To the Newly Engaged, How to Get Started

6 01 2011
wedding rings engagement rings fun photograph

Photo: Kate Hauschka

Congratulations! Now that you are newly engaged, take a deep breathe and enjoy that rock on your finger. It’s pretty, isn’t it (especially in the elevator where the lighting is great – extra sparkly)? When you are ready to start planning your wedding, we wanted to share with you some helpful reading material.

We are probably the only people that are willing to talk about your wedding 24/7! So if you have a question regarding anything like etiquette, trends, logistics, or how to handle sensitive issues, email us and we will attempt to answer them on this blog! You are probably not the only one thinking about the same issue. {}

Cheers! Vicky, Juanice, Megan, Arielle

National Park Service Photo Permit Tips

3 05 2010
Jefferson Memorial birde and groom

Photo by Rick Martin Photography

If you are planning on taking photos on your wedding day at any of the major monuments in DC, please remember to obtain a photography permit or have your photographer obtain one. The most popular moments that brides and grooms choose that require a permit include:

  • Washington Monument
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
  • World War II Memorial

The process is easy but there are a few tips we’ve learned from experience that will help ease the pain.

  1. Download the permit application form.  If you are not sure of whether your desired location requires a permit, call the National Park Service, National Capital Region office 202-619-7225 or click here for more info. There is a $50 application fee and then an additional $50 if your party consists of up to 10 people, $150 if 11-30 people and you can pay by credit card.
  2. Do not leave this until the last minute. Submit your application as soon as possible but no later than 2 weeks before your wedding.
  3. Here are the steps.
  • Fill out the application form.
  • Fax it to the number on the form. Be sure to fax it from a number where you can also receive faxes. The Parks Program office does not do email so you will need to find a fax machine. Read on to see why.
  • Call to confirm that the office received the form. Make note of the name of the person you spoke to on the phone.
  • If all goes well, you will receive the permit via fax (to the fax number you originally sent the application from) from the Park Programs office asking you to sign it and then fax back the signature page only.
  • They will then fax you again a counter-signed copy.
  • If you do not receive the permit within 4 business day (the application says it takes at least 4 days for processing), call back and follow up. Always make a note of the name of the person you speak with.

There are a few sites that do not require a permit. Our photographer friends tell us that Senate Park (between the Capitol and Union Station) is a popular choice, as well as Lafayette Park (north side of White House). Union Station is another great location if you need shelter. If there are other locations, please email us and let us know!

Anecdote: We submitted an application to the Park Programs office on a Thursday. The office called the bride to verify her credit number on the same day. The photographer called back to follow up on Friday and the office personnel said the application was being processed. The photographer called back again on Monday to follow up and whomever she spoke with said they cannot find our application anywhere. The person from the Park Programs office said she was not working Friday and that we need to submit the application again.

Incorporating Cultural Traditions in Your Wedding

28 04 2010

We often work with brides and grooms that come from different cultural backgrounds and they want to incorporate their individual traditions into their wedding in some form. However, we have also seen the  challenges that this desire can create, sometimes resulting in undue stress and even friction between the families. Here are some tips and thoughts from what we have learned from our clients.

Determine which cultural wedding traditions you want to incorporate. If you are not familiar with the wedding traditions associated with your ethnic background, consult your relatives. While you can do some research on the internet to get an overview, it is best to ask your relatives because traditions can vary even amongst different regions of a country. For example, with Hindu weddings, there are subtle differences between northern and southern Indian ceremonies and even variations depending on the Hindu priest. When my husband and I got married, I was familiar with Chinese wedding traditions but did not know the details of each step. So, my Mom sent me a written translation of those steps, which really helped us decide which steps would be appropriate for us to incorporate.

Discuss with parents. This is one area that I feel can benefit from working in conjunction with your parents. Their input can be important. The cross generational understanding of what certain traditions are about and how they are to be perform may differ between you and your parents, especially if you and your fiance are of different ethnic or religious background and if you want to incorporate both sides, as well as some standard Western wedding elements. It’s best to talk about it openly in detail early on.  Is it acceptable to modify certain traditions? You might be surprised that it may not be acceptable to the families. After all, the wedding is suppose to be about the joining of families, so doing something that can be viewed as offensive to one side or the other because of religion or culture might not be a good way to start.

When and how will you incorporate the selected wedding traditions? Is it something that your guests would enjoy? Would it be better done in private or on another day? When my husband and I got married, we performed the Chinese tea ceremony after our Catholic ceremony – in private. We did it before all the guests arrived at the reception venue. I consulted with my Mom and she felt that it was more respectful to do it in private. On the other hand, my best friend from high school incorporated the tea ceremony into her reception so that all the guests may share in the experience [see photo below. I’m the bridesmaid on the right].

Chinese tea ceremony

Photo by Brett Matthews Photography

Will your guests understand what is happening? If not, you may consider having some written or have a MC describe what is happening. My husband and I attended an Afghani/Pakistani wedding not too long ago. The bride and groom performed wedding rituals which we had no idea what they were all about and it went on for a long time.  While it was interesting to observe, it would have been more enjoyable if we knew what was going on. A few weeks ago, our client had a Hindu ceremony. While a program was provided to the guests so they could follow along, for the first time, the Hindu priest actually explained each ceremonial step he performed, which made it so much more meaningful to the guests. Normally, the priest speaks in Hindi only.

How long with it take? How elaborate are the set up for the tradition?  One of our clients wanted to perform the traditional Korean Pae Bek ceremony during her reception. While we really enjoy having the guests participate and learn about the ritual, it took 30-45 minutes to set up all the items needed and for the bride and groom to change into their Korean outfits. The venue was also not ideal for such an elaborate set up, and would have worked out better if it could have been done in another larger room.

Korean pae bek ceremony

Photo by Love Life Images

New Wedding Guest Tip: What to do with a Wedding Invitation

5 04 2010

Survive Wedding Season

Our third Expert Tips article on Survive Wedding Season is up! This time, we wrote about what to do when you receive an invitation. Follow these tips and your friends will think you are the best wedding guest ever!

Our other articles included:

To Bring A Date Or Not To Bring A Date That Is The Question That Is Not Up To You Wedding Guest,” addressing how to handle single wedding guests.

Hindu Wedding Rituals

What other topics would you like us to tackle? Email us with your ideas! — Vicky

Newly Engaged Starter Guide Part 4: Keys to Success

19 02 2010

Go back and read Part 1 (Words of Wisdom),  Part 2 (the Big Picture), and Part 3 (Money).

Maybe a better title for this post is How to Plan a Wedding without Killing Each Other? All jokes aside, weddings bring out the best and worst in people probably because everything about it is so emotionally charged.

Here are my Top 5 Keys to Successful Wedding Planning:

  1. Prioritize. We talked about prioritizing when discussing the wedding budget and assigning more budget to those items that are on the top of your list. It does not stop with budgeting money. Prioritizing also applies to your time – so spending more time on planning your higher priority items and less time, if any at all, on those you don’t care as much about. On the less important items, trust the professionals that you hired and let them handle it. The bottom line here is that you don’t have a limitless budget and you don’t have a lot of time and you are not the Energizer Bunny. You want to make your budget and time work as efficiently for you as possible.
  2. Compromise. It takes two to be in a marriage and that begins when you start planning your wedding. There are two of you, two opinions and two sets of priorities. Chances are you will not agree on everything. Be ready to pick your battles.
  3. Organize. Planning a wedding is a big project with many pieces. It can all get out of control really quickly so it is crucial that you get organized and stay organized. Whether you do it electronically or using binder/folder system, select a method that will help you corral all the information packages, proposals and contracts you will be receiving. Set up a separate email account for wedding related emails to keep them from being mixed up with your other emails. When you purchase items for your wedding, designate a box/area/room for these items.
  4. Communicate. Communication is extremely important, not only with each other but with your family, friends and the wedding professionals you hire. Your vendors will appreciate you expressing your expectations and concerns. It allows us to do our job better and to provide you with better service. As a wedding planner, I get phone calls frequently from brides and grooms alike venting about each other or about a family member, and I find myself ending many of those conversations with “have you told this person what you just told me?” If you try to communicate and you hit an impasse, you might need to seek an impartial third party to help. I have had clients who attend pre-martial or couples counseling while planning their weddings and they have all said that those sessions were helpful.
  5. Perspective. Constantly remind yourselves what this wedding is all about. Like it or not, it is not about finding that perfect favor to give to your guests. Amidst all the planning, you can easily lose yourselves. I suggest having date nights or even weekend getaways where you are forbidden to talk about the wedding and decompress a bit.

Now that you are all prepared to plan your wedding, be sure to subscribe to our blog for more helpful tips. Looking for practical information? Want to read about the behind the scenes at read weddings? Want to know the truth about a vendor? Be sure to read our series of Real Weddings. As always, we are here to help so contact us!

Have fun! Vicky

Wedding First Dance and your Marriage

10 02 2010

Hi friends, I promise that I will conclude the Newly Engaged Starter Guide this week! If you just can’t wait, take a break from shoveling snow and go back and read Part 1 (Words of wisdom), Part 2 (The Big Picture), and Part 3 (Money).  Today’s post is about learning to do your wedding first dance and its implications on the wedding planning process and your marriage. How? Read on.

My friend Amy Jean of The Relentless Bride fame is getting married next month and is taking dance lesson with her fiancé for their first dance with Deborah Joy Block at The Wedding Dance Specialists. She is writing a “she said, he said” style series on their experiences learning their first dance on her blog, each describing his/her own perspective.

I love this series because I am a firm believer that ballroom dancing lessons, regardless of whether you are taking them to learn your first dance, are like marriage counseling. There is a reason it’s called partner dancing and I try to encourage all engaged couples to try it. They offer insights, a microcosm even, into how relationships work.

Give and Take. I am a control freak, worsened by the fact that I’ve danced ballet since I was 4 and ballroom since college. So when we started lessons, I always wanted to lead and became very frustrated when John couldn’t pick up the steps fast enough. But I soon realized that if I wanted him to dance with me until we’re 90 years old, I’m going to have to grow some patience, bite my tongue and keep encouraging him. I tell him he’s doing great when he makes even the slightest improvement and even when he’s not.  He has never done instructional dancing before and being the man, he has to learn how to lead me besides figuring out his footwork. After a while, John gained more confidence about his ability to lead and to master his own steps that he was more proud of himself and wanted to show off to his friends! The point is – you give a little and you take a little in your relationship.

Teamwork & Communication. You learn how to work together to conquer a difficult task. When challenged with a new and seemingly daunting combination, we like to ignore the music and break down each step very slowly until we get it right. Then we do it to music. As we try to work out the dance moves, he tells me to take bigger steps and I tell him to not lift his arm so high. We try to communicate what each of us need the other to do in a neutral tone so that together, the steps feel right and look good. We each have our own good days and bad days and some days, he has to help me and other days I have to help him. The point is – communicate.

Date Night.  Thursday night is our standing date night when we have our ballroom class and we never practice outside of class. Since we don’t intend on entering any competitions anytime soon, we keep it fun for ourselves and not take it so seriously. When life gets hectic, especially when planning a wedding, we could count on having one night where we were doing something together. You learn to just be in the moment, focus on each other, enjoy some rockin’ music, and forget about the world. We started ballroom lessons 10 years ago, several years before we actually got married, and we are still dancing.

Doing our wedding first dance - a rumba to Al Green's Let's Stay Together.

Go try it! Vicky

Newly Engaged Starter Guide Part 3: Money, Money, Money

29 01 2010

Go back and read Part 1 (Words of Wisdom) and Part 2 (the Big Picture).

Studies have shown that married couples argue most about money so why not start with the wedding! Just kidding. Look at this as practice. I learned a lot about how my husband does finances during the wedding planning process. Not that I agree with how he handles money but at least I now know what I’m dealing with. I like to start with a budget that we can afford and are comfortable with and then see what we can fit within it. Whereas, he likes to start with what he wants and then figuring out a way to pay for it. Yeah – I can see why couples argue about money.

How much will you need? You will need to do some homework to figure this out but there is a lot of information out there.  Just like if you were to throw a dinner party for 10 people and you only have $100 in the bank. How would you figure out your menu? Will you have money left over for decorating your house? Maybe you go to the grocery store and party store and start pricing things out. Maybe you go online and research some affordable recipes. I love using home renovation as an example too. Say you want to renovate your kitchen. How will you go about it? You could tear out pictures from magazines of kitchen ideas you like. You could go on line and see how much that pretty sink would cost. You could go to your local tile store and check out your options. You get the idea. Do the legwork. There is no way to avoid this. Yes, it’s time consuming but you can quickly determine if this is going to be a $10k wedding or a $100k wedding. Order of magnitude is good enough at this point.

How will you pay for the wedding? I feel that the ideal way to avoid any potential stress resulting from people wanting to provide their input because they are contributing monetarily is to pay for the entire wedding yourselves. Just elimintate the possibility altogether. Now, I understand that we are not talking about a small chunk of change and that it may not be possible to pay for the whole wedding and honeymoon yourselves. Here are a few other possible scenarios:

  • If your parents/family/friends have generously offered to help, will they be contributing in general or for something specific? Will they want to have some say on the decisions made with their money? What to do here is different for every situation and depends highly on your relationship with your parents. If you foresee that this could become a sticky issue, pick something specific that they can pay for but you have to be willing to accommodate their wishes on this specific item. Maybe they can pay for the band or the rehearsal dinner.
  • But what if your parents/family/friends are unable to help financially or what if you have other current plans for your savings? Wait. Maybe it’s a few months. Maybe it’s a year or two. It’s OK. Start saving. Come up with a savings plan for a reasonable amount of time to reach a certain dollar amount. Nobody says you have to get married now. But if you don’t want to wait and you don’t have the money, then you need to adjust your expectations for your wedding to match the reality of your budget. Even celebrities have this dilemma!

There are a lot of demands for your hard earned money and in my experience, people tend to plan weddings amidst other major activities happening in their lives. Many of my clients were in law school, medical school, grad school, while others were getting new jobs, moving to a new city, buying a house, doing major home renovations. Basically, there were other major life changes happening while trying to plan a wedding. For example, John and I were finishing our previously unfinished attic and I was on a temporary work assignment that kept me away from home for 3 months while trying to apply to business school. Tiles, carpet and lighting were competing with DJ, flowers and honeymoon for the same pot of money. You just need to do what makes sense for you at this moment in time.

OK. I’ve got this money thing figured out. Now what? I’m a big advocate for setting up a separate bank account for wedding expenses. Later on, this account can be turned into your emergency fund, vacations savings or retirement account. I also have  some additional tips on setting up your budget here.

That was long. Next week, I will discuss some Keys to Success. Writing this series has also inspired others for future posts so email me if you have any topics you would like to cover vicky {at} eventaccomplished dot com – Vicky