July 2011

The last few years, I’ve had a couple of ongoing personal projects that I have really enjoyed.  1) Scanning all old family photos, and 2) Researching my family tree.  (There is a third thing, but it’s something my fiancé does, not me, and that is digitize old family movie film reels.  So, he’s been digitizing both his family’s and my family’s films).

Several years ago, I set up an account at Geni and added in all the family information that I knew and then e-mailed all the relatives inviting them to join the account.  More than I expected, a lot of relatives filled in the details of things like anniversaries and birthdates, and even some more critical information I didn’t have, like some great great grandparents.  However, since creating the account, things have kind of stagnated.  My ultimate dream is to have some sort of big family genealogy website where, when you click on a person’s name on the tree, you can see things like photos of them, videos that they’re in, their birth announcement, obituary, their birth certificate, etc.

If you’ve never done genealogy research, it is really, really complicated, even with all the internet resources at our disposal these days.  But, the more key biographical data you have about your relatives, the easier it becomes.  So, for instance, I may know the birthdate of my great great grandmother, but if I don’t know the county she was born in, then I can’t request her birth certificate (and therefore can’t easily find her parents names).  So, although more relatives than I expected filled in some information on the Geni tree, I’m hoping to eventually add more information.

And I’m hoping to collect this information at our wedding!  I figure, they’re at the wedding, they’re a captive audience, so why not ask them to fill in some fun information, both for themselves, as well as for other relatives they know!

The idea is this:

Have two family trees printed on posters for our wedding.  One for my side, one for my fiancé’s.  There will be copies of genealogy questionnaires available for people to enter information that they know for each entry on the tree (like themselves, their immediate relatives, and perhaps even if they know more info about their ancestors).  The questionnaire will consist of key biographical data, but also fun things like, “what were this person’s hobbies?” or “what was a really memorable quality about this person.”  I think that can get some really interesting dialogue going among the guests at the wedding.

I’m still hammering out the details of how we’ll go about collecting the data, but I’ll be sure to let you know how it comes along.  I’ll also let people know about the project ahead of time, that way they won’t come completely unprepared!

Has anyone done something similar?  I would love to hear how you did it and if you got good information!

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Get your Wedding Vendors in Gear

by Melissa on July 25, 2011

A few weeks ago I pointed out my propensity to rag on vendors quite a bit, so I wrote a post about how to be nice to your wedding vendors, from a Bride’s perspective.

Well, that’s all fine and good.  But what do you do if vendors aren’t being awesome, despite how nice you’re being, and you need to kick them into gear?

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1) Start with the simplest one first.  (This assumes you haven’t already signed a contract with them).  Ask them for recommendations for other vendors. Something like this should work like a charm:

“Hi, I’ve e-mailed you a few times asking for your photography package prices.  I realize you must be busy, so do you recommend other photographers in the area that I could contact?”

Sometimes, the threat of going to the competition is enough to whip someone right into shape.  Of course, I question whether you should even pursue a vendor that is unresponsive, but if it’s someone you really really want, then give it a whirl.

2) Include links to your various online review site profiles in your e-mail signature. For example, add a link to your Yelp review page, your Wedding Wire profile, or your Google Reviews page.  If you want to be even more blatant about it, you can tell the vendor that you intend to post reviews about your unsatisfactory experience with their company and that you wanted to get their thoughts first.  I did something similar.  I had a horrific experience with one of the preferred caterers at the venue we were originally going to book.  After six weeks of unanswered phone calls, I wrote a review about the caterer on Yelp.  When I contacted the venue to say that I was not going to sign a contract with the venue purely because of the unprofessional caterer (the only one that was in our budget), I included a link to my review.

3) Contact other people at the company. If the company employs more than one person, but you’ve only been dealing with one person, you have a few options.  First, find out who the owner of the business is.  You can typically find this in online county records where the business is located.   Then track down the owner’s e-mail address via LinkedIn or Twitter or some other method.  Include their e-mail address as a cc the next time you e-mail the unresponsive employee.  Or, if the company has a generic “contact” e-mail address listed on their website, use that address to say, “Hi, I had been in contact with Jane Smith last month, but now she’s not returning my e-mails.  Does she still work for the company?”

4) Take to Social Media, ASAP. Mention them on Twitter, tag them on Facebook, write on their Facebook wall, write a blog post about your experience.  Wedding vendors’ business is based on a good reputation, so, seeing their company name in an unfavorable light on the internet could help kick things into gear.  Keep everything truthful and don’t add any embellishment to your experiences.  Pretty soon, if they’re an established business, they’ll be forced to address the issues your splashing all over the interwebs.

How have other couples dealt with unresponsive vendors?

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This is part 2 in a multi-series post about how to iPod your wedding.  Part 1 includes a list of all the equipment we purchased.  For part 2, setting up the equipment, we filmed a nearly 20 minute tutorial, which we split into three videos.

We would love to get your feedback on the setup and we’d love to hear from you if you did your own iPod / self-deejay wedding!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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This is Part 3 of a multi-part series about having a budget wedding in the DC area.  There will be additional posts over the next few weeks.

Part 1: An Overview of Budget Weddings in DC

Part 2: Finding Budget Wedding Venues in DC

A lot of traffic to SuperNoVABride arrives here by visitors searching for  ”inexpensive wedding venue DC.”

On a budget in DC and looking for an inexpensive venue?  You’re asking the wrong question and looking for the wrong thing.

There are plenty of (relatively) inexpensive venues in DC.   However, have you ever looked at the breakdown of wedding costs?  More than half gets eaten up (no pun intended) by catering and bar service.

If you’re on a budget, you’ll need  to focus on inexpensive catering long before you look for an inexpensive venue.  Finding a real caterer in the DC area on a budget is very difficult.  We’re self-catering and getting some accompaniments delivered from a BBQ restaurant because budget caterers were so hard to find, even for our Friday, off-peak season wedding.

You may find a really inexpensive venue, but then find later that they have a very limited preferred caterers list, each of which starts at, for example, $80 per person.  So much for that inexpensive venue in DC, right?

If you are on a tight budget in DC, focus your searches on venues that have no catering restrictions.  That way, you have a lot more options to find food options that actually are within your budget.  Then, when you find that venue, your wedding catering options include:

1) Getting food delivered from a local restaurant that provides catering services. Restaurant catering will be leaps and bounds cheaper than a traditional catering service.  Some ideas are to check local Italian, Mexican, BBQ, etc. restaurants.  Many times they’ll offer catering services that are very reasonable and typically include things like setup.  Many restaurants that also offer catering offer two types: Full Service or Delivery.  With full-service, they’ll stay there and have service staff available to serve the food and help clean up.  With delivery services, they typically just drop it off with some paper plates and utensils, and all of the serving dishes are disposable.

2) If you have a small enough guest list, have your reception at a small banquet room at a restaurant.

3) If you do feel the need to go with a more traditional type caterer for your wedding, the phrase “picnic style catering” or “corporate catering” menu is your friend. These options are typically less gourmet-like type meals that caterers offer for regular parties and for company events.  While not for the foodies, asking for picnic or corporate style catering for your wedding can drastically reduce your catering costs for your wedding in DC.  With that said, I when we were researching picnic and corporate catering early in our engagement, I was disappointed.  While the prices were considerably less expensive than the traditional catering, you really didn’t get a whole lot for your money.  Chicken with a simple sauce (one entree) and maybe one or two sides was in the $65 per person range.  Yes, it was cheaper than $110 per person, but is $65 per person really worth it for “chicken with a simple sauce?”

4) Research carefully all the extras, especially alcohol packages. Alcohol package prices ranged SO much.  I think the highest we saw for an open bar was $39.00 per person (using non-premium liquors), and the cheapest was around $14.95 per person.  Beer and wine only packages weren’t that much cheaper.  Soda packages can also be incredible expensive (and in addition to the alcohol packages).  One caterer quoted us $8.95 per person for soda.  So, if you find that a caterer has reasonable food prices, make sure that you take the alcohol beverage prices into account, if you plan on serving alcohol at your wedding.

5) Decreasing your guest list to save money on catering does not always work. Most caterers we interviewed had a food and beverage minimum, typically somewhere in the range of $8000-$10,000.  Let’s say that you’re planning on having 100 guests at your wedding, and that your caterer is charging $80 per person ($8000 total).  Well, perhaps you’re willing to lower your guest list to 75 people to save money on catering (lowers it to $6000).  Well, if that caterer has an $8000 food and beverage minimum, you’re not going to save any money between 100 or 75 guests.  Of course, if you want to invite 200 people to your wedding, decreasing your guest list could make sense, but make sure you determine if the caterer has a food and beverage minimum first!

 

I would love to hear how other couples in the DC area kept their catering costs low.

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I’ve seen quite a few mentions on blog posts and on Twitter in the past few months about couples  asking guests not to take photographs at their wedding.  Why?  Well, a few reasons.  First, professional photographers claim they can no longer capture emotion on guests’ faces because guests’ faces are either blankly staring at an LCD screen, or their head is looking down at the LCD screen to inspect the photo they just took.  And the lights from guests’ cameras can affect the photographs that the professional takes.

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Here goes.  Asking guests not to take photographs at your wedding, in my opinion, is not only a terrible idea, but insanely rude.  Did you ever stop to think that guests want to capture their own memories of your day?  From their own perspective?

I mentioned a few months ago that we actually purchased ten digital cameras to have on hand for our guests at the wedding because we want all of them to take pictures.  My fiancé and I are huge photography fans (albeit amateurs), and we love photos.  The more photos, the merrier!  In fact, I get really disappointed when I’m not allowed to take pictures.  I almost walked right out of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona last year  when I found out I couldn’t take pictures inside.  If I can’t take pictures, what’s the point?  So, I would have a similar reaction if someone told me I couldn’t take pictures at their wedding.  (*side note* Of course I did end up going through the Picasso Museum to see the art, but I’m still pissed that I couldn’t take pictures)

Contrary to popular belief, your wedding is not just about you.  It’s also about your guests.  As Meg from A Practical Wedding says “Your wedding day is not just your day, it’s the day of everyone who loves you.”  It’s about thanking them for being there to celebrate your big day.  And, if they bring their camera, it’s because they want memories of being there with you to celebrate!

And no, it’s not the same if you promise your guests that you’ll send them the link to your wedding photos.  For those of us that love taking pictures, we want the photos to be from our perspectives, not someone else’s perspective.  How we experienced the wedding, or whatever event, not how someone else experienced or viewed it.

So, you don’t want your wedding photos to be full of your guests taking their own wedding photos?  Get over it!  Photography evolves continuously.  If you got married 75 years ago, you maybe would have one formal wedding portrait, if you were lucky.  If you got married 40 years ago, your wedding photos would probably be yellowed and discolored from age and the poor color processing that was used at the time.  Until very recently “photojournalistic” style wedding photography was rare, so your pictures would have consisted of formal, posed photos.  So, with a few exceptions, there wasn’t much “capturing emotion” in those photos either.  During your father daughter dance, you were told to turn and smile for the camera during the dance.  Not much emotion in that!

And until very recently, you were lucky to end up with any more than, say, 100 or so photos (like from my sister’s wedding in 1997), because professional photographers were much more careful and selective about the shots they took because film and was very expensive.  And getting prints of your wedding was also very expensive.  Be thankful, not resentful, that you have so many people taking photos on your wedding day!

So, what I have to say is, get over it.  You should feel lucky that you have so many people who want  to capture memories of your big day.  Professionals and non-professionals.

As a final anecdotal note, I question how much of a problem this really is.  At the last two weddings I attended, sure, there were folks taking pictures.  But maybe only about 10% of the guests.  There are plenty of others who will be there for your professional photographer to capture their emotions.

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Okay, okay.  You tell me all this boring stuff about weddings.  How to use credit cards to maximize cashback rewards on my wedding purchases.  And how to iPod my wedding for real.  Now, I just want to find some good old fashioned wedding porn and create me some inspiration boards!

Well, today you’re in luck here at SuperNoVABride.  No there won’t be any inspiration boards to get your creative juices flowing (we’re all practicality here).  Besides, there are a boatload of wedding blogs out there.  We all know what they are.  We look through their archives, their categories, their most commented-on posts, and their top posts of all time in an attempt to find inspiration for our wedding.

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But isn’t there a more systematic way, and less excruciatingly time consuming, way of finding good wedding information?  Because, if you are anything like me, I was exhausted and completely overwhelmed with ideas.  And, I wasted a whole lotta time.

First Steps

Assuming you’re in the very early stages of wedding planning, first up, complete the following steps:

  1. Sign up for a Stumble Upon Account.  Mark “Weddings” and “Crafts” as two of your interests when you sign up
  2. Sign up for a Pinterest Account and create at least one Board.  Call it “Wedding Ideas” or something like that
  3. Sign up for a Polyvore Account
  4. Sign up for Delicious or some other shared bookmarking site that will allow you to tag your bookmarks

For each of these accounts, make sure you install the browser bookmarklet or add-on that will allow you to quickly bookmark, pin, stumble, clip, etc. from whatever webpage you’re on.

5) Create a simple “project list” spreadsheet.  This will be for later.  The spreadsheet can just contain a few columns like Project Name, Project Type (centerpiece, bouquet, cake, etc.), and link.

Finding Wedding Inspiration

Some of these things may seem duplicative, but I find that it works.

So, I recommend that you start with Stumble Upon. as a way to find great wedding inspiration.  Although it’s been around for quite a while, I only recently discovered Stumble Upon.  It is amazing and it has introduced me to great gem articles on the internet.  So, I recommend using Stumble Upon to find some great articles on the wedding blogosphere and the crafts blogosphere.

When you stumble upon a site or page that contains an idea or article that you like:

  1. Remember to click “Like” on stumble upon.  That will save it to your favorites on Stumble Upon and will help improve future sites that Stumble Upon finds for you.
  2. If it contains a picture that you really like for whatever reason (inspiration, an idea for a friend, etc.), do the following things:
  • Pin it to your pinterest board
  • Save the page to Delicious or to whatever shared bookmarking site you signed up for.  Resist the temptation to just save it and move on.  Make sure you enter specific tags.  For instance, don’t just tag it with “wedding.”  Tag it with “wedding” “Guest Book Idea” or “wedding,” “flowers” “centerpiece” etc.  The more specific you are now, the easier it will be to locate all your great finds.
  • If the article doesn’t contain an inspiration-worthy photo, but it does have a good informational article, you can skip the pin and just bookmark it instead

Organizing your Wedding Inspiration Finds

After you’ve been doing this for a while, and you’ve pinned and bookmarked probably a ton of sites that you’ve found through Stumble Upon, it’s probably time to step back and start to identify some themes in what you have pinned.

Your bookmarks will largely serve just as reference for you to go back to or share with your friends and family.  Like I said, some of it seems duplicative, but I definitely recommend saving it in a few different places.

So, go back through and review all your pins bookmarks.  As you review it, keep two things in mind:

  1. If you want to use one an image from one of the pins to create an inspiration board, use your “Clip to Polyvore” bookmarklet to save the pin image to polyvore.  Then it will be available on that site to make a very easy inspiration board.
  2. If, while reviewing your pins and bookmarks, you still really like the idea as something you would want at your wedding, add the project name, type, and link to your “project list” spreadsheet.  This will help you keep organized what is A) Simply a picture for inspiration vs. B) Something you actually want to do for your wedding.

After a while, you’ll have a good collection of articles and images to serve as the baseline for your wedding inspiration!  (And plenty of ways to go back and easily find them!)

I find this a much better method than aimlessly searching through Wedding Bee or Style Me Pretty for inspiration.

A few other thoughts.  Don’t just limit your searches to “wedding” when finding other Stumble Upon interests or other pinboards or anything really!  The reason I recommended “wedding” and “crafts” is because there is plenty of non-wedding things you can use as inspiration for your wedding.  To that end, in addition to the wedding magazines you probably already subscribed to, I recommend subscribing to others, including Better Homes and Gardens, Do It Yourself Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Ready Made Magazine.

How do you organize all of your wedding inspiration finds?

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I tend to rag on wedding vendors quite a bit. In fact just the other day, I went on a complete rant on Twitter about how, despite multiple attempts to communicate to bakeries that we want cake, (just cake. No special decorations. Not “wedding cake.” Just CAKE), that an estimate still came back to us considerably more than the price listed on the bakery’s website.

Of course, I went off on a tirade about businesses that charge the “wedding premium” and how the wedding industrial complex tries to convince you to spend more money because it’s such a “special day.” Vendors can seem so intolerable sometimes! But, alas, it’s safe to assume that we brides (*gasp!*) can be intolerable too.

So, here are some ways that (presumably) you can do to be nice to potential vendors. little-miss-helpful

1) Don’t ask questions they’ve already provided an answer for. Before you contact a vendor, make sure you visit all the pages on their website for information. You may be able to find answers to a lot of your questions before you even contact them. For instance, some vendors provide interactive calendars of dates they have available. Others even find a price calculator worksheet for their services. Some list their prices and full menu of services, others don’t. So, instead of wasting their time (and yours) asking questions about something for which they’ve already provided an answer, make sure you read through all their materials first!

2) Provide them an estimated timeframe of when you expect to make a decision. When I got engaged, I went full steam ahead contacting venues and caterers for estimates and date availability inquiries. Within a day, I had about 15 e-mails from many of the places I contacted. Well, I appreciated their promptness, but I was in no position to make any sort of decisions within a few days of getting engaged. And, if I didn’t return their e-mail within a week, some would follow up, slightly causing my blood pressure to rise as I realized I left all these businesses hanging and that I should get around to actually reviewing and organizing all the proposals. I wish I had told them in my initial estimate request that “I expect to narrow down our selection and make a decision in the next month and a half.”

3) Tell them right away if they’re not in your budget. I’d recommend the following that you e-mail the wedding vendor back right away if you know there is not a chance that they’d be in your budget. For instance, if their initial estimate was $110 per person, even if you can get it down to $75 per person somehow, would you be able to afford that? Just say, “Thanks for putting together an estimate, but unfortunately that is not within our budget.” That way, they don’t waste their resources following up with you if you don’t respond back to their estimate.

4) Similarly, let them know if you decide to choose another vendor. I’m not a vendor, but I couldn’t imagine there would be any hard feelings, especially if they’re an established business. However, maybe they would contact you and ask for specific reasoning to help their business in the future. Further, this can help avoid some minor annoyances on your end. For example, we interviewed deejays back in May, but have since decided not to have a deejay and iPod our wedding. Just the other day, one of the deejays we interviewed in May called us to follow up. I didn’t call back right away, and when he called again, I was mildly annoyed and wished I had just let him know months ago that we had decided not to have a deejay.

Vendors out there, anything else that would be helpful to you from us brides?

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Flower Girl and Ring Bearer Attire

by Melissa on July 11, 2011

A few months ago, I discussed the reasoning behind our decision not to have bridesmaids.  Months later, I still think that has been one of our best decisions.  But, we are having a ring bearer (my nephew) and a flower girl (my fiancé’s niece), and I’m not sure why, but I am completely baffled about what they should wear.

Here’s some background

1) We’re having a casual campground wedding.  My dress will be a fun, but shorter flowy chiffon dress, and we have told our guests that the wedding will be casual attire.  They will be sitting on picnic tables afterall.

2) My nephew will be 5 1/2 and my fiancé’s niece will be almost 3 at the time of the wedding.  I have no idea what my nephew should wear.  He’s beyond that phase where he would look so adorably cute in a little suit, and he’s also freakishly tall for his age, so I don’t want to make him wear something that will make him look like a toddler instead of a big boy.  And, since our wedding will be more on the casual, rustic side, I want him to be dressed in a more casual manner.

3) I want everyone to wear little pops of blue as they walk down the aisle.

So, after careful, and probably way too much, consideration, here’s what I’ve come up with.

Ring Bearer

  • Brown dress pants or Brown Corduroy Pants
  • White button down shirt
  • Blue Converse Shoes
  • A skinny tie, perhaps made out of one of the following types of fabric, checkered or polka dot

ring-bearer-outfit-inspiration-board

Flower Girl

  • A tutu.  I’m undecided on whether to do a multicolored one or a solid color one.  I like this solid color one, and multi-colored ones like this (but using a slightly different autumn-type color scheme)
  • A long sleeve cardigan sweater
  • Striped tights in blue (similar to these).  Or blue and white polka dot tights.  Or, if I’m not that brave, just plain blue tights.  The striped tights was inspired by this look.  So cute!
  • A cute headband
  • Undecided on shoes.  Maybe some cute saddle shoes or t-strap shoes

What about you?  How did you dress your ring bearer and flower girl, or how are you planning to dress them?

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Announcing the New SuperNoVABride Blog Design

by Melissa on July 10, 2011

Thank you all for your patience while I took the site down this weekend to gear up for its total design overhaul.  I hope you like the new design and logo (I also have a new twitter background!).  And please let me know if you find any quirks or bugs.  Some things display differently in Internet Explorer, but it doesn’t affect functionality.  Also check out my updated About Page and Links Page.

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SuperNoVABride will be down for the entire weekend July 9 and 10.  It will be back up on Monday morning, July 11 with an awesomely shiny new design!  So, for feed subscribers, visit the bland white template one more time to say goodbye.  After tonight, it will be no longer!

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