Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How to keep wedding guests happy

While every wedding is certainly about the Bride and the Groom, when planning your special day you want your guests to have a great experience that they will fondly remember.

Recently I was asked by the website to comment on what I find to be the most common complaints guests make at a wedding.  To get my opinion, along with other great planners, check out the article in the link below.

Enjoy and ...


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured invitation design - John

Since I started the trend of featuring invitation designs influenced by my immediate family with the last 2 posts showcasing the Rina Lyn and Rachael Christine designs, I thought I should continue the family theme.

I thought it would also be great to feature a more masculine design that would be great for graduations or even for Father's Day.  The invitation I am featuring today was inspired by my father and named "John" after him.

As a kid I always remember the striped ties that my father wore to the office every day.  I used this inspiration on the invitations with a stripe patter that is incorporated into the front of some of the pieces in the line and on the backs of all of the invitations.  As you can see, the design also is well suited to a nautical stream with the white and blue stripes.  It is just a clean masculine look that I love.

As you know from previous posts about my line, there are coordinating pieces so you can have a consistent look from the invitation to the escort card, menu, table number and even thank you card.  And once again, a special thanks to Jennifer and Charles of Maring Visuals for their great work photographing my line.

Until next time...


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Honeymoon Advice

In my opinion gone are the days where the guests gather at the exit to the reception hall waiting with bated breath to see the bride and groom dash off to their honeymoon.  This almost (in fact never) happens!

So the question is this; why do brides and grooms feel the need to rush off to their honeymoon the morning after their wedding?

If you must rush off because you only have so much vacation time from work, choose a location that is either a 4 hour drive (or less) or a location you can get to in about a two hour flight.  Spending all your time and money to dash off to the Maldives for only 4 or 5 days in my opinion makes absolutely no sense!

If you feel you must go to a far off romantic location like the Maldives or South Africa allow at least ten days (minimum), of which four of those are going to be travel days.  I always think it makes sense for the bride and the groom to pick a reasonable location right after the honeymoon and then spend the money and time on the first anniversary to location far and remote.

Think about it; you and your groom will be entertaining all weekend.  Little sleep, the stress of the wedding and the hours partying add up and result in a very tired couple.  While airlines do give you a little congratulatory champagne, rarely do they upgrade you to business class.  If they do you're the lucky few.  So if you add being tired to the stress of trying to make a flight right after the wedding it will actually only add to the stress you've already experienced.  With that, arguments can occur, and why would you want to start a romantic honeymoon tired, irritable and angry?

I suggest you take a few days after the wedding to get everything in order.  Open gifts, cards and deposit the money.  Finish packing, doing laundry or whatever you have to do.  Sleep in and then head off on your vacation.  You'll be rested and you won't feel the stress of trying to rush to get somewhere to only try to relax.

I hope this little bit of advice helps you when planning your honeymoon.

Until next time…


Friday, April 11, 2014

Featured Stationery Design - Rina Lyn

Since the last stationery design I featured was named after my niece Rachael I thought it only fair to feature the design named after my other niece, Rina Lyn.  After all, I don't want it to look like I am playing favorites.

My inspiration for this design came from the vintage prints from the 60s and 70s that I always loved.  With that inspiration I created a kaleidoscope of color in this invitation set.

In addition to this pink / yellow / orange combination this design is offered in darker color scheme which includes purple and blue tones.  It is also a stunning, vibrant collection of colors.

As with all of my designs, you can order not only invitations but also menus, escort cards, note cards and all elements needed for your event.  Check it out on line at or at one of these great stationery stores.  

Also, I have to give a special thanks to Jennifer and Charles from Maring Visuals for their great work photographing my entire collection.  They're the best!

Until next time....


Thursday, April 10, 2014

20 tips for to make your wedding day perfect!

With wedding season rapidly approaching, I thought this would be a good time to share my best tips for all of the Brides and Grooms about to tie the knot.  Here are 20 of my best tips for items that are often overlooked.  I hope these tips will make everyone's wedding day a perfect one to remember.  

1. Create a check list of items that are to be brought to the venue such as cake knife, toasting flutes, card box, garment bag, etc.  Give this list to the onsite point person, day of planner or a family friend before the wedding.  This will help them to check off the list as they gather everything at the end of the evening.  This will help the bride know before she leaves for the night that everything is accounted for.

2. Gifts / Cards - Designate a responsible person, someone other than parents, siblings or bridal party, to be in charge of collecting all the gifts and cards throughout the evening.  Preferably that person should be someone who doesn't drink a lot and is willing to make sure everything gets to you in one piece.

3. So often brides forget to create an alphabetical seating list, a table list and an escort card list.  Often these lists are disorganized and not cross checked making it hard for the planner or on site assistant to direct guests when they can't find their seating assignments.  Creating an alpha list makes things so much easier for everyone and allows for the bride to know if someone is missing a seat.  I highly recommend using excel spreadsheets as it's easy to organize with a few quick clicks.

4. If the bride doesn't have a planner, they should designate a person other than the parents, siblings or bridal party to field calls and last minute issues on the day of the wedding.  Choosing someone outside your close circle is best because they are less likely to get emotional and make irrational decisions.  Very often by choosing someone close to the bridal party the bride finds out about any mishaps and gets emotional even before she walks down the aisle.  By choosing someone not present in front of the bride it buffers anything that could upset her on the wedding day.

5. I can't tell you how many times the bride miscalculates how long it's going to take her and her girls to get ready which often causes delays in getting to the church or ceremony.  I always allow an extra 45 minutes to an hour sometimes even more!

6. As a planner I always look to see if there are parades, traffic closures or other things that could cause a traffic nightmare for the bride and groom to get from the hotel to the ceremony to the reception.  Often however, this is overlooked.  There's nothing worse than finding out the major freeway is closed for the day due to construction and you're late for your ceremony!

7. Tipping is of course always at the discretion of the bride.  But this is one area that is often over looked.  Before each wedding I discuss with the vendors if they have any tipping guidelines.  Often they say it's up to the client, but a little tip goes a long way.  And, if given in advance, the vendors will go a little extra mile, like the band playing an extra 20 minutes at the end without charging you overtime!

8. Staff Meal / Vendor Meals - This is always just assumed that the vendors are fed.  But most venues do not include this and often charge extra.  That's fine, but remember giving your photographer or DJ a cold meal vs. a hot meal can make a difference in their attitude.  Often they are given a cold meal like a sandwich and a cookie.  By spending a few extra dollars and giving them a hot meal, you've got a happy vendor and one that is willing to do more for you!

9. I can't stress enough how important it is to break in wedding shoes.  This goes for both the bride and the groom!  Wear them around the house, even vacuum in them!  But break them in!  Your feet and you will be happy!

10. I always tell my brides to wear the exact same undergarment for their gown fittings as they will wear on the day of their wedding.  This goes for bra, panties, corsets, etc!  If you don't want any issues with your dress the day of the wedding then you should have all your fittings done in the same undergarments.  This goes for the shoes too!  Don't switch to another pair of shoes at the last minute, it could affect how the hem of the dress falls.

11. Have a designated person who will be in attendance practice bustling your dress at the final fitting.  I can't tell you how many times there are 8 bridesmaids under the brides dress after the ceremony trying to bustle it and no one can seem to figure it out and they miss the entire cocktail hour!

12. Ask your makeup artist for any extra make up you can keep on you or in your purse.  This way you can do quick touchups and everything will be consistent on the night of your wedding.

13. For the groom - if he's a sweater then have a few extra shirts on hand for him to change into throughout the day and night.  This way he always looks fresh in all the photos!

14. Sounds crazy, but since helping Bethenny pee in her dress I've become the master of helping brides do their business!  Best advice, figure out how you'll pee before you get to the ceremony and reception.  My tip - walk into the stall, lift your dress and sit the opposite of how you normally would.  This makes it so much easier and you don't have to worry if you're going to make a mess.  Of course have your girls help you out!

15. Brides and grooms never account for not being able to check into their hotel rooms early on the day of their wedding.  Hotels can never promise an early check-in even on a slow day!  So it's best to book your suite the night before the wedding.  This way everything is checked into the hotel the night before and you don't have to stress about it the morning of the wedding.

16. Certificates of Insurance or COI's are something I always make sure my vendors have before I step into a wedding venue.  Often however, brides who book their own vendors don't think to ask and thus they are left the week of scrambling because the venue drops this on them at the last minute.  When booking your vendors, photographers, band, florist or whomever, ask if they have one.  If they don't, move on and hire someone who does!

17. Tented weddings are great! Tented weddings with a sub-floor are even better!  Especially if it's going to rain!  I once attended a wedding where the couple didn't want to spend the money on a sub-floor.  It rained for three days straight.  Not only where all the tables and chairs sinking into the grass, but so were all the high heels…There were a LOT of ticked off people at that wedding.  Cutting corners on a tent or a sub-floor is not a good idea!

18. Brides often don't think that the ceremony musicians need shade or even power, especially at an outdoor wedding.  Therefore if you're doing a ceremony on the beach ask if they need power or shade.  Then ask the venue if they can assist with both!

19. It always pains me to see couples rushing off to their honeymoon the morning after their wedding.  They are left to rush, pack up, and get to the airport with little time to breath and digest what an amazing time they had the night before.  Therefore, schedule the honeymoon departure a few days after the wedding.  This allows you to get a few things in order, relax and not rush.  Why start your honeymoon off stressed?!

20. Finally, consider how long of a day it's going to be for your guests.  Just because you want to have an after party doesn't mean your guests will.  At most, including the ceremony, cocktail reception and reception, your guests should spend no more than 6 hours with you.  Anything longer is too long and you have wasted money on an after party.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  Here's to a wonderful wedding season and...


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

To tip or not to tip?

If you can believe it I once had a client tell me they refuse to tip anyone for doing their job.  I was a bit taken back, mostly because having been a waiter (in college) I knew what it was like to live on tips.

And I've had a client ask that every vendor from security, to waiter to band member be present at least 45 minutes prior to the event so he could personally thank them and hand their tip right to them before the event even started.

Tipping of course is always at the discretion of the client, which is often what I tell my clients.  But I also tell them, that while you may not agree with it, like providing food to a vendor, a little bit can go a long way.

So who normally gets tipped?  Waiters, Captain, valet are top of the list and they work for tips.  Their base pay isn't that much and any and all tips are always welcome.  If you want to be nice, the band, because truthfully, those guys don't make as much as you think.  The photographer and assistant, that would be nice, but not always necessary.  And of course you could tip the florist, but again, not always necessary.

It truly is up to you, but if you want to make people happy, my Rabido is to allocate money into your budget to tip the key people at your event.

Until next time…


Monday, April 7, 2014

Don't forget vendor meals. Your vendors need to eat too!

I've worked with more vendors that I can count and it always amazes me when I tell them that I negotiated with the client to have a hot meal on their behalf.  They are so excited and happy!

It also amazes me, when I have clients that don't understand the importance of a vendor meal, period!

I once had a client that refused to pay for any vendor meals because they felt they were paying premium for each vendor to service their wedding.  Regardless of what I told them ie; "your vendors can't leave to get something to eat", "they'll be working eight hours or more", etc, they didn't care, they weren't budging.  In this situation I was lucky because the venue fed them on their dime.

This is one discussion I have up front with my clients when I start looking at venues or caterers for their event.  I always present the options of a hot meal or a cold meal for the vendors so they have an understanding of what the costs are.  I stress the importance that while a hot meal may be more expensive it goes a long way in keeping the vendors happy.  And if you have happy vendors, no matter how much they are getting paid, you get much more out of them!

In most cases you don't have to worry because vendors like entertainment or photographer already have it in their contracts, but if they don't you'll want to find out how many people they will need to feed the night of your wedding.  And don't forget any tech people that may need to stay and run the sound and lighting boards.  They need to be fed too!

While we are the topic of feeding vendors, let's discuss a few of my pet peeves.

Don't give them "hot" leftover food from the cocktail hour.  A) that's demeaning, saying they aren't worth their work and B) often the vendors (photographers and band) are just getting started.  By the time they get to the food, it's cold or just scraps.  So don't allow your venue to talk you into this!

Don't allow your venue to set up a table in an area where guests can see them.  This goes for a table in the dining room with your guests, the entrance to the venue, etc.  Anywhere a guest can see your vendors sitting and eating, is a bad location.  Choose an area that's well lighted and private.  This allows you to keep a sense of elegance to your event and your vendors have an area where they let down their hair and be themselves.

Discuss the timing of the vendor meals with your Captain before your wedding. Many like to wait until all guests are served to feed the vendors.  This can backfire especially if you need the photographer and band / DJ present for any special songs / dances.  A well thought out timeline should have the vendors eating at the same time nothing is going on.  Like when the guests are eating.

I hope find these little tid bits helpful and stay tuned for my next blog...tipping vendors.

Until next time…


Friday, April 4, 2014

Escort Card Advice

Over the course of the past 15 years I've seen thousands of escort cards.  Today's post is about organizing your list and cards.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen guest lists that are a disorganized mess, which only leads to the escort cards ending up in the same fashion.

The general rule is to first start your guest list in an excel spreadsheet.  Check out my previous blog post for a sample.

Don't do the list in word or some other format.  Excel allows you to sort and organize when you start your table assignments.  Create a column for the salutation, first name, last name, guest first name, address and so on.  Later on you can then add a column for table, gifts, etc.

Rabidon't - don't put all the information in one cell. For example don't put the husband and wife's name in one cell for first name.  Each should have their own cell.

When creating your escort cards, remember it should read "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith".  If there's more than one John Smith include middle initials.  Also keep in mind that each guest does not get their own escort card.  If they were invited together they get seated together. 

Rabido - Don't include nick names when addressing your envelopes or escort cards.  Your wedding is a formal affair and your all your salutations should be formal as well.

I always like to do an escort card with an envelope rather than a tented card.  The reason; you can remove the card (that has the table assignment) and switch it around should you need to make last minute changes.  If you do a tented card, all the information (name and table assignment) are printed and you would have to reprint the entire card, and no one wants to have to do that hours before the wedding.  And what's worse, if everything is printed and one is hand written, it makes that guest feel less special.

And finally, I can't stress this enough, alphabetize your escort cards before giving them to your venue, caterer or even planner.  No one wants to spend hours alphabetizing because you didn't take the time.

Also it's a good idea to give your venue, caterer and planner an alphabetized list, a list sorted by table number and a complete invite list (in alpha order) so that if someone RSVP'd "no" and they show up you can deal with the situation properly.

I hope this little bit of advice is helpful and until next time…


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Planning a destination wedding? Check out the Preferred Hotel Group

Over the last several months I have had the privilege to work with the Preferred Hotel Group and to meet with many of the spectacular hotels that are affiliated with this organization.  With over 650 affiliated hotels and resorts worldwide they offer some amazing options for planning a destination wedding.

I have recently had the pleasure to spend an afternoon learning about some of their destination resorts that I want to share with you.  The hotels and resorts that I am featuring here all offer amazing options for destination weddings but are only a handful of the resorts that are members of the Preferred Hotel Group. Take a look at these wonderful venues to find the perfect location for your wedding.

Mexico and Costa Rica.  The four hotels that I met with offer some great tropical options for weddings and events.  Check them out below:

Located on Mexico's famed Riviera Maya coast, the Banyan Tree Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen offers a beautiful Caribbean setting for your destination wedding.  It is definitely a great option for a beachfront ceremony!

I had the opportunity to personally experience the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach in Cancun and can attest to what a beautiful venue this is.  They offer a wider variety of indoor and outdoor spaces for weddings of any size

If you are interested in a location on the Pacific side of Mexico I encourage you to check out the Villa La Estancia Riviera Nayarit in Nuevo Vallarta Nayarit.  They have a variety of packages and options to make any wedding day special.

While I have not been to Costa Rica I have heard so much about how beautiful it is and really want to take a trip there.  To experience this beauty I recommend the El Mangroove Papaigayo Bay.  The boutique, all suite hotel offers wonderful outdoor settings for any wedding.

Hawaii is always a wonderful wedding destination and these hotels offer some of the best options in the islands.

If Hawaii is your planned wedding destination check out the Makena Beach & Golf Resort in Maui.  Take in the beautiful beaches and everything that the island has to offer at this world class resort.

If you want your wedding guests to be close to the best shopping and nightlife, consider The Kahala Hotel & Resort in Honolulu.  With ballrooms that can accommodate up to 300 guests this is the perfect venue for a large destination wedding.

California offers so much diversity in terms of locations for a destination wedding.  From the wineries in Sonoma and Napa to the beaches of Southern California there are countless options for a destination wedding that do not have to break the bank.

If the beach is not the ideal setting for your wedding take a look at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Ojai California.  With a mountainside setting in Southern California the Ojai Valley Inn offers incredible views along with both rustic and elegant options.

The Grand Del Mar in San Diego is another venue that offers a wide variety of options for any size wedding.  I love all of the indoor and outdoor spaces that offer choices that would make any wedding special. This is a really spectacular venue and, even if you are not planning a wedding, you should check it out.

I absolutely love planning weddings and events in foreign destinations.  I do love to travel and find that it is always interesting learning how venues in different parts of the world handle the planning process.  Yes, it is a challenge but one that is exhilarating and makes the end result that much more special. 

If foreign travel is part of your destination wedding plans I encourage you to look into The K Club in Kildare, Ireland.  I can just imagine how beautiful it would be to plan and design a wedding in this countryside venue. 

I know that many of my destination Brides on the East coast try to stay closer to home so their guests do not have to travel long distances.  The Preferred Hotel Group offers some great alternatives that are closer to home and the next 4 venues are just a sample of what they have to offer.

The Seagate Hotel & Spa in Delray Beach, Florida is a great option if you are looking for a destination wedding on the East coast of Florida.  With options for a beach side wedding, as well as a ballroom that can accommodate up to 300 guests, this is a great option for the destination bride.

Having spent a lot of time in upstate New York near the Adirondacks, I truly appreciate the beauty of the area around The Sagamore in Bolton Landing.  The setting on Lake George is stunning and makes for the perfect destination being just over 4 hours by car from New York City.

I love that there are so many Inns throughout New England that offer a taste of history.  One such location is the Hanover Inn Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire.  The area is perfect for the "outdoorsy" couple with options for weddings large and small.

The New England shore is truly amazing to behold as you will see during a visit to Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.  This boutique hotel offers a variety of options for weddings of up to 150 guests and the setting will forever be remembered by your guests.

There are so many great places to plan your destination wedding.  The hardest part is really picking from all of the great selections.  Just realize that no matter the location, the key is to celebrate with family and friends and enjoy.

Until next time...


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Wedding Venue just closed ...... Now what?

This morning I woke to the news that a very popular New York City wedding and event venue was closed by the fire department because it's second floor balcony was experiencing severe structural issues.  Now I could play the should of, could of, would of game, but the truth is, I don't know what's really going on.

What I do know is that there are a lot of panicked brides and wedding planners scrambling this morning.  Panic is setting in as I'm sure they are demanding answers as to if their wedding will take place there this weekend.  If they will get their money back and so on…

What do you do if this happens to you?  There are many scenarios, twists and turns that can take place when your venue is shut down.  Therefore, the following tips are just that, tips to help guide you through the process.  They are not written in stone and you should adapt them as you need to for your own situation.

The first thing you do is take a deep breath.  If you don't already have a planner, I recommend reaching out to one immediately.  Explain your situation to them and at the very least see if they would be willing to have you hire them on a retainer basis to help you through your crisis and even pick up the pieces and finish planning your wedding.  While you think you can do the planning on your own, this is one reason why it's worth spending the extra money.  Wedding planners offer peace of mind!

If you already have a planner, chances are they are on top of the situation.  Have a quick conversation with them and allow them to come up with a strategy.  As a planner we always have a Plan A, B, C and so on.

If you don’t have a planner and do not have the means for one, immediately reach out both via email and phone to the venue.  Find out the story from them, keeping in mind that if they don't get to you right away, it's not that they are ignoring you, but most likely they are trying to come up with a plan of action themselves.  For this particular NYC venue, my guess is, it's as much of a shock to them as it is to you that they have to close down.  They need time to develop a plan and manage their clients appropriately.

The one thing you do not want to do is start making demands.  Anytime you demand something, any concessions they were going to make on your behalf go right out the window!  So don't threaten them with "My father, brother, uncle or sister is a lawyer" trick.  At that point they'll have to get their lawyer involved and then it just gets expensive and messy.

Once you've reached out and you know the full story sit down with your parents, planner and fiancé.  Come up with a reasonable plan.  If your wedding is in six months chances are the venue will work hard to reopen.

If it's less than six months this is where your contract comes in.  Find out what your cancellation clause is.  Can you get your money back?  Hopefully, your venue will act in good faith and they will give you your deposits back.  If you have paid by credit card you should contact the credit card company to inquire about their refund policy given the situation.

If your wedding is this weekend then this is where your planner (if you have one) is worth their weight in gold!  Allow them to start calling venues on your behalf to find one that is suitable for you and your wedding.  If you have a caterer can they work in the space?  Immediately call all your vendors and explain what's going on. Almost all wedding vendors are going to do what it takes to make sure you have your day.  Even if it means they need to make some changes.  

If you do have to make the unfortunate change at the last minute I have a few recommendations.

  1. As soon as you have a new venue, immediately contact guests via e-mail or phone letting them know of the change.  Recruit friends and family to help.
  2. If you are not able to reach all of your guests, have a contact with the new address and directions waiting at the original venue to direct guests to the new location.  If possible, arrange transportation to and from the original venue to the new location.
  3. Since the new venue will likely not accommodate the exact layout and set-up that you envisioned for your wedding, work with your vendors, the event professionals, to make everything work in the new space.  Accept the change and know that it will all be beautiful.
While it is easier said than done, don't panic.  Step back and look at the overall situation, then use all of the assets at your disposal, planner, other vendors, etc. and come up with a strategy to pull everything together to overcome this obstacle and still have a wonderful wedding.

Regardless of the situation, don't forget that the key is to enjoy the day!

Here's to many happy weddings this season and...