You are in the midst of the exciting wedding planning process and you’re ready to focus on music! What’s going to get the party started? Who is going to get all your friends and family dancing until their feet hurt?
A band or DJ truly sets the tone for the evening since their primary job is to bring everyone together on the dance floor so everyone feels the love and joy in the room. Depending on your individual style as a couple and your budget, the first big decision is whether to have a band or a DJ.
A Band is obviously more expensive because you are paying for more musicians, sound engineers, a bigger sound system, and staging if needed. Still, a great band is able to bring life into the party and fill the room with amazing energy.
Nothing is quite as electrifying as a live music experience. Think about when you’re blasting your favorite artist in the car. Whether that may be The Black Keys, Beyoncé or Bob Dylan – nothing beats the feeling you got when you saw them live for the first time (or second, or third).
DJs have the ability to play all music styles because a computer is right at their fingertips. With this flexibility, they can make sure all your guests are having a great time by reading the crowd and creating an amazing dance atmosphere.
After you decide if you’re booking a live band or DJ, how do you go about choosing the right one for you? Music is considered one of the most important aspects of a wedding so while you’re exploring options, you should feel like the bandleader or DJ you’re meeting with is committed to executing your vision of your wedding. The best bands and DJs are professionals and create a feeling of confidence that should put you at ease.
If you’re viewing band videos, make sure it’s a live video so you are hearing the actual band, not a studio recording that’s synced up to the singers lips for 1-2 seconds at a time. Are they showing you examples of all the styles of music you want? Some bands put a much bigger list of songs out there than they can really play. The musicians should sound great to you and look like they are actually having fun!
Here are a few more questions to ask yourself as you research the perfect wedding entertainment for your big day!
- Are the band’s videos live and do you like their sound?
- Does their song list reflect the styles and songs you like?
- Will they learn new songs for you?
- How do they personalize the wedding to your musical taste?
- Are they flexible in the size and price of the band to fit your needs?
- Can they provide ceremony music?
- What additional charges are there? Are the sound system, sound engineer, learning new songs, planning meetings, parking and meals for the band included in the cost?
- Do you feel comfortable with the DJ’s personality and musical knowledge?
- What is the DJ’s process for personalizing your playlist for the evening?
- How many weddings has the DJ done?
Here at Stitely, we strive to answer these questions before you even need to ask them, to give you the confidence that your evening will go perfectly!
At every wedding reception, there are a number of special dances – the first dance for the bride and groom, an anniversary dance, mother-son and father-daughter dances, etc. However, an important special dance for any wedding reception is the last song of the evening. As with any special dance, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to choosing a song.
Here at Stitely Entertainment, we believe it comes down to one simple question: Do you want to end the evening on a sweet note or with a high-energy vibe?
Ending the night sweetly often takes the form of a ballad or a song that holds a great deal of sentimental meaning. Examples include, “Our Love is Here to Stay,” John Legend’s “Stay With You,” “Lean On Me,” or “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”
High-energy songs get everyone in the room out on the dance floor! Think popular songs that everyone knows and loves and will be guaranteed to create a celebration. For instance, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey – a song played in every college bar. Another example would be “Beginnings” by Chicago. A tune with a great horn section, message, and groove. Other examples include, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” “Raise Your Glass: by P!nk, or “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
Jeff Stitely adds that the last song of the evening should create a “unified field” or a sense of oneness with everyone gathered for the wedding – a way for everyone to participate in celebrating the bride and groom’s new life together.
Having trouble deciding which way to go? Do what feels best to you and what fits your personal style! Ultimately, what matters is the way you want to feel at the very end of your special day.
Picture this: you’re sitting outside on a beautiful late spring day. One of your best friends has just said “I do” to the love of her life. As the happy couple turns to face the gathering of family and friends, the officiant proclaims, “It is my great pleasure to introduce, for the first time – “
Ah, there’s the variable! How exactly will they be introduced?
It’s a question many couples face while planning their weddings – not only for the first introduction at the end of the ceremony, but also for the one that happens at the beginning of the reception. Introductions range from informal and casual to traditional. And, depending upon whether or not either person is changing their last name these introductions change further.
For example, say the bride is taking her husband’s last name. On the casual side, they can be introduced as “Tom and Jane Smith.” On the very formal side, “Mr. and Mrs. Tom Smith.” And semiformal: “Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Jane Smith.”
If, however, the bride is keeping her last name, they can be introduced by their names, (“Tom Smith and Jane Johnson”) or, more formally, “Mr. and Mrs. Tom Smith and Jane Johnson.”
Or, if the couple is combining their last names, “Tom and Jane Smith-Johnson” or “Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Jane Smith-Johnson.
But hey, what if you’re not sure yet what will happen with your last names? Wondering what the current trends are?
According to the New York Times, before 1970, 14% of women kept their maiden names, though the first wave of feminism, which reached its zenith in the 1970’s, pushed that number to 17%. Things took a dip in the more conservative 1980’s, but the number of women keeping their last names has actually been on the rise again since the 1990’s, up to 22% of women in the 2010’s.
Whatever you and your fiancé decide, you have plenty of options as to how you can be introduced to your friends and loved ones on your special day. Do what feels right for you!
Ever been at a wedding and found yourself wondering about where some of these old traditions – like the ring worn on the left hand, the bouquet toss, and the tiered cake – come from? Here at Stitely, we looked into the history of some of these practices – turns out, the history of weddings is full of fascinating tidbits – some sweet, some superstitious, some strange.
1. Before 1840, brides simply wore their best dress on their wedding day. It was Queen Victoria who set the standard of wearing white for one’s wedding – at least in the Western world (whereas wearing white had already been standard practice in Japan for a long time). Fun fact: her wedding cake weighed in at 300 pounds!
2. It’s widely accepted that traditionally, wedding rings are worn on the 4th finger of the left hand. This dates back to the Roman Empire, when they believed that a vein in the 4th finger of the left hand ran directly to the heart, thus symbolizing the love and commitment between the newlyweds.
3. According to Hindu tradition, rain on your wedding day is a sign of good luck!
4. The bouquet toss, that ever-popular battle for the bridal airborne floral arrangement, has its roots in England, where women used to try to tear off pieces of the bride’s dress and bouquet to try to get some of her good luck. At this point, the bride would ditch the bouquet by throwing it over her shoulder and making a run for it! Now, the bride gathers her single female friends behind her and she throws the bouquet high in the air – and the first woman to catch it is thought to be the next one to be married.
5. And, of course, there’s the garter toss. Back in the days when couples were required to prove that their union had been consummated, relatives would be invited into the bedroom as “witnesses.” The relatives would then try to obtain pieces of clothing – undergarments were considered particularly lucky. Eventually, though, newlyweds got sick of this – to the point where the groom would toss the bride’s garter out the bedroom door so everyone would leave them alone. Now, however, the garter is tossed to the single men in the room – and the one who catches it is supposedly the one who will get married next.
Of course, weddings continue to change – some brides opt not to wear white, some people have alternatives to cake for their dessert, and some couples decide to do variations on the bouquet and garter toss or omit them all together. It’s all up to you! You can take what you like from the old traditions, and maybe create some new ones yourself.
Here’s a taste for what’s been going on around the Chicago music scene the last few years: Pocket Radio is a Chicago-based band known for energetic live shows and music that combines jazz, funk, hip-hop, and soul and gets audiences on their feet. This original tune, written by tenor saxophonist, S. Hudgens, is a perfect example of Pocket Radio’s style.
When it comes to choosing a song for your first dance as a married couple, it can be hard to know where to start. There’s so much great music out there! How can you possibly choose?
Jeff Stitely, our fearless leader here at Stitely Entertainment and an expert in the field for 25 years, has a few recommendations to help the process along.
First, he says, when considering a song, pay attention to how it makes you feel. Does it give you chills? Make you smile? Do you love the feeling you get when you hear it? If so, those are sure signs of a great song choice!
Second, pay attention to the lyrics. Do they resonate with you? Do they reflect your outlook on life, love, and/or relationships? If so, great! Looks like you’ve got a contender.
On the other hand, what if the song makes you feel great, and you love what the song has to say about life/love/relationships in the first two verses and the chorus… but then the third verse takes a left turn into darker territory? (What if the people who were so in love at the beginning of the song break up? Or what if the person’s love is unrequited? etc.)
Don’t give up on that song just yet – there are ways we can make it work!
If you’ve booked a live band, it can be as simple as changing a few words – past tense can become present tense, for example – or even omitting that last verse entirely. It’s as easy as that! If you’ve booked a DJ, it’s possible to fade the song out before that troublesome verse comes up. Either way, you have options that will help to make your first dance extra special.
Here’s a great example of how someone chose their perfect first dance song. Consider Jeff Stitely’s story:
“When I got married, I was a jazz drummer and loved all the old classic ballads. My favorite song was called “My One and Only Love”. The lyric starts with “The very thought of you makes my heart sing” and the whole song is that scrumptious in addition to being one of the most beautiful melodies ever written from that era. Maybe two other people in the country chose that song but we didn’t care about that. It is a personal choice. Check it out.”
Still need inspiration? Here’s a list of the top 10 most popular first dance songs of 2016 according to the music streaming service, Spotify:
- Thinking Out Loud (Ed Sheeran)
- At Last (Etta James)
- You Are the Best Thing (Ray LaMontagne)
- All of Me (John Legend)
- A Thousand Years (Christina Perri)
- Make You Feel My Love (Adele)
- I Won’t Give Up (Jason Mraz)
- Everything (Michael Buble)
- Better Together (Jack Johnson)
- Amazed (Lonestar)
Whether you’re reading this to get tips or finding ways to avoid the hipster scene, this post will let you know what details are considered “hipster.” Feel free to embrace or avoid.
1. The Dress
The style of dress you choose will often set the style tone for the whole event. Whether you choose a Bohemian hippie style or a short vintage look, there are unique ways that your attire can start the hipster vibe. Above all else, don’t get bogged down by the traditional tropes and brands—your dress should reflect your personal style, hipster or otherwise.
Your Save the Dates and Invitations will be your guests first look into the style and theme of your wedding. For a bonafide hipster invitation, be sure to team up with your favorite local artist or graphic designer to create something wholly unique for your big day. Your guests will be impressed and slowly realize that it’s not their grandma’s wedding style that they’re walking into.
For your hipster wedding, choosing a simple location will be key. Try finding a loft space or small outdoor venue that you can dress up to make it your own. If design is really important to you, then finding a blank canvas venue may be a great place to start. If you’re really going for that trademark hipster irony, try finding a more unique venue! A funky museum, an antique store or a coffee shop could make for a hipsterrific wedding experience to remember.
Again, non-traditional is key for a truly traditional wedding. Food trucks are a great funky option in place of traditional plated meals. Tacos are also really trendy and fun. For dessert, ditch the traditional cake and go for something a little more fun and surprising—ice cream sundaes, donuts, or pies are some options to name a few!
Finding a photographer that can capture your day in a way that communicates your style is really important for a hipster wedding. Not only should that photographer themselves embrace that persona, but their shooting style should as well. Be sure to check out their portfolio to see what they can do to create a lasting keepsake of your special day.
Finally, music is most certainly what makes a hipster wedding hipster. From artist choice to instrumentation, be sure to choose artists and songs that emanate your style. A Mumford-style ensemble for the ceremony, combined with an Indie music quartet for dinner and dancing could be the perfect combination for your big day. Make sure you are clear about what traditions you do and don’t want to include in your day. Your musicians will really play a big part in creating the soundtrack and mood for your day, so make sure you are on board with their style!
To truly find out if you’re at a hipster wedding, check out this fun flowchart at Refinery 29.
Want to make your wedding a little easier on the environment? Here’s how!
Do Your Research
Half the battle of creating a sustainable event is knowing which vendors you can trust to share in your vision. Determine what is important for you, and seek out vendors who share your priorities. It will be much easier to succeed when working with vendors who share your goals than trying to work with those that don’t understand.
Although you may get some flack for being untraditional, many are turning to the web for their invitations. With so many great graphic designers and web developers out there today, it’s still possible to keep the classic style and feel of traditional invitations, yet transform that style via web-based media. This will save paper as well as postage money! Greenvelope is a great E-vite resource that provides beautiful alternatives to paper invitation.
If you want to be green but are tied to the idea of traditional paper invitations, a compromise in this area would be to send an electronic Save-the-Dates but still keep paper invites. A little still goes a long way!
Picking the Right Venue
Choosing a venue that has a green initiative is probably one of the biggest things you can do to have an eco-friendly event. Find an event space that has met the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Rating System, which sets the standard for sustainable spaces.
Work with your caterer to learn where your food is coming from. Make sure the caterer you hire has sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives for your dinner such as free-range chicken or fresh wild salmon. For dessert, include free-trade coffee for your guests. Remember, going organic doesn’t have to be a trade-off for delicious food!
Green Wedding Favors
Certain wedding favors can contribute to waste, so give something eco-friendly as well as memorable. One idea is to plant a tree in your guests’ name, or even give out trees for them to plant in your honor. On a smaller scale, you could include sachets of herb or vegetable seeds so your guests can start their own eco-friendly edible garden.
If anything, foregoing the deck of cards or shot glass with your name printed on it will help save some trees and spare your guests from pretending to be excited about that.
Charitable Donation to Eco-Friendly Non-Profit
In lieu of gifts, you could also use that money to give to charitable organizations that support the green causes you are passionate about. Choose one that already has a special meaning to you, or do some research to find local organizations that share your passions. Your guests will appreciate knowing that their gift is going somewhere meaningful.
For more ideas on making your wedding a platform for service, check out our previous blog post on Weddings For a Cause
Recycle Your Decor, and Even Your Dress!
After any event there will almost certainly be a lot of things leftover. Whether it’s leftover food and cake or forgotten flowers or decorations, there are plenty of things that are in perfectly good condition at the end of the night that you no longer have use for. Instead of just throwing everything away or letting it sit in the back seat of your best man’s car for a few months, make a game plan for all the leftovers so nothing goes to waste. You can donate your flowers to a nursing home to brighten their space, recycle any paper decorations you’ve used, and coordinate with a food bank or homeless shelter that would take the mountains of leftover food you undoubtedly have. In these ways your big day can continue on to effect even more people for the better!
During wedding season 2014 we were able to work with a ton of talented vendors–Robb Davidson Photography being one of our favorites. His high energy and big personality are palpable through his photos, and we were ecstatic to get the chance to contact him and ask a few questions about his experience as a wedding photographer. Check out our conversation below and his super-rad website here.
How and why did you get started in the photography business?
I got started in photography when I was a junior at Judson College/university. I actually had to replace a point and shoot camera, and so with my “go big or go home” mentality, I bought an SLR camera. Cause that takes better pictures, right? Yeah no it doesn’t when you don’t know anything, but really I wanted to learn about it more. I started practicing on friends, posting online…and the college saw that. We didn’t really have any photography programs, so I was the only “in house” resource. They asked me to start covering events, save money for lenses…etc…and shot my first wedding for a friend. HOOKED instantly. I kept booking more, got more organized, grew into a nice small business. I WAS originally gonna just shoot on the weekends and have some 9-5 job during the week. Ha, never could make the interviews cause I was shooting the whole time. Sooooo, I decided to stop bothering with it and do it full time. All the while working full time at Wheaton Sport Center and had a great client base start from there. What an amazing place.
What are some of the main services you offer and how do they set you apart from other competitors?
I shoot people. With my canon. Main ordeal for me is weddings of course, but also looooove any kind of family shoot, headshot, corporate event, pranks needing documentation….whatever. Love people. Creating a place where people can be themselves within SECONDS is key. Otherwise you’re just stuck putting people in a pose that may not be who they are. So the sooner I can get people relaxed and their goofy selves, the better the shots I can get. You can only do so much with your photography side if the subject isn’t their natural self.
What key qualities should couples look for when choosing a photographer?
When it comes to weddings, or anything lifestyle related…both sides of the camera is important. I think personalities have to gel at least a little bit. Otherwise, you won’t be on the same page, things won’t go as smooth, or just get straight up weird. Like, not awesome weird. Lame weird.
What part of your job do you find the most satisfying and the most challenging?
I’m glad this is paired because it’s usually the case…finding obstacles that you have to overcome become the most satisfying at the end of the day. How to make indoor locations for a wedding look real pretty when it’s pouring outside, we only have ten minutes to shoot EVERYTHING and make it seem like this is the way it SHOULD be, someone in the bridal party has a cast and you gotta creatively tuck that sucker away.
What is the craziest event story you can share?
Gosh, ones that I’m actually allowed to share? Haha, well I would say that it’s just crazy how it all happened. March of 2013 I was at the gym when I got a call from a buddy of mine. Basically let me know that he was a guest at a wedding that didn’t have a photographer, bride was 20-30 minutes from walking down the aisle. I BOLTED out of the gym, threw on a suit, and met her before that going down the aisle to introduce myself. I said I was a full time professional wedding photographer, ready to shoot the rest of the night and figure out details later. Great night, awesome people, so glad I was able to help. I guess they never heard from their original photographer….hope they’re okay? Still crazy.
Why do you love photographing in the Chicago area?
There’s something so homey and family oriented in the midwest that I can’t get enough of. I guess an awesome hybrid of homey white picket fence, and the get after it mentality. Everyone loves incorporating family traditions, their relationship history, or just something to make it so unique for the shoot. Really doesn’t feel like there’s “competition” or anything like it, so I teach people anything and everything I may know…cause there’s so much awesomeness to go around! They really don’t suck out here.
Lexi Schumacher & Josh Herz were married on September 27, 2014 at the historic Drake Hotel in Chicago. Throughout the entire planning process, it was evident that this couple would embody the class and sophistication that come with having an event at the Drake. Their attention to detail was on thing that made their event such a success!
Their day started with Piano, Violins & Drums for their Ceremony. Lexi and Josh decided to add an extra special twist to their processional song “Canon in D” by adding the drums, evoking the “Royal Wedding” version of the song that caught their attention. What a special and regal start to the day!
Their ceremony also included the Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire, What A Wonderful World andCity of Blinding Light by U2, all played instrumentally.
This combination was personal and unique to the couple while still maintain a semi-traditional and formal feel that the venue calls for.
After a cocktail hour featuring Sinatra, Michael Buble and Beatles tunes on solo piano it was time for the party to begin! The couple was introduced into the room to a recording of Happy Together by the Turtles and went straight into their First Dance, Glory of Love by Peter Cetera.
After the first dance and introduction a started Drake tradition took place of a Champagne Parade! Servers in black tie parade out with champagne for the guests and wedding party to prepare for all the toasts.
The band has a special song they play during that time and it is such a fun tradition.
We had a chance to catch up with the bride a few months after the big day and ask her to reflect on some of her favorite moments. Check out our conversation below!The rest of the night featured more music from the Stitely Orchestra that highlighted the couples personality, with Good Life by OneRepublic for cake cutting and I Loved Her First and A Song For My Son for the special family dances. this party also featured a rocking Hora dance and ended with the classic Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey.
What kind of style or vibe did you want for your wedding?
Sophisticated, chic and formal.
What role did music play in your vision?
A huge role. We ideally wanted everyone out of their chairs the entire night and a full dance floor, which we absolutely achieved!
Why did you choose the Stitely Orchestra for your wedding?
Came highly recommended by a coworker of mine, Heidi Lauerman and her husband Alex.
What kind of music or which artists do you and your partner enjoy?
We wanted several genres to suit ours as well as our guests’ taste i.e. Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Guns n Roses to Katy Perry.
What was your favorite wedding memory?
The Horah of course!
Please share any stories or special significance behind your song selections for the special dances.
Really no significance, just loved the songs We loved the added bonus of Jeff playing the drums during the ceremony music. Very unique and cool!