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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

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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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The Work-Life Balance

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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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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?

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PC WeddingWire

7) Is there ample parking?

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

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PC Chaine Des Rotisseurs

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

10) Are there any photo restrictions?

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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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16 Eerily Beautiful Ideas for Your Halloween Wedding

Are you as in love with the idea of having a Halloween wedding as much as I am? You've stopped by the right place. There are thousands upon thousands of ideas out there on how to decorate for a perfectly spooky affair, I know, but I wanted to compile a few of my favorites here. Care to take a peek?

1) Bobbing For Apples

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Pc Pinterest

Bobbing for apples has always been a game associated with fall and Halloween. Why not incorporate it into your wedding to dress up a bare corner? The blacker the water, the better. Cut out the tops of the apples and stick some battery-operated candles in there to make them glow!

2) Trick or Treat Bar 

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PC Pinterest

A sweet bar with a little Halloween spin, this table decked with candy is sure to be a (trick or) treat!

3) Forest Tree Centerpieces

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PC Pinterest

Nothing like the idea of a dark, dangerous woods to freak your guests out just enough to keep them intrigued. This is a great option for weddings wanting only the suggestion of a darker Halloween theme.

4) Bat Chandelier

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PC Pinterest

The phrase "Til Death Do Us Part" is a huge trend for Halloween weddings! (Maybe don't overdo it?) This picture, however, is tasteful with its simple nod to its origin--and come on, check out those painted wine bottles. Yes please? Yes PLEASE!

5) Red as a Theme Color

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PC Pinterest

Want to get a little gory with your wedding decor? Red will go a LONG way. Just look at this picture. What do you see? Blood stained napkins. That's what you see.

6) Skeleton Hand Napkin-Rings

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PC Pinterest

Need a hand with your napkins? Here is your literal answer.

7) Coffin Ring Box

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PC Etsy, Tellable Design

Nothing says "Til Death Do Us Part" like a ring carried around in a coffin. 

8) Dark Bouquets

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Remember that bit about the blood? It applies here.

9) Skull Wedding Cake

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PC Weddingomania

If I'm honest, this cake is much more cute than it is frightening. It definitely suggests class, but with a whimsical edge. Your guests are sure to adore it in all of it's spook-tacular glory.

10) Black, White and Red Wedding Cake

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PC Cake Geek Magazine

With Halloween weddings, it's important not to overdo it. Not everything has to be terrifying! A beautiful wedding cake with some darker colors is a good way to keep things balanced while cohesive.

11) A Non-White Wedding Dress

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PC Pinterest

Just a word--a Halloween wedding DOESN'T mean your dress must also be Halloween themed. At the end of the day, it's still a wedding, and you don't want to forfeit that wedding gown experience if you feel the alternative is too costume-y. You do you, boo. (See what I did there?)

...That being said--THIS. DRESS. 

12) Colored Smoke Bombs

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PC Pinterest

From your engagement pictures to your reception photo booth, incorporating your wedding colors (especially if they're Halloween-related) into some smoke bomb fun is a great way to add some eerie mystery to the occasion.

13) Pumpkin Drink Bowl

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PC Pinterest

These are great for the drink table or even as table centerpieces. Get creative! Pumpkins are cheap and simple decorations that can go a really long way.

14) Spiderweb Invitations

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PC Pinterest

Don't keep the Halloween fun limited to just October. Send out those bone-shivering invites any time of the year! Your guests will love it.

15) Skull and Poison Themed Centerpieces

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PC Pinterest

Get fun and edgy with those centerpieces. Your guests will be staring at them all throughout the meal, so keep the festive mood going!

16) Halloween-Themed Tableware

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Yeah, yeah, I know what I said about how trendy and unoriginal the phrase is, but come on. It's gonna get incorporated in there somehow! If your guests are being served a sit down meal, they won't notice this detail until their plates are empty!

Have a Halloween Wedding idea to share? I'd love to hear it in the comments below!

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5 Things To Do BEFORE Choosing Your Venue

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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?

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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?

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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!

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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...

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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.

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

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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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Things to Know about Wedding Gown Alterations

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PC David's Bridal

Story time! I'm excited to announce that I am planning a styled event that's happening in August! The process for this has proven to be very complex, since a styled event--while not a real wedding--still requires a venue, a photographer, a cake provider, a florist, models, and of course a wedding gown. Early on, I found and purchased a used wedding gown that perfectly fit the model I'd contracted with. However, due to some conflicting events, the model fell through, and there I was, stuck with a gown that fit an incredibly unique hour-glass figure that I couldn't seem to match with anyone else.

After some initial frustration, I realized that if I chose to alter the gown myself, I would not only have a much easier time finding a model, but I would also have the opportunity to fashion the rather generic gown into exactly the style I dreamed of. And so after some ferocious sketches and overzealous designing, I made a plan and am currently living in a sewing-lab that once looked like my bedroom. 

This project has caused me to spend a lot of time pondering the wedding gown alteration process. It's lengthy and time-consuming and there are about a million things going on at once that require careful consideration. It is my hope that the suggestions listed below can simplify the process for you, whether you're hiring someone to alter your wedding gown for you, or are (bravely!) altering it yourself.

1. Don't buy your dress too small.

There are many brides who feel that their set-in-stone wedding date is the perfect motivation to diet toward their weight-goal. This is often accompanied by brides buying their dress in the size they plan to fit into by their wedding date. While in a perfect world this might be a good idea, it tempts disaster, since things don't always happen the way we want them to. The last thing a bride needs to worry about a week before her wedding is the fact that she cannot will her body to fit into the beautiful gown she spent a pretty penny on. And when it comes to altering too-small gowns to fit, options are limited; seams can only be taken out so much, after all. Do yourself a favor: buy your dress as close to your size as possible. Go ahead and diet away! If you do end up losing weight, your dress can always be altered to fit a smaller size. 

2. Don't buy a dress more than two sizes too big.

Not too small, not too big...sheesh, can't I give you any slack? Sorry ladies, but as a seamstress, I know firsthand that the larger a garment is, the harder it is to alter to a smaller size. This is not to say it is impossible. But it does mean that it will take longer, and therefore cost more money, since more parts of the gown must be seam-ripped, sized appropriately, and then resewn. Getting your gown  in a size as close to your own as possible will ensure that you're not wasting extra money on alteration costs. 

3. Make a plan.

If you're altering your dress yourself--bravo. You're in for quite the project, but it can be so fun if you plan ahead and prevent those hiccups! Draw out detailed designs of what your altered gown will look like, and make sure you have all the necessary items for the task. If you're changing the design in any way, know that you will need to make a pattern, or buy one that works for you. 

Sewing Tip #1: Make patterns with paper bags, not just tissue paper. I do use tissue paper--typically when I'm cutting out very tedious pieces of fabric that need to be pinned to their pattern with impressive exactness--but tissue paper can also be a pill to draw on. Ideally, charcoal pencils are used because they write so effortlessly, however, I don't have any, so I always cut up a few Trader Joe's paper bags and draw out rough patterns using a ruler and sharpies. My great grandmother taught me this method, and it's never let me down. 

Sewing Tip #2: Practice sewing complex parts of your dress pattern with cotton first. It is very cheap material that is easy to work with, and it will give you an idea of what the shape of your gown will turn out to be. This way, before any permanent alterations are made on your gown, you can be absolutely sure that the pattern you've created will give you the look you're going for. 

Sewing Tip #3: Prevent your machine from snagging your gown's delicate fabric by pinning tissue paper to the exposed seams before sewing them. It's very easy to tear away the paper once it's all sewn together.

Sewing Tip #4: Hand-stitch the delicate parts of your dress. By all means don't hand-sew the whole thing. You'd be celebrating your anniversary by the time you finished it... But lace, appliques, ribbon, beading, buttons, etc., should be hand-sewn to ensure they are not damaged by your machine.

Sewing Tip #5:  This feels obvious to list, but it's very important that you don't make any unnecessary trims on the gown while you're sewing until you're absolutely sure that it is perfect. Fabric that is cut cannot be uncut, and you may do serious damage to your gown by making premature alterations! I know it's exciting, but let's not toss caution to the wind just because we're getting married, alright?

Oh, and don't forget--

Sewing Tip #6: Get excited! You're going to have a great time. 

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Great Gatsby Party Decor Tutorial

Last weekend I had the opportunity to help plan and decorate for a Roaring 20's birthday party at a client's home that I took lots of deliciously Great Gatsby-esque pictures of! I didn't have a chance to take step-by-step pictures of each decor item, but directions for all are listed below and most are straightforward, simply, and affordable. I had a wonderful time crafting each item, and while I generally don't consider myself artistically-inclined, I felt like I had some Roaring 20's stylistic intuition this time around!

Coffee Table

Coffee Table

This coffee table was dressed up with a gold table-runner, some star-shaped confetti, and sitting on a mirror is a candle-holder that I stuck some fluffy ostrich feathers through. Around the top I looped some plastic strings of pearls, and some more pearls and gold plastic "grass" underneath.

Coffee Table Centerpiece

Coffee Table Centerpiece

Here's a close-up!

Fireplace Room

Fireplace Room

Near the coffee table is a fireplace we decked out with some sheer white curtains and some wine bottles wrapped in gold wrapping paper.

Fireplace

Fireplace

I did some line-contrasting with the pearls against the shapes in the fireplace cover.

Fireplace Cover

Fireplace Cover

Just LOOK at it!

Wine Bottle Candle Holder

Wine Bottle Candle Holder

The empty wine-bottles have been spiffed up with some gold and white ribbon, strings of pearls, and topped off with a white taper candle. If you stick the taper into the open bottle with a bit of force, they should stay upright. 

Feather Candlestick Holder

Feather Candlestick Holder

With other candlestick holders, a simple golden bow with an ostrich feather stuck in at an angle is era-appropriate while also ridiculously easy and affordable. If you hunt online, such as on eBay, for these feathers, you can find 100+ for $10 or so.

Feather Centerpiece

Feather Centerpiece

Speaking of feathers, I used about 30 stuck in at angles in a Styrofoam cone to make a beautiful feather centerpiece that is absolutely picture-worthy! My client had a peacock feather on hand that we stuck in at the top to add some extra color.

TV Stand

TV Stand

We stuck these babies on each side of this TV, and some extra pearls, a gold napkin, and a $1 store feather boa was all this so conveniently antique TV stand needed. 

Cup Holder Stand

Cup Holder Stand

Here's some simple confetti and a string of pearls we plopped here to add a sprinkle of Great Gatsby glamour. A little goes a long way with this stuff!

Palm Tree

Palm Tree

Here's another example of where a little goes a long way--3 pearl necklaces managed to make this palm tree a part of the party atmosphere.

Porch Candelabra 

Porch Candelabra 

On the porch entrance of my client's house I looped some pearls around the handles of this candelabra.

Kitchen

Kitchen

The kitchen chandeliers got similar pearl-attention, alongside some white balloons fastened to the ceiling with fishing string to create a floating effect. Some $1 store plastic gold swirls were also tacked from the ceiling for some extra bling.

Chandelier

Chandelier

Both white and silver pearls were used, all at different lengths, to create interest and a casually-luxurious feel.

Pearls and Balloons

Pearls and Balloons

I love working with strings of pearls because they don't require anything to fasten them with as long as you are looping them. If you twist them together, they'll snap together without a hitch.

Photo-booth

Photo-booth

We also created a photo-booth using "Happy Birthday" wrapping paper, black paper under the gold fringe, and two sheer white curtains tacked up and tied with a gold tassel we had on hand.

Stairway

Stairway

Speaking of gold fringe, I really went to town with this stairway that we taped yards and yards of the stuff too along with pearls and white streamers. At the top of the stairway, we covered a handrail with a lace tablecloth and a $1 feather boa.

Entrance Way

Entrance Way

It dressed up the party area and complimented the entrance very nicely. On this entrance-way table are more of those feathered candlestick holders, a feather boa, and some more--you guessed it!--pearls.

Piano Room

Piano Room

A nearby, surprisingly era-appropriate upright piano got similar attention. Notice more wine-bottle tapers on the corners!

Chandelier

Chandelier

Last--my absolute favorite item!--here is the gold fringe chandelier we fashioned with tape, fishing string, a hoola hoop, and a two-tiered hanging plant-holder we suspended from a chandelier chain already attached to the ceiling. Imagine that!

I had a blast working on the decor for this party, and hope my pictures and simple instructions can inspire you guys to dream up and execute your own 1920's decor.  A little party never killed nobody, right?

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What You Need To Know About Catering

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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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Unique Table Centerpieces

This is an article I published earlier this year on a blog I started before the launch of my website. You can visit me at Cakes and Ribbons to review some of my earlier writings!

I just enrolled in QC Career School today for my Wedding and Event Planning certification! I am SO excited and have already begun the coursework. My second semester in college also begins in just a couple of weeks, so pretty soon I’ll be as busy as ever–a stark contrast to this phase of post-holiday boredom I seem to be caught up in. I’m sure a few days after my semester begins I’ll be wishing I was bored instead of as busy as six classes, my wedding and event planning course, and four part-time jobs will surely make me.

To celebrate this new development, here are some unique table centerpieces that would be appropriate at various different events!

(PC austinweddingblog.com)

Flowers too conventional for you? No problem! With just some ribbon and a few handfuls of wheat/grass stalks, you’ll have an extra-ordinary centerpiece to match a rustic, elegant theme.

(PC austinweddingblog.com)

What a clever, yet so simple idea–flip some hefty wine classes over to not only become chic candle holders, but to trap whatever decoration you desire within each glass’s globe! And it doesn’t have to be flowers either. Gumballs or other candies, ribbon, glass pebbles, a cupcake, a stack of mini macarons or cookies, written wedding vows faced outward for easy reading access, a birds nest complete with fake eggs and a little bird, moss, seashells, sand–the list is nearly endless!

(PC mintsflower.com)

Decorate an elaborate birds cage! Consider hanging it from a small stand to replicate its real, larger counterparts.

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If birds aren’t your thing, what about a fish bowl? With live fish? That would certainly be unconventional, ideal perhaps for the ocean-enthusiast or beach-themed event.

(PC yesmissy.com)

You can’t go wrong with books. They’re so classic (they go wayyyyy back). Books can be decorated in such a variety of ways that they can be made to suit nearly any event. Add some lace and flowers and you’ve got a Sweet Sixteen themed centerpiece, or the perfect completion to a wedding banquet table; likewise, stack a particularly scholarly group of books with some formal candles for a high school reunion or teachers conference; the choice of adolescent girls books, such as Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandAnne of Green Gables, and Pippi Longstocking, decorated with a teacup or a glass of sugar cubes would also make for a beautiful child’s tea party centerpiece.

(PC boards.weddingbee.com)

This reminds me of Aladdin! What an elaborate and elegant way to dress up a table. Imaginably, these would be wonderful for outside events because of the images of flying away that they inspire, as well as their garden-like flower design.

These are just a few of the unusual centerpieces that are out there. If you have your heart set on something more interesting than a vase of flowers, you definitely have no reason to settle. What's your dream centerpiece?

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Starting Your Own Business 101

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This isn't what you might expect. Most articles on the subject of starting a business are about how you first need to get your business license, that you immediately need to take out a loan, or that you probably can't do it at all because...what do you know?

This article is different. I am only 20 years old, and I have recently taken the leap into business ownership as a wedding and event planner. I don't even have a college degree; I haven't taken out any loans or involved any investors. Clearly, I'm not here to say what dozens of other articles showing up on your google results have already said. 

In my opinion, starting a business is more than coming up with a clever name, putting up a website and waiting for customers to knock down your door. It's also much more than investing tens of thousands of dollars in professional advertising and patenting your idea. Starting a business is an emotional experience--one that I feel is vastly overlooked by most of the other articles on business out there. For your business to succeed, I believe it is necessary for you to do the following five things.

1. Believe in your idea.

Confession time: when I was first toying with the idea of starting my own business, I was plagued with doubt. It was not myself, but my boyfriend, who originally built me up and made me believe in my idea. For a long time, I'd been making career choices that made financial sense, but didn't make me happy. I kept saying things like, "Well, I probably should keep my job at xyz..." but my boyfriend stopped me and asked (repeatedly), "What do you WANT to do?" ...Not what makes the most financial sense. Not what everyone expects. Not necessarily what is safe. 

It's a very good question, one worth repeating. What do you want to do?

Here's another good question, one that I literally found after I googled "Should I keep my job or start my own business?", which--in the end--convinced me to take the plunge. In ten years, what will you regret more: not starting your business, or starting it? 

I, for one, would regret not starting it...because I would be left to wonder what would have happened. Maybe I would've been successful. Maybe I would've become a much better person. It made me realize that the worst that could happen was failure, and even failure isn't so bad.

My biggest hurdle has been to convince other people that starting a business at the unripened age of 20 is a sane idea. I've managed so far by reasoning that--sure, I'm really young--but I'm also the most financially stable that I will be for the next decade. Think about it--I still live at home, and nearly all of my expenses are paid. In five years, I might be more experienced, but I also will be living on my own with a handful of bills that need paying. Is it really smart to start a business then either? A better question--is it ever circumstantially ideal to quit your job and start from the bottom with nothing but an idea? 

The truth is that there will always be people who think I don't know enough to start my own business. And the odds are against me that it will ever appear to 100% of people watching that it is financially-wise to invest money into starting up my own gig. No matter which way the dice rolls, it will most-likely always take a lot of time and effort to get a business off the ground. No matter how many years older I get. You see? The hurdles don't go away, so why wait any longer?

With this in mind, as a start-up business owner, it is imperative that you become your own cheer-leader, and believe that you can do it. Believe that you are valuable asset to the economy and smart enough to start your own business. Believe in your idea! After all, every great idea we have today started out as...just an idea. And yes, for every single one, there was somebody who thought it was rubbish. 

2. Get a support group.

Being your biggest fan is the first step, but the second is to surround yourself with other fans. It is frightening true how similar to the people around us we eventually become, and if you're constantly around people who think your business is stupid, you're not going to feel empowered to keep going when the newness hype wanes and your website gets no visits for a month straight. Networking with like-minded individuals is essential to your mindset, which sometimes means networking with fellow competitors. Friendly ones will understand perfectly the struggle you're experiencing, and may be able to share advice, research, and much-needed encouraging words. Remember that hater's gonna hate, but you don't have to listen to them. 

3. Be fierce. 

Starting your own business takes guts and determination. Quitting your job is hard. Explaining to everyone who asks why is sometimes harder--it sure has been for me. This is just the first hurdle you'll be dealt, however. You must be brave enough to invest your money and time into making your business real. Research what you need, travel to necessary offices for that paperwork, network with everyone you know. Everyone. Dedicate yourself to working at your business everyday, even when you feel like it's stagnant. Don't be afraid to advocate for yourself, your idea, your services, and everything that your business offers. Even when dealing with a personal confrontation, take it in stride--he won't be the last business confrontation you're likely to deal with.

4. Be creative.

Don't depend on others to make a huge part of your business take shape. Be willing to work hard and use any resources you can (hello Google) to figure stuff out. Take advantage of all the social platforms we have available through the media. Advertising doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Reddit, Tumblr... They're all free. And they're all easy enough for YOU to use to market yourself and your idea. Consider building your own website, writing your own ads, creating your own logo, investing in the tools necessary to build your own product, etc. You might discover some new talents in the process of saving yourself a load of money. Use the internet to teach you everything you need to know, because it's ALL out there. You don't need a business degree to start your own business, because everything a business degree will teach you is out there somewhere on the internet; the only difference is that a business degree has gathered all the information for you, and gives you a diploma once you learn it all. Not convinced? Consider buying books, even old editions of college textbooks on Amazon, Half-Priced Books, or other sites for sometimes pennies. Don't get played by the businesses that make their money off of convenience. Be resourceful. Do the work and save your wallet. 

5. Be patient. 

Building a network takes time and continuous effort. It's important that--in the process of starting your business--you continue to cultivate it even when things get slow, look bleak, don't get any attention, or even face ridicule. It's okay; just wait. This doesn't happen overnight, most of the time. In the meantime, keep busy. Set new goals, keep on researching new ways to market yourself, improve your product or service, and make sure that the whole process is shaping you into a well-developed, fully-rounded person. Focus on your process, not just the results. For inspiration, learn about other great thinkers who developed ideas and experienced failure along the way. Did that stop them? Where are they now? Can you see yourself grouped amongst those people?

You should. We need more people like them in the world. 

As emotional as the business-ownership terrain can get at times, when all is said and done, you've started a business, so you're pretty cool. Speaking of cool, let's network! If you're just starting out with your business, send me a message, or connect with me on LinkedIn! If you're local, maybe we can swap business cards.

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