Friday, February 13, 2009


The House of Paine

When Robin and I started scouting around for reception locations we checked out The Barker Tavern in Scituate, the BU Castle in Boston, and Stonehurst, The Robert Treat Paine Estate in Waltham.

The Barker Tavern was a nice enough space but it felt too much like a hall to us. The one thing it really had going for it was that it was situated on a bay and had a lighthouse close by. Everything else was OK, but we certainly didn’t fall in love with the place.

Now I really liked the BU Castle. Robin and I both went to school at BU and we always talked about getting married at the Castle. The reception area itself was pretty small and the prices were all a bit out of our range but I was willing to cough up the extra dough to have the wedding at a place that actually meant something to both of us.

And then there was the Paine Estate. Stonehurst. We fell in love with that place the moment we laid eyes on it. The exterior was powerful and rustic, the main hall was everything we’ve ever wanted in a house, and all of the little side rooms had their own sense of charm and comfort. Stonehurst had one major thing going against it, however: its price tag was way out of our site fee budget.

But there were several bonuses that came with the site that allowed us to shave money elsewhere. The big money saver was the fact that we could bring in our own food and booze. Most sites we were looking at forced you to use a certain caterer and prices tended to start at $80 per person for the bare minimum. Forget cake and coffee and booze. We managed to look around and found an affordable caterer we like and now our food, booze, and dessert costs are close to half of what we expected to pay.

Another benefit of getting married at Stonehurst is that we don’t have to pay extra for a chapel – we get married at the site. We’ll be outdoors and in front of a beautiful dogwood tree. We save money on flowers, we save money on site fees, and, thanks to a Massachusetts law that lets anyone be a Justice of the Peace for a day for $25, we save money on the officiant as well.

And then there are the decoration and flowers necessary to make Stonehurst look aesthetically pleasing. You flipped through the pictures above – as you can see we’ll be saving money in that area, as well. Robin will talk more about that (that's a harpist article and a flower article she owes us, now).

So, yeah, our site fee was way out of budget. But it forced us to be frugal and imaginative with all of the other costs and now we’re at the point where we’re actually saving money by getting married in a place that’s flexible on everything. And the whole wedding’s going to have our own little creative spin on it, as well. I guess the take-away here is to look at the big picture. Sometimes putting more money down upfront will save you some bucks in the long wrong.

And that’s wedding planning recession style, right there.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Please Don’t Stop The Music

Music! Music! Music! What’s a wedding without music?

First of all, we had a very difficult time picking out a DJ. It was nightmarish, honestly. It seems like wedding DJs, as a community, got really lazy and decided to establish the “Wedding Playlist” and stick to it. I guess enough people asked them to play the Cent, Five Cent, Ten Cent, Dollar song or AC/DC’s Shook Me All-Night Long and they all teamed-up and decided that’s what people want all the time.

That’s not what we want.

If Robin and I have been to your wedding, you’ll notice that in 50% of your pictures and 80% of your video you’ll see us dancing. We love to dance. We love to just get on the floor and shake our booties from start to finish. In our opinion, line dancing isn’t booty shaking. Neither is singing the words to some overplayed rock song while bobbing our heads. Dancing is dancing, and we want a DJ that’ll play songs that we will dance to all night. Having said that, we’re not going to play obscure hip-hop and trance all night, either. But I’ll get to that…

We emailed some DJs. One DJ sent us back this hilarious, five-page PDF about why he’s better than all of the other DJs that ever existed. Apparently, he’s awesome because he doesn’t drink at the party, doesn’t hit on the guests, doesn’t use props, doesn’t play hip-hop, doesn’t talk too much, doesn’t ignore the do-not-play list, and wears “classy” garments. That all sounds well and good…well, except the hip-hop thing since that’s my favorite music…but if you need to make a five page document that essentially says, “Hey, I’m normal,” than you’re actually kind of a tool. And “classy” garments, according to the pictures we saw, apparently consist of colored bow ties and a ruffled shirt. Nothing classy about that. Nothing at all.

We also went to see some DJs. One DJ was a gracious host, bought us a drink and everything, but to say he really didn’t get what we were going for is an understatement. One of his suggestions was that for our first dance Robin plays air guitar and sings Living on a Prayer. He also suggested we throw in some rock songs, like Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Going Take It, making it the first time I ever heard anyone suggest any Twisted Song as something people should actually dance to.

We tried going to message boards to figure out where we can find DJs that are trying to make it in the club or radio scene and are making some money on the side DJing weddings. No luck. Several people suggested we hook an iPod up to a speaker but that’s not much cheaper than hiring a DJ, has a much higher potential for failure, and doesn’t offer the benefit of having a living, breathing human being working the music that can read the crowd and give us what we want.

And then there was the DJ I wanted. djBC. Oh, djBC, how I love your funky mash-ups. But djBC doesn’t do weddings anymore so that one was out.

We finally settled on a guy that came highly recommended from several people who haven’t steered us wrong (yet) and we went with him. He’s worked the Paine Estate many times, he seems to have a pretty deep catalog, and we’re 90% sure that he’ll respect the Do Not Play list.

So, what can you expect for music?

We’ll have a harpist for the actual ceremony. Robin can give some details on that, if she feels like posting a follow-on piece, since she searched high-and-low for ceremony music and probably has some hints to share. I stayed away from that – I didn’t even know we had a harpist until after she was reserved.

For cocktail hour I’d probably expect a mix of jazz, soul, R&B, and maybe some of the more art rock like Radiohead or Postal Service or Tori Amos. I think this will be our chance to play some of the songs we really like but won’t work for the dancing.

For the ceremony we fully understand that songs people know are songs people dance to. We’re probably going to try to substitute some of the overplayed wedding songs with better equivalents. So, instead of The Twist you’ll get Sam Cooke’s Twisting the Night Away, and we won’t slow it down to Unchained Melody, we’ll slow it down to Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness. Everything else will be Motown classics, danceable hip-hop, some modern pop (but not teeny-bopper pop-rock like Jonas Bros or Kelly Clarkson), reggaeton, 80’s new wave, and, at Robin’s request and my desire to make my new bride happy, some New Kids on the Block. But don’t worry; we’ll counterbalance that with plenty of Michael Jackson. Robin will also want to play Justin Timberlake but I have no problem with that – JT is a sexy beast.

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