Category Archives: wedding planning

beautiful summer wedding with lighting and beautiful dance floor

9 Amazing Wedding Themes You’ll Love

Planning a wedding reception requires a good wedding planning guide and, in some cases, a wedding theme list. The latter is incredibly helpful if you’re a couple who wants to use a theme to start creating an atmosphere with details that are completely and entirely you.

Jazzy

We’d be remiss as Chicago wedding professionals if we didn’t include this nod to Chicago’s heritage on our wedding theme list. A jazz wedding theme can be as modern or as vintage as wanted. A more modern take may include record accents, unique lighting, and a jazzy playlist. For a more vintage wedding, consider reproducing the atmosphere of an old jazz club—even going as far as to recreate a speakeasy with card and poker tables.

Nautical

A nautical or lakefront wedding theme is the perfect opportunity to enjoy all the perks of being on the lakefront. Picture a wedding at a popular lakefront venue, marina, or yacht club filled with an atmosphere in line with a day on the water. A nautical wedding theme is an opportunity plan the ultimate menu filled with your favorite local tastes and seafood dishes.

Retro/Vintage

A retro or vintage wedding theme is a throwback event, complete with touches and a playlist reminiscent of a different era or time. This is a theme that can be as unique as the era you choose—especially when choosing your favorite touches from that period. Best yet, this wedding theme lends itself to a wedding dance filled with your favorite songs from that era. (Hire a wedding DJ or band that can make that happen.)

Romantic

This is the perfect wedding theme for a Valentine’s Day wedding or for an intimate wedding reception. A romantic wedding theme can be as unique as the couple planning it: a neutral affair with upscale floral bouquets or late-night reception filled with roses and candles.

Fairy Tale

A fairy tale wedding brings the wonder of your fairy tale to life. This is your chance to make guests feel like they stepped into a vintage story book or a more modern version. In addition to wonderful décor, this is also a chance to incorporate the theme into the wedding dance with a royal wedding entrance and a fairy tale first wedding dance. (Your wedding DJ may have ideas as well, just ask.)

Rustic

A rustic wedding can be as modern or as country, and as formal or casual, as you prefer. This wedding theme is filled with natural elements that exemplify the rustic atmosphere: wood, greenery, floral accents, and atmospheric lighting.

Urban

An urban wedding deserves a modern wedding venue with a completely urban feel. The planning should continue with every detail that lends to a feel of the wonder of the urban landscape.

Winter

A winter wedding includes the wonders of the season—what those wonders are is different for every couple. This is your chance to select your favorite parts of the season and incorporate it into a beautiful wedding atmosphere. The result can be a neutral affair that exudes a winter wonderland or a cozy setting with tones of the season.

Spring/Summer

A spring or summer wedding is an atmosphere with fresh details: floral, greenery, seasonal menu dishes, and all the beauty of the season. This is an occasion where fresh blooms and ingredients are expected and celebrated.

beautiful summer wedding with lighting and beautiful dance floor

How do I start planning an awesome wedding reception?

The wedding reception is the kingpin of a beautiful wedding day, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Instead, this step-by-step guide breaks it down into easy-to-plan tasks that create an incredibly fun wedding reception that everyone looks forward to and talks about for ages to come.

Decide on a budget and future planning.

If you haven’t already, make a few key decisions before you start wedding planning. You’ll find wedding planning really comes down to a series of wedding questions. Sit down with your partner and ask yourselves:

  • Where do we want to get married?
  • What is our style?
  • Do we want a big or a small wedding? How big is our guest list?
  • What is our budget? Who is paying for each wedding item?
  • Do we have time to plan the wedding? Or would we prefer to hire a wedding planner?
  • What is one thing we really want at our wedding venue?

Find the right reception venue.

This is one of the most important details of planning a wedding reception—after all, this is the backdrop of your big night! Choose a venue that fits with your wedding atmosphere and checks off all the practical boxes off the checklist.

If you want to host the ultimate dance party, make sure you ask about any limitations on volume and curfew times. Some venues need to shut down the party early because of local municipal and community regulations. Even outdoor venues need to abide by these restrictions. In addition, ask these questions:

  • Is the venue available on my wedding date?
  • How many guests does your venue accommodate?
  • Are other weddings or events held at the venue at the same time?
  • What is the cost of the venue? Are there any overtime fees or other costs?
  • Is alcohol allowed on site? Do I need to get the alcohol or is it provided by the venue?
  • What staffing is provided by the venue?
  • Does your venue carry liability insurance?
  • Is the venue handicap accessible? Is there parking nearby?
  • Are there local hotels my guests can stay at?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • Do you offer equipment rentals (i.e. chairs, tables, tablecloths, décor)?
  • When can I tour the venue? (Tip: never book a venue without seeing it in person.)

Once you have the venue booked, it’s time to start thinking about equipment rentals and décor (and venue policies). Most venues only allow free-standing décor that won’t damage the walls and structure. If the venue offers equipment rentals, discuss the specifics of your event needs. For venues that don’t offer equipment rentals, ask for recommendations for the best event rental companies and décor services. Start brainstorming ideas for wedding favors that fit with the décor and atmosphere.

In addition to finalizing event rentals, work with the venue to set a tentative wedding reception layout and schedule. Don’t leave any meeting with venue staff without setting deadlines for finalizing details and understanding the next step.

Hire a caterer.

The meal is a big part of the wedding reception, which is why booking the caterer is the first steps of planning a wedding reception. Sometimes, the caterer is part of the wedding venue package; for others, the process involves online research and asking friends and family for recommendations. When selecting a caterer, interview each caterer and ask a few questions:

  • Is your company available on my wedding date?
  • Do you have a guest minimum?
  • What is the cost per guest? Are there any additional fees or costs?
  • Do you offer different dinner services (i.e. buffet, family style, sit-down)?
  • Is bartending and drinks offered as part of your services?
  • Do you carry insurance?
  • Can I schedule a tasting? Is there a fee for the tasting?

If you want to keep your wedding reception dance party going well into the night, ask the caterer about a late-night course that fuels your guests. Another idea is to hire a food truck for a creative twist (with permission from your venue, of course).

Hire the best wedding reception entertainer.

You’ve got the place and the meal set, now it’s time for the fun: planning the wedding reception entertainment! Decide whether you want a band or wedding DJ (use this list of wedding entertainment pros and cons).

Wedding entertainment is one of three details that make the biggest impact on guests. The others are the venue and food. When setting the budget, allocate enough funds for a quality vendor that keeps guests on the dance floor.

There a lot of different ways to find the best wedding DJs in Chicago, including asking your friends and family or doing online research. Be careful about relying entirely on a “Chicago DJs near me” search, however; take your research a step further and check social media and popular websites like the Knot and Wedding Wire for other couples’ opinions of the DJ.

When you do narrow your options down, ask each DJ these questions:

  • Is there a wedding DJ available on my wedding date?
  • Do you have any experience with weddings?
  • Can you provide references?
  • What is the total cost of the DJ service? Are there any package deals that you offer?
  • Do you overtime fees? Is there a travel charge?
  • What “extras” do you offer (i.e. lighting, photobooth, etc.)?
  • Does your service offer back-up DJs and equipment in case of an emergency?
  • Is dinner music service part of your services?
  • Do you customize your play list to our tastes? When do we need to get our ‘must play’ and ‘do not play’ lists to you?
  • Does your service carry insurance?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • When can we meet?

Make sure to ask about any special requests, such as a bilingual MC, before signing the contract. You’ll be glad you did when you’re celebrating on your special day.

7 Tips for Less-Stress Wedding Planning

busy woman reading through wedding paperwork‘Stress’ and ‘wedding planning’ should not go hand in hand—and yet somehow it always seems to go that way. With a million details to coordinate and a budget to balance, wedding planning can start to feel like work—stressful work! Your wedding day—and the time leading up to it—should be an enjoyable experience. It can be IF you take these tips for less stressful wedding planning.

Be organized.

Organizing and using a wedding planning checklist is more than an option; it’s a necessity for low-stress wedding planning. Create a binder (or electronic file) where you can easily find the names of your wedding vendors, such as your DJ, caterer, baker, and venue. Use a wedding planning checklist to track your progress. Work ahead on your wedding checklist as much as possible so you can feel on top of things and ready for the next step.

Screen your vendors carefully.

Quality vendors equates to quality execution. Choose your wedding vendors carefully; don’t hire a DJ who raises red flags—even if they are the friend of a friend of a friend. Ask your vendors questions to weed out the sub-par and read over the contract fine print carefully to ensure you get quality service on your big day.

Lean on the experts.

Hopefully, you’ve hired a team of pros because they know their stuff. Lean on their expertise and use it. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know. What do you recommend?” Contact them for ideas and to coordinate all the details; remember that the lines of communication need to flow both ways. Make sure you leave every meeting or contact with a clear list of deadlines and expectations.

Take a break.

Step away from wedding planning every once in a while—and not just half-heartedly, but step away physically and mentally. Go on a road trip. Head to the spa with friends. Go hiking. Attend a concert with friends.

Make it a team effort.

Just like you lean on your vendors for recommendation, lean on trusted friends and family members for assistance. Ask your fiancé and trusted friends and family to help with certain wedding planning tasks. If your wedding planning task needs to be done by a certain deadline, be clear about when you need it completed.

Don’t take on more DIY than you can handle.

Too many “I can do that” can add up to an incredibly stressful experience—even when you’re incredibly capable! (We won’t even mention DIY fails.) Be realistic about the amount of time you have available for do-it-yourself projects, especially when you have to make many of them. Putting together a DIY play list for the reception seems easy UNTIL you’re up night after night after night trying to get the perfect play list ready. Decorating cupcakes may appear to be easy and simple until the frosting isn’t coming out right or you’re pressed for time. Be smart with your time and stress level; even if it seems easy, you only have so much time to get it done before your big day.

Take a break.

Did we mention taking a break from all the crazy of wedding planning? It’s okay to step away every now and then. Head up north to the cabin. Take a jog. Go swimming. Head to the gym. Take in a movie. A short break can make you feel refreshed, less stressed, and ready to take on the next step of wedding planning.

Don’t procrastinate! 4 Wedding Vendors You Shouldn’t Wait to Book

wedding bride and groom surprising guests with balloonsWe’ve all procrastinated a time or two (or three or a hundred times), but here are 4 wedding vendors you shouldn’t wait to book if you want a fantastic wedding reception.

Venue

Why you shouldn’t wait: Your wedding venue is THE biggest detail of your wedding day.  You can’t hold a great party if you don’t have a venue to hold it in.  Plus, you have a lot of other details that you can’t set in stone without having a venue.

How to find a good one: Once you’ve decided on the location of your big day (i.e. destination wedding, hometown, city where you met, etc.), narrow down your options by deciding on your style, budget, and the size of your guest list.  Choose a venue that checks off all three boxes and any other unique wants and needs you want, such as a venue that allows you to bring in your own caterer or has no sound limitations for a fantastic late-night party.

When to book: Book your wedding venue about 12-16 months before your wedding date.

Caterer

Why you shouldn’t wait: You don’t want to leave your wedding guests with a bad taste in their mouths.  If you wait too long, all the good caterers are going to be booked and you’re going to have to settle for ho-hum cuisine.

How to find a good one:  Ask your friends and family for their recommendations or ask your venue for suggestions for a quality caterer.  Back your research up by checking out local reviews on social media or review sites.  Once you have a short list of caterers that are perfect for your big day, ask them for a quote and any other specific details you want for your big day.  Make sure you set up a tasting with your preferred caterer to sample the actual dishes you want on your wedding day; don’t book a caterer until you’ve made sure they live up to your standards.

When to book:  Sign the contract with your caterer 12 months before your wedding date.

Entertainment

Why you shouldn’t wait:  Don’t book a great venue and confirm a wonderful caterer only to leave your guests bored after dinner.

How to find a good one:  Decide whether you want a band or DJ (tips on how to choose the perfect wedding entertainment option here).  Once you’ve decided which option is your first choice (for you and your budget), ask your friends or family for recommendations and check the local review and social media sites for other couples’ opinions.  Make sure you ask these questions and look for entertainers that coordinate special moments with other vendors (i.e. photographer, videographer, venue, etc.) for wonderful memories that you can look at for years to come.  If you want to offer more fun for all ages, book a photo booth or bring out yard and table games for an entertaining wedding reception.

When to book:  Book your entertainers 14-18 months before your wedding date.

Videographer & Photographer

Why you shouldn’t wait: A bad videographer or photographer is going to leave you with less than stellar memories of the most important day of your life.

How to find a good one:  Ask your friends and family for recommendations, visit local wedding fairs, and let your keyboard do the searching.  Back your research up with review sites and reviews on social media sites to make sure you are booking the best.  Ask your prospective videographers and photographers for samples of their work before you sign on the bottom line.

When to book:  Book your videographer and photographer 12+ months before your wedding date. 

When should I hire a DJ for my wedding?

disco balls from a wedding danceThis is a question we’ve been hearing from a lot of couples in the throws of wedding planning.  If you’ve heard the saying “October is the new June,” you understand why: there are now many months of the year popular for weddings.

The answer to the question, “when should I hire a DJ for my wedding?” is 14-18 months. In reality, the sooner you contact and hire a quality wedding DJ the better.  The best DJ’s calendars book up early, and you don’t want to end up with a bad DJ (here’s how to tell the difference between quality and wedding DJ horror story).

What questions do I ask a potential DJ?

We’ve already given you tips on how to find a good DJ (i.e. ask friends, check their social media pages, etc.).  The next step is to ask the important questions that help you select the best DJ for your big day.

  • “Are you available on my wedding day?”
  • “What kind of experience do you have as a wedding DJ?”
  • “Can you give me references that I can contact?”
  • “Do you offer any other perks other than deejaying?” (i.e. lighting, photo booth rental, etc.)
  • “Can you do….(Insert special request here)?”
  • “How long can you DJ? What is cost of that time?”
  • “Do you charge overtime fees if our wedding reception runs late?”
  • “How much of a deposit is required and when will the balance be due?”
  • “Do you charge a travel fee?”
  • “What is your policy in case of an emergency or cancellation?”
  • “Can you provide me proof of your insurance?”
  • “How many meetings do you typically set up with clients? When are the meetings?”
  • “Can we do meetings over the phone or internet instead of in-person meetings?”
  • “Do you have back up DJs and equipment available for just in case?”
  • “How early do you arrive at the wedding reception?”
  • “What kind of electrical needs does your equipment require?” (for an outdoor wedding)
  • “What is included in your wedding package?”
  • “Do you provide dinner music as part of our package?”
  • “When do you need information from me?”
  • “When should I give you a list of my favorite songs and songs I do not want played at my reception?”
  • “Will your DJ be in formal attire?”
  • “Will the DJ act as Master of Ceremonies (MC) at our wedding reception?”
  • “How many years of wedding experience does my DJ have?”
  • “How do we contact you as we plan our wedding?”

How much does a wedding DJ cost?

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer online because the cost of your wedding DJ depends on so many factors, including what you need and want (i.e. lighting, photo booth rental, etc.)  What we can answer here is a solid tip: don’t underestimate the cost of a quality DJ.  Yes, you need to save money and stick to your wedding budget.  However, hiring the cheapest or that “DJ friend of a friend” that can give you a killer deal has it’s downsides: sub-par equipment, no back-up in case of emergencies, no extras, crappy DJ horror stories…the list could go on and on.  When vetting potential DJ’s, be selective and hire a quality DJ (we’ve listed what to look for in a quality wedding DJ here) so you don’t end up regretting your choice on your big day.

Last Minute Wedding Tips That’ll Make Your Big Day Smoother

scene of bride and groom just married after a smooth wedding dayAs much fun as it is to dream about your wedding, it’s the days before your wedding that can make those dreams come true.  Use these tips to make your fairy tale wedding execution as smooth as the dream wedding you’ve imagined since you were small (or at least since you met your fiancé).

Make sure everything is set with your DJ

If you haven’t already met with your DJ (and you should be worried if you haven’t, the best DJs make sure they meet with their clients well before the wedding), now is the time to confirm your wedding schedules and share what songs you want—and don’t want.  Follow these tips to compile the perfect wedding music playlist now, so you don’t have to worry about passing on a page of requests that night (and have fun dancing to your awesome DJ!).

Put together payment & tip envelopes

You don’t want to be writing out checks all day or worrying about where cash for your accompanist is.  Put together envelopes with payment and tip money for your vendors, friends, and family that make your day fantastic.  As long as we’re talking about showing appreciation, don’t forget to package your wedding attendant gifts as well.

Finish your vows

If you are writing your vows, don’t procrastinate until right before your ceremony.  The days before your wedding are stressful enough; you don’t want to have to add worrying about your vows to the list.  If you are worried about reciting your vows, find a trusted friend or family member that you can practice with.

Pack for the big day

Make sure you have a bag (or bags) packed with everything you need, such as make up, accessories, and emergency kit (stain fighter and aspirin, anyone?).  If you have a separate dress for your reception, ensure that the dress is with a trusted party or in a convenient location for easy changing.

Check, check, and double check

Now is the time to be organized.  Set aside time to go through the big day from start to finish, and do a final check with each vendor to make sure every detail is confirmed and ready.  Send out a schedule of wedding day events to your wedding party.  Contact your caterer about a final head count.  Call your wedding venue to make sure every detail is ready.  Double check with your ceremony site and anyone providing music or services during the ceremony to make sure you are ready to go.

Engaged? Congrats! Tips to Kick-Start Your Wedding Planning

engagement ringDid your holiday gift come in a ring box? Did your Valentine’s Day dinner turn into a scavenger hunt for your engagement ring? Did your winter carriage ride end with your partner on bended knee? Congratulations!! According to Wedding Wire, 40% of wedding engagements happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. So where do you start your wedding planning? The first steps of wedding planning are the same for every couple, whether your big day is a few months or a few years away. Either way, there’s not a moment to lose in your wedding planning (because there is a lot to do!), so it’s best to kick-start the process as soon as possible.

Have the ‘talk’

This simple conversation is one of the most crucial parts of your wedding planning process. Start a discussion with your fiancé about the cost and vision of your wedding, and any preferences each of you might have. Questions you might ask are:

  • What do you really want at our wedding? How do you see the day?
  • How do you want to handle costs?
  • Do you have anything you really, really want in the wedding?
  • Do you have any traditions that you want to include in our special day?

Obviously, you are going to have your own talk with your own questions, but these questions can give you an idea of how to start the conversation. Some couple talks take hours, others just a few minutes (like our friend whose fiance’s only request to have mixed drinks!). If another member of your family or friend has offered to financially help out with the wedding—such as paying for your wedding dress, covering the cost of the dinner or drinks—now is the time to discuss the amount and any requests they have about their gift. A discussion now with open communication is important, so don’t skip this important step; it can save you a lot of heart ache and misunderstandings later.

Start with a vision

Before you go dress shopping, before you book your wedding venue, before you even think about wedding songs, think about what you want your wedding to look like. This step helps to prevent a mishmash of a wedding with unrelated elements.

Do you want an elegant outdoor wedding? A rustic barn wedding? A ballroom wedding? A destination wedding on a beach? Decide the direction you want to take in your wedding planning, so you can create a cohesive, beautiful event. If you need guidance in developing your vision, look online and visit bridal show for ideas.

Set a budget & date

These two important elements of your wedding dictate almost every other detail: when you send the invites out, what kind of invitations you can purchase, your wedding venue, your dress…everything. That’s why it’s important to set these two details early, and be realistic. If you want an extravagant elegant wedding, 30 days is going to be an extremely tight timeline. As for the budget, pick a reasonable number that you can afford, and be ready to stick to it.

Snap up your ‘must have’ wedding vendors

guests dancing to wedding DJThe best local vendors’ calendars fill up quickly, so don’t procrastinate. Once you have a budget and a date, start contacting wedding venues and ceremony sites as soon as possible. When those two important wedding details are confirmed, you can start contacting your preferred wedding vendors (before someone else does!): that bakery that makes delicious wedding cakes, the wedding DJ you’ve heard keeps everyone on the dance floor all night. If you have an extremely busy schedule, or need assistance with organizing all your wedding planning tasks, consider hiring a wedding planner. They know the best caterers, local DJs, venues, everything you need, and they can make sure that your vision turns into a special day that is uniquely you.