“Wedding Quandary: Tech or Tradition?”

Published by Buffalo Spree Magazine.

When it comes to wedding planning, dress, color scheme, and menu decisions are the same as ever, but when it comes to music, invitations, and registries, brides and grooms now have techier alternatives to consider. And the choices aren’t always easy, given that both traditional and tech options have advantages.

Band or DJ?

Great music can keep a party moving, while humdrum tunes can have guests stifling yawns by 9p.m. While bands and DJs remain popular choices, creating a wedding playlist and streaming from a device is now a viable alternative. In choosing, couples should factor in budget, personal taste, and ambiance, as making the right decision means prioritizing these items.

Consider what you want and how much your budget can afford, knowing that the higher you go, the less you’ll have for other wedding needs. Borrowed & Blue’s (borrowedandblue.com) Audra Jones, in “Bands v. DJs: Which Is Right for Your Wedding?” notes that “wedding bands are, on average, significantly more expensive, typically running from $3,000 [to] $10,000.” Check local and new bands, too; their costs may be significantly less.   

“Few things can energize a crowd quite like live music,” says Jones. “There’s just something about the beat of the drum and the energy of the musicians that puts everyone in a good mood and gets feet tapping!” Live musicians are also great when you’re going for an overall wedding theme or mood. Roaring Twenties wedding? Island luau? Cinderella’s ball? No problem. Most musicians will even dress the part to add flair to the evening. And, Jones notes, even folks who don’t dance enjoy a live show.

For more varied sound, or to hear songs as recorded by your favorite artists, a DJ fits the bill. You can provide playlists, as well as specific instructions: e.g., do not play the “Chicken Dance” no matter how many times your second cousin requests it. If your venue is small, consider that a DJ’s equipment likely takes less space than a band. DJs are more affordable than bands, and can take breaks without leaving the party sans music.

Band or DJ, do your homework. Don’t sign a contract until you’ve checked out a performance or event. Pay attention to how they read a crowd; they should know when it’s time to pick up the tempo and when to pull back for a cozy slow dance. Also make sure you get along; whoever provides your music should understand the vibe you want for your special day.

Hooking up your own device and streaming music for the reception is by far the most affordable route, but preplanning is critical. Do you need WiFi? Are the speakers at the venue adequate, or do you need to bring or rent your own? Is someone capable in charge of setting it up? Remember that a dead battery, glitchy reception, or a forgotten cable could mean no music at all. Do a test run—do two—and have backup to avoid mishaps.

Paper invitations or e-vites?

When considering paper vs. electronic invitations, it again comes down to budget and preference. E-vites are much less expensive—often pennies on the dollar, in comparison—and there’s no additional cost for postage. When you hit “send,” off they go, and replies come back just as fast. Some wedding apps will even keep track of responses for you, which makes planning a snap.

But, as Eliana Dockterman highlights in Time’s (time.com) “With This App, I Thee Wed,” “Going high-tech sometimes means sacrificing formality. Even the most beautiful online invitations can send a more casual message.” She then quotes Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert who says invitations set the tone for the wedding: “If you get a beautifully engraved invitation in the mail where someone took the time and money to hire a calligrapher, that notes the wedding is much more formal. If you send out an e-vite, that sends another message. Maybe the wedding is less formal.”

If you or a friend have some skills, a cost-saving in-between option is designing your own invitations, and printing them at home. Also consider how you want to save mementos of your big day. E-vites can be added to a wedding website or online album, whereas paper invitations can be framed or pasted into a wedding scrapbook.

“Stuff” or money?

The old gift registry debate—is it impersonal to provide a preselected list of “gifts”?—has been replaced by a new one: does the couple ask for gifts from the registry or contributions toward a honeymoon, house, or (gulp) paying down student loan debt. Registering for “wrappable” gifts can be a lot of fun—browsing through your favorite store with a scanning gun that makes you feel like a superhero, or sitting with a laptop, clicking all the kitchen gadgets and throw pillows—but if your apartment is a studio, your cooking skills max out at pouring cereal, you can’t imagine ever needing a linen napkin (monogrammed or otherwise), and you’d really like to go to Hawaii, money might seem a lot more practical.

Linda Marx, for the New York Times, claims in “Passing on Wedding Gifts, Millennials Prefer Cash,” while it was once considered tacky to ask for money, younger generations are changing the etiquette. “When it comes to registering for gifts, a generational sea change has developed, with more and more millennial couples asking their guests to consider holding the gravy ladles and shelving the dishes in favor of gifts of a very different sort,” says Marx, who says they prefer “cash, home-repair gift cards, and lavish honeymoon experiences.”

But it’s not just twentysomethings who don’t want crystal and china. Couples who get married later in life may already have all they need—hutches and silverware drawers are full, houses are furnished, and walls are decorated. So, gifting an experience may be more appreciated. Many registry websites have buttons guests can click to fund honeymoon trips: e.g., they can buy the newlyweds a whale watch tour, a salsa dancing lesson, or tickets to a show.

As Marx says, “The wedding-gift concept has morphed into doing what makes the couple happy.” That may mean a new blender, or not. Whatever you choose, remember your manners. Give guests different price options, so those with less disposable income can still contribute. And, if Aunt Gert gives you a slow cooker you didn’t ask for, tell her it’s just what you needed, and try making some chili cheese dip in it. You’ll never be sorry you did.

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