Top 2 Reasons to Have Hors D’oeuvres During Cocktail Hour

The time has come for you to plan the menu for your wedding reception. You may be wondering if it is worth spending the extra money to serve hors d’oeuvres at your cocktail hour. When advising clients, I always say “Absolutely!” to this question. There are plenty of reasons giving your guests something to nibble on before the reception and dinner begin is money well spent, and here are the top two!

  1. No Need to Rush
    If you know your guests are not going to be starving waiting for dinner, you can feel free to take your time with post-ceremony pictures. Providing your guests with something to enjoy alongside their cocktails will assure you have no need to rush.  Not feeling rushed during photos will make it a less stressful experience and allow it to be much more enjoyable!  Your guests will be happy nibbling on something delicious like Bacon and Bleu Cheese Risotto Cakes or Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Pinwheels and you will be relaxed knowing they are taken care of.
  1. Enjoy Your Alone Time
    Another great way to use cocktail hour to your advantage is to enjoy a private dinner for you and your new spouse in the Bridal or Groom Suite. This may sound a little crazy at first, but hear me out.  At the reception you are going to be bombarded with all of your guests coming to say their congratulations, you may not get the opportunity to really sit and enjoy your meal. Cocktail hour is a great time to take 15-20 minutes to yourselves and just enjoy the moment together.  Not to mention, eating beforehand will allow you to avoid any crankiness and make all of your upcoming socializing much more enjoyable!

These top two reasons to have hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour are often overlooked.  I know planning a wedding is stressful, especially when it comes to your budget. Even so, in the end, the most important thing is being able to enjoy your day to the fullest.  Keep in mind, hors d’oeuvres do not have to be expensive!  You can do something like a fruit and cheese display for $3/guest and peace of mind is priceless.  Happy wedding planning!

Creative and Imaginative Wedding Centerpiece Ideas

When you start tossing around decorating ideas for your big day, you will come to find that centerpieces are a must for your reception. Even if you are not into over-the-top décor, centerpieces are almost required for added ambiance on your tables. The most common, and often stunning, centerpiece is the classic floral arrangement. Today, however, I would like to offer up some alternative ideas that I have seen in the past in case flowers aren’t your thing or you are looking for a unique and creative replacement for your tabletop!

  • Edible Centerpieces – This one is my new favorite trend. It offers not only an inviting and original look for the table, but also an hors d’oeuvres option for your guests. This could be something like an antipasto platter, which if done correctly by a great caterer, can be both artistic and a great pre-dinner snack. Another option is fresh sliced fruit to provide great color for the table as well as an appealing spring and summer treat. Desserts can also be created as centerpieces, think a cupcake tower for a neat display done in your wedding colors.  Also, a great rustic or holiday tabletop idea can be cookie jars, pies or tarts.
  • Potted Herbs– This option is great for the spring and summer months when you and your guests are feeling the fresh summer vibe. This centerpiece idea comes off very sweet and shabby chic or rustic. Not to mention, this is a budget friendly option as well. These can be in pots, rustic jars, crates, the list goes on. Often they give off a pleasant aroma and you can even opt for herbs that compliment the dinner if you really want to take things to the next level.
  • Vintage Lanterns and Candles– Lanterns are a great base to work with. You can fill them up with candles from large to small, flowers, or succulents. These can save you on flowers and aren’t too difficult to play with if making your own DIY centerpieces. Floating candles or twinkle lights also give off the same cozy atmosphere.
  • Special Touches– Don’t forget you can also jazz up your table with all kinds of odds and ends. Think branches, pinecones, pumpkins, cinnamon sticks, cranberries, feathers and baby’s breath.

So while floral centerpieces are always timeless, there are also chic ways to change it up. The above are just a few ideas to get your creative mind thinking of ways to make your day even more distinguishable and memorable for you by adding your own touch and style.  Happy wedding planning!

12 Month Wedding Planning Timeline

When you first get engaged, it seems to be proper for you to immediately start planning the wedding.  But in my opinion, you’re missing out on an amazing part of your life together if you do that.  Why not enjoy your engagement a little bit before you go bonkers and start stressing out?  Why not celebrate the fact that you’re going to spend the rest of your lives together, instead of spending all of your time worrying about one day?  Not to say that your wedding day isn’t a big day, it’s a huge day!  But don’t let it get to you.

I’ve looked at a lot of timelines people suggest for when you get engaged, for when to start looking for a venue, when to order your cake, your invitations, etc.  But they all seem to have items on their to-do lists that I just don’t think are necessary, or maybe just in the wrong place.  Now, I will agree that a year is a good amount of time to be planning the wedding, not including your blissful, “We just got engaged!” phase together.  The more time you give yourself, the less stressed you’ll be, and the more time you’ll have to save up some money.

So with that, here is my version of a To-Do List:
Oh but first here one more tip! Get your engagement photos taken during your blissful stage, before all the planning.  This will produce some of the cutest pictures and you will have plenty of time to get them printed and back to you before you send save-the-dates and invites.  Don’t have this feel like just another item on your checklist to get done.  This is a sweet and wonderful time full of happiness, so take advantage of that!

12 Months Out:
*Get a wedding binder
This is for you to be able to keep track of everything you’ll be needing and going over; contracts, quotes, pictures, etc.  Have this include a calendar of some sort so you can keep track of all your appointments.  This is something you should be doing whether or not you have a coordinator.
*Work on your budget
This is very serious and very important.  If you do not sit down with your significant other and decide on a budget, it could open up a whole new door of complications.  Together, decide what you can afford and what some absolutely necessary items would be and what some things you can live without are.  Without a budget, you’ll never know when to stop.
*Write down a preliminary guest list
You will, at least, need to have an idea of how many people you will be inviting because this has a lot to do with your budget.  If you know how many people you’ll need to feed, you’ll know how much money that will cost; the more people, the more food cost.
*Choose a wedding date
This one may be a little obvious but sometimes you’ll need a couple of different dates.  So sit down together and discuss at least 2 or 3 dates in case you find the perfect venue, and they don’t have your first choice.  Sometimes even just a month and day of the week would be enough to give you the freedom for whatever venue you fall in love with.
*Start looking for ideas
Now you should have your budget, so you will know if you’re going to be making your decorations yourself or having someone else do them.  Start browsing around the internet and see all the different ideas that are out there.  Pinterest is a great place to start and we both know, a helpful wedding blog is always great!
*Start looking for your dress
At this point, we don’t expect you to find THE dress, but you should, at least, start to look at places that are affordable for you.  There are hundreds of places to get a wedding dress and you don’t want to miss out on anything because you don’t have time to try all the places you’d like to.
*Pick your bridal party
If you want to do something cute to invite your friends to be in your bridal party, now is the time to do it.  I’m sure a select few would know it’s coming, but it shows your appreciation if you go out of your way to ask.  It is not a small commitment for your maid-of-honor and bridesmaids to say yes.  The same goes for your sweetheart, make sure you both know how many you want in the party and that he asks as well!
*Pick your venue
You will need at least a month to shop around for venues, so start now and you’ll have a better chance of finding your date.  Once you find the place you want to get married, DO NOT HESITATE!  If you hesitate to book it, someone else will take it right out from under you.

9 Months Out:
*Save the Dates 

Pick and send out your save the dates.  I love the idea of a picture of the couple for save the dates but keep in mind the extra cost on the photos.
*Gift Registry
Go ahead and start registering.  Sometimes this can take quite a while, so give yourself plenty of time and don’t feel rushed, but don’t overwhelm your guests either.  Find a happy medium.
*Pick and order your dress 
You may have already found the one by now, but in case you haven’t, it’s time to get crackin’!  Every bride wants to look their best on their wedding day, but don’t go crazy.  Make sure that once you have your fitting, you’re at a size you plan on being at, and maintain that.  Be comfortable with yourself and don’t work out too much, but also, don’t go overboard at those cake tastings.  Don’t try to make your body fit the dress; make the dress fit your body.  You will look much more beautiful if your dress fits you perfectly!
*Block out rooms at a hotel
If you’re going to have a bunch of out of town guests, you’ll need to have a block of rooms at a hotel that is decently close to your venue.  Hotels do not charge you for this and will give you a lower rate for the block.  Try and find something that won’t be too expensive either, they are already spending money to fly or drive to your wedding destination.  Also make sure your guests get the information for the hotel you have rooms at.
*Shop for bridesmaids dresses
This is something that can get very stressful, if you let it.  Decide if you want matching dresses, just matching colors or just a matching color scheme.  It is good to have your bridesmaids go with you, so you can see what style dress looks good on them.  But if you’re doing all one dress style and color, don’t let them sway your decision completely and stress you out.  Try to keep the cost down on these dresses as well.  If you do the dress shopping far out enough in advance, your friends may have more time to save up for the dress, but it is still something they will probably only wear to your wedding.  In the end, you probably won’t be able to make everyone happy, but try your best.
*Book your honeymoon 
Take some time and look into different airfares and hotels.  Be sure to make this fun and exciting!  Don’t stress out over it.  Go somewhere that you’ll both enjoy and can afford.  Also, don’t forget about a hotel the night of your wedding if you are leaving in the morning.
*Shop for and purchase your wedding rings
 If your engagement ring was bought as a set, it will probably be easiest to go back to the same place, but you don’t necessarily have to, and you don’t need to get his there either.  Look around at what other places have to offer.  Make sure it’s something you love, because you’ll be wearing it for the rest of your life!
*Book your DJ, Photographer, Florist, Cake, etc.
This is probably the part that will take the biggest hit to your pocket.  Now is the time you’ll need to start putting down deposits to book your musicians, photographers and videographers, day of coordinator, etc.  Make sure you have done plenty of research on someone before you give them your money.  Look into their past events, make sure it’s something you want and make sure you have good chemistry with your vendors.  Don’t book someone that you don’t really get along with.  If you are doing your decorations yourself, start buying all of your products to make them, and start working on them.  Give yourself enough time just in case an idea doesn’t work, or you end up needing more of something.  Making the decorations can be extremely stressful, so don’t procrastinate it and feel free to recruit some free help.  When it comes to your cake, please, please, please try many different bakeries and their cakes, check into many different prices, and look at past cakes they’ve done.  It is a horrible experience to have your cake be dropped off hours before your wedding and it be wrong (Yes, I have witnessed this happen.  It was able to be fixed up a bit, but the couple was still unhappy with the situation and it really stressed them out, that’s not something you need).

6 Months Out:
*Book the rehearsal dinner
Make sure you get your guest list for the dinner and everyone gets an invite.  Don’t forget to invite them to the ceremony rehearsal as well.
*Look for and rent Groom and Groomsmen’s tuxes
This is not nearly as painful of a process as finding the bridesmaids dresses, but it is just as important.  Make sure to give yourself enough time for it.
*Order the rest of your bridal accessories
Now is when you should be getting your cute extras.  Order your veil, gloves if needed, undergarments for the dress and don’t forget your shoes (or to break in your shoes if you already have them).
*Finalize your guest list
Sit down with your honey and make some more cuts, if necessary, or add a few more people you hadn’t thought of.  Try to get a good idea of how many invitations you’ll need before you order them.
*Select and order your invitations
Invitations are very important, so make sure you order plenty of them and with enough time to get them sent out and get your RSVP’s back.  Sending out the invitations can be very time consuming because you’ll probably have to address every one of them.  And again, some free help is always appreciated here if you can find it!

2 Months Out:
This is the time for you to start to finalize everything.  You’re now in the home stretch!  So make sure everyone is on the same page and everything is being paid for!
*Order your cake
This is something you are allowed to be picky about.  Don’t be afraid to express exactly what you want and make sure there is no confusion and no questions when you leave.
*Check in with your wedding party
 Give them a little nudge and make sure they have everything that they need, just don’t forget to be nice!
*Get your marriage license
 Find out what requirements there are for obtaining your marriage license and make sure you get it done, and don’t forget to pick it up once it’s ready.
*Send out thank you cards for the engagement party
You should have already ordered your invitation set, and hopefully your thank you cards as well.  Make sure you order a few extra to send for the gifts you received at your engagement party/bridal party/etc.
*Finalize day of transportation and jobs
You can easily get caught up in all of the fun details like decorations, dresses, makeup, and invitations, but it would be quite embarrassing if you had forgotten about how you’ll get to your ceremony or how you’ll be sent off as the newlyweds.  Some venues have rooms for you to get ready in the day of, so it takes a little stress off of you.  You won’t have to worry about getting in the car with your dress or having your makeup sweat off, but what about the send-off?  Do you want to drive off into the night in an old classic car that says just married?  Don’t forget about the transportation!  Also, finalize what everyone will be responsible for.  Whether someone is in charge of making sure you don’t forget a shoe, or that all of the party favors get to the venue. Make sure someone has a job for the clean-up.  A lot of places won’t clean your decorations for you, so delegate someone to take them home, or make sure your decorator knows when to pick them up.
*Start to pay off your vendors
The sooner you can start to get some things paid off, the more it takes off your mind and the less you have to do closer to the big day.
*Pick your hair and make-up stylists
 Don’t go into this blindly.  Look around at different stylists, or maybe you have a friend that can do it.  Either way, make sure you have a trial run!  This way, you can discuss everything in much more detail when it’s actually being done.  If something doesn’t work out, you know not to do it again.
*Mail out your invites 
You could do this earlier, just be sure and give your guests plenty of time to clear their schedules and ask that the RSVP’s are back 3-4 weeks prior to the wedding.

1 Month Out: 
*Finalize vendors and pay them
Some vendors don’t require final payment until a couple of weeks out, but the sooner you get it done, the more stress it removes from you.
*Pick up your rings
Make sure they are correct, whether there is an engraving, or the size is right, etc.
*Write your speeches and vows
Make sure anything you want to say at the rehearsal or the wedding, is down on paper somewhere.  It helps to write it down and get it out, that way you can tweak it if you want.  And if you lose it, it will probably be easier to remake.  Have someone read it too, or read it to them, and see if they have any suggestions.  The vows are very important and should be taken seriously.  You are making one of the biggest commitments you will ever make in your life.  Don’t go into it lightly.
*Something old, new, borrowed, and blue
If you’re going the traditional route, make sure that you have your something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue, and be sure and keep track of them!
*Purchase guest book, cake cutting set, champagne flutes, etc.
Go ahead and get your small items like this.  This gives you enough time to look around for the cutest sign-in book and cake cutter.
*Check in with those that haven’t RSVP’d
This is not going to be fun, but you need to start hunting down those, hopefully only a few, people that still haven’t RSVP’d.  You have to know a final guest count for your caterer and so that your venue knows how many to seat for.
*Schedule a final dress fitting
It’s crunch time!  Make sure it fits!
*Put together a timeline for the night
Your vendors will need a timeline so they know when to set up and be ready and when to come back and pick everything up.  If you have a coordinator, she may do this, but do it with her and make sure you’re both on the same page.

1 Week Out: 
*Finalize any due balances
Make sure everything is paid for and there are no loose ends!
*Pick up your dress
Yay! It’s time to go get your dress!  This should be a simple enough exchange, just make sure you keep the dress clean!
*Confirm any last minute details
If you have a limo, make sure it is confirmed.  Confirm drop off and pick up times for your vendors.  Confirm reservations.  Any small detail that could go wrong, make sure it’s going to go right!
*Emergency kit
Put together an emergency kit for yourself and your bridal party.  Extra bobby pins, safety pins, sewing kit (if you’ve got someone who can sew), hair bands, tissues, band-aids, anything you can possibly think of that you might need.  If you think about it and decide against it, you know you’ll need it, so just put it in the kit anyway!
*Go get pampered
Treat yourself to a mani/pedi, or a facial, or go full out and have a spa day.  After how stressed you’ve been, it’ll be nice to just relax right before your big day.

1 Day Before:
*Pack all necessary day of items
Make sure you don’t forget anything.  If you need to make a list to help you remember everything, do it.  Especially don’t forget the rings, license, or the cake cutting set!
*Attend rehearsal dinner
Now would be a good time to test out your new waterproof makeup.  If you plan on giving out any gifts, now is also the time to do it.  But most importantly, have fun!  Enjoy some good food and good company before the big day.
*Go to bed early
You may not be able to fall asleep for a while, so make sure you get in bed early.  If you can manage to fall asleep right away, even better, then you’ll just be extra rested for your wedding.

The Day Of: 
*Eat a healthy breakfast
Eat something that will give you energy without making you shaky; something that has lots of fiber and antioxidants.  Get your day started right, and the rest of day will go smoothly!
*Double check
Double check everything you’ve packed up, including your honeymoon luggage and necessary items (passport, tickets, etc.).  Double check that everyone knows what they’re responsibilities for the day are.  Double check and make sure you grabbed that amazing waterproof mascara.  Double check anything and everything that could possibly cause you more stress if it went wrong.  Take the time to do it in advance, and you’ll be glad you did.
*GET MARRIED!
And have fun doing it!  It’s a celebration of a huge step forward in your life with the one person you love the most.

So there it is, that’s all I’ve got for you.  Just remember, keep your stress as low as possible, it’s not healthy to be stressed.  Don’t procrastinate because you think you have all the time in the world, it’ll be here before you know it!  And love, love so unconditionally it hurts.  If you do this, you and your special somebody will have an amazing life together.  Happy Wedding Planning!

3 Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Wedding Photos

There are so many elements to planning a wedding, and at times, it can feel like you’re writing a check or checklist every day for something new. When an opportunity presents itself to save you some time or money, think it through! This applies to your dress, food, DJ and of course, PHOTOS. Whether you are a photo aficionado or completely clueless on the topic, you could accidentally make one of these seemingly harmless mistakes:

  1. Having a Friend or Family Member Be Your Photographer
    Unless they take photos professionally, having a friend or family member double as your wedding photographer is definitely not your best option. So many times, couples have that friend from college who always liked taking photos, or that uncle with a nice Nikon, and trust them enough to capture their big day. They feel it is a great way to include someone special in the wedding while also saving a few bucks.  Unfortunately, you will later realize there is a noticeable difference between the amateur and trained eye. If you are looking to save on your budget, look elsewhere. These photos will be displayed in your home (and probably a few others!) for years to come. You want your wedding photos to be beautiful, timeless, candid, and all the other things that you could have hoped for. Let your friends and family be guests at your wedding. Their awesome camera can come too, but leave the big stuff to the pros.
  2. Choosing Photographer B Over Photographer A Because they are $1,000 Cheaper
    Before you cut loose photographer A, look at what their price includes. Keep in mind – you get what you pay for. If Photographer B is $1,000 less while offering the exact same package as Photographer A, and you like both of their work equally, you found yourself a steal! However, if there is a $1,000 difference, and you are not as big a fan of the more affordable portfolio, it’s time to renegotiate with the photographer whose style you LOVE. Going back to that point about looking at these photos for many years to come, it may be worth it to spring for the platinum package if it means you will get photos you love to post, print and frame.
  3. Not Making a ‘Must-Have’ Photo List
    Some photographers are great about requesting this and as tedious as it sounds to sit down and make a list of every photo you’d want at your wedding, it is so worth it! Your wedding day will be a whirlwind, and over in the blink of an eye. You won’t notice until you get the proofs that you didn’t take one photo with your Grandma the entire day. Make sure to take the time to outline all the photos you want to take with family and friends, don’t assume you will catch them at the reception.

I hope these tips have helped and will be remembered when it comes to your wedding photographer decision making.  While there are many important decisions to be made when planning your wedding, the photos are one of the few things that will last longer than just that night!  Be smart when choosing your photographer and make sure you don’t miss out on capturing any of the memories made during your special day.

How to Pick the Perfect Bouquet

A bridal bouquet is something that you can really express yourself with.  Whether you want real flowers, fake flowers, no flowers, a trailing bouquet, a posy bouquet, or anything in between, it is one of the few things that will completely and specifically be designed for you. Surprisingly enough, the bouquet needs to match your dress, in both color and style, and can really affect the way you look on your big day.  So here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Choose your dress before the bouquet. You can have an idea of what type of bouquet you would like, but style makes a huge difference.  The dress you pick may not go with the style bouquet you had always imagined.
  2. Bring Color Swatches!  There are a million different shades of white out there. Bring a swatch of your dress to make sure, if you’re having any white flowers, they don’t clash with the color of your dress.  Also, bring swatches of your other color(s) so you can be sure to match them as best as possible. Especially when it comes to your bridesmaids bouquets, they need to match their dresses too!
  3. If you want real flowers, consider which ones are in season. If you want flowers that are out of season, they will be much more expensive if they’re even available. For summer months, look into some sunflowers, hydrangea, or star gazers, for spring: orchids, cherry blossoms, or freesia, for winter months: roses, holy berry, or carnations, and for autumn: irises, zinnias, or chrysanthemums. However, there are some flowers are not really affected by the seasons, lilies are one of these exceptions.
  4. If you are going a different route, like a brooch bouquet, make sure there is a very clear understanding of what you want, and what kind of a look you want to stay away from.
  5. Your bouquet is also a good place to put your something old or borrowed. If you’ve got a family heirloom, like a handkerchief, or a brooch that you want to add to a floral bouquet, see if your florist can incorporate it. Most of the time, items can be added to the stems and can make a beautiful, and very personal, addition.
  6. The more traditional you are going with your dress, and wedding in general, the more traditional your bouquet should be. Traditional bouquets are most often a round/posy bouquet or maybe even a teardrop.
  7. If the focus of your dress is on the bodice, you should probably stay away from a round bouquet, since that will draw attention away from your dress. Try looking into an arm or trailing bouquet, both are very beautiful but sit a little differently so your dress can still be seen.
  8. Make sure to take some pictures of your bouquet beforehand, especially if you have a specific place to put it during the reception. Your photographer is going to have plenty of things to take pictures of that night and you don’t want to later realize that you don’t have any pictures of the bouquet you designed so perfectly.
  9. Keep in mind that you are going to be holding on to your bouquet for a pretty good amount of time, so make sure it’s comfortable for you. Try not to make it too heavy so it doesn’t hurt your wrists and be sure that it has soft fabric around the stems so it doesn’t poke you or irritate your hands.
  10. Take the time to see what each flower and color represents, and match it to how your feeling. For instance, roses represent love, white chrysanthemums are for truth, ivy for fidelity, and if it’s your first and only love, put some lilacs in it. The world around you may never know all the meaning behind your flowers, but you and your partner will.
  11. It is important to remember, different flowers work better with different arrangements. Longer stemmed flowers, like calla lilies, tend to work better with cascading or arm bouquets, whereas irises and tulips work better in the posy bouquets.
  12. Consider your body shape when designing your bouquet, as well. If you are really tall, try and stick to a longer bouquet to help elongate yourself and to keep with the line. If you are really short, stick to something a little smaller and compact.

If you find all of the flowers and bouquet designing a bit overwhelming, another idea is for just the bride to have a bouquet and to have the bridesmaids hold on to something different.  Not only does this lessen your stress of matching flowers to dresses, but it also makes your bouquet a little more special, and provides you with a little bit more money to spend on your own.  Also, keep in mind that if your bouquet is something you plan on preserving, you don’t have to throw it! It’s yours, do with it what you please.  You may want to consider getting a small, simpler bouquet to throw later in the night and then you won’t have to worry about it.  I hope these tips on picking out the perfect bouquet have helped ease your mind through at least one of your many wedding planning decisions!