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This is a four part series of posts courtesy of Niceties & Nuptials Boutique on being organized and planning checklists in the months leading up to your wedding. 

Wedding Planning Checklist - Sixteen to Twelve Months in Advance | Niceties & Nuptials Boutique | Vermont Bride Magazine

This blog emphasizes the importance of working with Wedding Planning Checklists in order to simplify and assure an organized, stress free, and memorable wedding experience.  You may wish to use our provided checklists or create your own.  As the average length of a U.S. engagement is 16 months, Nuptials & Niceties Boutique’s Checklist Blogs begin at the sixteen month period.

SIXTEEN TO TWELVE MONTHS IN ADVANCE OF YOUR WEDDING:

  • Wedding Dates: Plan 2-3 wedding dates for flexibility.
  • Become Organized: Maintain important records and magazine articles of interest pertaining to all aspects of planning a wedding; compiling in your Wedding Planner Manual.
  • Purchase Insurance: Insure your engagement ring and obtain wedding insurance.  Cancellation/Postponement Insurance is recommended to cover unpredictable illness, emergencies, inclement weather, vendor problems, wedding dress damage, etc.  Venues typically require Wedding Liability Insurance for protection in events of injuries, property damage or alcohol related accidents.  
  • Wedding Budget: Establish your budget – What you can afford along with family contributions if applicable.  (To be addressed in detail in a subsequent blog.)
  • Wedding Discounts/Promotions: Look for wedding promotions/discounts in craft stores, wedding magazines and on line.
  • Wedding Dress/Veil Styles: Research wedding dress/veil styles in bridal magazines and on line. 
  • Style Boards: Create wedding fashion style boards using Social Media Sites to aid in your decision making. 
  • Wedding Party: Choose your wedding party; Maid of Honor and Bridesmaids, Best Man and Groomsmen, Flower Girl and Ring Bearer.  Also, consider who you wish to sing/do readings at the ceremony and give toasts at the reception; requesting of individuals as soon as possible.
  • Guest List: Create a guest list worksheet to include columns for save-the-date mailings, wedding invitation mailings, RSVPs, early gifts, and sent thank you notes; using a database for this purpose is recommended.  Working within your budget may require cutting head count.
  • Wedding Planner: Hire a Wedding Planner if desired for overall assistance in handling all aspects of your wedding.  In so doing, however, maintain a close relationship; attending all venue meetings and keeping your own on-going records as well as venue contracts.  Review with your Wedding Planner on a regular basis to assure that everything is being planned according to your desires.
  • Ceremony/Reception Venues: Research ceremony and reception venues based upon your 2-3 possible wedding dates.  If to occur at different locations, take into account travel time and distance between both places.  There are many questions to be asked prior to determining which venues to select.  (To be addressed in detail in a subsequent blog.)
  • Wedding Dress Order: Order your wedding dress; allowing for up to three scheduled fittings.  The veil, undergarment, shoes and accessories can be purchased later.  However, it’s imperative to have and bring along your undergarment and shoes for your dress fittings to assure a perfect fit and proper gown length; especially important if a floor-length gown.
  • Ceremony/Reception Selections:  Select your ceremony and reception venues.  Obtain written rental contracts specifying in detail what is included in rentals and what requires additional charge.  It is strongly recommended that arrangements be made for alternative venues with the latest cancellation possible.  Many weddings have been ruined due to venue catastrophes such as fires/floods with no other options available.  Also, provide coordinators your vendor names and phone numbers for contact purposes if necessary.
  • Wedding Date: Confirm your wedding date now that your ceremony and reception venues have been decided upon.
  • Vendor Selections: Research and select your photographer, videographer, musicians, DJ, florist, and baker as well as caterer if required.  In advance of making selections, request to see photographers’ and florists’ wedding photo albums and videographers’ videos.  Attend performances of potential bands, musicians and DJs.  Meet with several bakers and caterers; sampling assortments of cakes/food dishes.  Obtain business cards and request references from each vendor.  (To be addressed in detail in a subsequent blog.)
  • Wedding Officiant:  Book with your wedding officiant with plans of meeting at a later time.

 ELEVEN-TO-NINE MONTHS IN ADVANCE OF YOUR WEDDING:

 Engagement Photograph: Get engagement photos taken and publish in desired newspaper(s).

  • Save the Date Notifications: Order and mail the Save-the-Date Notifications.
  • Bridal Party Attire: It’s time to choose and order your bridal party attire and accessories; allowing for a couple fittings.   As with the bride’s wedding dress, undergarment and shoes should be brought along for fitting to allow for a perfect fit and proper gown length.   Also be aware, it can be difficult getting in and out of vehicles if wearing a straight-long gown.  NOTE:  Be sure to browse Nuptials & Niceties Boutique Website (nuptialsandnicetiesboutique.com) for a great selection of wedding veils and accessories as well as wonderful personalized gifts for the bridal party, family members and friends.
  • Engagement Party: Throw an engagement party, if desire.  Be sure that all invitees are also on your wedding guest list.
  • Honeymoon Plans: Begin planning your honeymoon; working within your budget.  Obtain or update your passports.  Determine if shots are required and get those recommended.
  • Fitness Program: Establish a regular fitness program and skin care/beauty routine.
  • Wedding Registries: Sign up to at least three national retailers for wedding registries.
  • Hotel Room Bookings: Research and select a block of hotel rooms at three hotels located close to the reception facility for out-of-town guests; offering a range of prices.  Only book for those needed to avoid charges for unused rooms.  Ask if a guest room list is required or can guests make their own reservations.  Determine if special needs/handicapped accommodations are provided.  Remember to reserve rooms for the wedding party the night prior to the wedding if not provided for by the reception facility.  Ask if the hotel will provide a room for the bride and groom’s first night or provide other incentives.  If giving guest baskets, confirm if hotel will deliver them to assigned rooms or hand out at front desk and if a fee will be charged for service.   Otherwise, you may wish to consider handing them out at the reception.
  • Paid Hotel Reservations: If paying for guest rooms in advance, confirm ahead in writing exactly what you are paying for and understand what guests will be responsible for if anything.  Be sure to inform guests of such arrangements.
  • Wedding Website: You can create a personal wedding page by using a free website; just search on free website creations.  Be sure to list your wedding date, wedding registries, ceremony and reception locations, hotel accommodations and other pertinent wedding information.  Send your website link to your wedding party and all invitees.
  • Wedding Invitations/Stationery: Browse wedding invitation designs and matching stationery; including wedding programs, menu cards, RSVPs, direction cards and thank you cards.

 In our next posting, the Checkpoints of “Eight-to-Six Months” and Five-to-Four Months” in Advance of Your Wedding will be addressed.

 

Ceremony Music Tips | Paint Your Ceremony Your Way | Vermont Bride Magazine
photo by Letter10 Creative

Classical music wafting through the air, elegantly winding through the gathered group of family and friends – or would you prefer a little Celtic lilt to put a spring in your step on your special day? Or what about that special hymn grandma always used to sing? Or that pop tune or show tune you always sang as a kid - or first danced to as a couple? Or what about something totally different - something composed just for your special day?

When most people think of “wedding music” what pops to mind is often Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” (“Here comes the bride…”) or Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March,” or perhaps Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” You might imagine a church organ or perhaps a classical quartet. Many couples do choose some variation on the above for their wedding music - and why not? Classic, elegant choices that are easy to walk to, and that are tested by time, will never go out of style. Would a bride avoid wearing a long gown and decide not to exchange rings simply because everyone else does? Traditional choices can say as much about you as non-traditional choices, if chosen from the heart.  This type of connection with tradition and the past can be comforting, sentimental, and certainly can make your decision-making simpler!

 But sometimes couples choose music that’s a little different - and again, why not? It’s your day to paint the town - the music will paint the atmosphere and color the feeling of your celebration - why not choose music that has significance for you personally? That touch of you in the music will touch your guests as well as bringing you smiles - or tears - or a lift in your every move. Again, if the tunes that are significant for you are also popular with others, then go for it! If not, the sky’s the limit!

I had the honor of playing for a wedding where the bride had arranged or composed the music for her own wedding - including a special song performed by a friend. At another, the bride commissioned a friend to create medleys of a series of special songs - primarily Broadway songs and hymns, and chose popular but non-traditional classical music for the prelude. Many couples wish to have entirely classical music for their weddings, but prefer to completely avoid the traditional wedding standards. There are too many options to list here, but you may wish to look into music by Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, for the classic sound that’s not “wedding standard.” And by the way - don’t think of these composers as the stodgy old men you often see in pictures - if Bach really were the person we think of when we see his stiff representation in portrait, do you honestly believe he would have fathered 20 children? Or composed the intensely energetic music he did? Bach, in particular, composed some of the most versatile and awe-inspiring music ever heard - and a great deal of his music has been arranged for many different combinations of instruments, and is often heard at weddings, though never as the standards that could be considered “over-used” - so check him out! I’ve also recently played as recessionals:  “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles and “Landler” from Sound of Music; as processionals: “Til’ There Was You” and “Fanny Power.” I’ve played two weddings where the request was for music throughout the ceremony – essentially a soundtrack - a mix of styles, in one case with music continuing even as background for the vows, and the entire ceremony built on musical selections that were particularly special for the couple.

Want to get even more unique? Vermont boasts a huge variety of composers and song writers. If this is of interest, you may wish to contact Steve Klimowski, clarinetist from  the ”Classic Consort” - also director of the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble – for names of Vermont composers who might suit your style. Why not consider having a special song composed just for your special day? It would lend a whole new meaning to the phrase “playing our song!”

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She also teaches flute in Montpelier, Vermont and online to students worldwide.

 

Vermont Bride Magazine Lookbook Issue No. 7 | Wedding Inspiration and Resources for Vermont and New England Weddings

The seventh issue of the Vermont Bride Lookbook is here! This issue is full of gorgeous inspiration from an elegant and luxurious spring garden wedding to a rustic, winter soiree at a cabin in the woods. Browse ideas from real Vermont weddings held all over the state, in a variety of venues and styles. Check out our vendor directory and find out more information about each vendor by simply clicking on their ad.

The Lookbook is easy to view on all devices, from your desktop to your smart phone, and you can even bookmark pages or share content to Facebook, Pinterest, or via email. It is definitely an essential resource for any modern bride or groom planning their wedding! The best part is it is free to read and will be available to you any day, any time, and for as long as it's on the internet, which is basically forever. Check it out now! 

 

Musican Choices From The Heart | Ceremony Music Inspiration | Vermont Bride Magazine
photo by Letter10 Creative

I still often cry at weddings. This may sound like a strange admission from someone who plays music at weddings all the time. Especially a flutist - no one wants a flutist sputtering and squeaking into their instrument during their processional. Rest assured, I have learned to turn off the faucet at the right times, but, well, I do often cry at weddings. 

It doesn’t seem to matter for me whether a couple has chosen Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” for processional or “When You Wish Upon a Star;’ ”Adagio” from Handel’s G major flute sonata  or the Celtic tune “Fannie Power;” Schubert’s “Ave Maria”  or Journey’s “Don’t’ Stop Believin;”  Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus” or “Laendler” from Sound of Music; the Filipino popular song  “Ikaw” or the Jewish traditional song “Dodi Li” (my beloved) or the Broadway hit “’Til There Was You.” When I know the choice of ceremony music is heartfelt and reflects either the bride or groom’s love of tradition or their desire to be unique in a particular way, especially when I know that a particular tune brings tears to their eyes - I do frequently get caught up in the joy and emotion of the moment.

Your wedding day is, in the very best sense, all about you. It’s a time when you  choose from a palette of colors, sounds, views and words that reflect you - as individuals and as a couple. If each choice, as you make it, stirs your soul, helps you to understand and respect one another better - your similarities and your differences - and brings on the joy or the tears or the strength or the vulnerability that you seek, that will be felt by others present at your wedding. 

This past year, I met with a wedding couple and as I was playing through a few possible processionals, the bride-to-be told me “That one made me cry!” Well, I played a few more possibilities just to be sure, but it seemed clear that “Sheep May Safely Graze” was the one that was meant to be the wedding party processional for her wedding, where her daughter would be the junior maid of honor. As I was playing “Sheep May Safely Graze” as a duo with my own violinist daughter months later at this wedding, and the bride’s daughter was walking up the aisle, well, yes, I held off the tears for the time being, but only due to years of experience. I’ve played “Sheep May Safely Graze” many times, as well as the Pachelbel Canon that followed for the Bride’s processional, but in this moment, knowing how the bride felt about these pieces, I felt the music with a fresh perspective, energy and emotion.

Some couples know exactly what they want, while some have no idea. Sometimes the process can feel easy, sometimes overwhelming. As you can imagine from the list of processionals mentioned above (all from weddings I’ve played in one calendar year), the options for wedding music can be wide open and virtually limitless. If you’re overwhelmed with the decisions about wedding music, first speak with the professional musician you’ve chosen for your wedding. They may be able to make some suggestions that strike a chord for you, and that they know sound great with the instruments you’ve chosen. There are also numerous lists of options available online - a google search may make the difference between not knowing where to start and - “aha! That’s perfect!” And of course there’s YouTube. Your professional may be able to send you links to videos to give you some ideas, or you can browse yourself.

Your first step: know that your options are very wide, but can be very simple if you know what clicks for you (bearing in mind that in some cases there may be an extra charge for special sheet music purchases or arrangements, or some options may be less suitable for the instrument combination you may have already chosen). Your second step: find the music that makes your heart skip a beat or that brings you joy or sighs or tears - or whatever emotion you wish for your day.  The loved ones who gather with you on your day will feel it too.

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She maintains a private flute studio for in Montpelier, Vermont and also teaches online to students worldwide.

 

Tips for hiring musicians for your wedding ceremony | Vermont Bride Magazine
photo by Eric Foley Photography

Perhaps you can perfectly envision your walk down the aisle - you can hear the exact music you want in your mind and see the whole scene perfectly. Or perhaps you don’t know exactly what you want, but you know the feeling you’d like the music to convey - perhaps slow and dreamy, or meditative, or regal and stately, or with a certain driving pulse underneath – or you just have a gut sense that you can’t find the words to explain. Or perhaps you’re somewhere in between - with some thoughts and feelings about what you’d like, some specific ideas, but haven’t nailed down yet exactly what you’d like.

Once you’ve given a little thought to the music you’d like to have at your ceremony, it’s time to start making contacts with musicians. Here’s a brief overview of the process of booking a musician. First, professionals in the wedding business (particularly Vermont professionals, in my experience!) do understand that most couples haven’t booked a musician for an event before, so are experienced in helping you through the logistics of the process - so just jumping in with the contact is most commonly just fine. But for a little broader understanding of details to keep in mind in consulting with a musician to be sure you end up with the perfect musician for your wedding with confidence in understanding the booking process, read on!

On your first contact, most couples are looking for the following information: 1) Is the musician or ensemble available for your wedding date and time? And 2) What would be the cost? 

In order to get the information you’re looking for and move on with the booking and planning process, with full understanding of the final cost, it can be really helpful to include the following information up front:

  1. The date and time of the ceremony (approximate time is usually  ok on the first contact) and whether you’d like music for the ceremony only (typically 20-30 minutes of prelude as guests are arriving plus processionals, recessionals, possible interlude  - typically 1 hour total, or 1.5 hours for Catholic ceremonies) or ceremony plus cocktail hour/reception, or reception only - and probable number of hours desired, if you know 
  2. The location of the ceremony (and/or cocktail hour/reception if relevant)
  3. Will your event be indoors or out? 
  4. If your wedding will be outdoors, will you be providing shelter for the instruments and musicians? Under what conditions would you move indoors? (Some musicians will not play outdoors; others require negotiations - and potentially extra fees - regarding specific details for protection of instruments and/or performers from sun, wind, extreme temperatures and rain)
  5. Will you require specific musical selections that are not among the typical standard wedding music options, or on the musician’s playlist? (in some cases, there may be additional costs for uncommon requests to cover purchase of new sheet music and/or time spent arranging and practicing; in some cases, your preferred repertoire choice may not be an option with a particular musician, or may require additional fees, and you may wish to know this before making a final decision to book)

Including this information can help you to get the clear answers regarding availability and cost that you’re looking for right up front. In considering musicians’ fees, bear in mind that some musicians have extensive training and experience, and often practice for hours a day, which may lead to higher cost than less experienced or less advanced musicians. Every musician I know has stories of mishaps of their own or their peers from their early days of playing for weddings. Among the stories I’ve heard:  arriving at the wedding site only to find that the instrument was not in the case and therefore being unable to play; hopping on the express train in plenty of time - only to find it was going the wrong direction - and missing the wedding; one group member getting lost and arriving at the wedding after it was finished (stories of younger players arriving late are very common); sheet music blowing off the stand in the middle of the processional because it wasn’t clamped down properly, causing a halt to the processional music (I’ve heard many variations on this story for all portions of the ceremony); music stands blowing over and/or music flying into the bushes and taking a few minutes to reassemble. I could go on - and haven’t begun to address musical expertise - but you get the idea - you often get what you pay for.

An additional note: some musicians are more organized than others. If you do not receive a reply within 24 hours, this could be a source of concern. Your music planning process could be very simple with a musician who’s organized and replies promptly. With wedding vendors who do not reply promptly, your planning process, including repertoire choices and more, could be a nightmare. You deserve prompt communication! If you don’t receive that, it may be a red flag. (Bear in mind that occasionally communication doesn’t go through – I’ve occasionally received inquiries in my spam folder – a second attempt may be helpful in some cases). 

Once you’ve confirmed availability, pricing, potential shelter for instruments, and options for suitable repertoire choices, you should expect to receive a contract. Once the contract is signed by both you and the musician, and your deposit or retainer fee is received by the musicians (this may be 50% of the total fees, though this may vary quite a bit), you can rest assured that you have completed the logistical part of booking a musician, and can now move on to the fun part - refining your repertoire choices! This deposit/retainer fee is normally considered non-refundable, since the musicians will most likely be turning down other paid work for your wedding day between the time of booking and the time of your wedding. 

Starting off on the right foot with a good working relationship with your musicians can be a really helpful beginning to the process of setting the ambiance for your big day.  Vermont musicians will certainly help you to fill in the missing pieces and will generally be very understanding in the process, but conveying your understanding of their needs - in terms of time, protection of priceless instruments, respect for training and expertise, and conveying a bit of your feelings about what repertoire inspires you - can really help get you in a groove with the musicians in a way that drives everyone’s energy toward optimal results!

Lisa Carlson is a freelance flutist, performing for weddings and other occasions throughout Vermont and beyond, with musical offerings ranging from a quartet of flute with violin, viola and cello, to solo flute, to duos and trios of flute with harp, violin, piano, cello, oboe, and more. She also teaches flute in Montpelier, Vermont and online to students worldwide.