Archive for the 'Weddings/Receptions' Category

A Nearby Reception Site Makes One Less Problem For YOU

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Like most major cities, my town has some great downtown hotels and venues which are popular for wedding receptions. Unfortunately, they are a 30 to 45 minute drive from many of the suburban places of worship brides choose for their ceremonies.

In real terms, what this means is that guests from all over our metropolitan area must first trek out to the ‘burbs for the nuptials, then retrace their steps all the way back to the city center to be part of the reception. (And then afterwards, make yet another jaunt back home.)

Out-of-towners must bus from their host hotel to both sites, and then back again.

And time after time, I have seen that – the greater the distance between locations – the more chances there are for folks to get lost, delayed in traffic, or otherwise have their nerves frazzled.

For me, the solution is to keep the 3 key locations (ceremony site, reception site, and host hotel) as near to each other as possible.

If the ceremony site is crucial (a home church or college chapel, for instance), then I would suggest finding both a reception venue and host hotel nearby. And nothing is handier for your out-of-town guests than making their hotel and the reception site one and the same.

Conversely, if the reception site is most important, consider having the ceremony there as well.

Especially when one of your chosen sites is a considerable distance from where the majority of your guests will start and finish their day, I recommend moving them again as little as possible. (Take into account that – at most weddings – the guest list includes infants to elderly, as well some with mobility issues.)

How little? I can think of no circumstances where the driving time from hotel to ceremony, or ceremony to reception, should ever be more than 15 minutes. Even less is better.

If this requires compromising the bride’s vision of her special day, just remember: the only “perfect” wedding is one enjoyed by all the guests. Keeping their required relocations simple and quick makes them happy, giving you one less needless complication. And on your wedding day – that’s a really good thing.

Introducing The Wedding Party? Get Hooked On Phonics!

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

At many receptions, the entire wedding party is announced by an emcee who has never met those he is introducing. This is one of the few times in the entire evening when everyone is guaranteed to be paying attention, putting pressure on the announcer.

Which brings me to what I call “The Von Zell Effect” (named for Harry Von Zell, who introduced Herbert Hoover to a nationwide radio audience with these words: “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Hoo-bert Hee-ver.”)

The Von Zell Effect states that – under pressure – any name which can be mispronounced, will be.

Now, if everyone in your bridal party has names like “Mike Smith,” you’re probably okay. But all it takes is one “Shanequia Levine” and you are guaranteed to break out in a cold sweat, just waiting to see if your emcee makes it through.

That is, you’ll be sweating it unless you have learned one very important fact: your emcee couldn’t care less how those names are spelled. He just needs to know how to pronounce them.

A few days before the event, determine which groomsmen and bridesmaids will be paired. Figure out your order of introduction. (Don’t forget the proud parents.)

Then, look at each and every name on the list. Simply put, is there any way to mispronounce some of the names? If so, write them phonetically. Be sure to also capitalize the dominant syllables, ie. shah-NEEK- kwee-yah and luh-VEEN (unless it’s luh-VINE.)

Type – don’t write – the list. Use a large size of type (16 or greater.) Afterwards, Email or fax the list to your emcee. By phone, go over the names – aloud – with him or her in advance of your event.

IMPORTANT: keep a copy of the list for yourself. Be sure that you line up everyone to be introduced in their proper order.

With a little advance preparation on your part, all of your guests will hear the names of your key players pronounced correctly. (Even Hoobert Heever!)

Making GREAT Musical Choices

Monday, June 1st, 2009

The band and I played this past weekend for a bridal couple who – musically – did just about everything right. If you have an upcoming wedding reception, you might consider repeating some of their choices. (It made for a great party!)

What did they do? Well, first of all, they had already seen the band at a wedding reception. A couple of years ago, they were guests at another similar event, and both made mental notes regarding the music. In my conversations with them, they pointed out that many of the same guests from the earlier party were invited to their reception. Having a band that had already shown the ability to please their friends gave them one less thing to worry about.

Secondly, they gave us plenty of advance notice regarding their musical favorites. By going to the Song List section of this website, they were able to pick out a dozen or so tunes they really wanted to hear. Then, by letting us know their choices, well in advance of their reception, we had time to be sure that we had every song fresh in our minds. (We have almost 300 songs in our repertoire, but only play 50 to 60 in a typical night. So some tunes go unplayed for months on end. Thanks to this couple’s foresight, we were able to work all of their favorites into the set lists of several jobs, thus ensuring that they were ready for “prime time.”)

Finally, they chose songs that would please most of their guests, most of the time. Given the age range of a typical wedding reception, it is virtually impossible to guarantee that everyone will love every single song. All you can do is try to please the majority of folks, the majority of the time. And that’s what this couple did. They avoided tunes that would have been certain to alienate their older guests, as well as cheesy songs that would have causes their younger friends to gag.

So – how did all their advance preparation pay off? Perfectly, that’s how.

I’ve never agreed with those who claim that “music makes the party.” But the wrong music, played at the wrong volume at the wrong time, can definitely ruin the event for some of your guests. This couple’s extra efforts made certain that wouldn’t happen. And their efforts went a long way to creating every bride’s most fervent hope: a perfect wedding reception.

Band Or Deejay – Or How About BOTH?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

A good live band at your wedding reception adds class, and can personalize songs (by customizing lyrics or making songs longer or shorter, as needed) in a way that deejays cannot easily do. But no band – not even my own – can play the full range of songs that a professional DJ has at his or her fingertips. So – which is right for you?

For more and more brides, the answer is BOTH!

One way this method works well is to have the live band start the party, play for the ceremonial first dances, dinner, and start of the dance portion of the evening. During their breaks, the deejay can play short sets of tunes and styles the band doesn’t play.

Then, when it’s really time to par-tay, the band yields the dance floor to the deejay, who effortlessly (ie. without need of breaks) keeps the wedding guests dancing until the wee small hours. As Hannah Montana would say, it’s “the best of both worlds.”

Where either budgets or stage size don’t permit two music providers, most bands have the ability to play prerecorded music during their breaks. Many of my brides actually supply me with CDs of their “infinite playlists.” In this way, every song played – whether live or Memorex – is a personal favorite.

A bride who is hearing all her favorite songs is a happy bride, and a happy bride makes for a perfect wedding.

It’s Never “Too Early” To Alert A Band To Your Special Song

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Every bride who hires me receives my Wedding Work Sheet, which lets me know what she wants to happen (and when), plus the names of all the key personnel (groom, Best Man, Maid Of Honor, parents, clergyman, etc.) There is also a spot for any and all special songs. I ask all my brides to return the completed sheet to me, two weeks before the wedding.

But – and let me make this perfectly clear – any bride who already knows what song she wants for her first dance is welcome to share that information any time. The earlier, the better.

I just heard from the mom of a bride-to-be (in 10 weeks) who wanted me to know that her daughter had selected “Always” by Bon Jovi for her first foray onto the dance floor as a married woman. This was great, for two reasons:
1. The sooner we know what the first dance will be, the sooner we can learn it, and the more times we can have performed it, prior to the that bride’s wedding. (And we can get a lot more familiar with it in 10 weeks than 2.)
2. When the mom told me “Always” by Bon Jovi, she automatically excluded any chance that we would accidentally play the wrong “Always.” (Like a lot of romantic song titles, there’s another – very well known – tune with this same name.)

By giving me the information early, this bride and her mom have checked one more item off their “to-do” list. That’s good for them, and good for me as their music provider, too. Everybody wins.

And – you know what? – I love it when that happens!

The Lady In White Is Always Right

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Having one daughter get married makes for a full-year all by itself. Being the mom of two brides in the same year is financially, emotionally, and physically exhausting!

Complicating matters further is the fact that each individual bride has her own – sometimes very strong – views of how her wedding festivities should proceed. (And smart moms recognize that it is the bride’s wedding – not the parents’.)

Case in point: I will be playing for 2 weddings from the same family this coming March and May. That’s two guest lists, venues, gowns, ceremonies, receptions, and honeymoons – all in a 60 day period. (Not to mention the various showers and dinners involved.)

The daughters are very different, so one event will be formal and big, while the other will be much more low-key and intimate. But that is what the brides have chosen, and that is what their parents are giving them.

I wish all moms-of-brides were as tuned in to their daughters’ preferences. (Though all should be.) Occasionally, I will see a bride who is miserable at her own wedding, because the day reflects her parents’ tastes, not hers.

So, to all parents of upcoming brides, I will simply say two statements that I have found to be true:
1. You had your wedding. This one is hers. And (within budget limitations),
2. The lady in white is always right.

“If You Don’t See What You Want – Just Ask”

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Many brides have very specific ideas of how they want their wedding ceremonies and receptions to look and sound. Occasionally the irresistible forces of these visions crash headlong into the immovable object of reality. Usually, that reality comes in the form of “too expensive for our budget.” But in dealing with music providers, I’ve learned that the problem is all too often that the look and sound the bride has imagined doesn’t exist (at any price) in her town.

My job, when this occurs, is to work with the bride to create what she has envisioned. And time after time, together we have come pretty close to perfect.

For instance, one recent bride was determined to have a band who used no electric instruments or amplification. The problem with this – in her chosen venue – was that the music wouldn’t have been heard 15 feet past the bandstand. My solution was to create the illusion of being “un-plugged” – with no mikes, wires, or speakers in sight – but to really have very light sound reinforcement throughout the room. It worked great, and the bride was delighted.

On another occasion, my bride wanted the look of a classic Big Band. Her vision even included red music stands in front of all the players. But, since my musicians have all their charts memorized, I don’t have any music stands – red or otherwise. The solution: for a nominal fee, a local party supplier fabricated several bright red fiber-board “stands” to place in front of the band. They looked great, and cost only a fraction of the price of real professional music stands.

To accommodate a bride’s vision, most bandleaders will gladly alter both the size and look of their groups. And – if they won’t – there are others who will. So, to any bride who is either blessed or cursed with a crystal-clear image of how her band should look and sound, I can only repeat the age-old menu notation which forms the title of this entry:

“If you don’t see what you want – just ask.”

Working With A Weird-Shaped Room

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Twice in the past two weeks, my band was hired to play receptions in private clubs perched atop high-rise office buildings. Each had stunning views, which more than offset the idiosyncratic characteristics of the rooms. But boy, they did have idiosyncrasies.

The first venue was shaped like an old fashioned telephone receiver, with two large areas at either end linked by a long, narrow section of the room. This left no place for the band to set up where we could be seen and heard relatively equally. In order for all guests to know about the first dance and cutting of the cake (your Granny gets ticked if she misses those special moments), we simply added one extra speaker in the far end of the room. That speaker was only used to convey announcements, and it worked perfectly. Those who wanted to be near the band could be, while those who preferred the (relative) quiet at the far end of the room could still be aware of all significant happenings.

Our second performing space was in a great spot for all to see and hear (yet not hear more than they wanted). But a bay window set into that part of the penthouse cut our band’s set-up space by half. We solved that problem by adjusting how much equipment (as well as which equipment) we brought to the party. Again, everything worked fine.

But, please note that – in both the examples detailed above – the key to success was that we were able to adapt our normal way way of setting up to the realities of the rooms. And we were only able to accomplish that by having had extensive conversations with our brides in advance. By knowing where we were going to be set up and what their expectations were, we could plan out our solutions – prior to showing up at the site. Also, in both cases, we brought special equipment – something we wouldn’t have known to do without talking things through with our brides.

So – for that perfect music at your reception – be sure to tell your bandleader or deejay everything they need to know about both your needs and about their playing area. A weirdly-shaped room provides special challenges, but – together – you and your music provider can conquer them.

Keep Wedding Toasts Short, Sweet, And Memorable (For All The RIGHT Reasons)

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Fathers of the bride often make brief welcoming remarks at the wedding receptions my band plays. Typically, the proud papas welcome their new son-in-law into the family and invite all guests to have a great time.

Only rarely is such paternal prose memorable. One occasion was when a Dad said that his wife had only given him three duties – to “show up, pay up, and shut up!” After which, he sat down.

If you are offering a toast or a greeting at a reception, your comments shouldn’t be that brief, but here are a few tips regarding what they should be.

1. They should be from your heart – not from your notes. Notes interfere with making eye contact. Eye contact emphasizes sincerity. So – whenever possible – work without a script. Your words will flow better, sound more natural, and – best of all – come across to your audience as more sincere.

2. They should be friendly, rather than funny. Often – especially when we feel stressed – something we intended as a joke winds up falling flat. Or – worse yet – it may actually be offensive to persons in your audience. Why take that chance, when you know that everybody will appreciate a friendly word, warmly delivered?

3. They should direct attention to the bride and groom, not deflect attention from them. Reality check: nobody comes to a wedding reception to hear what the dad or best man have to say. The centers of attention are the bridal couple, so your remarks should be about them, not you.

As a long-time observer of wedding reception toasts (I’ve seen over 2,000 of them), the best ones always seem to me to be those that are short, sweet, and G-rated. Any memorable lines (like “show up… shut up,” etc.) are strictly a bonus.

So – as you ponder what remarks you should make – my best advice is “keep it brief and nice.”

Beware Those Sooooper Salesmen!

Monday, September 29th, 2008

The best wedding coordinators, booking agents, and sales executives are good listeners. They ask incisive questions that help them identify your needs, wants, and budget. Then they use their professional expertise to match you with the perfect venues, bands or deejays, decor and more.

Unfortunately, not everyone is the best. Some, in fact, look after their own financial interests rather than what is best for you. Here are a few ways to spot the bad actors.

1. The “Square-Peg” Venue. If you expect 200 guests at your reception, then the best room for you is one in which all 200 can – if they choose – see your first dance, cutting of the cake, and hear any or all toasts. Having a foyer available for those who wish to step outside to have a conversation is great. However – when any any venue salesperson whose ballroom is too small for all your guests tries to convince you that “some people prefer to be in a quieter room” – you need to ask that person (and yourself) these questions: “But what if they all do want to be in there at the same time? And how will those in other rooms even know when the key moments of the reception are taking place?”

2. Floral and Decor Overkill. Having a generous budget for flowers is a wonderful thing. Having so many flowers at each table that diners can’t even see the person they are sitting across from, is not a wonderful thing. Also, when your decorator suggests “transforming” any ballroom space into a “wonderland,” just remember that one of the reasons you chose a particular venue was its pleasing appearance. A gymnasium or warehouse may need “transforming,” but most ballrooms don’t.

3. Extraneous Musicians. My 9-piece band is fuller than my 6-member unit. It should be, for the extra thousand dollars it costs you. There are times (and brides) for whom the 9 pieces are worth every penny. Just as there are also times and places where a trio would have sufficed. If you aren’t planning to dance, if your event is in the daytime (when guests tend to dance less) or if your venue gets really noisy really fast, don’t let anyone con you into buying more band than you will use.

Your wedding is all about you. It is a reflection of your tastes and preferences. The moment you feel pushed or leaned on by any salesperson, that is a sure sign that said salesman is looking out for himself, and not for you. And the inevitable result is a wedding that is less your vision and more about someone else’s bottom line.