Month: March 2018

Bridal Party Brainstorming

To bridal party, or not to bridal party? A more common debate than you think! [Oh, and here’s a photo of me with my maids!]

When most envision a wedding they imagine (or assume) being surrounded by their closest friends and family, their bridesmaids and/or groomsmen – everyone standing by their side as they say “I do” on the big day. While that’s certainly awesome, if that doesn’t feel right to you that’s completely and absolutely okay. Below I’m giving my two cents on selecting (or not!) your bridal party.


If your fiancé absolutely has to have ten of their closest friends in the wedding, but there are only four or five people you feel comfortable asking to be a part of it all, that’s okay! Never feel compelled to ask people to be in your wedding to ‘even things out’, or because you feel obligated to do so. Only ask people to be in your wedding that are truly significant in your life, that you can imagine having a big role on one of the most important days of your life. If the numbers aren’t even there are definitely ways around it. Have a maid walk down the aisle with a groomsman on either arm (or vice versa) – I’m sure she or he won’t complain! You can also have the gents and the ladies enter the ceremony separately, rather than walk down the aisle paired arm in arm. It’s common to have the groomsmen enter together and be waiting by the groom at the altar, whereas the maids walk down the aisle in a traditional fashion. If things aren’t lining up and you’re having a hard time visualizing this feel free to reach out in the comments. I’ll help you brainstorm!


Friendships and relationships are so dynamic, as are weddings themselves. If you’re a bride and have a dear male friend who you want to be a part of your bridal party, or a groom with a fierce gal pal, mix it up. Have them be a part of it.


Most are in the planning phase of their wedding for a year, sometimes longer. While it may be tempting to rush into things and select your bridal party right away, take your time and be thoughtful. Some bridal party selections are no brainers, like sisters, brothers or childhood friends, but others are not such easy decisions. When you begin planning your wedding everything is so exciting and maybe even overwhelming, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in it all. Before popping the question to your bridal party, there are a few things to be mindful of.

  • Is this person a true, genuine friend or family member?
  • Have they supported your relationship as it ran its course?
  • Can you imagine them sticking with you through the planning – being a part of your bachelorette party, bridal shower, and all that typically comes with a wedding?
  • Do you genuinely want them to be a part of your bridal party, or is there outside pressure or obligation?
  • Do you want to see their pretty face in a picture of your bridal party 20 years from now, or are you just really excited about the new girl you met at yoga and want to be her BFF?
  • Any red flags for lotsa drama? No one needs additional drama on a wedding day!

Your bridal party is in it to win it for the duration of your engagement, so be thoughtful in your selection. Don’t rush into something only to look back and feel as though you made a mistake.


It’s also completely normal to want to forego the bridal party all together! There’s no such thing as a right or wrong way to plan the details of your wedding, and that includes your bridal party. If your heart is telling you that what’s most important is to focus on the two of you and getting married, follow it!

FYI: My hubby and I went to two beautiful weddings of dear friends recently, this March and last May, and neither wedding had a bridal party. Both weddings were perfect. What was most important to them was each other, getting married, and partying all night long with their friends and families! And guess what? Both still enjoyed the traditional elements of having a bridal party – the shower, the bachelor and bachelorette parties, getting ready for the wedding with some of their closest, and having friends over to their room before the ceremony.

If this is what feels right to you, or if you have too many close friends to narrow it down to a select few, or even if you feel stressed out thinking about selecting people to be in your wedding, it’s okay to not have one. Just enjoy the day and all the loved ones who made it a point to celebrate with you!


On a similar note, if you want loved ones involved in the day but don’t want a traditional bridal party, that’s completely okay, too! Maybe you only want to have a maid of honor and a best man stand up with you as you say your vows. Go for it, and don’t worry about what anyone thinks. It is your day after all! If there are others you want involved but perhaps not necessarily in a traditional fashion, you can ask them to do a reading, sing a song (if they are musically inclined…), walk a family member down the aisle, or give a toast at the reception. There are lots of options for roles in a wedding!

Tip: If you don’t have a traditional bridal party but your wedding is of substantial size, I would still entertain the idea of an usher or two. Especially if you have reserved rows for family members, you’ll want to make sure there is someone there to greet your guests and guide them to their appropriate seats. Family members, especially extended family, aren’t always sure where they are meant to sit without someone to guide them. They can be hyper aware of etiquette and afraid to do something wrong (i.e. sit in the wrong seat). Although if it’s completely open seating or a small, intimate wedding, maybe this isn’t necessary after all!

Another tip: The maid of honor and best man typically have the most responsibility throughout the wedding planning process. They’ll likely be in charge of planning the shower (for the gals), the bachelorette and bachelor parties and such – that is, if you plan on incorporating these events. Make sure you’re selecting someone who can handle the responsibility. And if they can’t, make sure there’s a backup who can assist this person.


No matter how you choose to structure the people involved in the big day, it is your wedding after all. As long as you make thoughtful decisions and involve the people who mean the most to you in some capacity, there’s no need for apologies or explanation! As you’re making decisions, just take a quick second to think, “will I regret this in the future?” If the answer is no and you’re following your heart and your vision, that’s all that really matters.


Now, if you’re selecting a bridal party, how are you going to pop the question?! Let me know in the comments!

<3 Kendal


Demystifying Wedding Room Blocks

Years ago when I was ‘dabbling’ in wedding coordination, as I like to say, I had a blog about all things wedding. I don’t know how often readers stopped by, but it was a fun, creative outlet for me – and an opportunity to focus on weddings, which I obviously love! At the same time (and up until last month) I was a hotel guru. I’m resurrecting a post from the past about wedding room blocks, with some tweaks here and there, because they tend to be a source of confusion and contention. Allow me to demystify!

When you need to secure a wedding room block for your out-of-towners, you generally have two options. Please know that each hotel does things a little differently, and different hotel brands can also have different guidelines, but these options are pretty standard within the industry.


This is how you will likely hear your hotel professional refer to this option. It’s because this room block is just that – a courtesy to you! Like I said, everyone does this a little differently, but below is usually the norm.

Say your wedding is on Saturday, and you need rooms for your guests on Friday and Saturday night. With this option you can usually reserve ten rooms per night, so long as the hotel has availability. There is no financial liability with this option, you usually don’t need to provide a credit card number or a deposit to secure the block, and there’s no penalty if your guests don’t reserve rooms.

If you agree to reserve a courtesy block at a hotel, the sales manager you’re working with will send you a short agreement, which you’ll need to sign and return. Shortly after returning the signed contract the room block will be available for reservations. You’ll be provided with a specific URL or a booking code, which allows guests to book online at your discounted group rate, or guests can just call the hotel’s reservations department and ask for the block! Make sure to communicate how you have the block reserved with the hotel, as that is how your guests will need to reference it (i.e. Smith Jones Wedding Block). You’ll be given a deadline, a “cutoff date”, which is usually about 30 days out from the first arrival date. Your guests MUST book by this date in order to receive the discounted rate. After this date passes, the hotel will release any unused rooms back into inventory. They’re not yours anymore, and it doesn’t matter that your cousin’s brother’s sister realized one week before the wedding they forgot to make a hotel reservation. Sorry!

If hotel occupancy is low enough there is a chance they can still honor the rate beyond the cutoff date. You can ask (but you’ll have to ask your sales professional, not the reservations team). However, chances are the guest will just have to face the music and book the best available rate, as published on the hotel’s website.

“But I signed an agreement! I have a group rate. I have ten rooms per night and I didn’t use them all!” Rules are rules, darlin’. Make sure to book by the deadline!

“But I invited 300 people to my wedding. I’m going to need a lot more rooms than that! Can we do a courtesy agreement for 30 rooms per night?” The answer is usually no, no and no. If you don’t want to be financially responsible for unused rooms, you cannot typically book more than about ten rooms per night at a time. I’ll explain why with the second option. “Okay, then can I set up three courtesy blocks?” Hmm, nope. We see right through you.

“My block is full. Can you add more rooms?” Maybe! Talk with your sales professional and see if they can add rooms to your block at the group rate. If the current occupancy at the hotel is low enough, they may be able to do it! If occupancy is climbing and the hotel and/or the city is busy, they may not. They may also propose that they are able to add rooms to your block, however it will have to be at a higher rate. That’s not weird – it’s pretty normal! Whether or not you want to proceed with the rooms at a higher rate is your decision.

“My sister called me. The link isn’t working! The block is sold out! What’s going on?!” Okay, first, relax. Did YOU also test the link? Usually after receiving one of these calls I test it myself, and it works just fine. So here is what I’d recommend: first, find out which dates the guest tried to reserve. Did you contract rooms on Friday and Saturday night, and your guest tried to reserve a room Wednesday through Sunday? If so, then that’s true – the link wouldn’t work. If guests are looking for non-contracted dates the reservations agent would not have access to the additional nights. You (or they) will need to contact your sales professional directly to see if the rate would be available for that date. If it’s not available unfortunately it’s based on availability, and hotels do their best!



This is for couples who are super-confident they will need a lot of rooms! With this option you can reserve as many rooms as you’d like per night (that the hotel has available to you), but you do need to sign a full contract. The hotel professional will send you a much longer contract, chock-full of legal jargon. What you need to know here is that you are typically responsible for 80-90% of those room nights, depending on the hotel you’re working with. The reason being, the hotel is taking a lot of their inventory and setting it aside for you. They’re counting on your guests to reserve those rooms. If the rooms aren’t used the hotel is in a bind because they could have been selling that inventory all along, and now they are stuck with a lot of empty rooms close to arrival date.

I’ll quickly break down attrition, which you’ll see in that contract. Say you reserve 50 rooms for two nights, which is a total of 100 room nights. If you are responsible for 80% of the block, your guests need to book at least 80 room nights. And no, this doesn’t mean 80 reservations! It’s on a cumulative basis, may that be 40 rooms for two nights, 30 rooms on Friday and 50 on Saturday… and so on.

If you don’t fulfill your contract you’ll have to pay for any unused rooms. So, the cutoff date has come and gone, and the final pickup was 66 room nights. Since you needed to pick up 80 room nights, you will have to pay the hotel for 14 room nights at the contracted group rate plus applicable taxes. Totally understandable to be frustrated, but so many people sign full contracts for room blocks, and everyone is responsible for that percentage all the same. That’s the risk with option two.

Same deal – you’ll be provided a URL or booking code, or guests can call in and ask for your block to reserve their room. You’ll still have until about 30 days out for guests to reserve rooms, and even with a full contract the hotel will release unused rooms after your cutoff date. The booking guidelines are the same, the hotel is just holding a larger block of rooms for you.

On the one hand, you have as many rooms as you need for guests coming in from out of town. You don’t have to worry about the block filling too quickly and trying to secure additional rooms at the rate you were given. On the other hand, there’s some risk.


First option is almost always the norm. When people go with the second option for a wedding block it’s pretty rare. It’s a lot harder than you’d expect to make your guests book rooms where you tell them to book rooms. And it’s pretty difficult to estimate the number of rooms you’ll actually need! Guests may share rooms to save money, stay at another hotel because they have loyalty points, or book an Airbnb.

[For my wedding I was pretty sure I would need a lot of rooms! After I broke down the guest list to determine who was in Arizona and who would be traveling there, about 75% of guests were traveling. I lucked out and found a hotel that provided me with 20 rooms per night as a courtesy (see, everyone does it differently!). I made a big deal that they’d go fast because we had so many people traveling. I don’t even think we hit 10 rooms per night. I was ‘that bride’, and I was even the hotel person! Oh, the shame. We had some stay at time shares, some stay at homes, a lot of people shared rooms, and some people who we thought would definitely be there couldn’t make it.]

Also consider the fact that some won’t even remember to book within your block, even if you give clear instructions. Not to get too technical, but if guests book through any third party sites like Expedia, Hotwire and so on, they’re not counted towards your block. If they book a normal rate at the hotel or a hotel package, and they didn’t ask for your block, that doesn’t count either. Make sure it’s clear on your website and/or accommodations card – HOW to book, and WHEN to book.

My advice is to start small. You can always try to add, but please don’t be demanding (you probably won’t succeed).

Tip: Go with the courtesy option and depending on your guest list set up secondary and even tertiary blocks at additional hotels. When you select your hotels, look for options with different price points so guests can find an option within their budget. Maybe you select one luxury option, one middle-of-the-road option, and a limited service option that’s a little bit more budget friendly. Your guests will have different travel budgets and will likely appreciate the options!


When selecting your hotel(s), here are a few other things to take into consideration:

  • Proximity to your venue. And does the hotel provide a shuttle service? Some hotels have a town car or shuttle available within a certain mile radius on a first come, first serve basis, which is a nice perk for guests! Some properties, more common with resorts and less urban locations, have a designated shuttle to your venue based on how many rooms you pick up.
  • Are there any special concessions being offered? Some hotels offer an upgrade to a suite or complimentary night based on picking up a certain number of rooms, incentivizing you and your guests to book there.
  • Are you interested in booking any catering at the hotel? It might be a great spot for your rehearsal dinner or post-wedding brunch, and you might get extra perks for booking! Ask to check out their catering menus.
  • Hotel or wedding date, you decide… but are there any citywide conventions and/or events going on in your city at the time of the wedding? I always feel so terrible for couples who have gotten so far along in the planning process before they realize their wedding coincides with, say, Great American Beer Festival (held here in Denver, attracts 60,000+ people each year).

Tip: Check out the convention calendar! If you’re in another city, reach out to your local Convention & Visitors Bureau for this info!

Communicate as much information as possible to your hotel professional before the wedding. Keep them in the know if you have transportation arranged for your guests, if you have gift bags that need delivered to guests, or if Aunt Susie wants to pay for your grandma’s room (she’ll need to fill out a credit card authorization form). They’ll help you orchestrate all of these things, and they’ll let you know about any unforeseen obstacles you can tackle BEFORE guests arrive. Hotels love a communicative (but not overly so) couple 🙂

Eenie Meenie Miney Venue

Eenie Meenie Miney Venue

As we get acquainted with one another I’ll share a little somethin’ somethin’ with you. In my immediate family there are four of us: my mom and dad, Laura and Stewart, who have been married for 32 years now (!), and my baby sister, Kristin.  Okay, she’s not a baby. She’s 27 – we’re four years apart. Well, my sister got ENGAGED last summer to a simply amazing guy who fits right in with the family… in Japan, of all places… and we couldn’t be more excited! They’re taking their time planning the wedding so there’s no need to rush, and to ensure the day they plan is a day tailored exactly to what means the most to them.

They’re an outdoorsy couple. I mean, I like to hike, but they like to HIKE. They’re always camping, gallivanting about the beautiful Arizona mountains, and they’ve got the gear to prove it. In fact, in January they won the lottery which will allow them to hike the John Muir Trail in California this summer, all 220 miles and three weeks of it, which isn’t my cup of tea. I tell you this because as they were deciding where and when they should get married, they chose a location that is so perfect and so meaningful to them (and that’s what it’s all about). So, in June of 2019 we’re headed to Yosemite for a week! Before they pack up this summer for the hike of a lifetime, they’re visiting Yosemite to check out their top venues in person, and they want to make sure they’re prepared with an arsenal of questions to ask, so there are no surprises down the road. Kristin and Ryan, this one’s for you!

There are so many things to think about when you’re selecting a wedding venue, whether it’s local or destination. However, when you start to look at venues you should have a pretty good sense of at least two things: your budget and your guest list. You may have a vision for the rest of the wedding day as well, but those two will definitely get you started! Below I’ve narrowed it down to some of what I feel are the essential things to think about and questions to ask.


At absolute max, what’s your anticipated guest count? If you had to whittle down your guest list in order to fit within a certain budget or a venue you love, what does that number look like instead? It’s nice to have an idea of your threshold either way.


What’s MOST important to you in a venue? Are you looking for a venue with a spectacular view of the mountains? Do you HAVE to accommodate 250 guests? Are you looking for an urban location with plenty for your guests to do nearby? Do you have a lot of guests visiting from out of town, whereas you want may want to look at a hotel or resort where guests can also stay for the weekend? Or do you want a venue that will allow you to bring in your favorite caterer, even though they might not be on the preferred vendor list? Jot down your top five ‘musts’ before you scope it out.

Tip: If you’re looking for a venue outside of a metropolitan area, like the mountains or a more isolated destination, think about the aspects of wedding weekend that parallel the location. Are there hotels nearby if you plan on setting up room blocks for guests? Will guests be responsible for renting cars and driving to the location if they’re visiting, or will shuttle service be provided? Knowing where your guests will stay and how they’ll arrive and depart will be helpful as you tie together all the elements of your wedding weekend.


Know the general timeline of events and what you actually require space for. Do you plan on having your ceremony at the venue in addition to the reception? Do you also need a space for cocktail hour? The more information you can provide the better! The venue contact will then be able to propose different areas for different elements of your day, and they’ll be able to help you envision the flow of the wedding.


Think about your budget before you contact venues. Most have a price range available on their website or in a wedding publication where they are listed! It’s not exact of course, but you’ll know if you’re within a feasible range.

The pricing of a venue for a wedding can work a couple different ways…

Standalone venues don’t provide food and beverage so there will be a rental or site fee, and you will also have to work with a caterer and possibly a separate vendor for your bar package. Know that the rental fee is just a small piece of the pie, so have an idea where within your budget you can allocate funds to the venue alone versus food, beverage and other essentials. Ask for preferred caterers of the venue you have in mind — contact several options to see varying offerings, pricing and minimums.

Tip: For standalone venues, you should also ask what equipment is included in the rental. Do they provide chairs (and do they have enough to set for your ceremony and reception, or will you have to rent additional or repurpose them?), tables, linens, and/or any in-house decorative elements like votive candles?

Some venues do provide food and beverage in house (like hotels and resorts in particular!). Here you’ll likely have a rental fee of sorts along with a food and beverage minimum. FYI – the minimum is NOT what you’ll spend for your particular wedding. Just think of it as a threshold. You have to spend at least that dollar amount in order to use the space that is allocated for your day.

[When I was planning my own wedding in Arizona, my mom was helping me do a lot of legwork since I was in Colorado. I explained it to her with this example. The minimum $XYZ. Now that we’ve selected the menu and have a more concrete idea of our spend, the contract doesn’t need to be revised or anything of the sort. We’re just hitting our minimum and fulfilling our contract terms. If we wanted to, we could actually serve thousands of mini muffins and tequila shots for dinner. Not recommended, but hey. As long as you hit the minimum you’re golden!]

Take a look at the catering menus to get a more realistic sense of what you’d actually spend on the food and beverage.

Whether you go with a standalone venue or one that serves food and beverage, always ask about tax and service fees, and whether the service fee is also taxed. Ask about bartender fees and chef attendant fees too, and whether additional fees are applied there. Many don’t realize how quickly those fees can add up! And know that they are not negotiable 🙂


Let’s talk setup for the wedding reception at your venue, and how that ties into the space you need. The capacity of a venue changes as you change the set of the evening, so here are some things to keep in mind.

Do you envision a seated dinner with traditional round tables of eight to ten guests each? Do you prefer long king’s tables filling the space, or perhaps a combination of the two options? Will the meal be plated or buffet? Or do you prefer to have an amazing cocktail reception with interactive stations and delicious passed hors d’oeuvres (in which case, the space can accommodate quite a few more guests!). While you may not know exactly what that looks like as you begin your search, it helps to have an idea of what you’re leaning towards in order to know how much space you require.


When you start your search it’s quite possible that there are a lot of details left to be decided. However, if you know of any elements that are important to you going into the planning process, bring those up in the conversation!

Maybe you know of a killer 10-piece band that MUST play at your wedding. Make sure to talk about it! Not only is it good for the venue to be aware of as many ‘musts’ as possible, but there’s a domino effect of things to address as you bring these up. With bands, they’ll have certain power requirements, staging requirements… and staging can eat up quite a bit of your functional event space – so you’ll need to make sure the space is large enough.

Do you have an idea for an amazing ceiling installation – chandeliers, Edison lights, draping? Make sure the venue allows things to be hung from the ceiling.

Do you envision going out with a bang as you make your way to your getaway car? A lot of venues have restrictions on what you can and can’t use. Some allow sparklers, some don’t, some require biodegradable options – you get the idea. It’s good to know what is permitted and what isn’t if this is important to you.

If you have a sense of your décor and how you’d like your room set, feel free to ask the venue about the equipment they have on hand! This will help you know what they include and what you may need to rent, which impacts your budget. What size tables do they have in inventory? 72” rounds typically seat up to 10 guests, while 66” rounds seat about 8. If you’re going with long tables, do they use 6’ or 8’ tables? Do they have both low cocktail rounds and highboys for cocktail hour? What do their chairs look like? Some couples are completely okay with an in-house option, while some prefer an upgraded option like Chiavari or a modern acrylic chair. After seeing an in-house option, you may also decide to go with chair covers or a small element of detail like a sash or greenery. Does the venue provide any linen and if so, what does the in-house option look like? Do they have multiple colors available? Are they floor length? Do they provide a dance floor, and if so is there a fee? Do they provide any in-house decorative elements like votive candles and the like?

While these details aren’t always make or break, if you have a vision early on it can’t hurt to ask about it.


Who are their preferred vendors? It’s always lovely when venues have people they consistently work with and rely on, who know the space well. Certainly not a requirement but can’t hurt!

What are the load in and out requirements? Is there a loading dock or another preferred method for your vendors to get in and out? A freight elevator if bringing in any oversize rentals or equipment? Again, if it’s a trusted vendor they probably are well aware of the ins and outs, but as plans come together it’s a good thing to be somewhat knowledgeable about.


The less glamorous elements should also be given some thought. Where are restrooms in proximity to your space, and how many stalls are available in both the men’s and women’s restrooms? If you’re in a more rustic location or a venue that isn’t typically used for weddings, will you have to rent restrooms? Also, for those same types of venues, is there a catering kitchen, or will you have to build out a kitchen? Is there ample parking for guests? Is it self-parking or valet? Is there a fee (and will you host it or are guests responsible)? What does handicap accessibility look like for elderly guests?


Where do you plan on getting ready that day? Is there a bridal suite and/or groom’s room at the venue for you and your fiancé? If not, is there a place where you and your bridal party can sit pretty while you wait for the ceremony to begin? Can you bring your own food and beverage to this space if you want to provide snacks and refreshments for your crew before you head down the aisle?

Tip: If you’re getting ready there, check the lighting, whether there’s a full-length mirror available, and whether they have any high bar stools or similar available. Something with height is better for hair and makeup!


Outdoor weddings have a really key element you’ll want to make sure is not overlooked. Weather backup. In the event there’s inclement weather, what happens? Have a really frank conversation about this with your venue contact. Are they holding weather backup for you? Is there a designated space held, or are they promising a weather backup without committing to a certain space? When do they make the call to move a wedding inside? There’s no right or wrong way to do this – it varies between venues – but should something happen you need to be able to formulate a thorough game plan (with your coordinator!) well in advance. There should be no such thing as winging it.


You should also know who the key players are! Will the contact you’re working with to book the venue be your same contact throughout the planning process, or will they put you in touch with another team member to handle the details? Whoever you work with on details – will they be there on the wedding day, or will your main contact be an event manager or captain? It’s okay to ask who is involved early on! Also, does your venue require a day-of coordinator? If so, give me a shout!


Payment – the fun part (just kidding). If you’re ready to move forward, congrats! The venue will issue you a contract, and you’ll need to provide a deposit to secure your date. The deposit is typically somewhere between 25% and 50% of the anticipated total or minimum, due with your signed contract … but everyone does it a little differently! Is there a second installment, or is the estimated remaining balance due on a certain date before the wedding? When do you have to settle up the remaining balance?

Tip: If you plan on changing your method of payment from initial deposit to the next, make sure your venue knows and relays that information to their accounting department if applicable! While it’s good practice to contact a client before charging a next deposit, from time to time the second deposit is processed on autopilot with an invoice to follow. Preventatively avoid any cards being charged incorrectly!

The devil is in the details. These are just things to get your wheels turning as you narrow it down to your favorite venues and tour them in person. Just know that you should feel comfortable and at ease and excited to plan the big day when it’s all said and done. You shouldn’t be left feeling like you can’t ask questions or don’t quite understand what you’re getting in to. Hire a planner or coordinator who can ease your mind and help you see the big picture while they worry about the details, or even bring along a trusted friend or family member who is well versed in event planning and logistics.

Any questions I may have missed? Any absolute favorite venues in Colorado? Drop me a line in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy venue hunting!

<3 Kendal