.

If any payment is due the big day, get the checks written and in labeled envelopes. For everyone else, get the tip money in labeled envelopes. Don’t seal the “tip” envelopes until you know how each vendor performs. Wouldn’t you hate to tip the DJ $100 when he turns up the volume and plays that song you HATE??

Have an emergency kit for the personal attendant:
1) comb
2) deodorant
3) perfume
4) sewing kit
5) bobby pins
6) toothpaste and toothbrush
7) mints
8) Extra Jewelry (cuff links, extra earrings)
9) washcloth
10) powder
11) blotting papers
12) nail file
13) colored and clear nail polish
14) stain stick or wipes
15) dental floss
16) hairspray
17) nail clippers
18) make-up & lipstick
19) white chalk (to hide what a stain stick can't get out)
20) fan (a little battery opperated one, or just a pretty Scarlet O'Hara one)
21) Double sided tape
22) safety pins
23) band-aids
24) Tums
25) small mirror
26) ibuprofen or the like
27) super glue
28) white masking tape
29) static-cling spray
30) snacks
31) towel
32) camera & batteries
33) bottled water

Yeah, it's kind of a big bag....nice thing is, every time I've packed one, we don't need it. Everytime there hasn't been one, we could have used it!

And just a note…if you don’t have a personal attendant, your maid of honor gets all those duties. If you don’t have a “wrangler”, you need one. Really, it saves so much piece of mind. They are your insurance. They fix things before you can ever notice they weren’t perfect. If you don’t have another friend who you trust with this job, seriously consider hiring a “day of coordinator.” They usually meet with you once or twice before the big day. You’ll go over the schedule of events and the vendor list and your overall dream for the day. They will look at all of your contracts so they know the fine print. On the big day, they will be running around making sure everything runs smoothly. That extra $1000 I told you to build into your budget could be well spent right here!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What to feed these people?!?!?

All right everyone…..let’s talk about food. Because you have to feed all these people SOMETHING when you invite them.

A couple of things first….mostly to save lots of money.
Think about having you wedding at an “odd” time. Have an outdoor ceremony early in the morning with a scrambled egg buffet to follow. Fridays and Sundays are less expensive many places than a Saturday night. Have an early ceremony with only Champaign and cake to follow. Brunch is almost always cheaper than dinner. Have a late in the day ceremony and just a cocktail hour after. If you have an early event, there isn’t a reason to have much (if any) alcohol, which will cut your costs dramatically. Have a casual back yard event that you can “self cater.”

OK…so you are going with a “normal” reception.
Be it in a Hall, a hotel or some other event kind of place. Then first thing you need to think about (and ask about) is WHO CAN CATER HERE? Many venues either have an in house caterer, or have a very short “approved” list of caterers. If you have less than 3 choices of who makes your food, you NEED to taste it BEFORE you sign any contracts for the venue. Really, you don’t want your perfect place to serve a plate of bland, white food. I’ve had the dinner that included chicken with white gravy, mashed potatoes and cauliflower. I’m not sure to this day which was which!!
My venue had a list of 6 caterers to choose from. Many kinds of food, many price points. I was a very happy girl. I didn’t need to check out the caterer before I signed the big old contract. I was sure that at least one of them would be able to do a good job for a good price.
Now, what is your wedding STYLE? Do you want a formal sit-down dinner? A casual buffet? A themed meal, like Thai meets West? This will tell you WHO to look for when contacting caterers. You won’t call The Rib Shack for a black tie dinner….nor would you call the fancy French place for back yard BBQ.

Most every town, even the tiny ones, has THE caterers. The ones that EVERYONE has had from Aunt Emma’s funeral, to the booster club dinner, to your cousin’s wedding last month.
In bigger towns and cities, you’ll have more choices. There will be the big specialists that cater cooperate events, big hotel shin-digs, and the big charity events in town. They don’t have a restaurant, they only cater. There will be smaller, family run operations that are caterers only, too. Many times they will be more flexible with menu choices and willing to work your grandma’s recipe into the menu. There are also many restaurants that cater. If you have a favorite, ask them!!

Be careful not to make assumptions about price….sometimes the big guys are really the cheapest, sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes the food from the restaurant is cheaper, but hiring a wait staff will break the bank. You’ll have to look at all the fine print on a contract before you really know who is the most affordable!! If you see the menu prices are way out of your budget, don’t do a tasting, you’ll just torture yourself, or go into debt!

If you contact a caterer and they don’t get back to you within a week, either move on, or call them every day until you get an answer. In big companies you can get caught in red tape, in small ones you can be pushed aside for a very needy client. Neither is great business practices, but it happens. Don’t sit on your hands and wait until it’s too late!

Some budget killers when using a “real” caterer….
Having to rent table linens, china plates, stem glasses. Some places will include only disposable plates in the price, and you have to rent the real stuff….for up to $5 a person. (you might be able to rent linens for less from a local supply company, and get out of any “late night” fees from the caterer having to stick around until the end of the party)

Cake cutting and serving fees: If you don’t order your cake from you caterer, you’ll probably have to pay a cake cutting fee….upwards of $1.50 a person. Some companies will cut for free and set it out buffet style, but if you want it delivered to the tables, there will be a serving fee. Some companies have BOTH of these fees.

Sit-down dinner fees: Typically at least $3-10 a person more than the price on the menu. The company needs MANY more servers to deal with a seated dinner than a buffet, and you pay for every one of them.

“Food Stations” The idea of a carving station and a custom cooked something is wonderful and exciting. It’s like entertainment with the food! It also will change your budget from a buffet price to a sit-down price, if not more. Each “chef” will cost you at least an extra $125, and each extra server needed to man a station will cost around $15 an hour.
Kids Meals and Vegetarian/Vegan/Kosher meals….If you are having a buffet, and there aren’t appropriate dishes for these groups, they will be served a plated meal at a price. I strongly suggest if you have many of these guests you include food they will/can eat on your buffet. It will save you at least $25 per person, even if it doesn’t look that way on the bill. we’ve looked at some budget killers…but you still don’t know if you want a buffet, plated dinner or a family style (the newest old trend). Here’s my take….
Plated dinners cost more per person for the same food. You have to somehow mark each seat with a entrée choice (more work on place cards). But they are more elegant. They also don’t take up your dance floor with a buffet cart setup. They can be much faster, since everyone is served more or less at once.

Buffet style is usually the cheapest option. Everyone chooses what they want, not what they wanted 6 weeks ago when they RSVP’d. They can take only what they will eat, and others can go back for seconds. But you can end up with a ton of leftovers that will probably end up in the trash. You can run out of one item early, and only have brussel sprouts left for the last few tables. It just takes that much longer to eat, since everyone will have to stand in line.

Family Style dinner…each table gets a few big plates of food, to be served by the guests at the tables. This option promotes conversation, allows for everyone to chose how much of what they eat and is a middle ground price wise. My only real problem with family style is that all tables (usually) must have the same number of guests. In some venues this is almost impossible. Sometimes you’ll have to either split up families, or sit just one single friend at a table to round it out.

Self Catering
So, you don’t like any of these options…you want something more casual, like the back yard BBQ, or a party in your local park, or your great aunt’s mansion. That’s great! You have a few more choices than I’ve gone over…mostly, you have restaurants that deliver in bulk but don’t provide staff. You have amazing family and friends that can cook. You have that giant BBQ pit that your dad has wanted to build for years. Here are some of my favorite choices:

Pick your favorite 3 restaurants and order take-out from each: Pizza from the Italian joint you had your first date at, sushi for the trip you took to Japan and Fish and Chips because you got engaged on St. Patrick’s day.

Hire the Pig Roast truck. Really, these guys will roast a pig in your driveway, with an apple in his mouth! Most will have side dishes on offer too. Some even fresh roast corn on the cob!

You have the “church lady” contingent on your guest list. You know these women, they have cooked for an army for all sorts of community events already, and they know how to do their thing. It might not be the most exciting menu, but it’s always good food, and plenty of it.

You have a bunch of “foodie” friends. Throw a pot luck… instead of gifts, everyone brings a dish to pass. You don’t get the cash for the honeymoon, but you also don’t get 4 gravy boats!! Everyone will have something they will eat, no matter their differing tastes. The only real trick to this one is having someone in charge of making sure you don’t end up with all entrees, or side salads!

You’ve decided on this last choice have you? Now for the nitty gritty
Make sure you’ll be saving money, because you’ll be paying in stress. Keeping everything together is a lot of work. You didn’t think that a caterer was just paid to cook the food did you?

Make sure someone is in charge. If you have a “church lady” or an actual restaurant manager in the crowd, use them. They’ve got the experience to pull this off without having a meltdown.

Remember you have to keep hot food hot and cold food cold, even if you are indoors!! You’ll need to rent chafing dishes, or borrow every Crockpot in the neighborhood. You’ll need to have something like a kiddie pool filled with ice to put cold food bowls in.

Now for contract fine print.
Check the payment schedule, and write it on your calendar!! You really don’t want to miss one of these. It will totally ruin your day. Just don’t do it!!

Due dates for final menu and final head count. Every caterer is different. Some want the final head count a week early, some need a month. If you haven’t gotten your RSVP’s back a few days before the due date, you’re going to have to call all your slacker friends, or guess.

Double check all of the “extras”: linens, china, late night staff, cake cutting fees. Make sure they are EXACTLY what you and your sales person talked about. If not, don’t sign anything until you get it sorted out and have a new contract in your hand.

Ask what will happen with leftovers. If you want to, and it’s allowed, for you to take them home, make sure you have coolers with ice on hand. If you want it all to go to a soup kitchen, ask. Make sure any decision is in writing.

Ok, that’s my rant on caterers. Got questions? Leave a comment and I’ll try to answer them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wedding planning hell…..exciting, terrifying and frustrating to no end!!

Here’s the first installment in a series….so I can vent, and maybe help others out.
So I have to admit, this isn’t my first rodeo….I was a micromanaging control freak of a bride over a decade ago, and I’ve been a micromanaging control freak of a planner for parts of about 10 other weddings. If you are like me, you really need to GET A GRIP!

Really, you can’t do it all and keep your sanity, or look pretty on the big day if you are not sleeping for weeks before hand!! This is where friends and family come in… need to Delegate…say it with me, DELEGATE! You have people you trust and can count on, right? You trust that they know YOUR style (even if you hate theirs)…you know they can make educated guesses at the last minute that won’t be any worse than a decision you make, right?? So let them. Ask for help!!

For the trusted family and friends, please, don’t take on too much, don’t procrastinate, really think of what the bride would choose (even if you hate that option). Get a task from the bride, follow it through and if you are still game, ask for another one…..don’t be like me. This summer I helped a friend for her wedding…..I made her bridal jewelry (necklace, earrings and tiara)…I made the wedding bands….I did ALL the flowers and decorations on the big day….I was a basket case by the end. DON’T DO THAT!!

My second topic for today is about budgeting….you MUST have one. Really people, unless you just got the winning lotto tickets, you need to have some idea what you are spending and where! The earlier you get this done, the better. If your families are contributing, don’t expect them to kick in more at the last minute because you went over budget….and for the love of God, don’t just pull out the credit card!! Fine, you want to put it all on your “miles” card so you can get upgraded to first class on the plane to your honeymoon….I get that. Please make sure there is CASH in the bank to pay for it next month. You really don’t want to be fighting over the credit card bill on your 1 month anniversary.

A budget tip for families… be up front about what you can and will pay for. If you want to give a lump sum, do so. If you want to pay for the food, do so (but cap the total up front!!) Please realize that this is the kids’ day, and it should turn out how the kids’ want it…not how you picture it in your head. Please don’t think that if you are handing over the cash you should be able to hand over a guest list of 50 friends who your child hasn’t seen since they were 5. You should have INFLUENCE in the decisions, but you SHOULDN’T get the final say (unless it’s over budget.)

Another thing about budgets…they are never what you’ll spend. There’s always a last minute thing.

**You forgot that EVERYONE is supposed to get a tip that day. Let’s see, that’s about another $1000 or so, depending on how many servers you’re having, and if you have a 7 piece band or just one DJ.

**Or you find the “perfect” bridesmaids gift only a week before the wedding. For all 6 girls, at $30 each, that runs you another $180.

**The prepaid open bar is dry with 4 hours more to go on the dance (what, do these people have a hollow leg?)….that’ll be another $400 for a keg and $500 for two cases of wine.

See, there’s always something….so please add in at least $1000 of wiggle room. Worst case scenario, you have it if you need to use it…best case scenario, you have an extra grand to spend on the honeymoon!!

I think that’s all I have for today….next time, battling with caterers. Unless something else implodes before then!!