Saturday, March 28, 2015

Featured Vendor - Absolutely Charleston

Recently I began a series of features on my blog to highlight the great vendors I have had the pleasure of working with.  I would like to continue this with an amazing transportation company in Charleston, SC, Absolutely Charleston.  

In working with Absolutely Charleston I have found their service to be impeccable and their equipment top notch.  Recently I had an opportunity to tour their facility and see how they reconstruct and maintain their trolley fleet.  I was truly impressed and can see why they are so successful.  

So, I took the opportunity to ask them questions about not only their business, but also about transportation in Charleston and general information for brides.  Below you will find some great information that is useful for any bride, not just those coming to Charleston.

SR - Tell me a little about how Absolutely Charleston came to be?

AC - In the mid-1990s, Linda Wohlfeil Jones, a native of Charleston, launched the beginnings of Absolutely Charleston as a tour company with a few vans to assist with tour transportation.  In 2000 she sold the transportation side of her company to Walt Thorn. Walt 
took those few vans and started offering transportation services.  Eventually the fleet grew by adding minicoaches, trolleys and a vintage style bus.  Absolutely Charleston quickly started filling a need for Brides in the area for unique transportation and today we are a premier transportation provider, specializing in Weddings, and have the privilege of working with the area's top planners.  The current version of Absolutely Charleston is an organization comprised of City of Charleston-licensed Guides, a full service destination management company, and full service transportation provider who operates our own fleet of vehicles to accommodate weddings, corporate clients and social groups.

SR - What would you say sets you apart from other transportation companies in Charleston?

AC - The level of service and planning that we put into our events is unsurpassed. We go way above and beyond the average transportation provider when planning an event.  We spend a lot of time organizing the schedule so that there is a plan in place that really works day of.  We also stay informed of City policies and regulations that affect transportation so there are no surprises on event day.  In addition to the logistical planning that goes into preparing for an event, we also have an amazing fleet of vehicles that we are constantly maintaining and improving and even more importantly a team of drivers who are hires with a strong customer service focus, and trained specifically to work for our high end clientele. To ensure great service we also have onsite coordinators on our team that we dispatch out to large events that manage transportation specifically, so we take that whole worry off the planner, or bride's, mind, so they can focus on the more important details of the day. Lastly, we also prepare for any possible vehicle issues by having an emergency dispatcher with a standby vehicle at the office on busy event days, so in case any emergencies arise, we are prepared to solve the problem and ensure that there is not a service failure. 

SR - What are some of the challenges you face when getting around Charleston.

AC - Transportation in the Holy City is tricky for a few reasons:
1.  There are transportation restrictions, put in place by the City,which protect the residents in the historic district, that limit where large vehicle can go, and where they can pick up and drop off.  We must use city approved loading zones and there are specific areas we can't drive through or stop in.  All of this needs to be factored in during the planning process.
2.  We have many one way streets and even some cobblestone roads, which we have to plan for when working out a transportation route.
3.  There are many roads that are too small to travel in a large vehicle, or that you can't turn on to, of off of, due to limited turn radius in a large vehicle.
4.  We are such a busy tourist destination that there is vehicle and pedestrian traffic to consider, which needs to be factored in when planning a transportation schedule.

SR - What are some of your favorite wedding locations?  How about locations for photographs?

AC - Some of my personal favorite wedding locations are Lowndes Grove Plantation and Boone Hall Plantation.  Both of these venues are beautiful and have wonderful outdoor space with gorgeous scenery.  They give you the opportunity to have a traditional Southern fête with all of the historic charm of the plantation, complete with the old oak trees and the marsh in the background, and they can be dressed up so that each event there reflects the clients individual tastes!  Photos at these locations are beautiful as well, but many Brides like to travel into the historic district to get some unique photos.  I think Washington Park is the best location Downtown for photos, as it has brickwork, rod iron gates and a cobblestone street that runs just behind it.

SR - What's the craziest and most outrageous request you have ever had?

AC - That’s a tough one…  I don’t really consider any request too outrageous to try and accommodate!  I will say that we have had requests to travel as far as Virginia with our trolleys to help with a wedding, and that we often get requests to transport pets, and have even had to pet-sit on a few occasions after the transfer.  As a team we are very customer service oriented and we will do almost anything to keep our clients happy on their big day!

SR - What changes have you seen in use of wedding transportation over the last few years?

AC - In the recent years I have found that more Couple’s are providing transportation for their Guests.  The focus used to be more on getting the Wedding Party where they needed to be, but in recent years, the Couples are really putting thought into getting their Guests moved around safely and efficiently.  This is so important in a city like Charleston where getting around, and parking can be complicated.  And of course, safely accommodating friends and family after a festive reception is a huge concern.

SR - What are a few things brides should ask when selecting a transportation company?  What a few things brides should ask that they don’t?

AC - I think when choosing a transportation provider, it is important to ask:
1.  How they prevent and plan for vehicle breakdowns?
2.  What is the driver's attire?
3.  Will the vehicle they book be taking other groups on runs during the down time on their event?
4.  Do they have a good working relationship with local planners?

The answers to these questions will give you a good idea if the transportation service is professional and reliable enough to trust on your big day!

SR - Any advice for brides and grooms during the planning process?

AC - I recommend getting transportation booked early!  If clients wait too long to secure transportation the top providers will be out of vehicles.  Transportation, while not one of the more glamorous aspects of an event, is so important to the flow of the day.  Transportation delays or mistakes, or poor scheduling, can result in ceremony delays, guest missing parts of the event, and stress for all parties involved.  Having a dependable and professional provider will make all the difference in client, planner and guest stress levels on the day of your wedding.

SR - What's the best possible advice you can give to a couple on their wedding day?

AC - Be in the moment once the day arrives.  At this point don’t stress over details, leave that to the professionals you have hired.  Really enjoy the day that you have spent so long planning; it is over in the blink of an eye!  No matter what happens, at the end of the day you will be married to the person you love!  

SR - How can brides and grooms find you? 




Thanks to Absolutely Charleston for their great insight. Until next time...


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What do Wedding Planners really do?

I can't tell you how many times people tell me how fabulous my job must be.  Of course I think it's fabulous otherwise I wouldn't be doing it.  But truth be told it's not all rainbows, butterflies and ponies.

Like any profession there's good and bad.  Take for example flight attendants...Sure it seems fabulous flying around the world getting to see things you otherwise wouldn't normally get to.  Truth be told it's a hard job with odd hours, crazy requests, and demanding ungrateful people.

The same can be said of wedding planners.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of "want to be" wedding planners at a college in the south. The professor asked that I give the reality of what it's like to be a wedding planner.  You see these kids (I can say that, as I now hit 40...) were all dreamy eyed, thinking planning weddings is like opening a box of Lucky Charms, Magically Delicious.

The reality, wedding planning is a hard job filled with many misconceptions.  So what do wedding planners really do?

First, let's get one things straight, 99% of wedding planners are small businesses.  This means that in reality, even when successful, they have to work their butts off to cover their overhead which includes insurance, rent, electric, employees, phone bills, transportation, PR, IT and the list goes on and on. 

Second, for many like myself, doing what we do is the only source of income.  Not everyone is lucky enough to have a spouse pick up the financial slack when times aren't plush and rosy.  So when I hear potential clients say I had no idea a wedding planner could be so expensive.  I remind them we may only take 10 weddings a year due to the hours demanded to plan each wedding.  If you take what a wedding planner charges for that one wedding and divide that by 12 months, then divide that by 4 weeks and then divide that by 30 days you begin to understand that planners charge what they do because it's their living.

Which brings me to my next point, how many hours we actually do work? So often potential clients truly don't understand the amount of work that goes into planning a wedding.  The planning process is normally anywhere from 10 to 13 months or more.  In that time a planner can easily write over a 1,000 emails that coincide with one particular wedding.  They can log about 48 hours or more of phone time and about two weeks straight full of meetings, all for one wedding.  We often work from the moment we wake usually about 5:30 / 6:00am until we go to bed by about 10:00 / 11:00pm.  And we do this on average 6 to 7 days a week depending on the season.  And let's not forget the amount of hours logged on the wedding week and day.

It's true that we play many roles wedding planner, negotiator, therapist, just to name a few.  All that comes with experience of the trials and tribulations of what we've learned over the course of many years of planning.  So when we sometimes say that a thought or proposal won't work or it isn't a good idea it's most likely because we've learned lessons the hard way or we've seen our clients learn lessons the hard way.  We are full of sound advice and don't recommend something just because we feel like it.

Courtesy of Fifth Avenue Digital
The amount of logistics that go into planning a wedding are mind numbing.  We have to think of every little detail and how that detail has consequences that could effect other details.  Take for example setting up the band near the dance floor.  A good planner knows to work with the band to make sure they don't spread out too much otherwise there might not be enough room for the Hora. A good planner will scan the room and make sure no spots are left in the dark, like the middle of the dance floor where dad is giving his tear filled speech.  A good planner will know enough to cross check the photographers contract to make sure they capture every moment and don't leave before the cake cutting.  So the reality is we create agendas, timelines and everything in between to make sure nothing is forgotten.

For each wedding we probably do as much research as one would do for their senior thesis in college. Looking into venues for your wedding can take up to as much as a weeks worth of emails and phone calls.  Then arranging the site visits can take another full day or two.  And then the negotiation of the contract can take another few days.  And this is all before looking for a photographer, band, caterer, hotel rooms for guests and much more.  And we do all this while balancing other clients expectations.

Speaking of expectations, I can't tell you how many times I hear from a family member how important this day is.  Not to be snarky, but do you really think we don't know this.  We know we have one shot to get this right. We have one shot to make a lasting impression to not only our client, but to 200 people attending the wedding. We know each and every wedding is as important as the next.

Courtesy of Lindsay Flanagan Photography
And finally, we do what we do because we love it.  We don't do it to get rich, we do it for the joy we bring each client and for the joy each client brings us.  I truly love what I do. I love the logistics and research.  I love that each client has different thoughts on how they want their wedding to be and I love that after the wedding I remain friends with them for years to come.

Courtesy of Michael Dade photography

This post merely scratches the surface of what planners do, but I think it gives you a better idea that to be a good wedding planner it requires us to have a passion for what we do.

Until next time...


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Charleston, South Carolina - Number 2 travel destination worldwide!

I always knew that opening an office in Charleston would be a great idea.  I am truly excited to have my opinion reinforced as Conde Nast magazine just rated Charleston the number one destination in the country and number 2 worldwide!  Check out the article here and make sure to plan your visit.

Congratulations Charleston!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Shawn Rabideau Stationery now at Bed Bath and Beyond

I am excited to announce that the Shawn Rabideau Stationery collection is now available in the new stationery department at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  You can see all of the great designs here:

Friday, March 6, 2015

New York Lounge wedding

With all of the cold and snow we have been experiencing this winter I thought I would send out warm thoughts and share a wonderful rooftop wedding I planned and designed this past Summer at Tribeca Rooftop in New York City.

This was a great wedding for me to plan not only because Dawn and PJ were wonderful brides, but also due to the fact that I was planning the wedding for PJ's sister at the same time!  It was wonderful to get to know the family and everyone at Susan's wedding in Virginia then to see everyone again in New York.  You can see photos from Susan's wedding here:  Lovely Virginia Wedding

Fortunately, we had great weather for the ceremony on the rooftop.  Once the ceremony was concluded guests were treated to cocktails on the roof and then a lounge style reception.  

You can see that I designed a few dining tables for family and lounge seating for the rest of the guests.  I worked with Taylor Creative to create different vignettes around the room with seating in purple and white that tied into the overall scheme.  I then used green and purple floral to create sleek, impactful centerpieces that really popped in the room.  The result was a look that the Brides loved.

It was really a great setting for Dawn and PJ to make their grand entrance down the staircase to their amazing reception.  It was a great night for a wonderful couple.

I addition to the staff at Tribeca Rooftop and Taylor Creative, I would like to give a shout out to On the Move for supplying terrific entertainment and Sion Fullana for the wonderful photography.

Sending you warm thoughts until the next great event and...


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Watch the tides

If you're looking to get married on the beach or have your reception on the beach the tide calendar is going to become your friend.  And any good wedding planner worth their weight (and price) had better look this information up before even entertaining the idea of a beach wedding on your specific date and time.

When looking at the tide calendar it is important to be very specific about your location as there are differences in the exact timing of low and high tide even within the same city.  I like using the site in the link below because you can be very specific about your location and get the information you need for planning.
The last thing you want is for you or guests to get swept away in a high tide.

Until next time…


Monday, March 2, 2015

Planning a Gay Wedding

In some respects its strange to say the phrase "gay wedding".  I catch myself saying it all the time and what I really want to say is "wedding".   Why can't we say "wedding" without giving it any further thought?  In due time across this country I predict we will soon just say "wedding".  Of course there are going to be those that object to gay weddings, but that number is getting smaller and smaller each day.  But enough of the politics…Weddings in my opinion have no place for politics.

There are a few exceptions of course like New York, Massachusetts and many other states where gay weddings aren't even given a second thought.  However, in some of the more conservative states like South Carolina I'm finding couples aren't really sure which vendors are gay friendly.  I can tell you this, most of the vendors I've talked to in Charleston, SC are so excited to have the opportunity to work with couples of any gender.  They see gay weddings as an opportunity to grow their business, and to be honest, if the money's green they'll take it.  But I think it's more than that, deep down, they see what we all see, two people in love who have the right to be recognized as married.

As a planner who has planned dozens of gay weddings I find planning gay weddings a bit more special and meaningful than those of their straight counterparts.  Personally it's because these are couples who have been together for 15, 20, 30 + years who otherwise never thought they would see the day when they could marry the person they love.  Now don't get me wrong, I love planning all weddings, gay or straight, but there's just something that tugs at my heart strings, maybe because I'm gay and I've been able to marry.

And as a wedding planner who has recently expanded his planning services to Charleston, SC, I find myself with a slight advantage to my counterparts here in Charleston because I have planned countless gay weddings.  For me, I treat gay or straight weddings all the same.  It's a moment when two people who are in love join to become one.  I treat each the same in their requests, in what's important and what's not important.  I treat each with the same devotion and regardless I know (for most) this is a onetime deal.

So I say this, if you're gay and looking to get married in the South you can certainly come to me, but also know, you have support in growing numbers from many wedding businesses that want you to hire them, because the reality is, they want you to be happy too.

Until next time…