Choosing Vendors, Guest Seating and Gown Shopping

Melanie Voros of Blissful Beginnings Wedding and Event Design gives helpful advice on choosing your vendors, guest seating and gown shopping.

Choosing your wedding vendors

There are so many wonderful vendors in the New England Area, it can be hard to choose which is the best fit for your wedding. Referrals from family and friends are always a great place to start. There is also some merit to researching through blogs and wedding chat and message boards, but be aware that others' opinions are just that- the right vendor for your wedding is a personal choice. I suggest that clients take four things into consideration when searching for service providers that best suit their individual vision.

1. Style of Service:

Understand the vendor's specific style of service and area of expertise. Some photographers have a traditional style of shooting, others take a more journalistic approach. Your best friend's limo company did a wonderful job at her wedding, but they do not have the stretch SUV that you are hoping for. It seems obvious, but make sure the vendor offers the type of service you are interested in.

2. Price:

Be sure that the service provider fits into your "big picture" budget. Overspending on one vendor means you must cut back in other areas. Price differences can be relative to years of experience, amount of time invested or the specific product received. Be clear about the service you are receiving for the cost, do not just look at bottom line price when comparing vendors.

3. Personality:

Probably the area that most people don't consider when choosing their wedding vendors. You will be spending a lot of time working with many of your wedding vendors, either before (planner, caterer) during (photographer, videographer, beauty service providers) or after the wedding (photographer)- so be sure you enjoy their company and feel comfortable communicating with them!

4. References:

Yes, these are important. When you are applying for a job, an employer is going to ask your former employers about you. Any vendor should be able to offer you references who can speak about the experience of working together. The most important question to ask? "Would you hire the service provider again?"

If a vendor meets all of these criteria, you can feel comfortable that you have chosen a service provider that meets your expectations and will suit your individual style!

Guest Seating

Many couples dread (and put off) creating a seating plan for their weddings. This necessary task is really easier than you may think, and your guests will thank you for taking care in planning a place for them to enjoy the festivities!

Why do you need to assign seats at your reception?

1. You painstakingly planned your centerpieces, tablescape, napkin fold and linen color. If you do not plan where guests sit, they will take it upon themselves to move chairs, squeeze 12 seats into a 8 person table and this will not create a comfortable experience for your guests or a pretty photograph.

2. Have you ever walked into a full movie theater with 3 friends and tried to find 4 seats together with 150 people staring at you? This is what "seating yourself" at a wedding feels like. Your guest's comfort should be first priority at the wedding reception and searching to find a seat in not comfortable.

3. If you do not plan your guests seats, your caterer will have no ideas where the 6 chicken finger kids meals go, your cousin's vegan plate needs to be or the "shellfish allergy guy" is seated. And no, you can't just point them out that day.

So, what are the rules of thumb in creating your seating plan?

1. Again- guest's comfort is paramount! Most people do feel most comfortable being seated with folks they know. When you receive your response cards, take a second to bundle them by category- family/work friends/parents friends/college buddies, etc. When all of the RSVPs are received, half the work is already done.

2. When you must mix friends/family members who do not know each other at a table, try to match up guests with similar interests/jobs/hobbies or those who are close in age. Most often they'll have no problem getting along if they find that they have things in common.

3. Wedding party members are always happier to be seated with their date or significant other than at a "head table". Traditional 1-sided head tables are far less popular than in the past, and for good reason. The bride and groom spend very little time seated at the head table, and therefore the wedding party is hanging out "on display" by themselves! Consider other options like a sweetheart or family table for yourselves and seat the wedding party with guests.

4. Think about the older folks. Correct, you do not want to seat your older guests directly in front of the sound system, but they do want to have a good view of the action on the dance floor and the entertainment.

When in doubt, always put yourself in the position of the guest and error on the side of their comfort!

Helpful Hints on Shopping for Your Wedding Gown

1. Perhaps the most important tip-have something to eat before you shop, trying on those heavy gowns all day can be a real workout!

2. Appointments are helpful. Although you may be tempted to drop into a shop and start looking on the first Saturday after your proposal, be aware that setting up appointments will afford you more assistance at the salon. Also, bear in mind that weekends are very busy at most formalwear shops, especially during the busy bridal and prom seasons.

3. Scan that pile of magazines on your coffee table and bring along sample photos of dresses that you like. Don't be afraid to show your bridal consultant photos of neckline, hem, train, sleeve and fabric details. She will use this as a guide to the styles and elements you are most partial too. A picture is worth a thousand words!

4. Try several different styles and design elements to see what flatters your figure most. Don't get caught up in current trends alone. Also, try several different fabric hues. Shades are available from the purest white, to ivory, to rose to mocha. Many gowns are available in a choice of colors or fabrics, as well as 2-tone or with color accents.

5. Wear undergarments that you will not be embarrassed to be seen in, or carry along your own strapless or longline bra and a slip. Many reputable shops provide or require in-the-dressing room assistance so that sample gowns do not withstand too much wear and tear. If you are uncomfortable with this kind of help, just realize that bridal consultants have experience in fabric, dress lines and current styles and are trained to ensure you a good fit and flattering style.

6. Don't bring along an enormous entourage. 1 or 2 girlfriends and Mom enough. Choose to take your entire bridal party along for bridesmaid dresses on another day. Changing rooms are small and too many opinions can be confusing and even frustrating!

7. Sizing- Here is the tricky part. Don't be surprised if you are fitted for a larger size in a wedding gown than your usual off-the-rack size. Wedding gown sizes are based on bust, waist and hip proportion measurements. Your measurements are compared to the specific designer's sizing diagram. Each designer uses their own chart for sizing purposes. Many wedding gown retailers will allow you to "sign off" on ordering a smaller size than is suggested by the manufacturer if you are dieting or expect to lose weight at your own risk, but be aware that most gowns can be taken in up to 2 dress sizes with little difficulty but can only be let out minimally, if at all. There are also often additional charges for extra length (usually 5'9" or taller,) plus sizes and of course, custom requests likes linings, fabric or embellishment changes.

8. Alterations- MYTH-Gown retailers purposely order a size too large to ensure alteration charges. This could not be more incorrect! As noted above, gown retailers match your measurements to the vendor's sizing chart to find the best size for you. Therefore, if your waist and hip measurements fit a size 8, but your bust is a size 12, you'll need to order the gown to accommodate your bust and alter the gown down to your smaller measurements. This will ensure the most flattering fit. The majority of gowns require alterations of some kind.

9. Take your time, but do not wait too long. Many vendors can require 9 months for delivery. Conversely, if you are getting married in 2+ years, wait until the 1 year mark to gown shop. Your figure as well as current gown trends can easily change and this will help you to get the best style and size ordered.

10. Follow care directions from your bridal shop when you bring it home. Most salons or seamstresses will press your gown before pickup and suggest that you remove the garment bag as soon as possible so it will not wrinkle. It is best to place a clean sheet on the floor and hang your gown, veil and petticoat in a spare room away from people and pets to make sure it stays clean. You may also ask if the dress may be spot steamed or pressed if needed. Some fabrics do not tolerate steam and can show watermarks, so be sure to ask first.

11. Finally- beware of ordering your gown from an online retailer. These shops may offer a cheaper price, but will not offer you the insight into sizing, correct measurements and customer service. I have personally worked with brides who have had to scramble to replace a gown ordered online that arrived in the wrong size due to incorrect sizing information.

Categories: Advice from the Experts