Hi and welcome to the FritzPro Music, Inc. blog! My name is Trish and I’m the President of the company. I will be using this space to tell stories of the events I’ve done, provide advice on selecting music, and to answer your questions about our services or your event. Even if you don’t choose us, I think that it’s important to be a savvy consumer and hopefully the information contained here will help you find quality professionals who will do a wonderful job for you.

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Ceremony Music But Didn’t Know How To Ask

Part II: Contracting
 

Okay, so you’ve chosen your perfect music coordinator.  You love her, you love her music and you feel confident that she sees your wedding the same way you do and you’re excited to get started on the fun stuff!  Hold it just a minute!!!  First things first; you need to have a contract in place before moving on.  It seems very straightforward, and in most cases it’s merely a formality, but there are some things that you need to know in order to ensure that everything goes as planned.  I want to go through a checklist of nuts and bolts things that you need to think about before you sign on the dotted line so that you can enter into your contract with a complete understanding between the two of you.
 

Questions to ask:
 

Do you have liability insurance?
Most venues require all vendors doing business on their property to carry a liability policy that includes a $1,000,000 per incident and $2,000,000 aggregate claim stipulation.  You might think “there’s no way I’ll find a little music company willing to have all that!”,  but the fact is, a policy of that size for a music company isn’t prohibitively expensive and any company doing any serious business knows this and has already taken care of it.  If your venue requires it and your music coordinator either doesn’t know about it or is unwilling to comply, walk away politely and know that you dodged a potential problem later on.  If you sign an uninsured company against the venue’s directive, they may find you in breach of contract and you could lose your deposit and access to your favorite venue on your wedding day!
 

What is your payment schedule?
Expect to pay a deposit at the contract signing.  Vendors vary on how much they require, but it will be anywhere from $100 to half of the total contract.  Some or all of the deposit may be non-refundable.  This is to cover administrative expenses should you change your mind after signing the contract.
 

What is your cancellation policy?
All contracts have terms for cancellation built in.  It’s not something that anyone wants to think about, but from time to time, weddings are cancelled for a number of reasons and you want to make sure that you understand the terms set forth in the contract before signing.  In my contract there is a schedule so that at various points in time you can expect to only forfeit your deposit, pay half the total contract or pay in full depending on how close to the wedding date you are cancelling.  This schedule is to protect the musician’s livelihood because if you cancel your wedding a month out, chances are about 100% that she won’t be able to find another job (considering most brides contract with their vendors between 6 months and a year in advance).
 

How many pages long is your contract?
A really well-written contract is generally one page, front and back at most.  You need certain information including who is playing, where, on what date at what time, terms of payment and contact information for both parties.  The back side often contains other terms including circumstances under which the contract can be voided with no penalty (standard “act of God” clause), cancellation policy and other terms such as rain/extreme heat and cold policies.  If the contract with which you are presented is very long with a lot of legalese and fine print, be sure to read EVERY WORD before signing so that you don’t find yourself in a difficult position down the road.
 

When is the final payment due?
At one time, all vendors expected to receive their final payment on the day of the wedding.  Some still operate this way and it’s fine, but don’t be surprised if your music coordinator requires final payment before the wedding (mine are due two weeks before the wedding date).  There are a number of reasons for this, mainly so that you don’t have to be carrying around a packet of envelopes on your wedding day (I mean, really: where are you going to put them anyway?).   Also, no matter who you designate to pass them out, it will be difficult because chances are that person will have other things on her mind (enjoying herself if she’s a guest, or making sure the day goes smoothly if she’s the coordinator). 

 

I have been questioned about this from time to time by nervous clients who are afraid I won’t show up after having been paid.  I can understand the impulse to feel this way but the fact is that I would be out of business in about 5 minutes if I made a habit of not showing up.  You are always welcome to check references and find out how other people have felt about her.  Trust me, no one will keep quiet if the musicians don’t show up to play a wedding! 

 

The pre-payment also protects the musicians’ payday.  Most people are trustworthy and pay their bills, but in the early days of my business I had a number of problems getting paid, either late or not at all.  On several occasions, the bride simply forgot (understandable considering everything else she has to think about that day!), promised to put the check in the mail the next day and then forgot again because she was leaving for her honeymoon!  By the time she returned a week or two later paying me was ancient history in her mind and I had to track her down and basically hound her for my check.  I hate doing that and decided that payment in advance was the best way to protect my business while offering convenience and a care-free wedding day to my bride.

 

Once you have the answers to these questions, and you have read the contract carefully you are ready to sign!  One more thing checked off of your endless wedding “to do” list, congratulations!!!

The final installment of this trilogy will be concerned with the fun stuff: choosing your music to set the right tone for your entire wedding day.  Stay tuned!
 

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ceremony Music but Didn’t Know How to Ask

Nearly every telephone call from a potential client begins with the following: “I want really good music for my wedding but I have no idea how to find it, much less figure out if they’re really good”.  These people are generally calling from an ad that they’ve seen in the Hampton Roads Wedding Guide or preferred vendors lists from the venue where their wedding will take place.  Preferred vendors lists are really helpful because they won’t put a vendor on it if they haven’t seen said vendor in action and are not willing to stake their reputation on that vendor’s performance. 
 

If you don’t have access to a preferred vendors list or you just want more options, there are some things that you can do when interviewing a music coordinator to mitigate the potential risk of bad service or performance.  I’m going to walk you through the hiring process here so that you know what questions to ask, what to expect, and what not to expect so that you can be confident as you develop your vision for your wedding day and seek out the perfect musicians to set the mood and provide your soundtrack.
 

Once you’ve seen an ad or been given a referral, call or email. 
You should expect a return call or email within 24 hours.  The reason for this is that if the music coordinator can’t get back to you quickly before she’s made the sale, how will she treat you after the contract is signed? 
There are exceptions of course, including vacation and illness.  I know that with internet phones and call forwarding, a person can be reachable 24/7 anywhere in the world, but it’s not really fair to expect people to never be disconnected from work.  If you don’t get a response, keep looking, but if the music coordinator gets back to you and says that she’s been on vacation or ill and you’re still looking for music, give her a break and listen to what she has to say.
 

Pay close attention to the response that you get.        
Email: Does it feel like a “form” letter, or does the response reflect any initial questions that you posed in your inquiry?  How is the tone of the message?  Is it warm and friendly, or cold and all-business?   Some brides prefer a totally practical approach to wedding planning, but most like to work with vendors who are taking a personal interest in their intensely personal day. 
 

Telephone:
How is the music coordinator’s tone of voice?  Does she seem happy to hear from you?  Congratulatory?  Again, most brides prefer a warm, personal approach.  Does she seem to be in a hurry, or does she give you all the time you need to have your questions answered?
 

Fair questions to ask:
Do you actually play in your groups or are you a booking agent?
You can get quality music from either an active musician or a booking agent, but their level of involvement is generally different.  Booking agents line up the musicians (who you may or may not be able to talk with personally before your wedding) and pass along information to the musicians, but are usually working with a large number of clients at once.  An active musician with her own groups is generally working with a smaller number of clients and since she will be present at all of the weddings, is more personally involved in the details.
 

How long have you been playing weddings?
You can decide on how much experience you require, but more importantly you can tell a lot about a vendor based on the confidence with which she answers this question.
 

How many weddings per year do you generally play?
You really want to find someone with a relatively high number because if she says a number fewer than 25 or so, then she’s probably a “hobby wedding musician” and is that really what you want for your wedding? 
 

Can you do custom arrangements if I want to personalize my ceremony?
The days of having to have certain pieces of music are gone, thank goodness, so if you want to personalize your ceremony, make sure that your musicians can do it, and do it well.  If she says that she can do it, but but seems hesitant or lacking in confidence, you might want to re-think either your music choices or your music coordinator.
 

What will you wear to my wedding?
Tux for men and formal black for women is standard.  If you want something else, ask and see what they can do for you. 
 

Do I have a choice of instrumentation?
If you have a very specific group in mind (i.e. string quartet), make sure your musicians can do that.  If you’re not sure, be open to other possibilities and look for a company that offers you some choices for personalizing your group. 
 

Can you also play my cocktail reception, and if so, can you change musical styles?
If you want something more fun, like jazz, for your cocktail reception, make sure your group can do it and do it well. 
 

Given my specific wedding, what are your prices for your various groups?
Granted, prices vary depending on the size of the group and whether or not out of area travel expenses apply, but once you have given this information, your vendor should be able to give you and exact quote with no hidden fees or surprises.
 

One question for which you should accept “no” for an answer.
Brides and grooms often ask if they can come to one of my weddings to “see me in action”.  My answer is always “no”, not because I don’t want them to see us, but because I don’t want to shortchange the bride and groom for whom I’m working.  I need to concentrate totally on the wedding of the moment and don’t have time for a sales meeting during a wedding.  Even if I don’t talk to the prospective clients, I know that they’re there, and will be distracted by their presence.  Besides, who wants strangers at their wedding?  I tell them that by helping me preserve the sanctity of someone else’s wedding, they are also guaranteeing that there won’t be any uninvited gawkers at their ceremony.  They’re usually very happy about this and hadn’t thought of it that way.
Personally, I truly love playing weddings and I think that my enthusiasm for the bride and groom comes through in every phase of the planning process.  You really want someone who is willing to give you as much time and information as you need to make an informed decision about the music for your wedding and how it will enhance your overall vision.  Once you’ve chosen the perfect music coordinator to work with you, you move on to the contracting process, and then the fun stuff: actually choosing your music!

Stay tuned for Parts II and III…   
 

Why Do We Need Ceremony Music Anyway?

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the role of music in a wedding ceremony.  I have had a lot of conversations with brides and grooms and I am often questioned about the necessity of music in the ceremony.  I guess the short answer to those questions is “you don’t need music”.  You don’t need pictures either, or flowers, or food, decor, a DJ, tuxes, etc.  You get the idea.  All you NEED are two people who have a desire to commit their lives to one another, someone to officiate and 2 witnesses.  Everything else is window dressing.  Having said that (and probably made my other friends in the industry gasp and clutch their pearls), do you really want to have a wedding without those things?  Some people will say “yes, that’s fine”, but they’re probably not reading this blog; they’re on a plane to Aruba or down at City Hall having the wedding of their dreams.  For the rest of us, those things are a large part of what makes a wedding beautiful and memorable.  You want to create an experience to share with your family and friends that reflects how very important this day is and how much you value their presence.
 

What about music?  What is music’s role in the wedding ceremony?  In short, professional, live music provides a soundtrack for your wedding day.  As in the movies, it sets the mood and helps to enhance the emotions that the bridal party and guests are feeling.  You can have a perfectly beautiful wedding ceremony without music, but it will be missing something important.  (Try watching “Jaws” with the sound off and see how frightened you’re NOT without the “Dah-dat…dah-dat” to tell you to WATCH OUT!!!).  In the movies, the music is a lot more than filler; it foreshadows events (“hey you stupid kid!  The killer is right behind you, can’t you hear the MUSIC?!?!?!”) and enhances emotions (you always know the instant they fall in love…).
 

So it goes with weddings.  30 minutes before the ceremony begins, the guests begin gathering, and the musicians surround them with beautiful, romantic music.  I often see people’s entire demeanor change as they enter the ceremony area (whether it’s a church, hotel ballroom or public park); they realize that they have arrived and their minds turn towards anticipation of the events to follow.  Even at a non-religious event, there is sanctity to the space where the ceremony is taking place, and the music often defines that space and helps them prepare their minds and hearts.
 

Once the ceremony begins, the music takes on an even more important role.  Music isn’t just “to get people down the aisle”; its presence is an opportunity to share something personal with your guests, or with each other.  Some brides and grooms are traditionalists and having “Canon in D” or “Bridal Chorus” played represents a connection with previous generations and to history.  Having music that has stood the test of time is an important symbol of their commitment to one another and the longevity that their marriage will enjoy.
 

Others are more interested in making each selection a personal journey.  I played a wedding not long ago where the bride surprised her groom by asking me to arrange a beautiful little alternative rock song for her processional.  It was about a man proposing to his girlfriend and he had played it for her as he was proposing to her.  I had to work hard not to cry because everyone else was, and I still had to play!
Most people find a balance, where they have some of the traditional blended with some personal for a perfect wedding soundtrack.  The thing to take with you is that music sets the mood for the whole day and gives you an opportunity to make your wedding ceremony personal, special, and memorable.
 

 

Happy 2010!!!

Let’s face it; I haven’t written anything here for awhile.  I have a good excuse for that, and I want to explain.  After 17 years of disappointment and sadness, my husband and I finally became parents!  On September 4, 2010 we met our beautiful baby girl, Rosina.  She was born in Philadelphia in August to a wonderful young woman who wanted her to have everything she couldn’t give her and so she and her boyfriend chose us to be her parents!  We are absolutely thrilled with her and stand in constant awe of her birthparents who, in spite of loving her more than life itself (and because of it, no doubt), and in spite of the fact that they would love to have raised her themselves, made an adoption plan for her so that she could have the life they wanted her to have, instead of the life they could currently give her.  We aren’t rich but we have so much: our lives are settled and secure, we belong to a close-knit community of supportive family and friends, and most importantly, we are emotionally ready to be parents.  It is an open adoption, which is better for all concerned in my opinion, so we will be able to keep in touch with her birth parents, and to send them proof of Rosina’s happy life.  As Rosina grows, she will meet and get to know her birth parents, and will have the opportunity to know where she came from biologically, and to know for sure that her birth parents didn’t “give her away” because they didn’t love her.  In fact, they found us for her because they love her so much and how can so much love ever be a bad thing? 

I know that this is a wedding music blog, but sometimes one must digress for a moment for something important.  I don’t want to turn this into a referendum on adoption, but I did want to share a little of our experience.  I am still working at my wedding music business full-time, but since my office is in our house, Rosina comes with me to work and spends her day alternately playing with me and her dog (a beautiful blue Great Dane named Luna, who we rescued last summer), and playing by herself, either in her swing or on the floor safely ensconced in her brand new play yard, both within inches of my desk.  Any time I get too intense, she giggles behind me and reminds me of what is truly important and there’s nothing better than that!!!

Next entry, I will get back to the business of helping you plan the perfect wedding, but for now I wanted to share something a bit more personal.  Having Rosina has helped me find new joy in a lot of things, especially in my work, that in some small way helps to create new families for others.  May you all find the joy in your marriage and life that I have found with my “Prince Charming” John and my beautiful princess Rosina.

The Most Fun Wedding Ever!

I know it has been a very long time but I am now back in some sort of a routine after a summer of total craziness.  I have played a lot of weddings this summer, but one in particular stands out that I wanted to share.  First of all, it took place at the Hilton Oceanfront Hotel in Virginia Beach, with the incredible Tom Johnson in charge so that guaranteed a wonderful event right from the start.  Second, the bride and groom had put the preparations in the extremely capable hands of Pearl Taylor, of Uniquely Yours by Pearl.  I always enjoy working at the Hilton, and having that pleasure combined with Pearl’s professional and loving touch made my day!  Even I feel special working with these two people and I’m working!  Imagine how the bride felt…

So, she felt great, as a matter of fact.  She was a woman who had known disappointment and sorrow, and from what she says, had given up on the idea of “happily ever after” when she bumped into a very nice man in line at the movie theater.  They soon discovered that they were soul mates and the joy in the room was palpable.  She was escorted by her lovely daughters who were thrilled by the match and the glow on their faces told everyone else how happy they were that their mom had found her other half at long last!  Because of her history, our bride asked us to play “Bless the Broken Road” as done by Rascal Flatts for her processional and it couldn’t have been more perfect!

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and the ceremony that followed was equally personal, as the couple had a long term relationship with the rabbi who married them.  She talked about them and to them as if they were old friends (and indeed they are), and shared in their joy in a very genuine way.  The cantor’s beautiful voice enhanced the mood further and I was extremely moved by the entire ceremony.

For the recessional, our bride was wavering about whether to go with the traditional Mendelssohn “Wedding March” or use a traditional Jewish recessional called “Simon Tov and Mazel Tov”.  At the very last minute, she chose the Jewish music and it couldn’t have been a more perfect choice if it had been scripted in a movie!  After the groom broke the glass, we launched into this very lively piece and at first there was a gasp of appreciation and then they all began clapping and singing along as the bridal party danced its way back down the aisle!  I almost couldn’t play because I was grinning from ear to ear.  What a perfect experience!!!

On top of all of these wonderful things, the bride and groom are just the sweetest people who went out of their way to greet everyone (including the vendors) and make everyone feel great.  I wish these two very special people the very best and hope that only good things come to them during their long life ahead.

A Most Joyful Wedding Day

Last Friday was another day, and another wedding at the beautiful Hilton Oceanfront Hotel in Virginia Beach.  The staff, the venue and certainly the view there are unparallelled as I’ve mentioned before.  I love playing there because they not only take exquisite care of their guests, but also their vendors as well.  It never fails that when I arrive, at least one person (normally more than that) offer to help with my equipment and once inside, every staff member who walks by asks if there’s anything we need.  Wonderful!

The thing that made this wedding even more special was the mood of the bride, which was infectious.  All of my brides are happy and excited on their wedding day, but this particular bride, Kathleen, was something else altogether.  She was happy and excited, but she also conveyed strong feelings of being blessed, and being “home”.  It was a feeling that washed over everyone, including us and it was truly an amazing ceremony.  There was laughter in abundance and a relaxed, unbridled joy throughout the ceremony that left no one in any doubt whatsoever, that this couple was meant to be together. 

Often ceremonies are a little stilted because everyone is nervous and afraid that they might “do something wrong”.  I’m here to tell you that there’s really nothing that anyone can do “wrong” at a wedding as long as everyone important is there and their hearts are true, but some people get so wrapped up in the spectacle they have worked so hard to create that they forget that it’s all really about the joining of two people, their families and friends.  Even with all the preparation, decor, food, music, and everything else that goes into wedding planning, the wedding itself is simple, timeless, and elegant all by itself.  It’s a spiritual joining that is witnessed by a couple’s family (both of blood and of the heart) and everything else is just window dressing. 

This couple definitely got that, even though they also had all of the other things that make for a memorable celebration.  The energy among the guests as they left the ceremony for the cocktail reception was a true testament to the couple’s feelings for one another.  Normally, the guests are happy and talkative afterwards but in this case, they were jubilant.  I’m very honored that we got to play a small role in this incredible day.

ISES: What Is It and How Do I Use It?

I wanted to write a quick post today about an organization that is near and dear to my heart, and that is ISES.  “ISES” stands for “International Special Events Society” and it is a professional organization for events professionals of all disciplines showcased in the events industry.  I have belonged to ISES Hampton Roads for about 7 years and I can’t tell you what a wonderful experience it has been for me.  I have met and become friends with many of the area’s top events professionals and because of those connections, my business has expanded and improved.

Why should you care about all of this?  It’s actually a wonderful resource for you when you’re planning your wedding because the premise of ISES membership is professional service, ethical business dealings and high standards.  So, if you hire an ISES member to provide a service, you are guaranteed that you will get top quality service throughout the planning and execution of the event.  You can certainly find many wonderful professionals who are not ISES members, but if you’re stuck and don’t know where to look, the Member Directory on our website is a great place to start.  Or, you can visit the official website of ISES International and use the Member Finder function there to locate great vendors all over the world!

I have always stressed in this blog that when planning a wedding or other large social event, you should do everything you can to minimize stress and worry, and if you have a database of quality vendors from which to choose, it’s a good start.  I know that when I arrive at a venue to set up and I look around and see that there are other ISES vendors there, I know that I can relax because everything will work out perfectly.  We work together often enough that we’ve become a “team” in which everyone knows what everyone else needs and so we can smoothly go about the business of making your event run like a well-oiled machine without getting in each others’ way!  The big winner in this case is always you, and isn’t that what our goal ultimately is…to make your day beautiful, perfect and stress-free!

Personal Music for Two Couples

This past weekend I had the privilage of providing the music for two different couples, both of whom were very invested in the music that would be played during their respective wedding ceremonies.  On Saturday, I had a special request for a keyboard player and although I normally work with a guitar player in my groups, I am very fortunate to be acquainted (personally and professionally) with one of the top keyboardists in the area and he was only too happy to help out.  The wedding took place at a wonderful venue, to which I am a very frequent visitor, the Kingsmill Resort and Spa in Williamsburg, VA.  My bride and groom wished to personalize their music, but also pay their respects to tradition, so opted for a program that mixed traditional selections with the more contemporary.  I’ll list their program here so that you can see how beautifully the two can mesh:

Seating of Grandparents/Mothers: Lascia Ch’io Pianga from “Rinaldo” by G.F. Handel

Bridal Party Processional: Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel

Bride’s Processional: The Luckiest by Ben Folds

Recessional: Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Harold Arlen, arr. “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole

My second couple of the weekend chose also to blend traditional and contemporary, but had our Petite Symphony Trio, with clarinet guitar and string bass as the instrumentation.  The second wedding was at a newer facility, and one where I had played some corporate events but never had the pleasure of doing a wedding before Sunday.  The venue was the Half Moone Cruise & Celebration Center in downtown Norfolk.  It is a terminal from which cruise ships leave, but was cleverly designed to double as a stunning waterfront events venue and mission accomplished!  It’s main event room is a large, round room with high ceilings and an outdoor terrace surrounding most of it.  The views are incredible, and the service was (and always is) impeccable.  They also have a smaller room off to the side that works perfectly as a cocktail reception area, and for those really big events, the terminal area (huge, with waterfront views and wide open spaces) is also available.  Their program was personal and inspirational and included the following:

Seating of the Grandparents/Mothers: The Prayer (Josh Groban/Charlotte Church)

Bridal Party Processional: You Raise Me Up (Josh Groban)

Bride’s Processional: Canon in D (Pachelbel)

Recessional: Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey)

The reason I’m publishing their programs is not to say that you have to choose this music, but rather to illustrate a little of what some other brides and grooms are doing.  We are happy to play anything you like, providing we can find it in print (I’ve only been stumped twice in nearly 15 years).  Both of these weddings were beautiful and memorable, in large part because they took the time to think about the music they wanted for their “soundtrack”.

 

I Do! I Did! We Did It!

Well, “I Do” is history, and what a great experience for all of us!  Michelle Kilgore of Weddings by Michelle pulled together a truly spectacular presentation from beginning to end!  The concept, while not completely unheard of, is certainly a rarity in this era of large, overwhelming bridal shows where the brides are turned loose in a giant space full of hundreds of vendors.  This was more intimate, more approachable, more informative, and certainly more personal for both the vendors participating and the brides attending (we had a full house; woo hoo!).  They were greeted upon arrival at the beautifully renovated (it’s a stunner, believe me!) Portsmouth Renaissance Hotel, with passed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and then treated to a tour of the hotel.  During that time they were also presented to several of the photographers present to meet and greet, and have their questions about wedding photography answered.

After that, they were escorted into the ballroom, which had be transformed (with decor, florals, lights, and live music [our Petite Symphony Quartet]) into a dream wedding!  They were seated by tuxedoed ushers as if they were guests at a wedding and then the show began.  First, they met the genius behind the project, Michelle Kilgore, and were then treated to a video of our “bride” getting ready for her wedding (in truth, our bride and groom were newlyweds who were still giddy from their own wedding, so positively glowed with happiness all day!) in the Presidential Suite, complete with a fabulous professional makeup artist, photographer, and tasty tidbits to keep her from feeling faint during the day.

The program then proceeded through every facet of the perfect wedding day, from a reinactment of a ceremony complete with music (our Petite Symphony Quartet continued), officiate, guests and a unity candle ceremony through a cocktail reception with hot jazz in the background (us again with our Swing Union Trio!), eye-catching drinks and tidbits, to the reception complete with unbelievable table settings to a heart-wrenching first dance accompanied by a DJ.  In the middle was a fashion show and all of the vendors were given an opportunity to spend just a couple of minutes educating our brides about our particular areas of expertise.  

The brides weren’t just relegated to watching though; throughout the afternoon tuxedoed waitstaff passed drinks and delicious foods for them to sample and enjoy right along with the production!  The entire day was so amazing and I’m sure that our guests left not only with some good advice, but also wonderful gifts from all of the vendors. 

I know that everyone (especially Michelle) is exhausted from the task of putting this all together, but I also know that we are all already looking forward to next year to make the show even better.  See you there!

 

A Beautiful Wedding on a Budget

It seems that everyone is talking about how expensive weddings can be, and they’re right.  If you watch We-TV at all, you can see half a dozen shows where brides and grooms are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to over a million dollars because they want that “wow” factor in every facet of their day.  If you have a million dollars just lying around, I say “go for it” and have every extravagance you can imagine!  But, if you’re like most of us, every dollar has to count and we all have to watch how much we spend.

I played a wedding on Saturday that could serve as a model for perfection on a small budget.  My bride and groom were interested in having a beautiful and fun celebration with their friends and family but weren’t interested in going into debt to do it so they made a list of what was most important to them, spent their money there and just didn’t worry about the rest.  What they ended up with was this: an afternoon ceremony in the beautiful courtyard (complete with flowering trees and a fountain) at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News.  They hired my flute/guitar duo to provide the music, and customized the music to suit them personally.  After the ceremony, they went inside where they had a beer, wine and soft drink bar for guests to enjoy while the bridal party had their photo session.  Our duo went inside with them and played a nice selection of jazz standards in the background to set the mood for the party.  After the photos were completed, I served as Emcee and introduced the wedding party, complete with a “grand entrance” for the bride and groom.

After that, they shared their first dance together with live music (Love Me Tender) and had a wonderful buffet of hot and cold hors d-oeuvres and a beautiful wedding cheesecake.  We left at that time and an i-pod took over because they didn’t feel the need for a large “show” during the rest of the afternoon.  They had simple florals and linens, and dispensed with chair covers, overlays, and fancy tableware but from where I stood, no one noticed.  They were all enjoying themselves immensely.

In sharing this story with you I’m not saying that you “shouldn’t” have any of the fancy things like larger florals, ornate linens and tableware, or a DJ or band.  Not at all; I only wanted to illustrate that you can have the wedding of your dreams without jeopardizing your financial future.  It’s always best to have reasonable expectations of the type of wedding you can afford.  Set a budget and make a list of priorities, then stick to both.  In this couples’ case, the location was important and so was the ceremony/pre-reception music, so that’s where they spent their money first, and even so, they went with a small musical group so as not to over-do.  They also wanted their guests to enjoy the bar, so had beer and wine, which is less expensive than hard liquor but still fun.  The food was simple, but plentiful and I understand, very tasty, so no one noticed that there weren’t 3 kinds of seafood and a steak.

The main thing I want to say is, “Have a beautiful wedding.  Have an extravagant, “over-the-top” wedding if you want.  But if you can’t or are not willing to pay for all of those very expensive things, you can still have a wonderful, memorable celebration of the beginning of your new life as a family.”