The Experts

Tips, Tricks, and Advice From Those in the Know

The Party Starters
A DJ and a band do battle over which music option rocks the party harder (with us stuck in between!).

The Coterie
With a combined 25 weddings under their sashes, these ’maids reveal how not to treat your BFFs.

Seven Gifts for Seven Girls
Your bridesmaids are different—why get them the same, impersonal gift? Try these ideas for thank-yous they’ll be glad to open.

The Maestro
Bernadette Smith helps gay couples tackle the challenges of planning a same-sex affair

The Tastemaker
A chef turned caterer helps debunk the myth that wedding food must play it safe.

The Old Pros
Three happily married couples share the secret to keeping the home fires burnin’ for 30, 40—even 60 years. (And it’s not what you think.)

The Paparazzo
Finding the right wedding photographer is far more complicated than just point and click.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
De Manio offers the do’s and don’ts of assembling a GORGEOUS group shot.


To find out which music option rocks the party harder, a band or a DJ, go onto the next page…

The Party Starters
A DJ and a band do battle over which music option rocks the party harder (with us stuck in between!).

By Brigid Sweeney

You’ve endured endless hours of planning, but let’s be honest: No one will remember the multi-tiered centerpieces. They will, however, remember the music that rescued them from a stilted conversation with your great-aunt Gertrude. We recruited a couple of veteran performers to argue the eternal entertainment debate.

The Players

DJ Michael O’Neill of Brighton-based MCO Productions has played more than 200 weddings. He says his style is “energetic, but not over the top. It’s not ‘ring announcer’ and it’s not the teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Lead singers Aurel D’Agostino, Karen Bell, Jeff Ramsey, trumpeter Rich Kelley, and manager Stuart Camiel of Somerville’s Hip Pocket Orchestra have played at a thousand weddings. Their performances are “dictated by the bride and groom,” D’Agostino says. “If it’s a Newport mansion and a John Theodore Albert Smith VI, we know that’s a slightly different presentation than ‘John Smith, everybody!’”

Talk to us about musical variety.
DJ: I have access to everything that’s ever been recorded. I’ll show up with 1,000 CDs, plus I have about 300 gigs of MP3s on portable hard drives. There really are no limits.
Band: If someone asks for a song we don’t know, the next best thing we can offer is something similar by the same artist or from the same time period. Or we’ll play a prerecorded version on one of our breaks.

What do you get from a band that you can’t get from a DJ?

Band: If you do have a choice and if budget isn’t involved, live music just has that je ne sais quoi and provides a visual element as well as excellent sound. That said, if you can’t get a great band—not just a good band, but a really great band—you’re better off getting a great DJ.
DJ: I definitely can’t compete with the visual aspect. People are watching the band and enjoying it even if they’re not dancing. But some people prefer the low-key DJ in the corner who provides lots of brilliant sound and creates energy in the room but also remains in the background.

All right, so forget the whole band-versus-DJ issue for a minute. Why not just rent a sound system and use your iPod?

DJ: I recently got a text message from a guy who works for me: “I’m at a wedding being deejayed by an unmonitored iPod. Not successful. Hard to watch.” I know the iPod option is a trend, but music is really the most important part of your reception. You need to have someone in charge.

Once a couple make up their mind to hire a band or DJ, what’s next?
DJ: Get word-of-mouth referrals from friends and coworkers. My booking is basically one gig at a time, and I focus on creating great impressions on the 200 people attending the wedding, on the photographer, on the venues.
Band: Ask the venue managers whom they like working with. If a band is messy or a DJ is knocking ’em back at the bar, you can be assured they are not on the venue’s preferred list.

How do you ensure everyone’s having a good time?
DJ: There’s a complete progression: jazz during cocktail hour, then mellow contemporary stuff during dinner, like Jack Johnson and John Mayer. When the dancing portion starts, it’s best to get people started with oldies. And then the last hour is when you hear the more current dance music.
Band: If we begin a song the couple picked out, but for whatever reason we’re not getting a response from the audience, we’re able to truncate it and segue into another song right away.

What songs should be blacklisted?

Band: There’s a certain cheese factor—“Love Shack,” “Hot Hot Hot.” Do we know them? Sure. That’s our job. But we’re not going to inflict them on the client unless they specifically say, “This is what we want.”

Finally, the question everyone feels stupid asking: How do you tip the entertainment?
DJ: If they give us 60 bucks so my assistant and I can go grab a beer after the wedding, then it might as well be $200 to me. I’m just glad they recognized we worked hard for it.
Band: My stance is that we charge a fair market value and anything beyond that, no matter the amount, is appreciated but not expected. And a referral is as good as cash—it is cash to us.

Michael O’Neill, 617-901-7701,; Hip Pocket Orchestra, 617-625-1991,

For advice from former bridesmaids on how to work with your bridal party, go on to the next page…


The Coterie
With a combined 25 weddings under their sashes, these ’maids reveal how not to treat your BFFs.

By Julie Suratt

They hosted your shower, organized your bachelorette, helped choose flowers, and listened as you bitched endlessly about your mother-in-law-to-be. “A good bridesmaid is there for you 100 percent,” says five-time bridesmaid Donna Garlough of Jamaica Plain. Just remember: They’re not the hired help. We asked a few seasone
d attendants to share their collective wisdom.

Don’t dress your bridesmaids like septuplets. It just looks silly. Your photos will still look smart if you choose a designer and color, and then let your friends choose their own style, says five-time bridesmaid Tara Cahill of South Boston.

Don’t choose a $300 dress.
This needs no elaboration. But something else to consider: Don’t pick a dress that’s tough to alter. If it has five layers of silk chiffon and industrial-strength boning, your bridesmaids will spend nearly as much as the dress cost to make it fit.

Keep your bachelorette party in check. “I’m sick of going out of state and spending a gazillion dollars,” says six-time bridesmaid Danielle Cirigliano of Wakefield. “It can be low-key but still a ton of fun.” Cahill remembers a bachelorette party where the bride insisted everyone stay at the Four Seasons. “The weekend cost me $2,000.” If you’re dead set on heading to sunny climes, “plan ahead,” she advises. “If everyone books their
tickets months in advance, it’s not as expensive.”

Don’t let the post-ceremony photo shoot drag on. You spent hours obsessing over which appetizers should be passed during cocktail hour, and now you’re going to miss it? “My photographer took all the group shots before the ceremony. All we had to do afterward was take shots of me and my husband together,” says Cahill.

Keep the bridal shower to three hours. Nobody enjoys oohing and aahing over gifts. “When I got married, I had the host write ‘Bring all gifts unwrapped so Tara can spend more time with her guests’ on the invitations,” says Cahill.

You don’t have to invite all 12 of your best friends to be bridesmaids.
“I was an usher in two of my friends’ weddings, and it was really fun,” says Dana Finn of Natick. “Technically I was still in the bridal party, but I didn’t have to buy a dress!”

Be nice. If you still want to be friends after the wedding, treat your bridesmaids with some semblance of respect. “I was in a wedding where the bride had us sign a document saying that we wouldn’t gain more than five pounds and we wouldn’t cut our hair without consulting her,” says Cirigliano. Needless to say, “I don’t talk to her anymore.”

For seven great bridesmaid gift ideas for seven very different women, go on to the next page…


Seven Gifts for Seven Girls
Your bridesmaids are different—why get them the same, impersonal gift? Try these ideas for thank-yous they’ll be glad to open.


By Blythe Copeland

For the wine lover: Alessi’s iconic Anna G corkscrew—designed to look like a cheery lady with a bobbed haircut and brightly colored dress—makes breaking into a fine wine that much more fun. ($49, Bliss Home, 121 Newbury St., Boston, 617-421-5544,

For the chef: She can brand her favorite casserole recipe with an embosser, and then file it away in a monogrammed wooden recipe box. ($69, Williams-Sonoma,

For the artist: Keep her creativity flowing with a one-year membership to the Museum of Fine Arts. ($75, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-267-9300,

For the jetsetter: A pocket-sized travel journal takes whatever her worldwide adventures dish out. Don’t forget a brightly colored ballpoint pen—and a silk eye-pillow for those long flights. (World Travel Leather Journal, $49; P.S. pen, $9; and silk eye pillow, $18, Paper Source, 338 Boylston St., Boston, 617-536-3444,

For the mom-to-be: Reward her for that long day on her feet with a 50-minute Mama Mio pregnancy pedicure. ($60, Bella Sante, 76 Bedford St., Lexington, 781-862-2444,

For the party girl: Every scenester has her favorite evening clutch. Design one (we recommend the Erinn) with your ’maid in mind at 1154 Lill Studio. (Bags starting at $62, 1154 Lill Studio, 220 Newbury St., Boston, 617-247-1154,

For the earth-conscious: Prana’s stylish (and certified organic) Willow hoodie—with its slim fit and palette of washed greens, soft blue, and chocolate brown—is perfect for your favorite environmentally minded gym-goer. ($60, City Sports, 1035 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617-782-5121,


For advice on how to tackle the challenges of planning a same-sex affair, go on to the next page…

The Maestro

Bernadette Smith helps gay couples tackle the challenges of planning a same-sex affair.

By Rachel Strutt

As Bernadette Smith ticks off the list of customized wedding packages offered by her Boston-based event-planning company—“the Alexander the Great, the Oscar Wilde, the Virginia Woolf”—a theme emerges. Smith launched It’s About Time Events in 2004, shortly after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts. Here, she discusses her speciality: nontraditional weddings.

What’s the difference between planning a same-sex and a straight wedding? The planning process is about the same, yet it’s different in terms of emotions. Sometimes couples struggle with whether or not to come out to various family members, or worry about whom to invite. I’ve had weddings where the bride didn’t invite her mom. You want to provide support.

How do you find your clients? Some clients come to me after they’ve had bad experiences picking out a ring or a dress. It can be really stressful having to come out every time you work with a new vendor.

Tell us about your experiences working with vendors when planning a same-sex wedding. I’ve experienced some really bad vibes from certain vendors—various types of churches, for example. I’ve also found that in different parts of the state, like the Worcester area, the vibe isn’t always great. I can tell someone’s comfort level with a same-sex couple right away.

Do you ever just walk away? I’m definitely an advocate for my clients and take good care of them, but I’m not going to try to change someone’s opinion. I’m not an educator. People make assumptions about weddings. I had a wedding at the Museum of Science where the waitstaff used the expression “bride and groom.” I told the waitress, “It’s actually two brides.” People can so easily fall into the traditional way of thinking
about weddings—whether you’re gay or straight.

Do you try to work with gay vendors?
If I can support the community by working with gay-run vendors, I will. Yet I guarantee my clients the best service and the best price possible, regardless of sexual identity.

Is it difficult to find certain products or decorations for a same-sex
wedding celebration?
It used to be difficult to find wedding cake toppers—of two grooms or two brides—but not anymore. It’s even possible to find gay wedding cards now. Yet most of my clients don’t look for groom-and-groom or bride-and-bride themes. They’re looking for things that are creative or colorful. Couples are looking to represent themselves and their culture, not necessarily their sexual identity.

It’s About Time Events, 617-733-2965,

Why Everyone Should Have a Gay Wedding
Graphic designer David Cucinotta and his partner, Jim Cove, recently married in Provincetown with Bernadette Smith’s help. Below, Cucinotta offers three reasons why a gay wedding is way more fun than a straight one.

1. Gay couples throw tradition out the window. “We had no obligations to do anything,” says Cucinotta, above right. “We were paying for the wedding, so we didn’t worry what Mom and Dad thought.” The couple made sure not to seat friends or family together. “We placed people in interesting combinations at small tables.” And instead of a formal sit-down dinner, they had a buffet, “which mentally unlocked people from their seats and got them moving around.”

2. They focus on the most important aspect of the night: The party. “Our ceremony was 18 minutes. Dinner was just an hour and 20 minutes. The dancing was four hours, interrupted only by cake-cutting.” Oh, and the open bar? Seven hours.

3. They play music that gets people dancing. Cucinotta’s playlist: 1)“Excited” by M People. “Any track by People sets a very cool vibe for dancing,” he says. 2) “Always There” (David Morales remix) by Incognito. “A great big, feel-good toe-tapper.” 3) “I Just Want to Be Happy” by Gloria Estefan. “I defy any music snob to stay in his seat when this classic track is played.” 4) “Stay This Way” (Club Mix by David Morales) by the Brand New Heavies. 5) “Heaven Knows” by Donna Summer. “Classic anthem status!” – Julie Suratt

For wedding cuisine advice from a chef turned caterer, go on to the next page…


The Tastemaker
A chef turned caterer helps debunk the myth that wedding food must play it safe.

By Rachel Strutt

Back when our parents got married, chicken cordon bleu was high-class fare. Now, it’s free-range chicken with prosciutto, gruyere, and garlic jus. “Brides are taking food more seriously,” says Timothy Hopkins, who opened his own catering company in Ipswich in 2003. Since then, he’s catered 150 weddings—and learned that good food and weddings can go hand-in-hand.

Talk to us about eating local. It’s not as much of a trend as a movement. People today are really concerned with what they’re putting into their bodies. Brides are definitely considering the sources of the food they serve, so we try to keep it local—whether it’s meat, fish, or produce. We have a great grower, Marini Farms in Ipswich; they follow green growing techniques and have amazing heirloom tomatoes, thumbnail-size strawberries, and baby beets in a variety of colors from candy-striped to dark purple.

But does locally sourced food equal a sky-high catering bill? Certainly the quality of ingredients will dictate price. That said, you can control overall cost by using high-quality ingredients but having less on your plate. And buying great local ingredients doesn’t have to bust a budget. You could have local striped bass with white corn couscous topped with avocado and local lobster—those ingredients aren’t overly expensive.

Tell us about a wedding you’ve catered that highlighted local ingredients.
We catered a wedding at a farm in Boxford that was owned by the bride’s parents. The bride was very enthusiastic about an organic approach and asked, “Will you work with my dad? He wants to smoke some salmon.” So we made homemade crème fraîche with dill and chervil to go with her father’s salmon, and we did a free-range chicken consommé with poached quail eggs, which also came from the farm. It was a real family affair.

It sounds like a food love fest. Yeah, it is. What’s really apparent with our catering (and what makes us different from the others) is that we’re chef-owned. We take tastings very seriously. It’s an opportunity to put a plate to a face.

What can go wrong at a wedding?
My business partner Paul Tenhope and I did a wedding in Woodstock two weeks ago on a thousand-acre gentleman’s farm. It was so windy the trees were snapping like twigs. We had 100 people hanging on to the tent until we tied it down to two antique tractors. All of our salad plates [blew off the tables and] broke, so we ended up serving baby arugula salad with goat cheese in coffee cups. Then last week, another party was hit by lightning. If next week is just as exciting, I’ll be in a mental institution by Tuesday.

How far will you go to track down an exotic ingredient for a bride? Our contacts in the industry are so vast, we can, and will, find anything. Once we even found an elephant for a groom to ride into a wedding ceremony. In terms of food, we’ve tracked down Iranian caviar and had ribs flown in from Chicago. With the Internet, the world has gotten smaller.

Does the increased interest in serious gourmet food up the ante when it comes to selecting wine? Yeah, I would say so. Ten years ago, our average price per bottle was between $12 and $14 for a red wine. We’ve seen that double. The quality of champagne has also gone way up. We spend a lot of time working with liquor purveyors to work on menus and pick out appropriate wines to pair with each course.

Timothy S. Hopkins Catering, 978-356-0548,


What Not to Serve
Hopkins dishes on his least favorite culinary wedding trends

Foie Gras: “When you think of what foie gras is all about, it can turn your stomach a little bit. We did foie gras with sautéed apples and pears, Michigan dried cherries, and toasted hazelnuts. About a third of the wedding party didn’t even try it. It didn’t surprise me—but the bride and groom said, ‘We’ve gotta have it.’` And I understood. I love foie gras; I just don’t overthink it.”

The Mashed Potato Bar: “You get 20 different toppings, usually with cold, clumpy potatoes. You end up eating them with blue cheese and pickles—and then you’re expected to get up and dance.”

Cupcakes in Lieu of a Wedding Cake: “I’d rather see individual wedding cakes;
I think those are really cute and can be spectacular.”

The Chocolate Fountain: “It screams bar mitzvah with 13-year-olds jabbing their fingers into it.” – Rachel Strutt

The Old Pros
Three happily married couples share the secret to keeping the home fires burnin’ for 30, 40—even 60 years. (And it’s not what you think.)


By Erin Graham

It’s easy to get married…and a heck of a lot harder to stay that way. Things that annoyed you about your fiancé du
ring your courtship will drive you bonkers when they’re repeated every day for 30 years. We hear from three local couples as they discuss what it takes to create a lasting affair—from watching your spouse sleep to scheduling romantic getaways sans children.

The Couples:

Needham couple Patricia and John Stegelmann, married 31 years, met in 1972 when John was on leave from naval duty in Vietnam.





Married 33 years, Sarina and Allan Steinmetz of Newton met when he was a 20-year-old youth group counselor and she was a 16-year-old camper. Two years later, they reunited at a wedding—and six days later, they were engaged.





Sixty-six years ago, Beverly and Bill Franklin of Brookline had a huge wedding, mainly to please her parents. When the attack on Pearl Harbor took place a few months later, the newlyweds found a greater appreciation for the grand ceremony they’d shared with friends and family.



What’s the biggest difference between today’s relationships and those in the era in which you were married?

Sarina: Communication isn’t a problem for young couples these days—they talk and talk—so that’s fabulous. But even if your communication is down pat, you still have to have 100 percent commitment to the marriage. You can try to define your roles and responsibilities, but over a lifetime, it all changes. You need to trust that sometimes one of you will give 70 percent and the other 30 percent. You pick up each other’s slack.

Beverly: It sounds crazy, but in our generation, sexual freedom came with getting married. That gave an aura of wonder to our marriage. Also, we were lucky in that society allowed us both to fill roles that worked for the whole family. I had a great sisterhood of friends, and we all had kids while our husbands were developing their futures. None of us had to compromise. That’s not the case now.

What’s your secret to a successful marriage?

Bill: I don’t think our marriage has been hard work. It just came naturally. We’ve enjoyed each one of our three children, 10 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. We still like to try new things and take classes together.

Beverly: We have different personalities, but we hate to fight. Instead, we talk to each other about it before anger takes over.

Allan: We aren’t selfish, and we go out of our way to make the other person happy. Just this morning, Sarina brought me the paper in bed—it’s the little things that count most.

Sarina: We said to each other that we would never use the “D word.” So it’s never even been an option.

John: We don’t take the other for granted. Since I saw a different side of life in Vietnam, I’ve been able to realize how good I have it. It’s what you do with your experiences that make you what you are.

Pat: Honesty is absolutely key, and we’re not embarrassed to share what we think, even if it’s silly or shallow.

Okay, last question: What’s your advice for a couple about to get married?

Bill: Treat each other with kindness.

Beverly: Be prepared to make accommodations and let one another know when you’re upset. You need to find ways to express disagreement without getting angry.

Allan: Take vacations. And remember that at the end of the day, there’s a love between the two of you. There are always challenges like children, jobs, health, finances—roll with the punches and separate life’s challenges from your marriage.

Sarina: Surround yourself with people who are also happily married. And make a point of looking at your spouse when they’re sleeping in the morning. That’s the person you fell in love with.

Pat: You have to have a lot of patience and acceptance. Put your spouse first.

John: Pat used an expression as each big new change came along: She said we were entering “the new normal.” You’ll have so many stresses with new jobs and each new child. But just take a deep breath and deal with the issues at hand—and recognize that you’re just in a new normal. And in two or three years, there will be another new normal. My advice is to not look back.

Keep It In The Family
The couples’ children and grandchildren weigh in on what they learned from their relationships

“Show affection. My parents still flirt all the time. And they never come or go without a kiss.” Brenna Fisk, the Stegelmanns’ daughter

“My grandparents have always enjoyed sitting in their respective living room chairs and reading to themselves, but when an article or line of prose excites one of them, they make sure to put their section of the paper down so they can listen and really hear what the other person is saying.” Emily Franklin, the Franklins’ granddaughter

“I see a lot of parents who get too caught up in what their kids are doing. My parents focused on their relationship, and we learned from their example. [When the children leave the nest] you don’t want to be two strangers living together in a house.” Zev Steinmetz, Sarina and Allan’s son

For picture perfect advice from a wedding photographer, go on to the next page…

The Paparazzo
Finding the right wedding photographer is far more complicated than just point and click.

By Erin Graham

When Genevieve de Manio got married 10 years ago, her aunt photographed the festivities—a decision the Carlisle-based wedding photographer regrets today. Now she regularly quotes the father of one of her brides: “The food will be gone tomorrow, but the photographs are forever.” Not sure where to start? Read on for guidance from a woman who learned the hard way.

Why do so many brides hate their wedding photos? Brides want to look like models on their wedding day, but let’s face it, not everyone is. I think many brides are disappointed when a photographer doesn’t meet their expectations on both the wedding day and, equally important, the day they receive the album. To avoid this, a bride should be aware of the options each photographer offers—different approaches to shooting style, a photographer’s personality, and specific approaches to the many details of the wedding day. Basically, figure out what you’re buying before you put down a deposit.

What’s a common mistake photographers make? Not knowing when to offer direction in situations that require it, or knowing when to fall back and let events unfold naturally. I hear stories about control-freak photographers who try to dictate events, even yelling at guests to achieve a desired shot.

Is it important to hire a photographer who specializes in weddings? Yes, because anticipation is so incredibly important when it comes to shooting great candid images. Experience
will increase the chances that he or she will be in the right place at the right time to capture that once-in-a-lifetime moment. They’ll also know to fill in gaps between individuals, button Uncle Earl’s middle button (and undo the top), straighten your little brother’s hair, and arrange the bridal party according to height.

Are there more good photographers than bad? Let’s just say that there are few exceptional wedding photographers. Too many photographers think that tilting a camera on an angle will somehow make a wedding photograph look magical.

What are the best bloopers you’ve caught in photos? Two of my favorite wedding photographs capture jaw-dropping reactions to a bride’s newly bestowed jewels: female ring-envy exposed.

What sets a great photographer apart? A great wedding photographer must possess three qualities: an outstanding eye for artistic composition, technical expertise, and a sensitivity and passion for the emotional life of a wedding day. Let’s face it, eight to 10 hours of straight shooting with little or no break is exhausting. If you don’t have a photographer who loves what they do, you’ll see it in their final work.

How should brides choose the spot to take photographs? Gazebos are the worst—too cheesy! Don’t choose a background structure that will compete with you and your wedding party. Have your photographer pick a location with even light; your father will not pay for photographs showing a dapple of sunlight on his bald forehead.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a wedding photographer? The best thing is sharing in the celebration. I have the honored position of recording this important event for generations to come. The bummer is not being able to share these special moments with my husband—he takes care of the kids while I shoot. I’m a hopeless romantic.

Genevieve de Manio, 617-524-1988,

To find out the do’s and don’ts of assembling a GORGEOUS group shot, go on to the next page…

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
De Manio offers the do’s and don’ts of assembling a GORGEOUS group shot.

What not to do: The location for this shot is not ideal. The dampness of the boardwalk makes the group look as if they’re standing in water. Also, their closeness to the water’s edge feels tenuous.

The group’s arrangement is chaotic. Everyone is facing different directions, and people in the back are covered up by people in the front.
The bride and groom are lost in the mix. Although the bride’s veil helps locate her, it hides her face, shoulders and dress.
A few hand-placement no-no’s: The woman on the far left is holding her toddler’s crotch (ouch!). Who belongs to the mystery hands holding the boy in the front row?
I would have encouraged the grandparents to stand with the group (if possible), so they do not inadvertently become the focus of the portrait.
The dead tree limb at the top of the frame should be cropped out.
Avoid the horseshoe-shaped arrangement of this portrait. It means that the individuals on the ends will appear larger and more prominent than the bride and groom in the center.

What to do: Stagger the men and women so that no one is hidden. And rather than putting all the men on one side and all the women on the other, I recommend mixing the group so that not all the black tuxedos are at one end and brightly colored dresses at the other.
Arrange individuals away from the bride and groom in ascending (if the couple is short) or descending (if the couple is tall) order.
Make sure the women’s bouquets are held at relatively the same height.
Angle everyone slightly toward the center (in other words, not facing different directions).
Choose a spot where the sunlight is behind the group—you don’t want everyone squinting and straining to keep their eyes open.
Key advice: Before the big day, prepare a list of the group combinations you want photographed, and designate one person to corral all the key players. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting a ton of time looking for Uncle Larry, who’s downing Harvey Wallbangers at the bar.