Label your wedding gift!!!!!

Today I want to talk about labeling your wedding presents.  Actually, you should label your gift or present for any event for that matter. 

If you are giving a check as a gift (much appreciated at Israeli affairs), you don't need to label your check or the envelope that holds it – the check already has your name on it.  It would be nice if you could scribble a few words on the envelope, but I won't push it.  If you are giving the 'gift of cash', you do want to make sure your envelope well labeled! 
Just by the way, through the years we have saved the good wishes and obviously-invested- time-and-thought messages from many a simcha, so the effort and heart-felt words are appreciated!
Rule of thumb: Whenever a large group gathers and a gift or present is left for the host or honoree (ba'al ha'simcha) – your name should be attached to the gift.  Why? Let's be honest, you want to get credit for having given the gift in the first place.  You went to the trouble of planning, searching, finding, buying and then schlepping the gift to the hall, you want the credit for your hard work.

What happened at my son's wedding?  Gifts were brought to the hall and left for the happy couple, but the card, envelope or scrap of paper with the anonymous benefactor's name was nowhere to be found.   OK, we were eventually able to identify the gift givers at a later date, but why make the young couple work hard?  Why make their parents work hard?
There is a simple solution: After the store wraps the present in the obligatory cellophane wrap and raffia tie, with or without the potpourri filling every bowl, nook and cranny (don’t ask me why) – ask for a large plastic store bag.  Place the present, bubble wrap (if necessary) and a card inside the bag.  You can attach a personal card to the gift exchange card that is (usually) attached to the gift.  Then – pay close attention – staple the large plastic store bag closed and (ready?) staple yet another card to the outside of the bag.  On this card or envelope state whether the present is fragile or breakable (or should be watered or walked regularly) and also write your name.  No scotch tape.  No self-attaching backing.  No glue with sequins.  No hot glue.  Use a stapler and staples (everyone has one from their last job – you can’t lie to me)!
Now secured with a double cordon of name tags, your present can be easily identified and (perhaps) will arrive safe, sound and whole at the young couple's home.

Now go and enjoy the wedding.  You earned it!

Let's talk about Cancer

Everyone needs to listen to this and pass this on!  This is the true meaning of beauty!

Dear 16 year old me!  

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"A tale of one bride and two bouquets or How could 20 flowers and some ribbon weigh two hundred pounds? "

If I said it once, I said it a thousand times and no doubt will be repeating this for the next fifty years. NO BRIDE NEEDS A BRIDAL BOUQUET. This little 'tradition' no doubt was started by florists looking for yet another way to milk brides of more money.

Flowers are lovely in fields and on shabbas tables (unless you have cats, small children or clumsy husbands, but that's another story). Let me explain. That lovely bunch of flowers, tried with ribbon, weighs only a few hundred grams, tops. They look lovely as they leave the florist. They are then handed to the smiling bride. She is thrilled. They are the 'perfect' addition to her gown. They will look fantastic in the wedding pictures. They will add the finishing touches to her outfit. This will be the perfect Kodak moment.

Then, magically, the bouquet begins to grow heavy. They begin to bloat like they're suffering from PMS. And our bride has better things to do then schlep them around with her or even hold them while she is greeting her guests. On one hand, she 'cannot' set them down anywhere because they'll 'get ruined' and on the other hand, she somehow continues to believe that they add to her 'bridal look'.

And so the bridal bouquet 'hot potato' game begins. At first the mother of the bride holds this little ball of joy. The flowers are then passed around to the bride's entourage in order of importance (beginning with best-best friends and from there on to good friends and then on to well-meaning friends the bride hasn't seen since high school). From there they bounce (sometimes literally) to aunts, cousins and even grandmothers/great-grandmothers; who may hold them the longest, if they are not moving around too much (if you know what I mean). Amazingly this bouquet, that at the beginning of the day was held as if it were a day-old baby, held delicately and lovingly, can now be passed around like an old volley ball.

Once the hot potato game is over (in the recorded history of brides and bridal bouquets, no one individual has ever been known to hold these lovelies throughout an the entire reception – including the badekin), bouquets traditionally find their way from behind the bride's back in the bridal chair to somewhere around her feet.

Now, just to make my point a little clearer: Once the badekin is over, the bride is then escorted down to the chuppah by her parents or the mothers, usually SANS the flowers, as (you guessed it) they were forgotten on the bridal chair.

Once the chuppah is over and the happy couple is off to the yichud room, the bouquet finds its way to heaven along with single socks, library books and every pen you have ever bought. No one remembers the bouquet or cares.

If you still insist on spending this money. Call your favorite florist; get a quote for a bridal bouquet (code for spending too much money for some twenty flowers) and then donate that sum to tzedakah. Or order a floral display for a hospital ward or old age home.

Now ask me: "one bride and two bouquets"? My daughter's wedding was held in the south (home of my son-in-law), but the wedding gown was rented in a salon in Netanya. On the day of the wedding, she dressed at the salon in 'north', while her father and I were already in the south (near the hall) preparing for the ceremony. My only-daughter calls us in the early afternoon of the wedding distraught, she is on her way to the salon and (gasp!) does not have a bouquet. The all consuming importance of ordering a bunch these allergy-ridden weeds was forgotten by all. The frantic call came at around two in the afternoon and her father and I found ourselves frantically running around Ashkelon looking for a flower shop that is a) open and b) willing to sell us a no-doubt overpriced bridal bouquet of anything that even vaguely resembles flowers.

We found a shop willing to help us part with several hundred shekels for my daughter's happiness. They were willing to create a bouquet on the spot (you usually need to order these pollen-holders days in advance, go figure).

Successful in our mission, we brought this ball of the bees' best friends to the hall and what do we find out? The salon provided our daughter (unbeknownst to her) with a bridal bouquet as part of their package deal. And so now, my dear daughter was the proud owner of, not one, but two bouquets. Let me tell you, it's a good thing she has a lot of friends, it's not easy to have two bouquets passed around for the two-hour reception!

And as a fitting and final tribute to this bridal vegetation tale: the bouquet we bought was a ball of white and purple flowers. In the wedding pictures, the bouquet looked like a very feminine basket ball. In fact, the first time we saw the shots, we really thought that she was holding a ball and could not figure out where she got it and why was she holding it.

So just repeat after me: "I will not buy a bridal bouquet. I do not need a bridal bouquet. I will not buy a bridal bouquet. I do not need..."

The Perfect Tichel Hair Cut

Ever ask yourself what is the perfect hair cut to comfortably wear a tichel or hat?

Simple! A modified Pageboy style, ending at the nape of the neck with either a blunt cut across from ear-to-ear (no hair showing from beneath a tichel or a hat) or showing at the nape of the neck with a row or two of hair, in a medium to long length (to be shown beneath a tichel or a hat).

This style can also be further modified for thick hair, by thinning out the hair (usually in the back of the head) from the crown to the nape and then leaving a row (a few narrow rows) of hair at the nape to show out (if you wish).

Now ask why? The Pageboy hair cut is a simple cut (with many variations*) straight across from ear-to-ear. I modify this to be tapered downwards at the back of the head (from crown to nape) to conform to the head – making it more comfortable to wear under a tichel or hat.

• I keep the hair length to under the ear lobe, so that the hair can be tucked behind the ear.

• This style can be worn with or without bangs, depending on your preference; your forehead and how you wish to wear your tichel or hat.

• Thick hair can be thinned so that the hair lies more comfortably on the head.

• To give some height on the top of your head when wearing a wider, wrap/tie-around 'Israeli' tichel, you can gather your hair into a high/medium high ponytail with a cloth scrunchy (or California) and then wrap your tichel and tie it around your head as you wish.

The final few rows of hair at the nape can be cut short to conform to the style or left at a longer length to show out of the tichel or hat.

You now also add more interest by coloring your hair - either the whole head (which is a no brainer) or just the bottom rows with a splash of color – usually a contrasting shade or highlights.

* The pageboy cut has a million variations: straight cut from ear to ear – above or below the ear; short at nape and getting progressively longer as it reaches the chin; or getting progressively longer from the chin as it reaches the nape; with or without bangs, straight, curly and on and on. Also the cut can be tapered down the back of the head (longer on top) from crown to nape or tapered up in the back of the head (longer on bottom) from nape to crown.

Are you really too busy for your own wedding? Part IIIb – Selecting Vendors – The Band

This is the fourth in a series of articles on planning your own wedding and preventing yourself from falling into the trap of thinking you don’t have the time to do so.

In Part I, I talked about the Venue and in Part II, the Budget; in the first installment of Part III I discussed selecting the photographer. Now I would like to tackle the Band.

Now in this article I will not discuss DJs as I do not understand them and have never worked with any. I believe that a wedding should have a band. The number of band members and types of instruments played depends on the number of wedding participants, wedding style and so on.

The band, that is the music the band creates, is the very backbone of the wedding. After the photographer, they are the most important vender you will deal with. How you handle them, what information you offer them and how much 'artistic freedom' you give them, will determine how 'frelech' - lively – your wedding will be.

Bands that really are not from hell and other stories

Let me start with a story – my daughter got married three years ago. Since high school she knew that she would use a specific band. The members of this band had been the subject of one of her films she made in media class (she majored in media in high school). At that time, they were a young, struggling band just starting out and after seeing the finished film they promised to play at her wedding. By the time she actually needed them for her wedding they were an established band and a "reasonably expensive" band, at that. Remembering their promise, they gave her a 'good price' and they were hired.

Everything was set for my daughter's wedding and then my daughter's almost-mother-in-law (let's call her "O") had an opportunity to hear this band at a wedding she attended about two months prior to our children's planned wedding. "O" hated them and became nearly hysterical when she realized that this band, this 'horrible' band, was set to play at our children's wedding. We all tried to reassure her that the band was wonderful, but she had witnessed the band herself and she was not happy (to say the least!).

Needless to say, we did not cancel the band (we had heard them at other weddings). They played at my daughter's wedding and they were WONDERFUL and "O" loved them!

What happened? We asked the band. They told us that at the wedding in question, they were told to play specific music and songs. They did not have freedom to play more lively music or play according to the mood (or help improve the mood) of the wedding party. When I say "help improve the mood", I mean pick up the beat or get the 'audience' up and dancing when they are not as lively as they 'should be'.

At my daughter's wedding they had freedom to play as they wished. Of course, prior to the wedding, the couple talked to the band and reviewed the 'rules of thumb' of when to play soft music, when to play lively music and everything in between, but nothing more. The band understood the personality of the wedding party and seamlessly answered the needs. Obviously "O" loved them and we all lived happily ever after.

Be nice to your band

Bands are as individual as weddings. Most bands are capable of playing a wide range of songs, in a wide range of languages and styles.

There are quite a number of bands, catering to the religious crowd, that will not play at a wedding that does not have a me'chetza (physical separation between women and men dancing) throughout the wedding.

Once again, determine what is your wedding style and level of religiosity.

As always, ask your friends who have recently married to recommend bands. You can check out the individual music videos found on many band web sites; but seeing the band perform LIVE is believing.

Give the band a list of songs that you are interested in hearing for the reception, bedaken, procession to the chuppah and then for the first dance after the yichud room. If you have special requests of songs in French, Russian, Arabic, etc., make sure your band is capable of delivering what you want. Every band (or nearly every band) will say they can sing in 50 languages and 500 styles – make sure this is true. But allow the band the room and 'artistic freedom' to play according to the audience. Your band should be flexible, happy and really "into" the wedding.

More stories – more lessons

Another story: I recently witnessed a wedding where the band – actually individual band members – nearly missed the bedaken and then in order to get closer to the kallah and chatan during this ceremony, actually pushed people out of the way. They should have been waiting next to the kallah or accompanying the chatan, as soon as the chatan finished with the Rabbi and/or as soon as the chatan began walking towards the kallah. This is not brain surgery. Professionals (bands, photographers, etc) should know how a wedding proceeds and to anticipate the time table involved.

Having said this; make sure your band is aware of your basic scheduling and make sure you tell them what and where you expect them to be at the most important junctures of the wedding.

One more story: I attended a wedding where the band did not play at all from the end of the chuppah/accompanying the couple to the yichud room and until the kallah and chatan came out of the yichud room, which was exactly one hour on the clock. The only sound heard in the hall was the sound of happy people happily eating. There is no excuse for this silence. The band should have played throughout. At the very least there should have been recorded music played at this time.

Throughout the entire four to five hours of a wedding, there should never be 'musical silence'. Firstly because a wedding must have music (unless you ascribe to the custom of playing no music at the chuppah itself, which is another story), secondly because you are paying for their musical entertainment throughout the event and thirdly, well there must be a thirdly, but the first two are really good enough.

What to expect/what to discuss with your perspective bands

Planning from beginning to end:

• The band should arrive about an hour-hour and a half prior to the reception time to set up sound and the like.  Keep this in mind when you do your over-all wedding schedule.

• The band should know the basic route of the kallah and chatan from the bedeken and through to the end of yichud.

• Make sure you know how many hours of playing are included in their basic fee.

• Make sure you provide the band with a list of preferred songs for the important moments.

• Make sure the band knows that there must be music throughout the event – I never thought I would have to write this – but there is always a first time for everything and you do not want your wedding to be the 'second time'.

• Find out what is their over-time fee, should you need it.

• Tell them about special events you would like to celebrate along with your celebration. I know this is a wedding, but grandma's 80th birthday should be mentioned.

• Tell them about any planned flash dancing or skits and the like and provide them – in advance – with music files (.wav and the like) should you wish to use them as 'backup' music.

I strongly believe that your band is only as good as you allow them to be. So find a band that 'makes you sing', make sure you cross every T and dot every I and then put on your dancing shoes and enjoy the ride.

Are you really too busy for your own wedding? Part III – Selecting Vendors – The Photographer

This is the third in a series of articles on planning your own wedding and preventing yourself from falling into the trap of thinking you don’t have the time to do so.

In Part I I talked about the Venue and in Part II, the Budget; now I would like to discuss how to intelligently select your vendors. In this case specifically the photographer.

The photographer and the Band

I believe that the two most important wedding-related vendors are the photographer and the band; and in that order! You may shoot me, but all brides are beautiful and all gowns are white (let's not quibble over shades of white, off-white, eggshell, baby white, ecru and –white-white, this is a actual color). The gown will be forgotten in a week (unless some catastrophe occurred to the gown during the ceremony or the dinner); the food will become legend if it was too terrible for words or too good to forget, otherwise it will be forgotten by breakfast the next day.

In this article I will discuss the ins and outs of dealing with the photographer. The band deserves an article all its own.

The photographer will capture moments you were not aware of; people who years from now will only be memories and portray you and your guests in a moment that I once heard described as "you'll never be as young as you are today." Along with the band, the photographer is one of the most important service vendors at your wedding. Take your time to select the right one. Skimp on other items, do not skimp on the photographer. Having said this - this is not an invitation to spend insane amounts of money on the wedding photography without good reason or purpose.


I believe that after the photographer's proven skill, the chemistry (or lack of it) between the couple and the photographer is the second most important factor in selecting one. For all intents and purposes you are marrying the photographer. For the five hours of the wedding and the period of time needed to select the final photography and video and until you receive the finished albums, stills and videos you are attached to the photographer – for better and for worse.

Get names of photographers from friends who have recently married – get references from happy couples and also get the names of photographers from hell (knowing whom you should steer clear of is as important as knowing who is good). Compile your lists (of whom you are interested in hiring and whom you would only hire if all the photographers on earth were wiped out in a flood) and then start letting you fingers do the work.

While you check out photographers' websites, look at friends' albums and videos; think about your own wedding style.

Your wedding style

I've spoken about a wedding style in the earlier blog articles. Is your wedding a formal affair, country/laid back, shanty and anything in between? Your wedding style will influence the photography style, as well of course the final product (albums and video). The level of orthodoxy also enters into this picture, as many photographers will offer a female photographer for the women's side of the dancing and so on.

Then ask yourselves: what types of photographs would you enjoy seeing in your wedding album? Black and white shots, sepia shots, formal portraits, all un-posed, a mixture of all the above? Once again, look at the websites of your candidates and see what appeals to you. Don't ignore wedding photography web sites of photographers not in your geographical area or budget; use the ideas you find there to show your candidate(s) what you are interested in.

You must also find out what is the 'going rate' for photography packages .


Good photographers are expensive, which is why I believe that this is an expense you should not skimp on. Understand the market and find the very best photographer for your budget. Don't be tempted to use the neighbor's son unless he really does have the requisite experience you require. It's nice to give someone a chance to break in to the industry- but I would warmly recommend that you do your 'mitzvahs' on anniversaries and bar mitzvahs and not weddings. New photographers many times work with more experienced photographers on wedding gigs, but in this situation there is backup, supervision and responsibility on the experienced photographer.

Compare, compare, compare prices of photographers and wedding package deals before you hire.

How to interview a photographer

When you call to make an appointment with a photographer, pay attention to how he talks to you on the phone. I believe that someone who is unfriendly or curt on a first phone call will not be the person you want to work with when you are in the midst of the wedding.

In his studio, examine his posed and unposed shots: are they 'alive', do they portray the little moments? – small cousins, nieces and nephews dancing in a corner; a dance with the grandmothers; the gazes of the kallah's friends as she walks toward the chuppah and so on. How are his posed shots? Are the groups well focused and assembled? How are the pictures presented – in both interesting and standard angles (too many tricks and angles is as bad as too few).

Are there shots of dancing? Eating? Flash dancing? Don’t accept the line that these kinds of shots (or any that you are interested in) are missing because "the couple did not order them"; he's the photographer, he can create any album he wants for himself.

Make sure the photographer understands your wedding style and has experience handling your kind wedding. When discussing your wedding style, take into account:

• level of religiosity and how it impacts on the entire wedding

• venue (this is especially important if you plan a wedding ceremony on a beach or a non-traditional area that may have unusual needs)

• special needs guests (handicapped issues)

Make sure the photographer speaks your language, no joke. If you do not speak Hebrew, the photographer must speak English. Arguments after the wedding about why a moment wasn't captured and claims that he didn’t understand you - will not bring back the moment.

Ask questions! Make sure that the photographer you interview is the one who will photograph your wedding. See his reactions and how comfortable or uncomfortable you feel with him.

I have seen photographers yell at guests, push guests out of the way to get a shot, miss shots because he did not understand the wedding schedule (one photographer actually missed the badekin, granted it was in the States and out of the New York area) and another did not know where to look and shoot with circles of non-stop dancing all around him (once again a US-out of New York disaster).

Make sure you LOVE this guy before you sign on the dotted line!


Does the photographer offer video services in his package deal? Is the videographer part of his team or a freelancer? Make sure you understand these points before you hire. You may be able to hire separate venders – I warmly recommend against this as you are then dealing with two entities and you have enough to deal with.

Check out the video examples both in his studio and get a link to view at home. See if you like his work, lighting, settings. Check out some of the videographer's cut and uncut wedding video versions.

What do you want? What is he offering? What is a waste of money?

At his studio have him explain and show – in detail:

1. The type of albums he creates/offers.

2. Prints and parents' albums he provides.

3. The types of videos he provides.

4. Understand the package deal(s) he offers.

Time was when you a photographer talked in terms of hundreds of shots. Today the photographer /videographer will talk in terms of number of hours he provides in his package deal and how much he will charge for 'over time'.

Time was when the photographer provided the couple with their album and the parents' smaller-version albums, as well as all the proofs and the negatives (this was considered a true bonus!). Today the couple should get the wedding album, two smaller albums for the parents (album size from pocket size to near A4 size albums), file of all the shots and two versions of the wedding video, the uncut four to five hour opus and the half-an-hour reception-bedekin-chuppah-dancing version.

Get specific information on:

1. Find out what kind of photography team he suggests for your wedding size: number of camera men, light men and videographers.

2. What time the photographer and team will arrive and leave the venue.

3. Estimated timing for pre-wedding photography of the bride and groom. This session is usually at another venue and travel time to and from the site needs to be included in the scheduling. This is especially important if the bride and groom will not be seeing each other before the wedding, as two separate photography sessions are need to be calculated into the scheduling.

4. Find out:

a. when you will receive a file of all the photographs so you can select shots for your albums.
b. find out delivery date for the finished albums; this should be no longer than a month and half to two months for a digital album.

Get everything in writing.

Now let's discuss what you don't need
Camera on a Crane

You don't need a camera on a crane ("matz'lemah meofefet" in the vernacular). I repeat you do not need a camera on a crane unless you are planning to be married in a sports stadium with thousands of guests. I have been to a wedding with the infamous crane and all it does is make maneuvering the venue a nightmare and create a potential danger zone for small kids, older adults and anyone wanting to move freely around the venue (that about covers everyone). This mechanical marvel is touted as the best way to get the best shots from any angle – nonsense it is unwieldy and unfriendly and expensive.

Enlarged photographs for framing

For some reason photographers are still offering enlarged photographs for framing in their wedding packages. Forget it. Once you have the complete file of wedding pictures, select one you like and then enlarge it and print it as you like (on canvas or any other print option available today).

At the Wedding

Before the wedding, assign someone you trust to liaison with the photographer (and the band for that matter) throughout the wedding. This person will be responsible to ensure that specific people/events are photographed and also be the 'go to' person for any questions. This person will know who Uncle Chaim is and know to look for Cousin Lou smoking outside, when he should be posing for a photo. Give this person a list of the photos you want and let him or her run around.

Make sure the photographer takes a picture of every table. The bride and groom do not have to be present for each of these photos. It would be wonderful if they were, but many a table pictures are missed because of an absent bride and groom and there is no reason for this.

Make sure that there is a band-photographer table for these folks to take a break, drink and perhaps eat something.

It ain't over yet

The wedding maybe over, but you are not finished with the photographer yet. Or should I say he is not finished with you yet. You still need to select the pictures for the album. Be kind to your photographer and select your photos as soon as possible. The sooner you do your job, the sooner your photographer can finish his job and you can get your albums!

By the way, you can create your own wedding album both from online sites and many print shops in your city. I don't really see any advantage in this DIY project, as you may not save any money, will have no one to blame but yourselves when you have not even selected the shots for the album a year after the wedding and the never-ending list of graphic and print possibilities will just confuse you. Don't be tempted to do this yourself.

Just select the best pictures you can, email the photo list to your photographer and get on with your lives. Trust me on this!

Remember just smile pretty for the camera!

Are you really too busy for your own wedding? Part II – The Budget

In Part I of my series, "Are you really too busy for your own wedding?", I discussed the issues involved in finding the right venue and the very-short-comings of so-called wedding planning services and their feeble attempts to 'help' you find a venue. Now I want to talk about The Budget; perhaps two of the most frightening and daunting words in the whole wedding process.

Don't start with budget!

You may think I want to tackle the budget issue from the very obvious angle that you must have some kind of budget or idea of a budget in order to plan any event, whether it is as massive as a wedding or as simple as a dinner party. This is a given. What I want to discuss is why revealing or providing budget information to a wedding planning company too early in the planning process, may interfere with your getting the wedding of your dreams (that's good dreams, not nightmares).

Don't get me wrong, I believe that you need to know your budget, but your wedding planner does not; at least not at the initial meeting. Once this information is in his grubby little hands - his attitude towards you, your intended and your whole wedding project may change drastically. His enthusiasm towards your wedding may cool substantially, once he realizes that he will not get the big cut (or percentage) he envisioned when you entered his office.

Check out the fine print

There are several caveats here:

1) If you can't afford an extra 'planning/managing' fee, then it goes that you can’t afford a planner and are, therefore you are not too busy to arrange your own wedding. So get this whole wedding planner idea out of your heads and start working.

2) If intend to pay your planner a fee (percentage of the total wedding or flat fee), then this amount should be calculated into the budget from the onset.

3) Wedding planning companies commonly advertise that they do not 'charge' a fee. This is a misconception (I would call it an outright lie), these companies like to perpetuate. I saw the contract for one of these companies. They do charge a fee; it is 'merely hidden' in clauses. According to the business model of the wedding planning company I know, the couple pays the company all the wedding fees for all the services it has engaged through the company and – get this – once the wedding is OVER - the company then pays the service providers minus its own service charge.

This is very worrying as you pay the wedding planning company before the event and they pay the providers after the event. You sign the contracts with all the providers. It was a worrying thought that this company can get all your money and then abscond without paying the service providers.

The caveat here: always see a contract or draft of the contract agreement before you get into any working relationship with this company (or anyone for that matter).

By the way, the company I dealt with did not want to provide me with a contract, or a sample contract before I formally hired them. I told them that I wouldn't hire them without seeing a contract in advance. Needless to say, I saw the contract and did not hire them.

Now back to discussing the Budget.

The Budget should and does comes up in the initial meeting, when discussing the parameters of your wedding: venues, budget (many times 'budget' is number one on the list), number of guests, geographical area of venue and other needed wedding vendors (makeup and hair, invitations, band, photographer and the like).

Full disclosure is for lawyers, not brides and grooms

Let's discuss budget for a moment. This has to be one of the most fundamental and significant elements of wedding planning. However, when you begin with money, you have nowhere to go and no place to move. If a planning company asks about budget do not answer this question, you will be pigeon-holed into a certain framework that most salespeople will not have the experience or ability to work their way out of.

Rather tell them that you will build the budget around your needs, rather than your needs around the budget. You will also get a better idea about the company's contacts and 'deals' they can offer you.

Work this backwards (even if you know your budget to the shekel, pound, dollar or yen!); discuss your wish list/needs: time of year (see my article on Winter Weddings), number of guests, venue type (garden, hall, etc and see my article on Venues) and geographical area. Then you can work out a nearly realistic budget based on these four parameters that will either get you to rethink your budget, your wish list or both.

Remember you are under no obligation to give them full disclosure at this initial meeting. The wedding planning company we met provided us with a (not very comprehensive) list of venues based on the parameters above and my willingness to say that I would not pay an excessive amount for per dinner plate.

Remember service providers (wedding or otherwise) are supposed to have your best interests at heart – because as I see it – your best interest can then be translated into the best interests (fees and call backs/referrals) of the service providers.

Are you really too busy for your own wedding? Part I – The Venue

Here is the first in a series of articles on planning your own wedding and preventing yourself from falling into the trap of thinking you don’t have the time to do so.

I have a bone to pick with the so-called wedding planning companies that have sprung up both in cyber space and in office space. I make a very clear distinction between these wedding planning companies (let's call them wpcs) and wedding planners (I count myself as part of this latter group). Peeling back all the hype, wpcs provide lists of services and wedding planners provide real services.

I had a short and not very satisfying experience with two such companies: one in an office space and one in cyber space. Each was tasked with helping us find a venue for my son's wedding. Each asked basic questions but in the end both provided a list of choices. Nothing more.

When we visited the venue choices it was obvious that neither company:

1) investigated the sites: one site was too small for our small wedding of 200 guests. After visiting the venue, I called the company immediately and told them that the venue was too small. The answer I received was that that 200 people could indeed fit into this venue. When I retorted that 200 people could also fit into my living room, the company rep just laughed and reluctantly admitted he never actually saw the place himself.

2) in some cases the company never contacted the sites before I had ( to arrange a meeting/tour of the venue). This became evident when I called the venue to arrange the meeting or when I mentioned that we were supposed to get a 'special company price' and the venue knew anything about a special price. Again once I told the company about the discrepancy, they told me they would 'look into it'.

These companies also claimed that they knew all the venues that would be suited for us in a certain geographical area. Again this was false. Once again, when I told the companies that I found many other venues (not on their list); their answers were at best an attempt to say that they did not have connections with ALL the venues in our area (not what the company claimed at our first and only meeting).

No one has the luxury of 'not having the time to plan your own wedding'. Do not let a wedding planning company try to convince you that your wedding deserves less of your time and effort than would a dinner date.

Want to find a venue?

A. Use the following parameters to begin to narrow your search, without ever leaving your home or your slippers.

Parameters to help you narrow your search:

1) Time of year: Season/month(Some venues are summer only garden venues)

2) Geographical location: Area/city

3) Venue type: garden venue, garden+hall venue, hall venue

4) Number of guests: (Some venues are designed for very large or small weddings. Most venues have minimum guest attendance rules for certain seasons and certain days of the week)

5) Basic wedding style: (Religious, mixed, formal, informal and the like)

B. Now just key in venue names  in for your desired cities in your geographical area.

Now make sure your venue has a license to run a venue. Check out:

Most of your search response list will include links to the venue's sites. Check out the sites and make a list of the most likely venues.

C. With the information from your parameter list above, call each venue and discuss your needs. Begin to arrange meetings for your close wedding party. When arranging a meeting, get the name of the person you will meet, as well as a direct mobile number.

Try to visit each venue during an event, preferably a wedding. So you can see much more than just the physical layout of the venye, but also how responsive the venue is to the event and the guests.

I warmly recommend that the bride, groom and someone who has arranged a wedding in the past visit each venue.

If you can, try to visit two venues in an evening.

All venues look the same

After you have visited your third venue, all the venues begin to look and smell the same. With this in mind I attach a venue assessing form (in both English and Hebrew) to help you assess each venue as you visit it and then help you compare the venues at the end of the process.
Venue Comparison Form English

Venue Comparison Form Hebrew

Having problems downloading my forms?  Email me.

Use these forms as an inspection list of items to examine while you are in the venue and then complete the form as soon as you are in the parking lot. Once you have seen about as many venues as you can stand, you can review them with the help of these forms and come to an informed decision.

Stay tuned for other installments of "Are you really too busy for your own wedding?"

Is Winter the new Summer ? Winter Weddings: What you should know before you plan a winter wedding

Time was that weddings took place in the summer, somewhere between Lag B'Omer and Rosh Ha'Shanah – taking a break for the Three Weeks. We never had to worry about rain or snow ruining an event. We just wondered how hot and dry or hot and sticky the chuppah would be – depending on where the wedding took place.

Time was that winter weddings were for those who needed to save a lot of money or simply could not wait for the summer wedding season. Today winter has become the new summer and winter weddings abound. As summer weddings bring their own brand of problems, especially if you have a Friday mid-morning-afternoon wedding, which I discussed in an earlier article; winter brings its own brand of surprises, usually thanks to the vagaries of mother-nature.

First of all, it's time to realize that winter weddings are no longer unbelievably cheap. The price difference may be 5% to 10% less, and while every shekel is important for your overall budget, the per-person cost is no longer half of the summer rate.

Most venues however have remained flexible with many other issues, such as minimum number of guests on certain nights (for instance, the all-popular Thursday night), menu selection and the like.

Next let's look at venues. Most couples and I might add, most guests, prefer an outdoor or outdoor-indoor venue – better known as the 'Gan Eruim" – garden event venue. In general, these garden venues have more breathing room for the guests to move around and mingle during the pre-chuppah reception, space for the chuppah, as well as, in general, a reasonably large area for the dinner/dancing part of the evening. These garden venues are multi-seasonal and are equipped to handle just about all Israeli weather situations. During the last rain storm, one of the venues (in the center of the country) did cancel a wedding some four-five hours before it was scheduled to be held (story reported in the news with an interview with the not-very-happy bride and groom), but this was extreme case. I know that others venues held their simchas as planned on that day.

In general the garden venue will have an open or semi open (with an awning or tent structure) area for the reception, an open chuppah and then an enclosed structure, usually a glass and wood structure for the dinner and dancing.

Let's take a look at the tented reception area. In the winter, the overhead covering obviously is a precaution against rain, but in general this area maybe only heated by free-standing kerosene lamps. Rarely are these areas heated or temperature controlled as the dinner/dancing areas. This means that as the first guests arrive the area is a bit (or very) chilled, but as people begin to mill around and to attack the Hors d'Oeuvres, they in general warm themselves. Keep in mind that older guests should have an indoor place where they can sit comfortably and warmly, usually in the enclosed dinner/dancing area. Always have in hand a shawl and or coat for yourselves and your older guests. A shawl should also be available for the kallah – especially if she is fasting. I have seen some kallahs go for the white, faux-fur lined wraps/shawls that more or less 'match' their dresses.

Keep in mind however, that a tented reception area is just as important, or in some cases, maybe even more important for a simcha held during a very hot summer evening. And our summer is a lot longer and hotter than our short rainy season.

I have also noticed a trend of using artificial grass on outdoor areas, especially in indoor/outdoor venues. This grass is not only 'water-friendly' in our rain starved environment, it also ensures a year-round clean look and feel to a venue.

The chuppah in the winter. That sentence still strikes dread in the hearts of many a bride and groom. Will it rain or won't it? Will it be too cold for guests to stand around outside for the duration of the ceremony. Many venues have a stand-by, just-in-case, indoor chuppah ready and waiting or an area where a chuppah can be setup some two-to-three hours before the chuppah is set to start. Most venues are very flexible about where the chuppah will take place. And as with many other wedding details, guests are blissfully unaware of these last minute changes, as the transfer from outdoor to indoor chuppah is usually smooth. I have heard of Rabbis who insist on outdoor chuppahs. I have also seen outdoor chuppahs that can be viewed on close-circuit TV for those of the guests who choose to stay indoors. This is a long-standing style, especially in chasedeche weddings where the throng is just too big for the venue and has been going on for many, many years.

So while winter may be the 'new' summer and most venues are able to handle last-minute weather changes, you need to make sure that YOUR venue manager is open about how the hall will deal with these changes and what your options are.

Talk to your venue manager and get the details in writing.