I tied the knot with Mary Michael on September 29th, 2007. It was an awesome day. I figured I’d write up some notes about what I learned planning and participating in my wedding as well as participating in my sister’s wedding the previous year.
My sister’s wedding in May 2006 was the best wedding I had been to up to that point. It was an elegant mix of tradition and casual celebration. She had the traditional introductions, flower toss, first dances, etc. They broke the tradition with their table numbers, lack of served food, and non-standard music. Each table was named for a place or thing that meant something to them. One table was named after their first movie they shared. Others were named after vacations they took. On each table there was the name, pictures, and a little blurb describing the significance. It was a nice touch. They also spent time picking the music and working with their DJ. This was great, because it wasn’t the standard typical wedding DJ. The buffet style food also encouraged people to mill and talk between tables.
Mary and I took some different approaches, but also learned from our sister’s weddings. Key areas of success for us was the facility manager, DJ, officiant, and the photographer. Now let me prefix this writeup to say that we planned most of this in only the last two months prior to the wedding date. I do not recommend this at all. There are way too many super organized people out there. Therefore party vendors get booked up months in advance. This caused much stress in the last four to five weeks.
We choose a facility called Venus on the Half Shell in Dewey Beach, DE. We choose the location partly due to location and the facility, but a majority of the decision was due to Juli. The first time we met with her let us know how fun and easy going she was. This was all we needed.
To have a DJ or not was a hotly debated topic between Mary and I. She didn’t want one. She just wanted to hook up an iPod or have a friend play music. That was fine with me, but we also didn’t have any equipment to-do this with. So we’d have to rent that. Plus either us or someone else would have to worry about the music if something went wrong, etc. In the end we ended up hiring a DJ who is an RN with my mom at work. We hired him sound unheard. His name is Marvin Rouse. Again he was out of this world. We sent him Paul Simon Graceland and a variety of foreign music ahead of time. We asked he mix these in during the cocktail hour, then after that to do as the mood went. I have to say he was the best DJ I’ve ever heard. I’d hire him again for a wedding, party, etc. Don’t skimp on the DJ. You want someone how knows how to read a crowd and knows how to improvise.
George Parish, who is the Clerk of the Peace for Sussex County, DE was again awesome. For a minimal fee (under $30) he came to Venus and performed a light fun ceremony for us. After our wedding he performed three others, yet still came back to join the fun. If you are getting married in Southern, DE please check George out.
The last major success was our photographer, Jill Gately. We learned from my sister on this one. The traditional wedding photographer charges thousands of dollars to come out and take photos for just a few hours, then several weeks later you see proofs. Sometimes digital sometimes actual proofs. Typically this fee will come with some standard package of photos, but anything past this comes with expensive printing fees. Some of these photographers I’ve seen are not even good photographers. They get the standard pictures and they get even light; but they are boring. To find a photographer we posted to craigslist. Jill was one of four people to respond. Each sent a sample of their work. Jill’s work was clearly that of an artist rather then a standard wedding photographer. Mainly her work quality and her straight forward pricing and photo rights was why we choose Jill. This turned out to be a huge success. She is fun, easy to talk with, easy to work with, and GOOD at what she does. Jill does not want to be in the reprint business. She wants to work with cool people and take cool pictures. This will save you money in the long run. Jill only asks that you give credit were credit is due. So if you post the pictures to the web or to another public place she asks that you credit her. Thats more then fair to me. Update: Jill has just finished reworking her web site. You can view her work at www.jillgately.com. I’ll have my own albums posted on my gallery at some point. Hopefully by Thanksgiving.
One of three last key notes. Mary and I agreed early that we wanted a very short wedding and a long party. This is what we did. The other thing we didn’t want is for the party to be constantly interrupted. Most weddings are several 20 minute long parties followed by 15 to 20 minute interruptions for introductions, first dances, bouquet tosses, cake cutting, and garter belt throws. We didn’t have any of this, well almost. We tried to stage a cake cutting for some pictures for my grandmother. Unfortunately this was quickly noticed and we had to-do it for real. Turns out it wasn’t so bad. I would strongly recommend cutting back on the formal stuff and just letting the party be.
The second of the three final notes… We had the best wedding I’ve ever been to, but my sister had the best wedding weekend. The day after her wedding my parents had a big barbecue at their house. This completed the weekend with more time for traveling friends and relatives to catchup and meet with themselves as well as with the bride and groom. This would have been more difficult for us to-do, due to location, but thats the only thing I wish we would have done.
And the last note. Check out the super market. This we learned from Mary’s sister. We ended up going to the local Giant Super Market for flowers and a cake. Both the baker and florist were awesome to work with. Both items were designed as asked, on time, high quality, and very cost effective. Many people commented on both the flowers and the great cake.
We had the most awesome wedding. Most by chance. We didn’t spend much time looking into any of the above folks. We just went by our gut feelings and we didn’t analyze things much. This worked out well in our favor, but hopefully the above thoughts and experience will guide you well. Remember to have fun and to eat.