Questionable trends: The over-the-top bachelorette weekend

Trends that should maybe stop being trends, or at least need to be more thought-out than many realize – Part one in a (possible) series:

Trend #1 The “let’s all spend a fortune to rent a house for the weekend” bachelorette party trend.

I get the whole bachelorette party thing, I really do; why should a let-loose night of fun with friends be the domain of the boys? I’m not sure, however, when this whole thing morphed into a multi-day extravaganza that’s a potentially huge expense for the bridal party.

If you are in a wedding, and you won’t listen to your mother, maybe you’ll consider these considerations from me:

1. Are you SURE you want to spend an entire weekend together? Would one afternoon, an overnight and a great brunch maybe serve the purpose? If everyone’s all hung over after the first night, you really might spend the next 24 hours waiting for it to be over. Takeaway message: think it through.

2. Who exactly is doing the planning? One person? A bunch of you? Is the bride involved, or is it largely a surprise for her? Make sure there’s a point person who knows the bride’s wishes, and is a GOOD COMMUNICATOR in addition to being organized. You can’t pull this off in an ongoing group text (or cluster-you-know-what).

3. If you decide to forge ahead with your well organized point person who is a good communicator, get FIRM COMMITMENTS from everyone you hope will come. Firm commitment means GET MONEY from them. It’s really easy to say “I’m in” over a group text, and it’s equally easy to bail when you haven’t put money down (“I just realized I have to go to my cousin’s shower that day”).

4. Be creative and tap all your resources. You can’t know what resources people have to offer if you don’t TALK with each other! Does someone have a relative with a rental property or time share? Would your aunt at the beach consider moving out and giving you the house for the weekend? Would it be just as fun to stay in the bride’s cousin’s New York apartment but spend on a limo for the weekend?

5. Remember “in season” is WAY more expensive than off season for rentals. A house in The Hamptons will be untouchable in July, but in April you have a pretty good shot at affordability.

6. If you go for the weekend in __________ (fill in the blank Nashville/Vegas/AC/New Orleans), keep an eye on your bride, please. I spent the better part of a night in Nashville worrying about a trashed bride-to-be whose friends were nowhere in sight. Have a plan, people! There are predators out there just waiting for groups of gals like you.

7. Once you have the date and the place, plan out every detail. Who will make the itinerary? Lock down all reservations, know what things will cost, and decide who is paying for what. Planning a bachelorette weekend requires serious event planning, or there may be misunderstandings, disappointments, and unforeseen expenses.

Good luck and have fun, but remember, for the bridesmaids this is just one of many expenses required when one agrees to be in a wedding party. If the dress is a fortune, the wedding requires a hotel, and you are expected to pitch in on the shower, there is no rule that says the bachelorette party has to be scaled to reality TV proportions.

Here are a couple of additional resources:

http://www.bustle.com/articles/23348-11-things-you-should-never-do-at-a-bachelorette-party

http://wedding.theknot.com/bridesmaids-mother-of-the-bride/bachelorette-party-ideas/articles/bachelorette-parties-planning-checklist.aspx?MsdVisit=1

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Discounted Wedding Gowns: Could 2014 be the year of sensible thrift?

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Last month, an episode of Shark Tank featured entrepreneur Jackie Courtney, asking for a stake in her used wedding gown business (www.nearlynewlywed.com). The male sharks, not surprisingly, didn’t really believe in the market. I do. Now I’m wondering, are today’s brides open to purchasing a barely used designer gown, curated of course, for oftentimes half the price as new?

I have to believe that there are thrift-minded brides out there who approach the wedding planning project with a sense of challenge—how much can I save, so we can (a) have a better honeymoon (b) put a down payment on a house or (c) just because so much wedding spending is flat-out wasteful.

Newly engaged ladies, consider this. By the time your first issue of Brides arrives in the mail, it will begin to seep into your consciousness just how much the dream dress costs.

Here are some tips before you commit to a budget-wrecker of a dress:

• You will wear it ONCE, and then spend another small fortune “preserving” it. As my friend Jess said, “there’s not even a window in my dress box. How funny if it winds up not even being mine?”

• The odds of your daughter wearing your dress are slim to none. Styles change and bodies are different. Rarely happens. I know of just a few brides who have done this, and only one with success.

• However beautiful your dream dress may be, be patient….. there are others out there, just as gorgeous, for less money!

• At least look into a company like http://www.nearlynewlywed.com. Imagine that $7,000 dress for less than $3,000. Who the heck would know?

• Consider selling it back. The pictures will capture to perfection the vision of you in your dream dress.

• If you want to really embrace the Thrifty Bride idea, tell your family, bridesmaids and friends about http://www.renttherunway.com. Gorgeous designer frocks for rent. The best looking dress at my daughter’s wedding (other than my own daughters, that is) was worn by Cousin Val— a rented, and highly chic, black lace dress that drew the notice of every discerning eye at the wedding.

Have fun planning, but keep yourself from falling off the crazy-spending ledge!

Worth it or waste? Top “totally worth it” picks and 3 things you can do without

Make no mistake about it, weddings are BIG business. Pinterest and The Knot have shown us just how “magical” your big day can be, but all those details can really add up. Every bride (and bridemomma) that I’ve talked with has had ideas to share about which wedding elements were totally worth it, and which were something of a waste.

SO worth it:

1. Music! Everyone seems to agree that it’s worth it to get the best music you can afford. If you can’t afford the best dance band around, then hire the best DJ. Many of the wedding details will wind up being forgettable, but everyone will remember the great time they had on the dance floor.

2. A “day of” wedding coordinator or planner. Everyone I know who hired help for the day itself puts this in the “totally worth it” category. And those of us who didn’t, regret it! No matter how organized you are, MOB, you can’t and shouldn’t be in charge on the wedding day– enjoy it instead.

3. A great photographer is worth the money, but ONLY if he or she is open to your being a vocal partner when it comes to the shot list. Memories fade, but the pictures last forever.

A bit of a waste:

1. Save-the-dates — send it digitally or skip it all together! Those closest to you will know the date just as soon as it’s set, and the others, well, let’s just say you don’t want EVERYONE to save the date. You really don’t need to spend on this.

2. Ice sculptures and fancy cakes — yes, they can be stunning, but for what they cost, no one will miss them if they are not there. Put the money into music!

3. Favors — Those cute little theme-driven favors can cost you a bundle, and many will just be left behind. Why not make a donation to a favorite charity instead? Everyone wins– the charity and your pocketbook, because even with a generous donation, you will likely spend less.

Wedding Day Emergency Kit

The wedding day emergency kit— there are more than a few lists for brides out there (Philadelphia Wedding had the best one I found), but this one is more specific to you, the Mother of the Bride.

While the bride may have her own idea of what an “emergency kit” looks like (usually just more makeup!), it’s your job as her mother to “have her back.” And not only will you be the go-to source for your own daughter, you will be the one that every young woman at the wedding runs to when there’s an emergency!

So, here’s my list of must haves for every MOB’s Wedding Day Emergency Kit:

Tampons (not necessarily for you, but believe me, at least two frantic girls will ask you for these)
Spot remover (Tide stick)
Emery board (the girls call them “nail filers”)
Safety pins and/or mini sewing kit
Two-sided (tailor’s) tape or toupee tape
Extra reading glasses
Mints
Your own mini-makeup bag for touch-ups
Static guard (cool weather weddings)
Imodium (the big day has triggered many an IBS episode)
Tums or Pepcid AC

Stash these items, and anything else that you or your girl may need, in a small tote in the bridal suite. Whatever your venue, your coordinator or catering manager will find a place for you to keep necessities.

Prepare for everything, and hopefully you’ll need nothing!

30th anniversary musings: Thinking back to the good, the bad and the ugly of my 1983 wedding

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I was married 30 years ago today , so before we start celebrating this milestone, I thought I would blog about my own wedding– what was good about it (and probably still makes sense today), and what was bad– or even downright ugly about it.

What was GOOD, even great, about my 1983 wedding:

1. My dress was $600, and I loved it! Love still how it looks in pictures. Unfortunately it just hung around, uncleaned in a closet until one day I just put it out with junk. My daughters have not cried over this. My veil was simple, and I was thrilled to lend it to a friend a year later. I don’t even remember where I got our flowers, but they were just fine.

2. We had 90 people at our wedding, which we primarily funded ourselves. I have no memory of agonizing over guest lists, and invitation choices were white or cream. Hand calligraphy though. I received gifts from people who were not able to come, which seems to be a point of etiquette that has gone out of fashion (though it shouldn’t).

3. The after-party (which I believe involved a keg and cups) was awesome! That’s all I can tell you. I do remember that a bunch of friends who were not able to come to the wedding had a great time at the after-party.

4. I really loved my shoes. Women just plain love shoes. I do wish I’d kept those, but I have no idea what I did with them. I bought them at Saks in the city, and had my wallet pick-pocketed the same day.

5. Opening our gifts and envelopes on our wedding night was a blast! We culled all cash to bring with us to St. Croix. We sent out thank-you’s in a timely fashion.

What was bad– even ugly– about our wedding:

1. Well, it was HOT and HUMID, much like it is right now in the East. I only put this on the “bad” list because, even though it didn’t bother us, apparently it bothered everyone else because I hear about it every anniversary on facebook — “Happy anniversary! Wow, that was a hot one!” Our venue was not air conditioned and we figured on a breezy, humidity-free September day. Don’t count on the weather! It did, however, make our event super-memorable. For years we talked about one of my aunts bringing drinks out to my uncle, who would not leave his air-conditioned car.

2. Bridesmaids’ outfits were hideous. I’m so sorry. It was the style (think Seven Brides for Seven Brothers). Again, I’m very, very sorry. Don’t make your bridesmaids spend a fortune, because 30 years later they will look at your pictures and think “hideous.”

3. The ice situation (see #1 above).

4. My wedding china. I did not give a hoot about china, so I let my mother bully me into choosing a pattern I have actually grown to loathe. Did I just admit that? Did I ever even NEED china? Is this an outdated concept? MOBs- don’t force your girls to register for china they don’t want.

All in all, it was a great memory that has given us all kinds of reminiscing pleasure these past 30 years. For all you brides and MOBs out there, RELAX; soon it will all be a wonderful memory. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

How hard is it to drop a reply card into the mail? Top frustration of MOBs and brides!

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Yesterday I checked in with my friend Jamie, whose daughter is getting married in September. I asked her, “what is stressing you out the most RIGHT NOW?” This was one part shameless mining for blog material, and two parts that I really care because I know what she’s going through right about now.

Jamie’s response: “My biggest wedding worry right now, which is totally stressing me out, is people not responding to the invitation!” She went on to say that the responses were due a week ago, and they still haven’t heard from 20 people. We experienced the exact same thing, down to the numbers. So what to do?

First, when selecting your “respond by” dates, allow three weeks before the final count is due to your caterer. We allowed two, and it wasn’t enough. weddingwire.comsays three, and I would go with that. You want to minimize stress, not court it.

When the RSVP date comes and goes, get on the phone with the nonresponders right away— within a few days of your deadline date. Split up the task between bride, groom, moms, and even maid of honor, if she’s a pitch-in-and-help type. If someone says they’re not sure yet (yes, this will happen, believe it or not), politely tell them that it’s time for a final count, and the RSVP date has passed, so perhaps you can get together after the wedding to catch up. Use the old “it sounds like you have a lot going on right now, but our numbers are due now.”

Be ready too to deal with those who are not up on their wedding guest manners (because, oh, they live under a rock or something); these are the ones who ask if they can bring a child/new boyfriend/random date (whom you did NOT include on the invite).

Polite and firm. You’ll get the hang of it!

One year later: Top 5 memorable moments and just one regret

A year ago this weekend, my daughter was married, and as she and her husband celebrate this milestone, I am reflecting on my TOP FIVE memories from that special day:

1. Getting ready together in our suites…pure fun. We had three suites for the bridesmaids (and a hairdresser), my two daughters (and a hairdresser) and me (yep, hairdresser too). Add a friend doing makeup for all and a light brunch spread that included plenty of mimosas, and you have one good time for the gals.

2. Seeing my father-in-law’s first look at my daughter as a bride; this might be my favorite photo of all.
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3. Turning in my seat during strains of Pachelbel’s Canon to see my handsome husband and beautiful daughter framed in the chapel doorway. I remember my breath catching and my heartbeat in my throat.
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4. Watching my daughter’s face as her younger sister delivered a perfect toast with the most amazing combination of humor and heart. When she rehearsed it for me, I was delighted; when she stood in front of 150 people and spoke, I was filled with love for both of them, and for my new son-in-law.
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5. Finally relaxing with drinks at the after-party, dishing with my daughter’s friends, catching up with family, and watching my girls have the time of their lives.

The regret? Just one, which I’ve mentioned in previous posts– I wish we had the photographer take posed photos with aunts, uncles and cousins. Table photos would’ve been great too. We deferred to his “expertise” and shouldn’t have.

Happy Anniversary, Megan & Matt! Here’s to a lifetime of memories.