Friday, February 3, 2012

Sharon & Rob: 10 Best Wedding Tips

All photos copywrite2011 Kelly Shimoda

When Sharon & Rob started planning their wedding at the Poughkeepsie Grand, their dream was to throw a really great party; they discarded all notions of a formal, stuffy reception, and made it their own. Rob sums up their philosophy by saying, "It's your wedding. This is not for them - this is for you . . . You should have the wedding you want to have . . . That notion drove all our decision-making." And the best part about the Poughkeepsie Grand was that they could afford to throw a fantastic party that their friends and family would love.

Here's the story of their wedding journey. It's a top 10 list of  Sharon & Rob's personal touches, moments they loved, and lessons they learned:

1. Family Bonding Time

As you might expect, Sharon and her Maid of Honor searched until they found the perfect wedding dress. But Sharon's Maid of Honor and her Aunt had another critical job to do: helping pick the best wedding cake. Rob is a vegan, so they planned to have a small, vegan cake that he could eat, but the couple knew they would need to have a cake full of buttery goodness that guests would enjoy. Sharon was happy to have her family there for second and third opinions, since that was the one thing Rob really couldn't weigh in on.

2. Finding the Right Florist

Sharon & Rob were engaged for a mere six months before they were married, which is not a lot of time to put together a wedding. They didn't start looking for a florist until one month before the big day. More than once they spoke to florists who said, "Wait, June of this year??" Luckily, they found Lucille's Floral of Fishkill - not only did Lucille's step up at the last minute, they gave them great flowers at a nice price.

3. Hearing a Private Harp Recital

When I ask them what their favorite part of the wedding planning was, Rob speaks up almost immediately: finding the musicians for the ceremony. They were trying for weeks to find available musicians who could give the ceremony the ambiance they were hoping for. When they found a local harpist, they took the day off work and visited her where she works, at a Cathlolic grade school in Highland, NY. They walked into her office where she keeps a huge standing harp. They sat down and Rob was thrilled as she started playing a private harp concert just for them. "She played 10 or 12 of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard." She was able to lend a magical quality to the ceremony - they couldn't have been happier.

4. Planning a Cocktail Reception

Sharon & Rob were firm on their decision to have a less formal reception. Rob says the worst thing about weddings, in his opinion, is that first you have to dress up, and then get assigned to a table with a bunch of people you don't know. So instead of a sit-down dinner, they planned a five-hour cocktail reception, with a buffet of heavy appetizers. People could move freely from table to table, and they even included high-tops near the dance floor for people who might want to perch between songs. There was no anxious wait for your table to be called to go wait in the buffet line - you could walk right into the reception and fill up your plate.

5. Keeping the Bar Open

One thing that had pushed the Poughkeepsie Grand ahead of its competitors was the staff's willingness to keep the bar open for the entire event - rather than cutting bar service during the sit-down dinner. Rob can't stand how at other places people, "get their engines running, then sit down at a table with people they don't know, and they tell them they can't drink!" At their reception, the open bar was an open-all-the-time bar, and there was much rejoicing.

6. Designing the Playlist

Even though they hired a DJ, Sharon & Rob had a really clear idea of what music they wanted - they forbade The Chicken Dance and The Electric Slide and outlawed any disco or country music. They gave the DJ their wishlist of songs - which was essentially a 5-hour playlist that filled the entire time. While they think a DJ is essential if you don't know what songs you want, and can be a great help in reading the room and getting people to dance, in retrospect they probably could have rented equipment and set their iPod to play straight through. Sharon said coming up with the playlist was easy, as the two of them have similar taste in music. Rob said he had a lot of experience putting together playlists for the parties he would throw in law school, but this time he enjoyed playing songs that he wanted to hear, regardless of what other people would think. "You wouldn't exactly play Mumford & Sons at a regular party." Join us Tuesday for an hour-long exerpt of their favorite dance songs from the wedding!

7. Surviving the First Dance

As a wedding guest, I can tell you that I was oblivious to this fact, but Rob was mortified as he and Sharon took the dance floor for their first dance as man & wife. The song was "The Kiss" from The Last of the Mohicans. They had never practiced their first dance, and when they got there he didn't know how to dance to it. "I was so embarassed! . . . We had been looking into taking lessons, but time ran out." Rob remembers babbling to Sharon the whole time about how awkward it felt, standing there with everyone looking at them, but I assured them that from an outsider's perspective, it looked like he was just whispering sweet nothings to Sharon. He laughs and says that the important thing is to let the little things go and focus on the bigger picture - he was not going to dwell on one awkward dance when the important thing was that they had succeeded in planning an amazing day.

8. Smurfs & Snackie-Cakes

Sharon chose a delicious traditional wedding cake, but the couple shared a vegan cake, topped with two little Smurfs in love, standing outside a Smurfy little cottage. They gave another nod to childhood by putting out baskets of Ho-Ho's, Twinkies, Devil Dogs and Hostess Cupcakes - so people could get their dessert fix without waiting for the official cake-cutting.

9. Built-in Accommodations

Lodging for out-of-town guests is always a concern, and they liked that their venue was a hotel. People were free to carouse and then take a responsible elevator ride a few steps away from where they'd been drinking.

10. Hiring Someone to Do the Legwork

Sharon & Rob are busy people, and with only six months to throw everything together, they knew they needed help. So they hired the wife of a friend to research venues for them. Rob's advice to anyone planning a wedding? "If you have reliable people, delegate! I wish we had done more of that!" Sharon adds wryly, "Then you have time to do things like rehearse the first dance."


  1. Am I really that big of a drunk?

    --Rob F.

  2. -You're that much of drunk? I'm in the picture next to the "keeping the bar open" section. It looks like I didn't need the bar open that long-I kind of got my fill. Oh boy.

    1. To be fair, this is the only picture I had where someone had a drink in hand.

      To be unfair, you are making a pretty hilarious drunk face right there.

    2. Bashionista: that was on purpose. I wanted Mr. Hartman represented in the photos with a drink in hand.

      Mr. Hartman: Just be happy I didn't give the Bashionista the collage of other photos I have of you from the wedding. You know the ones I mean.

    3. Dear Mr. Sharon: With all the photos of you in existence, that is not a threat to level.

      -Todd T.