Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Friendors- Partying Like Its 1975

My lovely, amazing, incredible parents got married in 1975. As I'm told, the proposal was in February and the wedding was a mere 6 months later in August. Today, a 6 month timeline is not completely unheard of, but most couples prefer to take 9-18 months to make sure every detail is perfect and so they have enough time to save for their ideal wedding. My parents had a definite idea of what they wanted- a small, intimate, family oriented wedding. Long story short, my mom's aunt was holding a huge family reunion for around the same time and when she heard about my parent's wedding date, the aunt decided to combine her reunion with the wedding. My mom's plans to have a traditional Polish polka band and a cool reception site were traded in for lots of out of town family and a homespun wedding.

Not that my parents were that upset, they were just excited to be married and celebrate with their favorite people. Due to the large amount of guests, my parents decided to ask family & friends to help with all aspects of the wedding. They were pretty smart to utilize a lot of 'friendors'. Wow, my parents were soooo ahead of their time. If you are not familiar with the term, a 'friendor' is a friend of yours who is also a vendor, such as a photographer, baker, DJ, etc. There are obviously pro's and con's to this.

To use my parents' wedding as an example; they had a friend of my mom's make all the bridesmaid dresses for my 5 aunts, the mother of a friend of one aunt made the wedding cake, and a friend of my uncle was the bartender. The seamstress had enough material left over from each bridesmaids' dress, that she created roses from each dress fabric and put the "rose bouquet" in a shadow box which still hangs in my parents' bedroom. My mom still talks about her wedding cake as being better than anything she imagined and the baker really personalized the design by incorporating the wedding colors and flowers in the cake design. After the church ceremony, the reception was held at my mom's parents house and all the food was made by family. Apparently, when my mom's grandmother found out the original catering menu and prices, she decided she would cook all the food and that was that. You don't tell your Slovak grandmother no, especially when you know her cooking could put any caterer to shame. When my parents talk about their wedding (it'll be 35 years this August! Go Jack & Ellen!), they only have good memories. They don't wish it was at a huge venue or that anything was different. Except one thing. There are virtually no photographs from the whole day! If you are reading this and you know my parents, you are well aware that the above photos are not of my parents. Those photos are what I found when I searched for "1975 wedding pictures". A friend of my dad's offered to be their photographer. I guess my parents did not specify their expectations, because this friend left the church immediately after the ceremony ended. No family group pictures on the altar or anywhere else. And since this friend was also a wedding guest, he enjoyed the reception as a guest and not a photographer, meaning that he only took a few pictures the whole day. All the photos my parents do have are not professional quality (lighting, angles, etc) and they are very few portraits.

Let's start with the obvious disadvantages. You are asking your friends to essentially split their time on your wedding day between celebrating and working. But that is the least of your worries. It is very common to have a friend that dapples in photography, but has never shot a wedding. This is a definite problem that is clear to experienced wedding photographers- wedding photography is different than any other job because you can never re-do those special moments and there are a thousand variables to great wedding photography including lighting. Also, there are friends who are amazing cooks and who are used to whipping up a huge party menu, but that is nothing compared to a wedding of 100+ people with food that needs to be kept heated, having a serving staff, and arranging the specifics with rental company for all the plateware, silverware, barware, linens, etc.

Now back to the advantages. The upside of using 'friendors' is obvious- you trust them, you can help your friends out by allowing them to use your wedding in their portfolio/ as a reference, and they can 'gift' you their services so it is of little or no cost to you. These are great reasons. In fact, I started out planning weddings on my own thanks to some amazing friends (you know who you are!) who trusted me enough to give me those great opportunities. Before I sound like a total hypocrite, let me explain exactly when you should use friendors.

Rule #1. You should only use friends who have actual experience in their field and have done many weddings previous to yours. By the time I planned my first wedding on my own, I had worked on over 60 weddings at the Sheraton Dover Hotel. It is a great thought to want to help out your friend with a portfolio, but do not volunteer to be the 'guinea pig'.

Rule #2. Make sure you both are clear on the expectations. This may sound obvious, but make sure to have a meeting to discuss every detail and to let your friend know that by volunteering his or services, that friend is now first a vendor, then a guest. Depending on the service provided, the friend may not have time or opportunity to go dance with everyone else or socialize and should definitely NOT be knocking back drink after drink if he or she is working throughout the day. Most vendors don't have the opportunity to really show you what they can do before the big day. Fortunately, caterers, hairstylists, and make up artists have the opportunity to present you with a "run through" a few weeks or months ahead of time which is something to definitely take advantage of.

Rule #3. Make sure that you know exactly what each vendor is responsible for leading up to and on the wedding day. This may sound similar to #2, but this rule focuses on the vendor responsibilities. Photographers typically ask for a set list of VIP guests and a list of pictures for the cocktail hour. DJs ask for a set list of the "definitely" and "no way" songs plus the first dance, father/daughter, etc. Your friend should treat your wedding like any other client and it is well within your right as the client to make sure everything is covered.

Rule #4. Trust your instincts! My friends have always known me to be very organized and I have been obsessed with weddings and event planning since I was in high school. So, they knew that I would take their wedding seriously and that I have the experience to back it up. If a friend offers his or her services and immediately you feel uncertain, it is perfectly fine to turn them down. This is your wedding and you shouldn't have to wonder throughout your big day if your friend is holding up his or her side of the deal.

All in all, friendors can be a great asset to a wedding. It just makes sense that your friends want the best for you and will put forth the extra effort to make sure you fully enjoy your big day. Just with "regular" vendors, couples should always do their research on both the individual person/ company and the vendor responsibilities. By trusting your instincts and following the rules, couples can be sure that they come away with all the advantages of using a friendor without dealing with any disadvantages.

P.S. I did find the few pictures of my parents wedding and will be featuring the photos in an upcoming post!

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