Northern California Wedding Planner | Demystifying the Invitation Suite

Throughout planning, some elements come naturally to couples and other elements just seem more tricky or confusing. Invitation suites can feel like a lot to figure out, from choosing the design to deciding what wording to use or how formal you want the suite to be. Budget does play a part in these decisions of course, but sometimes the difficulty simply lies in not being able to visualize these pieces together.

Our post today will be highlighting the various elements of the modern invitation suites, as well as what options couples have when deciding where to go to get started. We’ll share links and resources to find all of the info you need to make a decision on the best option for you!

 
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Custom Stationery design is a process of bringing the couple’s desired aesthetic and their personalities together to create something unique and authentic. These details can be in the paper and color choice, a custom monogram or crest, specialty envelope liners, hand painted details, wax seals, custom postage and of course the calligraphy for addressing the invitations.

What goes into a design suite, well of course that varies by preference and budget but a complete suite would include most if not all of the elements below:

The method of production, from letterpress to digital or hand-painted/calligraphy is one of the more major decisions because that dictates the cost, the type of paper, the turnaround time and the design process in general. One would argue that the invitations set the tone for the rest of the event, however I don’t believe couples should be held to that 100% of the time if that deters them from moving forward with a design that they really feel drawn to.

Image via  Unsplash

Image via Unsplash

If you have a vision of a beautiful flat-lay image of your whole invitation suite (like those stunning photos you see on Pinterest and Instagram) this can still be achieved even if you chose a semi-custom or template from a digital design retailer and had them printed. Tip: Do be sure to mention to your photographer that this shot is important to you!

With the introduction of sites like Minted.com, Wedding Paper Divas, Etsy and many more, couples are flooded with pages upon pages of designs to choose from and this can certainly be overwhelming. You want a design that speaks to your personalities and matches with your theme or vision but you might not want something that is trending or overly popular at the moment. Even when using a pre-designed template you can find ways to personalize it by adding a band, ribbon, vellum sheet, envelope liner, embossing, calligraphy etc.

So should you choose a custom designer to ensure that you have a one of a kind invitation suite? Here is a great article from Raspberry Creative listing 5 reasons you should hire a stationery designer.

Image via Unsplash

Image via Unsplash

One recommendation that I make when working with couples is to find at least one to two elements they really want to throw their personality into during their wedding planning process. This could be the decor, the food menu, the ceremony or even the dance/entertainment line-up. Of course you could put your personality into all of those, but sometimes your wedding budget doesn’t give you the ability to customize every element.

In the interest of keeping this post short and sweet, we have linked to a few helpful articles and resources on each of the various topics that we find couples have the most questions about.

How much do custom invitations really cost & a breakdown of the process

Letterpress Wedding Invitations (Etiquette, Samples, Ordering Resources, F.A.Q’s & Tips)

Watercolor/ Hand Painted Wedding Invitation examples

Additional Articles/Links:
Comparing invitation costs
https://www.papelnco.com/custom-wedding-invitations
https://www.sableandgray.com/press
https://inkandpressco.com/the-semi-custom-collection
https://www.bellafigura.com/customize/calligraphy/
https://www.howdesign.com/creative-freelancer-blog/passion-projects/why-wedding-invitations-will-never-go-digital/
Envelope Liners
How to properly Mail Your Wedding Invitations

Northern California Wedding Planner | Re-Thinking Your Wedding Budget

Pop quiz - how many wedding related tabs or apps do you have open at this very moment? Just kidding, we aren’t here to judge! In all seriousness, it can feel like a rabbit-hole once you get started down the path of wedding planning. Once that ring is on your finger or the word gets out that you are engaged, all of the sudden people start asking you questions and giving you advice & opinions that you never actually asked for; the pressure is on to have all of the answers.

Good news! You don’t have to have it all figured out so fast, take your time and think about what you actually want and make an intentional effort to enjoy being engaged. If you have read some of our other posts about you will probably see a trend that we truly want you to make the most of your day and to not try and do all the things because you think you should. Instead, really commit to making the whole event a reflection of your relationship together because if you can do that - you can’t go wrong!

Once you have committed to planning authentically, the fun part starts of building this awesome crew of event partners to support you in this quest to have a kick-ass (*and pretty) wedding day. So the title of this post was re-thinking your budget right? Let’s talk about that, shall we? According to Wedding Wire’s 2019 report, 1 in 3 couples underestimated their budget.

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Inevitably there will be logistics to hosting guests in a space no matter if this is in your backyard, or City Hall. Understanding your vision for the overall flow of the day and then working with your planner to fine tune this flow into a fluid experience for you and your guests will take some finesse. What we don’t want is for you to feel rushed to choose a venue that doesn’t really represent or support that vision, and in some cases can hinder it.

We’ve created a blog series PDF full of tips related to keeping your budget in check and thinking through some of the steps in the decision making process. Be sure to grab part 1 of the series by subscribing to the list below, and each topic will be emailed right to your inbox!

You can read another recent blog posts about budgeting here or check out our list of blog categories over in the sidebar!

~ Happy Planning!
Veronica

Northern California Wedding Planner | Sharing the Love!

With so many special engagements over Valentines Day, we wanted to share the love with all couples who are getting ready to start looking at save-the-dates and invitation suites! While we do love a beautiful custom suite (who doesn’t) we have found that Minted offers so many incredible designs for every style and budget. You can take advantage of our Minted Wedding Planner Discount with the code below!

Not sure when you should send out save-the-dates, or how to track RSVP’s? Schedule a complimentary consultation to chat about your wedding stationery, planning checklist and choosing the best vendor team to help bring all of your ideas together for your day!
Shoot us a message on our contact form or directly to hello@the530bride.com and we can set up a meeting or phone session at your earliest convenience.

Northern California Wedding Planner | Choosing Your Wedding Photographer

Hey there Spring! It's been an exciting last few weeks of wedding prep for our spring weddings and now that we are in full on wedding mode we also have planning sessions for our fall 2018 weddings and our 2019 couples.  So what that means is we are working on finding the perfect event partners for our couples from caterers, florists, bakers, DJ's and everything in between.  

If you've been reading our blog you know that we feel strongly about connecting with your wedding team, and that when you are making these decisions it truly is not just a matter of price.  Photo and video teams are going to spend a significant amount of time with you on your wedding day so it's important to vibe with them.  

Regardless of how many months or even year(s) out you are from your wedding day, you may start hearing this phrase quite often "it is your day" or "whatever you like" because it's true we can't simply pick a list of people that we like and expect it to match all of your specific preferences.  However if the process of making all of these decisions feels overwhelming than by all means ask your wedding planner to give you their narrowed down preferred vendor list.

For this example, we will assume you are starting from scratch in the photographer search and we will take you through our process for finding the right photographer for your wedding!
 

Photography Style/Editing 

When our couples are looking for photographers we send them a list of several styles of photography to see which direction they are leaning towards, that could be a natural light photographer who has a lot of light/bright and colorful photos or a photographer who does a darker moodier edit. 

Photo by  Petr Ovralov  on  Unsplash

Photo by Petr Ovralov on Unsplash

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Sometimes we find that couple's aren't set on a specific type of edit but rather the style in which the photographer shoots portraits (posed vs more candid shots) etc.  If you love that one photographer gets really unique angles and uses dramatic lighting and editing techniques then we know your list of photographers to meet with will be much different than a couple who really prefers soft natural light photos with minimal editing. 

Coverage

Now that you have narrowed down the style of photography that you are interested in, it is time to start thinking about your wedding day coverage and what your priorities are for photos.  This is important when you are comparing the number of hours included in wedding collections that you are considering. 

For example if you are looking at photographer A who you really love but are thinking of a 7 hour package, you will need to decide when their coverage would begin.  If sunset portraits are important to you then you can also look up with when the sunset is on your date and assume you will do sunset portraits 15-20 minutes before the sun actually sets.  Then work your way backward for the coverage start time.

If you ask us, we always recommend having at least 8 hours of coverage on your wedding day.  This allows you to plan your reception without feeling like you are rushing through all of the formalities to squeeze everything into a 6 or 7 hour photography timeline.

Pricing

We understand that your wedding budget is a real thing, and we want to provide you with options that make sense for your specific needs.  We help you narrow down the options to then reach out to the photographers and schedule a consultation or phone session so that you get to know them and understand more about the value they provide.  

If you have questions about choosing your wedding photographer feel free to reach out to us, we're always happy to help out!

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Northern California Wedding Planner | Real Talk ~ Budget Breakdown

With the recent news of Style Me Pretty closing it had us thinking a lot about where couples find inspiration for planning their wedding.  If you are engaged and starting to dive into the rentals, decor and design aspects of your wedding you might feel unsure of pricing or how to even go about putting together the overall look.  We're going to break down the budget of a wedding reception and talk real numbers!

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Let's take two side by side wedding tables for example and see if anything jumps out.  At first glance, they are both round guest tables with white linens.  But the full drop linen on the left is double the price of the linen on the right.  

Will your reception chairs be pre-set at the tables or are you using the same set of chairs for ceremony and moving them to reception?  Consider the cost of doubling the set of chairs vs upgrading to full drop linens and see which is a priority to you.  In some cases couples choose to use standard linens on the tables and only have one set of chairs so just make sure you have a plan for getting chairs moved over. 

Now, let's move on to your place settings and visualize what you would like to have on your tables.  The first question we would have is if your caterer will be providing china and flatware or if they use heavy chinette disposables.  If the caterer gives you the option or you are considering renting dishes just make sure to work out the numbers for rentals, and labor for bussing the dishes.

Image: Matthew Lim Photography 

Image: Matthew Lim Photography 

So let's ball park the numbers for a wedding reception of 150 guests assuming we are using round guest tables that seat 8 guests and basic polyester linens. *Keep in mind the pricing is based on average rental pricing in Northern California and it can vary quite a bit depending on the company* 

148 guests + the couple

1 48 inch round wood table (sweetheart table) 8.00 ea
1  108 inch round full drop polyester linen (sweetheart table) 10.95 ea
19 60 inch round wood tables  8.95 ea
19 120 inch full drop polyester linen 12.95 ea
150 White resin padded folding chairs 2.50 ea
150 China package (dinner plate, flatware, water goblet, wine glass and champagne glass) 2.60 ea

This would bring us to $27 per person and a subtotal of $3,996 for the guest tables and then $4,014.25 including the sweetheart table + linen before tax, delivery and maintenance/wear & tear fees (typically 10%) We would also want to add a welcome table, buffet tables, bar tables, dessert tables etc along with linens for all of your service tables. 

Depending on if you are renting through a full service rental company or your caterer, you will also want to factor in set-up and breakdown fees for ceremony and reception items.    
 

Image: Bloom Portraiture 

Image: Bloom Portraiture 

Choosing a caterer is a big decision not only because it is such a large portion of your wedding budget but because choosing the package can determine the service level for the event.  If you envision passed appetizers, staff going around to keep the beverage glasses full, having champagne poured at the tables and staff to handle cake cutting then you will want to look into a full service caterer.  {For more tips on choosing a caterer check out our recent blog post.}

If you are choosing a buffet and would like to keep costs down, consider using heavy chinette disposables to reduce the rental costs and labor for bussing tables.   You can also have stationary appetizers instead of passed as it will be less labor intensive. 

Hopefully this was helpful to see some line items but if you need some assistance with getting your overall budget together, feel free to reach out and we would be happy to chat!

~ Happy Planning ~ 



 

Northern California Wedding Planner | Why You Should Hire A Full Service Wedding Planner

Weddings aren't all champagne and macarons, but our obsession comes from the satisfaction of bringing a concept together that start as notes on a page and transform into real life details.  It is exhilarating to send a ceremony processional down the aisle at precisely the right time, and watching the couple as they are announced into their reception surrounded by their guests just as they are about to enjoy dinner and dancing.  These moments are created with so much love and careful planning! 

Image by AnnaMae Photography 

Image by AnnaMae Photography 

Many couples come to us a few months after getting engaged and they feel like they can make a lot of the decisions themselves, but once they start looking at the time commitment to plan and communicate with all of their potential vendors they begin to consider how much they already have on their plates with work and day-to-day life.  Did you know that the average couple spends anywhere from 10-20 hours a week planning their wedding?  

Source: Wedding Wire 2017 Newlywed Report

Source: Wedding Wire 2017 Newlywed Report

Aside from time, budget is another reality check that can be difficult to get back on track if you have been booking vendors and without an understanding of the big picture.  As wedding planners, we can help you select goods and services that fit into the overall vision of what you are hoping to achieve/experience.  Think of us as a match-maker in a way because we can see a good fit for things like photography and videography based on the personalities and style of the couple, it's amazing to see the relationships that grow and how smooth the wedding day goes with the right team.

While every wedding is unique, some of the typical services that we provide for full service planning clients include: 

  • Design concept
  • Budget proposal/outline
  • Venue research and selection assistance
  • Contract reviews
  • Vendor research and communication
  • Arrange consultations and tastings 
  • Source and reserve/manage rentals
  • Guest list management and rsvp tracking
  • Stationery design or procurement
  • Floorplan design
  • Payment tracking, insurance documentation and final detail distribution
  • Provide event production staff for set-up and coordinate all breakdown
    & so much more! 

As a full-service planner, we love being able to support your wedding planning journey from the very beginning. Not only do we ensure nothing is missed, but we also love the friendships that  are built throughout this amazing process! 

Xo,

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Northern California Wedding Planner | Real Talk - Vendor Communication

Happy Spring! Today we're talking all about keeping up with communication during your wedding planning process and how a wedding planner can help you stay organized.  Let's assume you have anywhere from 5 to 10 wedding vendors from your venue, caterer, florist, DJ and rentals to bakers, tent company and stationery designer.  That's a lot of moving pieces!

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As a wedding planner, communication is our top priority because when everyone is on the same page for your wedding day we know things will go smoothly as planned.  If details and updates aren't distributed across the board you can bet there will be a snag in the process which can ultimately cost you money if you need to add something that was missed, or an important detail isn't executed as promised.  It is imperative for your wedding vendors to work as a team, and we want to ensure that everyone is set up for success from day one.

Email communication 
As convenient as text messages are these days, it still isn't a professional form of communication and because texts are often very short and sweet it is always going to be more thorough to communicate via email.  This also will be helpful in the long run in case you need to look back through your previous emails to refresh your memory on a decision or update from a few months prior.  

Organized Master Timeline
Without an organized master timeline to serve as the main anchor point for your event, you could easily have several different variations of your wedding timeline with each vendor.  It doesn't seem like 10 minutes here and there make a big difference but when it comes to the caterer pulling lids off of the buffet and food being served fresh and hot, every minute counts.   We also want to make the most of your coverage with your photographer so giving enough time for formal portraits but keeping dinner and toasts running smoothly will ensure you have time for those dreamy sunset photos! 

Efficient Decision Making
A wedding planner can help present options to you in an efficient manner, making side by side comparisons based on your budget and preferences.  This will cut down on the back and forth emails to get the information you are looking for and can also streamline the time that it takes to book vendors.  Decision making was one of the 5 toughest things about planning according to WeddingWire

Details, Details, Details! 
We can only imagine what your day looks like inside your mind until we get to draw this out and break it down detail by detail.  This will ensure that no one is coming to you with questions on your wedding day while you are getting your hair and make-up done.  We will work with your vendors to review set up and breakdown details, and the smallest detail when it comes to your preferences. 

Managing your calendar
We want to assist you with making sure you know when appointments and payment due dates are with your vendors, when you need to have your final guest count, where and when you need to purchase event insurance and if desired we'll follow up on your behalf to ensure you receive your deposit back from your venue after your wedding. 

Planning Dashboard
Our couples have access to their personalized planning dashboard where they can access their wedding details 24/7.  They will have the ability to view and customize their planning checklist, master timeline, budget details, guest list, rsvp tracking, vendor contact info and contracts, design details and more.  This makes us happy wedding planners because we know they can relax knowing exactly where they are in the process. 

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Every couple is different with respect to how involved they want to be in their day-to-day planning, so we have different packages and options to serve those needs individually.  We'd love to chat with you about your wedding plans even if are just looking for an extra set of hands on your wedding day.  

~ Happy Planning! 

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Northern California Wedding Planner | Contract Talk - Vendor Meals

Oh if ever there has been a hot topic amongst wedding community boards and professional network groups, it would be these two words: Vendor Meal.

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First and foremost, we ensure that our couples are reading their contracts when booking services and understand all terms and requirements that are listed in the contract language. 

We totally get it, who hasn't breezed through the 8 page terms and conditions when you get your shiny new iPhone or when you update an app.  It is easy to click the button stating you've read and agree to all terms.  However, when it comes to your wedding day and multiple event partners all working on the same event, there are a few contract issues that you specifically need to make notes of; such as office hours/communication clauses, liability, travel fees, cancellation terms, equipment/electrical requirements, turnaround/production times and vendor meals.  

Let us preface this with our philosophy: We believe in having great relationships with your team, and that your event partners should be eating dinner when you eat dinner. Specifically, they should be eating the same dinner that you are serving to your guests.  
  1. What's the big deal?  Let's use your photographer as an example: you have a photographer shooting with you on your wedding day for 6+ hours and as expected they aren't going to pack up and leave to go grab dinner and miss out on your toasts, first dance etc.  So when you and your wedding party are released to the buffet or are being served your plated meal, your photo and video team should be eating at this time as well. 
    Your event partners are working in a setting where they are likely traveling or working at venues that can often be remote, so if your event partners need to leave the premises for a meal, they are not liable for lapses in coverage or services during this time. 

    Just as in a corporate setting an employer would be required to provide lunch for a working-lunch time meeting or allow employees to leave for the lunch break.
     
  2. Our venue is full service and provides a "Vendor Meal" so we are covered right? Yes and no.  The stories that we've heard about these notorious "vendor meals" being a day old bagged lunch type situation is what prompted this post.  Most often, a contract might state that a hot meal would be provided so even if that means ordering a pizza for your event partners or asking that your venue/caterer provides an alternative hot meal like a chicken or pasta option instead of New York Steak for example.
     
  3. Do we need to provide dinner for all of our vendors/event partners? Short answer yes, but again read your agreements first.  Another logic to use is anyone hired for 4+ hours of service that will be present during dinner, or otherwise noted in their agreement.
     
  4. When should our vendors eat? When you and your wedding party are released to the buffet or are being served your plates, your photo and video team should be right behind you or provided a plate served by the caterer.  We are pretty confident that you aren't wanting photos of you taking bites of dinner, so this is the best time for your photo & video team to eat.  They should be seated at a table within the close enough to the reception area so they are able to see the event and any special moments that may arise.  Your DJ should also be getting in line in time to be done eating before any announcements need to be made. 
     
  5. Who pays for the cost of the meals for vendors/event partners? This cost is allocated to the couple/host paying for the catering.  You might be thinking, "well it's $80 per person, this is going to add up fast!" but discuss this with your venue or caterer to determine if there is a hot meal option at a reduced cost.  
     
  6. Should we provide place settings for the vendors as well?  We suggest having a table that is available for your event partners, but some may choose to eat in another area and take a quick break.  It's always a great idea to have extra place settings or some disposable flatware just in case.  

We are here to help couples work through questions like these to make sure that in the weeks leading up to your wedding we are discussing the details that pertain to your wedding and not going back and forth over contract terms and vendor meals.  If you aren't sure on what your event team needs, ask your wedding planner or reach out and ask them ahead of time. 

Northern California Wedding Planner | You Set Your Date, Now Share The News

If you've been staring that beautiful ring on your finger, and wanting to share the news with an official save the date then check out some of these beautiful options and take advantage of special pricing at Minted.com

We're so excited for engagement season, and thrilled to share some of these great options for couples who are looking for predesigned stationery options.  If you are hoping for something custom be sure to send us a message or drop a comment below and we can schedule a time to chat!  

We only share information and promotions from companies that we know and use, the promotion above are affiliate links to Minted.com.  

~ Happy Planning!

Northern California Wedding Planner | We're Sort of Psychic

Alright so we can't predict the weather (wouldn't that be nice) but we can steer couples away from red flags during their planning process.  Maybe it doesn't come from a cosmic super power but let's call it "wedding planner intuition."  

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From a bride ordering her custom wedding dress online to a "friend of a friend" DJ'ing your wedding... we try to steer couples away from these potential catastrophe's because it is simply not worth it for you to save a bit in one area and cost yourself the headache or disappointment in the long run.  

It happens to all of us.  We see a good price or an opportunity to save money, maybe even an impulse shopping decision.  I myself was guilty over Black Friday when cruising on Amazon Prime I saw some beautiful sequin linens that were so beautiful in the photos I just had to have them.  So I added them to my cart and right as I was about to check out I saw another listing from the same shop and looked through some of their other items.  That's when I started reading the reviews from customers who unfortunately received the items that looked nothing like they did in the picture.  Not only that, they didn't match the measurements of the linens listed.  Even if it wasn't a wedding day, lets say it was a birthday party or even a gathering that you are hosting and you are so excited about how this linen is going to tie everything together.  You receive it and it's missing sequins or looks like it was sewn by a blind monkey! Now you are rushing to find a plan B.

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What is my point? Rushing to find a plan B when it comes to your wedding is unnecessary stress that you don't need.  We can only encourage you to take our advice when it comes to hiring professionals and quality product that we know is going to meet your expectation.  Why risk a years worth of planning and organizing a timeline when your friend of a friend DJ shows up and pretty much thinks they are there to party instead of following a timeline or making announcements to keep everything running smoothly.  As a wedding planner, there is nothing worse than feeling like you are trying to do multiple jobs at once and still not able to fix the couple's disappointment due to another vendor failing to do what they were hired to do.

So when you hire a wedding planner you are also hiring someone who has learned from years of experience and understands how to avoid these red flags.  We've learned from our own challenges, and we recommendations on professionals who we know and trust to go above an beyond to make a couple's day amazing.

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~ Happy Planning & Happy Holiday shopping -
p.s Read the reviews first!!
XoXo - Veronica

Northern California Wedding Planner | Keeping Your Wedding Budget in Check

Our tips for keeping your wedding budget in check

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If we had to name one thing that can really cause stress it wouldn't be hard to guess that the Budget topic is first on the list.  Why? Because it is often skipped over in the excitement of being engaged and the couple or the families of the couple choose a wedding venue off the bat without realizing how that impacts the rest of the budget moving forward.  

Looking at sites like The Knot and Wedding Wire, you will see an estimation of 50% of your total budget going towards the cost of the venue.  What varies greatly is what the venue actually provides.  If your venue doubles as your ceremony and reception venue and includes amenities like tables and chairs, you probably in good shape.  

Our advice is to A) Discuss the budget and be realistic on how much you are comfortable putting away or who will be contributing.  B) Meet with a wedding planner who can put these numbers into perspective for you based on the area C) Create two spreadsheets based on your top two venues and break down how the budget would be allocated in both scenarios.  

Wedding planning is fun we promise, but it does come with some reality checks and for good reason.  We strongly believe in planning for the experience and not for the "stuff" or you will definitely go over budget and feel like you are being over taken by the whole process.  

We use a planning dashboard to help our couples through their planning and budgeting so that we can track costs and keep all of those items in check.  By tracking deposits, payments and final balance it keeps the financial aspect much more transparent.  

What has been the most stressful aspect of planning for you? Just getting started? Contact us today for a complimentary consultation for wedding planning and how we can best help you. 

Northern California Wedding Planner | Keeping it Intimate - Ceremonies & Pop-Up Weddings

We're Loving Intimate Weddings - Here's Why: 

Instead of being lost in seating chart land or worrying over shuttles for 140 guests, couples can focus on their vows, experiencing the dining experience along with their guests, visiting and truly being in the moment.  Not to mention the budget can often be allocated on enriching your guests experiences with welcome bags, custom stationery at their place settings, or live music for example.  

Photos Courtesy of  Amanda Wei Photography

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Many of our couples reside outside of Northern California, and are planning their weddings remotely so having us in the area to go on site walks and meet with their event team saves them a lot of the leg work while giving them peace of mind.   After-all for most, this is the first time planning an event of this size so it can seem overwhelming when they first set the date. 

Recently, we've had the pleasure of working with couples who are really looking to streamline their wedding day experience and are looking for an all inclusive approach.  This can mean finding a venue who provides many of the amenities such as the event space, tables, chairs, food & beverage, etc and we contract the event team to complete the must-haves including florals, sound & photography to name a few.  
 

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If you are curious about Pop-Up Weddings and how they differ between an intimate wedding or elopement, here is a comparison:

Elopement - The couple + witness(es) + officiant

Pop-up Wedding - One venue decked out with all of the wedding goodies + multiple couples at various times during the day, night or throughout the length of the event + 15-20 guests typically and can include some of the essentials like officiant, photography, champagne, appetizers, music and dancing depending on the package you select.

Intimate Wedding - The couple + 20-60 guests + officiant and venue which could be a back yard, restaurant or small venue.

Creating an intimate experience with only a few of your closest friends or family members allows you to focus on the elements that matter most to you.  Surprise your guests with your choreographed first dance? Yes!!

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Through our experience of planning intimate weddings we've honestly enjoyed such genuine connections with our couples and even their families who we get to know in the process.  We are so thankful for these amazing couples and for the opportunity to witness such joy and happiness!

~ Happy Planning~ 

Northern California Wedding Planner | Pricing & Value

How to Plan Your Wedding While on a Budget

Technology has not only changed the way that we communicate but also the way we live our every day lives.  We rely on our phones, devices, social media sites and apps to deliver the information that we are looking for.  Whether you are researching homes in your area for future home buying, or planning a weekend trip or even grocery shopping; you will make decisions based on the desired outcome/experience, cost and value.

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As a consumer we see pricing all day, every day.  Do you choose to fill up at a gas station because of it's proximity to your home or workplace, or is it based on the price per gallon? Maybe the staff is friendlier or they carry your favorite beverage.  

How does this relate to the wedding world? Well you are still very much a consumer when it comes to planning your wedding, so when you are starting to research things like "How much do weddings cost" or doing a Google search by area to see the options for DJ's, Wedding Venues, etc in your city etc you may be already forming your opinions or perceived value before ever meeting with the business. 

Even if you decide not to hire a wedding coordinator, Please, please, please use caution when booking services off of Facebook buy%2Fsell groups from people who are throwing their hat into the ring for the cheapest pri.png

We work closely with the event partners that make up the local wedding industry, so we see more than the prices we see the people behind the service. The husband and wife team that provides amazing photo and video while making their couples relax and laugh during their day, the baker who makes a whole new recipe to ensure that the bride with a gluten allergy has the cake of her dreams.  The rental companies who launder, iron & press every linen that goes out their door to make sure it is picture perfect for every event.  There are years of experience, so much wisdom and even more love that is poured in from every angle of a wedding day. 

Our couples can trust that when we refer them to event partners that we recommend it is because of our experiences with them and their reputation for quality, not because of any special discounts, kick-backs or because they are the least expensive.  Budgets are a real thing, but it is extremely important to look at your overall budget and decide where to prioritize your spending.  This doesn't mean ask for discounts or haggle prices, this means being willing to have less coverage in one area and allocating this to another based on your specific priorities.  

Even if you decide not to hire a wedding coordinator, Please, please, please use caution when booking services off of Facebook buy/sell groups from people who are throwing their hat into the ring for the cheapest price.  Your wedding day is not a time that you want to learn the lesson of "getting what you pay for."

Here are our top tips for planning your wedding while on a budget:
1. Set a Budget - That's right, if you are on a "budget" you should know what that budget looks like.  If you are comfortable spending $1200 on flowers make sure that it fits into your budget and how that fits with your rentals, catering or bar funds etc.

2. Keep Your Guest List in Check - No surprise co-workers or inviting the mail man until you have this guest list locked in. Remember your guest count is tied to costs for catering, bar, rentals & decor and sometimes even the price for your venue.  

3. Hire Professionals - Saving $200 on your photography is great, except when the photographer you booked off of Craigslist doesn't have experience with retrieving images of a corrupted SD card or didn't plan adequately for travel time and shows up late.  Look for insured, experienced & capable event partners who you feel can provide the wedding day experience you have envisioned.  Consider making smaller monthly payments so that as you get closer to your wedding date you have paid the balances down.

4. Create Focal Points - Use your decor and your rental budget dollars wisely.  Create a back drop behind your sweetheart table or design an interactive guest area that provides a focal point for guests rather than trying to "over decorate" your entire venue.

5. Choose Guest Experience vs "Stuff" - When you choose a photobooth you are creating an experience and an interactive favor/keepsake for your guests.  We love monogramed coasters as much as anyone else but at the end of the night there will be a lot more coasters left lying around than the photobooth pictures because guests hold on to them.  Glassware is another thing that we see go to waste because guests leave them behind and now you have 120 wine glasses with your name on them that will sit in your garage when you could have allocated that towards something else.

~ Happy Planning!~ 

Northern California Wedding Planner | Choosing The Right Wedding Coordinator

There are a ton of posts on the ol' interwebs highlighting the reasons why you should hire a wedding planner (lots of reasons,) but we won't reinvent the wheel here.  What we will do though, is cover some of the ways to determine what level of service you need and how to choose the right coordinator for you. 

Photo by Wonderfelle Media 

Photo by Wonderfelle Media 

Communication is Key
Just like in any healthy marriage, communication is so important from day one.  How do you communicate with others, and what is your preferred method of communication (planning dashboard, email, phone calls, face time, or in person etc.) Ask your potential wedding planner about how they typically communicate with their couples and mention what your preferences are to see how this aligns with their process.  How quickly are you expected to respond to your coordinator, and vice versa?

Clear Expectations 
No one likes to feel like their needs aren't being met.  How do you envision your wedding planning process? Do you want to be hands on with decision making and details/logistics or would you prefer that your planner works primarily on the details then comes to you for your final decisions/approvals? 

Feeling the Vibe
We work as team of planners not only because of a busy wedding schedule but also because personalities can match up differently and we want to ensure that our couples are feeling the vibes and connecting with their planner.  Typically our couples spend about a year with us give or take, so we get to know each other and connect.  It's literally the best part of what we are so blessed to do.  

Relationships 
Working in the event industry, we have forged relationships with a strong network of event partners from Venues, DJ's, Caterers, Florists and Bakers to name a few.  When our couples ask for recommendations we have the highest confidence in our vendor teams because they have a proven track record of only the best service.  We know who goes above and beyond, who is responsive to emails/requests and is easy to work with.  This saves our clients a lot of time because they aren't starting from scratch when selecting their vendors.  So choosing a planner who has an established reputation is very important.

Experience
Relationships and experience seem to go hand in hand, but we break this down because it is easy for anyone to all themselves a wedding planner.  However, until someone has worked their way though weddings and all sorts of logistics, they won't know enough about real life problem solving, managing large crowds or any other stressful aspect.  Read reviews, and feel free to ask for past clients so that you can hear first hand about what to expect. 

Value
When you are planning a wedding it makes sense to want to know the cost up front. "What is this going to cost me?" However when booking vendors of any category we urge you to think of the value first of what the vendor offers, their experience in the industry and reputation.  Booking someone based purely on price can often lead to frustration.  We believe in being cost effective and budget friendly while delivering excellent service for our couples.

We hope that you find your A Team for your wedding day, if you have questions or need assistance feel free to shoot us a note!

~ Happy Planning!~ 

Northern California Wedding Planner | Communicating The Details

On many levels technology has changed the game.  At our fingertips we have hundreds of apps for making our lives easier.  From collecting our thoughts on visual boards, taking notes, playing music, tracking finances, electronically signing, planning your outfit, scheduling transportation, creating graphics, sending a cup of joe; you name it..there is an app for it.  

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While we have come so far in technology and creating ways to "connect," the one shortfall is that we have tried and failed to replace the human element.  An app cannot do the one thing that matters most for a successful event. Execution. Expressing your priorities and having a trusted planner on-site to ensure that all of the details from your notes, Pinterest board, email, vendor agreements etc are actually delivered, assembled, utilized in the degree that you intended on your wedding day.  

When we see all of the articles and apps out there to plan your wedding, it makes us want to yell from the rooftops that phone apps and planning websites don't have nothin' on the behind the scenes magic that comes from a wedding planner working with a team of professional vendors.  

iPod's will never replace a DJ who can emcee your event and keep the guests engaged.  Raise your hand if you have been to an event where the ipod awkwardness was what you remembered more than the beautiful flowers or great food. (Raising Hand)  The same can be said for not having a professional photographer capture your day, a friend with a nice camera won't know the ins and outs of photographing a wedding. 

So how do you communicate your details after you have been planning for a year? We call it a brain dump, not a glamorous term but essentially you need to get all of these ideas and plans out of your brain and on to paper.  If you know exactly how you want your welcome table set up, then try to do a mock set-up using the items that you have or sketch out an example.  When you pack your items to bring to your venue, label each box of what is inside and where it needs to go. For example "Serving utensils for sweetheart table" etc.  We schedule master planning sessions with all of our couples where we go through how they would like their event to flow, set-up and break-down of what items they are bringing versus what is being rented, what needs to be packed or returned to rental companies etc. 

If you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed, reach out to your local wedding planner for tips on how to feel organized and prepared for your wedding day! 

~ Happy Planning!

Northern California Wedding Planner | Life Happens

From venues closing, job changes, military orders, surprise babies, storms, illnesses and everything in between, Life Happens! When you are focused on planning your wedding, even the smallest speed bumps seem monumental.  For many couples who have been far into their planning and received news of a lay-off, or a family member who is not going to be well enough to travel to the wedding it can mean either moving the date or changing the plan all together.  

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Once invitations go out, it may seem impossible to move the location or change the date but you have to be able to adapt to what works for the situation in order to still have the wedding experience that you can.  Just remember to breathe!

The internet is full of crazy stories of real life date changes:  Last Minute Venue Change  - This couple experienced a venue closing and a major flood and still tied the knot! (http://www.silive.com/relationships/index.ssf/2013/02/last-minute_venue_change_dont_panic.html)

Having a wedding planner that is able to take these changes head on and communicate to your vendors, negotiate the date change or discuss potential contract changes etc can take some of the stress away.  We aim to serve our clients by being their advocate in this process.  

Consider having to explain the situation to 10-20+ vendors when you are already stressed out.  Though everyone will want to help you, simply passing this off to a family member or wedding party member can lead to miscommunication or further delays.

Tips:

  •  Check with your local wedding planner who will have a good handle on the venues and likely options that would be available on short notice.  
  • Appoint one person as the contact for all communication
  • Review all of your current contracts and provide copies to your appointed contact person or wedding planner to aide them in any discussions of date changes, cancellations, and any monies owed.  
  • Be prepared to forfeit deposits/retainers for vendors that are not able to transfer the date or who do not offer any refunds in the event of a cancellation.  Keep in mind that while your wedding vendors will be sympathetic to your situation, they have likely turned down other couples interested in your date so returning a paid deposit wouldn't be feasible unless they are confident they can re-book.  
  • Take it slow - Do not jump into another date or locking in any new contracts until you have not only confirmed that any new vendors or venue is open, but also the less back and forth there is with date or location changes the better.  

Just remember that while it may seem like the worst news ever, no matter what if you and your fiance are going to say your I Do's it is still a win-win, and there can always be a plan B.  

~ Happy Planning ~

Northern California Wedding Planner | Budgeting for Service Fees

Cake cutting fees, plate charges, set-up and breakdown, delivery, corkage, gratuity..the fees may seem to pop up everywhere but here is a little info to help you navigate when budgeting for your wedding.  When it comes to fees think of it as a convenience fee to compensate for time or for additional services.

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Here are a few of the common fees that you may have not factored in yet! 

Service Fees
When looking over your agreement, do make sure to factor in applicable tax, service fees and gratuity. 

For example you may see this on your catering contract:

An eighteen percent (18%) service charge will be included in the final billing on all food, beverage and labor. The service charge covers the use of our equipment, kitchen essentials, buffet décor, energy costs, liability insurance fees, and all necessary permits and other administrative expenses. Please note that the service charge is taxable based on California State Regulation 1603(f) and is not a gratuity for the personnel.

Cake Cutting Fees
Typically charged when your venue, caterer or other staff who are not affiliated with the bakery who provided the cake.  The fee ranges any where from a flat fee of $25 to anywhere from $1-$4 per guest.  This mainly is due to covering the staff member designated to cut the cake (especially for large cakes or multiple tiers.)
https://www.theknot.com/content/wedding-cake-cutting-fee 

Corkage Fees
Corkage is a per bottle fee that a restaurant charges a customer who brings their own wine to be consumed at that restaurant. This isn't allowed in the majority of restaurants in the country, but it's very common/normal in Northern California. http://www.forkandbottle.com/wine/corkage.htm

Delivery Charges 
This one is pretty standard - Rental items, florals, cakes or other specialty items will likely have a delivery fee if you aren't planning to pick-up.  Delivery fees are charged to cover fuel and for the driver's time.  

Set-up/Break-down Charges
The set-up and break-down fees covers the time and labor of setting up chairs, tables, place settings etc for your wedding.  Often the break-down is the area where couples underestimate the amount of labor to clean-up after a large celebration.  Not only cleaning up the garbage and packing the personal items/decor but ensuring that all rental items are packed/stored/stacked per the rental company agreement.  Wood chairs often need to be bagged then stacked which is an extra step as well.  Just ask your wedding party, they DON'T want to do this after a long day of celebrating with you! 

Additional Hours/Services 
When you book your vendors such as a photographer, you will often book based on the number of hours they will provide coverage.  If you decide to you would like them to stay longer, you will likely be charged for the additional hour at a premium.  When it comes to additional services, this is called "out of scope" meaning the vendor wasn't contracted for the specific service but will provide it for an additional fee.  

Recently, a few articles have been circulating accusing the wedding industry of price gouging just because it is a wedding.  However, I think when it comes to fees it is more common in the service industry than most people realize.  Until you have planned a wedding, you just aren't aware of them and it can be a sense of sticker shock when you start seeing the numbers.  We recommend starting with your venue search and narrowing down your selection by first understanding these fees associated.  Work with your wedding planner to ensure that you have accounted for these in your budget! 

~ Happy Planning! ~