Wedding Planning Tips
Recently one of my brides asked if I thought wedding insurance is a smart purchase or an unnecessary extra expense. This is an excellent question because the larger the wedding industry gets, the harder it is for engaged couples to determine which “wedding extras” are essential or a waste of money. According to TheKnot.com, a basic wedding insurance policy typically costs between $155-$550 and will cover venue deposits, vendor no-shows, and the inability for an essential bridal party or family member to attend the wedding due to weather, illness or military deployment. A supplementary policy will need to be purchased if you want the insurance company to cover (1) the total cost of re-staging your wedding should your photographer/videographer be a no-show or the original negatives/video are damaged or lost; (2) your wedding bands*; (3) special attire (wedding gown, groom’s tux, etc.), and/or (4) your wedding gifts.
[*Your engagement ring is not covered by wedding insurance. When your fiancé presents you with your gorgeous engagement ring, your first call after you phone your parents with the good news should be to your insurance agent to purchase Personal Article Insurance. This is insurance I urge every engaged couple to purchase.]
In my opinion, there are four instances when a couple should strongly consider purchasing wedding insurance:
DESTINATION WEDDINGS REQUIRING AIR TRAVEL
If your wedding is taking place outside of the U.S. (Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, etc.) and the vast majority of your guests and bridal party will purchase expensive plane tickets to get there, your wedding investment should be protected from unexpected flight delays on account of weather or political discourse. When U.S. travelers booked their European vacations in April 2010, I doubt any of them thought that an Icelandic volcano eruption would keep their flights grounded for nearly a week. [Note: Travel insurance and wedding insurance do not cover the same losses. Discuss with your insurance agent which of these policy types best protects your wedding investment.]
SEASONAL/REGIONAL WEATHER IS A CONCERN
Nothing is more romantic than saying “I do” while standing on the white sandy beaches of the Carolina Coastline or atop a breathtakingly beautiful peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains, unless of course Mother Nature decides to serenade you with a hurricane or blizzard on your wedding day. If you are getting married during a month when the locals regularly describe the weather forecast as “iffy”, purchasing wedding insurance is a sensible way to defend yourself against Mother Nature’s twisted sense of humor.
ILLNESS/DEATH IN THE FAMILY and MILITARY DEPLOYMENT
Planning a wedding naturally increases an engaged couples’ feelings of stress and anxiety, but emotional stress is compounded exponentially when there is a chance that your nuptials may need to be rescheduled due to an essential bridal party or family member’s serious illness or possible military deployment. Finding room in your budget to purchase wedding insurance will at least bring your anxiety level down a notch knowing that you will not be out a significant amount of money should you need to change your plans at a moment’s notice.
Just like other forms of insurance, deciding whether or not to purchase it is a personal decision that requires you and your fiancé to weigh the benefits and the risks. If you do to decide to purchase wedding insurance, I recommend getting quotes from 2 or 3 insurance agents and ask them to thoroughly explain what is and (even more importantly) what is not covered by the wedding insurance policy.
What is the #1 thing most wedding guests will say they are looking forward to at the reception? The wedding cake. So, it’s no surprise that engaged couples often stress over the sweetest part of their wedding day. While wedding planning is often a series of negotiations and compromises with well-intentioned loved ones, I tell my clients that their wedding cake should be exactly what they want it to be and not let others sway their opinions. Whether it be a traditional tiered cake, cupcakes, an elaborate dessert bar, mini cheesecakes or a unique selection of homemade pies, when will there ever be a more perfect reason to enjoy a special treat that is distinctly yours than at the biggest party you will ever throw?
Here are a few creative treats from my favorite Triangle cake designer, Heather Singleton, owner of Party Delights.
Can’t decide on a flavor? Why not have two, three or even four different flavors? Is cake not your ideal sweet treat? Impress your guests with a deluxe ice cream bar with all of the toppings needed to make banana splits and brownie fudge sundaes. Concerned you will have too much leftover? Order fancy to-go containers and ask your caterer to box up the slices to give away as favors. Guests appreciate edible favors, especially when late night, post-reception snack cravings hit! So, have fun with your “wedding cake” and let your personal taste shine!
Earlier this month my entire family gathered in Central Illinois to celebrate the 100th birthday of our dear Grandma Nellie. We had a blast celebrating the sweetest, most loving woman we know and reminiscing about all of the fun times we had at her house on the actual corner of Chestnut & Vine. Whenever her 6 grandchildren would come for a visit, Grandma Nellie always made sure their favorite treat was waiting for them upon arrival. My special dessert was cherry chip cake. I remember one Christmas in particular when my youngest cousins were especially excited to see me, and it wasn’t because they missed me. Rather it was because Grandma wouldn’t let them cut into her irresistible cherry chip cake until I had eaten the first slice. So when Jason and I got married, can you guess the flavor of our wedding cake?
And since Jason graciously agreed to let me have my cherry chip wedding cake, I surprised him with a groom’s cake at our rehearsal dinner made of his favorite flavors – yellow cake with chocolate icing – that was a replica of his favorite t-shirt, which just happened to be what he was wearing the night we met. So on our wedding weekend, we both got to “have our cake and eat it, too.”
This month’s “The Corner of Chestnut & Vine” is inspired by my friend Lauren who got engaged over the holidays. Like most brides, one month into her engagement the initial euphoria began to settle down and reality set-in that she has a wedding to plan. A resourceful law student with little free time to waste, I found the following message in my Inbox, “So I am completely overwhelmed by this whole process. Do you have any tips, good blogs, anything?!” Why of course I do, and I have yet to meet a wedding coordinator who didn’t jump at the chance to give solicited wedding advice. Based on my own experience, the hardest part is figuring out where to begin, which is why I put together this step by step guide for Lauren and all newly engaged couples to kickstart their wedding planning process. Remember: the key to not getting overwhelmed is to concentrate on only one aspect of your wedding at a time and before you know it you’ll have an incredible plan in place to guide you up until the day you utter the words, “I do.”
Step 1: Find your location and finalize your date. Everything else you do (your dress, your colors, your invitations, etc.) revolves around these two important details. Therefore, focus on venues and available dates before you do anything else wedding related.
Step 2: Make your wedding dress shop appointments. These appointments fill up fast, especially on weekends, and keep in mind that the average wait time for wedding dresses to be constructed and delivered is 9-10 months. So make your wedding dress shopping appointments as early as possible to avoid expensive rush fees.
Step 3: Once your wedding venue and date are set, hire either a Wedding Planner/Designer or a Day-of Wedding Coordinator. If the thought of choosing colors, decor, vendors, menus, favors, musicians, invitations, flowers, etc. sends you into a panic because you are someone who is short on time or has trouble making decisions, a wedding planner/designer is exactly what you need. These creative professionals will work with you to devise your wedding day vision and handle most or all of the work for you. Couples who are excited to create their own wedding day vision and figure out all of the details for themselves should hire a day-of wedding coordinator (such as Chestnut & Vine Day-of Wedding Coordination!). These experienced event professionals will offer guidance through the whole planning process to keep their clients on track and then will take over all of the coordination in the weeks leading up to their wedding day, which allows the bride and groom (and their family and friends) to enjoy their entire wedding day stress free knowing that all of the details are being handled by a wedding professional.
Step 4: Uncover your inner bride and groom. Now THIS is the fun part that helps you discover what your dream wedding will be. Gather your girlfriends together to sip wine and flip through bridal magazines. Build your wedding inspiration boards on Pinterest to share with photographers, florists, cake designers, and caterers you plan to interview. Follow professional wedding experts and websites on Instagram and Facebook, and sign-up for their digital newsletters. Here are a few of my favorite:
The Perfect Palette (www.theperfectpalette.com; @theperfectpalette): They have every imaginable color combination that will make any ceremony venue and reception hall pop! Perhaps you have your heart set on a dusty blue but have no clue what to pair with it, this is the site for you!
Southern Bride & Groom Magazine (www.southernbrideandgroom.com; @southernbrideandgroom) This is the go-to local wedding resource for Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and the Greater Triangle.
Southern California Bride (www.thesoutherncaliforniabride.com; @southerncaliforniabride) They have some of the most beautiful photographs that brighten up my Instagram account. Plus, Lauren (the inspiration for this blog) lives in San Diego and will be a beautiful SoCal Bride. So, this site is especially for her!
Stephanie Scholl Events (www.stephaniescholl.com; @stephaniescholl) It was by pure chance that I became friends with Stephanie when I was brought on to assist with a Chapel Hill wedding she was coordinating. She is making quite the name for herself as a wedding/organizational expert in The Triangle Wedding Industry, and her inspirational Instagram posts are what keep me up-to date on the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill wedding scene.
Wedding Chicks (www.weddingchicks.com; @weddingchicks) – A wedding blog site filled with tips from wedding professionals located all over the world and unique inspiration boards with something for everyone.
WeddingWire (www.weddingwire.com; @weddingwire) The best place to find wedding vendors from every profession in all regions of the U.S. and read honest reviews from couples who have used their services.
Step 5: Research, interview and book your photographer. Not only is it important to hire your photographer early because the experienced, in-demand photographers’ calendars are snatched up quickly, your photographer is another great resource to recommend vendors and offer wedding planning tips. It is smart to schedule your engagement photos early on to give yourself a chance to find another photographer should you discover your personalities, working styles and artistic vision are not in sync.
Step 6: Book your officiant. Some officiant’s require couples to meet with them only once and others require a series of sessions to prepare you for life as a married couple. Either way, you want to make sure these meetings are on your calendar before your calendar fills up. Your officiant will also inform you of local marriage license requirements.
Step 7: Choose your wedding party. If you are still feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask your closest family and friends for help. They will be excited and honor to help you plan the biggest day of your life!
Hopefully these steps will help Lauren and other overwhelmed engaged couples feel more at ease by giving you a starting point to begin the wedding planning process. Be sure to visit “The Corner of Chestnut & Vine” over the next few months as I’ll take you through Steps 8 and beyond. Happy Planning!
This past Saturday at The Sutherland, our bride, Laura, designed her own non-floral reception centerpieces that equaled the work of a professional. Their elegant simplicity dazzled under the pavilion market lights as the December evening sky turned to dusk. Inspired by Pinterest, she created everything herself, including the boxes which were made from recycled shipping pallets.
While I am constantly blown away by the floral creations dreamed up by my wedding design colleagues, the thought of spending thousands of dollars on flowers for my own wedding made me uneasy because 90% of our guests traveled from long distances and would not be able to take the centerpieces home, which means all of the beautiful blooms would be tragically thrown out at the peak of perfection. I did follow tradition by using flowers for the ceremony, the wedding party bouquets and boutonnieres, wrist corsages for special guests, and a a floral centerpiece at the head table. For the guest table centerpieces, I filled vases of all shapes and sizes with our family’s favorite red and orange candies, as well as popular red and orange labeled candy bars (think Reese’s, Kit Kats and Take 5 Bars), and instructed our guests to take bags of the candy home as their favor. A simple photo of a lollipop centerpiece on Pinterest (and my love of all things sugary) inspired an explosion of candy-themed creations. Here are just a few:
When my college friend Amy accepted an invitation to a wedding near her hometown in Wisconsin, little did she know that one of the bride and groom’s non-floral reception centerpieces would become a member of her extended family. Over three years later, Sammy the Fish resides in the middle of the family’s kitchen table where he remains the center of attention. (Note from Amy: Sammy has since received a bigger home. The original bowl was smaller and filled with a few marbles and a starfish.)
If you, too, are looking for an alternative to flowers for your wedding centerpieces, here are some of my favorite non-floral Pinterest finds to get your own inspiration board started. Happy Planning!
A yummy 3 for 1 alternative – Centerpiece, Favor and Wedding Cake all wrapped into one.
These book and clock centerpieces seem perfect for an English Garden themed bridal shower.
Candles are a simple, economical way to bring elegance and romance to any occasion.
I adore the cheeriness of this whimsical centerpiece that makes me long for a tropical getaway.
A colorful, fruity alternative to traditional floral centerpieces.
These are three distinct, innovative centerpieces that bring height to the room’s design scheme.
Happy Halloween! Oh how I loved this day when I was a kid running from house to house with my friends through leaves that came up to our ankles refusing to take a break until we hit every candy bowl in the neighborhood. I still get a rush when we take our girls trick-or-treating. My step-daughters think I sound like a drill sergeant when I tell them to pick up the pace and hustle up those steps to the front door. And how fun were our grade school Halloween parties? Large rooms full of dressed up kids with treat bags in one hand, gigantic lollipops in the other and enormous jars of candy scattered throughout. Well those parties must be seared into my subconscious because this is also a fitting description of what my wedding reception looked like, too.
I realize for some that the thought of having children at a wedding reception is frightening, but I believe including them in the celebration enhances the experience for the couple and all of their guests. The kids’ excitement to be at a “big person party” is contagious and brings added spirit to the festivities. You won’t have any trouble getting the dance party started with energetic kids in the room. The bride will feel like true royalty as little girls stare in awe at her gorgeous white gown and tell her over and over how she looks like a beautiful princess. Most importantly, you are giving your guests with children an endearing family memory they will never forget.
Since our wedding party included my 7 year-old and 10-year old step-daughters, my 6 year-old niece as flower girl, and my 4 year-old nephew as “ring security”, it was predetermined that our wedding would be kid friendly. Plus, as a bride in her late-30s, the majority of my friends had kids whom I adore and wanted to be a part of our celebration. We ended up with 25 kids in attendance, and, let me tell you, EVERYONE had a blast on account of the kid friendly details . Here’s what we did:
- In addition to passed hors d’oeuvres at the cocktail hour, we put large bowls of goldfish, pretzels and Chex Mix on the cocktail tables with clear plastic cups next to each bowl. The adults were as appreciative for the snacks as the kids.
- I hired the sweetest 17 year-old twins to look out for the kids during the reception. They were given a list of all of the kids’ names, their parents’ names and the parents’ assigned table numbers. During the cocktail hour they found every family on the list, introduced themselves, and told the kids to meet them in the children’s section of the reception. Our friends LOVED this because it gave them a chance to enjoy an evening out with uninterrupted adult conversations.
- We put the children’s tables on one end of the room with some space between the other tables. In place of a table setting, the kids were each given a wedding-themed activity book and crayons. Plus games and scavenger hunt cards were placed on each table.
- As soon as the adults began their salad course, the kids were invited to go up to the Chicken Finger and Mac ‘n Cheese Bar. Our caterer provided biodegradable disposable cups, plates and silverware that were kid-proof. They even purchased a special kid size buffet table just for our reception. The kids were very pleased with their meal, it was cost effective, and I later learned from my girlfriends that their husbands were ecstatic when they discovered chicken fingers on their way back from the men’s room.
- Our centerpieces are probably what the kids (and adults) will remember most about our wedding. In lieu of flowers, our centerpieces were made entirely of red and orange candy. We had jars full of sour balls, candied orange slices, gummy bears, Airheads, Kit Kats, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, 100 Grand Bars, Take 5 Bars, and M&Ms. Even the bottom of the lollipop bouquet vases were filled with itty bitty red and orange jawbreakers. Each guest was given a treat bag with a note saying, “Love is Sweet. Fill this with treats. When you are able, go to the next table to meet and greet and find more candy to eat.” And they all did!
- As predicted, the kids did an excellent job of getting the dance party started and keeping it going until the end of the night! And in a twist on the age old tradition, only the kids 16 years and younger were invited to take part in the bouquet toss.
Needless to say, we set the expectation bar high for our young guests on what it takes to throw an amazing wedding! Many of the kids were heard saying “BEST WEDDING EVER!!” even if it was the first one they’ve ever attended. Some of our friends opted to have a parents-only getaway weekend but were grateful that we gave them the option to bring their kids. The best compliment I received was from my friend Sue, a mother of twin 5 year-olds. She now tells engaged couples that her biggest regret from her wedding was making it adults only because our wedding made her realize that kids make the day even more special.
Earlier this week my incredibly organized client, Samantha, sent me photos of her trying on her wedding gown for the first time. She is going to be a stunning bride! I can’t wait to post pictures of her in it, but you will have to patiently wait until May to see just how gorgeous she is. (Her mother and I are both thankful that we won’t have any sleepless nights wondering whether or not her dress will arrive in time!)
Seeing Samantha in her gown got me thinking about my own wedding dress experience. Even though I wan’t getting married in Raleigh, I decided to purchase my dress here because it would be impossible for me to go back and forth between North Carolina and Indiana for all of the fittings. However, this meant I would have to bring my dress with me on the plane, and the experience was more nerve-racking than I anticipated. If you will be flying with your wedding dress, here are my suggestions for making your trip less stressful than mine.
- Contact the Airline BEFORE You Purchase Your Ticket. Find out if the plane on the flight you want to take has a closet for hanging luggage. I had a choice between Delta and Southwest Airlines and went with Southwest because it was cheaper. BIG MISTAKE! It turns out that Southwest doesn’t have hanging closets on any of its planes. The flight attendants told me I would have to put my dress in the overhead compartment, and they couldn’t promise that no one else would put their baggage on top of it. They also refused to help me lift it over my head into the luggage compartment claiming that they were not allowed to handle my dress. Thank goodness for the kindness of my fellow passengers who assisted me and made sure no one put their bags on top of my gown. Paying slightly more to fly Delta, which has hanging closets, would have been well worth the money.
- While Trying on Dresses, Ask Yourself, “Can I carry this for long periods of time?” My wedding gown had tons of ruffles and a long train. In other words, it was heavy. When trying it on, I was confident that I’d be able to wear it down the aisle and dance in it all night with no problems. It never occurred to me that I’d have to carry it through long TSA lines and airport concourses that stretch out for miles. Since I was arriving in Indiana a week ahead of my fiancé, I was flying solo and had no one to help me carry it or stay with it when I wanted to get Starbucks or needed to use the restroom. A dress with less material would have made my trip a lot less stressful.
- Enroll in TSA Pre-Check. After completing an online form (https://universalenroll.dhs.gov), a short wait at a TSA Pre-Check facility, a payment of $75, and a 5 day waiting period, you will breeze through the airport security line stress free without having to struggle with your shoes, belts, jewelry, computer, and cosmetics all while trying to keep a cautious eye on your wedding gown. If your dress is large and heavy, you will be especially glad that you don’t have to wait in the long lines with everyone else.
- Find a Reputable Vendor to Steam Your Dress. No matter how careful you are, your wedding dress will need some TLC when you arrive at your final destination. Make an appointment at least one month in advance with a reputable tailor or formal wear shop to steam your wedding gown. I called a local wedding dress shop and asked them to recommend vendors that they trusted to steam their customers’ dresses.
- How Will You Get Your Dress Back Home? Are you leaving for your honeymoon immediately after your wedding? Chances are you won’t want to take your wedding dress with you. Make plans in advance with a family member or friend who will either have room in their car or be willing to fly back home with it. Thankfully my parents were able to take it home with them.
- Maybe Buying a Ticket for Your Dress Isn’t So Crazy. I had heard stories of brides who bought their wedding gown its own seat on the plane. At the time I thought this was absurd, but after my own experience flying with my wedding dress, I definitely understand why some brides decide to go this route. Your wedding gown is an investment of time, money and emotion that just might be worth insuring for the price of a plane ticket.
Like many of my clients and wedding colleagues, I spend a little time each day scrolling through Pinterest to keep up on the latest wedding trends. Lately my favorite Pins have to do with unique color combinations that make me swoon. When choosing your perfect wedding colors, it’s important to ask yourself these questions:
- Do these colors compliment the decor of my wedding venue?
- Will my bridesmaids look good in these colors?
- Do these colors reflect the tone and mood I want to set for our wedding day?
- Am I so in love with these colors that I won’t grow tired of them before my wedding day arrives?
- Will I look back at my wedding photos in 20 years and ask “What was I thinking?!”
By far the best color theme Pins come from Chrissy Arpie Ott’s blog, The Perfect Palette, which is full of gorgeous inspiration boards for every taste and season. I encourage you to check out her blog for colorful inspiration or a simple pick-me up on days when you could use a little cheer. Here are some of my recent faves from The Perfect Palette. Enjoy!
ORANGE & SAGE
MINT & LAVENDER
YELLOW & GRAY
NAVY BLUE & KELLY GREEN & WHITE
CORAL & AQUA
CRANBERRY & LATTE
YELLOW & MINT
NAVY BLUE & SHADES OF PINK
TANGERINE & YELLOW
FIG & GRAY
RED & YELLOW
All images featured in this blog post can be found at The Perfect Palette.
We all have our own general rule for tipping restaurant servers or the pizza delivery guy, but what about all of the wedding professionals who are working hard to make your wedding day perfect? The thought of who to tip and how much can be overwhelming, as is sorting through all of the “wedding gratuity rules” on the internet. So, I did the research for you by comparing articles from a number of top wedding sites to determine the tipping standard for almost every segment of the wedding industry. Before we get to the numbers, here are some helpful rules of thumb for showing appreciation to your wedding professionals:
- #1 RULE for TIPPING– Include estimated gratuity in your wedding budget. Don’t be caught off guard by these often hidden costs.
- Read your contract carefully. Many caterers, bar service, transportation companies and venue locations automatically include gratuity or service fees in their contracts and are typically paid in advance of the wedding weekend.
- Owners are not tipped. Self-employed vendors or business owners are typically not given gratuity. Bands or DJs not booked through an entertainment agency are also not tipped. However, if the owners or self-employed vendors went above-and-beyond your expectations, consider sending them a post-wedding gift or gift certificate.
- Say thank you with a note. Include handwritten thank you notes with the gratuities, send post-wedding thank you notes to the business owners you hire, and write a review for exceptional services on Wedding Wire, The Knot and other bridal websites. Don’t forget to refer them to your engaged friends.
- Consider adding gratuity to the contract. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of paying gratuity to a vendor on the day of your wedding, you can ask to have it added to your contract and paid in advance. The vendor will be responsible for distributing to their employees.
- Research church/synagogue donation policies. Wedding ceremonies inside houses of worship typically require a donation. The amount of the donation could depend on whether or not you are a member of the congregation.
- Civil employee officiants are not tipped. Judges, clerks of court, and other civil employees are usually not permitted to accept tips or donations. A thoughtful card is appropriate and will be much appreciated.
- Thank your seamstress. You are not expected to tip your seamstress, but sending a photo of the bride in her wedding dress is a kind gesture that will be well received. Your bridal dress consultants will appreciate a photo of the gorgeous bride, too.
- Designate someone to hand out gratuities the day of your wedding. Yet another reason to hire a wedding coordinator because they will handle all of this for you. Otherwise, ask a dependable friend or family member to take care of it for you.
Hair & Make-Up: Expected; 10 – 25% of total bill; Given at the end of the service.
Wedding Delivery and Set-Up Staff (Cake, Flower, Rental Deliveries): Expected; $5-10/ person; Given at time of delivery or after rental equipment, tables, chairs, etc. are set-up.
Ceremony in House of Worship: Usually expected; $100-500+ donation; If donation is required, it is most likely due prior to your wedding weekend.
Clergy Member (Ceremony NOT in a House of Worship): Optional; $100+ donation; Given at the rehearsal or prior to the ceremony.
Nondenominational (Non-Civil Employee) Officiant: Optional; $50-100; Given at the rehearsal or prior to the ceremony.
Wedding Ceremony Musicians: Usually expected; $25-50/musician; Given at the end of the ceremony.
Wedding Photographer/Videographer: Optional; $50-100/vendor (if NOT owner) and $50-75 for second shooter; Given at the end of the reception.
Reception Venue Staff (on-site coordinator, banquet manager, chef, head waiter): Expected only if gratuity is NOT charged in the contract; $100-200/person; If not charged gratuity in contract, given at the end of the reception.
Bartender or Waiter: Expected if gratuity is NOT charged in the contract; $20-25/waiter or bartender; Given at the end of the reception.
Reception Band or DJ Booked Through Agency: Optional but can be used as an incentive for them to stick to your playlist; $20-50/musician and sound tech; $50-150 for DJ. Given at the end of the reception.
Transportation: Expected if gratuity is NOT included in the contract; 15-20% of total bill; After last trip is completed.
Valets: Expected; $1-2/car; Before the guests begin arriving.
Restroom and Coat Check Attendants: Expected; $1-2/guest; At the end of the reception.
Research collected from the following websites: