Is it possible to have wedding success without stress? Not likely. After all, good things come to those who … work hard. But that doesn’t mean stress should spoil all of the excitement. Plenty of people are on standby to help. And when Grandma, your sixth bridesmaid and everyone in between is offering more two cents than recompense, put your money on the advice of these wise professionals.
Choosing a reception setting brings with it a torrent of questions: How many guests? DJ or live band? What is my color scheme? Where will my college professor and his wife sit for dinner?
Take it easy. First, sit down with your future spouse (maybe to a candlelit picnic in the living room) and envision the entire day together. Next, calculate a realistic budget for that vision. After that, Domenick Savino advises not to compromise on what’s important—even if you’re not footing the whole bill.
“Input is merited when asked for,” says Savino, the CEO of Drexelbrook Catering and Corporate Events Center. “Couples today have far more access to information than they did 10 years ago, with the advent of websites and countless TV shows. They are informed, knowledgeable and really do not require much input from others as they seek a wedding that reflects their own style and taste.”
But what if you’re the type of bride who wants to bring everyone together in preparation of the celebration, or who can’t help but feel obligated to financially generous parents? Sometimes the result is a bride who’s so eager to please she ends up feeling like a guest herself. That’s where Savino and other wedding planners might—figuratively speaking—jump up and down and wave their arms in the air to get your attention.
“Presenting the pros and cons helps to create a clear direction,” he says. “Many times, it ends in a compromise.”
What’s it take to have the “perfect” planning process? In Savino’s experience, the best couples are like fine wine—in that they’re above the average national marrying age of 27 for men and 25 for women. “They’re well informed, have participated in other weddings and are confident in their style, tastes and decisions,” he says. “I’ve said to myself many times, ‘I wish I was a guest at this wedding.’”
There are never enough wine tastings throughout the planning process. Fortunately, choosing the menu is rarely unpleasant when everyone’s sipping libations and pleasing their palates with fine cuisine. Unfortunately, not all palates are created equal.
“Appeal to the masses, not the classes,” says J Scott Catering president Scott Walsh. “I don’t try to side with anybody; I just try to lend my professional advice. And that—95 percent of the time—solves the problem. I remind them that it’s a joyous occasion.”
The first point of contention: sit-down dinner or food stations? “Often, a bride and groom are leaning toward a food station because they want it to be a little more eclectic,” says Walsh.
For the record, J Scott-catered receptions—often held at Phoenixville Foundry, Radnor Hunt and Appleford—feature food stations only 20 percent of the time.
With the rise in health consciousness and a subsequent fear of red meat, couples might wonder what the “masses” prefer. Should they forego tenderloin and filet? “I see red meat on 90 percent of our menus. It goes back to the parents usually being traditional,” says Walsh, who graduated first in his culinary class from Paul Smith’s College in New York.
But it can be done. Simply replace red meat with chicken and fish. Couples who are leaning toward a vegetarian-only selection should not take that decision lightly, either. “I try to nicely steer them away from that, because I know it’s going to be a disaster the day of,” says Walsh. “But if somebody says, ‘That’s my vision,’ I support them.”
When the food choices boil down to financial support, Walsh suggests that couples share their opinions, respectfully, and state how appreciative they are for their parents’ help and that they’d like to see their dream come true. “I find that sometimes the parents compromise a bit,” he says.
But he also finds that bridesmaids and bridal magazines are the most influential on brides-to-be, while he estimates grooms are only 20 percent active in the menu decisions. He wants more grooms to appreciate that it’s their event, too. “Share your opinions,” he says. “Stop saying, ‘Whatever you want.’”
When the big day rolls around, though, Walsh is all about taking it easy. He recalls his favorite bride and groom, who married on Dec. 19, 2009. “It was the worst day for a wedding. It was the first snowstorm we had. They knew it was out of their control, and they just went with the flow,” he says. “It made us work even harder for them. They trusted us, and we did our thing.”
Sure, it’s your party. But only cry if you’re really, really happy. One of the primary ways to assure that? Terrific music. Whether your style is a live band or a disc jockey, success is found in diversity—and lots of preparation.
“We try to be very meticulous with the planning. It’s important to speak with, meet with and plan with a specific DJ prior to the event,” says Scott J. Goldoor, president of the East Norriton-based Signature DJs and one of its 11 performers. “When couples micromanage, they bring the stress on themselves.”
Signature DJs plays 250-350 weddings per year, both in and out of state, at places like Historic Waynesborough, the Radnor and Desmond hotels, and the new Applecross Country Club in Downingtown. Goldoor sees couples stress about which songs to choose for the cake cutting and the formal dances. His advice: Understand that each of those songs lasts just a few minutes in an hours-long celebration. Plus, DJs can list a variety of good options.
Some of the most important questions to consider are: Does the DJ dress appropriately? Are they familiar with the site? How many weddings do they do a year?
When picking songs to be played around reception rituals, Goldoor has a useful system for couples to follow. “We play about 15-20 songs an hour, and we play eight to 10 fast songs to two slow,” he says. “If the crowd is responding and reacting to a certain genre, we’re just going to play fast music for an hour.”
Show us a flower that isn’t beautiful. That’s just the problem for brides-to-be. How do they pick their arrangements from a world’s worth of options?
“Season, venue and dress are the three most important things,” says floral designer Michele Fabik of Accents by Michele in Newtown Square. “You need to pick somebody close to the venue who has capabilities, has a good reputation and can cater to both [large and small weddings].”
The bride’s and bridesmaids’ attire is equally important. “The dresses are your canvas, and you want to coordinate your flowers with that background. You don’t want to do burgundy-colored dresses in the spring or dark-green dresses in June. It’s really hard to coordinate with the flowers,” Fabik says. “The bride’s dress sets the tone for the entire event. If she has a really busy dress, I like to keep her flowers simpler.”
Fabik also suggests minimizing the number of people who accompany the bride to the flower shop. “Just bring yourself, a mom, and one sister or bridesmaid,” she says. “Less opinions is better.”
Flowers typically cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for Fabik’s bridal clients. That includes ceremony décor and 20 centerpieces. The number of bridesmaids is another key consideration.
If ever a bride seems overwhelmed with options and opinions, Fabik zeroes in. “I just try to steer the conversation,” she says. “By the second time I talk to her and she says, ‘OK, I’ll do whatever you want,’ that’s the perfect bride. I know she feels confident in her choice [of floral designer].”
• Accents by Michele: 4003 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square; (610) 356-5683, accentsbymichele.com
• Drexelbrook Catering and Corporate Events Center: 4700 Drexelbrook Drive, Drexel Hill; (610) 259-7000, drexelbrookcatering.com
• J Scott Catering: 189 Pennsylvania Ave., Malvern; (610) 725-9420, jscottcatering.com
• Signature DJs: 126 Barley Sheaf Drive, East Norriton; (610) 825-6161, signaturedjs.com