It’s Valentine’s Weekend and love is surely in the air. Proposals and wedding planning are in prime-time season. Being that most New Yorkers are bundled up in the comfort of their apartments, there isn’t much else to do but pin-away on pinterest and plan for your big day. This weekend, in the spirit of love, I bring you some personal and helpful tips for coordinating the perfect pre-party on your big day… your wedding day that is. I’ll be sharing a few pointers and photographs capturing the pre-party brunch I threw for my closest lady pals just hours before saying “I do”. And let me tell you ladies, you can’t plan or anticipate the emotions, unexpected stress, or random hiccups that inevitably happen the morning of your wedding day. So do yourself a favor and create a mapped out plan to keep things calm, enjoyable and beautiful even on what will surely be the most emotionally demanding day of your life.
Pick a Great Venue
Research options for places to “party” before the ceremony. It could be your house, a friend’s home, a hotel room or a reserved private space. The key here is that you want a location that is large enough to accommodate your bridal party, yet close enough in proximity to the ceremony. A cramped hotel room with 10+ ladies can get hot fast, and not in a sexy way. Finding a venue that offers ample space (and hopefully a private bathroom) is important for facilitating a calm, comfortable and cool environment.
I raise the proximity issue because I find myself always playing Devil’s advocate – maybe it’s the lawyer in me? Imagine booking a venue that is miles away from the ceremony. Think of all the things that could possibly go wrong – traffic, road closures, horrible weather causing transportation shutdowns, you name it and I have considered it. To play it safe, I highly reccomend planning your event less than one mile from the ceremony location – worse case scenario, you can walk there! If you can organize your pre-party in the same venue as your ceremony, even better! Check-out what happened to this NYC bride who had to take the subway to her wedding here.
Party at the Plaza
As a little girl I was obsessed with the movie Home Alone 2 – yes that’s right, not Home Alone 1, I said Home Alone 2. I think it was the scene where Kevin was stuffing his face with room service ice cream sundaes at the Plaza Hotel that mesmerized me. I dreamed of someday getting the chance to feel like Kevin and take over a suite at the Plaza . Growing up as New Yorker, the Plaza Hotel was always iconic in my eyes. Each gaze at the famous landmark hotel, I would stare in awe at the movie stars, celebrities and sometimes special brides that posed on those glorious red steps. After researching numerous midtown hotel venues, I decided to splurge and go with the hotel that I had been dreaming about since I was able to walk – the Plaza Hotel. You can’t get more iconic “New York” than the Plaza.
I booked a corner suite that was roughly 1,300 square feet (enormous for New York City standards) featuring two bathrooms, 24 hour butler service, and views of Central Park. The Plaza Hotel truly made my dreams come true with both the rooms they offered for my party and the service provided. A big thank you to the amazing people at the Plaza. Okay, okay, enough with the obnoxious square footage bragging. Let’s get to the good stuff. Once the venue was finally booked, I designed silly invitations using Wedding Paper Divas and mailed them to my ladies – all ten of them including my mama (see below).
Set the Stage
A room or designated space is nothing until you jazz it up with your personal touch. Whatever your style is, it’s important to put a little flare into your “bridal space” to set the stage for what is likely to be one of the most memorable few hours of your life. To make the room look fabulous, I used professionally arranged flowers from the rehearsal dinner to decorate the room. See, I told you Ladies I was frugal and reasonable – this is what I call a two for one! Additionally, I had banners and signage made by my bridesmaids hung around the room to get in the “holy crap, I’m about to get married” spirit. Lastly, I beautifully wrapped all the gifts awaiting these fabulous ladies and put them on center display. What gal doesn’t love to walk into a room and wonder if that special wrapped surprise is just for her?
If you want to be extra anal, and extra thoughtful, stock the space with all the essentials and emergency items that may be needed. What could these items be? Come on, “shit happens” as we all know – so consider the bridesmaid that eats a little bit too much the night before and pops the zipper on her dress, the friend with the terrible hangover she keeps complaining about, the nervous Nelly who has a stomach tied in a knot… Whatever she has going on – it’s better to be over prepared. Stock up the room with a sewing kit, bandaids, travel size medicines, extra tissues and any other items that you think might be needed in the event of a mini-emergency.
Have you read the book “Languages of Love”? If not, it’s a powerful book for those in a relationship or single. The book helps you by reflecting on the way in which you show and receive love. I show love through gifts, gee what a surprise. To honor and thank the people that have been there for me through it all, I wanted to show them some love… through gifts of course.
The women you picked to be your bridesmaids likely helped mold you into the lady you are today. The friendship they have provided is invaluable. Yes, that’s right, who was there to feed you wine and chocolates for the weeks following your first heart break? The night that jerk dumped you after one tinder date? Who helped you shred those five pounds when you got a bit too chubby and couldn’t fit into your wedding dress? Show your ladies some love!
Traditionally, some brides like to formally “give gifts” at the Rehearsal Dinner (the night before the wedding). If you are giving a gift that includes something she is supposed to wear the day of the wedding, I strongly encourage you NOT to go this route. Why? Let me share a bridezilla horror story. A bride gave her bridesmaids matching “statement necklaces” and earings the night before the wedding. The day of the wedding, an hour before photographs start, half of the girls completely forgot to pack their new jewelry. Being a bit of a control freak, the bride wanted everyone to be coordinated and match… perfectly. Well, because of a few clumsy gals (blame it on the alcohol), the pictures reflect an odd mix of super loud necklaces on only a few people… and an angry looking b*tch, oops I meant, bride. Solution? Give them the gifts the morning of the big day and leave no room for forgetfulness.
Bring on the Bubbly
Clink, pop, fizz. What a beautiful sound! Break open the bubbly and sip slowly while you enjoy the company of your favorite people. I strongly encourage you to avoid heavy drinks like beer or strong cocktails like a Manhattan a few hours before your wedding. We all know what happens to the bride (or bridesmaid) that sips a bit too much before the big event. Don’t be her. Make sure to get a few buckets of ice, enough champagne glasses for the group, and stock bottles of your favorite champagne for everyone to enjoy. My super savvy maid of honor made a generous trip to Costco and bought several boxes of my personal favorite kind – Veuve Clicquot. This is a good way to save a few bucks versus ordering drinks directly from the venue that you are hosting your event at. For example, a bottle of champagne from the store is roughly $75 and the same bottle on the room service menu at the Plaza is over $150. You do the math.
If you will be offering bubbly for your guests, be sure to provide some snacks. Speaking of “that girl” above (who drank a bit too much on the big day), we all should know the impact of drinking on an empty stomach by now. Provide light but fulfilling snacks to nibble on as you sip. A few great options are as follows: finger sandwiches, bagels, toast, fruits, macarons, and pastries. Avoid cheese or anything heavy such as red meats and fried food. When your champagne and snacks are ready to go, take a moment to gather the group and pop that bottle together in excitement. Yeah, I’m getting married b*tches!
Cozy & Comfortable
Let’s be real. Nothing about special events or formals is comfortable for a woman. I would be lying to myself (and my readers) if I said that standing around in five inch heels, wrapped up tight in spanx while squeezed like a sausage into that gorgeous dress is comfortable. Any woman, if honest with herself, would much rather be sprawled out in cozy pajamas binge watching episodes of Scandal or the Bachelor in bed. I love you Olivia Pope.
With that said, you and your girls are going to be in heels, gowns and full-face makeup for hours later in the day. Take the opportunity to get cozy, relaxed and comfortable. Save the dress for game time and kick back in lounge clothes. I made the suggestion to wear the staple “yoga pant” and provided each woman with a customized bathrobe. Bathrobes or button down oversized shirts are great tops when you are in the process of having your hair/make-up done. This way, you can easily slip out of the top without pulling anything over your head and risking the dreadful possibility of destroying that perfect up-do.
Timeline & Coordination
Weeks in advance, create a timeline and coordinate the details so everyone knows exactly what they should “pack” for the day. Questions to consider: What style shoes should everyone where? Are you going to be a bridezilla over her manicure color? (Come on, don’t be that girl…) Do you have a steamer available to steam out the gowns? Is there enough time to get everyone’s make-up completed before professional pictures? These are the things to consider as you send out a reminder message to your guests on the expectations.
I have once been in a wedding where we partied a bit too much during the day, and unfortunately lost track of time. We were about to leave for the chapel and half the bridal party still had not even finished their make-up application. What a waste of money and what an awkward group of bridesmaids – imagine half of us with giant faux lashes and the other half of the pack with noticeable dark circles under their eyes. Avoid timing issues by creating an itinerary for the day. It is a good idea to discuss this with your makeup team and ask them how long it will take for each person. Make a set list of who goes first, second, third and so on – and most important, stick to the schedule!
The pre-wedding party is all about multitasking. Photographs, reminiscing good old single times, and getting beautiful happens all at the same time. If you are in the NYC area and looking for the most efficient and talented beauty team, I highly recomend giving my girl Ellen a call at Face the Day Weddings. Ellen and her team, including Eve for hair, made everyone look stunning within a designated amount of time. Thanks for doing such a spectacular job, Face the Day!
The Devil is in the Details
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe… Does this ring a bell? If you are a lady of tradition or superstition, you appreciate the little details that mean something special to you. Brides across the world, from different backgrounds and celebrating with different traditions, all have those unique little items that they want to wear or keep close on such a memorable day.
Despite how special these items are to you or your family, you will unfortunately have no time or energy (on the big day) to even think about them. Although you might be addicted to Instagram, I doubt you will be stopping to snap a shot and filter a picture of your something blue. Leave that to the professionals. This is where I emphasize the importance of choosing an incredible photography company. Every bride always asks me, where should I invest my money in terms of wedding day budgeting? It is okay to corners on the things people someday forget – the favors, the color of the cocktail napkins, or the silly signs that just sit on the tables all night doning a mere table number in calligraphy. Your money should first spent on ensuring you hire the best photography team possible, because after all, your photographs are forever. If you try to be cheap on photography, you might end up with photographs that are lacking the things you had hoped to remember, or even worse, photographs are worse quality than your i-phone pictures.
Let me say, I got really lucky in finding a photography team at the wedding of a close friend. I noticed them immediately because of their positive energy and passion for capturing stellar photographs. When I found out they were a “husband and wife team” I was even more impressed. A lot of people, and newly engaged gals, do not realize that your photography team is going to be with you during some of the most private and intimate moments of your life. Because the wedding industry has become such a big business, people often forget what this process is all about – love, marriage and unity. I wanted to work with photographers who could see me nearly butt naked stepping into a gown and stand inches away from me as I teared up saying the spiritual vows to my partner. Lesson learned – find a photographer that is not only talented, but also has the personality and energy that feels right. A big thank you to my friends and photography team, Ulysses Photography. All photographs in this blog article were captured by this talented duo.
With that said, you want to be on the same page as your photography team in terms of expectations. Knowing that I wouldn’t even be able to think straight on the big day, I created a comprehensive list of all the items that I wanted photographed. This list ranged from capturing the details of my lucky gold charm bracelet, to specified group pictures such as my “quad pod picture” or a shot with designated family members. If you give your photographers a list of the items and people that you want specifically captured, you can be at ease knowing that the moments, people or sentimental objects that mean the most to you will be forever captured when the day comes and goes.
A Moment Like This
The zipper runs up your back and clicks into place. Thank God, the spanx did the trick. Her shaky hands carefully place the veil in your teased little pouf of a hair-do. You look at yourself in the mirror and see a woman that makes you proud, invigorated and grateful. As you walk outside of the dressing room, the people who know you to the core are standing before you, gazing in awe — memories of childhood, first kisses and first puffs of cigarettes to crazy college visits cross their minds, all memories leading up to this very powerful moment of “wow” for both you as the bride and your closest friends/family members. This is it, we are going to the chapel, and we’re gonna get married…But first, another glass of champagne, please?
And in this moment in time, forget everything this post mentions or the advice of other silly bridal magazines frightening you into that all-kale diet for six months. Forget the superficial details, the gifts, the timeline and the bubbly. Take in the pure joy and pride of being able to walk before the people that love you for who you are – your ladies. It’s a moment no bride will ever forget. Until the next celebration.