Viewing entries tagged
wedding planning

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Katie and Shariff ~ Allied Art Guild Wedding

Last week I had the privilege of coordinating an absolutely STUNNING wedding at Menlo Park's Allied Arts Guild. A hidden gem in the middle of a lovely neighborhood, Allied Arts is an enormous garden with small artist shops in nooks and crannies throughout. What a beautiful day!

The gift table. Engagement photo by www.typentecostphotography.com.

The gift table. Engagement photo by www.typentecostphotography.com.

Sparkler Sendoff!

Sparkler Sendoff!

The Ceremony Aisle (Merner Green).

The Ceremony Aisle (Merner Green).

Look at the detail in this archway! Floral by www.bellevuefloralco.com.

Look at the detail in this archway! Floral by www.bellevuefloralco.com.

Cocktail Hour.

Cocktail Hour.

Reception tables (Sunset Patio).

Reception tables (Sunset Patio).

Getting Ready. Videographer: www.cmslowmotion.com.

Getting Ready. Videographer: www.cmslowmotion.com.

The wedding cake.

The wedding cake.

Guests eating dinner on the patio.

Guests eating dinner on the patio.

Signage by www.bellevuefloralco.com

Signage by www.bellevuefloralco.com

The Dance Floor (Sunset Room).

The Dance Floor (Sunset Room).

Reception Centerpieces (www.bellevuefloralco.com).

Reception Centerpieces (www.bellevuefloralco.com).

Looking forward to the next few weddings on my calendar this summer! Stay tuned for more.

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Spring Wedding Gallery

Last week was a dream! It was the first wedding I coordinated to kick off the season and it was so wonderful. My clients and I have been planning their wedding for nearly a year now, and to see it finally come together was beautiful.

Here are some of the photos captured by Tyler Rodrigues, the fabulous florist.

The Sweetheart Table

A Groomsman's Boutonnierre 

The Bride's Bouquet

The Bridal Party's Bouquets

The Banquet Table Setup

The Beautiful Ceremony Arbor

The Reception Banquet Room

My next wedding is in just a couple of weeks, and I am so excited to share more photos as soon as they are captured.

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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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Let's Put Our Hands Together for All-Inclusive Venues

PC Le Bam Studio

PC Le Bam Studio

I've been on the hunt for a venue for some clients recently, and I've run into numerous all-inclusive venues with some tempting offers.

All-inclusive venues can be known for taking advantage of clients by requiring that certain services--such as catering and alcohol--be purchased in addition to just the venue, else you pay some meal and corkage fees. They get a bad wrap for being expensive...but as I researched and compared pricing for independent vendors vs. all-inclusive venues, it began to appear that the all-inclusive venue might actually be the better deal...

1) Less Vendors to Keep Track Of

How convenient would it be to make a couple of large payments, rather than a dozen or more small ones to pull your wedding together? Imagine how much fewer emails you'll have to manage, consultations you'll have to attend, and wedding liability issues you'll avoid altogether if your venue is handling the food, the bar, the chairs and tables, your decor... All you'll have to do is bring in a photographer, officiant, DJ, and a few other vendors and you're be set!

2) Less Set-Up and Tear-Down to Manage

When your venue provides everything that involves any kind of set-up or tear-down, it means that they are responsible for doing just that. This means you won't have to rent your venue for the hours it would take to set up and tear down, and you or your coordinator won't have to be there for set-up and tear down. How convenient!

3) Less Staff To Pay

One of the reasons all-inclusive venues are on the pricier side is due to the fact that these venues have a larger staff to pay to be present for the duration of your event than a venue that doesn't offer extra services would. Because of this, you're not just paying for the use of a space, but the hourly wage of a dozen or so staff's time. How much staff would independent vendors also add up to, though? Rentals and catering alone require a group of people, as does floral decor... Additionally, the staff at this venue are trained and experienced to work at that particular location, and will most likely do a better job at solving and preventing common problems, ensuring things run smoothly, etc. 

In the end, how much more would your all-inclusive venue cost? Of course, in some cases, venues are just very pricey; but if you find the ones within your price-range, and compare them to the costs of paying independent vendors, you might be surprised at how little a difference there is in favor of the vendors. 

On a budget? That doesn't rule out all-inclusive venues, guys! Do some exploring, and you might be surprised at the great deals you'll find!

Oh, and my favorite venue site right now? https://www.wedding-spot.com/

You'll thank me later.

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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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A Beautiful May Wedding

Earlier this year I had the privilege of arranging the flowers for a friend's wedding with my mom, who has an eye for color and is very artistic. I'm so excited to throw it back this Friday to some pictures that the photographer recently shared with me! 

My mom and I arranged and created the five hair pieces worn by the bridesmaids and maid of honor uniquely--that is to say, we kept the same color scheme by using similar flowers for each hair piece, but didn't bother to replicate anything. Each one is a little different, which made them more fun for my mom and I to put together, and for the wedding party to choose which hair piece they wanted to wear. 

The wedding was at the groom's parents' house in the country, which made a for a beautiful outdoor wedding, and which made wild flowers a natural choice for the bouquets.

The couple, Spencer and Michaela, met in high school, and were best friends before they began dating. I love when couples get the opportunity to grow up together. It makes their love story that much sweeter to me because they know deeply not only who the other person is, but who they have been throughout their lives.

Besides the hair pieces, booutonnieres, corsages and bouquets, we also put together the ceremony and reception decor, which the bride wanted to keep simple with mason jars, twine, and individual flowers. It made for a very easy, but fun job!

It was a beautiful wedding for a beautiful couple, and I am proud to have been involved in it. Show out to Engstrom Photos for sharing the album with me!

 

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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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The Wedding Gown: A Finale

Today is the rehearsal for a wedding happening tomorrow, which is super exciting, but also crazy busy for me. So today, instead of a regular blog post, I am instead going to show you the third and final YouTube video on altering a wedding gown that I used for a photo shoot earlier this year. If you haven't seen the previous videos, you can check them out here and here. Enjoy!

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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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The Work-Life Balance

PC officevibe.com

PC officevibe.com

As a business owner fairly new to the position of "my own boss", I must say that it can be a challenge to stay on top of everything. And...when I say that, I don't necessarily mean on top of the actual wedding planning, because I love that part, and always get that done with plenty of time to spare. What I mean is that it's hard to balance life when I am not given perimeters that would otherwise separate the work from the down-time for me. You know, keeping the peas on my dinner plate from rolling over into my nicely rounded mashed potatoes. I'm talking about that work-life balance! 

For example: when you have school, a job, and a personal life, and all of those things have their own locations, the given requirement to arrive at each location at a different time generally keeps them all separate and organized. Each thing gets its own part of you and your time; each thing has its own box. This makes it easy to be productive in the work place, attentive at school, and relaxed at home.

So what happens when you quit your job and work from home, take online classes--from home--and spend a huge amount of time doing all of these things that require different parts of you in the place that has always been designed for resting?

Simple: each thing fights for supremacy. It begins to determine what you "mostly" are. Are you mostly a student, or mostly a working stiff, or mostly a stay-at-home-whatever? Do you know what I mean?

I am not a college student--in that I am not working toward a degree--but I do take classes from time-to-time so that I am always learning. I would say that I most struggle to separate working from, well, living. There's always something to be done: updating my business Instagram, updating my advertising methods, broadening my network, filming a YouTube video, pinning on Pinterest, consulting with clients, coming up with fun things to blog about, the list goes on. Right alongside that, I have other things to do, such as schedule my hair appointment, or a dental checkup, or a coffee date, or make a run to the grocery store, take my spunky little dog on a walk, clean the kitchen, make lunch, run a load of laundry...

Being in a place where both types of things are possible (home), the tasks eventually begin to bleed together.  I find myself making lunch and then making a business phone call, and then filming a YouTube video following by a consultation, and then scheduling a quick appointment with a friend while I'm in the area. Walking the dog and then blogging and grocery shopping and then working on an Excel Spreadsheet... 

It's a beautiful mess of multitasking and hustlin' along to make life work (pun intended). Totally possible, but the constant switch wears on you after a while. It makes me really respect business owners who have successfully created the distinction between work and private life. 

The work-life balance isn't just a struggle for business owners though. It's also true for people in the midst of planning a huge wedding or event. It's a crazy jungle out there when your work-life balance is further confused by planning getting pushed into your private life! So exciting, but also...disruptive.

I understand the hustle. I think to some degree, we all struggle--from time to time--to keep life balanced. What are some things that you do to separate work from your personal life? I'd love to hear your ideas and experiences in the comments below. 

Keep hustlin'! You got this!

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Wedding Planning: What Not to Leave To the Last Minute

PC Buhdoopspogspot.com

PC Buhdoopspogspot.com

As a wedding planning, hearing a client say, "I'm leaving X to the last minute" is my literal nightmare. The stakes are so high when you leave only time enough for something being done at the last minute to work the first time around. It puts pressure on everyone involved, and it means that I may be left to figure out how to fix "emergencies" that could've been calmly sorted through had they been done a month in advance. It's not a good idea. It's SO preventable. This is one of the best pieces of free advice anyone getting married can get. 

So, exactly what do you absolutely NOT leave to the last minute?

Uhm, everything??? Okay, okay, fine. I'll narrow it down to the following five things.

1) DIY Anything

This is the one I am going to make a blanket statement about. It's because projects look fun on Pinterest, but what you don't know is those fun Pinterest projects took HOURS. Day's, even. And you think the picture is of the first version of the thing they made? No, the first version of every project ever deemed Pinterest-Worthy was considered a learning curve and then thrown away. So will YOUR complicated paper-mache wedding card box that you're going to make the day before the rehearsal be any different? I am sorry my friend, but unless you're a paper-mache magician, you'll probably make the project, look at it, stress-cry, and then immediately Google wedding card boxes that have overnight shipping options. Do we want to go through that? No? Well I have good news. Do it two months before the wedding, and then perfect it again and again until it's your spirit animal and Pinterest-Worthy as ever. Without the stress-crying and expensive expedited shipping. 

In addition to preventing paper-mache disasters and unnecessary stress-crying, doing things ahead of time also means that it's okay if you run out of ribbon for your invites. You can always order more. It's okay if the hot glue used in your banquet table centerpieces isn't sticking anymore after your fiance accidentally watered one (how sweet of him!)... You have time to make another or re-glue the whole thing. Do you see a pattern here? Extra time will save your tush!

2) Vendor Bookings

You haven't booked your caterer and your wedding day is how many weeks away? Are you crazy? Sure, you've talked to them, and your wedding date was still available a month ago, but if someone else comes along also getting married on your wedding date and they're ready to sign that contract and make a payment, you're outta luck. And you now get to find someone else to cater gluten-free French Cuisine food to your 180 guests for $15 per person--including the wine. What if no one is available? What will you do? This wouldn't have happened if you'd just signed that contract four months ago.

Do you want this to be you? (Please, don't let it be you!) Get this stuff done in advance! You (and I!) will both look back together, laugh about how crazy it would have been if we had put it off, and then high-five. That sounds way more fun.

3) Delegating Wedding Party Tasks

Do you know who your ushers are going to be? Is your best man supposedly driving you and your new spouse to your hotel room after the reception? ...Did you tell him this? Who is going to take your wedding gifts to your house after the reception and you've gone off to your honeymoon? Who is helping clean up all of your DIY centerpieces and taking them from the reception to be stored in their garage so that the venue doesn't throw them away? Do your bridesmaids know that they're carpooling to the salon to get their hair done the day of the wedding at 8:15AM?

Because weddings involve people who aren't being paid to do a job, delegation and communication with the wedding party are sensitive issues to be handled with the utmost care. You love the people who you've chosen to involve in your wedding, and you absolutely want those relationships to continue afterwards! They require care and consideration. In some ways, the wedding party must volunteer to do the tasks listed above. Of course, some one needs to get them done, but it's a matter of who is appropriate for and able and willing to give of their time for each task. Don't put this off. Ask with enough time left that people are comfortable saying "no" if they need to. This way, the person who is best for the task can be utilized. 

4) Wedding Vows

These can take a long time to perfect, and you DO want your vows to be perfect. Spend the adequate time on them that they absolutely deserve. This is not something you'll have time for the morning of the ceremony, unlike what you might envision. The morning of the ceremony is full of feelings, full of people who have questions and concerns, and full of things that need to get done before the ceremony. Are you really going to have an hour to sit in some garden with a pen and notepad while you wait--with a clear, peaceful mind--for a wave of poetic inspiration to hit? Gurlll, you'll be Googling vows and speed-printing some blogger's words five minutes before your ceremony. And you know why those vows will be better than your scrambled ones? Because they were written MONTHS IN ADVANCE WHEN THAT LADY HAD TIME ON HER HANDS UNLIKE YOU. 

I'm only yelling because I want what's best for you, okay?

5) Wedding Attire

Can I not have to list this? Do NOT tell me your seamstress needs you to order fabric for the top of your dress when it's three weeks from your wedding date. Don't stress me out like that. More importantly, don't stress YOU out like that. Get those wedding shoes on your feet months in advance to lovingly break in. Order that garter! Order it in two sizes so you have time to return both and get one that fits perfectly! And get that dress figured out months in advance. Please. For our sanity. With every detail, pace yourself, leave time for error, and leave room for second thoughts.

 

....You might be thinking, "Wow, MaKenna, that's really harsh to expect all of these things to get done so far in advance." I understand that feeling. It's easy to think that 6 months until your wedding leaves you rich with time to spend leisurely considering twenty different things without actually committing to any. But 6 months will be 1 in so short a time that you just won't believe it. And then you'll realize that you have to make twenty big decisions in a week--and just watch, it'll be the week that your boss asks you to work overtime three days in a row for a big project, your car needs to go in for repairs, and the dog gets fleas. That's just life. You'll be sitting there at 2AM with your poor dog reading through contracts, wishing you'd just signed when you'd met with the caterer in person.

I don't write about this just because more on-top-of-it brides would make my job easier. The reality is that while I care about your wedding, nobody cares more than you. If your DIY origami name cards don't work out, I'll be able to objectively keep them off the banquet tables without much regret. If the fabric you ordered for the top of your dress comes in off-white, and you have to wear it, and a few people notice, you're going to care much more than I will. If you failed to sign the contract with the caterer you wanted in time, and have to settle for second best, I am not going to experience that sinking gut feeling, although I'll be sad on your behalf. In the end, these things impact you. The stress of the 11th hour may not be my favorite ever, but it's my job. It's YOUR wedding.

So take this with a grain of salt. This will ultimately help you. It will greatly improve the chances of your wedding's success! I know you can do it!

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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.

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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?

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PC The Knot

3) Do you require that I use your caterer?

4) Are there alcohol restrictions, or corkage fees?

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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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That Wedding Dress - Continued

A lot of you probably know that this summer I underwent a project involving seriously altering a wedding gown. It was time-consuming. It was mentally challenging. It was emotionally grueling. Buuuuut it was fun! And I documented the whole thing. Up above is Part Two! You can find Part One here.

Enjoy it? Don't forget to like and subscribe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Ways To Stay Organized During The Planning Process + Freebie!

PC pixabay.com

PC pixabay.com

One of the issues I've faced during the planning process of some of my projects is what I call "Unexpected Eleventh Hour Syndrome". This is what happens when you spend all of the months leading up to the Big Day waiting for the last few weeks to do what you didn't realize you could've done ahead of time. It's not purposeful procrastination--just learning the hard way that you could've done something differently to make your life about a thousand times easier. 

Don't do that. Unexpected Eleventh Hour Syndrome (UEHS) is a terrible curse to be avoided when at all possible. To help you out, I've listed some things that I personally do to avoid last minute crazes, and I'm also giving you access to a free downloadable to help you keep track of the To-Do's leading up to the Big Day.

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PC thesuburbanmom.com

1) Devote an entire calendar to your event. 

This allows you to connect your To-Do's to a visual time-line that puts itself in the context of real time. The freebie mentioned in the headline is an Excel Spreadsheet I made for this exact purpose! It includes an edit-friendly calendar starting from September 2016, lasting through December 2017, with a large area available for notes to be made pertaining to due dates, specific tasks, and vendors. (Check the end of the post for more details.)

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PC thehuffingtonpost.com

2) Plan backwards.

What needs to be done the day of the event? What about the day before? Treat this like a pyramid--the day-of tasks are the very top, resting on a foundation of the tasks done the day before. Those things rely on things done the week before, and the month before, etc. This will force you to understand what things must be done in a specific order, and why. From there, you can figure out when you can most efficiently complete certain tasks.

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PC vertex42.com

3) Stay ahead of schedule.

If you're down to 6 months before your event, you should be working on those things as well as the things you'll need to do during the next month. Keep in mind that this requires you to understand the productivity rates and accuracy of you and the people responsible for completing the tasks on your lists. So if you or another person responsible tend to put things off or work slowly, compensate by working ahead. This will enable you to avoid the much dreaded Unexpected Eleventh Hour Syndrome!

Want this freebie? All you need to do is fill out my Contact page and ask me to send it to you! You'll find a downloadable version in your inbox shortly!

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How To Handle Your Mother-In-Law During Wedding Planning

I see you over there--hiding behind the couch with your glass of wine feverishly sipping, hoping that your mother-in-law won't leave the kitchen before you can down the glass...hoping that her opinion of how your wedding should be planned will quiet as you do so...

Just kidding. But seriously.

Handling your mother-in-law (MIL) during the planning process can be a tricky thing, and like most tricky things, you need some tools for the job. As simple as they seem, the five suggestions listed below can be very helpful tools for you to use as you navigate your relationship with your new MIL--as well as other relationships close to you. 

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PC theodyssyonline.com

1) Stand firm.

Just like you know you're not going to take all of the advice and every suggestion you receive from friends and family during your engagement, be willing to stand up for your own opinion when your MIL tries to convince you that orange, blue, and white are much better wedding colors than your purple, green and grey. Keep in mind that by remaining enthusiastic about your own ideas, rather than hesitant to tell her and everyone else that you don't like their ideas, you're much less likely to deal with conflict.

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PC bostonvoyager.com

2) Communicate.

Is your MIL hurting your feelings by pushing too hard? Do you think you've accidentally offended her by shooting down her ideas? These are things that should be communicated in a mature conversation that can start something like this, "MIL, do you think we could sit down and talk about some things involving our relationship? I want to include you in my wedding planning, but I think we might have hurt each others' feelings, and I want to clear things up." Try hard to understand why she wants to be so involved in your wedding planning. Ask yourself: is she really acting this way because she's a control freak who wants to redo her own wedding vicariously through you? Is she trying to ruin your wedding because she's furious you're stealing her child from her? Maybe not. Maybe her desire to be involved stems from an emotional need to feel needed, helpful, loved, important, or included. Maybe she sees wedding planning as a chance to bond with you. Having a conversation about how she feels and how you feel is a good opportunity to be transparent and compassionate with one another in an effort to strengthen your relationship. 

PC theknot.com

PC theknot.com

3) Keep her involved.

This doesn't mean she gets to choose your dress and the reception decor...just keep her busy. Give her things to put together--DIY favors, invitations, photo-booth props...anything you've already designed and simply need done can be handed to her to execute, giving her the feeling that she's involved and needed, without giving her too much control. 

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PC keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

4) Compromise.

When wedding planning, it's important to see the bigger picture: your relationship with your MIL is going to exist after the wedding. Preferably not in shambles. With this in mind, it's worth mentioning that some sacrifices may need to be made for the betterment of your family relationships. Sometimes, even after having conversations about how you feel, you and your MIL will not see eye-to-eye; to ensure that minimal resentment exists post-wedding, it might be necessary to let her make some decisions.

PC advancedcounseling.info

PC advancedcounseling.info

5) Seek counseling.

Of course, bringing a family counselor in is a risky business, depending on family dynamics and skeletons-in-the-closet. It's certainly something to ask permission of involved family members before taking action toward it, and finding a professional neutral third-party is key. It has the potential to go both ways, though. Sometimes family counseling in the midst of wedding-planning is a good idea, and can improve relationships and communication. Sometimes, however, it can be seen as an offensive rout, so be considerate and wary if you pursue this. 

Do you have a recommendation on how to handle MIL's? Leave it in the comments down below!

 

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Three Things to Remember When Wedding Planning Gets Tough

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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.

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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. 

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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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Point Reyes Styled Shoot

For months I've been prepping this styled shoot, and feel that in the three hours it took to photograph, everything fell into place--and then was over. I guess I'm one to get sentimental over huge projects like this, because already I'm looking at the pictures wishing I could do it over again. 

I started working on this about two months ago, and while my vendors contributed immensely to the project, many of the props used were things I hunted for, purchased, or made from scratch myself. For this reason, I am doubly sentimental, thinking back on how I purchased the dress and completely re-designed it, made the square dummy cakes on the cake table, spent hours shopping for rings, mirrors, and other props, and meticulously planned different shots I wanted taken. All of these things are not part of my regular job-description as a planner, but when no one is actually getting married who can take care of these things...no one else is going to get them done! I ended up incredibly happy with the photos and very proud of myself and everyone involved for the hard work that was poured into this.

Without further ado, here are my favorite photos from the shoot!

style shoot-shoot-0047.jpg
style shoot-shoot-0132.jpg

Vendors Involved

Photography: Caleb Rippetoe, www.thesedecisivemoments.com

Flowers: Andrelina Siveira, www.fremontflowershoppe.com

Cupcakes: Emmie Luong, www.uhadmeatcake.com

Chalkboards: Rebecca Charlton, www.chalkwhimsy.com

Photo shoot coordinator, wedding gown designer, (square) cake designer: MaKenna Stevens, www.perfectlyplannedmoments.com

Models: Julia Nichols and Joseph Weibe

Location, Point Reyes, California

 

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Battling the Budget Part 3: Wedding Hacks

This week's post is the last one in my three-part budgeting series! This week, I will be covering several budget-friendly wedding hacks that are sure to please your wallet as well as your guests. I'm a big believer in "smarter, not harder", and I feel that these hacks represent that well. Keep in mind these are only 11 of the infinite ideas brilliant minds have invented overtime. Let's get to it!

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PC www.brides.com

1) turn wedding programs into fans for outdoor weddings in warm weather. This will make your programs more interesting, and will give guests some relief on a particularly hot day.

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PC audioworks.in

2) Before calling up rental companies, contact a few locations such as churches, hotels, theaters, etc. asking to rent their chairs and tables while they're not in use. These venues will likely be happy to make a profit by loaning out an otherwise unused product.

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PC chicvintagebrides.com

3) Consider having your bridesmaids rent their dresses, based on the unlikelihood of them ever wearing them again. This can easily save them money, but should be an option discussed with everyone involved before making a decision; it's their money being spent, after all. Some bridesmaids might be sentimental and want to have a dress to keep after the wedding is over. Bridesmaid dresses can be rented from stores like www.vowtobechic.com.

PC stylecaster.com

PC stylecaster.com

4) Instead of using a sticker or handwriting your address on thank you cards, get a personal stamp with your married names and home address engraved in it to save time post-wedding. This can also jazz up the envelopes, and who says you can't use this stamp to address every single letter mailed out from now on?

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PC moncheribridals.com

5) Keep floating flowers buoyant by sticking the stems through small disks of bubble wrap! I personally think this is brilliant. Floating flowers and floating candles can compliment each other very well, and can create an incredibly economic centerpiece--even when used sparingly. 

PC brit.co

PC brit.co

6) If your wedding theme is any variation of rustic, consider using a "well-loved" ladder as a shelving unit for your cocktail station. You're very likely to already be in possession of such a one, or know someone who might be willing to lend it for the occasion. 

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PC megany.loveitsomuch.com

7) Make your table centerpieces double as wedding favors. This works if: your wedding favors directly correlate with your wedding theme, they are particularly nice to look at, and when you allow these favors to be displayed with some variation. Displaying succulents, for example, at different heights--with the help of candle stands or upside-down mason jars (hello vintage)--can make things a bit more exciting. Be sure to place as many favors on each table as there are guests seated, and indicate with a sign or a name tag that they are for guests to take home afterwards. 

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PC agardenpartyllc.com

8) Make bridesmaids bouquets double as table centerpieces. This works best when your number of tables correlates with your number of bridesmaids, although it's also possible to use bouquets for every other table, and have something else (lanterns, medleys of candles, etc.) on the rest. The bride's bouquet can also be used to decorate the cake table, or one of the wedding party tables, along with the maid of honor's bouquet. All of these bouquets are likely to be put down during the reception, (save, perhaps, for the bouquet toss, if a throwaway is not used), so why not put them to good use? They'll be sitting in fresh water ready to be taken home until the reception is over.

PC brit.co

PC brit.co

9) Again with the rustic tones, consider a palette photo booth backdrop. This is also a brilliant way to hide an ugly area in your outdoor venue. Palettes are often left on curbs or behind stores to be recycled. Make sure these palettes are hosed down and sanded before displaying them, since they'll likely be touched by guests, and may be dirty and splinter-prone when you find them. Consider staining the wood as well, to add a more finished look.

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PC alowcountrywedding.com

10) Speaking of hiding ugly or boring areas at your venue--consider  a thick backdrop of balloons! This is an affordable, beautiful option for spiffing up boring corners of a room.

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PC thebrokeassbride.com

11) Spray-paint various dishes in your wedding colors to create cohesion for decorations while things vary in size and design. This makes shopping for those decorative details an optimum level of EASY, since the color and medium of items doesn't matter! You'll paint those babies to perfection. The Broke-ass Bride has a tutorial here

 

That's it for this series! But it's definitely not the end of my thoughts on budgeting. In fact, I blog so much on how to manage wedding and event expenses that's it's worth subscribing if that's the only thing that interests you here.

Remember to post questions or other budget-friendly tips below!

 

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Battling the Budget Part 2: Inexpensive Alternatives

Nothing ruins wedding vibes like price-tags that say "no." In the same way, price-tags that scream "YES!" can really make a difference in the planning process, which is why I love my job. I have kind of an obsession with finding good prices and using creativity to come up with lovely alternatives to things such as standard wedding fare. (Don't believe me? I once developed a month-long meal-plan for myself that priced out everything with recipes, shopping lists, and all organic ingredients for three square meals a day with a budget of $100.) 

In the previous blog-post, I pinpointed the five common large expenses that nearly all weddings struggle to escape. In this blogpost, I'm going to return to those same five things and and share my ideas on how to avoid the price-tag with some creativity and extra thought. Ready to learn how to keep your wallet from emptying?

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PC Venuesafari.com

1. Ways to Save Money on Your Venue(s)

a) Just rent out ONE venue. Think about it: renting one area at a ceremony location costs, say $1,000. Later on, you decide you want to rent a second area at that same location for the reception as well. However, instead of that second area also costing $1,000, it costs $500, because you've already rented another part of the venue. So you're at $1,500. Now, let's suppose you rented a second location instead of an extension of the first location. Is that second location going to cost just $500? Probably not, because many venues have a minimum rental requirement, or they simply charge a higher minimum for rental of any area at their venue. So it's likely that the second venue will also cost around $1,000. So now you're at $2,000, instead of the $1,500, for the SAME purpose! Renting two different venues is also a lot more trouble, because sometimes you have to take into account the transportation of your guests, which might also come out of your pocket. 

b) Get hitched on a weekday. Most weddings are on Saturdays or Sundays because it's most convenient for guests to attend. However, because of their popularity, venues generally hike up the prices of venues on weekends, a lot like how airfares are three to four times the price on holiday weekends. They do it because they can. On weekdays, however, very few venues get weddings booked, so their prices generally go down. If your guests can get off work a few hours early, consider having your wedding on a weekday, such as Monday, to save some bank.

c) Have your wedding at a private venue, such as a friend's property or large house. This can save you thousands of dollars, and often does not compromise the quality of the location. It really does pay to know certain people!

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PC theweddingspecialists.net

2. Ways to Save Money on Catering

a) Plan your wedding around a lighter meal, such as brunch or lunch. Serving coffee, fruit salad, muffins, and deviled eggs for a light brunch is much more cost-effective than almost any dinner will be. Even a lunch of fruit, veggies, and tea sandwiches is cheaper than the dinner plates that most caterers will offer for evening meals. Including a brunch or lunch will change a wedding schedule around entirely though, and will only work if your vision includes a day wedding. 

b) Have a Potluck Wedding. This is more styled toward country weddings, or small church weddings where this kind of meal is common. It can certainly save a lot of money, though. 

c) Have the family provide the meal. This is similar to a potluck wedding, but it puts the provisional responsibility on the bride and groom's family members instead of on the guests. It is best suited for more intimate weddings, and is very convenient for weddings located at a house. 

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PC romanticdecorationnow.blogspot.com

3. Ways to Save Money on Guest Seating and Details

a) Move those chairs! When you have a ceremony as well as a sit-down dinner, you need twice the amount of chairs--unless you MOVE the ceremony chairs during the cocktail hour to the banquet hall! This can cut your chair bill IN HALF, and won't be noticed if your guests are distracted during cocktail hour.

b) If it is appropriate, consider paper napkins and plates, and plastic cutlery. Especially if your meal is potluck style, this won't be surprising or distasteful, and will save money the caterer or venue would otherwise charge for dish usage. It also eliminates the possibility of paying for damaged dishes, which is almost guaranteed to happen at least a couple of times at a wedding.  

c) Consider DIY wedding favors, such as cute baggies of Jordan almonds, prettily-packaged flower seeds with a reference to "growing love", tiny jars of homemade seasoned salt, infused olive oil, jam, or honey, servings of wedding cake, boxed truffles or bonbons, miniature s'mores kits, or homemade bath salts. Pinterest has about a million ideas!

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PC britishschoolalex.org

4. Ways to Save on Your Wedding Gown

a) Make your own wedding gown (if you know how to sew), or hire a friend or relative who knows how to sew. This gives you complete control over how you want it to look, but is a very time-consuming process. My mom did this, and saved plenty of money on the labor and alteration costs that she instead did herself. Fabric will be your largest cost--and it WILL cost something. But only a couple hundred dollars, as opposed to the thousand or so you'd pay otherwise.

b) Alter your wedding gown to fit you and your tastes. Whether it's your mother's gown or one you found at a thrift-shop, altering a gown allows you to keep the parts of it you love and jazz up the areas you're not so excited about. It's a money-saving, much less overwhelming process than creating a whole dress out of nothing but fabric yardage can be. 

c) Find a used wedding gown. Online stores such as www.preownedweddingdresses.com have dresses in all sizes, styles, and price-ranges that have been cherished by brides already, yet are still in tiptop condition. They are marked down considerably, and are a very lovely option that won't compromise your tastes at all. 

PC portlandweddinglounge.com

PC portlandweddinglounge.com

5. Ways to Save Money on Entertainment

a) Replace a DJ with an iTunes playlist. You can make this yourself, hook it up to a speaker and have your wedding party members tweak it from time to time during the night. Have someone from the wedding party MC the evening instead of hiring a DJ to do this for you. 

b) Ask a friend who DJ's on the side to DJ as your wedding gift, or offer to pay him a fee. Be tactful about this, as you don't want to insult your friend or his side-business. If his business is too big, this might not be a good option. However, if he is a close friend and is invited to the wedding anyway, he may volunteer to DJ, or offer it as a wedding gift anyway. If you do pay an amature to do it, it is very likely that he won't charge commercial prices. 

 

No matter what your wedding budget is, at least a few of these fifteen suggestions can be applied to your wedding to free up money that can be put toward the most important details so that you get the day you've already imagined.

Have a money-saving tip of your own? Post a comment below!

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Battling the Budget Part 1: Bulky Wedding Expenses

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PC bettertogetherweddings.co.uk

When planning a wedding, money is often seen as the enemy; there just never seems to be enough of it! In today's wedding industry, $20k is generally shrugged at as merely a "doable" budget, and $10k is reacted to with disappointment and head-shaking. Today's weddings are expensive, but it is my firm belief that they don't have to be. 

Almost no other celebrations are allotted $10k-20k in expenditures, and any celebrations that are are sure by nearly anyone's standards to be incredible successes. Why is it that weddings seem to cost so much for so little in exchange? In this series, I will pinpoint the most expensive aspects of weddings, explain how they can be substituted with affordable alternatives, and highlight some useful wedding hacks that can save you money and make your wedding more personal at the same time. 

So let's get to those bulky wedding expenses! Here's one thing I'd like to mention about the expenses of weddings. A bride's outgoing wedding expenses are her vendors' paychecks. They deserve to charge their fees because that's how they make their living. The wedding industry is an incredibly big, lucrative business, but it's almost never a business's intention to take advantage of their client by charging much more than they are worth. Cupcakes a delicious morsels that can sometimes be gone in three bites, but they cost what they do (between $2-10 apiece) because they took money to create as well as time to mix, bake, decorate, and sometimes transport. That little cupcake is a labor of love--labor that deserves to be paid fairly for. 

As a budgeting specialist, I must clarify that I by no means am encouraging that vendors be taken advantage of for their services. Instead, I am recommending that the budgeting bride and groom engage with vendors for the most important details of the wedding, and the compensate for other services that are less important when the budget says "no". I am an expert at finding creative alternatives, not at conning vendors into providing products and services for next to nothing. 

That being said, let's get down to it: The most expensive aspects of today's wedding.

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PC partiesbyme.com

1. The Venue(s)

Whether it's a church or a 5 star hotel, venues have high prices, prices that directly correlate with the location, the event date, the time of day or night the event is being held, the length of the event, and how many services will be used. Typically, if your wedding's ceremony and reception are located at different venues, the cost will also increase.

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PC byrkristi.wordpress.com

2. Catering

Food gets expensive when you take into account that its preparation and service presentation also have steep price-tags--not to mention expected service tips! Knowing the guest-count is vital to nailing down the exact catering bill, and knowing that it will prove very challenging to adequately feed each guest on less than $12/head is key as you budget for the meal. At $12/head for 100 guests, you're already at $1200!

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PC weddinglocation.com

3. Guest Seating and Details

Chairs are often an extra charge if the venue does not provide them, or charges an extra fee for their use. Cost per chair ranges from $1.50-$10, and if your reception and ceremony are at different locations, sometimes you'll be buying two chairs per guest! Other details that come at a cost are things like table linens, glassware, and favors. 

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PC the weddingspecialists.net

4. The Wedding Gown

Finding the dream wedding gown at a "reasonable" price is THE task, and while possible, takes a lot of hunting, and possibly self-alteration. Expect to shell out at least $1,000 for your gown if you're shopping at regular wedding gown stores. 

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PC metrospectevents.com

5. Entertainment

Commercial DJ's, singers, bands, and other entertainment you may want to spice up your ceremony or reception charge hefty prices that should be planned for early on in your budget. Often, their charge includes their travel fees and equipment usage. Keep in mind that these sometimes "starving musicians" are trying to make a living with these prices, and their intention is not to empty your pockets.

Speaking of emptying pockets, weddings sure do it, don't they? Next week we will go over alternatives to these five expensive aspects of the wedding industry that will clue you in on how to save BIG time--without taking advantage of any vendors, and without compromising on the unique and beautiful ambiance of the wedding you're dreaming up. 

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