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February 22, 2011

Day 12 of 30: Wedding ask-o-rama

I spent Sunday in my pjs.

After a week of 13 hour days, I took the weekend completely off.

It was amazing.


              leftover pizza...

                               and flipping through wedding magazines!

I also spent quite a few hours online, looking for all the stuff I've been thinking about but too busy to investigate. And made a bunch of calls. Here's the status of those negotiations.


An editor I work with recommended a photographer she knows, based in L.A. I saw her website and my heart started fluttering. Her pictures are breathtaking. I sent her an email, and when I heard back my heart sank: the cheapest package starts at $3,000, and if I want an album it jumps to $4,000. That is significantly above my (not yet fully determined) photo budget. All I know is that I can't afford to spend that much on photos. Even if I cut out other options -- and I believe she's worth that sacrifice -- I still can't pull that much together without cutting the guest list in half or doing the reception in my driveway.

But I replied saying I'd love to talk, and on Sunday we connected.

First of all, she was incredibly nice. We completely hit it off. Doesn't make my bank account bigger, sadly, but it was a good beginning!

Second, I found out that she is willing to create custom packages for people who can't pay her full fee.

"Really? That is such a relief! Because I would definitely want to compensate you for your time and talent. Your pictures are so amazing. But if you'd be willing to work fewer hours for less money or you could not include an assistant and take fewer pictures, then that would definitely allow me to make this work. But I also definitely want to make sure you're earning enough because you are so talented."

"Don't worry about it! I'm sure we can work something out."

Gained: A photographer!? I'll keep you posted on how it plays out.
Lost: Nothing.

Afterthought: Glancing at her portfolio, I could sense the amount of thought -- and innate talent -- that goes into framing each shot. That's worth a lot, and she is right to charge as much as she does. (Objections to the exorbitant wedding premium aside, if other photographers are charging 3, 4, and 5k for pics, she should definitely be at least in that range. She's amazing.)

That's why I was careful not to ask for a flat out discount, but to scale down both price and services.

Wedding coordinator

I am not a DIY bride. I'm a bride. 

The "DIY" tag is the latest trick of the wedding industry to convince us that NOT doing things yourself is the default. 

In linguistics they call that marking. In the olden days, most professions were a masculine default, so when a delicate she-creature venture into their territory they added the -ess ending: poetess, doctoress, actress, waitress. Today, some professions still have a feminine default, and you have to add "male" to clarify: male nurse, male dancer.

Same with this wedding lingo: nowadays if you don't add "DIY," the assuption is that you're getting the full package, including a 5k wedding planner. 

Wrong on so many levels.

Ok, rant over. Because...

I have come to the conclusion that I can't do everything by myself.

On the day of the event, I will need someone to cue the band, put a sign up pointing to where the reception is, make sure the food is ready on time. Stuff like that.

So I talked to one planner, and she was energetic and asked smart questions. But $400? For 6 hours? Maybe I don't get how difficult it is or what kind of training you need, but I would have pegged this for a $20/hour job. (Am I mistaken? Any day-of coordinators shooting smoke from their ears? Enlighten me!)

Bottom line: I will have to negotiate, or find someone more affordable or get creative. Maybe a local college student would be happy to make $150 on a Saturday night, bossing people around?

Live music

I had this vision of a gypsy fiddler wandering around the tables during the reception and playing his frenzied tunes. Not gonna happen in Southern California. Instead, I found something else really cool: a Django Reinhardt-y trio. Heard their music online and it was grooveh.

I left a message on their website saying I wanted to book them for a cocktail party, and when he called back he asked me for details.

"A wedding!" he said when I filled him in. "Well why didn't you say so!?"

"Does that mean you have to charge me double now?"

He explained that weddings have a lot more options: a bigger group, more hours, rah rah rah.

I answered that we need to stick to the cocktail option, since I can't pay for live music for the whole evening.

Then he explained their strange pricing structure. Maybe 'structure' isn't the right word, since he seemed to be kind of approximating.

"Between one... to three hours... we charge... $1,200."

"I'm confused. So even if you'd play for 2 hours, you'd charge me for 3?"

He sounded confused that I was confused. "Yes, why?"

"Would you be willing to charge less if it was not the full 3 hours?"

He told me it's not worth it to them to come out for anything less than $1,000, but he'd do two hours for that much.

Doesn't seem like a good value.

They do sound like some cool cats... but I was hoping it would be around $300 an hour for the trio, not $500 per hour for more time than I needed. I don't know going rates, but that's about what I'd mentally budgetted for.

Gained: The option to save $200 on something more costly than what I'd bargained for. I think I could work with him to bring the price down, but if it's not worth it to him, I don't know if I should bother.

Lost: Live music option, for now.


I found a bartender on Craigslist and checked out his website. There was one thing I especially liked: he works with the client's alcohol. That means there's no markup (well, a retail markup but there might be ways around that), and we can return whatever we don't drink. Perfect!

We chatted on the phone, and he revealed that he'd be willing to lower his prices if I can't pay the full fee for all the fixings. I hadn't asked yet, but I think he sensed I wasn't going to sign up on the spot and pay full price.

I'm not sure if is business is hurting or if he's just the negotiating type.

Either way, I'm quite persuaded.

Gained: Confirmation that I should negotiate with him. He's sending me a complete quote and we'll take it from there.
Lost: Nothing.

Question: Any suggestions for signature cocktails?

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