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Diary of a Wedding Planner, Part 3

Blue Chip Accounting

Blue Chip Accounting

I believe deeply that we should never stop learning. Learning who we are, learning how to handle life, learning to expand on what we know. It's because of this philosophy that--even though I already have my certification as a wedding planner--I am continuing to take classes. It was last January that I started my wedding and event planning course; how fitting it is that this January I am starting a whole new course... Except, this time, it's accounting.

"Uhm, yuck?" You might say. But I'm honestly very excited, because I think it will be refreshing to take a college class that I feel is immediately relevant to my life (unlike many of the GE college classes I've taken in the past). The class squeezes right into the last few months of the wedding off-season, so I won't have any wedding weekends until after finals, and the class ends right before April, when I'll have to do my taxes. Call me a nerd, but THOSE TAXES ARE GONNA BE DESTROYED once I know how to get everything organized! 

I'm also excited to make friends with other business-bound students. Coffee friends are wayyy awesome. 

Speaking of coffee friends, have I raved yet about this amazing network called The Rising Tide Society? It's this huge group of entrepreneurs, many of which are involved in the wedding industry, who believe in community over competition. This enables us to unite--even when we're in the same line of work--and learn from each other, complain together, rejoice together, work together on projects, and feel less alone, which is important when you're the only member of your work-at-home business like me. It has been such an asset to my growth as a business-owner that I find myself recommending it to every remotely business-y person I come across. Are you a business person? Oh my goodness. Please go Check it out

***

As an end of the week update, I'm happy to report that my accounting class is going very well. I enjoy the peers and the professor, and am already thinking about how to write up my businesses financial statements to make life easier on my tax-guy, come April. Everyone warned me going into the class that it would be the most boring mistake I could possible make, however, so far it's been very interesting. I attribute that mainly to its relevance to me now that I'm responsible for this kind of bookkeeping, but hey, interesting is still interesting. 

Business owners, I'd love to hear how you do your taxes! Do you know much about accounting? Let's start a discussion in the comments below!

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Diary of a Wedding Planner, Part 2

PC Engstrom Photography

PC Engstrom Photography

I'm so excited to kick off 2017 with a new, great, big business step forward! I'm going to launch a wedding product line! I can't give away the details just yeeeeet, but I've been conducting research, bouncing ideas off of my friends and family, and starting to gather items to be used for said products. Now that wedding season is officially over, and engagement season has begun, I have the time to re-brand myself a little bit in anticipation of this product line. Sheesh! Who knew that there was so much that went into making and selling stuff?

In other news, now that my December wedding is officially over (pictures coming as soon as the photographer releases them!) I am free to focus on the six other weddings I am in the midst of planning and coordinating. It's a lot of computer research, paperwork, and emails, which I really enjoy. I love the freedom of not having to pass my communication with clients and vendors by anyone else--such as a boss. It's just me! How crazy awesome it is to be able to call the shots. It saves so much time and keeps things organized, as information goes through less hands this way. 

I am also excited that as I work with more vendors, I am beginning to pull together a cohesive Preferred Vendors List, especially because it means there's a possibility of working with my favorite vendors more than once. I really love strengthening my relationships with great vendors, because it makes working with them during weddings organized, predictable, and enjoyable.

As a wedding planner, I sometimes feel as though other vendors worry I'm just there to tell them how to do their jobs. On the contrary, I don't want to have to do that--I have my own job to get done. Instead, I want to work with vendors who know how to do their jobs better than I even understand. Rather than worry they'll do it wrong, it's my dream (I'm serious, my DREAM!) to work with a group of vendors who can seamlessly work together to pull off a beautiful wedding. 

December is almost over! Uh, when did that happen? As this year inches near it's closing, I feel proud of what this business has accomplished in the seven months it's been around, and look forward to what 2017 will bring. Here's to growth in personal knowledge and experience, and to the happiness and success of all my clients' marriages. 

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Weddings: You Get Exactly What You Pay For

PC Skyline Trade Show Tips

PC Skyline Trade Show Tips

I don't mean to be a bummer here. I AM a budgeting specialist, after all. But in my (recent) experience, it has become exceedingly clear that you absolutely get what you pay for.

That being said...is it possible to find adorable Sweetheart Table Decor on sale at Target, Party City or on Amazon? Yes!

Is it possible to save money by DIY-ing wedding favors that would cost twice as much to pay a company to put together for you? Totally!

Is it even possible to catch the vendor you want to hire having a sale on the perfect package? If you're lucky! (Jump on that, by the way! That's great!)

BUT what you can't do is bargain-hunt your vendors. It's the difference between coupon-clipping at reputable stores who have the occasional sale, and regularly shopping at the Dollar Store. The stuff at the Dollar Store cost less, therefore, it is worth less. 

A great example can be made of a recent wedding that I had the pleasure of coordinating. The florist was a wonderful lady that I believe was honest and ethical, and who did more than her job to accommodate a bride who wanted more than she was willing to pay. The bouquets of roses were a little bruised on the tips, but looking at the pricing on the contract, I know it was due only to a severely limited budget. Even so, the bride was very upset that the vendor dared deliver such work, and tried to get a discount. The florist came to me later and explained how she felt her hands were tied behind her back. There was nothing she could do if she didn't want to pay more for the roses than the bride was paying her to make them.

I understand that when you're in the lower- or middle-class, the average wedding budget can seem like a lot more than it turns out to be when translated into Wedding. But unlike the bargains you can conger up on a shopping trip, vendors whose bills are paid by the people who book them cannot afford to let everyone who asks get 50% off. Especially considering that there are only so many weekends in a year, and only so many of those that they may be able to book, it is vital that vendors charge enough to live off of. Their work is valuable, and if you choose to hire a DJ or a Florist or a Photographer for your wedding, you're going to have to pay for the quality that you expect.

This is true because--of course--vendors with low prices do exist. But vendors with low prices don't charge low fees because they somehow need less to live off of. They charge what they charge because they are hobbyists, they are inexperienced, or because the products and services they are offering are low-quality, and don't cost them much time or money to produce. 

You get what you pay for. You pay a high price to a reputable hotel for an all-inclusive wedding? You get all-inclusive. Things will run smoothly, people will do their jobs well, and your good money will have been well-spent. But you pull together a team of vendors who charge next to nothing--and then you expect a wedding with all the bells and whistles--and you'll be disappointed. 

Certainly, low-budget weddings can and should exist. Everyone deserves to have a wedding! All I'm trying to point out is that you shouldn't expect your vendors to deliver products and services you clearly aren't paying enough for. If you have a low budget for flowers, then simply don't choose expensive, out-of-season flowers. If you have a low budget for food, invite less guests to maximize food costs, or consider a food truck. If you can't afford a DJ--maybe don't hire a DJ. Not every child's 12th birthday is the magnificent Bat Mitzvah with the three course dinner,  plethora of decorations and bouncy houses, and clown handing out balloons that you've heard of. It's the same with weddings. Throw the wedding that you can afford, instead of pretending--up until your wedding day, when it all becomes clear--that you're throwing the one you haven't actually financially invested in. 

I'm not trying to be harsh at all. It is just so vitally important to understand that prices on wedding services don't lie. You can't get it for less. You might be able to get something ELSE for less, but it will cost less because you will be getting less.

Anybody have relevant experiences to share in the comments below? I'd love your input! 

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Diary of a Wedding Planner, Excerpt 1

PC Shelley DeJager

PC Shelley DeJager

Dear Diary,

Before I started my business I felt that there was a large distinction between small businesses and large businesses. Trying to unpack why this is the case has been a very complex process for me for many reasons, but one of note is that when I was in the single digits of my life, my family started a business creating and selling beeswax candles, lip balm, and other natural products at farmers markets, boutiques, and online. My brothers and I learned from our parents the entire creation process of these products, along with the hustle of packaging and marketing. To me, we were a small business. I understood the importance of turning a profit, because the products we sold had initial costs and took time to put together, but I also knew that we weren't making much money based on the amount we sold each week. We eventually stopped producing and selling these products and closed our business; it was an invaluable experience for me, and I've since gone on to start multiple small businesses myself, but that initial experience gave me the impression that unless a business is huge, it is incapable of turning a sustainable profit. That is, one to live on.

At least, this was my opinion of businesses that sold products. Maybe this explains why I've gravitated forward the service industry instead of the product industry, since it becomes a matter of selling time and effort rather than a product that is the result of time and effort. For whatever reason, people will spend a lot more money paying for time and effort than they will for a product, which--I imagine--is partly because a product is only as valuable to its buyer as its benefits are. To its producers, however, it's price tag pays for the wage of workers, the cost of the product's parts, the costs of marketing and business, and a little extra to make it all worthwhile for the business owner. Two very different perspectives on the item's cost that will only sell sustainably if both seller and buyer consider the same cost to be reasonable. 

Maybe it's not so different as I make it out to be, though. In many ways, being in the business of selling my services, I am the product people are buying. The stakes are higher this way, since unsatisfied customers will be directly unsatisfied with me; however, it connects the value of my clients' money to a person, and it forces them to understand that business is...well, personal. I am a person. The effort that I make has human constraint, and is limited by the fact that--as a person--I have a personal life in addition to my business. 

Being a small business owner, I am not branded enough that--like Target, or Krispy Kreme, or Clark Pest Control--when you think about me, you imagine a business made up of effective products, professional phone answering services, or locations characterized by standard logo colors and lit up text above the doors. The reality of my business is that it's just me. I work on my computer. I designed and run my website myself. I take my Instagram pictures, choose the filters, and think of my own captions and hashtags. I answer all of my business phone calls, texts, and emails; I pay for the gasoline that it costs my car to meet with my clients, and I write it off as a business expense on my taxes. I do my work at my desk when I'm home, on my phone when I'm out, or on site with clients, and I do it simultaneously with my private everyday life.

Amidst all of this meshing of business and personal life I have felt that I struggled to keep my personal and professional lives in separate boxes. Sure, I lived in the same place that I worked, but if other brands could keep things clear of any evidence that it was run by imperfect people, why couldn't I? 

And that's the punchline, everybody.

Every business is run by imperfect people.

Nothing about it is actually mechanical--the Trader Joe's that my boyfriend used to work at is always stocked with well-organized, priced, and labeled food during open hours, but delivery trucks--driven by people--come after closing and deliver food for the next day that is unloaded and restocked by people--people who are ready for their shifts to end so they can go home to their personal lives. 

This last Black Friday, everybody shopped, trashed aisles, and stood in long lines for checkout that were controlled by employees who probably would rather be sleeping, but have expenses their jobs need to pay for. The traffic that we faced trying to get places this holiday were filled--from bumper to bumper--with mere people. The Trader Joe's employee behind the car of a business owner, behind the car of someone who just lost his job, behind the car of a woman in labor trying to get to the hospital, behind the bus of dozens with individual stories, grievances, and joys. 

My point is that large businesses and small businesses are separated only by sophisticated marketing techniques dependent on keeping the buying and selling process impersonal, because this keeps the focus on the product and the buyer's need for the product. It plays on human self-centeredness to encourage people to spend money on themselves. It's a brilliantly successful strategy that has tricked buyers into believing that the needs that their purchases are meeting are being met by money, and not people earning this money.

Do you see my point? Big businesses are like plastic to buyers. They're just businesses, as if businesses can run themselves. They maintain professional, impersonal, robotic brands that have tricked us all, and they've given us small businesses the false impression that we must maintain the same plastic branding to get the same official stamp of realness. To feel that we have grown from a "small business" to a "large business" from more than just the brackets on our tax paperwork. 

The difference between general blog posts and personal diary excerpts is that the blog posts have to have a point. This doesn't really, although that doesn't prevent it from having meaning to me. Having been trained in marketing, I understand the branding and marketing process to a far enough extent that I shouldn't have been fooled for so long about this--that the authenticity of a business isn't dictated by my ability to be impersonal while working. It is personal.

Yesterday my client texted me asking if I would help her order a product on Amazon ASAP and I told her I would have to do it after I finished Black Friday shopping. I ended up working on and completing the task between stores on my phone. My client said she totally understood, and I was happy to help her the moment I could--but I felt that the situation forced both of us to acknowledge the nature of my job, and how all over the place it can make my life sometimes.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my job, and I chose it specifically because I enjoy connecting personally with people that I work for, and I enjoy working during unusual business hours as the behind-the-scenes orchestrator of weddings. My job is perfect for me, and I gladly let it consume the majority of my time. 

What I have realized and decided, however, is that the nature of my job as a business owner requires not that I make my brand another, plastic corporate operation, but that I keep it manageable as a lifestyle. And given that the bulk of my work as a wedding planner includes clear communication, healthy and compassionate relationships, delegation skills, and teamwork, I would argue that keeping things honest and relational is absolutely necessary. 

Is that really so unprofessional and bad? I think that clients WANT to hire a wedding planner that they can connect with. They're going to share with me--over the course of the months, sometimes years, that we work together--personal concerns and aspects of their lives that they will desire and need me to respond with empathy, relatability and humor to. They need responses like, "I love that idea! That sounds like so much fun!", "I understand that feeling, I've felt that at X time in my life too. It's totally normal, don't worry.", and "It's okay that you're fifteen minutes late! I know how stressful life can get." 

This works for me. I find, to my utter joy, that my clients will extend the same grace to me as well, like when my client yesterday understood that I was Black Friday shopping, and told me to have a great time. The relationships I build with my clients become ones of mutual respect, patience, and honest enjoyment. The client I spoke with yesterday is a wonderful woman getting married next week, and we are both sharing in the excitement of it together. It's not just a job to coordinate her wedding for me, but a personal investment, because I WANT her wedding to be beautiful and perfect. I bought her and her fiance a wedding gift, and I feel sad that in a week we will be done working together trying to find deals on centerpiece flowers and backdrop curtains.

Wedding coordinator to bride, she is my client, and I am professional. But woman to woman...I kind of want to go to coffee with her sometime.

Will I ever? I'm not sure, but it makes me happy knowing I have these kinds of relationships with people that I work with on a regular basis. I know I'm very lucky to have such a pleasant working environment. 

I love my job. I LOVE my job. Here's to staying personal and keeping the hustle real.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

~ MaKenna 

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11 Questions You Might Forget To Ask Your Venue (Before Booking)

This list doesn't need much description. Sometimes the venue search is too exciting to remember all of those important questions. Not to worry! The questions below are commonly forgotten, so if you go over these, and remember the basics, you should be golden.

PC Belle The Magazine

PC Belle The Magazine

1) Do you have any discounts if I book on a day other than Saturday?

2) How many people can this location accommodate?

PC The Knot

PC The Knot

3) Do you require that I use your caterer?

4) Are there alcohol restrictions, or corkage fees?

PC Pinterest

PC Pinterest

5) What's the weather contingency plan (for outdoor venues)?

6) Are their music volume restrictions my DJ will need to be aware of?

PC WeddingWire

PC WeddingWire

7) Is there ample parking?

8) Are there any hidden fees like service fees, gratuities, cleaning fees, or overtime fees?

PC Chaine Des Rotisseurs

PC Chaine Des Rotisseurs

9) Are there any decor limits? (Such as lit candles?)

10) Are there any photo restrictions?

PC Brides

PC Brides

11) Who will be available during the event to direct us? 

Wanna know more about why these questions are important to ask? Check out the video below for my personal explanations.

Did you find these questions helpful? Have one to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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5 Things To Do BEFORE Choosing Your Venue

PC Karma Hill

PC Karma Hill

Everybody seems to think that the FIRST thing you do after getting engaged and begin the planning process is book your venue. While it certainly is smart to get it figured out right away, choosing it before deciding on anything is a huge mistake. Venue deposits generally aren't refundable, and generally represent a fairly large portion of your budget, so this isn't something you want to mess up on...

As a wedding planner, I've worked with clients who chose and booked their venue before understanding what they wanted the very essence of their wedding to be, and it forced them to adapt many of the big details they would've changed otherwise to match their venue. It makes me frustrated that couples who believe they need a planner don't think it's necessary to work with a planner to find their venue also. Trust me on this--there's a little more to it than just finding a space that you like that you can afford!

In hopes of improving others' experiences with venues, I've written out the top 5 things to do BEFORE choosing your venue. These things are so important to work through FIRST that I can promise the couples who go through this list and do the work a much happier experience with their venue choices throughout the entire planning process. 

Ready?

PC lesanella.com

PC lesanella.com

#1 - Decide on Your Wedding Theme

Why? It doesn't make sense to book a barn for your reception if you are still thinking about a beach-themed wedding. Barn screams rustic, country, romantic, while beach says luau, chill vibes, and BBQ. Choosing a theme dictates what the desired atmosphere of your venue should be, and understanding that desired atmosphere as you look through venues will make the task of choosing much easier. Either it fits, or it doesn't. The bonus of choosing a venue that matches your theme means that you won't have to over-decorate to make your venue and theme marry (gasp! wedding pun!). If they're the right match, they'll work together perfectly just as they are, and isn't that better?

PC Your North Country

PC Your North Country

#2 - Create Your Guest List

Since invites don't generally go out before 6-8 weeks before the big day, it might not seem obvious that you should have the guest list hammered out now--but it is so important! Venue rooms have a guest limit, so if you book a venue that fits just 100 heads, you can't add another 50 to your guest list after your mother comes to you with more names! 

Here's your Handy Dandy Guideline:

- For the ceremony, you should have about 6 square feet per guest.

- For the banquet tables, there should be about 12 square feet per guest.

- For the dance-floor, there should be about 8 square feet per guest.

Follow these guidelines and you'll be golden!

PC Coco Wedding Venues

PC Coco Wedding Venues

#3 - Understand Your Wedding Budget

This determines what you can spend on your venue! If you book a venue for $5,000 without realizing that your total wedding budget is $10,000, you just spent a (generally non-refundable) 50% of your budget on your location! That's not much wiggle room...

PC Bridebox Wedding Albums

PC Bridebox Wedding Albums

#4 - Decide What Other Kinds of Vendors You Will Hire

This is important not only so you can understand where you stand with your budget, but to understand how to accommodate your vendors needs...

Are you booking a DJ? You need to know--is there room for his DJ booth? Are there ample electrical plugs near the dance-floor? Will that booth fit around other tables you'll need such as the cake table, the consumption bar, the gift table, etc.?

Are you booking a caterer? Do they need a commercial kitchen or will they set up shop outside? If they set up outside, does the venue permit this? Is there an area where they can do this without being right in everyone's view?

Are you booking a florist who will need to arrange flowers on-site? They will need a corner during the morning of the wedding to do this without disturbing anyone. Will they get early access to the room?

These are all questions to keep in mind as you consider venues! Don't do yourself or your vendors the disservice of overlooking these details.

PC Harper's Bazaar

PC Harper's Bazaar

#5 - Create a Basic Outline of Your Wedding Week Schedule

You might know you're getting married on a specific Saturday, so that's obviously the day you'll book, but did you make sure the venue is also available the day before for your rehearsal? You'd be shocked at how few couples think about this! Additionally, think about whether you'll need to be at the venue any other times before the wedding, and confirm with the venue manager that this is okay. You should especially be aware of when your decor and rentals will need to be delivered and set up. The venue will need to accommodate these vendors. (Late set up presents a whole new host of problems!)

Your wedding day schedule is also important to be aware of as you look at the actual building layout of your venue. If you have your wedding at the same venue in two different areas for the ceremony and reception, consider whether moving the crowd from one room to another other will present any technical difficulties. If there are other weddings or events going on the same day, is it possible your guests might end up in the wrong reception room? Don't let it happen!

Have any tips to add? Don't hesitate! Add them in the comments below!

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More About That Wedding Dress!

I recently put the video embedded above up on YouTube. It is the first of three videos documenting the many hours of my life I spent sewing away at a wedding dress for a photo shoot. You can read more about that photo shoot here! I am very excited about getting my feet wet in the YouTubing world and hope that you will stop by sometime, watch a couple videos, and maybe like and subscribe. 

If you're remotely interested in sewing, clothing design, pattern making, or weddings in general, clicking on the video above is the perfect way to start!

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Three Things to Remember When Wedding Planning Gets Tough

PC pinterest.com

PC pinterest.com

The wedding industry is one not just of weddings, but of (very loud) opinions. Certainly the abundance of strong opinions is not a quality isolated only to the wedding industry, but it is one that I, and presumably others too, were surprised to find when first poking our heads through the industry's door. It would appear that--pretty often--the romantic, carefree feelings associated with wedding bells are not as present as the tricky guest-list etiquette, pressure to follow new wedding trends, and family's eager vendor suggestions seem to be. Wedding planning easily becomes expensive, overwhelming, and even conflicted very quickly... I get it. But hey--it doesn't have to be that way!

This post is written in with deep empathy, and with the hope that the following three suggestions will empower and encourage those who feel cornered by wedding planning complications.

PC prezi.com

PC prezi.com

1) Expect and embrace that there will be conflict.

Be ready for it. Everyone has an opinion, and there will be so many of them that are so diverse that even the most people-pleasing bride will have to choose between some. That's okay--let me repeat myself on this one--conflict is normal, and should not surprise you. Not everyone's tastes or experiences match yours, nor should they; and while you now know that after reading this, keep in mind that not everyone consciously registers that wedding ideals differ. Furthermore, remember that many people consciously have no idea what kind of pressure or expectations their opinions may put on those around them. Do give people the benefit of the doubt here.

Here's how you deal with it: don't let it pressure you. Take it in stride. Definitely don't try to appease others wishes by letting them design your wedding for you; be gracious, but be firm. Be willing to say when necessary, "That's a really lovely idea! Actually, my fiance[e] and I were thinking we'd do [different idea] instead. Here, let me show you a picture!" 

At the same time, keep in mind that these are relationships that will exist post-wedding, so it's not worth it to permanently cut ties over something as temporary as cupcake flavors or reception playlists. Should a relational issue come up that is not solvable with a bit of insistence, consider compromising for the sake of the relationship. Sometimes you'll have opportunities to meet halfway. For instance, let's say your cousin is allergic to chocolate, but your fiance[e]'s favorite cake flavor is chocolate. So serve chocolate cake in most of your cake layers, but have one layer in a flavor you know your cousin prefers. This compromise is a great way to show how much you appreciate your cousin and want him to enjoy the wedding as much as you do. 

Compromise is key, but you can't bend every time your new mother-in-law insists upon having something her way, because this relational pattern is bound to continue post-wedding. And post-wedding, the issues being insisted upon will likely be more important, and you may have an even greater difference of opinions on them. (For instance, parenting.) All things considered, perhaps establishing during wedding planning the kind of steadfastness you will need later on will improve your relationships for the long-haul. Handling delicate issues with this in mind will also put disagreements over things like cupcake flavors in perspective. 

PC goodhousekeeping.co.uk

PC goodhousekeeping.co.uk

2) Forget about following trends.

Do you like the recent wedding trends? If so, go ahead and do them all! But if you don't, then please, please don't have a trendy wedding if it isn't you. This wedding you're planning should be the ultimate expression of who you and your special somebody are. Just because naked cakes like the one pictured above have been trending for the last couple of years doesn't mean you too must have one. Get the cake you want. This cake is for you, not Pinterest. Having a trendy wedding can get expensive fast, especially if your decor becomes competitive with magazine pictures--or the wedding your sister had last summer. Be mindful about why you make your wedding decisions and ask yourself the following questions:

1) "For whom/why am I making this decision?"

2) "Is that what is best, or is there a cheaper/easier/better/different way to do it?"

3) "Does it match my and my fiance's personal tastes?"

4) "Will I look back and wish I had made a different decision?"

Move forward based on those answers, keeping potential conflict in consideration, and knowing that the more bells and whistles you throw in based on what's trending, the more expensive things will become. 

PC brides.com

PC brides.com

3) Remember your guests.

I used to feel strongly that wedding decisions ought to be made based solely on the tastes of the marrying couple--that is until I started to read Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette. Early on in the book it expresses the opinion that the wedding reception is a celebration of the happy couple's marriage as well as their valued relationships with all of the guests. This idea struck me as very balancing, since I see a lot of complaints online about how couples have poorly hosted their guests, who--on some occasions--have traveled, booked hotel rooms, and taken time off of work to make it to the wedding. It seems appropriate to thank them for their investment in the couple. 

Before I go on, I want to clarify what I'm NOT saying: 

1) "Weddings are all about the guests."

2) "The bride and groom have to spend a lot of money on their guests."

We clear? So here's what I AM saying:

A reception is a great opportunity for the bride and groom to thank their guests for their involvement in their lives by hosting a reception designed in part to pamper their guests.

Try not to think of the wedding in terms of money. Or heads in a banquet hall. Try to think of it in terms of an party with your dearest friends and family--even when price tags tempt you to think otherwise. You absolutely don't have to choose the most expensive food options or fancy dance-floor lights in order to communicate your sincerity, either.

When creating your budget, it's important to figure out what you and your fiance[e]'s priorities are. You each can list out your top five priorities, and then each come up with two ways through which you can treat your guests in a way that says "thank you" for their support and involvement in your lives. From there, compare lists and see where your priorities match. Try to consolidate both lists to one smaller one listing 5-6 of your top priorities, and do the same with your guest thank you list. The things on those lists are your big ticket items, and the things you choose to treat your guests with are where you can focus your attention without spending every penny you have. 

For instance, instead of spending money on food, an expensive cake and dessert table, alcohol, a DJ, entertainment, and a massive dance floor setup, choosing to treat your guests mainly to a great dinner and a generous consumption bar will make for happy, comfortable guests. They won't mind a smaller cake and dance-floor as long as their bellies are well taken care of. HINT: drinks make for a cheerful crowd that will happily dance anywhere. 

 

Obviously, there are other tough issues that come up with wedding planning that these three points don't cover. But these three suggestions do have the potential to minimize stress and drama during the planning process. By being ready to handle conflict, being focused on designing the wedding you want--regardless of what the magazines say,--and keeping your guests' happiness in mind, you'll be well on your way to planning a wedding that has something in it for everyone. 

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What You Need To Know About Catering

(PC reakitchenrentals.com)

So you have 200 guests invited to your wedding, and you want to know what you need to know about feeding them. A sit-down restaurant is possible, but definitely a challenge with 200 guests. If you're going for catering, you have two options: pay someone to figure everything out for you, or save some bank by doing the proper food-sleuthing yourself.

Since I've been in the catering business myself, maybe I can help.

Calculate A Proper Costs Per Head

It's hard to imagine that $2,000 might not be enough to feed your crowd, but just think about it. 200 guests x $10. You can barely get a plate of food at a good restaurant for $10 as it is. At weddings, between $12-20 is commonly allotted per head. Get familiar with that term too, because your caterer will use it, and expect you to know that it simply means per person, and therefore per meal. There isn't really a way around this one. If you're looking to save money, consider a morning wedding where brunch is served--muffins, fruit, coffee, and lighter fare--that may cost considerably less. 

Here's the thing about costs per head though--it's not just the entree that costs money. A good slice of cake--including cupcakes--costs around $5 as a starting point. If you have a dessert table as well, this can rack up some serious bills, and needs to be taken into account in the budget early on. If you're serving drinks at your wedding, that's another cost--wine, beer, mixed drinks, bar-tending...even just coke or lemonade can add up, so keep that in mind. To save money here, consider bakery chains like Nothing Bundt Cakes who sell small bundtinis or their larger bundt cakes in tiers for much less than the average designer bakery. Maybe a dessert bar isn't necessary. Provide drink tickets in the invitations to your guests to indicate there is a limit to the free alcohol, and then provide a cash bar for after their tickets are used.

As a last detail, make sure you're budgeting for tableware, because chairs, linens, chargers, glassware, and silverware are going to cost money too. Saving money in this area may be easier than you think--pay for an all-inclusive venue that includes tableware, or find a catering company that provides tableware with their catering services.

Be Aware of Food in Season

When certain fruits are in season at the grocery store, they're always much cheaper to buy than fruits that are out of season. It works the same with catered foods. If your wedding is in the winter, do a bit of research and find foods that are specifically in season to make sure the fresh apricot sauce you want on all of your pork chops isn't going to be three times the price it would've been in spring. 

Be aware of Changing Food Prices

When I worked in catering, my boss complained all the time about how food prices fluctuate on a weekly basis. Remember last year when all of these chickens in California got sick and egg prices more than doubled in most grocery stores? That was a drastic price fluctuation, but stuff like that happens, and it's part of why many caterers have disclaimers saying things like "Food prices subject to change without notice." Be aware of this and leave some wiggle room in your food budget so you don't deal with any last-minute cost per head surprises. 

Know that Catering is Hard

When I catered, I had a really neat boss whose main theme in life seemed to be "recycle everything." Not only did this mean she saved a lot of money on food for herself and her clients, but it meant that we had to be creative with what food we prepared. I once watched my boss turn a half-demolished, stabbed-to-death Costco chocolate sheet-cake into a decadent chocolate bread-pudding that wowed everyone. One time we had to prepare tofu in a way that was gluten-free, dairy-free, Kosher-friendly, and vegetarian, and I remember fumbling through the kitchen pantry and finding gluten-free bread mix, and bringing it to my boss to use for binding the tofu. We rolled it into balls and fried it, and it was amazing. We had soooo much freedom, but we used that freedom to create food that perfectly suit our client's needs. Because we had that freedom to figure the details out ourselves, I believe we did a better job than we would've been able to do had our client micromanaged the process.

That said, when you hire a chef, hire someone you can really trust, and communicate to them exactly what you want, but then...give them the freedom to call some shots. Chances are they probably know food better than you, and can make things work out better than you could have planned anyway. 

Feel uncomfortable about this? Give your chef your vision, have him/her work their magic, and then ask to try the food beforehand. This will give you a concrete idea of then product you know you are purchasing, and it may clear up any misunderstandings long before they would become an issue. For example, some people's interpretation of "roasted" is someone else's "burnt" (*cough* roasted marshmallows *cough*).

Be Consistent With Your Order

When I catered, I remember feeling a constant awe when I watched a crowd of people demolish in forty-five minutes what took weeks to plan and days to prep. You order a salad for 200 people with all of the fixings julienne-cut delicately atop your fresh leafy greens? That's like 4 hours of washing, chopping, and packing for one person, and even more for plating if it's not a buffet.  

With that in mind, I want to be your chef's advocate--don't change your mind at the last minute on a really important detail. You decide you want caviar instead of scallions atop your clams two weeks before? Fine. But don't decide you want your chicken stuffed with ham and Swiss instead of marinated in teriyaki the day before your wedding. Your caterer may tell you he can do it, but he's saying that through gritted teeth and an incredible headache. Besides, last minute changes will cost you more money because the ingredients for the original plan have most-likely already been purchased, and may still be charged to you for inconvenience. 

 

Finding a caterer and creating a meal-plan can be stressful work, but by using the information from this post, hopefully the process smooths itself out a bit. If you're overwhelmed with the planning process, talk to a wedding or event planner such as myself; we are here to make things easy!

What are some of the issues or solutions you have come across during your catering experiences? Do you have any caterers you'd like to recommend? Comment away!

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Troubleshoot That Event!

PC Huffington Post

PC Huffington Post

Story-time! A client was telling me this week about how things at her wedding years ago got a little too heated for her taste. Her father-in-law was taking photos, and was one of those really traditional character who wear dress shirts with gathered sleeve cuffs and a whole lot of buttons (a lot like the outfits poor Ron Weasley was haunted with by his overzealous mother at Christmas time)... As he took pictures, he got a little too close to a nearby candle, and in one puff, his sleeve was...toast. Just as he began to scream that he was on fire, the bride, without thinking, put the fire out by snuffing the burning cuff with her bare hands, only to sustain some very painful burns. For the rest of the night, her hands took turns being dunked into ice water. 

Not necessarily the most enjoyable wedding, but certainly a laughable story to tell the kids years later. As unusual as a fire fiasco at a wedding may be, general mishaps are not. In fact, I like to say that problems are an event's most-likely unwelcome guests, since they show up where they are least-expected, and definitely least needed. Catching one's ancient sleeves on fire might not be preventable with anything other than the wearer's own caution, but many other common mishaps are. So without further ado, here are the top fivw most-likely event mishaps, and how you can prevent them. 

#1: The cake falling

Prevention Tips

Have the bakery deliver the cake; they know how to transport it better than anybody.

- When signing your contract with your baker, make sure there's an agreement that if the cake falls upon delivery at the fault of the bakery, there is a satisfactory percentage of the price refunded.

- When the cake arrives, make sure the cake stays at room temperature or colder, according to the baker's recommendations. Some frostings can hold up better than others, but the frosting is the glue holding that cake together! Help it out!

- Don't let anyone touch the cake til it's time to cut it, and for goodness sake, be careful! Don't be the bride in the picture above.

- In anticipation of a cake disaster, have your planner scout out local bakeries ahead of time who's cupcakes can be purchased to replace the original within an hour of a mishap.

#2: Rain!

Prevention Tips

- If there's ANY significant chance of rain, get a tent, or get an indoor venue. It's not worth the risk of soaking wet guests and a ruined, possibly muddy dress.

- Find out what the venue's policy on rain is, and inquire about umbrellas. If they don't offer umbrellas, and if you don't have a tent, and won't consider one, PLEASE invest in renting umbrellas for your guests. They will be very grateful.

#3: Surprise Guests

Prevention Tips 

- Make sure you're clear about whether guests can bring their significant others as +1's.

- Delegate the job of following up with guests who have yet to RSVP to whoever will get the job done. Make every effort to contact silent invitees to ensure an accurate turnout at your wedding.

- Pay for a couple extra plates of food and have some extra seats at tables set, just in case. If nothing else, don't pack your tables too close, and have a few extra chairs available to fit into tables as necessary.

#4: A Tardy/No-Show Vendor 

Prevention Tips

- Find vendors--or hire a reliable planner who will find vendors for you--who are reliable and have good reviews.

- Have your planner create a schedule that allows buffer time. For example, if the catering needs to arrive to begin setting up by 4pm, tell them to arrive by 3:30pm instead. Better to give everyone extra time to set up than to have too little.

- So what happens if a vendor doesn't show up at all? If you've purchased wedding insurance, sometimes the cost of finding a last minute replacement is covered. Look into what your insurance offers coverage on.

- No matter what, have your planner create backup plans for every scenario. Catering doesn't show up? Your planner should have created Plan B, where a pre-decided restaurant can deliver emergency food, be it pizza or Chicken a la Carte. It can be done; it just takes a savvy planner. 

#5: Not Fitting into Your Dress

Prevention Tips

- First of all, DO NOT buy a dress in a size that does not fit you. It will cause you undue stress trying to fit into it as your wedding day draws nearer, and runs the risk of a new emergency dress being needed.

- If you want to lose weight for your wedding, buy/rent a dress in your current size, and as you get closer to your wedding day, if you've lost weight, get the dress altered to fit you. Dresses can be taken in, but there is very little that can be done to take a dress out to make it bigger. 

 

These are only some of the many things that can happen at a wedding. I imagine that almost anything you can think up has happened at some wedding in history. What are some wedding disasters that you've encountered, and how were they fixed? Were they preventable? Comment down below! 

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