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Wedding Planning 101

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Research accommodations near your venue and encourage guests to book rooms well in advance. "Hotel room availability is always an issue in the Hudson Valley," warns Hlywiak, "and many won't let you 'block' rooms anymore." Websites like AirBandB, VRBO, and even couchsurfing.com can help when traditional accomodations are exhausted. Hlywiak also suggests clients consider venues that can accommodate overnight guests ("there are lots of hidden gems out there") or ask if venues can recommend accommodation. "Often venues will have relationships with private home owners nearby who can rent four to five bedroom houses for a weekend."

Additionally, keep transportation in mind while planning. "Remember," reminds Provenzano, "there's no hailing a cab out here." Be mindful of driving distances between venues and accommodations, or plan to hire a shuttle service.

Natural beauty makes the Hudson Valley a popular destination wedding locale. Consider taking advantage and spreading wedding events over an entire weekend. It means some extra work, but has added benefit. "Planning for a whole weekend wedding," says Hlywiak, "gives families additional time to bond."

There's more to good catering than good food

Sample two to three menus and look for a caterer "you can talk to," advises Stark. "You want to work with someone who is willing to work with you; someone who can explain things and will throw out suggestions. They shouldn't try to change your mind. They should try to understand what you and your family are going to love."

When pricing caterers, don't forget to consider extra costs. Alcohol often isn't included in the catering menu. Remember, there will also be tax and gratuity added to the caterer's final bill.

Greek wedding dancing at a reception at The Emerson in Mount Tremper. - MAGIC FLUTE PHOTO AND VIDEO
  • Magic Flute Photo and Video
  • Greek wedding dancing at a reception at The Emerson in Mount Tremper.

Love your photographer

A photographer is the most important (and undervalued) day-of wedding staff a couple will hire. "Keep in mind, your wedding photos will outlive you," says industry pro Susan Knapik, who combined her military and design backgrounds to become Wedding Assistant on the Hudson. "Find an actual wedding photographer who knows the candid moments and the formal. They should be able to tell the story of the day. They also have to work autonomously and manage their timeline themselves."

Stark advises that good wedding photography is 50 percent skill and 50 percent personality and warns, "Don't get assigned someone. Its a very intimate relationship—you want someone you could go out to dinner with."

Know what kind of party you want to throw

A DJ needs to be a good master of ceremonies and he or she sets the tempo for your reception. Read reviews carefully; look for someone who has done multiple weddings and has a strong reputation.

On the other hand, if you want a live band, don't go by reviews. "You need to experience them live," says Hlywiak. "Go see a showcase." If that's not possible, "they should at least have some good footage online." While live bands are often more expensive than DJs (you must budget for each member separately), according to Knapik they tend to "be more interactive and make for a really fun party."

Be creative but be real

"If it's not important to you, leave it out," advises Knapik. This rule goes for décor, ritual, and even ornate invitations. "A lot of wedding traditions have archaic origins and are somewhat irrelevant." Knapik, who specializes in monthly, "benchmark" meetings, also suggests DIY projects (like hand-dipped napkins, signage, and place cards) be started at least six months in advance. "The last thing you want is to stay up until 4am the night before your wedding," she warns. Also: "Go to your florist with a number, not a flower, in mind. Be open to substitutions." Florists are artists with an impulse is to make your wedding as beautiful as possible. Make sure their vision fits within your budget.

"Don't pick a dress before you pick a location," advises Stark. And, once you've found a dress "walk around the store a lot. Make sure you can move comfortably."

Hire a wedding planner, already

Most wedding planners offer a variety of services—from long-term planning to day-of coordination—and their knowledge makes them a cost-effective wedding expenditure. An experienced wedding planner can be a sounding board and "tie-breaker" when emotions run high. Their job is to help you bypass pitfalls on your journey from ring to alter.

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