[ DRAFT: UNDER REVISION ]
Without any opinion being interjected here, these are the top ten mistakes I have seen a bride make after 12 years in the business. The ranking might be different from your point of view, but you can decide the priority on your own.
1) UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS:
Even on a multi-million dollar Hollywood film production things go wrong amongst the best professionals over the course of several months. What makes someone think it can’t go wrong over the course of your wedding which takes 1/10th the time and 1/10th the budget with people who rarely do this? Remember, its not the end of the world, and its not about the wedding, its about the marriage, so how you act and react can set the stage for the next family function you attend whether it be your own family, friends or in-laws. Try to relax, try to enjoy it, it goes by fast and nothing in life is perfect. That being said, please carefully read the next 9 points to ensure this.
2) HAIR & MAKEUP:
Yes, makeup is important, after all you want to look perfect for the most special day of your life outside of giving birth to a child. It is important that you look great in the photos and video you paid so much money for. However, do not allow this to be a major part of the day. Remember, your wedding day is realistically 15 hours maximum. Do you really want to spend 25% of your time doing and re-doing makeup instead of spending time with family, dancing and eating? Because, if you don’t, be sure your makeup artist is early and don’t allow any interference while they are performing their magic and artistry. I can’t tell you how many times hair and makeup threw off the day by as little as one hour and as much as nearly 3-4hours. The more expensive or popular the makeup artist is, the more of your time they will take. There is one “famous” makeup company that actually has their own reality show. They were responsible for 3 out of 5 of the biggest time set-backs when it came to the wedding day. Decide what is important, if its the photos, remember, no matter how good the makeup is, the photo schedule will be rushed. You will be stressed, it will show in photos. If its a hot day and you are stressed and rushing, your makeup will run. If its cold and you are stressed, all the tanning makeup will not be able to cover the veins coming out of your neck and forehead or the washed out white of your face when you are about to meltdown. If you have tattoos that you don’t want to show in church and/or to anyone else, don’t bank on the makeup covering it up, especially if its a hot day. Choose a dress that covers up those tattoos you don’t want the world to see, otherwise, makeup over those tattoos only make it look like a large black and blue bruise. Cover it up, or budget more money for the photographer to “Photoshop” later.
3) HIRING THE CHEAPEST VENDOR:
I don’t want this section to seem like the Wedding industry is filled with hacks who are only out to get your money. It’s not, however, it is a business and people providing you services will treat it like a business no matter how personal it is to you or how friendly they are when they take your money. It is always the small percentage of vendors who are not reputable that make it very difficult for the other 90% of us. This not to say to hire the most expensive either. Hire someone based on a proven track record. However, if you are on a budget and these things are not of paramount importance, here are some common pitfalls of hiring the cheapest or least expensive vendors:
Photo & Video
It is easy for a photo studio to show you the very best of the best photos they have taken over the years, but then send in someone who is not responsible for any single one of those photos. But there are other factors. For reasons noted above in #2, remember, hopefully you are selecting your photographer based on 3 very important criteria, but not one of these should take priority over the other, all 3 are very important:
A) Photography: make sure they have ability to take a photo and/or correct it later on if its not absolutely perfect (it happens, any photographer will tell you they usually spend more time editing photos than actually shooting a wedding).
B) Personality: If you are a laid back person and could care less about photos, don’t hire someone who is very domineering, a time hog, perfectionist and/or has a million ideas and all of them must be implemented to their liking. At the same time, if organization and scheduling is not your strong point, do hire a photographer that deals well in stressful situations and is going to keep the day on track while still being pleasant and getting all the photos you want. Its one thing to take a photo, its another to keep the day running smoothly without irritating your family and guests.
C) Reliability & Track Record: Look at your friend’s and family’s photos. Do you like them? Ask them about their photographer and how they handled your wedding day. Look to hire an individual photographer over a photography company if this is important to you. Remember, the larger photo studio has the right to send out any photographer they wish for any reason. Sometimes this can be an advantage, sometimes it can mean you are getting a 2nd rate photographer.
LIMO & CAR SERVICES:
Just like hiring the cheapest photographer, you certainly don’t want to hire the cheapest form of transportation. A limo company can easily show you the $100k Rolls Royce then replace it at the last minute with one 30 years old for any reason. I have seen more than a few times where the limousine has broken down, taken the wrong directions, even gotten a flat tire or pulled over. Hire a respectable company that has a backup car if there is a breakdown, be sure they have GPS (seems obvious but I can’t tell you how many don’t) and of course, make sure the driver is not only depending on GPS but knows the backroads in case of an accident on the highway, traffic and/or any other unforeseen circumstance.
FLORISTS & DECORATORS:
I’ve seen florists and decorators struggling to survive booking any job at any budget. They promise one size of flowers and deliver another. I’ve seen some re-use flowers from another event and/or whatever “leftover” flowers they have in their showrooms, and even use candles in place of extra flowers to make the table arrangements look the same size. Once I saw a florist deliver all pink flowers instead of purple. The bride specifically wanted pink to match the bridesmaids dresses, but the florist felt purple was “close enough” and refused to send more flowers over. At a different wedding, I saw a similar situation, but the florist delivered a fresh set of flowers within the hour. That is the difference between spending the extra money or not.
DJ & MUSIC SERVICES
It would seem simple enough, you hire a DJ, they show up with a laptop loaded with music and someone to run it through a set of speakers. However, if you get a discount DJ who shows up and a speaker blows, now they are playing that music through one speaker, or worse yet, though the elevator speakers in the room. Yes, I’ve seen and heard it. As with any of your vendors, make sure they guarantee backup equipment and/or services in writing, or a free and/or partial refund.
4) NOT HAVING A BACKUP PLAN:
What if the limo driver does not show? Have another form of reliable transportation. If your makeup artist does not show, be sure you have a close friend or family member who is really good at applying makeup. Keep a set of phone numbers and emergency phone numbers of each and every one of your vendors from DJ to limo driver, catering hall, photographer, etc etc. And, if its too much for you to deal with the day of your wedding, give a printed sheet to person in charge at the catering hall and/or your maid or matron of honor. If it rains and the photos you wanted in the park are not possible. Pick an indoor are where a permit is not needed or the catering hall has available even if there is another wedding at that same catering hall (often that gazebo or spiral staircase is on a different section of a catering hall and its being used for another event). So if photos are important, plan for an alternative and/or have your photographer bring a backdrop, even if you have to take photos in a small place that is not ideal.
5) NOT TIPPING PRIMARY PEOPLE ESSENTIAL TO THE SUCCESS OF YOUR DAY:
TIP is short for “To Insure Proper Service” – This might seem a little self-serving, but its really not. You hire a limo company to get you safely and quickly to and from all the places they are scheduled to. While its their job, there is nothing wrong with giving them a tip if they get you there early, safely and are professional. I can go down the whole list of who and who should not be tipped, but there are plenty of sources for this from wedding planner/advisors and even Martha Stewart.
However, if you are on a tight budget, remember the people that are with you all day long and who you will rely on who captured the entire day’s events that will last for decades, generations, and/or a hundred years. That would be your photographer and videographers. If nothing else, “pay it forward”. Its a bit of a gamble, but one thing for sure, you don’t want to tip at the very end of the evening when everyone is saying good night to you. The best time to give a tip, is after the ceremony, during the cocktail hour. Once your photographer is on-site at the reception, you know they made it there, are not lost in traffic, and now that they are there for most of the important events, they might just stay until the end and are on “alert” to give extra special attention to the rest of the evening. Additionally, they will (or should) be more likely to take extra-special care of your photo images and footage by backing it up twice and putting in safe storage. Additionally, if you treat them well the day of your wedding, they will treat you just as well 6-12 months down the road if you have any special requests.
6) EXPECTING EVERYONE TO BE PERFECT AT EVERY MOMENT:
Children will be children, boys will be boys, and girls will be girls, and of course, mom will always be mom. Family and friends are not a professional team of trained stunt doubles hired the day of your wedding. They will not be any different than they normally would be in any other stressful situation. The girls will think their makeup is just as important as yours, because they will be photographed too. Their boyfriends, husbands and/or friends will see them and they want to be just as perfect as if it was their first date. For all practical purposes, a wedding is a woman’s affair. Guys are only there because they have to be, and/or perhaps because its an opportunity to drink. So, the very first chance they get, they will be at the bar and/or eating. Your mother(s) will always be nagging because they want the very best for you, even if its not what you want at that particular moment. Add into that, the fact that they probably didn’t have this grand of a wedding, and are paying partially (or in whole) for this wedding, they feel its their event too. And it is, after all, they gave birth to you. If you think this is in any way generalizing, stereotyping and or categorizing genders and/or any other type of roll, let’s put $1,000 on it and come along with me any given weekend. If any single one of these things does not happen in the course of a weekend, I owe you $1,000, if it doesn’t, promise me you will get me a client for each instance I was right. Again, you may have attended and/or been in a dozen weddings, I personally have shot and/or edited well over 2,000. Children in wedding are especially vulnerable to a long, stressful day. Remember, they are children, they are used to naps, snacks, their toys and also being the center of attention. About 1 in 10 or even 20 children perform like the perfect little angels you expect them to be, rarely do they like to take photos, and they have a very short attention span when it comes to posing for photo after family photo. Its ok to have them in the wedding, just remember they might not make it halfway or even partially through the day without any “time-outs”. And pets, yes we love them as much as family, but they can often be traumatized by all the excitement of so many guests in your house, lack of attention they are used to, and even a sense they are losing their master. The costumes are cute, but be sure you have your pet wear it a few times before your wedding day so its not new to them. Remember to give them all the care you normally would give them, and if you want to take photos with them, be sure they are inside so they don’t get their footprints on your wedding gown.
7) THANK YOU CARDS:
Don’t assume everyone has Facebook or that everyone is friends with you or a member of your family that has Facebook, file sharing, etc etc. Even on the tightest budget, for 30 seconds of your wedding day, step aside, have the photographer snap a photo they can hand you on a SD card you provide them (currently you can get a 4gb card for $5). If you can’t manage that, have a friend take a photo with her point & shoot and email you the photo. Once you are back from your honeymoon, you can easily find cheap thank you cards online, and if it exceeds $75, buy a cheap photo printer for the same price that can easily print 100+ thank you postcards. While most people will look at the photo or card, smile, and either put it in a box or in the recycling bin, there is nothing more important to giving thanks if they were at your wedding and gave you a gift, no matter how large or small. Even if they gave nothing, you can afford $1 for a printed photo and a postage stamp and writing by hand on the back “thank you”, even if you can’t remember their first names but you have their mailing address.
8) ALLOWING VENDORS PERSONAL TIME:
Prisoners of vicious crime in solitary confinement are allowed 3 meals a day and one hour of outside recreation. So please remember the people that are by your side and running around all day to make your day everything you expect. Whether for makeup, wedding planners or especially photographers and video people, they come to your house at around 12noon. They follow you to the church, ceremony or catering hall, and then afterward are still working to get all the photos and footage you need to capture your memorable day. Not always do they have time to eat during cocktail hour. They sometimes have to recharge batteries, download footage for backup, call a loved one(s), or even use the bathroom. Trust me when I tell you, “cocktail hour” is the ONLY 15-20 minutes they have to themselves. And, in rare cases you will even have the catering hall tell them not to eat during cocktail hour because guests get priority waiting on line. Its not that we disagree with this, but remember, we have not eaten since breakfast, even more likely, we have not eaten since 24 hours ago. Not likely? Let me explain. Friday you have a huge breakfast, you show up to work at 12noon, you are behind schedule, so you work through cocktail hour, and then there are the first dance/toasts/parent dances and then the dinner. However, dinner is usually served to the vendors last, that includes the photo/video people. So when the band or DJ go back on stage, the photographers do as well. They miss dinner, and by time they get home after midnight, and go to sleep, it starts all over again on Saturday, and then again Sunday. So remember to allow them time to eat. If you cannot afford the price the catering hall charges, allow them to leave your wedding for one hour to get something to eat at a diner. But in the end, look at a typical vendor meal below. Its the least you can do, and it cannot possibly cost more than $25 in the best restaurants, so why can’t the catering hall throw this in for free considering all the food they waste?
9) PAYING ON TIME:
If you ever want to invite a headache, don’t pay the scheduled fees for your vendors on time. Often, its right there in the contract that 30-50% is due upon signing the contract, 30-50% before the wedding day. If you have photo and video, the final payment would be once you go to pick up your photos. But, as in the case of the limo or florist, they most likely require 100% payment in full prior to your wedding day. While I am all for consumer protection, remember, once your wedding day is over, the limo driver and florist have no recourse if you do not pay, and they can easily say the contract was void because their services were not paid in full. Avoid this nightmare, and if you must, pay with a credit card so in case the do not show, you can dispute the charge and at least get some of your money back. While vendors might offer you a better discount for cash, unless they are very reputable, credit cards have protection against shady vendors.
10) GOING OVER THE TOP:
One of the most beautiful could-have been moments was also one of the saddest, not for the bride, but for me too. Live doves being released when the bride and groom exited one of the oldest, most famous churches in the region. There was a clause in the contract that cited if there was more than a 50% chance of rain and/or lightning, the dove release could not occur. I don’t know what the refund policy was (if any) but imagine the bride coming out of the church, seeing the dove vendor there and asking “where are the doves” and he sadly had to tell her with verified proof “they won’t fly in this weather” (apparently this is not only endangering the animal, but its a fact they know and sense the weather and would not fly even if by force). I’ve seen the same thing with live butterflies. You can’t keep them in little paper boxes for 2-3 hours and expect them to fly. Never once have I seen them survive a 1+ hour ceremony. Guests open the boxes, shake them to come out and they just fall on the ground, not knowing that the dust on their wings is what helps them fly, without that, they fall, and unfortunately die. Take the natural butterfly out of their normal surroundings, and they are fluttering inside a paper box for an hour because they are trapped, and of course they are not capable of flying out of that box 1-2 hours later. Its a beautiful idea, but it just does not work, at least any time I’ve seen it, and I can’t imagine how much it costs.
If you have no budget, ignore this tip. If you are on a tight or even moderate budget, please consider these things: Food for your guests is very important, but don’t spend an extra $1,000 for a station that will get very little use. This would include a carving station, cigar roller, live musicians during cocktail hour, etc. If your groom’s guests are cigar lovers, but there are only 10-20 of them, but a couple of boxes of cigars, even the best will cost you less than $300, and this is much better than impressing them with a cigar roller who might get $1-2k for the last 2 hours of the reception. Live musicians are great, but if you are on a budget, save them for the formal reception, not the cocktail hour. My favorite story is the bride and groom who promised me in person, on my Sunday off, at a fancy coffee shop, that their/his handshake, that was “better than money in the bank” they would hire me and to reserve their wedding date. A week before with still no deposit they informed me they “would not be going ahead with video services at this time”. At first I thought they hired someone else cheaper, but I later found out that they both loved piano and as a “surprise” the bride hired a piano player for the groom, and the groom a piano player for his bride. Talk about “Gift of the Magi” – there was only one piano, 2 piano players, and each had to play for half the time they were contracted to accommodate the other, and there is not one single video/audio clip captured of these two pianists. For the same price, they could have had a full day of video services, the ceremony, live vows, introductions, first dance, parent dances, and toasts, not to mention lots of dance floor footage. Remember, at the end of the day, flowers, food, band, DJ, limo, are all done/gone/finished when the clock strikes Midnight. But photo and video is forever, and that will serve as a record and reward for generations to come, and this is priceless.
If for nothing else, I hope this post of information serves for the best intentions to help you through your wedding day. There are countless books, blogs and paid services for this information, however, I provided publicly for free because I genuinely care about about what I do and the better experience you have, the better experience your professionals well have. Here is how I can sum it up:
Makeup people think their job is most important because its how you will look the entire day
Limo/Transport people think their job is most important because they get you to all the places you need to be on time
DJ/Band people think their job is most important because that is where most of your guests will be and be entertained by the end of the evening.
Catering Halls know their job is most important because without a schedule and timely service, people won’t get fed and their staff can’t easily do their job while impressing the guests.
Photographers & Videographers feel in their hearts that this is their work, to capture the most beautiful, fun and exciting moments of your wedding, because its something that will last for your children, grandchildren and/or an eternity if eternity allows.