Category Archives: vendors

regrets, i’ve had a few

I’m a lazy bride. And I’m not just talking about the fact that I’d rather rent burlap table runners than make my own.

I don’t so much actively seek out our vendors as I trip and fall into them. Our photographer? Was the first person I emailed after seeing her work on a website. Our caterer? Was recommended by my hair lady and was on the list of venue-approved vendors. Our DJ? Was within our budget and is dating our caterer. We didn’t bother doing interview after interview or obtaining quote after quote. Things just sort of haphazardly fell into place.

I’m not saying we went around signing contracts blindly, of course. We met with each of our vendors first, got a feel for who they are and what they do, and made our decisions based on our gut feelings. And so far, the serendipitous approach has worked out fairly well for us. We’ve allowed ourselves to be one with the universe and let the karma flow freely and the chakras do… things. Or whatever. My point is that our relationships with our vendors have by and large been pure rainbow-studded, greased-lens, sunshine-meadowed bliss.

But.

We met briefly with the DJ today, and the resulting conversation was fascinating. He made a scrunched-nose face when I mentioned walking in to the same song our wedding party walks in to, because OK, that’s weird, right?* He made a joke about how I put everything that everybody likes to listen to on the do-not-play list. When I lamely protested that all I remembered banning was John Mayer and Jack Johnson,** he was like, yeah, exactly. And specific preferences aside, I had intended to hire a vendor who could at least semi-appreciate our musical tastes. Someone who could see through to our souls. Does that kind of vendor even exist, or is that just the wedding industry warping my expectations again?

Friends, I am scared. I am scared that I effed this one up big time. The music was one of the wedding things that was important to me, because music is important to me. And now I’m like oh holy shit, our wedding music is going to suck and it’s all my fault because I didn’t try to find the right vendor hard enough and now I can’t take it back because I already paid the deposit and he’s dating my caterer and that would be entirely awkward and I’m not good at breaking up with people in the first place and eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

[sharp sucking in of breath]

I don’t know why I’m unloading this here. I feel like it’s, regrettably, a bit too late to go scrambling around trying to find a new DJ – not to mention that I’d worry our caterer would maybe spit in our food out of spite. My only hope right now is to schedule a meeting with him again and attempt to establish a common ground and a nice friendly rapport. Maybe get him to see where we’re coming from; get him on our side. Maybe that will help assuage my troubled mind? Then I can go back to all meadows and chakras and rainbows, all the time.

Have any of you experienced vendor remorse? Did you act on it?

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* Apparently the bride walks in to a special, different song? This is the way it’s done, I hear.

** I also banned “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang, because I clearly have no taste.

in which my wedding immunizations are not up-to-date

Yesterday we went to the rental place. You know, to pick out tables and chairs and dishware and silverware and blah blah blah flee in terror.

The lady who was helping us, you could tell that she was used to talking to people (brides) who care intensely about The Details. For instance, we got to the matter of the Cake Table, and the beau and I went through the whole well-we-don’t-think-we’re-having-a-cake-we’re-maybe-having-something-like-pies routine, and she looked at us and put her pen down. “You know,” she said, “we had a bride in here who did a wedding last fall, and she did a whole table with an assortment of pies!” She lowered her voice and continued: “And I wouldn’t normally tell you this, but she went out and got her pies from Costco and Marie Callender’s.”*

She went on to tell us that they were just the hugest wedding hit ever, except in retrospect she wouldn’t recommend ever putting out an apple pie, because well, they just don’t hold their shape when cut, and they don’t look very nice on a plate.

Oh honey. You had me at Costco. And then you went and lost me with presentation. It is pie. I don’t care what it looks like. I would scoop that shit up and eat it with my hands, no problem. But then again I am not as classy as some.

So anyway, there we were, feeling smug in our wedding zen. At least I was. The beau was probably daydreaming about, I don’t know, maple-flavored bacon. But then shit got wild, yo. She asked us what our wedding colors were. I looked at the beau. The beau looked at me. “Well,” I said, “we don’t really have wedding colors.” The lady put her pen down again, slowly. “OK then, what’s the color of your bridesmaid dresses?” she inquired. Blank look from me. “Uh, well…” I stammered. “I don’t have a color for, uh, for those dresses yet.”

A look of alarm passed over her face. I could see it in her eyes: These people do not know what they want. This was a problem, you see, for how could we possibly select the colors and themes of the rental items if we did not know the colors and themes of the overall wedding?

She looked us up and down. “Well, I can see you are both wearing green,” she began tentatively. I glanced down, then slid my eyes sideways to check out the boy. We were indeed wearing green. What do you know about that? “Do you like green?” she asked. We nodded dimly. Yes. Yes, we like green. And that was good enough. Now she had an angle. She was in like Flynn.

From there it was all a blur. There were these racks, they had tablecloth fabric samples on them. She was a machine, a machine in motion, pulling samples down and setting a pretend table with different glassware and utensils. She was pairing sage green with rust, with copper, with burnt orange.** She was tossing teal into the mix. She threw together a satin olivino tablecloth with a satin citron napkin. She, good lord, she was putting little clippings of rosemary and lilac in the folds of the napkins!

It this impeccably casual enough? No? Yes? Help? // Source: Jen Tilley via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jentilley/)
It this impeccably casual enough? No? Yes? Help? // Source: Jen Tilley via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jentilley/)

And somewhere in the middle of all this I found myself suddenly caring deeply, deeply, about these colors. What if they didn’t go with our venue? What if they didn’t go with each other? What if some of our guests didn’t like the colors? What would the guests think when they approached the tables? What kind of feel would the colors generate? Moreover, did we know that for the centerpieces we could build low, long boxes and grow wheatgrass in them, and then contrast that with citrus tree branches in vases for that extra pop of color?

The beau told me later: “She really lost me when she said we should grow plants in boxes for the wedding.”

We left after two hours, in a daze. I was clutching fabric samples. I am still the same person who said that I would just get the cheapest, most boring tablecloths and call it a day, right? Then how do I explain this sudden bout of hand-wringing over color coordination?

They got to me, you guys. They got me.

For now, the fabric samples have been jammed into a drawer. I need a break. I need some time to sort the B.S. from what’s really important to us.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about making a trip to Costco. I understand they have a decent selection of pies.

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* I’m already liking this chick.

** Yes, these sound like they should be all the same color, but mysteriously, they were not.

bringing down the house

Ah yes! It’s the old iPod versus DJ debate. It’s almost a right of passage for engaged couples now. I have read so many pro/con lists that I feel like it’s all been said.

But I’m going to say it anyway.

For a long, long while I was convinced I’d go iPod all the way. Music is extraordinarily important to me and I the last thing I want at the wedding* is some schlocky DJ sporting excessively gelled hair cavorting around the audio booth, spewing forth cheesy aphorisms in a pop radio-ready voice and playing jams so lousy that guests are congregating in the corners for fear of being spotted within several feet of the empty dance floor.**

I even spent hours developing an ultimate master playlist of songs that flowed from lounge-like to progressively dancier.*** I took into account our guests’ varied musical interests; frontloading the list with older, softer tunes ranging from Patsy Cline to Velvet Underground to early DJ Shadow and saving the Lyrics Born, Beastie Boys, and Gogol Bordello for the wilder, alcohol-induced, grandparents-have-gone-to-bed part of the evening. Yep, this way we’d hear what meant the most to us and our guests. Plus, we’d save a ton of money! The iPod was clearly the superior choice.

What convinced me I might be wrong after all?

I started reading**** accounts of others’ experience with DJs. I started to see how they could be vital to establishing a flow, reading a crowd, and elevating spirits. As an added bonus, neither the beau and I nor any of our friends would have to be distracted from the evening’s festivities by rushing over to the iPod to change playlists or add new music on the fly.

Via http://media.createdigitalmedia.net

I warmed to the DJ idea pretty much immediately. And it didn’t hurt that one of my brigadiers has a cousin whose husband***** is in the music biz in L.A. We plan to try to make contact with some potential “underground” DJs (a.k.a., they don’t typically do weddings) via this tiny network. If that dead-ends, I figure we can toss up a Craigslist post and try to find someone cool that way.

But. There is always a but.

Our venue is going to kick us out at 10:00pm. Well, we’re actually supposed to be mostly gone by then, so I guess the party will start switching gears around 9:30pm. To put it bluntly, this kinda jacks the flow. 9:30pm is generally the wedding witching hour when the guests have a few drinks in them and their blood sugar levels are spiking from dessert. But instead of kicking things into high gear, we’ll be herding people onto the street. Boo.

I’m not saying this will ruin the whole evening, of course. But it’ll definitely be a real interruption. Not everyone will choose to continue with us to the after-party, so we’ll have to say some goodbyes a tad prematurely, and that will be kinda sad.

The after-party. We haven’t officially secured it yet, but we’re 98% sure that the second floor of a bar on State St. is going to be all ours. We’re not allowed to use our own iPod in there, nor bring in our own DJ (not to mention that would be complicated), so that means we’ll be subject to whatever the DJ downstairs chooses to play that night. Which will probably be your average pop/rap beats. This can be fun sometimes. But I’ve really been looking forward to having a massive dance party at some point during the evening, with some of the music I don’t usually hear in the average bar or club. And I’m kinda afraid that our luck will run out and we’ll get a downstairs DJ who is really into playing, I don’t know, Julio Iglesias Jr. and Ciara remixes, and so nobody will be in the mood to bust a move.

This also brings up another issue I’m grappling with: we are having an outdoor wedding that will start shutting down at 9:30pm. Do we really wanna hire a DJ when we won’t even be able to utilize him during the part of the night that’s most danceable? Is it really worth it just to hire somebody to play music during the cocktail hour and dinner?

As always, there are some options:

  1. Hire the DJ but move the ceremony start time back to 3:30 so that we have an earlier dinner and maybe an extra hour or so of dancing and talking with everyone before the party moves on to another location. At the after-party, deal with whatever random DJ is working the bar.
  2. Use an iPod during the ceremony and reception. Try to find somebody cheap who will agree to wrangle it on our behalf, plus act as psuedo-MC. At the after-party, deal with whatever random DJ is working the bar.
  3. Hire a local band during the ceremony and reception (ka-ching!). Look for a different place to have the after-party where we might be able to bring in our own DJ (ka-ching! ka-ching!)
  4. Various other combinations of all of the above that I don’t care to write out here lest you be rendered so bored and sleepy that you pass out and faceplant into your keyboard, and the “U” key gets kind of stuck into your forehead, and you don’t realize this until later when you wake up and you are clicking through the archives of your favorite web comic and the key falls off and plops into your mug of coffee and the coffee splatters on your new favorite sweater, and you’re like, goddamnit, I just washed this stupid sweater.
  5. Call off the wedding and stay home eating cookies.

Yeah. I’m liking #5.

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* Besides a brawl to suddenly break out between my family and the beau’s, that is.

** Let me derail for a moment with a side story: I went to a wedding once where the DJ played only one song I wanted to dance to. The entire night. The rest of the songs made me want to pull a Monty Python and run away, run away! Dude, nobody should be expected to listen to — let alone get down to — Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.” That DJ was an utter disgrace. I can’t even postulate that he was skewing the songs towards the bride’s individual tastes, because I think I saw her on the floor a grand total of once during the evening. I can only hope that she wasn’t in a bathroom sobbing, “Oh God, somebody please make him turn off ‘Barbie Girl.'”

*** I started building this before we even got engaged, because wow, I’m super obsessive-compulsive awesome rad.

**** Reading. It’ll get you in trouble all the time.

***** You following this?

overthinking alert

I never intended to start a theme, here, but I’m officially going to call this week out as dress week. Because dresses seem to be all I’m thinking/writing about lately.

Today I began making appointments at bridal shops in the D.C. area to look at dresses, which is a good thing, right? Progress! And stuff. But no, instead I feel anxiety. Because the proprietors all want to know when the wedding is, where the wedding is… and then they start sounding resentful when I tell them I don’t actually live there. “Will you be able to make it back for all your fittings?” one store owner pressed, her voice suddenly a higher pitch.

Fittings? I just want to try on some dresses.

I understand that shops need to make sales to stay in business, so I can’t blame them for not being thrilled about a client who doesn’t seem a likely candidate to make a purchase. But this is probably the one opportunity I’ll get to give my mother what she wants: a chance to see me trying on dresses. I don’t mean to jerk them around, but I have a right to, well, just look, right?

This is not the first time this kind of thing has happened. Last month, while going up to the Bay Area, I contacted a shop in Berkeley about trying on some vintage wedding dresses. When the store owner saw the area code of my phone number in my email signature, all kinds of warning bells apparently went off. She was concerned that I would not be able to make it back for future fittings (because really, it’s such a long drive to the Bay?). Her trepidation only rose when she found out that I wasn’t 100% sure about what dress type I was looking for. She told me she would not make an appointment with me. OK, you know what? I recognize that a store owner can’t just let any schmuck wander in off the street and start pulling very old and delicate gowns on and off at whim. But still, ouch. The sting of rejection… uh, stings.

These shopkeepers’ reactions are making me feel like I have no business going to their stores when I’m not necessarily serious about actually buying from them. I don’t want to go have a one-on-one with a shop owner who secretly despises me. The thought alone is making my stomach go flip-flop.

Confession: I considered inventing some kind of fake back story to take to these shops in D.C. I could look up some venues around there that have the same courtyard feel that ours does. When they ask, I can just say, “Oh, we are getting married at ______!” and change the conversation. Which… is pretty effing silly. But it nearly seems worth it just to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

Meh. Whatever.

Have you run into any bridal shop snafus? Are these shopkeepers’ reactions typical, or am I just experiencing a string of bad luck? And how have you dealt with wedding dress sales pressure?

we’re not dead yet, but we ARE stuffed

Wow. So the bridal expo was, surprisingly, not as painful as we’d anticipated. You know what else I hadn’t anticipated? Free food and drinks. One of the first vendors we stumbled across happened to be a bartender. His entire exhibit was a table full of various bottles of booze, and a bucket of ice. What’s that now? You’d like to make us cocktails? I thought you’d never ask.

Fortified with Crown Royal, we wandered further into the jungle of proffered sangria, pasta nibbles, empanadas, cupcakes, crostini, cheese and nut plates, and bacon-stuffed mushrooms. As we passed a booth a lady called out, “Want some champagne?” Ummm… yes? She reeled us in like a couple of gaping fish. OK, we will smile and nod at your winery wedding venue pitch in exchange for a bubbly beverage, thankyouverymuch.

AND YET. And yet. It ended up being more than just a free grab for whatever we could cram down our gullets. I walked out of there with a real appreciation for having been able to talk to real vendors—photographers, caterers—and get a sense of them as people. A lot of vendor relationships, I think, can be forged in the first few moments of speaking with them. Of the photographers I encountered, one seemed sneaky, one looked genuinely terrified, and another appeared incredibly geeky, awkward, and honest. Guess which one I would revisit?

It was the same thing with the caterers. I immediately disliked one guy in particular—predictably, I heard later from a venue coordinator that she had to fire his company a mere three weeks before her wedding. The flip side of that coin is is the caterer that the beau and I both really like. He was funny, easygoing, and knowledgeable about area venues, right down to the name of each venue’s coordinator. We definitely want to meet again with him.

It wouldn’t have been a bridal expo, though, without the trappings of the industry. For starters, we were given a giant hot pink paper bag to carry collateral in; the beau looked particularly sharp with it dangling from his hand. Everywhere—everywhere—was plastered with smarmy soft-focus images of beaming brides in white dresses and veils. Too many exhibitors seemed to talk only to me; a photobooth rental representative waxed enthusiastic about “my big day!” until I reminded her it was my fiance’s, too, and the head of a catering company locked onto my eyes and delivered me a personalized five-minute pitch while the poor beau stood wordlessly by my side. Also, I witness an outburst from a disgruntled expo attendee who was shouting at what was ostensibly her mother and her future groom, “but I’M the BRIDE!!!!” Gah.

I would totally go back again for those cupcakes, though.