If such a wish could be granted

What would you change about your/ your child's wedding? Please don't answer," the bride/ groom /mother-in-law" and such. I am really asking about the wedding event, like the caterer, orchestra, photography package, number of guests invited for dinner, etc.

Also what piece of advice, beyond the general of "take everything in stride," is really helpful for those planning such a simcha?

Do I have an ulterior motive in asking this? Yes! I want to be sure to cover all important points in the book I am putting together now.


Anonymous said…
No one's commented yet. OK, I'll start. I'd have a better photographer. I really can't show my pictures to anyone, they came out that badly. Not something I think about every day. The guy who took out pictures was worse than an amateur. It would have been better to have no one at all.
Ariella's blog said…
Thanks for starting, tesyaa. Maybe others will be encouraged to follow suit. I was also disappointed in our photographer. The pictures weren't terrible. They were ok, but nothing original about them. I didn't like being forced to pose in all the standard shots they take with the veil this way and that, hand here, etc. What bothered me most, though, was that they walked out about 2 hours before the wedding ended. They said they would only stay on overtime. [This is a standard ploy among photographers who offer very inexpensive packages that are designed to lead people into paying overtime rates.] I couldn't demand that as I was not the one paying. So only snapshots taken by friends recorded the dances from the second round onwards.
Orthonomics said…
Our photos are ok, not great. I might have chose a different photographer of a similar price. But it is hard to complain since I do know a couple that never even got their photos! (I believe they never got their money back too because they weren't going to make trouble for a member of the community).

My husband would have liked to socialize more with the guests. One has to make things clear to the band before the reception.

And if I knew my mil would blow a fuse over a certain thing we skimped on, I might have spent more time trying to make that happen. Oh well, you can't please everyone.
Lion of Zion said…
my most important advice for people making their own wedding is to make sure that all the planning is completely finished well in advance of the wedding. i was still running around the day of the wedding (even at the wedding itself) taking care of things and i don't think i got to enjoy the wedding as much as i should have.

we should have skipped the shmorg. what a waste of $
should have also cut out the bar. our friends don't drink.

other general advice: tell the caterer to make sure that the wedding moves along at a pace you determine in advance. this ensure that you don't incur overtime costs and that guests will be able to remain for most of the wedding. (my caterer was very good with this, at one point getting firm with the photographer that he picture time was over.)

also, the big bands have many members. insist that they put in the contract at least some of the names of the people who'll be at your wedding. (they won't write down all of them, but at least get the ones you really like.)

don't waste $ on a fancy ketubbah. most are plain ugly and/or unoriginal. besides its really just a business contract. why is that people want to display it?

no speeches. not by rabbonim. not by parents. no one wants to hear them.

rent the flowers from a gemach or even a store. if you buy, then donate them afterward to a gemach.

i've been told that if you're going to spend $, the most important things are the band and the photographer. the band creates the atmosphere. the photographer leaves you with the memories. personally i think the video is more important, but get the *cheapest* package. (ariella, why were you surprised that the phorographer left "early"? didn't you have a contract for how many hours he would be there? there is really no "ploy" here. besides, there aren't really any important pictures left once you're that far into the wedding.)

keep in mind what people will really remember about the wedding. so forget the need benchers, nice kippot, wedding cake, ice carvings, etc.

don't take an hour after the huppah to come into the hall. it's disrespectful to the guests. if you don't care about that, then consider that most people have to be up early the next morning for work and you'll be left with a half-empty hall because people will not stay all night.
Lion of Zion said…
"the most important things are the band and the photographer"

but don't go overboard.
get a quality photographer, but a 2-man crew is not necessary.

similarly, get a good band, but more than the "basic" 5 pieces is not at all necessary.

remember, quality, not quantity
nmf #7 said…
Honestly,my wedding was perfect.
Problem? Well, I would have tried to spend less money on it, and used that money for other purposes.
Example? I would have rented flowers from a g'mach instead of having fresh, and I would have saved money on some of the small extras that I noticed but many others didn't care a hoot about.
Ariella's blog said…
Sl, now you have me wondering what that thing was.
Thank you, LOZ, for your very thorough response.
nmf#7, thanks for commenting. Glad you were happy.
I get the sense from most of you that in retrospect people realize that they could have done without some frills without affecting the actual experience. I would love to hear from more people.
Staying Afloat said…
I would have thought more about the logistics of the actual ceremony under the chuppah. I had steps to get there that I almost fell on, and the small table was placed so that I had to walk around it when I did my circles.

Also, make sure your mesader kiddushin had directions to the hall and your father's cell number, and if you're out of town get him there the day before or on the first flight of the day for a night wedding, AND have a backup in place if he doesn't show. Our mesder kiddushin got lost on the way to the hall (pre-cell phones and GPS), and my brother-in-law's never made it because a big storm cancelled all but the earliest flights that day.

Otherwise, we were happy. I insisted on the band and the mechitzah, my husband held forth on the kiddushin issues, and all else we left to the mothers.It helps to be out of town where there are less options.

Also, my dress actually busted a seam at one point, and I know someone whose back zipper came undone and she had to be sewn into the dress. Have white thread and a needle in the bathroom or yichud room, and if you like to dance, leave more room in the dress than you think you'll need.
Ariella's blog said…
Maybe that's why the nonJews have rehearsals. Most bridal books recommend an emergency bag that includes a sewing kit and safety pins.
Your dress story reminds me of the dress problem I had. It buttoned down the back, and some of the buttons opened during dancing. A nice lady brought it to my attention. But I would recommend not relying on buttons to keep the dress back together.
Orthonomics said…
Sl, now you have me wondering what that thing was?

We skipped fresh flowers except for bouquets. There was a deal my mil spotted.

I wasn't able to reach any of the centerpiece gmachs and just did without (I had a lot going on in addition to planning a wedding and moving, including a major case at work that I was basically in charge of and needed to complete)anything more than what my mother put together. . . which wasn't much.

If I could go back, I probably still wouldn't want to spend the money on a florist, but would have tried harder to reach those with the gmachs.

So many years later the wedding is like a faint memory. Ultimately, I don't think the details of the party are the be all and end all. Afterall, there is a whole long life ahead.
Lion of Zion said…
always bring an extra ketubbah.
don't have 2 rabbis co-officiate.
Ariella's blog said…
Thanks for clarifying, SL.
LOZ, my husband strongly seconds your suggestion for a second ketubah because mistakes do happen.

Someone just wrote in response to this same query posted on a shul list: "Get every last detail in the contract, otherwise your vendor's may very well cheat you. And don't be afraid to sue." I wonder if he's a lawyer. Suing is actually not such an easy process, especially if it is beyond the amount allowed by small claims. And I can tell you that I have sued in small claims court and won but never received a penny for the judgment. There is no mechanism in place to get you the money you are awarded.
Anonymous said…
From what I recall from my siblings' weddings...

Like LoZ said, the band and photographer are very important - we went for quality and it was well worth it. The pictures were simply incredible.

Ask around - you might be surprised who you know that has connections in the wedding business - you can get some great suggestions from different people about all aspects of the wedding.

Have the members of the wedding party rehearse walking down the aisle, etc - I can't tell you how many times I've seen people race down, or not smile, or do something else that just throws off the whole atmosphere.

Food - honestly, simple food that's beautifully presented and well done is much more appealing than artsy food that no one touches because it tastes so bad. I've been to weddings that had great food - simple, yet attractively presented and delicious (and I appreciate the fancier stuff).

If there's one thing I would never have at any simcha, it's sushi. It's gone within two minutes of being set out, very expensive on such a large scale, and very few people get to enjoy it. Not at all worth it. (and this is coming from a sushi lover)

Go over the schedule - it's so annoying for people to wait for HOURS after the chuppah for the FIRST round of dancing!

Oh, and smile and have fun - it's your wedding (not a funeral)!
Ariella's blog said…
Thanks, tnspr569. So who is really in control of the scheduling at a wedding? My first instinct is to blame the photographer for keeping the bride and groom, along with some of the relatives, for the portraits. However, they claim that they are not working slowly and blame the couple for tarrying in the yichud room and the relatives for taking a long time to gather everyone who is supposed to be in the picture.
It may be the expected delay that has given rise to the "simchas chasson v'kallah" round of dancing with friends that is typically scheduled for around 10 PM. Because these portrait delays have become so common, some now arrange to take the pictures of the couple together prior to the chuppah. My aunt, though, who made quite a large number of weddings, direct her children to have the couple portraits taken only after the first round of dancing.
Stacy said…
I would have assigned a relative to work with the photographer to get more pictures of the people that were important to me (rather than having the photographer guess and not having any pictures with my closest family friends).
I would have skimped on the invitations (people throw them out).
I did only spend about 30 seconds choosing a bencher and regret this because we use them every shabbos and I don't like them. Also when we are guests at other people's houses, they give us "our bencher" to use. The benchers don't need to be expensive but they should be pleasant to use.
Anonymous said…
Most of the important points were made already, but here are a few more: If you have a large family on either side (especially if both sides are large) schedule as many of the pictures as possible before kabbalos panim. This will give you more time for portraits after the chuppah.
Family members or guests should not sing on the microphone unless arranged before hand with the band and rehearsed. This sounds obvious, but to some people its not. Budget yourself beforehand, a lot of unexpected expenses can crop up at the last minute, so be prepared to deal with them.

Communication: If the parents of one side live in another state than where the wedding will be, don't ASSUME the other side will take care of everything. Try and be involved over the phone. A simple call "I know theres not much we can do from out of town, so please tell us what we CAN do to make your job easier" is greatly appreciated. It might not help with logistics, but it could save a lot of resentment. Remember that shalom bayis between the mechutanim is important; a rift could strain the young couples relationship.

The florist, photographer, band and caterer all know how to do their jobs; don't try and do it for them (yes, you need to establish budgets, contracts and guidelines beforehand, but dont go overboard with details; they know what to do better than you).

GIFTS: its always appropriate to give a nice gift, but if you buy it from a commercial store, check their bridal registry. If you can, include a "gift-receipt" so they can exchange it for something else if they need it (nobody needs 5 vacuums or 3 grills. yes, its happened). If wedding is to be held in another state then where the couple will live, have the gifts shipped there- it will be appreciated more than trying to bring 2 suitcases of gifts on the plane.

Remember that the important thing here is the marriage, not the wedding. Your dream wedding should be one where the chosson and kallah start their lives together happy together. Don't ruin a beautiful event over a gripe about a few dollars.

Understand that things can be done cheaper and the money saved give the couple a better handle on their own finances.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of status associated with weddings today- there should not be.
Ariella's blog said…
Thanks for that observation, Stacy.
yeahright228, you make some very good points. Interesting that you bring up shipping gifts. According to the traditional etiquette, wedding gifts were to be delivered to the bride's parents' home before the wedding. But most people don't bother and just bring it to the wedding. Pocketing a check is easy, but for the boxed gifts, someone has to collect them and keep them in a secure place.
CharnieBarak! said…
when i get home from a wedding, i like to take 2 seconds to jot down what i liked or disliked at the wedding in a small notebook, that way if its something i want to avoid for a family wedding, i'll remember, and if its a good idea that i want to use, i'll know which kallah to call to get the information.

for the ladies, a good hair and makeup lady is very important, and they are NOT all the same. i know someone who had a makeup lady that was very "heavy-handed" and the sisters looked like someone had punched them because they had so much blush on! be sure to go for a natural look that suits you, after all, you want to glow at your own simcha!

it is VERY IMPORTANT to discuss with the band beforehand not to be too loud. i have been at countless weddings where the music was absolutely deafening and one could not enjoy the dancing, or talk to the person next to them because they couldn't hear! music should add to the simcha, not take away, and music that is too loud detracts from the simcha.

the kallah's gown should be architecturally sound (so to speak), not just stunningly beautiful. many gowns are stunning but "delicate" and fall apart during dancing. one should be sure when shopping for a gown that the seams are tight, the zipper is secure, the crinoline fits properly etc. so the dress will stay in one piece for the duration of the simcha.

other than that, the details are endless and individually based. i found that the weddings that were the nicest and that i had the best time at were ones where the personalities and talents of the ba'alei simcha were utilized to the fullest. for example, a friend of mine that plays piano pre-recorded her own chuppah music and walked down to it. Or an artistic family member made cute and pretty shtick specifically for that kallah (using family jokes etc). a simcha is a great time to be creative and utilize your talents!
Ariella's blog said…
Another comment came in via email:
make sure that every elderly friend and relative is in the pictures. A day will come when you want to remember their presence, and they sometimes get left out because they were away from the table when the photographer came. Ask one of your camera happy friends to be sure to take a picture of those people.

Give an extra copy or two of the seating plan to friends who can run interference for you in straightening out an inevitible mixup. You will be too excited to handle it logically..

Be sure to "assign" a trusted friend or relative who is not busy with the chuppah to smooth the way for those who are not part of the "in" crowd, such as a non-Jewish neighbor or co-worker, a friend or relative who has not previously attended an Orthodox wedding, or who feels isolated among a group of strangers.

The affair part is all about the people. Once you have made your budgetary deals and expressed your preferences, leave the rest up to the caterer and the other professionals. And always remember, it is 5 or 6 hours out of your whole life.
Aliza said…
Have a list written (or typed) out of each and every kibud and who you want it to go to. Include things like the Civil Marriage License and the like. Make sure you tell each person on that list before the wedding so they know where to be and when. Since the only "kibud" you can really give to women, in terms of signing things, is the civil marriage license, I had wanted my aunts to sign. I hadn't mentioned it to them in advance and a rav (who wasn't even our mesader kiddushin) just had our eidei tena'im sign it. This still upsets me.

The other thing I would highly recommend is this. Many photograhers ask for a list of portraits you want taken. Make your list as extensive as you want, but then put it into priority order. I REALLY wanted one with each of my living grandparents with all of their respective grandchildren. It didn't happen. Now, almost 15 years later. I am still very disappointed that I don't have that.

Two pieces of advice about the chuppah: (1) On my wedding video you see a friend saying to me, before the badekin, "When you walk down the aisle, look up and smile. Everyone wants to see your face, and you want to be on the video." Sounds logical, but sometimes needs to be said. (2) I advise kallot to hold their flowers for the duration. I gave mine to someone to hold, and then I didn't know what to do with my hands. It was odd.

For after the chuppah, I would say to take the time to go table to table to greet all your guests. They came to celebrate with you. Give them each some face time. It makes your guests feel really appreciated and special.

Lastly, enjoy the day!!
Ariella's blog said…
Interesting points, Carnie and Aliza. I don't remember any kibbud involved with the marriage license, though. In NY no witnesses are required, though they are required in NJ. As these are not halachic witnesses, you can a have a female friend sign on.
Unknown said…
I would point out all of my family members to the photographers. we paid a TON of money because my MIL insisted her photographer was the best with these artsy candid and black & white photos. Meanwhile, we have tons of gorgeous pictures of his family, but none of mine. Also if you do go for a more artistic photographer, make sure they know how to do portraits. I spent so much time coordinating dress colors with flowers etc but all the nice pictures are in black & white.

Prepare a schedule for the caterer. My whole family thought i was nuts for giving a minute by minute schedule for how long photos are, how logn each dance, how long dinner, wheniw anted dessert etc. The caterer was so thankful and despite getting married in a blizzard ( 28 inches of snow in NYC) the wedding ran right on time!

talk with the band to make sure that they do not use "synthesizer" mode on the keyboard at the chupah. it sounds cheesy. make sure they use "piano" mode.

invitations don't really matter.
Ariella's blog said…
Another emailed response from Diane:
I would suggest that any gowns being made or tailored by a seamstress be tried on before you leave the store. Often, on the last pickup, they have the gown all nicely wrapped up, even stuffed to keep its shape and tell you it's perfect and they don't want to unwrap it, etc. etc. Tell them ahead of time you will be trying it on and not to have it already packaged. We had two different weddings where the gown was not the way it should have been and, unfortunately, we were already at the wedding hall. One was a sister bridesmaid gown and the seamstress was tired of fixing it and literally wrapped it up and said "go!" At the wedding hall, we discovered her last "fix" was reversed- she tightened the top and loosened the bottom, instead of the opposite. The gown looked horrible plus it started to fall apart even while it was being put on. I was pinning on the flowers in the changing room. The worst, though, was a specially designed and custom made wedding gown for my daughter's wedding. I went with her for the last tryon and it was magnificent but just a little tight in the waist. She said she'd loosen it a little. When she went the following week to pick it up, it was wrapped and stuffed. Not until the wedding hall did we realize the fitted gown was not loose and baggy and not even becoming. She looked like she was wearing someone's hand-me-down that was too large. We think that someone loosened it once, left on the direction tag and someone else did it again. It's the only thing that makes sense. Could have been avoided with a last try on at final pickup.
testingground said…
Both questions have the same answer. We stayed at the hotel honeymoon suite of the place where we got married, so all we had to do was go up in the elevator when the wedding was over. Of course, who has much time to eat at their own wedding, so we were STARVING, and had not thought to make sure there was food waiting for us in the room. We both scarfed down a challah roll my mother had filched for us, but all the other food was supposedly "gone," as there was a wedding right after ours at the hotel. It was amazingly annoying to be so starving, and it could have easily been planned for.
Oh, and since we didn't have a "run-through" or anything, and no one had bothered to ask us this question, after people walked down the aisle, they had no idea where to stand--under or near the chuppa? which side? etc...--and we were young, and hadn't been to that many weddings yet, so it totally slipped our minds. You can see on our wedding video, while our bridesmaids and -grooms are walking down the aisle, they are talking, trying to figure out where to go once they get to the end of the aisle!
Wihout a doubt -- a better photographer.

Hopefully, for our 18th wedding anniversary this year, I'll get some of the pictures photoshopped so we have SOME decent pictures.
Ariella's blog said…
Sorry for the delay in the appearance of the last couple of comments. For some reason they were "awaiting moderation," and I only checked on comments in that category now.
Agree with a list of important photos, and a schedule. Don't forget to have them photograph the tables when the guests are sitting, while the couple is in the yichud room, so you get the guests. The band insisted that we would need to pay overtime (after four hours). I found that unpleasant and we told them to go home after four because we ran on time.
Bride and groom should dance with people individually, and parents/couple pay special attention to guests who came from far, including photographing them. Making guests welcome makes up for many flaws. It's those little slights that stay with people for a long time, even though the wedding is so crazy you can't really talk to everyone.
We skipped the bar, against the caterer's recommendation, because our friends and family don't drink either. We skipped giving guests choices (except for a fish option). I think everyone had chicken, no beef. And no soup choices. Choices also take longer to serve.
Sorry for the delay in the appearance of the last couple of comments

Ariella - We're now up to our 25th anniversary since I posted that last comment!

Ariella's blog said…
Jameel, I don't know why, but your comments keep getting sent to moderation. I just found your latest one now and published it. What's funny is another moderated comment I got that actually misquoted the price for advertising on Kallahmagazine.com by 1000%. I had a post on people don't read -- apparently, they cannot even read simple numbers.

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