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!

Band

  • 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?

DJ

  • 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!

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/upshot/maiden-names-on-the-rise-again.html?_r=0

Last time, we brought you a few tips for choosing the perfect song for your first dance. Now that you’ve picked the song, there’s the dancing part. One very common worry among brides and grooms alike is how they will look to those watching during their first dance.

In answer to this, Jeff Stitely offers a quote from one of his all-time favourite authors, Paolo Coelho:

 

“When I was an adolescent I envied the great ballet dancers among the kids on the block, and pretended I had other things to do at parties — like having a conversation. But in fact I was terrified of looking ridiculous, and because of that I would not risk a single step.

 Until one day a girl called Marcia called out to me in front of everybody: “Come on!”

 I said I did not like to dance, but she insisted.

 Everyone in the group was looking, and because I was in love (love is capable of so many things!), I could refuse no further.

 I did not know how to follow the steps, but Marcia did not stop; she went on dancing as if I were a Rudolf Nureyev.

 “Forget the others and pay attention to the bass,” she whispered in my ear. “Try to follow its rhythm.”

 At that moment I understood that we do not always have to learn the most important things; they are already part of our nature.

 When we become adults, and when we grow old, we need to go on dancing. The rhythm changes, but music is part of life, and dancing is the consequence of letting this rhythm come inside us.

 I still dance whenever I can. With dancing, the spiritual world and the real world manage to co-exist without any conflicts.

 As somebody once said, the classic ballerinas are always on tiptoe because they are at the same time touching the earth and reaching the sky.”

 

Essentially, there’s no need to worry about how you look during your first dance. The dance is about sharing a special moment between you, the music, and the person you love. Just listen, be present, and let the music guide you! And remember, you’re surrounded by people who aren’t there to judge you – they love you, and they love to see you happy. They’re just enjoying the moment and sharing in the love. You’re a better dancer than you think. It’s in your nature.

On this incredibly cold Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, this flawless harmonizing will warm your soul.

 

 

Stitely Orchestra’s own Bill Overton has been practicing his many instruments during band rehearsals for the musical extravaganza, Louis and Keely “Live” at the Sahara, opening this week at the Royal George Theater.

059a8aad-c09e-4ff6-ad77-c9277e810a18

Louis Prima and Keely Smith were an American musical sensation in the 50s and 60s, virtually pioneering the Lounge Act in Las Vegas. The show is an original Musical Love Story featuring many of the duo’s greatest hits including That Ol’ Black Magic, Hey Boy Hey Girl, What Is This Thing Called Love, Night Train, Ai Ai Ai, and I Can’t Believe You’re in Love With Me.

Frank Sinatra also appears in a pivotal role in this new American musical play, which features a hot seven-piece live band that is guaranteed to bring down the house.

Co-written, directed and produced by Taylor Hackford, best known for directing the movies “An Office and A Gentleman” and “Ray”. Hackford also happens to be married to actress Helen Mirren who is currently playing Elizabeth II in the Broadway run of The Audience.

 Book your tickets now!

 

 

 

If there ever was a wedding to recount and remember, this one takes the cake.

After having a secret wedding ceremony in the 1980s, Ann & Susan were finally able to legally tie the knot this past summer—and what a joyous occasion it was! The couple wanted their day to be focused on family and celebrating the many loved-ones in their lives. The music was also a really important factor in their entire day. From special music sung by their son during the ceremony, to a dance to “Happy” down the aisle, to a slew of musical memories made during the reception, their music really tied their whole day together.

Ballard-Warner0018

The ceremony took place on July 26, 2014 at the Hotel Allegro in Chicago. Their ceremony featured At Last by Etta James, A Thousand Years by Christina Perri, Your Song by Elton John and Happy by Pharrell. Their reception dancing was kicked off with Sweet Love by Anita Baker for their First Dance, and the dance floor was packed all night.

We had a chance to catch up with Ann & Susan and reflect on the planning process leading up to the big day, as well as to remember their favorite moments of the ceremony and reception. The following post is made up of notes from our phone conversation.

Ballard-WarnerCeremonyWhat kind of style or vibe did you want for your wedding? What role did music play in your vision?

Overall, Ann & Susan just wanted it to be a huge celebration and for everyone to have a good time during their ceremony and reception. They wanted their music choices to be enjoyable for everyone, but also wanted it to reflect their time together over the years. They chose music spanning from jazz and soul to contemporary. Since they were getting married later in life, they had a lot of memories to reflect on and to include in their celebration. They really wanted the music to set the tone for ceremony and reception, and truly believed that without music there would be no real wedding celebration feel—it was that integral.

Ballard-WarnerFamilyTreeWhy did you choose the Stitely Orchestra for your wedding?

Ann says that their confidence with Stitely really began after personal interview with Jeff. It was a lengthy one-on-one meeting to go over all the details of the day. Shortly after that, they made a decision to go with Stitely, and wedding planners at hotels in downtown Chicago confirmed that decision as they were looking for venues.

What was your favorite wedding memory?

Ann & Susan had plenty of memories to share from their big day, as did everyone I’ve spent with who was in attendance that day. It is fondly remembered as a day full of joy and love.

Susan & Ann’s first favorite memory one is the ceremony. It included Happy by Pharrell playing during the recessional, with their kids and family dancing down the aisle with them. It was a beautiful visual representation of the joy that they wanted to portray during their wedding, and the music really helped. A related memory is that people never stopped dancing during the reception—the dance floor was really never empty!

Another favorite memory was their son singing At Last during the ceremony and some Frank Sinatra and Jackie Wilson tunes with the band during the reception. That was really special, and Ann said it was so cool that Stitely made it happen for their son to sing with the band.

BAllard-WarnerDancing1Please share any stories or special significance behind your song selections for the special dances.

Happy by Pharrell was one that Ann & Susan wanted to integrate early on. It was really the inspiration for the heartfelt atmosphere we wanted to create. Having it played during the ceremony was very special and reflected them as a couple well—people still talk about it all the time!

Ann also said that having Stitely work with them prior to the wedding and helping their kids get songs and ideas together was a dream. She says “we couldn’t have made our vision of intertwining the music with our friends, family and guests come true if they hadn’t worked with us in the months and weeks leading up to our day. Without all those elements it really wouldn’t have been the dream day that it ended up being!”

Thanks again to Ann & Susan for being such a joy!

Ballard-WarnerPhotos2Ballard-WarnerCeremony2Ballard-WarnerDancing2Ballard-WarnerPostCeremony2

wedding dress give back flowers Chicago wedding band

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.

Paperless Invitations
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.

Some green venue options in Chicago would be Venue Six10, Greenhouse Loft, and Loft on Lake.

Go Organic
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.

Chicago wedding rooftop

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. :)

Chicago wedding band

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.

Kowalski0816-L

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.

couple dancing at Chicago weddingflower girls dancing at Chicago weddingCouple on Hellenic Museum rooftop at Chicago wedding cocktail hourman dancing at Chicago wedding flower girls dancing at Chicago wedding

Planning a wedding can be a love-hate process for couples, and it might lean toward hate when tailoring your plans to fit a budget. Although it can certainly be stressful, having a tight budget does not limit the beauty or uniqueness that can come from your wedding day. Below are some practical tips from your friends at Stitely for the cash-conscious bride to consider as she begins planning:

Paul+Jessica380

1. Timing is Everything: For couples who have not yet chosen the date for their ceremony, don’t be afraid to plan in the off-season. Sure, everyone loves a beach wedding in June, but a fall wedding in a cozy chapel can be just as wonderful and romantic (and can also result in great photos!) Many vendors offer discounts for Friday or Sunday weddings as well. Avoiding prime-time rates on wedding vendors and venues can save you serious bucks on your big day.

2. Get a Pro Involved: Hiring a professional wedding planner may cost more than you’d like, but compared to what it could save you in the long run it’s almost always worth it! Planners come with years of experience in the business, which means that they will know how to give you what you want within your budget! Not to mention they’ll know the best vendors in the business to work with so you’re not left blindly trusting your Google search findings.

3. Don’t Fear the Department Store: While the idea of shopping at a store like Kleinfeld’s from “Say Yes to the Dress” is appealing to a lot of brides, these boutique store can be incredibly pricy! If you’re planning on splurging a bit on the dress of your dreams, take some time and evaluate some other option for your bridesmaids. The days of all bridesmaids exactly matching are coming to an end, which gives people more money-conscious options! From using dresses they already own to shopping at stores like the Gap, Macy’s, J. Crew and Anthropologie, these options can give your wedding party a unique flair for a lower price. Plus, these are dresses that they might actually wear again!

4. Cater to the Kids: Ask your caterer if they offer children’s plates! This simple idea is an easy way to trim down food expenses, while actually giving any children at your wedding some food they may actually enjoy.

5. Get Flower Frugal: Flowers can be a major cost on a wedding day, especially if you have a lot of bouquets for the wedding party or if you use flowers as centerpieces. To cut down the price, try to pick flowers that are in season (i.e. tulips in the Spring instead of roses). Another simple money saving trick is to choose big flowers. Since most florists charge by the stem, needing fewer flowers can only help! Also adding cheap fillers like cotton and wheat stalks, berries, or even paper flower creations can also significantly lessen the cost of flowers. .

We hope these tips help those who are looking for a lower-budget wedding! Don’t be discouraged—your wedding can and will still be so special no matter what your spending limit. It’s much less about the richness of details and more about the people who you choose to surround yourself with. Happy planning!