Tales & Veils

Ah, Memory Lane

Well guys, Alex and I are celebrating five years of (mostly) wedded bliss today! 🙂 Time flies!

I always love taking a little bit of time on our anniversary to look through photos and relive the day — it was so special, so much fun, and it was one hell of a celebration with our loved ones. As cliche as it is, getting married was what really sparked my love for weddings!

I actually didn’t have a wedding coordinator for our wedding, but our venue contact was so great and did most of the heavy lifting for us. As perfect as the day was to me at the time and even looking back at it, there were some things that weren’t quite perfect in reality. And hey, that’s okay — life isn’t perfect either! Right? A few years ago I wrote the following blog post about the little things leading up to the wedding that tried to get in our way, but we didn’t let them.

So, if you’re in wedding countdown mode and you find yourself stressing out about silly things, fighting with your fiance over the seating chart, or trying too hard to please everyone, know that you’re not alone. That happens! Shake it off, take a deep breath, focus on what’s important (the fact that you’re about to marry your best friend!), and enjoy the ride. Wedding planning should be fun!

so what do you when you are sure you thought of everything that could have gone wrong, you’ve come up with a foolproof plan, and something still goes wrong? you keep on keepin’ on! things that go wrong keep your planning process interesting. how boring would this be if everything went right? 😉

me personally? towards the end of it all the bridal party (mainly the guys, i think) starting calling me a bridezee. what is this, you ask? it’s not a full blown bridezilla, but it’s like… you’re treading the bridezilla waters. you’ve got a toe in that pond. you have only earned the ‘z’. i am just an overcommunicator, okay! i wanted to make sure everyone knew where to be and when, and what to do. i really believed i’d thought of everything.

so for bridesmaid dresses, i went through this shop located in minneapolis, minnesota at random. obviously we’re not all going to travel there to see dresses live and try them on, so it’s an online purchase. i knew i wanted long dresses, i knew what color, and i wanted everyone in the same style of dress. but i wanted each bridesmaid to make it a little bit ‘their own’ by choosing from a few different fits/necklines. i sent everyone the info and gave them an idea of when they should order. i didn’t place a group order on anyone’s behalf.

the first hiccup occurred when a bridesmaid called me a couple months or so before her dress was scheduled to arrive, and said something like “now that i have it solved, i have to tell you a story.” ehhh okay. turns out the designer of those particular dresses decided to take a summer hiatus and close her shop, and cancel my friend’s order. lovely! maybe because it was already figured out (she’d already called them demanding this be fixed, and if memory serves me they had one dress to send her in a different size than she originally ordered, but she accepted!), i stayed calm. i was telling her that “we would have found something similar!” but… that’s probably because i knew we didn’t have to deal with it anyway.

next, a few WEEKS before the wedding a friend said… “weird, i still haven’t gotten my dress. i’ll give them a call tomorrow.” i said, “yeah! you better!” she got on the phone with them and learned that they thought she hadn’t placed her order in time to receive by our wedding date, so they did not follow through with the order. apparently they had emailed her about it. however, no one at the shop thought it might behoove them to give my friend a CALL. she hadn’t replied, she hadn’t expressed concern, and she was clearly in a wedding. didn’t they find it strange that she didn’t touch base with them to figure out a solution? i mean, i’m not kidding. this was about four weeks before the wedding. LUCKILY my sister had ordered a style she didn’t like, and then ordered a second dress. she had to wait until she received the new one, and then send the first one back. she hung on to it a little longer than she should have to make sure she liked the new one. my dress-less bridesmaid ended up wearing this dress – phew! i don’t think it was her first choice, and she tweaked it a little to make it fit her better, but hey! don’t know what we would have done otherwise. i guess we just would have done what i thought we’d do with incident #1 – “look for something similar”. then, not to mention, since orders were placed individually they were not all from the same dye lot. when i read about this before sending the info to the girls i thought, “how different can it really be? come on.” well one bridesmaid dress was hot pink while the others were coral. you know what? who really cares. there are more important things to think about. and a great photographer can touch everything up so you won’t even notice in photos!

we arrived to arizona on tuesday before our saturday wedding. i believe we went to the tux shop on wednesday to pick up whichever tuxes had arrived at that point – dads, groomsmen and groom. went back thursday for the others, and there was still no tux for alex. hmmm. so we chat with them and learn they had cancelled my husband’s order. to this day, still not sure why. they also sent one of our groomsmen TWO tuxes because, well, that’s helpful. they apologized and overnighted a tux for the groom. i mean, hope it fits! if it doesn’t… it’s the day before your wedding, so…

the important thing to remember is that as long as the problem ends up solved, it’s no longer a problem. with the dresses – for bridesmaid #1 they sent her a dress. was it the size she needed, and did it require extra alterations? no, and yes. but she had a dress. for bridesmaid #2 – they didn’t fix the problem for us, but the problem was fixed one way or another. we’ll leave it at that. for my hubby, they took ownership of the problem and overnighted us what we needed.

i had also forgotten all about the concept of exercise before the wedding. most brides do the opposite and chain themselves to treadmills but i guess i figured, hey, my dress is poofy on bottom. baby got back. as long as my arms look toned and i don’t have chipmunk cheeks, i’m cool. which is why i accidentally subsisted off of energy drinks alone for about a week before the wedding! anyway, thursday before our wedding as i was hanging around home i decided to go for a six mile run in the sun (to our venue and back). i thought it would make up for all exercise lost and make me feel good. it made me feel great! it also gave me a horrid racerback/scoop neck tan line that was bound to look fabulous with my wedding dress. my sister and i, after pedicures and pool time on friday, hit up a tanning salon. although i’ve been tanning many times before i didn’t want to do anything idiotic the DAY before the wedding, like fry myself or burn off the top layer of my skin. so even though it was dumb, we asked a ton of questions and the girl helping us recommended the best bed and length of time for what i needed. it was perfect. tan lines went away, and i was actually a perfect amount of tan for the wedding! i am albino by nature so yes, believe it or not, i was tan in those pictures. problem solved.

then, flower woes. we had six beautiful shepard’s hooks to line the aisle, and before the wedding we had to give the florist all vases to be filled, so they could bring them by and just put each where it needed to be. this included the mercury glass ‘inserts’ for the shepard’s hooks. alex and i were wrapping up some pictures by the ceremony site before the wedding, and the woman who was delivering and setting everything up called me over. “oh, i’m so sorry, honey. this has never happened.” just what you want to hear, right? whatever box or vessel they used to transport these vases for the hooks obviously didn’t work for one of them. she opened it up and it was totally shattered. awesome. they used four of the hooks at the front and back of the aisle, and in place of the center hooks – because we now only had one standing – they improvised and tied the bundle of flowers to a chair. i actually wasn’t mad. again, just fix it. that’s all i want – a solution that looks nice. and they did fix it. and it did look nice.

i also figured that a veil was very unimportant, so i didn’t give it the time of day. i planned on wearing it for thirty minutes at our ceremony, maybe snapping a few pics in it, and doing away with it for the evening. so naturally, instead of spending hundreds of dollars on the thing i went to amazon.com and bought some basic veil for $19.99. big spenda! the problem with CHEAP wedding accessories is that they are of CHEAP quality. the comb weighed about 37 pounds. thirty minutes before the ceremony i had a minor panic attack because i tried to put this god forsaken veil in my hair, and i felt like it was weighing down my updo and ruining my meticulously crafted hair. no, not the hair! so i took it off and decided to go sans veil. well, then my mom made it clear she wanted me in a veil, so i started to throw a tantrum. at the end of the day i didn’t want to wear something i was going to be self conscious in and worrying about my entire walk down the aisle, and throughout the entire ceremony. if you don’t FEEL comfortable you’re not going to LOOK comfortable. i went ‘no veil’ and was happier for it. i’m the bride, dammit. done – problem solved!

i’m sure, looking back, there were plenty of other hiccups. but none of it had any impact to our wedding, the planning, how we felt before the wedding or on the big day. there were little issues we had to solve, but as long as you have the mentality that it CAN and WILL be solved, and that nothing is capable of ruining your day, you’ll be okay. i believe wedding bliss is all about your attitude! if you approach things with a negative attitude, feeling like every little task is a huge chore or that it’s not going exactly how you want it to go, these little bumps in the road become real roadblocks and problems. your attitude can impact whether you have fun with everything, or whether you let people’s opinions get the best of you. nobody puts baby in a corner – except yourself. put on your rose-colored glasses. imperfections are perfect. if you have a positive attitude and approach these things with patience, knowing you’ve just gotta swerve around and find an alternative or a fix, you’ll be much happier for it! nothing is worth ruining your day.

this too shall pass 🙂

Things happen to the best of us, but don’t get hung up on it, and don’t let anything ruin a super special and exciting time in your life. If all goes according to plan, you only do this once. You’ll want to look back at your engagement fondly, remembering how much fun you had and how excited you were to tie the knot! Not how you wanted to cut a b&%$#. Amirite?

The moral of the story is to not stress out. The underlying moral of the story is to hire a wedding coordinator. We serve as moral support, an idea-bouncer-offer, an unbiased opinion, and the person who seamlessly handles any hiccups with grace the week and day of your wedding. Your job is to just enjoy your day. Not a terrible job to have, right?

…. and then I’m going to shamelessly share a few of my own wedding photos with you, while I’m walking down memory lane. Enjoy! Or don’t! Okay, it’s more than a few. I have zero restraint.

<3 kendal

 

Picture Perfect (Engagement)

It’s been a little while since I posted anything here but … HI, guys! I’m back!

If you’ve been following along at all in previous months/posts, you probably know that my sister is engaged and getting married next summer. Wee! Kristin and Ryan have been working through wedding planning details these last few months to ensure the framework is in place for the most fabulous wedding day, and it’s time to officially share the date and location with the universe (okay, or the invitees). Right on time, too! Save The Dates should ideally be sent out about 8 – 12 months in advance for a destination wedding, which allows guests adequate time to plan and save, get time off work, and book travel. We’re at the nine month mark now!

Save The Dates don’t necessarily need to include engagement photos, but if this is something you’d like to incorporate in yours be sure to plan accordingly! Use your wedding date, once the venue and preliminary details are finalized, and work backwards to determine which month you’ll need to send these babies out. Book your engagement session with your photographer 1-2 months prior to that, which will allow your photographer time to edit and return your photos, and will also give you some time to design Save The Dates. [Tip: photos typically take 2-3 weeks to turn around.]

Engagement photos can also just be really amazing photos that capture not only a special time in your life, but a special part of your wedding planning journey. No pressure to include photos on your wedding stationary 🙂

Regardless of how you plan to use your photos, I chit chatted with one of my favorite local photographers, Kisa, of Kisa Conrad Photography, to get some ideas. If you’re unsure of what to wear, how to pose, where to take photos — I can assure you, you’re not alone! Below are some of her pro tips for a seamless (and fun!) engagement session.

  1. “Be yourself. Find a photographer that is going to make you comfortable. Not just one that will make you stand there and stare at each other for 5 minutes straight, but one that can make you laugh with your partner. It is awkward for anyone to be in front of a camera, unless you do it for a living, so find someone you are comfortable with and allows you to be yourself.
  2. Your photographer should be your guide when it comes to picking outfits. Outfits can be hard when photographing in different places. So coordinate with where you are photographing at! Maybe stay away from those hot pinks when photographing at Garden of the Gods. Oh and please don’t show up matchy, matchy. Think about staying with neutral colors that coordinate with your location. There is nothing better than looking back at old photos where the outfit choices were timeless. And a simple accessory like a beautiful necklace or scarf can really add that something to your photos.
  3. Honestly, whether you wear a lot of makeup or don’t, have a professional do your makeup. This is your time to shine and feel special. There is no better way to do that than feel beautiful. I can’t tell you the number of times where I have photographed someone with their makeup done and they look stunning and the other times someone just wore mascara and foundation. You invested in your photograph, you should invest in yourself. Also, it is always a good time to do a trial run before your wedding with your makeup artist.”

If you’re looking for inspiration check out some of my favorites from Kristin and Ryan’s recent shoot, shot by Erika Greene Photography in Tucson, AZ. How beautiful, right!? (insert heart eyes emoji)

… and if you bring your dog along, and they have to go into time out at some point, that’s okay, too. No shame in the pet photo game.

Who is getting ready to take engagement photos, and where are you shooting? Anyone having a hard time figuring out what your look will be or how to feel at ease for photos? Would love to hear about it in the comments!

<3 Kendal

 

 

Personalizing Your Wedding Vows

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE when couples write their own wedding vows. Each pair tells a different tale – they speak about the things that are meaningful to them while allowing their personalities to shine. You get a little glimpse into the relationship that perhaps you haven’t seen before, as they promise to love one another until ‘death parts them’. It’s not easy to write your own vows though! It takes time, a little courage, and a lot of thought.

Taking tips from Brides and The Knot, I’ve rounded up some of the best advice to get started in the process.

[Photo: Williams & Klein]

Better Together

Everyone seems to agree that before doing anything else, talk about it with your future spouse. The Knot asks all the right questions: “Decide how you want your vows to come across. Do you envision them as humorous? Poetic and romantic? Go over the logistics too. Will you write them separately or together? Will they be completely different or will you make the same promises to each other as you would with traditional vows? Some couples do a little of each. Finally, will you share them with each other or keep them a secret until the wedding day?” So important! You wouldn’t want to have a situation like Monica and Chandler did in Friends.

The One With the Vows

Take Your Time With Your Wedding Vows

Don’t expect to write your vows the night before the wedding. That’s a recipe for disaster. Give yourself plenty of time in case you experience writer’s block, or you need time to edit or have a family member or friend look them over. These should be something you put time and heart into, not something you procrastinate over then rush through writing at the very last minute. Give your vows the time and thought they deserve.

Brainstorming

As you’re reflecting and preparing to write, think back to the beginning of your relationship. Did you know from the beginning that you’d found ‘the one’? Did you have obstacles to overcome, which proved you were meant for one another? Does you partner have qualities you thought you’d never find in a significant other? Is your fiancé your teammate, your cheerleader, your support system, your rock? Does your fiancé balance or complement your personality, together becoming the perfect puzzle? How does your partner show you they care? It’s often the little things that mean the most. Think about your goals for the future –  the things you know you want to accomplish together. Do you want children, do you want to travel the world, do you want to give back to your community? What do you vow to do for your partner to ensure a lasting and love-filled marriage? When things get tough, how will you re-center and find the foundation you’ve built?

Both sources have a couple of key reminders:

Baby Steps

Don’t feel like you have to sit down and write composed sentences the first time around. As you reflect on your relationship and your hopes for your future life together, just start with a list of bullet points. This will give you some initial material to work with, which you can use as a tool when you begin writing.

[Photo: John Bosley Photography]

Write The Wedding Vows!

You’ve spent time thinking about all the reasons you can’t wait to marry your partner, and you’ve jotted them down in list form. Now you’re ready to put it together. Start writing, and know that it doesn’t have to be perfect from the start. You can go back and edit your vows as many times as you’d like.

  • Be authentic. Use a voice that’s true to you. Write in a style that reflects how you would normally speak, not how you think vows ‘should’ sound. (Are you catching on that I don’t like the word ‘should’?)
  • Personalize! The point of writing your own vows is to make unique and memorable promises to each other, while sharing insight into your relationship. While you don’t want to go off the deep end here, do include personal tidbits where you can that make these vows YOURS.
  • If you’re having trouble structuring your vows, feel free to look at examples to give you an idea of how you’d like to format yours.
  • Edit! Read and reread them (with breaks in between). Make sure you’re conveying the sentiments you want to convey, that you’re comfortable with how they sound, and that they’re not too long or too short. The Knot suggests a minute, two tops.
The Handoff

You’ve finalized your vows, and you have it legibly written out or printed. After all that work, don’t forget them on the big day! Give them to your officiant or coordinator before heading down the aisle. You don’t want to carry them down the aisle … or worse, forget to carry them down the aisle.

[Photo: Earl James Photography]

If you love the idea of writing your own vows, but aren’t fully comfortable with the process, there are other things you can do to personalize your ceremony. Work with your officiant to settle on your choice of vows, then find a reading you’d like to incorporate that is meaningful to you or symbolic of your relationship. You can either have a special wedding guest perform the reading, or you can have your officiant read it as part of your ceremony. Get inspired with this list of non-traditional readings from Brides!

Also, if you love the idea of writing your own vows but just aren’t comfortable reading them in front of your wedding guests, that’s okay too! Do a first look with your partner before the ceremony and read your personalized vows to one other in privacy. Then, read your traditional vows during your wedding ceremony. It’s the best of both worlds.

Did you write your own vows, or opt to do something more traditional? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!

<3 Kendal

 

 

 

 

Saying Yes to the Dress

I spent last weekend in Arizona with my family, which is always so much fun! This trip was a little different though – we had a very important task to tackle. My sister needed to find a wedding dress! Okay, she didn’t NEED to say yes to the dress that very weekend, but since it’s rare that us gals (me, my mom and sister) are all together, we definitely wanted to go dress shopping.

She had made two appointments, one at Brilliant Bridal East Valley and one at Luv Bridal in downtown Phoenix. The last time we were all together (Labor Day weekend 2017) we went to a shop and she tried a few things on, just to get a sense of shapes and styles she likes. So, going into it she had a general sense of what she wanted. Armed with a mimosa she picked out several dresses to try on, and we were off!

Ultimately at the first appointment she ended up with two dresses she really loved – very different styles. She was having a hard enough time deciding between the two dresses when she learned that you’re unable to place a hold on dresses on the weekends. Brilliant Bridal is a shop that sells overstock designer dresses, so you’re actually purchasing off the rack. That’s when panic set in. She ended up choosing her favorite of the two, but she wasn’t quite ready to commit to that dress before seeing what else was out there. She didn’t want to lose the dress either. What’s a girl to do?

Talyn and the team at Brilliant Bridal were so wonderful, and they really helped put it into perspective. They asked if she would be devastated if she were to walk out the door and the dress sold to someone else, or if she would be okay with continuing her search. They told her not to make a decision from a place of fear or panic. When you say yes to the dress it should be because you feel calm, 100% confident and happy. It should feel right! They told her, more or less, to take a deep breath and just walk out of the shop as if we were leaving. If gut instinct told her to turn around and buy the dress, go for it! But if she felt okay walking out the door and taking a moment to regroup, do that instead. We could always turn right around and head back to the shop.

We decided to take the breather, and it made a world of difference. We headed downtown for lunch and a libation at Mother Bunch Brewing, and then made our way to the second appointment. At first glance so many of the dresses had the exact look Kristin was going for. We weaved our way through the racks and found a lot of great options for her to try on.

She tried on dress after dress, and while she liked several of them, she didn’t LOVE any of them. None of the dresses gave her the glow that THE dress did. When we asked her if she liked dresses as she tried them on, more often than not we got a halfhearted “yeah…?”. A couple of hours into the appointment she asked us to see photos of herself in the other dress. That’s when she decided to call it quits at stop number two.

After giving them a call we learned the dress was still available, so we booked it back to Brilliant Bridal. She put the dress back on, and when she came out of the dressing room all three of us were in tears. It was THE dress, after all. She said yes to the dress!

Dress shopping is so much fun, but it can also be a little stressful! Here are some tips to keep in mind as you begin your search.

BE OPEN MINDED

When you begin your dress search, chances are you’ve never tried on a wedding gown before. You may have an idea of what you want, but until you actually start trying dresses on you have no idea what looks best on your body, or what gives you all the beautiful bridal feels. Keep an open mind! Try on styles you had in mind but pull a few that may surprise you or grabbed your attention, and let your consultant add some as well. Maybe you thought you wanted a princess style dress but you actually love the way a fit and flare hugs your curves, or vice versa. There’s no harm in trying it on!

SASH MAGIC

There’s a little thing I like to call “sash magic”. A sash or belt can make a dress look entirely different and can really complete the look! If you’re into a particular dress but feel it’s missing a little something, try it with a sash. Also feel free to try on your dress with accessories like hair pieces, veils or jewelry. It will help you to envision a complete look!

EXPRESS YO SELF

As Kristin was deciding between her two favorite dresses at stop number one, which were quite different, we heard a game changing statement. “A wedding dress is the most self-expressive dress you’ll ever wear”. At least I think that’s how she phrased it. So true! You should feel like yourself in your dress. Perhaps a fancier, more elegant, princessy, (maybe) white-clad version of yourself, but it should still feel like you. Whether it’s timeless and classic, sparkly, boho, romantic or a little sexy, let your personality shine through in whichever gown you choose. Don’t feel forced to choose something just because you think that’s what a bride ‘should’ wear or it’s how you ‘should’ look.

CONSIDER YOUR VENUE

While this isn’t the most important thing, do take into account where you’re getting married so your bridal look is cohesive with the locale. While Kristin’s wedding plans aren’t entirely nailed down after all, we do know that at least the ceremony will take place in Yosemite. Kristin wanted something that not only represented her personality but would be elegant in nature.

SQUAD GOALS

Give some thought to who you want to join you for dress shopping, and don’t feel obligated to invite every single one of your friends. We kept it small for Kristin’s dress shopping experience, which was perfect. If the process is intimidating as is, it can be even more difficult if you have a lot of opinions coming at you.

DON’T LISTEN TO THE OTHER BRIDES

We heard bride after bride at both appointments say yes to the dress in front of their posse – that cliché moment we’re all waiting for. If you’re not finding what you’re looking for or you’re having a hard time making a decision that can be a little frustrating to hear. Tune it out! Every bride is different. Never feel like you need to move forward with a dress because everyone else seems to have found theirs. Let’s face it, how often do you get to try on fabulous gown after fabulous gown? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking your time. Don’t feel pressured to make an impulse decision.

TAKING A BREAK BEFORE YES TO THE DRESS

When the tears become tears of panic rather than tears of joy and excitement, that’s your cue to take a break. You may think you’ve found the dress but you’re not 100% sure. There are a LOT of dresses out there, and it can feel overwhelming trying to find THE perfect one. I get it! If you make the decision from a place of panic, you may always regret it because you’ll wonder what else was out there and whether you made the right decision. We left the first shop, relaxed over lunch and went to the next appointment, and Kristin was so glad she did that. She was really excited about the second shop from the beginning and was so happy she followed through to look at their options. It also just affirmed the fact that she’d already found her dress!

A LITTLE PRIVACY GOES A LONG WAY

At the first shop we had a lovely little vignette of our own, so we could chat with Kristin about the dresses as she tried them on. Yes, there was another party at a spot nearby, but we still felt like we had privacy. At the second shop, while it was gorgeous, there was a stage with six pedestals facing the entire shop, and a small cluster of seating in front of each pedestal. There was no more than two feet between you and the next bride when showing off the goods. While she ended up simply loving another dress, it probably didn’t help that there was a lack of privacy. It was difficult to have conversations about the dresses and hear her feedback. When you’re narrowing down options where you’d like to shop, consider ambiance and privacy – they make a difference.

WHEN YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW

When you find the right dress, you’ll know (much like finding your soon-to-be spouse!). It’s a gut feeling. You’ll feel beautiful, amazing, comfortable and confident. If you keep thinking about a dress while trying others on, or if you never want to take it off, that’s your dress. While I urge brides to take their time rather than make a decision they’re uncomfortable with, I also urge you to say yes when you know it’s the one! It’s okay to say yes to the dress.

A FEW LAST THINGS
  • If you have a budget, be honest about it with your consultant. Unless you truly have wiggle room don’t bother trying on dresses that are totally out of range. Chances are you’ll fall in love with something you can’t have. And that’s no fun.
  • Don’t be intimidated by sizes – wedding gowns are sized differently, and you’ll wear a bigger size than you’re used to. It’s only a number! Size up rather than size down. You can always have a dress taken in, but it’s a hell of a time trying to let a dress out.
  • If the shop doesn’t have an in-house seamstress, get their recommendations on professionals they work with often and trust.
  • I think every bride asks her fiancé which style of dress they like before shopping. And even if your fiancé has an opinion, I think we can agree that your fiancé’s ultimate goal is for you to choose something YOU love, to have the best day ever, and to get married! Choose for you instead of anyone else.
  • Start your search about nine months in advance, especially if you tend to be indecisive. If you’re ordering a gown that will be made for you it will take several months before it even arrives at the store, and you need to consider the time you’ll need for alterations.
  • Check out off the rack options! This was my first experience doing this, and it was pretty awesome. Great designer dresses that may be overstocked or last season, yet brand new, at a much friendlier price point.
  • If you like certain elements of dresses but you’re just not finding it in a composed dress, create your own look. Don’t be afraid to try bridal separates, piecing a skirt with a top for the perfect look.

Know that every bride is different, and there’s no right or wrong way to shop. When I was shopping for my own dress, I went to one boutique and chose one of the first dresses I tried on (hey, I like fast, executive decisions). Kristin needed to see what else was out there before committing, and I know plenty of other brides who went to a dozen shops and tried on close to a hundred dresses. Exercise intuition in this process – enjoy it, and trust yourself.

[Here’s a photo of the happy bride after finding her dream dress!]

Do you have any other advice for brides going dress shopping for the first time? Please share your tips in the comments below!

<3 Kendal

DIY or Don’t?

So, you’re getting married. Congratulations! You might want to jump RIGHT into wedding planning, but I urge you to take your time. This is a super special and exciting time – be sure to slow down and enjoy it!

However, when you ARE ready to begin planning what’s sure to be one of the best days of your life, you have a lot of options out there. I mean, a LOT. So many great vendors to choose from, so many whimsical details you’d like to incorporate, so many people you’re trying to please … and all of those options cut right into your budget.

Fortunately, we now live in the land of Pinterest. Who knew what we did before that! But all of the tutorials on how to DIY absolutely everything under the sun can get in the way of logic, and it can be tempting to want to save money here and there by doing a lot of legwork yourself. Drawing inspiration from InStyle, The Knot and a few other trusty resources while adding my own two cents, I’ve compiled a list of things that are okay to DIY and a few things you should leave to the pros.

DIY Approved:

Escort Cards & Placecards

If you have the time, these are a very easy item to DIY! This project is usually something you can work on over time when you have a few hours here and there. It can be completed gradually, meaning it probably won’t add much stress to your plate. Depending on the intricacy of your design, usually all you need is a source for printing, great handwriting or calligraphy chops. If you are going the DIY route, be sure you’re not including a food item without a shelf life, fresh florals, herbs or greenery … you get the idea! It should be sustainable over time.

Menus

Similar to above, this one is pretty simple! No need to go to an expensive designer to create menus (unless your vision is elaborate). If you’re looking for a simple and tasteful menu you can print on your own, my recommendation is to head over to Etsy! There are tons of templates to choose from, which can be customized very quickly. Once the file is updated with your specific information and you’ve proofed it, you’ll be sent a file which you can easily print on own at home or at FedEx/Kinko’s. If you’re a little more design savvy, check out Canva! Extremely user friendly with a ton of templates to select from and the ability to make modifications, you can create exactly what you had in mind. You can even have printed through Canva.

Signage

Welcome signs, ceremony seating signs, sparkler sendoff signs, guestbook signs (and on and on…) are so simple to do yourself. Whether you’re going the chalkboard route, something printed and placed in a frame, acrylic or something entirely different, you can definitely keep costs down by doing this yourself.

Décor

It’s completely okay to work on décor yourself, without spending money on a visionary or rentals. Feel free to collect vases, votive holders, centerpiece additions and so on, and have those be incorporated into your day! Do not, however, expect to set the décor yourself, or even to have a family member or friend do so. The most important thing is for you to simply enjoy your day, but your family members and friends should be able to enjoy it too! Be sure your venue contact, coordinator or planner understands your vision, and make sure someone is designated as responsible for setting. Some couples are okay with creative liberties – handing over your décor items and trusting the person responsible to ‘make it look good’. Well, that’s our job – we do this because it’s something we are good at! If you aren’t one of those people though, and you have a very specific way you’d like your vision represented, feel free to do a mock up and take a picture so that person can replicate the look to a T.

Tip: If you’ve spent money on décor and formed a collection, and don’t care to keep it after the wedding, donate or sell it!

Baked Goods

I know what you’re thinking. This is a no-no. Generally speaking I would agree, but I have seen it be successful! There are a few stipulations to be mindful of though. First, I don’t expect YOU to be responsible for any baked goods. And while I just said family members and friends should be able to enjoy your day as well, and not be assigned tasks, there are a few instances where it’s possible. Before you even venture down this path, be sure your venue allows outside food and beverage. And make sure they allow it if it isn’t coming from a bakery. Next, are you thinking cake, assorted desserts, or both? Be real with your expectations. If you are doing a DIY cake it should be something small-scale and not anything elaborate (and you shouldn’t expect otherwise). If you only want a small cake for the cut, but you’re serving something else for dessert, this might work! If you want homemade desserts to be served with your cake (which you may have gotten from a bakery) I’d suggest making sure it’s someone who isn’t already intimately involved in the day, whether that’s an extended family member or family friend.

[I once worked with a visionary bride who incorporated a ton of DIY in her wedding. Cake just wasn’t a huge deal to her! Her cake, which was just the right size for a cake cut photo op, was made by her mom. She served other desserts to her guests, including cookies and milk and a late night cereal bar. It was amazing! Likewise, I once worked with a bride who got a beautiful cake from a bakery, but also wanted to serve assorted homemade miniature desserts along with it – think adorable rice krispy treats, strawberry tarts and such. A family member made those desserts, and the two combined were a hit.]

Favors

This one is another one that’s easy to do on your own. And in my experience, I would keep this simple and inexpensive. Sadly, favors are often forgotten at the end of the night, or not used (or consumed) by the guest even if they’re taken. It’s a wonderful gesture but if you’re being mindful of budget, money might be spent better elsewhere… like an end of night food truck or late night snacks!

 

Please Don’t!

Florals

This one is tricky. In theory it seems pretty easy to purchase flowers and create your own floral arrangements, bouquets or boutonnieres. However, flowers are temperamental, and this task is something that must be completed in the last few days leading up to your wedding, if not the actual day of. Think about your wedding week, and what you really want to be focusing your time and energy on in the last hours leading up to the big day. My guess is you’ll want to spend time with family and friends who have flown into town to celebrate with you, enjoying some R&R with your bridal party, and having a heck of a rehearsal dinner or welcome party to kick off the festivities. You probably aren’t going to want to spend your time cutting flowers, making arrangements, making sure they have the appropriate water or are kept chilled, and figuring out how on earth to transport them to your venue without killing them. Florals can definitely be pricy, but there are ways to leave this entirely to a pro while still keeping things budget friendly.

Tip: You don’t necessarily need huge, lavish arrangements on every table at the reception. Have a few focal arrangements which are larger, then keep it simple on the other tables. Go all out on your bouquet and work with your florist to get their recommendation for a low-cost flower for your bridesmaids. Once you nail down the flowers of choice, keep their bouquets on the smaller side. Florists work with a range of budgets, so be up front about which elements of the design are really important to you and figure out how to save a little elsewhere.

Photography

This one’s important! You have just one opportunity to capture the wonderful memories of your big day. You don’t get a redo. Don’t let a friend or a relative play photographer for you. While they may be talented, and it may be attractive to save a little here since it can be a big expense, I really suggest vetting out a professional photographer. And not only a professional, but someone who has a lot of experience with weddings in particular and great reviews from previous couples. Look at their work and make sure you like it. Make sure you like their style of photography as well. Twenty years from now I know you’d hate to look back at your wedding photos with terrible lighting, no photos of the special people and moments you wanted captured but a zillion of your dress, or even a lack of time spent editing. While photography is costly, it is SO, so worth it. Same goes with videography!

Entertainment

Music, specifically, is such an integral part of your day. It sets the tone, it maintains the flow, and it controls the energy. Maybe you have a friend who DJ’s on the side, or someone who has volunteered to click ‘play’ on a Spotify playlist (no, no, and no). Unless you’re asking someone who is musically gifted to sing or play a song as a special moment, don’t rely on friends or family to be in charge of the music. There are so many nuances throughout the day – there’s the welcome music, the processional, the bride’s processional, the recessional, cocktail hour music, announcements, first dances and toasts, cake cuts, bouquet throws and garter tosses, incorporating some oldies while making sure the youngins can get down on the dance floor… it’s a lot to manage. Leave it to a pro! It’s also tough because your friends want to have fun at your wedding and may not take their responsibilities as seriously as someone you’ve hired. Being on time, professional and diligent about fulfilling their promises are all important. You don’t want an MIA DJ who is near missing toasts because he or she hit the bar.

Tip: Give your DJ or band a list of ‘must play’ songs, the ‘do not play’ songs and the ‘okay to play if requested’. Check their timeline and your key song choices carefully to make sure it all looks accurate! Also be clear about how involved you want them to be with your guests, whether that’s minimal interaction, moderate interaction, or okay to be involved! At my own wedding, we were okay with involvement! We had both an emcee and DJ, and after the night got going we had them teach the crowd a couple of group dances, got our friends involved, and it was a blast. Some of our guests asked if they could fly them out for their own wedding!

Beauty

I KNOW you want to look like a million bucks on your wedding day. If your face or hair just aren’t cooperating that day (which as females, we all know happens!) imagine the tantrum and stress that will ensue as you try to coax your hair and makeup into submission. Sit back, relax, and allow a pro to take care of you. And make sure to do a trial before the day so you are comfortable with the look, and they know your expectations!

Tip: It’s not mandatory to provide these services for your bridal party, if you have one. You could offer to cover either hair or makeup, allowing them the option to ‘opt in’ for the second service. You could even allow the option to ‘opt in’ for both services, which lets them decide. Be clear about how much the service(s) cost and how much to expect for gratuity, so no one is left blindsided.

 

The consensus among multiple sources is that if it’s not something that can be done months in advance, it shouldn’t be done DIY. You’ll save yourself a lot of time (that could be spent doing much more meaningful things during this time!), energy and stress. The price tag of certain services isn’t always an easy pill to swallow, but in the long run the investment is so completely worth it. It’s important for you to be able to relax and enjoy your day.

Successes with wedding DIY, or horror stories of DIY gone wrong? Would love to hear about it in the comments!
<3 Kendal

Bring On The Bling: Brooch Bouquets

One of my favorite things about weddings are unique touches that have special meaning, which may not necessarily be evident just by looking at them. I can’t take credit for this one but wanted to share an amazing alternative to a traditional floral bouquet, the brooch bouquet.

A dear friend of mine got married a few years ago, and she LOVES sparkle. Whether it’s champagne, glitter, sequins, gold – she’s all about it. As for me, I like all of those things with the exception of glitter. I am a self-proclaimed glitterphobe (but will touch it if I have to for your wedding!). She knew she didn’t want a traditional bouquet of flowers. Instead she wanted to create something that not only represented her personality and her love of the shinier things in life, but something that was meaningful and would serve as a keepsake for years to come. She was going to create a brooch bouquet!

Brooch bouquets can be purchased or made in DIY fashion, and hers was hand created. There’s a handy tutorial here on The Knot, and the main items you’ll need are a styrofoam ball, spray paint (if you want to change the color of your styrofoam), a handle or wooden dowel, and … brooches!

Brooches can be curated a number of ways. Maybe you have family heirlooms you want to incorporate (in which case heed The Knot’s advice and be careful about how you’re securing them to the base), or maybe you’re hitting up antique shops or local jewelry/accessory stores. You can also find options on Etsy, eBay and Amazon, and keep in mind the size of your styrofoam base as you are gathering brooches to ensure you can cover the base almost entirely. If you aren’t able to cover the surface, you can also incorporate silk flowers.

Just as the how-to guide suggests, we used her bridal shower as a way to gather pieces for the creation. As her matron of honor, I included an insert with the invitation to the shower letting guests know she’d like each of them to have a special place in her bouquet on the big day, and to please secure ribbons and bows on their gift with a sparkly brooch.

It turned out wonderfully! There were so many special and unique pieces she was able to use for her bouquet, and the best part was that each fabulous lady who is special to her and was present at her bridal shower is now also forever ingrained in the wedding day and a part of this keepsake. It’s just an added bonus that her bouquet was blingy (insert hair flip emoji).

[Photos courtesy of KMitiska Photography]

If you want the sparkle and shine but aren’t into DIY, or the sentimental value isn’t as important to you, options are available on Etsy, Glam Bouquet or Clay Bouquet Shop to name a few.

Did you have a brooch bouquet for your wedding, or are you planning on creating one? Would love to see photos in the comments below!

<3 Kendal

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.

DON’T MAKE IT A NUMBERS GAME

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!

BRIDESMEN AND GROOMSGALS

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.

THINK IT THROUGH

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.

JUST THE TWO OF US

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!

SELECT FEW

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.

ALSO REMEMBER…

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.

OPTION ONE: A COURTESY ROOM BLOCK

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!

 

OPTION TWO: FULL CONTRACT WITH ATTRITION

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.

ONE VS. TWO

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!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

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.

GUEST LIST

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.

NON-NEGOTIABLES

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.

HERE COMES THE BRIDE

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.

DOLLA DOLLA BILLS Y’ALL

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 🙂

THE DAY YOU’VE ALWAYS DREAMED OF 

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.

DECOR, ENTERTAINMENT & DETAILS … OH MY!

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.

THE A-TEAM

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 GLAM…

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?

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION

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!

THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS WEATHER

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.

YOUR VENUE ROCK STARS

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!

WRITE THE CHECK

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