Live music versus recorded, instruments versus machines, band versus DJ. Which is the right fit for your wedding? We are here to provide helpful insight into choosing the best entertainment for your party!

First, we recommend laying out your priorities of the day. Your priorities help guide your style and vision. If you and your fiancé want an atmosphere that’s conducive to conversation and catching up with old friends from out of town, then a 13-piece band probably isn’t the right fit. However, if your family likes to boogie and all your college friends never leave the dance floor, then you can book that uninterrupted flow of music spinning off a DJ’s fingers or that high energy big band to keep the party dancing! Your priorities for the day will help set you on the right path.

Photo by: Steve Scap Photography  Band: Expo ’76

Second, consult with the big B…Budget. Quality DJs in the city of Chicago can be pricey, but a DJ hired for a full-day will usually be 50-80% more affordable than a live band. Obviously, the prices of live music varies dramatically based upon the number of hours booked, how many musicians, and experience. Budget will play a large role in influencing your decision, so consult this before beginning your musical search.

Photo by: Cage & Aquarium  DJ: Cage & Aquarium

Third, your venue will play a role in your musical choice. Important things to consider are the room capacity, the acoustics, the floor plan, noise restrictions or city ordinances, and access to electricity. If your venue is nestled in a neighborhood, it is likely going to have noise restrictions on decibels and/or how late the amplified music can play. Know your venue before booking this vendor.

Photo by: Mark Trela Photography

Lastly, if you can’t decide, have both! Consider a live string quartet for ceremony and cocktail hour, then switching to a DJ for dinner and dancing. Or have a trio for ceremony, 5-piece for cocktail and dinner, move up to an 8-piece for the start of open dance floor and end the last hour of die hard dancing with recorded music! All live bands require breaks- it’s hard work belting out those tunes for 45 minutes straight. To avoid silence during these 10-15 minute breaks, the band will put on recorded music- they have the capabilities to do both. A DJ on the other hand- can’t stop/won’t stop until the lights come up! Whether one, two, or three+ hours of open dance floor- your DJ is always mixing. Plus there are some DJs that offer you to book a live drummer to play along side them- best of both worlds is always an option!

Photo by: Ann & Kam Photography   Musicians: Fretless Music

Need recommendations for Musical entertainment at your wedding? Just ask!

Sometimes etiquette rules can be hard to keep straight, especially when you are juggling so many tasks leading up to your wedding day. Just like with any other service, tipping vendors involved in your big day is a customary practice. To avoid any confusion, we have put together a set of guidelines as to what the appropriate amount of tip is typical for wedding vendors.

Photograph by Tim Tab Studios

General guidelines to keep in mind:

– Tipping is not something you *have* to do. Vendors appreciate it, but never should expect it. Either way, keep in mind that all of your vendors are working very hard for you on the wedding day.

– There are some vendors, however, in which it is more customary to tip than others. This includes catering, bar, hair & makeup, and transportation etc. (Think about it – you tip these sort of people in your everyday life, so that doesn’t change when you hire them for your wedding)

– You should avoid giving “gifts” to vendors unless it’s something very personal to that vendor (massage, nice bottle of wine, etc). Sometimes when gifts are given not from the heart, it can feel like a consolation prize.

– If you are indeed planning on distributing tips to your wedding vendors, we suggest putting cash into a sealed envelope with their name/company name.  You can ask your planner/coordinator to hand these out at the end of the night or at completion of a vendor’s service. Alternatively, you can assign the task to a responsible wedding party person or family member.

Photograph by This is Feeling

Specifically, how much should you tip? 

Officiant- If this person is a friend or relative, it isn’t typical to tip them with money. Perhaps give them a small, thoughtful gift of thanks. If this person is a hired professional, donations are sometimes expected to the church ($500+), or, for a non-denominational officiant, you can give them an optional tip of $100-$200.

Ceremony musicians- $25-$50 per person.

Caterer- First, we suggest that you look over your contracts to ensure gratuity isn’t included already. If it is not, we recommend 18-20% of the total food and drink (don’t factor tax or rental type items), or $35-$50 for each server, busser, etc. and $100 for chefs/supervisors.

Bartenders- If tip jars are permitted, $50-100 per bartender. If tips jars are not permitted or specifically requested to not be used, then gratuity should be $1-$3 per guest with a minimum of $100 per bartender.

Florist/Lighting/Decor- Tip is not customary, but you could give $25 per staff member for set up and strike crew, and/or $50-$100 for your lead contact.

DJ/Band- $50-$100 per person.

Photographer/Videographer- $50- $200 per person.

Hair/Makeup- 15-20% of total.

Transportation- 15-20% of total if it is not included in the contract.

Deliveries (sweets, vintage rentals, late night bites, etc)- Sometimes it is nice to give a little something for the delivery drivers but not expected. Perhaps $10-$15 per person.

Wedding Planner and Team- This can be whatever you are comfortable with. $100- $300 for Leads, $50-$100 for assistants is common.

Hotel- you usually leave a little something for housekeeping at the end of your stay.

Photograph by Cattura Weddings

We hope this post has made it easier for you to understand the typical practices of tipping wedding vendors. Happy planning!

You have the ceremony venue picked out- a city park, a quaint beach overlooking the water, a high ceiling loft, or the same location as the reception. If you choose a non-traditional space, the options are endless in creating a ceremony that reflects the two of you. Thus, we have put together this brief guide to assist couples and their chosen novice officiants in curating the perfect ceremony verbiage.

Naturally Yours Events has multiple recommendations for vendors that specialize in officiating ceremonies and public speaking. These professionals are experienced, talented, and certified. They listen to your story, guide the flow, and creatively put together a ceremony that reflects who you are as a couple- making it feel as though they’ve known you all along your journey. They also provide great insight in ways to fuse cultures and traditions in a neutral way. Or they can help you create your own traditions that will make your wedding that much more special.

We can guide you on choosing an officiant to hire that will fit your vision, personality, and budget. Just reach out!

(Photo by Ryan Moore Photography)

While it is advised to hire a professional to perform your wedding, some of our clients choose to have a close friend or family member officiate. This can add a personal touch to your ceremony, or honor the person tasked with this request- but where do you start to ensure this person is prepared for their role in your day?

This “How To” guide is helpful to share with them! Creating the ceremony, in our opinion, is one of the most personal things you will do during the wedding planning process and here are the steps to follow:

  1. Get Ordained: There are several different websites to use. The NYE team used Universal Life Church. It literally takes about three minutes (requested info is name, address, birthday, and a few other details). It is free, but we paid $25 to get a little wallet card to carry around and look fancy. Another good option is AMM.
  2. Length- determine how long your ideal ceremony will be. A typical wedding ceremony is 20-30 minutes long. Our advice is to keep it short and sweet. Guests often grow restless if the ceremony is lengthy, especially in uncontrollable elements like direct sunlight or Chicago wind. 
  3. There are six major parts of a wedding ceremony:
    • Processional (wedding party walking in)
    • Invocation (greeting/welcome, introduction of the couple, & reason for gathering- “We are gathered here today…”)
    • Declaration of Intent (meaning you’re here of your own free will and want to marry each other- “Do you take…”)
    • Vows & Ring Exchange (“I promise to..”)
    • Pronouncement (the marriage is declared official- “I now pronounce you…”)
    • Recessional (wedding party exits)

    You can use this basic outline to then build a ceremony that is uniquely yours. The words can be changed, but the meaning has to stay the same for these specific items. You can add readers, stories, jokes, traditions, unity aspects (tree planting or candle lighting), etc. 

  4. Practice! Encourage your officiant to write out the actual verbiage in a script format. They should then read it out loud to him/herself and to family or friends to ensure they are comfortable with the public speaking aspect. On the day of, we recommend a black or neutral folder to hold a printout of the ceremony. Print it in large, easy-to-read font with a clear outline, including breaks to pause and take a breath. Speak slowly and enunciate.
  5. Helpful Websites (with sample wording and additional information):


(Photo by Ingrid Bonne Photography)

And that’s it! Hopefully this gives a bit of guidance. Your Naturally Yours Event’s lead coordinator would be more than happy to read over the ceremony draft and provide helpful insight. 

This couple’s bright and cheery personalities bubbled over into every detail of their day. Caitlin and Lavon chose the clean, contemporary feel of Venue Six10 to splash bright pink, purple, and teal across the white backdrop it provided. Each aspect of the day represents this couple, their journey together, and the love and support that surrounds them from family and friends. Take a look below to share their colorful and personalized day.

Photography by Artisan Events

Caitlin is a French teacher and her ever talented students spent happy hours folding paper flowers from dictionaries to add personalization to this unique mixture of living and paper flower bouquet.

Lavon, a man who takes shots of sprinkles for any celebration, had teal accents from his tie to shoe laces.

The couple chose to have their first look where they first met for a date- at the iconic Agora “Feet” installation in Grant Park.

Such an awesome photo!

 During the ceremony, the couple and all guests had a “cookie toast” with treats baked using Caitlin’s Mother’s special chocolate chip cookie recipe to honor her memory.

Every escort card was a photo of each guest! A wall of color and memories made quite the statement when entering cocktail hour. Center pieces were shadow boxes of more photos accented with colorful votives and loose greenery by Kehoe Decor.

Their happiness was contagious and filled the dance floor all night long!

Planner- Naturally Yours Events
Photographer- Artisan Events
Videographer- Whitney Productions
Venue- Venue Six10
DJ- Backthird Entertainment
Caterer- Food for Thought
Lighting & Decor- Kehoe Design
Hair & Make Up- Appease, Inc.

Venue- check!

Dress- check!

You have a caterer that allows you to bring your own alcohol, but what do you buy to supply the perfect bar? We’ve put together this helpful guide to create a bar that reflects the couple and their guests.

For simplicity, lets base our math on 100 legal age, non-pregnant guests with a cocktail and reception from 6pm-11:00pm (five hour party). Generally, we like to plan for two (2) drinks per guest for cocktail hour, and one (1) drink per guest for each hour after that. This means we need a total of 600 drinks planned.

(Photo by: Rebecca Marie Photography)

The general guideline for a Full Bar is 60% wine, 20% beer, 20% liquor. We will use these percentages for our measurements, but know that in modern day, due to a large increase in craft beers and peeks in mixology, your guest consumption may be more along the lines of 50% wine, 25% beer, 25% liquor. Analyze your crowd and use numbers that feel right to you.

When purchasing these libations, order in bulk or by the case. Important numbers to keep in mind is servings per bottle. A single bottle of wine holds five (5) standard servings. A case of wine is 12 bottles per box which equals 60 servings per case. A bottle of beer is one serving, but a case is 24 servings. One standard bottle of liquor is 18 servings.

(Photo by Laurie Marie Photography)

For a Beer & Wine only bar, the guideline leans 70% wine and 30% beer. Meaning you need 420 servings of wine, and 180 servings of beer to make up your total 600 servings. A standard bar will include a red wine option, a white wine option, 3 to 5 beer options, whiskey, gin, and vodka. Optional additions include rose, champagne or cava, craft beer, rum and tequila (but no shots- they are not allowed per the City of Chicago’s liquor license dept.).

(Photo by Jim Vondruska)

Signature drinks are a great way to bring personality to an open bar. We recommend keeping these beverages simple (less than 5 ingredients), easy to make (so no muddling or shaking), and able to be batched into large quantities. We recommend choosing a “couples drink” that represents you both- like those Moscow Mules you drank until wee hours of your first date!

(Photo by Mark Federighi Photography)

The finishing touches of a full bar are the mixers, tools, ice, and of course bartenders! We highly recommend tasking your caterer or staffing company with bringing these important items. Mixers often include, but are not limited to, cola (regular and diet), sprite, club soda, tonic, juice (orange or cranberry), with specialties like ginger ale or ginger beer as option. Garnishes stick to lemons and limes with cherries & orange peel as optional for specialty drinks like Manhattans. Bartending tools include bottle opener, wine key, strainer, shaker, peeler, etc. as well as items like glassware, stir sticks, beverage napkins, etc.

This brings us to ice! Big bags of frozen H2O to ensure all libations are good and chilled. You can NEVER have enough ice for an event. Again, these items should be left to your caterer to execute. Skip the Costco trip- it is totally worth having the professionals handle these items to guarantee the correct quantities, qualities, types, and techniques are curated to fit your specific wedding bar. Last but not least; it is vital that your bartenders be licensed, insured, and responsible…not your cousin who home-brews for a hobby. We recommend one bartender per 50 guests to avoid long lines at the bar.  Cheers!