Tips for the perfect wedding

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weddings are an accumulation of details coming together for one special day. - Photo illustration by Eric Johnson/

Poor planning can turn your dream wedding into a nightmare.

But relax. Rather than turning into a bundle of nerves when preparing for the big day, let the professionals lend a hand. The arrangements can seem endless: picking a disc jockey for the dance, an entrée for a meal and, of course, the venue.

Here are some ideas to make your wedding pain free — on your budget and your sanity. After all, it’s a day to remember for the rest of your life.

A venue should top the list

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For many engaged couples, starting the wedding planning process can be a bit daunting. And as far as planning goes, choosing a venue is one of the biggest items on the pre-marital checklist.

Choosing a place that fits the bride and groom’s personality and tastes is key, but according to Amanda Fett, wedding coordinator at the Hormel Historic Home, flexibility is also essential if the newlyweds really want to enjoy the biggest night of their lives. Jeremey Flagel, food and beverage general manager at the Austin Holiday Inn, said picking a venue is one of the first things an engaged couple should do, and it helps other decisions fall into place. Fett and Flagel have five tips for picking the perfect reception hall.

1. Gameplan, then attack

Before making any big decision, research is usually a good idea. Wedding planning is no different. Flagel said the Holiday Inn, which hosts wedding receptions, offers a checklist and timeline for potential brides’ planning, and choosing a site is at the top of that list. He said and also offer checklists and many other useful tools.

2. Send in the scouts

Once the bride has a general gameplan, it’s time to check out a few of the venues at the top of her list. Fett said looking at pictures ahead of time is helpful, but potential brides should also see the location and request a walk-through.

“(The Holiday Inn) invite our brides to have a tour, invite them back and look at a couple of actual weddings (once the reception is set up) so they can see what the ballrroom looks like before,” Flagel added.

3. Bend, so not to break

Fett said one of the most important words in a new bride’s vocabulary is “flexibility.” She said it’s best to find a site that can meet a couple’s needs, but that they shouldn’t expect perfection.

“A lot of frustration has been that they aren’t as flexible as they could be,” Fett said.

4. Leave it to the professionals

Flagel said depending on the couple’s tastes, they can either choose an “all-inclusive” venue that provides reception essentials like catering and music, or pick a site and add those items a la carte. All-inclusive sites are usually more appealing, he said.

“Some brides want to do everything on their own,” he said. “But if you want to save yourself stress and enjoy the biggest day of your life, find a wedding planner who does that for you.”

5. Unique weddings call for a unique plan

Fett said if a couple is planning an outdoor wedding, a backup plan is essential.

“Be flexible about moving in doors; choose a month that may not get as much rain, or possibly get a tent,” she suggested.

For couples planning a destination wedding, Fett said a popular option is holding a reception close to home afterward.

Music and more makes the party

Striking the perfect pitch at a wedding reception is a bit like an ensemble. The bride and groom, attendees and families all have to give and take with the disc jockey to ensure the dance is a party they’ll never forget. But, the work starts before hiring a DJ.

1. Meet face-to-face with a DJ

Don’t pick a DJ off a website or just a price. Sound/Tronics owner Tom Bridges said it’s essential for a bride and broom to meet with a DJ — before hiring one.

Bridges said almost anyone can make an attractive webpage, but brides and grooms need to know what they’re paying for.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” he said.

The more a bride and groom know about a DJ, the better choice they can make. This is also a good chance for the DJ to get to know the couple.

2. A DJ’s music is only part of the party

Once the tunes are turned up, a DJ better have the right equipment to sell the sound. Along with a strong sound system, Danny Muzik, owner of ‘Lectric Minstrel, said DJs also need to incorporate lights, fog machines and more.

“I think the equipment is huge,” he said. “I’ve always liked having tons of stuff to make it interesting.”

“It’s a giant celebration. You want to make it as big as you possibly can,” he added.

3. Everyone matters come party time

While the couple, especially the bride, is the focal point of any wedding day, the whole crowd matters when it comes to the reception and party.

After the first dance and other special dances, Muzik said he needs to accommodate everyone attending the reception to make sure the stay for the party.

“I’m there for everybody,” he said.

To DJs it’s simple: The more people who stay to dance, the better the party will be.

“You’ve got a whole lot of people you want to stick around. … You don’t want people leaving,” Muzik said.

With that in mind, Muzik said he cycles through a variety of music without ever dwelling on one genre for too long.

“You have to play a little old time; you have to play a little Black Eyed Peas, and you have to hit everything in between,” Muzic said.

4. Ask around

Don’t trust an advertisement when picking a disc jockey. Stop by a to see a DJ in action or ask around.

“I always think referrals and being there in person is the best thing,” Muzik said.

Friends and family are great sources at ranking a DJ. Good DJs will compile a reputation, as will the bad ones.

“If you’re not good, it spreads like wildfire,” he said.

5. Communicate wishes, tastes

After picking a DJ, Bridges said it’s important for the couple to get to know him or her.

“Every wedding’s different,” he said.

With many couples harboring a differing range of musical tastes, Bridges said, couples need to express what genres they prefer. Many couples love rap, while others hate it, Bridges said. The bride and groom need to suggest songs and genres before the big day.

The more precise the planning, the more likely the party will be rocking.

Bride’s tastes lead the way

It’s not a backyard cookout; it’s the food for a wedding. So it better be done right because there’s only one shot. Wedding experts seem to agree, it’s all about what the bride and groom want. Some weddings are similar, but no wedding is the same. Whether it’s the groom’s dinner, ceremony or cake, it’s important to make sure it will be the memory of a lifetime.

1. Don’t Be limited

For those who want variety in their food choices, consider a venue that allows for any food caterer to make accommodations. For example, a location like the Hormel Historic Home has kitchen facilities that any restaurant can work from. That way, couples can get their favorite food while still having plenty of space.

2. America loves beef. Try this:

Beef wellington: It’s a fillet mignon with a mushroom duxelle wrapped in a puffy pastry. It’s a favorite of Ken Alston, executive chef at the Austin Country Club. His secret is to add some leeks and fontina cheese to create what he describes as “heaven in your mouth.” Few will be disappointed.

3. Use the groom’s dinner to calm the nerves

Kristy Mueske has seen her fair share of groom’s dinners as a cook at the Old Mill Restaurant in Austin, one of Austin’s most popular places for such an occasion.

“Weddings get people really high strung, and this is an opportunity for you to talk to your family and relax before the big day,” she said. She also recommends meals such as hand-cut steaks, prime rib, chicken kiev or seafood because all of them go well with beer.

4. It’s all about what the bride and groom want

“It’s really up to the bride and groom,”Alston said. “What’s going to make the day or evening memorable?”

Alston has prepared countless wedding meals for the last 30 years, but he said it’s about what the bride and groom will remember for the rest of their lives. However, it may be wise to consider other attendees, as the event will be better if everybody raves about the food.

“It’s not just the food,” Alston said. “It’s an experience for them.”

5. Cake possibilities are endless, but it’s the brides decision

For brides who are looking to break away from the traditional, nearly all-white cake, Dawn Stern, cake designer at Hy-Vee said a new trend is gum-paste flowers. Designers can make them any color to add some variety to the cake. Furthermore, Stern said many places are now delivering the cakes pre-sliced, so nobody has to ruin the intricate designs or make a mess.

Dream big, don’t spend big

Weddings are meant to be the perfect day for the bride and groom (well, okay, the bride). Getting from engagement to the honeymoon can be frustrating and expensive, however. That’s why people turn to Suzann Herr of Artistry Weddings and Events, a soon-to-be-opened wedding decoration and consultation business. Herr’s got the tips and tricks to make every wedding perfect and affordable.

1. Have a budget

“It’s important in any wedding to know where the money’s coming from and to establish a good budget,” Herr said. If the average wedding runs between $17,000 and $25,000, there needs to be set guidelines, especially if half of the budget goes toward the reception, as most wedding budgets do.

2. Prioritize

It may sound simple, but there’s no better advice for a bride. “The bride needs to ask herself, ‘What is going to make this day the happiest day of my life?’” said Herr. Brides do need to be reasonable, however. She probably shouldn’t dedicate half of her budget to the dress.

3. Find ways to save a little

There are plenty of extravagances that can be cut down in a wedding. Brides or their relatives can make their own centerpieces, adding in a personal touch to a momentous day. Instead of single-plate dinners, wedding parties can save serious cash by getting a buffet. Worried about the look? There’s plenty of ways to turn buffets into an elegant dinner party.

4. Spending money vs. spending time

Don’t try to take everything on alone. As Herr points out, the more one tries to save, the more time he or she will spend making things like invitations and flower arrangements. If people spend a little extra money, it will make the weeks just before the wedding far less stressful.

5. Have fun

Whatever the decisions, have fun with the wedding, and make it perfectly suited to the couple. “When you’re a bride, it is a glorious, magnificent day for you,” Herr said. “Brides think of it as ‘I’m a princess, I can be anything I want to be.’”