Throwing Rice…is Actually Fine

June 26th, 2017
Should you ask your guests to throw bird seed instead of rice?  (Photo by Peter Coombs.)

Should you ask your guests to throw bird seed instead of rice? (Photo by Peter Coombs.)

I bet you’ve heard this one:  You shouldn’t throw rice at weddings because the birds will eat it and the rice will swell up inside of them and they will explode.  Did you ever wonder if it is true?  I certainly believed it when I first heard it, but something about it started to seem not quite right.  So I looked into it.

And it turns out that it is totally not true!!  No one seems to be quite sure where the idea came from originally.  The first place it is documented is the Connecticut state legislature in 1985, but its origins before that are shrouded in mystery.  The story spread, though, despite attempts by ornithologists to correct it.  For some reason, the idea of pigeons exploding seemed to capture the collective imagination.  Think about it, though:  Did you ever see a bird explode?  Or see the remains of one that had?  Me neither.

A university biology professor proved this conclusively (as told in this article) by, first, simulating the conditions of grain inside a bird and, finally (and only at the insistence of his students), feeding rice to his own pet doves and pigeons.  The result?  No exploded birds.  In fact, they seemed to like it a lot.  It turns out that birds eat rice in the wild all the time without any harm.

So, what does this mean for your wedding?  Can you encourage your guests to throw rice (should you wish to follow the ancient tradition)?  First, check the contract with your venue.  Some venues specifically prohibit throwing rice or birdseed or confetti or various other things that are difficult to clean up.  If it is permitted, also keep in mind that small grains on a hard surface (like a sidewalk) can be a slipping hazard for people wearing slippery shoes–such as your guests who are wearing their best clothes.  If you want to be on the safe side, skip the tradition.  If you do decide to do it, you know the birds will thank you.

Choices, Choices

June 19th, 2017
penguin wedding cake

How many other great ideas were ruled out to get to this fun and whimsical design choice? (Photo by hannahelaine photography (

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about ways to approach decision-making for your wedding.  This topic has come up a couple of times in my recent conversations with clients.  Frequently, I am hearing things like, “There are so many choices, I don’t know how to make a decision” or “I love Pinterest, but when I spend time on it, it makes it harder for me to know what I want.”  I also hear (a lot), “The process of wedding planning is really overwhelming!”

If this is how you feel, you should know that you’re not alone.  It’s great to have a lot of choices and wonderful to have access to all sorts of ideas when you’re planning a wedding (or any other event).  Being able to see what other people have done successfully is a great resource.  Borrowing ideas can spark your own creativity.  But once you have amassed all these ideas, what is the next step?  I think this is where many people have trouble.

I’m lucky that I’ve spent several decades working with many wonderfully creative people in the live theatre industry.  I’ve learned a lot from the various designers and directors and other artists about how the creative design process works.  I’m not going to even try to distill it into a brief how-to manual (because I’m pretty sure that’s impossible), but here are a few ideas.

A design board (also called an inspiration board or a vision board) is a way to collect the best visual ideas you have in one place and to see if they will all work together.  (There are lots of DIY tips online for how to do this.  It’s also one of the things you can do in Pinterest.)  What you may discover is that you have a few too many great ideas–which leads directly to my next tip:

You will probably have to discard some of your ideas.  You may have to discard a lot of your ideas.  The best events (like the best artistic creations) are focused and coherent.  Simplicity can be your very best friend.

So, how do you take all those ideas and revise them until you have a focused idea?  Try putting your favorites at the top of your design board and put the ones you don’t love quite as much farther down.  Keep re-arranging them until you are happy with the order.  Now, can you remove any of the ones at the bottom?  Because you are now at the point where you will probably have to get rid of some things.  And if you can’t quite bring yourself to remove something, that might be a sign that it needs to be a little higher in the priority list.

Here’s another way to pare down the choices:  Pick two colors and two other things you like (a texture, a pattern, a shape, etc., depending on how you have approached your search for materials) and put all the ideas that fit within those parameters on one design board.  Then try a different set of choices–and maybe one more after that.  See what you like best.  See what works best for you.  If you like one set of ideas, you now have a narrower set of choices to work with.

And here’s one more idea:  Hire a professional to work with you if you find the entire process too much for you.  Wedding planners are very good at narrowing down the field based on your preferences and can help you to focus your search for venues and vendors and to guide your design process.  There are a lot of decisions to be made as you plan a large event like a wedding.  It helps to have a guide who has done this before.

Do You Have a Rain Plan?

June 12th, 2017
5.30.15 Garfield Park-BeccaHeuerPhotography_42

Not a good day for an outdoor wedding! (Photo by Becca Heuer Photography.)

Summer and fall weddings mean time in the great outdoors.  Outdoor ceremonies are very popular. Outdoor receptions are quite common.  There are lots of good reasons for this.  Natural beauty seems to be the perfect complement to a wedding.  And in places like Chicago, we all want to be outdoors when the weather is nice.

At the same time, everyone who has lived here for more than a minute knows just how changeable the weather can be.  Cold and rainy in July?  You bet!  Hot and sunny one minute and downpour the next?  Count on it.  So, how do you deal with the uncertain actor that the weather is?

Here is my one big rule of thumb for outdoor events:  If you don’t have a good, solid rain plan, there is a high likelihood that you will need one.

I remember one wedding that was supposed to be outdoors in a lovely garden.  The couple could have rented a nearby chapel at the time they reserved the garden, but they decided to take a chance on it and not spend the extra money.  As they got closer to the wedding date, it became clearer that they should have a back-up location–but the chapel had already been booked by someone else!  The couple resisted my pleas to come up with an alternative, trusting to their good luck.  Sure enough, the wedding day came around and the weather was terrible: wind, rain, cold.

Fortunately, the staff of the hotel where the reception took place was sympathetic, and they were good enough to work with me and my assistant, and they let us set up the ceremony in a wide, private hallway next to the reception hall.  We scrambled to set up chairs and make it look beautiful.

On most weddings, the couples agree with me, and we have a written plan to follow if the weather won’t cooperate.  Every once in a great while, we need to actually use that rain plan, and then it is easy because it has all been thought about in advance and communicated to everyone who needs to know.

But most of the time, if you have your rain plan in place and it is a good one, you won’t need it.  So, take the time to make that rain plan.  It’s good insurance.

How to Decide???

June 5th, 2017
How many decisions went into this one thing?

How many decisions went into this one thing?

Wedding planning (in a nutshell) is just making a whole lot of decisions, one after the next.  Where should the wedding be?  Who should officiate?  What is to eat?  What kind of music?  What color are the linens?  Who is invited?  The list goes on.  And decision fatigue can be a real problem.  So, how do you make the best decisions?  Here are a few thoughts.

I think the best way to proceed is first to decide how detailed you want your decisions to be.  Do you want to control every detail?  That is going to be more decisions.  Leaving small things to chance means fewer decisions.  Then, consider what is most important to you, and base your decisions on the things that are the most meaningful.

Take the question of whether or not you want your guests taking photos during your wedding ceremony–or even during the reception.  What’s the best way to approach this decision?  First, decide if you even want to make a decision.  This is something you can let slide, as it won’t make or break the wedding day.  But if you have already decided that having beautiful, perfect, remarkable wedding photos is a top priority, then it might be important to dig into this set of decisions and figure out what you want and what you don’t want–and what you don’t want to decide about.  But if making sure your guests enjoy themselves is a higher priority, then you have a different way to make that decision.

Some people dislike making decisions so much that they ask their planner to make most of the decisions for them, only reserving final veto power over the major ones.  That usually works very well, because planners are professional decision makers!