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Groom’s Guide: Booze, Bands, & Buses

A guide to three key components of wedding planning he’ll actually enjoy handling.

By Dan Engler

Manly men of Seattle, if you’re reading this, you may have discovered that determining centerpieces, colors schemes, table linens, a guest list half-full of people you don’t know—well it’s not exactly your thing. And it’s certainly a far cry from a Saturday of PBRs and a Sounders match.

For the sake of your better half, however, you ought to pitch in on planning anyway, so might I suggest pulling up those proverbial bootstraps and telling your dearly beloved that you’ll take charge of three essential details for the big day: the booze, the band, and the bus. Your partner will be tickled pink by your initiative, and you’ll get to do “research” (insert brewery tours here). Read on to get your party started.


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BOOZE

When it comes to the adult beverages that turn strangers (a.k.a. most of your guest list) into the closest of friends, Washington is the land of plenty. Father-in-law’s an investment banker? Great, go catered full bar with tray-pass local whiskey, craft beer tasting stations, Yakima Valley vino paired with each course, and top-shelf bubbly for the toasts. But for less liberal budgets, Krista Simons, owner of Privé Events, recommends a simple, meaningful selection of two wines (a menu-compatible red and white), two beers (like an easy-drinking pilsner or kölsch and a stronger but well-balanced IPA or saison), and ideally two kinds of spirits. “You want the bar to be a crowd pleaser and to represent you as a couple. However, the more options that are offered at the bar, the slower the lines will move,” she cautions.

Additional points are given for presentation: Mobile bartending service The Invisible Hostess has done a rock-and-roll-themed wedding (including staff dressed as roadies), alcoholic fruit whips à la Disneyland, and even brown-bagged PBRs to cash in on an inside joke among the guests.

BYO

Pending caterer/venue approval and your available free time, supplying your own hooch saves Benjamins. Downtown Spirits has a great selection (and will keep your tab open the night of your shindig in case a beer-run is necessary), or hit up Sound Spirits Distillery for locally made bottles of vodka, gin, and aquavit and a tasting. Wine and beer shops abound (try Chuck’s Hop Shop and Bottleworks) as well as grocers like Whole Foods, where you can often get case discounts and return unused product. Vineyards are another go-to for wine, and you can pick up kegs from retailers like Über Tavern or K’s Deli, or a brewery itself. Don’t forget ice, straws, glassware, etc., and someone to pour/replenish—you can’t legally pay anyone who doesn’t have a MAST permit, so Shake Bartenders’ certified, insured, and experienced servers might be a more reliable bet than your sister’s college pals.

Basics: Alcohol is often folded into your overall catering bill, which is typically 30 to 50 percent of your budget. Book caterers/bartenders shortly after securing your venue.


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BANDS

Now that you’ve covered getting all these people liquored up, it’s time to make them dance. A band can literally set the tone for your event, and with everything from the jazz stylings of 200 Trio to Balkanarama’s Yugo-gypsy carnival sounds, brassy marching band Chaotic Noise Marching Corps, or a sing along with Rockaraoke, Seattle has no shortage of unique offerings. Start by asking your friends—one may say it was the frenetic klezmer quartet The Kosher Red Hots that made his big day, while another swears by months of recon he did to pick the versatile Craig Lawrence Band. For more leads, “your best bet is to go see tons of live music so you can also vet each band’s audience-interaction skills,” says Jen Bernard, owner of Northwest booking agency House of Cards Music. She advises narrowing your focus by hitting up joints that specialize in a genre—Seattle’s full of them and you probably already have favorites, but try Nuemos, The Crocodile, and the Tractor Tavern for starters.

Before signing a contract (which should cover payment, timing, breaks, meals, attire, etc.), make sure you’ve considered your guests’ tastes, your venue’s size and acoustics, and your wedding’s style. “An elegant country club wedding might call for a jazz combo, while a rustic barn wedding is best with a jug band or bluegrass vibe,” Bernard says. “Then again, I recently arranged a string quartet version of the Super Mario Brothers theme song for a couple’s recessional during an otherwise formal ceremony.”

Mix Masters Miked If you prefer the musical range (“We just have to have Taylor Swift, Billie Holiday, and Poison!”) that comes with having a turntablist, Bamboo Beats will make your wedding the coolest gig in town, Seattle Wedding DJ keeps everyone moving, and Miked Up Productions boasts emcees extraordinaire. Bonus: John Gardner of Aria Style points out that “most DJs in the market provide lighting packages as well as their DJ services. I find this is very important for couples to consider because it makes such a big statement for their venue.”

Basics: Book six to nine months before the day, and expect to lay down a deposit of 25 to 60 percent on a fee of $800–3,500 (or more if you want, say, Death Cab for Cutie).


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BUSES

If your wedding isn’t in walking distance (or a reasonable cab or bus ride) from where most people are staying, pony up for transportation to ensure your nearest and dearest arrive on time and get home DUxI-free. For couples on a budget who like kicking it old school, First Student rents yellow buses for approximately half the cost of a normal charter. Starline Luxury Coaches are the way to roll if your crew who likes things cushier. Have a ways to go? See if you can stock your bus with microbrews, late-night snacks, a catchy playlist, and couple-themed bingo.

For minimal people-moving needs, Emerald City Trolley, and Shuttle Express offer 14- or 28-passenger coaches. Want to separate your wasted high school buddies from Grandma on the ride back to the hotel? Try the Seattle Party Bus, which features disco lighting, sound system, and just what every wedding needs, a stripper pole.

To spice up the ride, Jenny Harding, owner of New Chapter Weddings and Events, suggests decorating the guest transportation. “Enlisting the wedding party to write fun messages on the vehicle with washable car paint is fun and engages the group.” Harding also suggests keeping guests sated on the ride. “Offer a little travel pack to each guest that includes a snack and beverage—anything from bottled water to individual Prosecco,” she says.


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BUILD IT

In preparation for years of home-improvement projects that are way over your head, why not test your skills out now? Who doesn’t love a good DIY photo booth or custom cornhole? For inspiration, here are three ways to get handsy:

The Sporting Life

Lawn games are a great way to get guests to mingle, especially those you can play with one hand (keeping the other free for a foamer or cocktail). Games like ladder golf and cornhole are relatively easy to construct with minimal tools and a trip to Home Depot, and cornhole has the advantage of providing a canvas (in the form of the boards) that can be decorated just for the big day. For construction plans and game rules, check out the American Cornhole Association (playcornhole.org), where you can also order bags if you’re not proficient with a needle and thread.

Picture Perfect

Photo booths are all the rage and there are a number of vendors that can set up a camera and backdrop and provide the wacky wig and sunglasses tackle, but an intrepid DIYer has all the tools at his disposal to craft one himself these days. Rig up a simple booth with a camera set to self-timer mode on a tripod. Or use a DLSR camera tethered to your laptop to run a live feed of the pics as they’re taken. Applications like Adobe Lightroom or the free digiCamControl allow remote control of the camera and create a running slide show (that you can output from your laptop to a TV, monitor, or projector), inserting each new picture into the mix, while Spark Booth sells different software packages specifically designed for DIY photo booths and lists several resources for construction of the actual booth. Word to the wise: test your rig before W-Day.

Set the Stage

Altars are always a popular project for handy grooms, and they can be constructed of almost anything that’s relevant or available. (Check with your betrothed before building one out of the pizza boxes piling up at your bachelor pad.) Your material choice might be something meaningful to you as a couple, or part of the décor theme for the wedding. Antlers, garlands, and even old skis can be manipulated into a structure that can frame your ceremony, while an accomplished carpenter can show some flair with a the more standard wood. Live trees, false walls, and monogrammed banners can also make an appearance. Sift through Pinterest and Instructables.com for loads of ideas, but don’t get too heavy—you, or someone is going to have to move it.

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