Weddings have become big productions these day and one of the most important elements of my work is the actual orchestration of the wedding itself. Just because you have planned something doesn't mean it is going to happen. My team and I are there to carefully manage the flow, transitions and every detail from start to finish.
Through this work, we have developed ways to really enhance a wedding, and concepts to avoid the potential pitfalls. As you prepare for your own wedding, use these insider tips to enhance your day. Some of these tips require asking vendors to take additional steps, but remember, this is your wedding. You need to set the highest expectations for everyone involved!
- Ceremony Music: Ceremony music is as much about group cohesiveness as it is musical pedigree. Musicians that have not played together tend to struggle with starting and stopping songs simultaneously. Quite often, the "head" musician tries to play, track the procession and direct the group at the same time. This results in sloppy ceremony music. You need to have a separate person dedicated to tracking your wedding procession and cueing the head musician. And ideally this person is communicating by walkie or cellphone with another person who is sending the bridal party down the aisle.
- Cocktail Reception: Make sure your caterer has the wait staff ready with trays of drinks as guests enter! Initially, canapés can wait. When guests arrive at cocktails, they'll want a drink! For the first five to 10 minutes, waiters should focus on getting drinks into everyone's hands. If not, the bar will get overcrowded and your guests' first experience will be bad service and frustration. Once drinks are in hand, waiters can start passing canapes. Stress to your catering manager the need to actively manage this process and constantly monitor cocktails to ensure canapés are distributed evenly and no bar lines form. Should a bar line form, immediately throw a waiter behind the bar.
- Décor: Décor is everything you see at a wedding: the way tables are laid out, the presentation of a food station, how glasses are set up at the bar, wait staff attire, even the ugly carpet with swirls. When discussing décor with your designer, discuss the overall environment including how to hide, remove or mask unsightly elements. Lowering house lights and relying more on candles or pin spots is an effective way to hide a venue's less attractive features.
- Dinner Service: Discuss the order of table service with your caterer ahead of time. Think of your guests first -- if you have grandparents or elderly guests, serve them first! Oftentimes, our couples serve the head table last to allow time for socializing and greeting guests. Also, younger friends tend to be more forgiving and can be served last.
- Keep Things Moving Part 1: Weddings often lose steam toward the end of a food course. Some guests are just starting to eat while others are finishing. Waiting for things with nothing happening leads to a drop in energy. Up to this point, you have guests captivated, but now guests are glancing at their watches. To keep things moving, start toasts (one to two max) once all guests have been served. This will fill the "in-between" time and inject momentum. Just make sure your photo and videographer are not in the bathroom before you start!
- Keep Things Moving, Part 2: If your wedding calls for dancing before serving a course, instruct your waiters to start serving the food course five minutes before the dance set ends. This gives waiters a jump start so that by the time guests are seated, all guests will be eating at the same time. The key, however, is for tight communication between the kitchen and band. And never serve a course before guests enter a room! Guests should see their food come out so they know it is fresh out of the kitchen.
- Toasts and Dances: Toasts, dances and other "traditions" are special moments at a wedding, but guests have only a limited attention span. Use your toasts to keep things moving during the wedding (at the end of a course) and give speakers three to five minutes maximum. A couple's first dance starts the dancing off, but I like to schedule parent dances to start off a dance set later in the evening.
- Announcements and Music: For some reason, bandleaders and DJs can't stop talking at weddings. And they like directing people -- "Stand up, sit down, put your hands together, get on the dance floor"! I am a believer that less is more. Set ground rules for your DJ/bandleader! Discuss and even script how you want to be introduced for your first dance and what level of "talking" you are comfortable with. A nice alternative is to ask a friend or family member to make an introduction during the night.
- Lighting: Lighting is key to the overall mood. Most weddings tend to be too bright. Even if you don't have a lighting person, you always have lights on dimmers and candlelight. If you can't get the house lights down, think turning them off and supplementing with more candlelight. I like to gradually reduce the lighting level throughout a wedding. By the end of the night, the darker room feels more appropriate for the heavier dancing.
- Getting Ready: It is essential to create a hair and makeup schedule for you and the bridal party that has realistic start and end times. Treat this time like a salon by asking everyone to arrive early and make sure your stylists stay on schedule. A lot goes on before you walk down the aisle. When things run late and get unorganized, you may be on your way to an extra stressful day.