2/2016: Budgeting

It’s well known that February is the most popular month for planning weddings.  Many couples get engaged during the holidays, and start planning their weddings and hiring their “wedding team” during the first two months of the year. I’ll assume that a portion of the people who read this blog post are couples that will be getting married.  I’m hoping it can help you, and bring a sense of financial peace of mind to what may appear to be a crazy time.

What would seem to be a fairly straightforward way of going about coming up with a realistic budget, many couples get sidetracked due to other people’s expectations and media manipulation.  What should be an enjoyable process is sometimes very stressful. Some couples end up with their wedding budget depleted before they’ve even hired all their vendors. The problem ultimately lies NOT with the actual budget dollar amount itself, but in the allocation of where the money is spent.

wedding-budget-pie-chart[1]More specifically, the problem lies with the source of where this wedding budget information is coming from.  It’s no surprise that couples use wedding budget pie charts and suggested budget breakdowns.  They’re all over the internet and the percentage numbers are fairly consistent between them.  You’ve seen them (like the one shown here) in wedding books, websites, and other media. They list the percentages of various wedding services that couples “should” be spending their money on. As ridiculous as it sounds, these lists and pie charts are suggesting the percentage that couples should spend on each category like every wedding and every couple has similar preferences.  This kind of logic isn’t used in any other type of major lifetime expenditure. Can you imagine buying a car or a house and the sales person hands you a pie chart with pre-determined categories and preferences that they think you should have?  Of course not.

So how does a newly-engaged couple juggle this jungle of wedding hi-jinx, and come up with a reasonable budget that doesn’t bankrupt them while having the wedding day of their dreams?

The answer is MUCH simpler than you may think….

Spend money in direct proportion to the importance that you place on each service.

First, come up with a reasonable wedding budget amount that you can afford and is not going to put you or your parents (if they are paying for it) in debt.

Second, come up with a realistic allocation plan. Here’s how to do it…

On two sheets of paper, the bride and groom should write their “Wedding Top 3”. This can be a combination of various things such as…

  • What you want the most important part(s) of the wedding to be
  • What you want your guests to remember most about your wedding
  • What you dream about most for your wedding day

You should each come up with a Top 3 but it’s important to write these down separately so you’re not influenced by the other’s answers. Come together, and compare your Top 3’s and rank them in order (3 points for #1, 2 points for #2, 1 point for #3), and combine points for items that are on both Top 3’s. Add up the numbers, tabulate into an overall Top 5, and correlate each item to their respective vendors that represent that service. These are the Top 5 items, in rank order, that you should spend your money on. Hire the best vendors you can find for anything in the top half of the Top 5.  Whatever money is left over after you’ve reserved your Top 5 services, should be spent on anything else you may need, but shouldn’t exceed your overall budget.

Warning…this method goes against the typical wedding budget philosophy, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. It requires most couples to develop a different way of thinking about their wedding, but it pretty much guarantees that a couple will have the wedding of their dreams while keeping their budget in check. Most couples can save thousands of dollars by sticking to this plan.

For more information on how to save money, one of Colorado’s top wedding venues, Black Canyon Inn, recently published a blog on wedding budgeting and unique ways to save money:

Black Canyon Inn Blog

Tune in next month where I’ll be highlighting some of the top wedding venues in the Golden area…..

1/2016: Year In Review

thM74UV7NRNormally, this year-end recap is about recent trends and “What’s Hot” and “What’s Not” as well as the top requests of the year.  Since I covered the non-music items a couple of months ago, this month is all about the music….my top requests at my 2015 weddings. By far, the top new songs were Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” also the most popular first dance at my weddings this year, and the Bruno Mars / Mark Ronson collaboration “Uptown Funk”.  The usual group dances and classic floor-packers were popular, as well. Love them, or hate them, here a rundown of the most popular:

TOP 10 REQUESTED SONGS:

  1. Cupid Shuffle – Cupid

2.  Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson / Bruno Mars

3.  Watch Me (Hip Nae Nae) – Silento

4.  The Wobble – VIC

5.  Shut Up And Dance – Walk The Moon

6.  Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran

7.  Shout – Various Artists

8.  Cha Cha Slide – Mr. C

9.  Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey

10.  Shake it Off – Taylor Swift

TOP 10 REQUESTED ARTISTS:

  1.  Michael Jackson

2.  Bruno Mars

3.  Journey

4.  Beatles

5.  Taylor Swift

6.  Maroon 5

7.  Ed Sheeran

8.  Tim McGraw

9.  Bob Seger

10.  Pitbull

If you want more charts, here’s a listing of the top 200 most requested songs at weddings across the nation put together by the DJ software company DJ Intellegence.  In addition, there are charts for each decade, as well as wedding specific music charts.

 

12/2015: Vive La Paris

Paris-in-the-Fall-8[1]Happy Holidays!  As another year comes to a close, I’d like to thank my clients who entrusted me with informing, guiding, and directing their wedding guests, as well as providing entertainment that kept their dance floors hopping. It’s also been an honor to work with some of Colorado’s top wedding venues, caterers, florists, officiants, and photographers (many of whom were featured in my September blog on photography). There was a wedding photographer that was not featured, Dave Russell with Buffalo Heart Images. His recent trip to Paris last month, one of my favorite European cities, reminded me of how great this city is, especially in the wake of the last month’s senseless terrorist attacks. I’m looking forward to my own trip back (my first since 1999) this coming spring to run the Paris Marathon. Check out his blog link below:

PARIS IN THE FALL

Tune in next month when I tally and count down 2015’s top music requests.

 

11/2015: WMBA 4.0

Wedding Wire's social media expert Sonny Ganguly addresses the masses on Day 1.

Wedding Wire’s social media expert Sonny Ganguly addresses the masses on Day 1.

It’s been 3 years since I last attended the WMBA conference in Las Vegas (WMBA stands for “Wedding Merchants Business Association”) and my 4th time overall.  This is the top wedding professionals conference in the US, attended by well over 1,000 photographers, planners, caterers, venue owners, DJs, and others that service the wedding industry to learn the latest and greatest in all things wedding.  This year had the largest turnout in the event’s decade-plus history (over 1,600), and the best of the four that I’ve attended. The three-day conference is held at the massive Las Vegas Convention Center. There was certainly no need for me to do my regular daily workout or run as I probably logged 3 or 4 miles just walking around the cavernous confines each day.

One of the highlights of the conference was a group photo with all the other Knot "Best Of Weddings" winners for 2015.

One of the highlights of the conference was a group photo with other 2015 Knot “Best Of Weddings” winners.

Dozens of wedding experts covered every topic from legalities  to social media to customer service to what’s hot / what’s not.  The topics were great and it was great to connect with wedding industry friends from around the country that I haven’t seen in an awhile.  As an added bonus, Wedding Wire and The Knot hosted some great evening parties at two of the hottest clubs in town – one in the Bellagio with an incredible view of the world-famous water show. So here’s some information that both brides and grooms who are reading this as well as wedding pros may find interesting. My Top 15:

  1. Average wedding guest count is 136 (down 10% in 3 years).
  2. Average engagement: 16 months
  3. June is still the #1 wedding month.
  4. December is still the #1 engagement month.
  5. 91% of wedding pros serve LGBT couples.
  6. 62% of couples want their wedding published in a major wedding magazine.
  7. 96% of couples use mobile devices for online wedding searches.
  8. Cake is still tops, cupcakes are peaking, designer upscale donuts may be the next “big thing”.
  9. Wine and beer blendings are becoming a popular alternative to the sand blending at ceremonies.
  10. The Knot & Wedding Wire are still the top 2 wedding search engines.
  11. Periscope (a live video streaming app) could be the next big social media craze.
  12. Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook are still the top 3 social media sites used by couples.
  13. 50% of all couples are using an Instagram hashtag for guests to post their wedding photos from their mobile device (#weddingname).
  14. Signature cocktails still very popular…now at up to 30% of weddings.
  15. Gender-blended wedding parties are the rage (Best Woman, Man Of Honor, Bridesman, Groomswoman).

th[3]

10/2015: Fab Photogs ’15

After last month’s wordy blog on honeymoon travel that topped 1,000 words (yikes – did I really write all that ?!?), I’ve decided to give my fingers a rest this month and feature some of my favorite photographers doing what they do best at the weddings we worked together this year. They say “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so I should be set for a few months.

Photos listed chronologically from most recent:

Amanda & Stewart alpandisle.com

Amanda & Stewart
alpandisle.com

Chelsea & Larry September 6 www.kimballnelson.com

Chelsea & Larry
September 6
http://www.kimballnelson.com

Jennifer & Andrew September 7 www.tomkphoto.com

Jennifer & Andrew
September 7
http://www.tomkphoto.com

Courtney & Anthony August 22 www.joeandrobin.com

Courtney & Anthony
August 22
http://www.joeandrobin.com

Holly & Jordan August 15 www.kjanrob.com

Holly & Jordan
August 15
http://www.kjanrob.com

Rachel & Brad August 8 www.kbdigitaldesigns.com

Rachel & Brad
August 8
http://www.kbdigitaldesigns.com

Krista & Mike August 7 www.daylenewilson.com

Krista & Mike
August 7
http://www.daylenewilson.com

Lindsay & Jeff August 1 www.bluehausstudios.com

Lindsay & Jeff
August 1
http://www.bluehausstudios.com

Marianne & Kyle July 25 www.adore-photography.com

Marianne & Kyle
July 25
http://www.adore-photography.com

Joni & Kris June 26 www.kellykasper.com

Joni & Kris
June 26
http://www.kellykasper.com

9/2015: PTA, Part 1

th[5]I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years that couples are foregoing the traditional gift registries in lieu of honeymoon funding. Honeymoon funding websites like Honeyfund are booming. Just last week, I had an initial consultation with a Denver couple who were planning their 2016 wedding.  Within 15 minutes of chatting, the conversation somehow turned to their honeymoon plans and how they were looking just as forward to their three-week honeymoon in Europe as they were to their wedding day, and how their guests have paid for almost half of their honeymoon. Somehow through Instagram, they found out I was also an avid traveler and we spent the next 30 minutes bouncing travel tips and stories off each other. When we realized what time it was, and they had to get to another meeting, they told me they wanted to hire me even though I hadn’t given them my price yet. I quickly finished my presentation, showed them my all-inclusive pricing, and they happily reserved the day.  I have a feeling this is going to be one of my favorite weddings of 2016.

thFED1PAQWSo in honor of soon to be newlyweds Steve & Trish, I am going to do a two-part blog post with travel tips I’ve learned over the years to maybe help couples plan their honeymoon or other future trips. The theme is “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” (hence the ‘PTA’ title above…no, this blog is not about Parent Teacher Associations). It’s named after my favorite Steve Martin movie. This month will deal with air travel and Part 2 (sometime next year) will cover trains, automobiles, and everything else. Next month’s blog will feature three of my favorite photographers covering my Labor Day Weekend weddings, and November will feature a report on my trip to the Wedding MBA Conference in Las Vegas, so stay tuned.

 

th[8]Planes!  After booking over 100 flights for myself over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the airline industry (with a few exceptions) doesn’t really care about it’s customers. There are some carriers like Southwest and Jet Blue that are doing the right thing, but most don’t really care. Southwest is the only airline that I have joined a frequent flier program with. I’ve heard Jet Blue and Frontier also have good programs, as well. The bottom line is there’s no such thing as the perfect airline but Southwest comes pretty darn close. Speaking of Southwest, why is it that this low-fare carrier is one of the few, if any, that offers it’s customers free non-alcoholic beverages, a light snack, no luggage charges, and service with a smile, yet it comes in almost every time as the lowest price on competitive routes?  I wish other airlines would take note of its business model.

tearupcreditcards[1]If you have a credit card that gives you miles, make sure you are paying it off IN FULL each month. The annual fee and higher interest rates on these cards in many cases negate any airline miles savings or free tickets you think you may be getting. If you carry a balance on these types of cards, the reality is that “free” flight you get every year or two is not free. Just add up the $59 – $99 annual fee and high interest charges incurred between “free” flights. Honestly, if you have good credit, there is no reason to pay more than 10% on any credit card, ever….so pay those airline cards off each time you get the bill, or rip the card up.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that there is not a perfect time to book a flight. The general consensus is 3 to 4 months for international flights and during domestic holiday prime time and between one and two months for domestic flights during non-holiday times. I’ve booked killer deals two weeks out and 6 months out, and it really is about luck and the destination you choose. I have noticed fares are usually lower if you fly midweek, and believe it or not, if you BOOK the ticket midweek. The price also depends on the popularity of the route and competition between carriers.  A flight from Denver to any of the New York metro airports is mile for mile less than one from Denver to Fargo.  Pick big airports. Try to pick routes where there is competition between airlines. If your destination is Evansville, you will probably save money flying into St. Louis or Indy than you will flying directly into Evansville, especially if you need to rent a car anyway.

000For flights to Europe, I highly recommend Icelandair. They fly non-stop from Denver to Iceland with convenient, minimal layover connections to over a dozen of the continent’s major cities like London, Paris, Rome, and Amsterdam.  Prices are very competitive and are usually lower than most US-based carriers. Furthermore, you can schedule a multi-day layover in Iceland on the way over (or back) without a penalty. You can even book local tours and hotels through their website that pick you up or drop you off from the Reykjavik airport. By the way, I swear I’m not getting any kickbacks or residuals from either Southwest or Icelandair, in case you were wondering ;)

thRO5IYJMMTo find the best flight, I use flight search engines like Kayak, Cheap Tickets, and Expedia.  They’re all essentially the same and flights are almost always the same price across the board between the three. I personally like the graphics and easy to navigate Kayak the best. I search for all my flight parameters on these sites by plugging in my cities, dates, preferred times, and non-stop / connecting choices, and they give you the best flights based on time and price points. Once I find a flight, I DON’T book it on the search engine. Instead I go to that airline’s website and book it directly through them to avoid any contractual miscommunications and to assure I’m contacted directly by the airline in case there are any changes. I use Kayak simply to find the best flight over many airlines thereby saving time, instead of going to every airline’s website. Keep in mind that some “low-fare” airlines like Southwest, Spirit, and Frontier don’t always post their flights on these sites so you may need to check them separately. The price all on these search engines is usually the same as the airline’s sites, and on some occasions has even been cheaper on the airline’s.

Until next month…safe travels!

8/2015: Numbers

July 18th was my 1,000th Colorado wedding.  More importantly, it was Lynn & Jim's wedding day. As an added bonus, it was at one of my favorite venues, The Estes Park Resort.

July 18th was my 1,000th Colorado wedding. More importantly, it was Lynn & Jim’s wedding day. As an added bonus, it was at one of my favorite venues, The Estes Park Resort.

Those who know me, know I’m a numbers guy. I’ve been a statistics fan since I was a kid. I still keep stats on everything from my daily exercise regimen, to local weather and climatology, all the way to baseball – yes, I have 20 notebooks of Rockies box scores and stats dating back to Game 1 in April 1993. That’s pretty good for a guy who failed most of his math tests in high school. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I wasn’t a wedding DJ, I’d probably be a statistician for MLB. So when two major number milestones in my DJ business happened last month (my 1,000th Colorado wedding since 1993 and 100th five-star online review since 2012 (Wedding Wire and The Knot combined), I thought it was time for a blog entry about wedding stats. So here we go…

e30849da04f23d7b9e4b75f6cbfc752d[1]

Click to enlarge

Wedding season in Colorado is April to October, but the months of November to March are when couples are planning their summer weddings and hiring their vendors.  This is why I don’t dare take a long vacation in January or February, my slowest wedding months but busiest initial consultation months. This variability may vary in different parts of the country. For instance, Florida, Texas, and Arizona have a much more equalized monthly wedding distribution due to the torrid temperatures during the summer in those locations. This tends to skew the national numbers in many national surveys and charts (see both infographics here and below). For instance, from a cost perspective, most total wedding budgets in Colorado are in the $15-20K range versus the $26K national average.  This is because the national number is skewed slightly by weddings on the higher-cost East and West Coasts. The national average $26,984 would be considered a bargain in the New York metro area, especially on my native Long Island. Most Long Island couples spend $25K just at the venue when including the fully hosted bar, $130+ a plate dinner, mandatory 20% service fee gratuity, etc.

2a5168bdfe8854b6dfd7a4b87211d0f5[2]

Click to enlarge

Getting back to Colorado numbers, my monthly distribution percentages for the past 1,000 weddings going back to 1993 ranges from 2% in February to 16% in June. That paltry February number has always amazed me since Valentine’s Day is that month (see more on that, check out my blog from February 2012). Likewise, just 9% have occurred in the first three months of the year, but these are the busiest planning months when my e-mail inbox is buzzing and brides want to hire their wedding team. On the other end of the scale, 68% of my weddings have been May through September. I’ve also noticed in the past few years that October is increasingly becoming a popular wedding month here in Colorado. You do take a risk in October – heavy snow is possible like the 2 feet in 2 days we got back in 2009 but you get incredible fall foliage. Peak foliage is mid-October along the I-25 urban corridor, early October in Estes Park, and late September in the high country ski towns. Saturdays are still and probably always will be the busiest wedding day of the week. 61% of my weddings have been on a Saturday. Fridays have accounted for 23% of my weddings, Sundays 12%, and the remaining 4% are midweek.  That last number, by the way, has been going up every year due to the fact that many venues offer substantial discounts for Monday through Thursday weddings.