A good video montage or “slide show” at your Chicago wedding reception is a wonderful way to share memories with your family and friends on this very important day. The video can be both touching and funny and is a great way to bring people together. It can also serve as a way to recognize many of the important people in your life.

There are several important guidelines to follow if you want your montage to be a success. The most important is to keep it brief! I am sure everyone has been to a wedding where the montage has gone on forever and bored everyone to tears. As much as your guests love you they don’t want to sit through a half an hour of your baby pictures!

A good video montage should be between 8 and 10 minutes long, any longer and the guests become bored. If you are playing it at the rehearsal dinner it can be longer as everyone there will be close friends and family and will be eager to see more.

The second most important thing is to pick out a good variety of pictures that include a lot of your family and friends and special moments growing up.

If you are going to have a video montage at your wedding here are the steps you need to take:

§ The first thing you will need to do is collect between 45 and 90 pictures total. 15 to 30 pictures each of you growing up, your fiancée growing up, and you as a couple. Select more pictures of you growing up than of you as a couple. 75 total pictures is a good number (around 10 minutes). If you would like it shorter less is fine, if you cannot narrow it down more is fine too although it is best to keep it under 90 pictures.

§ Try to pick out landscape pictures; they work better than portraits on filling up the screen. If it is a portrait though it still will work, it will just have black borders around the picture.

§ Pick out funny pictures. Even though some may be embarrassing, the crowd will love it and it is a lot of fun to get everyone laughing.

§ Pick out good photos of both of you growing that include lots of family and friends.

§ If you only have hard copies of the photos number the pictures in the order you would like them with a post it note stuck to the back. One usually would start with baby pictures then work up to recent pictures, then the same for your fiancée and finally the pictures of you together as a couple.

§ If you have digital copies even better, just label the file with the number you want it to be in the montage.

§ Pick out a song for your section, a song for your fiancée’s section, and a song for you together. The songs should be something meaningful about growing up, friends, family, etc, songs you love, and or something fun that fits your personalities. The last song for you as a couple should be a romantic song that suits you to get everyone teary eyed.

Now that you have the photos and music together you must decide whether or not to have the montage professionally done or if you want to try and tackle it yourself.

You can use slideshow software like Powerpoint and play the video off of a laptop but the end result will be very basic and plain.

With the variety of software applications available and an investment of time you can produce a quality video yourself. Probably the most user friendly and quickest software to learn, that will produce professional results, is iMovie that comes preinstalled on Macs. Once you have put together your movie you can burn it to a DVD to play at the reception.

Just be aware that producing a photo montage video is very time consuming and you should allow at least 20 hours to complete it after all is said and done. DO NOT wait until the week before the wedding to start! A large part of this time is dedicated to scanning in hard copies of your photos; if you have all digital copies the process is quicker.

If learning how to video edit and make DVD’s isn’t on your list of things to do for the wedding you are probably better off having a professional create the video. Prices usually range from $200 – $500 dollars depending on the length, amount of photographs and complexity.

If you are showing the video yourself at the reception it is best to have the person who is actually going to be responsible for showing the video test out all of the projection equipment and the computer or DVD at least a week ahead of time. This will insure that they know how to set up all of the equipment properly, the equipment is compatible and that they have all the necessary cables. Having someone fumble with a video projector that they do not know how to operate can really hinder the flow of a reception.

If you are having a professional show the video provide them with a copy of the DVD at least a week in advance so they can test it out on their equipment. This will give them plenty of time if there is something wrong with the DVD.

Make sure you alert your venue to the fact that you will be showing a video. This way they should include enough space for the screen and projector in the floor plan. There is rarely an ideal place to put the screen where everyone will be able to see it perfectly from his or her seat. You should find a spot where the majority of your guests (especially the wedding party) can see the screen without having to move.

You can play the video during the cocktail hour on a loop so guests can watch it at their leisure (this works especially well for longer videos), during dinner service or during dessert service. During dessert is usually best. Before dinner guests are usually hungry and it is harder to get their attention. During dinner you will have to contend with servers walking around and the clanking of silverware. If you play the video during dessert you will have everyone’s undivided attention and it creates a nice flow into the rest of the evening’s activities.

If done correctly, a video montage can be a pleasant addition to your special day, add to your guest’s enjoyment of the evening and bring back wonderful memories for your family and friends.

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