Wedding Week: D.C. Weddings

Vicky Johnson
Wedding Consultant
Wednesday, June 7, 2006; 11:00 AM

Vicky Johnson , professional wedding consultant, was online Wednesday, June 7, at 11 a.m. ET to offer tips and advice on planning your D.C.-area wedding.

Vicky Johnson is a certified wedding planner who's been planning large scale events nationally for more than 15 years. Her firm, holy matrimony , is located on K Street in NW D.C. with satellite offices in Baltimore and NY. She also participates in the DC Nearlyweds blog, which follows two local brides-to-be as they plan their weddings.

A transcript follows.


Baltimore, Md.: Hi Vicky!

My fiancee and I are thinking of having our wedding at the Peabody Library in Maryland. We will be having a winter wedding (2007). As you know, it is such a large, unique building. Have you had good experiences there and what is a good way to make such a space feel warm?

Thank You!!

Vicky Johnson: FABULOUS space!!!

You really don't need to do much to the space at all. If you focus on your tables with linens and centerpieces, the room will take guests breath away. They are great to work with and have a ton of resources available to you.


Washington, D.C.: We are getting married in August 2007. We are interested in have a wedding in a large mansion were we can have family and friends stay prior to the wedding. We would like to the have wedding at the mansion. Can you provide us with places that would be able to accommodate our plans?

Vicky Johnson: The largest mansion in the area is Newton White Mansion in Mitchellville, Md., able to seat about 200 in one space and more if you used the other rooms for dining.

Most mansions have small interior space that are broken up in many small rooms and aren't as conducive to large parties.


Washington, D.C.: I have just found my ideal ceremony/reception location, but it's a bit of a blank slate and needs a strong decor to balance it.

I could use some help coming up with decor ideas -- are there firms that specialize in just wedding design? I think I can handle most of the logistics and execution if someone could help me create a hip and modern aesthetic vision. And -- surprise, surprise -- I need to do this on a budget. Any ideas? Thanks!

Vicky Johnson: There are a few firms out there that really work with design, including my own. We have resources like lighting companies and prop companies to very dramatically transform a space.


Rockville, Md.: What is the etiquette for informing guests of your wedding registries? While guests may want to know, I feel uncomfortable putting this information in the invitation itself as if to say, "We are inviting you so you will buy us a gift." We are only interested in having our guests attend but were encouraged by many couples to register somewhere as guests will get upset if they don't have guidance where to go. Help!

Vicky Johnson: Etiquette is for your bridal party to get the word out on where you are registered. This worked well when most people were local and knew each other. If you have a wedding website or a page on a site like The Knot, you can place your registry information there.


Falls Church, Va.: What are some good places in the area for high-quality veils and hair accessories?

Vicky Johnson: Try Hannelores in Old Town Alexandria.


Hair and Makeup: I am getting married in D.C. in September and haven't thought at all about finding someone to do my hair and makeup. Any tips or recommendations? What am I looking for? How much should I expect to pay for these services?

Vicky Johnson: Depending on whether you will be heading into a salon on your wedding day or having a troupe come out to you, expect to see fee from $75 - $250 for hair and up to about $150 for makeup. Make sure you have a trial, ideally with your headpiece. For makeup, what time of year is your wedding, will you be tanned or not, that will make a difference in colors and tones. Start with your own hair stylist, they know your hair best and you already have a rapport with them.


Help!!: Ms. Johnson,

I am just recently engaged and thrilled to be marrying this wonderful man. But the thought of planning the wedding is causing much anxiety. Like many women, I've long dreamt of my perfect wedding. I know the marriage is what matters and I haven't lost sight of that, but I do think it would be nice to have a big wedding celebration. My parents are happy to pay for it and look forward to helping me plan. I have never liked huge weddings though -- whether one can afford it or not. I think a slightly smaller affair, where you actually have time to talk to your guests, is much more intimate. The problem is, I've already heard comments from so many people who clearly expect to be invited -- people that I would surely invite if I were planning to have 300-400 guests, but ugh, that sounds miserable to me! Then there's the issue of the wedding party and people having expectations in that regard. Oh, I could go on and on . . . . What to do? Lots of people would be hurt if we eloped and my fiance and I might regret missing out on the traditional wedding, but it is starting to feel like the only halfway decent solution!! Any thoughts on getting through this? And what's standard regarding invites in a smallish office? Help!

Vicky Johnson: I always say that while you aim to be courteous to your guests and provide as much comfort for them while they are in your presence, you must remain true to yourselves. I have seen too many brides stressed out over the demands of family and friends who are not keeping the bride and groom in the forefront of their minds.

Your guests and bridal party are supposed to be supporting and witnessing this most important of days on your behalf. They are not being "Comped" in Vegas. Sit down with your fiance and decide on a number that is comfortable for you both.

And move forward with that. If you are approached by someone feeling snubbed, you can explain that a smaller wedding is what is right for the two of you and you decided to limit the event to family.


Washington, D.C.: In terms of caterers, what is the average cost per person in D.C.? What are the items (food, equipment) that can be negotiated down?

Vicky Johnson: Caterers vary in price depending upon your menu. Is it buffet? Plated? Stationed? On the low end you can expect to pay about $55 per person (plus tax and service charge) for a buffet dinner. The pricing will go up from there. There are a lot of areas that can affect your price, your bar is the largest factor. Passed appetizers is the next. Veggie entrees are less than chicken which are less than beef which are less than seafood, normally.

Any reputable caterer will be flexible in adding or removing items to arrive at the best menu for your money.


Washington D.C.: I'm getting married next summer in Northern Michigan. There are not a lot of music options there and I'm getting married in the yard. I'd like to come up with some options for entertainment other than dancing -- like a bonfire at the beach. What has worked well at other weddings?

Vicky Johnson: Depending on what you have in the way of power, I think a slide show would be neat. You should also be able to find either a local dance troupe or tumblers to perform. What about a live brass band or a group of acapella singers?


Alexandria, Va.: Trying to pull off a wedding this fall and could use help regarding a Groom's Cake vendor. I would love to surprise my soon-to-be-husband with one in the shape of his favorite and highly unusual collectible car (Amphicar). Any suggestions? Thanks tons in advance, I really appreciate the guidance!

Vicky Johnson: One of the best specialty cake designers I know of is Fancy Cakes by Leslie in Gaithersburg. She has a vast portfolio of 3 dimensional cakes for you to look at and can design from a picture.


Rockville, Md.: Good morning. Our caterer only has boring table linens. Is there a place in D.C. that really can spice up our table linens and make the event fantastic? Thanks.

Vicky Johnson: The Cloth Connection (Va.) has extraordinary linens, as does Select Event Rentals (Md.) underlays and overlays of terrific quality and fabrics. You can also try Chair Covers and Linens online. Specialty linen will definitely set you back a bit so be sure to budget from $15-$45 PER TABLE for specialty linens.


Reston, Va.: Can you recommend a unique transportation option? I love the horse and carriage idea, but our ceremony is in McLean and the reception is in the Arlington area, so trotting down 495 isn't exactly an option. Thanks!

Vicky Johnson: I know there is a great Trolly company Called Discover Annapolis, they may be able to offer really neat Historic Trolley's to transport your guests.


Gaithersburg, Md.: Hi Vicky,

We are planning a hotel reception for our wedding in 2007. What are some things that we can negotiate on? Also, what are some of the hidden costs that they can charge you that we should be on the look out for?

Thanks!! A First Time Bride at 44!

Vicky Johnson: Hotels can be tough but there are ways to use your the leverage of the large amount of money you and your guests will be spending at the property.

Read very, very carefully EVERYTHING.

Get EVERYTHING they offer you in writing.

If your guests will be using the hotel for rooms as the host hotel, things are nice to ask for are early check in options.

If there is a fee for guests to receive Out of Town bags at check in (not individual room delivery) see if that fee will be waived.

If you are bringing in your wedding cake, request the cake cutting fee be waived (if applicable).

You can often ask for linen upgrades without too much of a problem.

Having a brunch following the wedding. Ask about hosting it in the hotel, they should waive the rental of the room for you.

If you are having a House Bar and there are ONE or TWO specific top shelf brands you like this can often be done without upgrading the entire bar.

Try these!!


Washington, D.C.: What type of theme would you suggest for a November wedding?

Vicky Johnson: I think the "Fall" theme is overdone dramatically. Use some creativity and share some November lore with your guests. November 1 is All Saints Day. In India, Children's Day is celebrated in November.

November is also the month of Remembrance with Veterans Day and and actual holiday called Remembrance Day celebrated in Europe and I think a theme of Remembering is fantastic. You have all your friends and family around you and they can't help but think back to all the experiences that have brought you both to this day.


Fairfax, Va.: Dear Ms. Johnson,

I would like to get married outside a small church with stained glass windows. Can you name a few churches which might work that allow weddings for people who are not members of that church?

Vicky Johnson: Very tough. More and more churches and chapels are opening their doors to members only.

If you are not beholden to Virginia locations you can try;

Capitol Wedding Chapel in Upper Marlboro, Md.

Chapel at Milton Ridge in Frederick Md.

Chase Court in Baltimore is another option.


Silver Spring, Md.: Help! I'm trying to find the perfect venue, and I fear I've overlooked places to add to the list. This is the situation: my fiance is from England, and we're getting married in the D.C. area. I want a very "English" venue, and want to look at Maryvale, the Cloisters, and Gramercy Mansion. Any other places like that -- here or in Baltimore -- that I should look at??

Vicky Johnson: Baltimore is famous for those Gothic type locations and my advice is to head that direction.

The Cloisters is the end all, be all of Castles replete with Knights in Armour standing at the ready. Get over there quick though as dates book quickly and they hold two events a day. first to book has the choice of caterer, the second to book must use that caterer in order to rent the time slot.

The Castle at Maryvale is also lovely, different layout than the Cloisters and not quite as spacious (though neither venue is really recommended for more than 120 guests) definitely give it a shot.

Gramercy Mansion is more historic than Gothic in my opinion. Very beautiful!

Though not very English on the outside the 1840's Ballroom in Baltimore is quite the English Manor on the inside. This Penthouse ballroom overlooks the city with terrific views.

You should also get over to see Westminster Hall. Aside from being the burial place of Edgar Allen Poe, this former Cathedral is breathtaking.

Good Luck!


Chevy Chase, Md.: Vicky,

We're doing a winter wedding (late January 2007) here in the D.C. .area for approximately 150 guests, including a number of out of towners. Our ceremony is non-denominational so we were figuring we would do the ceremony and reception in the same place (also to help keep people warm!). Price is not the primary driver, but of course, we're not looking to shoot for the moon.

Any advice on a fun, interesting, classy but not pretentious locale?

Thanks! Randi

Vicky Johnson: The Galleria at Lafayette Centre is a wonderful venue that is centrally located in NW District. It's rental fee is mid range for the area.

The Arts Club of Washington also in NW D.C. is an affordable location with an inhouse caterer.

McLean Gardens Ballroom is a pretty location in NW that is in the price range of The Galleria.

If you are not adverse to moving out of the District, take a peek at Strathmore Hall in Bethesda, very pretty setting with a fabulous caterer and located very close to hotels and the beltway.

Because you are thinking of January, you may have a shot at securing Newton White Mansion, this mansion sits amidst a golf course with wonderful views. The glass atrium is spectacular.


McLean, Va.: Ms. Johnson, I am submitting early as I will not be able to join live. I hope you can get to my question. How soon should you consult a wedding planner before you want to get married? And what is the best way to find a wedding planner that you will work well with? Thank you so much for all of your help!

Vicky Johnson: Ideally working with a planner from the very beginning is most beneficial. In this area popular venues book more than a year in advance, so 12-18 months out is a great time to start looking for a planner. You should meet with candidates and get a feel for their personality. Take a look at their past events and be sure to check their references both former clients and vendors.

Next it's a personality thing.

How well do you get along?

Does the planner listen to your ideas and understand what you hope to accomplish?

What do you think of their style and professionalism?

Will you be able to work with this person closely for the next year?


Arlington, Va.: Thanks for taking my question. What is the main reason for hiring a wedding planner? Is it that a wedding planner can negotiate lower prices and better deals with vendors, or is it more of a peace of mind reason, where the couple has someone else worry about all the details? And what is the usual payment structure -- a percentage of total cost, or a flat fee, or an hourly fee?

Vicky Johnson: The reasons for hiring a wedding planner are multi faceted. I believe a planner creates value more than anything else. Additionally due to the nature of our career, we know and work with hundreds of vendors and manufacturers and can often find better pricing on goods and services than the bride, who may only have a few options in front of her.

Creating value, however is equally if not more important. I wholeheartedly believe, that you get what you pay for, and if price is your only driving factor, you may be disappointed in the quality of the goods or services you acquire. Value however comes from relationships and knowing what the vendor's own costs are and where they can bend, without losing. A good wedding planner, knows how the floral industry, the catering industry, the photography industry etc. work. By having a good on their shoulders, they should be able to negotiate great value for the bride.

Organization, time management and logistic control are the other main reason for hiring a planner. There is a lot that goes on with executing an event flawlessly. Having someone who's main focus is the smooth flow of your event and not eating and dancing will make the difference in you, the bride having a fabulous time and wonderful memories of a perfect wedding day.

Payment varies from planner to planner, Flat fees and packages are very popular in this area. Higher end planners will charge a percentage of your budget. If you are having a very large or intricate event, these planners are worth every penny. Hourly fees are available from most planners, however, you will spend much more money this way.


Washington, D.C. Wedding on a Budget: Is it possible to have a nice wedding in D.C. for $15,000?

Vicky Johnson: Yes you can. You can have a nice wedding on any budget you have to remember what your priorities are and remain realistic. Keep your guest list down and watch your bar costs. There are many talented vendors that can work wonders on many budgets. Plan it out and it will be fabulous.


Washington, D.C.: What is the proper etiquette to request only cash gifts, if you have already established a home?

Vicky Johnson: There is absolutely no proper etiquette for asking for cash only gifts. Sorry. You can do it, but it won't be proper.


Baltimore, Md.: Hey Vicky -- Thanks so much for doing this! I'm just wondering what the average price for a 6-8 piece band is for a wedding in D.C./Md.? I'm also wondering what size band you would advise hiring for about 100 guests -- is an 8-piece band too overwhelming (I looove the big band sound)?

Vicky Johnson: Bands will start at about $1,500 and you should be able to add or take away pieces to fit your budget. Give a call to Sam Hill Entertainment and Elan Artists both are great!!


Arlington, Va.: Who "certifies" wedding planners? What does this mean in reality?

Vicky Johnson: There are a number of organizations around that will certify wedding planners. What it means is that these planners have taken the time to learn the ropes of planning a wedding in its varied areas (i.e. catering, photography, etiquette etc.)The industry is not regulated and one certification does not mean much more than another but the fact that the planner is of the mindset to surround themselves with others and continually hone their craft is a credit to their professionalism.


Annapolis, Md.: Ms. Johnson -- My daughter is getting married soon and we have started receiving the RSVPs. Since there have been a few "regrets," we would now like to include family members that were not originally invited. One such family member is married with 3 children ages 6, 8 and 9. We have room for the mother and father but not the 3 children and we are much closer to the mother than the father. Would it be acceptable to just invite the mother?



Vicky Johnson: It is really not appropriate to invite only the wife and not the husband. If you are having an adult only reception you could forego not inviting the children.


Washington, D.C.: My dream outdoor wedding would take place somewhere around the National Mall and the monuments in D.C. I would imagine that much of that area is off-limits for such events, but do you know of any public space in that area that might be suitable for a wedding? Mine will be a relatively small, informal gathering, and I am not even that concerned about privacy. Could someone theoretically just go somewhere around that area, stake out a space and have a ceremony? Have you ever heard of that being done?

Vicky Johnson: The Department of Parks really frowns on that type of thing and will bring the Park Police by to break up your party and ruin your wedding. Additionally you would probably receive a fine for not having a permit.


formerdcbride: Etiquette question on gifts: Are you required to give the same monetary amount that someone gave to you, even if you are spending a lot to travel to their wedding? Our wedding was local, and this couple gave us a quite expensive gift. For their wedding, however, we are spending $1,000+ to get there and stay in a hotel, not to mention the expenses of bachelor/ette parties in Las Vegas. I say we can spend less on their gift because of expensive travels, husband says no. Can you break the stalemate?

Vicky Johnson: Gifts are just that. Gifts. They are not to be expected or requested. It is a thoughtful gesture, you do not have to spend on them , what they spent on you.


Washington, D.C.: In addition to my mom and dad, I would like to give my stepmom a corsage. However, I don't want to give my stepDAD a boutonniere. It would cause a huge amount of friction if I gave him one -- old family problems. My stepmom is great though and I hate to leave her out just because my stepdad isn't. Any thoughts on how I could tactfully handle this situation?

Vicky Johnson: Well, you could ask all the parents to be adults on your wedding day and understand that each of them has played a special role in your life. A flower should not be this deep, have them look at the big picture.


Alexandria, Va.: Can you share with us some antics of Bridezillas that you've worked with? Every time I read such stories, it reinforces how happy I am that we eloped and saved all that money so we could make a huge down payment on the house of our dreams instead. Thanks!

Vicky Johnson: Actually I can't. What I have found is that it's really not the brides, that I have a hard time with. It's either family members (mom's or future mother in laws) or the bridal party that cause the bride to lose her mind.

I have a policy of being an advocate for the BRIDE and GROOM and if we are working together I will tackle the difficult family members and create a bit of sanity for my couple.


Washington, D.C.: I'm getting married in December and am having a hard time picking a photographer. Do you have any photographers you would recommend or tips for picking one? Thanks!

Vicky Johnson: Choose someone who's work moves you. When you see the photos you say WOW. Then actually look to see what the pictures are of (sounds weird I know). Are they creative and showing their artistic gift. Get a read on their personality so they don't rive you crazy on your wedding day and make sure they listen and hear what you want, rather than tell you what you'll get.


Washington, D.C.: I'm thinking of a beach wedding, but at the site I'm considering there are no building facilities. Is this possible? How does one work around these limitations?

Vicky Johnson: Do they allow tenting? If so a fully functioning tent can solve you problem, though it will bump up your budget considerably.


St. Mary's, Md.: Good Morning from a plan-it-myself bride! After undertaking the task of planning my own wedding, I have come to appreciate your profession with my whole heart. Your knowledge would be extremely helpful during this stage of my planning. I need to find smaller galvanized buckets (about 1/2 gal. size) which will be used for icing white wine (1 btl/table) and am unable to locate a store that stocks this item. Can you tell me where I can find a store that sells them at a reasonable price? I've checked Lowe's, HD, Macy's, Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel . . . no luck. Are the buckets out of style? What watertight replacement could I use in its place? Where would I find the replacement?

Thanks for your help and insider knowledge!

Vicky Johnson: Funny as it sound try JoAnn's and try LL Bean. If no luck go an internet search of gardening supplies and that should turn up something.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Vicky -- my fiance and I are planning a wedding in October. We're working with some florists and I wonder if you have any money-saving tips or suggestions about local vendors? We're having trouble getting the florists we're talking with to stick to our budget.


Vicky Johnson: You need to look at the flowers in each arrangement and ask about alternative options for flowers. Calla Lilies, Hydrangea etc. are expensive. What are other options available in your colors.

Double duty, make sure the flowers you use for your ceremony can be reused for your reception. Centerpieces on pedestals make great altar arrangements. Or can the florist change the container for the reception? Saving you some bucks.

Also your containers, can you rent them or provide them yourself?


Dads: I would like both my dad and stepdad to give me away -- is this acceptable?

Vicky Johnson: If they are both comfortable. I have done it where the father will walk the bride half way down to meet the step father and both will walk her to the altar.

PLEASE make sure they are both really comfortable with this, your father may really want to do this himself.


Washington, D.C.: What would you say is the price range for inexpensive centerpieces? For example, for a bride who is willing to have greenery filling out the blooms, candles, etc. but doesn't want anything tacky looking?

Vicky Johnson: About $35 each is the best I have seen done for beautiful greens and Bells of Ireland, Lisianthus in a ring with a Hurricane and pillar candle.


Washington, D.C.: We are getting married right after Christmas, so we decided on a small floral budget (only need centerpieces and small bouquets/bouts). I am looking for a local florist that can do a lot with a little budget. Any advice? Also, I need to rent 20 sheer gold overlays for tables, and am being quoted $25 for each . . . should they cost this much? Thank you!

Vicky Johnson: Specialty linen is just that "specialty". Try Chair Covers and Linens online they may do a bit better, but you are still looking at about$18 per linen, that's the best I've seen.


Washington, D.C.: A lot of sites offer pre-set wedding packages. Any suggestions on how to negotiate the package price down? What are the big ticket items that can be eliminated?

Vicky Johnson: If you are really serious about a venue ask them to break out what each cost is and let them know where your budget sits.

Things like cake cutting fees should go right off the bat.

You may be able to forego the chocolate strawberry they offer for dessert and get an upgraded linen. They are very often very flexible.


Washington, D.C.: Hi there -- 12-18 months seems like a long time to plan a wedding. Is that really the necessary time frame, or can a great wedding on a budget be planned in less time? I just don't want to wait an extra entire year or more to be married! Thanks.

Vicky Johnson: I plan weddings on very short time frames all the time. But you have to really be ready to commit and buy, you don't have the luxury of doing too much "shopping." Secondly, your options are reduced from those brides planning ahead. on the flip side you may be able to find some deals if you are flexible for dates a venue or vendor wants to book because it's last minute.


Washington, D.C.: I am thinking of asking my bridesmaids to wear their wedding dresses -- then they'll at least get a chance to wear the things again! And the original reason bridesmaids were invented was to fool evil spirits into not knowing which one the bride was. Fun idea, or pointless whimsy?

Vicky Johnson: WOW!!!

That could be VERY cool or a disaster.

Are the dresses similar in formality and color?

You should wear some great color if everyone is in white or ivory.

I love the idea, quite frankly and think it could be done.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Any tips for having a wedding reception in a restaurant that does not typically host weddings? We have a contract and everything, I'm just worried that I'll miss something that a catering manager experienced with weddings would catch. Also, will I regret not having assigned seating?

Vicky Johnson: I would highly suggest a Day of Wedding Coordinator that can come onto your project a few weeks out to check for those things, create a wedding day timeline for all your vendors and be the one point of contact for everyone to go to with questions on the day of the event.

A lot can very easily get lost if they are not used to hosting weddings.

Also, I am a huge proponent of at least assigned tables to ensure that close family members are not seating in the back next to the kitchen.


Washington, D.C.: We're planning an April 07 wedding for around 175 guests. The reception will need to be mostly standing with some select tables for older relatives/young families/other folks who need to sit. The venue told us that this is done frequently but that we should talk with our caterer in great detail about traffic flow, food stations, the use of hi-tops for standing and eating. Any tips?

Vicky Johnson: My suggestion is to keep the event moving. All of your activities really need to be times to keep the flow going so that guests are not continuously on their feet standing around.

Hi Tops are a must as are plenty of drop tables for dirty glasses and trash. Insist that your caterer have dishes picked up immediately and regularly.


Virginia: Please help! We're planning our wedding and it's turned into chaos. All billing goes through the event site, and I am unable to get an itemized list of costs from the site (the billing from the caterer, for example, goes through the site, which then charges a blanket fee for "catering fees"). Due to this, I am worried we are being double-charged for some items -- the wedding is much more expensive than we ever thought possible. We are not allowed to have an outside coordinator because the site has someone on staff they use. This person is really stretched thin and thus difficult to reach by phone or e-mail. Is there any way to get the site or the coordinator to be more up-front about the billing without causing a huge problem?

Vicky Johnson: Everything you have said is completely unacceptable.

I would request a meeting with the General Manager, if the Banquet Manager is not up to par and demand to see an itemized cost of everything you are paying for.

As for not having a coordinator, no one can tell you that you can't use a coordinator to help yourself organized, even if your coordinator is not on site that day they can press for answers and give you the questions that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

If none of this works I would seriously review your contract and look into moving your event and legal action.



Washington, D.C.: Following up on the bridesmaids in wedding dresses -- two of the brides were married in the past five years and have elegant, simple gowns, one ivory, one white. The other bridesmaid was married back in the 80s and I think she may be less thrilled with the idea if I do it. But maybe she could get it altered . . . .

Vicky Johnson: Ok, that's cool. Alterations would still be less expensive than a new bridesmaids dress. I would go for it. And make "Wedding" your theme!!!!!


Lorton, Va.: I'm getting married this December and will have many out-of-town guests. I was wondering about protocol for save-the-dates and packets of information about the city. When should they be sent? What should be in them? Also, can you suggest a creative way to greet the guests when they check in to the hotel?

Vicky Johnson: Save the Dates are very popular and useful. Send them out not less than six months before your wedding and include hotel information. Hotel blocks are encouraged so that guests can plan their travel and lodging in advance and have some say in their fares. Welcome packs can be issued to each guest of your wedding party at check in or most hotels will deliver to each guests' room (for a fee). You can have hostesses greet guests in the lobby (tricky but doable).


Arlington, Va.: Are there any places in the D.C. area (even out toward Annapolis) that have beautiful gardens? I'm specifically looking for a place that has gardens, space for an outdoor tent and room inside a mansion or building in case of inclement weather. Any ideas?

Vicky Johnson: Try Historic Londontown out towards Annapolis.


Washington, D.C.: My fiance and I have our hearts set on having a cheesecake for our wedding cake. Do you know of any local bakers who can do this for us?

Vicky Johnson: Try Bittersweet in Alexandria


Washington, D.C.: I have been planning my wedding for September 2006 without a wedding planner, however, I had someone suggest to me that it might be useful to hire someone for the actual day to help make sure things run smoothly. Are there such people available, would you recommend it and do you have any idea how much such a person would cost?

Also, are you aware of any harpists in the area that I could hire for the cocktail reception?

Thank you!

Vicky Johnson: Most wedding planning firms offer Day of Wedding Coordinators.

As for a harpist you can try Elan Artists or depending on the month of your wedding, you can try the area college graduate programs for students that are fantastic and economical.


Bowie, Md.: Ms. Johnson,

No question. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to answer our wedding planning questions. You were fabulous and we learned lots. Thank you again!


Vicky Johnson: You are very welcome. ;)


Washington, D.C.: Vicky,

Thanks for doing this chat. Question regarding transportation. My wedding next spring will be in one location while the reception will be in another (not walkable but in terms of distance we're talking Chinatown to Farragut North.) Most of my guests will be from out of town, do I need to provide transportation to guests from the ceremony to the reception? Doing so would really put a cramp on the budget.

Vicky Johnson: You should be able to provide directions and form a caravan for everyone to get from one location to the other.

Also, limo coaches are very economical and can be used for only a few hours to move 25-35 people at a time.


D.C.: Hi Vicky,

Thanks for the chat. I'm trying to plan a wedding for 75 under a tent in the District. Are there outdoor sites (parks, etc) that will allow "fully functioning" tents for this number?

Thanks for the advice!!

Vicky Johnson: I believe Brookside Gardens in Wheaton will allow the erection of a tent on the grounds and have a reasonable rental for the grounds.


Washington, D.C.: Hello and thanks for all of the great tips!

I, along with my sister and cousin, am planning my September 2007 wedding. While I am African American my fiance is African and I really want to incorporate both cultures. Do you have any suggestions on the best way to do that without going overboard?

Also I was interested in knowing if we would be able to have the reception at a Historically African American location such as the Frederick Douglass home?

Thanks so much!

Vicky Johnson: Head over to Brides Noir magazine and you will find some fantastic ideas for cultural weddings that are elegant and not done to death.

The Frederick Douglass Home is available for rental but I believe it is very small.


Washington, D.C.: My mother passed away two years ago, but I would like to have her name on the invitation somehow, as I am not only my father's daughter. What is the best way to include it? Thanks.

Vicky Johnson: You can add an In Memoriam section to the wedding program.

A deceased parent is usually not listed on the invitation as a host (Mr. and Mrs. X request the honor of your presence)


Washington, D.C.: I am kicking around the idea of a New Year's Eve wedding. My thought is that everyone is always disappointed by the events they go to on NYE so this would at least be different. Good idea, bad idea, not sure? Would finding a venue be extra expensive because of the date?

Vicky Johnson: In D.C. New Years Eve is big business, many venues will be booked or will increase your price to offset what they may have charged for a ticketed event.


Winter weddings: Is there any cost difference between winter weddings and summer ones? I'm guessing I'd be more likely to get a venue I want, but I don't know, for example, if the price of flowers goes up significantly.

Vicky Johnson: Winter is often considered Off Peak and you can often find a reduction in the price of venues during December - March.

Flowers are not going to significantly increase unless you have you heart set on flowers that are out of season and will have to be flown in. Keep in mind the weather, if you have a lot of guests coming in from out of town, they could get snowed in or snowed out.


Washington, D.C.: Wedding is a while off yet, but we could have it in any one of several places: here in D.C., wherever we're living when it happens (could be New York), in central Illinois, in San Francisco -- all important places to us for one reason or another. How hard is it to plan a wedding in a city you're not living in? What do you think the most important criterion is for choosing the location?

Vicky Johnson: Get a local planner and it can be a breeze, I plan weddings across the country for brides in other parts of the country. We meet up in a city and in a week make all the major decisions. The rest is done via email and phone. One more final meeting meeting before the event and voila you're married. Make sure the planner is familiar with the city.


Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Vicky,

My beau (and assumedly soon to be fiance) are looking to get married at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Washington D.C. next summer. Do you have any recommendations for affordable (yet still elegant enough for a formal wedding) reception sites close to that area (15th and V St. NW)? We anticipate close to 200 guests will be invited. Thanks!

Vicky Johnson: I have a bride getting married there this fall, lovely edifice. We are doing her reception at the St Paul Center ( Free parking and space for up to 400, very affordable.


Silver Spring, Md.: My fiance and I are both transplants and have decided to do a family-only ceremony in the D.C. area. I want a place that is distinctly D.C. or this part of the country (I'm from the Southwest, he's from the Midwest) -- no churches, and considering that it'll be in November (2007), some place with shelter, although nice views would be great. Do you have any ideas? Where should I start looking?

Vicky Johnson: The National Press is truly D.C.

Though pricey The Willard is also authentic D.C.

For a more moderate fee try the Club at Franklin Square or the Morrison Clark.


Washington D.C.: Hello,

There doesn't seem to be many resources or information for people having International-Style Weddings in the D.C. area.

International weddings tend to serve ethnic food and have different customs . . . . There only seem to be a handful of places that cater to such weddings and they are too far from the city. Any suggestions on how to find a place closer to the city? Also, the International community in places like D.C. seem rather large and one would think that the hotels, ballrooms, etc would cater more to this faction.

Vicky Johnson: You really need to put a wedding like this together piece by piece. Find a venue and let them know of your ethnic food requirements. Most will allow you to bring in another caterer to supplement the food with authentic cuisine. From there you can control all the rest in the way of invites and decor etc. You aren't going to find a turn key solution to this one.


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