Winter ’16: Budgeting

What would seem to be a fairly straightforward way of going about coming up with a realistic wedding 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 vary widely.  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. 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

Combine your answers and come up with an overall Top 5, then correlate each to their respective vendors that represent that service. These are the Top 5 items that you should spend your money on. Hire the best vendors you can find for anything in 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.

Here’s another way to look at budgeting for your wedding…

What’s your focus? Are you currently planning a food-focused, visual-focused, or entertainment-focused wedding reception?  The answer may surprise you.

THE “FOOD FOCUSED” RECEPTION is by far the most popular type.  About 60% of all wedding receptions are food-focused. If you’ve ever been to a wedding where most guests started leaving after dinner and / or the cake cutting, you’ve attended one of these. A large portion of the budget is spent on food and beverage (the bar), leaving little left over for much else. Interestingly, in post-reception surveys, most wedding guests (74%) can’t remember what they ate at the last wedding they attended. Few guests at these types of weddings make it to the last dance.

THE “VISUAL FOCUSED” RECEPTION accounts for about 30% of receptions. At these, the couple wants to impress guests with a high-end venue and décor.  The “Wow Factor” is in full effect. Though great food is prominent, the majority of funds are spent on a high-end venue, décor, linens, chair covers, beautiful centerpieces, ambient lighting, etc. These tend to be the highest budget weddings. “Wowing” your wedding guests can be costly for a multitude of reasons. There is certainly nothing wrong with this type of focus, but visuals will only hold guests’ attention for so long.  If the guests are not entertained, and if they become bored, they may start discreetly heading to their cars. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say, “We were at this amazingly beautiful wedding where they spent all this money, but everyone left before the end of the night. We felt so sorry for the bride and groom.”

THE “ENTERTAINMENT FOCUSED” RECEPTION accounts for just 10% of weddings. By far, this is the rarest type of wedding because most couples budget a small percentage for entertainment (national average is 8% of the budget). Entertainment focused couples not only budget more for entertainment than the typical 8%, but more importantly…they know the value of hiring a competent full-time professional DJ / MC who can not only keep the dancefloor full, but also run the reception, plus collaborate with them on some fun and unique customized and personalized reception activities. They also tend to have money in their budget for other entertainment options like a fun photo booth, or lawn games for their cocktail hour, among other things that will keep guests’ attention. Weddings that have this type of focus tend to last longer, and almost all end with a packed dance floor at the end of the night with the vast majority of guests still there to witness a fun send-off finale like the photo above. The focus is on the FUN, but also on saving money, as these weddings require a much smaller budget. The Colorado average for an “Entertainment Focused” reception is $10-15,000 versus the state average of $20-30,000 for the other two types of weddings.

Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding these money saving concepts, or if you’d like to set up a free budget analysis.


Fall ’15: 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:


  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


  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.


Summer ’15: 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).


Spring ’15: Fab Photogs

For this quarter’s blog I’m featuring 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

Amanda & Stewart

Chelsea & Larry September 6

Chelsea & Larry
September 6

Jennifer & Andrew September 7

Jennifer & Andrew
September 7

Courtney & Anthony August 22

Courtney & Anthony
August 22

Holly & Jordan August 15

Holly & Jordan
August 15

Rachel & Brad August 8

Rachel & Brad
August 8

Krista & Mike August 7

Krista & Mike
August 7

Lindsay & Jeff August 1

Lindsay & Jeff
August 1

Marianne & Kyle July 25

Marianne & Kyle
July 25

Joni & Kris June 26

Joni & Kris
June 26

Winter ’15: Indian Weddings

India is a diverse country of more than 1 billion people, and is the world’s most densely populated country and second most populous. It’s also about as far away geographically from the United States but in many ways it’s much like the US. This former British colony is made up of more than 30 states and territories. It’s climate ranges from the humid tropics of the south to the hot and dry western deserts all the way to the snowcapped high Himalayas. It’s also a melting pot of culture and religion. Though Hindu dominates, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Sihkism is also prevalent.

blog indian 3

Devi and Matthew share a dance.

Last year I had the opportunity to work not one, but two Indian-style weddings here in Colorado.  This is pretty amazing because the Indian population in Colorado is relatively small. The chance that I would have two within four months is quite unusual. What’s even more amazing is that they were both at the same venue – the Fort Collins Country Club. What’s the chance of that happening? The June wedding featured Devi & Matthew. Much of Devi’s family came over from India for the occasion and it was quite the family reunion. The one thing I’ll always remember about this couple is that she never stopped smiling from the time I met her months before the wedding right up until the last dance. The September wedding featured Sumanth & Cynthia.  This time, the groom was from India. Cynthia & Sumanth had a big traditional wedding in India a couple of months before the Colorado festivities, yet some of Sumanth’s family still made the multi-day flight to the US. They had a really fun crowd with lots of dancing.  They even had Bollywood style dancers entertain their guests after dinner.  Truly one of my favorite weddings of the year. While both weddings incorporated Indian traditions in both the ceremony and reception, they were predominately Western in style.

A post-reception photo with Sumanth and Cynthia.

A post-reception photo with Sumanth and Cynthia.

Weddings in India, are of course, a bit different.  In general they tend to be multi-day events.  Depending on the family’s budget and social class, they can also be quite opulent and grandiose. It’s not unusual to have 200 to 500 guests attend with lots of food, music, and celebration. As with most Asian weddings, Indians celebrate with color as the wedding garments that both the bride and groom wear are colorful and most change attire between the ceremony and reception. Though there is plenty of dancing at the reception, there is also much time spent visiting with friends and family. Since the celebration usually lasts for at least a couple of days, there is plenty of time to mingle as opposed to most American weddings where the couple sometimes seemed overwhelmed and rushed with the limited time factor. Since there are so many regions, religions, and cultures in India there are no set traditions but many include a Henna Party, the Baraat (the men’s party), the Pheras or Saptpadi fire ceremonies, and the very popular Vidai or Rukhsati ceremony where the bride finally says goodbye to her family to be with her new husband.



Fall ’14: Year In Review

th[5]Happy New Year! 2014 is in the books. It was another great year with some fabulous couples to work with.  I’m not quite sure what is going on, but as of New Year’s Day, I’ve got a record number of weddings reserved for the new year. The recession is most definitely over, or it may just be that “Love Is In Air” (somebody cue up that classic hit from John Paul Young from 1978, please!). Speaking of music, this was the year of Pharrell’s “Happy”. It not only was the biggest year on the charts, with a whopping 10 weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, but was also the most requested new song at weddings across the nation. Although Mr. Williams has been a household name as a producer, songwriter, and collaborator with just about every artist on the planet, it was his first huge hit as a solo artist. In case you’re interested, the top new first dance song was “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri.  The ballad was released in late 2013, though really became popular at weddings this past year.  I also played various instrumental versions of it as a ceremony processional.  More on that later…

estespark-colorado-wedding-photographer-photography-cakeknife-bride-groom-outside-rockies-portraits-lighting-professional-celebration-party-happy-love-cute-unique-marys-lake-lodge-[1]Other new dance floor faves included Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”, Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”, Florida Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll”, and the Pitbull / Kesha collaboration “Timber”.  In addition to the Christina Perri song mentioned above, the John Legend ballad “All Of Me” was one of the year’s best new slow songs. It’s no surprise that line-dance songs like “The Wobble”, “Cha Cha Slide” and “The Cupid Shuffle” still garnered lots of requests throughout the year.

364On to what’s hot and what’s not. Here are a few of the trends that were getting popular this year. Some couples have decided to forgo the traditional wedding cake for pies or dessert bars. Some have even added a late-night dessert bar or hot chocolate / coffee station.  Family-style dinners are more the norm than ever before.  Instead of the traditional buffet or served meal, the wait staff brings out large plates of food for each table to share. I’ve also been seeing food trucks used for cocktail hour.  Obviously, you need the right outdoor venue for this, but it seems to work well at most venues. Instead of the traditional wedding gift, I’ve seen an increasing number of couples give their guests an alternative option to donate to the couple’s favorite charity.  And finally, since Instagram is now so popular, couples are requesting guests to send them their wedding day photos via this burgeoning social media platform via hashtags.

estespark-colorado-wedding-photographer-photography-cakeknife-bride-groom-outside-rockies-portraits-lighting-professional-celebration-party-happy-love-cute-unique-ourladyofthemount[2]What’s not…The photo booth trend may have peaked. In 2013, almost half of my weddings of my weddings had photo booths.  This year I can think of maybe half a dozen. What I am seeing more of is a scaled-down version of this with just a backdrop instead of a booth (provided by the photographer).  This is certainly more cost-effective and requires less setup time and area. Nonetheless, I would imagine that within the next few years, photo booths will probably be delegated to the “Remember When Bin” along with chocolate fountains and disposable cameras….remember those?  Also noticeably absent from wedding ceremonies this year was traditional classical music.  Processionals like Pachibel’s “Canon In D” are out, and instrumental acoustic / string covers of love songs by artists like Vitamin String Quartet, the Piano Guys, and Boyce Avenue are all the rage. I honestly can’t remember the last time I played the traditional Wedding March.

Special thanks to Marla with CakeKnife Photography for the two black and white photos above from Lori & Sam’s reception at Mary’s Lake Lodge in Estes Park…one of my favorite weddings of 2014.

Speaking of awesome wedding photographers, I just got word that one of my weddings from this past summer, Kassi and Justin’s at Taharaa Mountain Lodge, was featured in Rocky Mountain Bride magazine, and it was photographed by Meghan Ritchey-Wilson with Visual Poetry.  Here’s the link.

Summer ’14: The ‘Boat

thALN2BPIOThe year was 1825.  A group of three French trappers were hunting in what is now known as the Yampa River Valley in western Colorado.  They heard what sounded like the chugging sound of a steamboat engine.  Upon further inspection, it turned out to be a natural mineral hot springs. It would be named Steamboat Spring.

By the late 1800s families were homesteading in the area, and the turn of the century saw a railroad being built and several businesses were established.  Carl Howelsen built a ski jumping facility here in 1915 that would become one of the first ski areas in the country.  The rest is history.  Over the next 100 years, the area has turned into one of Colorado’s premier resort locations with world class skiing in the winter and countless outdoor recreational activities in the summer.

412It’s always a pleasure to travel to the ‘Boat (as the locals call it).  This month I had a wedding here, so I decided to spend the entire weekend.  I drove up on Friday afternoon to attend the ceremony rehearsal (photo left), Saturday was the wedding, and I stayed an extra day to enjoy some outdoor activities.  Chassity & Jeff really went out of their way to create an incredible weekend for their guests, almost all of which spent the entire weekend in town as well.

411 Chassity & JeffThey picked Bella Vista as their venue, a beautiful hilltop location overlooking Lake Catamount just east of town on the main road up Rabbit Ears Pass.  A tent was set up for the reception’s 100+ guests on Saturday.  These guests loved to party…and so did the bride and groom.  What began as a late afternoon ceremony ended 7 hours later at midnight with a full dance floor and a great sparkler exit of the bride and groom.  Wisely, Chassity & Jeff provided shuttle buses for their guests to get back into town to the Sheraton as they had a hosted bar and frankly, many guests had a few too many drinks to be driving back to town on a winding mountain road.  Definitely a good move!  Overall it was one of my favorite weddings of the year.

As a side note, a wedding that I was hired for last summer was recently featured in the latest edition of Rocky Mountain Bride Magazine.  Christina & Jason’s wedding took place at the Black Canyon Inn.  This was another really fun couple.  Here’s the featured link:


Spring ’14: Highest Ever

This month features a wedding at the dramatically beautiful but oxygen-deprived Arapahoe Basin Ski Area back in August.  Next month we’ll journey south to some incredible Douglas County wedding venues.

251By “highest ever”, I mean the highest altitude I’ve ever DJed a wedding.  To be exact 11,550 feet above sea level is the elevation of Arapahoe Basin’s Black Mountain Lodge.  This lodge is well known with skiers and is used as a cafeteria / restaurant during ski season.  To be honest, I’ve skied at A-Basin many times and have had many a midday lunch break inside the Black Mountain Lodge, and never really thought of it as a wedding venue.  I guess it’s hard to imagine these things when there is four feet of snow on the ground and sub-zero wind chills.  But no doubt, this is an awesome place to get married.

252Emmy & Grant are certainly the outdoor types.  They enjoy skiing (they had skis as part of their centerpieces), and wanted to show their guests some amazing Colorado scenery.  I’ve known Emmy’s mother Rhonda for many years as she is one of Northern Colorado’s top floral designers (Florals By Rhonda), and the flowers she did for her daughter’s wedding were pretty incredible. After the ceremony on the south-facing deck overlooking the world famous cirque A-Basin is known for (above), guests enjoyed a cocktail hour on the west-facing patio (at left) before moving inside for dinner.  I had music going in all three locations, so it was a busy afternoon.

257Guests arrived and departed the lodge via the nearby chairlift as the lodge was half up the mountain, and the only road up is a two-mile, boulder-strewn 4WD adventure reserved for employees and service vehicles. The reception, which lasted well into the evening (here’s Emmy and her father David enjoying a dance together) was inside thankfully, as it got quite chilly after sunset with rain mixing with snow by the time I was loading out.  Snow was even dusting the higher peaks which is not unusual at this altitude in August.

100_2607The only two weddings that I’ve done recently that come close to this as far as altitude is concerned are Mark & Lindsay’s 2010 wedding on the Vail Wedding Deck (at left) and John & Angela’s 2007 celebration at Winter Park’s Sunspot Lodge (below).  Both are in the 10,600-foot range. At these altitudes, you need to take precautions, such as providing your guests with plenty of bottled water during the ceremony, possibly having an oxygen tank handy for some of the older folks from lower altitudes, and going easy on the alcohol.  Remember one beer at sea level has the effect of two at 5,000 feet and three at 10,000 feet.


Winter ’14: Estes Flood


059 Becky & Beau Sep 14Rebecca & Beau’s wedding at the Stanley Hotel was scheduled for the Saturday after the flood – literally 48 hours after all hell broke loose in Estes Park. Although the Stanley was high and dry, and the waters that flooded downtown had receded, all roads were closed from the east and guests would have had a long 4 hour drive up Trail Ridge Road to get into town that day.  They wisely decided to change venues, and they chose the Magnolia Hotel in Denver, a great boutique hotel a block off the 16th Street Mall.  The staff accommodated the last minute changes, and it turned out to be an amazing evening with guests dancing an hour later than planned.

309 Andrea & KyleTwo weeks later, on the 27th, Andrea & Kyle’s decided to keep their wedding plans intact and have their wedding in Estes Park at Black Canyon / Twin Owls.  They loved the venue so much and truly wanted a Colorado setting, they couldn’t imagine changing plans.  In the week after the flood, the Peak To Peak Highway opened so guests were able to make the drive. Since the majority of guests were coming from Illinois and were planning on spending the entire weekend in Estes anyway, all plans were “a go”.  In the end, almost all their original 100 people on the guest list showed up, enjoyed the changing aspens, and partied like crazy.  What a night!!

331Brandon & Jacque were from New Mexico and planned their entire dream Colorado wedding almost exclusively by e-mail, phone and Skype (the first time I met them face to face was at the ceremony rehearsal the day before the wedding) from their home in Albuquerque.  Ironically, their wedding was also at Black Canyon / Twin Owls just two days after Andrea & Kyle’s.  In the days right after the flood, they decided to move the wedding closer to Denver as they realized most of their guests will be staying in the metro area and didn’t want to worry about road closures and extra driving times.  The Deer Creek Valley Ranch graciously accommodated the couple and although the reception room was a bit of a tight fit, everything went perfectly. At the rehearsal the day before, Jacque gave t-shirts to the families and wedding party (above) that read “Keep Calm & Marry On”, a mantra that was certainly true at most Colorado weddings last month.

332 Sept 30 EstesAs of early October, repairs to Colorado’s mountain highways are going on almost 24/7.  As of yesterday afternoon, Boulder Canyon opened up to Nederland, shortening the current Estes Park trip by about an hour.  Highway 36 from Lyons to Estes is expected to be mostly repaired by December. Like Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park’s roads, businesses and campgrounds should be totally repaired and back to normal by next spring and summer’s tourist season.  In the meantime, we can enjoy the foliage, like this photo taken October 1st just outside the park.

Fall ’13: 10 Questions

I’ve been asked many times what are some questions couples need to ask before they hire a DJ.  Here are ten that every couple should, at the very least, be thinking about before signing a contract or sending a deposit:

1. Will you provide a written contract to review before I hire you?…. Most DJ contracts protect only the DJ and do little to protect the client. Read the fine print. At your initial consultation, make sure you receive a contract that you can take home so you can review pricing, packages, and services BEFORE hiring the company or sending any money.

dj wedding singer2. Do you have a professional microphone style?….  To avoid the dreaded “Wedding Singer” scenario, make sure your DJ / MC matches the style you want at your wedding.  Some DJs are very talkative, some say little at all, while others are somewhere in between.  There is a fine line between cheesy and classy. Whoever you hire as your wedding DJ will also be the spokesperson and Master Of Ceremonies (MC) for the most important day of your lives, so choose wisely.

3.  Can I see a copy of your liability insurance?….  The mobile DJ industry is completely unregulated.  There is currently no licensing or certification. Though it is not a requirement to have this document, finding someone who does shows that the company at least takes their business seriously. Many wedding venues are now requiring DJs to provide liability insurance before they can set up.

4.  Will you attend my ceremony rehearsal?….  If your DJ will be providing ceremony services, it is important that he / she attend the rehearsal to review all ceremony details. These include rehearsing processionals and recessionals, and reviewing details with the officiant. In addition, on wedding day make sure your DJ will use a separate sound system at the ceremony site to avoid a lengthy equipment transfer.  Two sound systems should be used – one for ceremony, one for reception.

5.  Do you have a backup plan?…  Simply put, emergency backup sound equipment is also a must, and it should be on-site and not back at the office.

6.  Is this your full-time job?…  Only 10% of all wedding DJs do this as a full-time career. This may not be a deal-killer for most couples, but remember, DJs who have a full-time commitment to their wedding clients tend to invest more time in the planning process, and generally return calls and e-mails more promptly.

7.  Will you send everyone a timeline before the wedding?….  The number one mistake couples make when hiring a DJ for their wedding is…they just hire a DJ.  Most DJs view their role at a wedding as simply playing music and making a few announcements. If you want your wedding reception to flow smoothly and not worry about the details, then it is imperative to find a DJ that does more than just play music. Make sure they are able to “run the reception” and are willing to e-mail an agenda to your Wedding Party, Parents, and your Wedding Team so everyone knows what to expect on wedding day. Your DJ should also be willing to provide a list of all the things they do BESIDES playing music, including things they will be doing “behind the scenes” to ensure that everything goes smoothly on your wedding day.

dj tbwre8.  Can you give me any fun, unique ideas that will seperate my reception from the others I’ve attended?… Your DJ should be able to offer you suggestions for personalized and customized activities that can be incorporated into your reception from the wedding party introductions through the grand finale. Based on their experience, they should have many unique ideas that will make your wedding an event your guests will never forget. Peter Merry’s book, “The Best Wedding Reception Ever” (pictured here) is a great resource.

9.  Can I get in writing who my DJ will be?…  If it is important to you that the DJ you met at your initial consultation is the same one that shows up on wedding day, consider asking for that DJ’s name to be on the contract.  Some companies substitute DJs at the last minute – also known as the “bait and switch”.  Furthermore, consider asking if your wedding will be the only one they will do that day.  To make up for low prices, some DJs will even double-book dates!

10.  Do you have a money-back guarantee?… Some sort of guarantee should be in place in case you are not satisfied with services rendered on wedding day. This goes for not only your DJ, but for all the vendors you hire.

Summer ’13: Sunset Photos

Sunset photo cody van pelt goldenIn my 20 years of Colorado weddings, one of the things I’ve noticed is the importance of having a good photographer at the reception.  More importantly, having a photographer that knows about lighting, whether it be natural or man made, is paramount.  Some of the most dramatic wedding photos that I’ve seen have been taken around sunset.  That magical 15 to 30 minutes around the time the sun sets can yield some of the best photos. This amazing shot above by Cody Van Pelt was taken in the foothills of Jefferson County.

Sunset photo Sarah Welch Ellis RanchThis month, I’ve asked a few of Colorado’s top wedding photographers to share their favorite sunset photos as well as suggestions they give their clients to get that once-in-a-lifetime image. Sarah Welch shared this great photo from Ellis Ranch and commented, “I encourage my clients to steal away for a few moments during the reception so we can get a few more amazing shots as well as give them a breather of time to themselves.”

Sunset photo Adore ShannonShannon Scholtes with Adore Photography noted, “It is important to plan ahead.  Since the beautiful colors fade very quickly you want to make sure that time for the sunset photos has been scheduled so you are not in the middle of reception events at the perfect sunset time.”  She took this dramatic photo at Mary’s Lake Lodge in Estes Park.

Sunset photo Craig Vollmer FCCCCraig Vollmer shared this photo from one of my personal favorite Fort Collins Country Club weddings from 2012 and suggested this DIY tip, “If you want to create your own sunset image with the sun shining through, take a light reading of the sky from around the edge of the sun and put your camera on manual.  Close down your f-stop one or two stops.  This gives your sky an even more dramatic look.  Make sure your flash or off camera strobe is synced so you are lit correctly…or just hire me and I will make it all happen for you.”  Craig’s second option certainly seems like you’d have a much higher success rate, especially if you are like me and don’t know the difference between an f-stop and a flash.

sunset photo nicole nichols blackstone cc auroraFinally, Denver’s own Nicole Nicols added, “For me, it’s not so much about capturing the colors of the sunset, but the amazing light it can create.  One of the first things you learn in Photography 101 is to have the sun at your back and avoid shooting into the light. I’ve always liked to break the rules a bit.  The bright white setting sun and it’s rainbow glare (seen in the bottom right of her image) breaks the traditional rules of photography but the dramatic mystical landscape looks amazing for the artistic wedding photographs I like to create.”

sunset photo ken sandberg westin downtown denverJust to prove that you don’t have to have the classic outdoor nature setting to get an awesome sunset photo, check out this image from Ken Sandberg taken at the Westin in downtown Denver. Thanks again to these amazing visual artists for sharing a bit of their knowledge on my blog.  It’s always a pleasure to work with you all.  As an added bonus, I’ve included a timetable of sunset times for Northern Colorado below to help you plan the perfect sunset time.  You can also customize your own timetable for any date or location from the link on my website’s “Resources” page.  Finally, always let your DJ know if you are planning a sunset shot so they can plan the reception’s activities accordingly.

January 10th (4:51)…20th (5:02)…31st (5:17)

February 10th (5:29)…20th (5:41)…28th (5:51)

March 10th (6:00)…20th (7:12 MDT)…31st (7:24)

April 10th (7:34)…20th (7:44)…30th (7:55)

May 10th (8:05)…20th (8:15)…31st (8:24)

June 10th (8:30)…20th (8:34)…30th (8:35)

July 10th (8:32)…20th (8:27)…31st (8:18)

August 10th (8:05)…20th (7:51)…31st (7:34)

September 10th (7:18)…20th (7:01)…30th (6:45)

October 10th (6:29)…20th (6:13)…31st (5:58)

November 10th (4:46 MST)…20th (4:39)…30th (4:34)

December 10th (4:33)…20th (4:36)…31st (4:34)

Spring ’13: Wedding 20/20

images[3]Two weeks ago, the long-running ABC TV show 20/20 ran a special called “Wedding Confidential”. This one-hour program featured matrimonial mishaps, tips from the pros, unique love stories, and many other featurettes to coincide with January being the top month for wedding planning across the country. I found most of the stories were entertaining and at times, a bit shocking – like the couple who had never kissed before they were pronounced husband and wife on wedding day, or the bride that faked having cancer so she could get her groom to love her more (I’m not making this stuff up).

What I didn’t find too entertaining was the piece they called “Wedding Markup”. The basic premise was that wedding vendors intentionally mark up prices just because it’s a wedding as opposed to some other type of party. They claim that most florists, DJs, photographers, and cake decorators inflate prices just because these clients have more money to spend – after all, the average wedding budget is supposedly $27,000.  ABC claims that many wedding vendors treat couples like “human ATMs” and they even mentioned something called the “Mercedes Syndrome” where some merchants will base their rates on what car the bride and groom drive up in.

ABC went as far as to go undercover and call DJs about their rates. They’d call once for a wedding and again for a 40th birthday party on the same date. Of the 13 DJs they called, 10 quoted a higher price for the wedding. On average, the price was 46% higher for the wedding quote versus the birthday party quote. The problem was they really didn’t investigate WHY those DJs charged more. They spent 10 minutes on an earlier segment about a testosterone-filled Long Island groomzilla but they couldn’t ask a few more questions on this matter?!?  I felt ABC dropped the ball big time.

images[11]Back when I used to DJ all types of events, I spent far less time planning and preparing for a birthday party than I did a wedding, and my prices reflected that. I didn’t feel comfortable treating a bride and groom’s big day the same as I would a birthday party. When I made the switch to 100% weddings in 2008, I did so because I wanted to give my wedding clients 100% of my attention and time, not to mention the fact that there are plenty of DJs in my area that specialize in these other types of non-wedding events and do a great job at them.

The bottom line is…most wedding vendors invest much more time preparing to service a wedding than they do for any other kind of event they are hired for. Yes, there are unscrupulous business owners out there looking to extract every dollar they can from a couple’s budget, but I’ve encountered very few in my years as a wedding professional. If anything, the opposite is more common: vendor charges a low price, then realizes how much time is involved to pull it off in the weeks leading up to wedding day, and then they cut corners. Any DJ (or other wedding vendor for that matter) that charges the same price for a birthday party as they do a wedding, is doing the bride and groom a huge disservice. Weddings deserve more time, caring, and preparation than any other type of event. So the next time you contact a wedding vendor for a price quote, ask if they have a higher price for weddings…and don’t be upset if they say “YES!” Unless you want them to invest the same amount of time on your wedding as they would a 40th birthday party.

001On a lighter, less controversial note, I attended the annual Estes Park WinterFest last weekend. The three day winter carnival is held at the fairgrounds and features live music, an Irish ceilidh dance, craft fair, beer and wine tasting, and a huge chili cook-off hosted by local restaurants and businesses. I helped out at the Estes Park Wedding Association booth handing out chili. We didn’t win but we sure had fun. Co-helpers Meghan Russell from Visual Poetry and Hillary Hanson from Wild Basin Lodge dug out some old bridesmaid dresses for a bit of a wedding costume contest. It was Halloween all over again!