Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Kick out the jams, muthaf*****!"

You know how when people are asked what kind of music they like, they usually give the big cop-out answer: "everything." It's a little misleading, because although they might appreciate different types of music, whatever they are listening to the most when that question is posed is really the answer to the question. If a person really likes "everything," their appreciation for music is constantly evolving and shifting, and Johnny and I would be no exception.

Surprisingly, that poses a problem when picking a wedding song: With so much to choose from, what do you pick as "your song," the one to best represent you both together? How do you narrow it down? How do you choose something that really fits for you both as a song by an artist you both like, a lyrical representation of both of your feelings on the relationship? How will you dance to it in front of everyone you know? And most importantly, how long is it?

With both J-cakes and myself being obsessively into music, (albeit, different types of music) I knew that choosing the music for the wedding, especially what to play as "our song," might be a little complicated. I can honestly say that I didn't envision it taking seven hours to decide, but hey, you can't plan for everything.

Long, drawn-out process or not, I kind of liked how we came to the final decision so I figured I would share the process with you. I figure, best case scenario, you consider a few songs you might have forgotten about or never thought of before and worst case scenario, you rule out 20 or so songs from the running. Either way, it works, so here's a How-to Guide for Choosing the Right Wedding Song:

Hit the Sauce. To help us get started, I started drinking. It's my personal opinion that alcohol always helps in these kinds of tough situations, so if you're reading this and trying to find a song right now, I suggest you crack the cork off your favorite wine bottle or pop open some PBR and get started.

Consider yourselves as a couple. Do you and your sweetie both like to cut a rug or does he/she get painfully shy when you're just trying to slow-dance? If you lean towards the attention whore side, you might want to consider the popular trend of fast-paced, musical montages. Get your wedding party involved and choreograph steps to the song. Capture it on video for You Tube. Have some fun with it!

Two left feet or not that into dancing? Try to choose a shorter song (less time in the spotlight) that allows you to slow dance (requires less dance talent). You could always take dance lessons somewhere to learn a few moves before the wedding. Obviously, dance studios are a good place to start looking, but you could also check for cheap dance lessons that might be happening at local colleges, universities or community centers.

Write it down. Before you even try researching songs, think about the ones that may already mean something to you and start a list. It doesn't matter if you remember the song title or the artist. Hell, if all you remember is tune and one verse, you may still be able to find it online. You might even find the lyrics are way off later, but it's nice to get started with the songs that already have meaning for you and your fiance.

Start your search engine. If "Why do birds suddenly appear" is the only verse you can remember right now, (Note: This may be a side-effect from killing off that bottle of wine) just type it in Google and see if it gets you somewhere. Once you have the title and artist for each song listed out, start searching for sites where you can read the lyrics in their entirety and music players where you can hear the whole song.

Read, Listen and Cross-off: Remember that part in the last step where I said read the lyrics in their entirety and listen to the whole song? Yeah, that's because the part of your brain that remembers the verse or chorus that might make it a perfect fit (ex. "It's a nice day for a white wedding") might have blocked out or not cared to remember the other parts ("White Wedding" by Billy Idol is actually about Idol's little sister's shotgun marriage to someone he didn't like). Take notes about what you like, what you don't like. (Hint: Write down the songs' time lengths - shown on the bottom right side of most online media players - it helps weed out the best songs later).

Honorable bad choices (for various reasons):
"Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics ("some of them want to abuse you)
"I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston (it's about a break up)
"Every Breath You Take" by The Polices (hey there, stalker).

Compare Notes: Once I had a decent list together, Johnny got home and cracked open another bottle of wine (yet another reason why I love him) and we went through the list side-by-side, opening up the lyrics on one screen and playing the songs on YouTube (when available) on another screen. Besides being a helpful way to get a sense of the song, it's incredibly amusing to see some of the worst music videos ever made.

Compare Votes: Once we had reviewed 20 or so different songs, we put it to a vote. No better way to choose a song between two die-hard music junkies than to put through a democratic process! To choose, we each grabbed a post it, numbered 1-3 with 1 being our top choice. In the event that we both chose the same songs, the one that was listed on closest to the top for both would be the final winner.

I sort of knew this wouldn't be an issue, but I hoped we would pick at least one song we both liked, and we did. Without giving the final pick away (cause what fun would that be?) here are some of the songs we checked out with links to the lyrics:

You're My Best Friend - Queen
Oh My Love - John Lennon
In My Life - The Beatles
And I Love Her - The Beatles
Never My Love - The Association
Into My Arms - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Ship Song - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
It's, Oh, So Quiet - Bjork
The Promise - When in Rome
Harvest Moon - Neil Young
This Magic Moment - Ben E. King & The Drifters version
This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) - Talking Heads
Perfect Day - Lou Reed
Center of Gravity - Yo La Tengo
All Day & All of the Night - The Kinks
Come Rain or Come Shine - either by Ray Charles or Billie Holiday
The Luckiest - Ben Folds
Just Like Heaven - The Cure
Close to Me - The Cure
Moon River - Frank Sinatra version
I Love How You Love Me - Camera Obscura version
I Can't Help Falling in Love with You - Elvis Presley
I Only Have Eyes for You - Art Garfunkel version
Mushaboom - Feist
Unchained Melody - The Righteous Brothers (I know, almost as over-used as "At Last" by Etta James, but so good!)

Whichever songs were awesome, but not the best fit for first dance are going to be played somewhere throughout the night. There's plenty of opportunities, with the cake cutting, anniversary song, etc.

Good luck!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lovin' it up in Logan Square

After months of waiting for Humboldt Park to come through with the contract, it's finally official! We booked our place, signed the contract and paid our $500 deposit. We will officially tie the knot on October 9, 2010 and we now have a place to party it up properly after the ceremony.

So how this miracle finally happened? What did it finally take for us to lock it all in? Simple - We decided to chuck the Humboldt Park Fieldhouse idea and we're relocating the reception to the Logan Square Auditorium. (Psst: Pictures coming soon, I took a few on my phone but I don't have time to upload 'em).

Yesterday we met with potential caterers (a few folks with Honest Foods) to scope out Humboldt Park and map out some ideas about the rentals and layout. Once we finished, we popped in to check one last time and see if by some chance things had finally come together. No such luck. It still wasn't ready (through no fault of Neirda's, she is a super chill and pleasant lady to that is just waiting on the City of Chicago to get it's self together).

I guess that was sort of the breaking point on this. With less than a year until the wedding and no contract, we're getting increasingly nervous. They did promise to hold the date, but without a deposit or any sense of what the cost will be hiked up to, it doesn't seem smart to keep waiting. We've been asking since May and it's making it really hard to budget for everything else. I know, there are plenty of couples that get hitched in well under a year, but there are also hundreds of couples who book locations far in advance and with a limited budget in a big city where most venues run $5,000 and up for an empty space, it just seemed to risky to bank on a venue that still isn't ready.

We haven't completely given up on Humboldt Park though. We still plan to host the ceremony at the Humboldt Park boathouse, (if things get too crazy with the wait on that, at least it's just an hour event and there are other parks in the city) and in some ways that works out better than the boathouse/fieldhouse situation. If you're livin' around Logan Square or considering a wedding/event over there, here's a couple notes on the auditorium:

The Pros:

$3,275 is the cost for a Saturday rental (if you're planning a Friday night gig, you'll save yourself $500 but with so many out-of-towners this wasn't something we could consider).

Security, chairs and tables (includes 60 inch rounds, high boys and low tables), ice, soda, a sound technician and amp/stage equipment are included in the $3,275.

With all the sound equipment access, booking a DJ with a lot of talent but not a lot of gear may be easier.

You can choose to buy your own alcohol or buy it through the venue if you'd like.

You can bring your own bartenders through your caterer or pay for their bartenders.

You can choose any caterer you'd like as long as they sign a certification with the venue (pretty standard, but the choosing who you want isn't so standard).

The venue can fit 350 people normally, and we had the luck of seeing a wedding being set up for late this evening. The couple was having 208 guests, and was able to fit 26 large rounds, 14 low boys, buffet food tables, the head table and ample dance space.

The closer bathrooms and kitchen space are being updated and will be finished by the time we have our wedding next year.

It's right off the Logan Square blue line stop and Milwaukee bus route (a big plus for city-livin' guests).

It ties into our idea for the flyer-style wedding invite pretty nicely.

The Cons:

The only really big concern for us is the wheelchair accessibility (there isn't any). There is also no service elevator, so everything has to be hiked up some stairs. Bands do it plenty of time for shows and with the tables and chairs already available on-site, at least it's a few less things to haul. Still, we have some family members who might struggle with the lack of elevator situation. I checked in with family to make sure they are comfortable with it because I'd had to sign up somewhere and have people not come for that reason. It seems like we'll be okay...

Also, a lot of people complain about the sound system for rock shows. Johnny and I have both been to concerts there and while we agree it's not our location of choice for shows (the sound bounced off the walls as sound tends to do in large, gym-like spaces) it's a wedding. We will have to double check it's all on the up-and-up, but I think we can work with it.

We're getting married! With an actual space to have the party and everything. Whew, finally!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 334: Sprucin' up the Space

It's been a little crazy around here lately, but the good kind of crazy for the most part.

I've been picking up a few extra shifts a week at the pub and I've gotten a few more freelance opportunities in the past few weeks. It's not enough to be a full time situation, but every little bit helps and the more we look at the costs of wedding crap, the more I'm happy to take on any assignment. (Hint, hint, if you happen to be looking for a writer/publicist at the moment).

J-cakes has been working a more shifts at Piece Out while looking for a full-time gig and he's been getting a lot of stuff together for his band, Sadhu Sadhu. The band is actually working on recording their first full-length album and he does all the album/poster artwork so he's had a lot going on. I'm excited to see how the recording pans out he's definitely been working his butt off.

The nice part about recent developments is that we now have our days off together, vs. nights, so whenever we think about something else that might be cool for the wedding we can actually make appointments to meet vendors and both be there. J-cakes is actually looking forward to parts of the wedding planning beyond just setting up the bachelor party (which is more of the stereotypical dude action). It should be interesting to see how we mesh all these ideas together.

Anyways, as part of the planning, we met with Deb from Art of Imagination last Thursday. (If you've been reading this blog for a bit, I mentioned a few posts ago that we were supposed to meet up, but a work deadline got in the way).

Deb was met us on-site at Humboldt Park Field House so we could get a better idea of what we might need to make the place a little fancier. Again, if you read this blog, you've seen this before, but one of my biggest concerns - and the whole reason we needed to meet with Deb in the first places - is to figure out a way to tastefully cover this:


Fortunately, Deb came prepared to consider not only the mural situation, but also tips on how to mask the basketball hoops in the gym area, what ideas might look nice to help create an entrance, and which lighting might work best around the place, among other ideas. Besides appreciating her eye for this sort of thing, we also liked that Deb didn't just spout off the priciest options when suggesting ideas to us. While we wandered around the place she made a point to mention ideas we might be able to put together ourselves and suggestions on where to go to get keep it on the cheap. The whole meeting made us both feel much more at ease and I know we won't be able to afford all of her ideas, but I'm still excited to see what the possibilities could look like. Here's are some examples of event work Deb has done in the past: