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07 Apr '15

Tips for Creating the Perfect Timeline for Your Wedding Day

PocketWatchPurveyor note: This article by Elizabeth Clayton of A Practical Wedding provides an excellent starting point for scheduling your special day, minute by minute.

Timelines can be confusing when you’ve never done one—even if you’ve attended a lot of weddings you probably haven’t paid much attention to how long each individual aspect lasted (barring the rare occasion that you end up an hour-long ceremony indoors without air conditioning on a 102 degree day. Which nobody forgets). So today I’m going try and shed some light on how to keep your wedding moving, without feeling rushed or ending up with weird chunks of time where nobody knows what to do.

First, it’s worth noting that timelines are a guideline, not canon. I often go into a wedding with a two-paged, single-spaced timeline—it contains every single thing that every single person is doing for the entire day. (Famously, I often edit them before sending them to other vendors, because they scare the crap out of some people.) But, as I tell all of my clients, it’s the extremely rare wedding that hits every single point at the minute it’s supposed to. We extend cocktail hour because people are having fun (and/or the kitchen is running late). We move up the first dance because everyone finished eating early. We move last call out thirty minutes because we were able to start breaking down early and know we have time. Starting and ending the wedding on time are key—hitting everything in the middle in the approximate right order is important, but you usually have to adjust a little to the particular set of people.

And because the 4pm ceremony time, 10pm reception end (with both ceremony and reception in the same venue), with secular ceremony and photos beforehand is one of the most common formats I work with, I’m going to start with that as my example. But don’t worry! Next week we’re going to talk about variations on this timeline, like religious or otherwise longer ceremonies, daytime weddings, later evening weddings, separate ceremony and reception sites, and separate ceremony and reception times (i.e., gaps).

But for now, let’s dig into the format I mentioned above, with the timeline I use for almost all of the weddings that fit this mold:

  • 10:00am—Hair and Makeup/Getting ready
  • 12:00–2:00pm—Most vendors arrive for setup
  • 2:00pm—Wedding party and family photos start
  • 3:30pm—Doors open/Guests begin to arrive/Pre-ceremony music starts
  • 4:00pm—Invite time
  • 4:15pm—Ceremony starts
  • 4:35pm—Ceremony ends
  • 4:40pm—Cocktail hour starts
  • 5:45pm—Move guests into dinner
  • 6:00pm—Buffet opens/Dinner served
  • 6:20pm—All guests have food
  • 6:30pm—Toasts
  • 7:30pm—First dance
  • 7:35pm—General dancing music starts
  • 8:00pm—Second set of pre-sunset portraits
  • 8:26pm—Sunset
  • 8:30pm—Dessert
  • 9:45pm—Last call
  • 9:55pm—Music off
  • 10:00pm—Guests depart
  • 11:00pm—Breakdown done, all staff departs
And now, a few tips on how to get this all to go smoothly:

Invite Time vs. Start Time

The “invite” time is the time on your invitation. The earliest guests will show up about half an hour before this, so be prepared for that. And then there are the late guests. No matter the size of your guest list, you can put money on the fact that ten of them will be around ten minutes late, even if they’re all staying down the street from the venue. Do yourself a favor and plan on starting the ceremony fifteen minutes after your invite time. There’s nothing more awkward than a late arrival standing at the back of the aisle because the bridesmaids are walking down.

Food Timing

Timing for dinner depends largely on 1) what type of food service you’re having (the most common options being buffet, family style, and plated) and 2) how large your guest list is. It takes about twenty minutes for one hundred guests to get through a buffet. Plated courses are usually spaced about forty-five minutes apart. And family style also takes about fifteen-twenty minutes for one hundred guests to be served. Plan accordingly—I highly suggest starting with a minimum of bread on the table to give guests something to snack on while they wait for their turn at the food, although plated salads are also a great way to start out an otherwise buffet meal for the same reason. And of course, always discuss timing with whoever is actually serving your food—they should have the best idea for your particular menu.

Toasts

I really encourage people to do toasts during dinner—you have a captive audience, and people are in a headspace to be attentive, plus you don’t have to carve separate time out of the day for them to happen. Note: Make sure the first person to give a toast tells all of the guests to please continue to eat while people are speaking! And also make sure to tell the catering staff that they should continue to serve/clear/etc. while people are speaking (they’re good at doing this discreetly). (Editor Maddie’s note: Don’t forget to tell your photographer too! We usually eat when guests eat, because face-stuffing photos are unattractive. So make sure we’re not knee-deep in the lasagna when toasts start by giving us a heads up on when toasts will start. Though it’s always best when your timeline is shared with your photographer at least a week or two before the wedding so that we know in advance.) (Elizabeth’s note on Maddie’s note: This is why I have the photograhper’s go through a buffet first, yes, before the guests. Or if it’s plated or family style I’ll discuss with them and either have them eat at the end of cocktail hour, or once toasts are done. Please don’t forget to feed your vendors!)

Sunset

Note what time it’s going to happen! (There are lots of places online that will tell you—I personally use this site, possibly because I love the name, but I also find it to be totally accurate.) You’re going to want to think about lighting, especially if your event is happening partially outdoors. And also…

Portraits/Photos

Whether or not you opt for an “official” photographed first look, the truth is that a lot of couples these days tend to do formal portraits before the ceremony, because otherwise you’re stuck wrangling people during cocktail hour, which a) means they’re less compliant and b) you miss out on mingling with your guests/stuffing seared shrimp in your mouth (Editor Maddie’s note: or scallops wrapped in bacon. Mmmm…). Also, I always suggest a second set of portraits right before sunset for two reasons—the light is totally different, and gorgeous (they don’t call it golden hour for nothing) and you’re also in a totally different space emotionally—the ceremony is over, you may have had a glass of champagne, and you’re married, as opposed to about to get married in an hour. You really only need to budget ten to fifteen minutes for these, and you should plan on it being just the two of you and your primary photographer. This mini session also has the added benefit of giving you a short break away from the crowds.

Cake/Dessert Timing

While this rule seems to have gotten lost over the generations, traditionally it’s considered acceptable to leave a wedding once the cake has been cut—at that point you know that nothing else major is going to happen (it’s just partying from there on out) and hey, maybe you have a sitter to get home to, or just want to be in bed to watch the ten o’clock news. And while you may not be aware of this rule, if you have any guests over sixty-years-old then they do, and they will wait for you to cut the cake (or alternative dessert. I’m personally a pie girl myself). So don’t wait until too late to do it. I mean, no one wants to leave without a piece of cake (or, again, pie).

Last Call

The universal signal that things are about to wrap up or wind down. You don’t have to make it official, but if you do it can be a helpful to sign to people that they should start preparing (mentally) to leave.

Breakdown

If your venue has strict timing rules, or noise restrictions, or you’re paying a staff hourly and they’re going to go into overtime or time-and-a-half at some point, don’t forget about breakdown. While generally faster than set up (it’s a lot quicker to toss decorations into a box than it is to take them out and perfectly arrange them) I rarely see a breakdown that’s under an hour, and sometimes they end up in the one to two hour range. Think about all of the things that are going to need to happen once the lights go on and how much time that will take, and plan the end of the night accordingly.

After Parties

(and why you should have one)

“But really, I know we’re going to want to party until 1am!” you say. Dude—me too. But we’re in the minority. I am already anticipating a lot of rebuttal on this point in the comments, but as someone who’s coordinated over a hundred weddings I will tell you—I can count the number of weddings where there has been a critical mass of guests still wanting to go after 10:30pm on my fingers. And two of them took place on New Year’s Eve. And most of the rest had 6:00pm or later ceremonies. Six hours is about the most that most weddings guests have in them. That said, should you make everyone go home at 10pm? Hell no. Move people to an afterparty. My favorite way to do this, because it’s the easiest, is to pick a nearby bar ahead of time, spread the word, and whoever wants to go can go. Do you have to host (as in, pay for) the afterparty drinks? Definitely not. You certainly can, and it would be super nice, but after paying for everyone’s drinks for six hours, you’re off the hook (and I will tell you—if you walk into a bar in a wedding dress there’s definitely no one in the world who’s going to make you pay for you own drinks!). Also—if the majority of your guests are staying in the same hotel, that hotel bar can be a great option for this, and they may allow you to bring extra wedding champagne in for a reduced corkage fee.

 

Originally appeared at http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/03/calculate-wedding-timeline/

16 Mar '15

Should you have a wedding rehearsal?

 

The rehearsal and dinner has become a big deal in the wedding world, and the rehearsal itself is often an afterthought. But I have witnessed time and time again how much smoother ceremonies run when they’ve been rehearsed.

Now, there are obviously going to be times when you may not need a rehearsal. If the ceremony involves just you, your partner, and the officiant; you have a straightforward entrance and aisle; and music that doesn’t need super specific cues, you can probably skip it. Quaker ceremonies also generally don’t need rehearsals, and my guess is there are other religious traditions out there with ceremonies simple enough to not need rehearsing.

However, the typical American wedding ceremony is at least slightly more complicated, and this is where the rehearsal comes in. You probably need to rehearse your ceremony if you have people who are:

  1. Walking down an aisle
  2. Standing or sitting somewhere specific when they get there
  3. Possibly moving mid-ceremony
  4. Other people who may be standing somewhere specific half way through
  5. Walking back up the aisle at the end

None of this is necessarily particularly complicated, but doing a run-through of it before it happens in front of a crowd will make it seem natural and help avoid some common pitfalls.

Now, what doesn’t happen at a rehearsal is a full read-through of the entire ceremony. If you want to do this, you certainly should do it with your partner, your officiant, and anyone else who’s speaking (and, regardless, you should all practice your parts out loud individually). But you shouldn’t read through every word of the ceremony at the rehearsal where you have a decent-sized audience of people who are going to hear it all again the next day (efficiency and protecting the emotional impact of actually hearing the ceremony and your vows out loud are the reasons for that). So what exactly are rehearsals for? Choreography and blocking.

When I say choreography, I don’t mean dance. What I mean is “a bunch of people have to move from one place to another smoothly,” which mainly comes into play doing the processional (entrance) and recessional (exit), or, as a client of mine called them “the cessionals.” The aisle walk is probably pretty (literally) straightforward for most people, but the things you need to cover when rehearsing it are:

  • Order of Procession: I’ve discovered many people don’t think about this before the rehearsal. So—do you want both partners to process, or one to start at the front? Should your officiant process? If neither of you are being escorted by your parents, should they process on their own? If you have a wedding party, what order do you want them to go in? There’s no wrong answer to any of these, but you have to make a decision.
  • Pace of the Walk: Please, please, don’t do “left, together, right, together.” It looks…silly. A nice, normal, walk—in time to the music—is perfect, and something everyone should be able to do without thinking about too hard.
  • Spacing Between People: If you only have four sets of people processing, you may want to space them out so that you can get more of your processional music in there. If you have eighteen people processing, you’re probably going to have to put them fairly close together if you want them all to get to the front before the song ends. Plan accordingly.
  • Order of Recession: Often this is slightly different. The couple recess together first, followed by wedding party, often in pairs, and the officiant. Parents, who are generally sitting on the aisle in the front row, often recess next, followed by the rest of the guests.

Now, let’s move on to blocking: where people are positioned (and repositioned) during the ceremony itself. Some things to think about:

  • Where Parents Sit: I always have parents sit on the first row aisle, which is standard, but—here’s my non-standard trick—on the opposite side of the aisle from their child. If they’re on the same side, they’re looking at the back of your head the whole time, if they’re on the opposite side, they’ll be able to see your face.
  • Wedding Party: You ideally want them to be close to the couple, but not too close, and evenly and symmetrically spaced. Wedding party members on the left should have the same distance between them as those on the right, and be in the same general shape: straight line, diagonal line, curved line, whatever makes sense in your ceremony space.
  • Couple: At rehearsals, I do a lot of yelling, “Pretend that you like each other!” from the back, because people have a natural inclination to stand with enough space between them that their officiant has plenty of space. Nope. I suggest holding hands if it feels natural to you, or just standing close enough to each other that you can easily look into each other’s eyes. Related: remember to look at each other, especially during vows, and not your officiant!
  • Readers/Readings: Blocking for these people is going to be dependent on your microphone situation (how many you have, if any). If you have two mics (one for the officiant and one for the readers) then the readers should be in front and to the side (I usually put them stage left) of the couple. If there’s only one mic, I usually suggest both members of the couple move to one side (for ease, toward the person who has a dress with a train on it, if applicable) and swivel slightly to face the reader. It is definitely appropriate for the couple to look at the reader while the reading is happening!
  • Officiant: Should be standing behind the couple, centered, but should make sure to take a big step to the side for the first kiss, so as to avoid any awkward first-kiss photobombing.

This all, of course, comes with the caveat that everything should make sense when done at your particular ceremony site! Which brings us to my last important piece—as long as your ceremony site and setup are relatively straightforward, you can definitely rehearse off-site. I’ve done rehearsals in hotel rooms, backyards, hotel conference rooms, and, once, a parking lot. Anywhere you have enough space to create a faux-aisle and line up everyone who’s going to be at the front at the same time, you’re good. If you have a particularly unusual ceremony site, aisle arrangement, or entrance, it may make more sense to make the effort to rehearse at the actual site, but even then don’t panic if your venue isn’t available at a time that works for your wedding party. Most grownups can figure out how to adjust things to another site, especially if it’s only one day later.

And, a final note: I generally schedule an hour for rehearsals. Fifteen minutes to gather and explain things to people, thirty minutes for the first run through, and about ten minutes for the second run through, because at that point everyone gets it and you’re just proving it to them by having them practice.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Clayton at www.apracticalwedding.com

11 Mar '15

The Pros and Cons of a Church Wedding

For some couples, getting married in a church is a no-brainer. If faith is an extremely important part of your heritage or your current life, you may not have considered getting married anywhere else. But for others, those of casual faith, little faith, or no faith at all, the issue of wedding venue can be a thorny one. If the bride’s mother has her heart set on a cathedral and the groom’s father wants a quick-and-easy courthouse wedding, what’s a modern couple to do? The simple answer is, “whatever the couple thinks is best.” But it’s worth considering the pros and cons of a church wedding before you make that decision. For this article, we’re setting aside the issue of faith to look just at the practical considerations of a church as a wedding location.

Pro: It’s a package deal

A church already has a lot of what you’re looking for in a wedding venue: a piano and organ, a P.A. system, parking, rooms for the wedding party to prepare. Most churches have musicians and officiants they regularly work with, so you’ll spend less time chasing down those details. You can keep decorations to a minimum, because the architecture of the church is your main decoration.

Con: Less control

When my sister had her church wedding, the church provided an organist to play the building’s huge pipe organ. The only problem: the organist refused to play Mendelssohn’s wedding march because it was a “secular piece of music.” If what’s been pre-arranged doesn’t match what you want, prepare for some battles of will. That rigidity extends to decoration as well–the church is unlikely to let you go wild with decorations. Don’t count on tacking streamers to the ceiling or bringing in that driftwood wedding arch.

Pro: Plenty of seating for the ceremony

There’s no need to rent a hundred folding chairs for the ceremony and spend an hour beforehand setting them up. Even if it’s a more modern church without big wooden pews, they’re used to providing seating for hundreds of people. You won’t have to worry about aisle width or accessibility, either.

Con: You’ll probably want a separate reception location

Let’s face it: while church sanctuaries are beautiful, church fellowship halls tend to be less so. They tend to be small spaces with concrete floors, suspended acoustic tile ceilings, and banks of ugly fluorescent lighting. Unless your church is truly exceptional, you might end up with a reception that has all the warmth and charm of an AA meeting. Decorations can only do so much to pretty up a space. There’s also the real possibility of limitations on what kind of refreshments you can serve–many church halls won’t allow alcohol.

Pro: Lower venue cost

Unless it’s that downtown cathedral that books out years in advance, churches generally charge a lower venue fee than their secular counterparts. A mid-size church may ask for a “donation” of $300-400 for the use of the space, versus thousands for a dedicated venue.

Con: Lower level of service

A dedicated venue can often provide a wedding planner, help with catering, and offer connections to preferred vendors. The extra help comes at a premium, but it can be just what the stressed wedding couple needs.

Getting married in a church definitely has some advantages for a couple whose faith plays a role in their lives. Make sure to keep those lines of communication open with your significant other while you’re planning to see if the pros outweigh the cons for your perfect wedding.

 

Originally posted at setyourweddingapart.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-a-church-wedding

25 Feb '15

Groomsmen Gifts for Your Wedding: Who You Should Buy a Pocket Watch For?

 

Tradition dictates that the groom is responsible for purchasing gifts for the male members of the wedding entourage. This group includes the best man, groomsmen, ushers and the ring bearer. It’s also appropriate to present both your father and the father of the bride with tokens of your appreciation for their support.

Customers tell me everyday what a great choice a pocket watch is for a groomsmen gift. It's something a little different but it's still something functional. It can be used again. It makes an interesting fashion statement. It is fun to receive engraved or unengraved. It can be worn as part of the groomsmen's ensemble on the day of the wedding and it can be worn again for future special events.

With that in mind, it's time to add all those people up and see how many pocket watches you need. I sell pocket watches individually or discounted in sets up to 12. I can also create a set of pocket watches for you in any number you like. I have created sets as big as 19 identical pocket watches. All my watches come with matching pocket chains. The pocket watches are all new, boxed and include a black velvet storage pouch for the watch. I also offer engraving on almost all my pocket watches. I can do monograms and initials, dates or special phrases provided by you.

You can see the variety of individual watches and groomsmen gift sets I have available at www.PocketWatchPurveyor.com

 

27 Jan '15

What is the difference between a monogram and initials?

     A monogram consists of the three initials, and places the last initial in the middle and larger than the other 2 initials.  Initials are simply three initials, straight across, first-middle-last, with all the characters the same size.
     Which style you choose and which style is best is generally a matter of personal taste. I am able to engrave initials either way based on your instruction. Please get in touch if you have questions about initial engraving.