Double Duty Wedding Favors

With all of the details you have to keep in your head when planning a wedding, sometimes it can be very easy to forget that you’re not only providing a night of dinner and dancing for your guests.  You’re also providing them with a small gift to thank them for sharing in your big day.  This is known as the wedding favor.  I haven’t always been a big fan.  Why?  Because I usually find these favors useless.  Do I really need a silver frame with your wedding date on it?  No. I don’t.  An Asian sandalwood fan?  I’m fairly certain I’ll never use that.  That said, I do believe in showing a small token of gratitude to your guests.  I also believe in things that can serve 2 purposes at once.  They’re time AND money savers.  Here are some of my favorite double duty wedding favors:

Escort cards that are also small gifts for your guests.

Mini champagne bottles with name cards.

Mini wedding cakes to go.

These boxes with slices of the groom’s cake can also serve as a centerpiece.

Give guests glasses they can write their names on and use that night and every night after that.

Photo booths can work as a favor, entertainment AND for your guest book!

So Many Photographers, So Little Time

You will hire lots of people to make your wedding come together.  It really does take a village.  But without question, one of the most important vendors you will hire is your photographer.  Why?  A couple reasons.  First, this person will be with you ALL day.  And most importantly, when all the cake has been eaten and the dances danced, the only thing you’ll have left are your memories and your pictures.

There are literally hundreds of wedding photographers in Miami.  Maybe even thousands.  When I was searching for mine, it felt like millions.  I spent hours upon hours researching photographers, analyzing their every picture, reading every review.  Here are some of the things I learned about choosing a wedding photographer.

1)  The very most important thing is that you genuinely like and connect with your photographer.  After a several month search, I thought I had found my photographer.  Her pictures were beautiful and she customized a package just for me at a reduced rate (more on that later).  I told her I would be happy to hire her as our wedding photographer.  I should have felt elated.  The search was over!  But something felt off and I had a bad feeling inside.  I couldn’t understand why.  And then it hit me.  I just didn’t like her all that much.  She had been perfectly pleasant on the phone and totally professional, but we didn’t really connect.  Before I signed the contract, I continued my search.  My day of coordinator recommended a photographer they work with all the time, Santy Martinez.   From just one conversation, I knew he was the guy to capture our day.  Like they say, when you know, you know.  Trust your instincts.

2)  Book your photographer early on in the process.  Finding the right photographer can be a lengthy process, which is why you want to get an early start.  Most photographers are booked up to a year in advance, so the sooner you start the better.  You don’t want your favorite photographer to be snagged by another bride now do you?

3) There is almost always room for negotiation.  Many wedding photographers will list their prices on their websites.  You’ll usually find this under the “Investment” tab.  But many more photographers will not.  You’ll have to contact them first.  This is a little frustrating, as you might fall in love with pictures you will come to find out you can’t afford.  But I found that just about every photographer I spoke to was willing to negotiate.  First, you have to know exactly what’s important to you and what you want.  For example, I knew that I wanted someone to take pictures of us getting ready (in addition to the ceremony and reception, of course) an online gallery and an album.  Everything else was an extra I simply didn’t care about or need right away.  I could always order prints or parent albums later.  I told every photographer what I wanted and how much I had to spend.  Just about all of them were willing to customize packages in my price range.  Don’t be afraid to ask for you want, but remember to be reasonable.  If packages start at $5,000, you’re not likely to get the same package  for $2,000.

4)  Read every review you can BEFORE you contact a photographer and be wary of those with bad or no reviews.  Of course, references from friends and family who have used a particular photographer are best.  But the next best thing are online reviews.  Make sure you Google, Google, Google your photographers. Websites like The Knot and WeddingWire have reviews for wedding photographers.  These are useful because they’re real life tales of people’s experiences.  This is how you’ll know if this photographer shows up late or takes a year and a half to produce an album or misses out on pictures s/he was specifically asked to take.  You’ll notice that some people just like to complain about useless things, but most reviews are really helpful.  Never hire anyone before reading reviews or getting references because once you sign on the dotted line, you’re stuck!

How did you know your photographer was “the one”?

So Pretty It Will Make You Blush

I’ve posted a bit about fall wedding colors, but maybe you’re not into that.  Maybe you’re having a fall wedding, but you want a spring feel.  And since Miami is spring to summer weather all year long, you can pull this off without raising an eyebrow.  Here are some ideas if you’re having a pink/blush toned wedding.

 

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For an elegant look.

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Lovely for a beach wedding.

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Pretty printables.

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Add some white for an even softer look.

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Go non traditional in this ethereal Watters gown with just a hint of blush.

Useful Wedding Websites

There are about a hundred million wedding websites.  This is one of them!  A lot of them have lots of good information and pretty picture s.  This is one of them!  But there are some wedding websites that have exceptionally useful information for the bride to be.  This is about to become one of them!

Here are a few of the most helpful wedding websites I’ve come across in my wedding planning adventures.

A Practical Wedding Spreadsheets

When you’re planning a wedding, organization is key.  If you have a planner, you’re paying someone to be organized for you.  If you don’t, these are great excel spreadsheets that will help you keep it together as you plan your big day.  Here, you’ll find spreadsheets for your guest list, vendor contact list, day of timeline, wedding workbooks, etc.  I’ve been using these and they’re incredibly helpful.

Wedding Gawker

Useful wedding sitesI read regular Gawker all the time.  But Wedding Gawker is a totally different animal, which I’m quite pleased I came across.  This site essentially puts together a TON of websites that will lead you to fun wedding ideas and helpful tips like, “50 Fab Favors,” “15 Photos You Need at Your Wedding,” and “The Secrets of Successful Mismatched Bridesmaids.”  Trust me when I say you will love this site.

Wedding Mapper

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My fiance introduced me to this website when we got engaged.  How he came across it, I’ll never know.  But I’m really glad he did.  Wedding Mapper offers personalized and interactive wedding planning.  You can type in where you’re having your wedding, and they can connect you to hundreds of other couples having their weddings in that area , vendors in your city, and pictures of real weddings.  You can also find ideas and inspiration and keep track of all of your own wedding details.  I find the payment schedule calendar the most helpful in keeping track of what vendor payments I’ve made and which are coming up.

What websites have helped you along the way?

Fall Wedding Colors

I am so loving this fall wedding color palette.  Since Miami has virtually no change of season, these colors will bring a much needed breath of “fall air” to your wedding.

Orange Petals

I’m also loving this color scheme of dark purple, corals and pinks.  The raspberry and amethyst touches keep it from looking too springy and are great way to bring that fall feel to your wedding.

Coral + Raspberry Wedding

If you always envisioned a white wedding, you can still create a rustic, fall feel.  How about using actual tree barks in your centerpieces or using a wooden table runner?

Fall rustic wedding centerpieces

Wood plank as table runner

Smile! It’s Engagement Picture Time!

When I was growing up (don’t I sound old when I say that?), there was no such thing as engagement sessions or “e-sessions” as the cool kids call it.  But the bride of today knows all too well that there is such a thing as an e-session and there is increasing pressure to be more creative about your pictures than the last bride.  It is now generally understood that when you get engaged, you HAVE to have engagement pictures.  Most photographers include engagement sessions in their packages or offer them as part of their “a la carte” services.  I’ve seen them range anywhere from $300-$600.

I don’t believe you HAVE to have anything in a wedding.  In fact, initially I was anti-engagement pictures, finding them narcissistic and maybe a little tacky.  Surprisingly, my fiance was the one who thought it would be “nice” to get them done.  Since he’s letting me call 99.9% of the shots for this wedding, I gave in.  Turns out, it was a really fun experience, and I think I will appreciate having pictures of us looking young and in love when I’m old, saggy, and utterly annoyed with my husband to be.

We decided to take our pictures in New York, since every other part of our wedding is taking place in Miami.  But if you’re taking your engagement pictures in Miami, here are some fun, non-traditional locations:

South Beach

Nothing is more quintessential Miami than South Beach.  Whether you take your pictures by day or by night, South Beach offers a fun and vibrant background for your engagement pictures with its unique art deco architecture, palm trees, and duh, the beach!

Wynwood Walls 

If you want something more artsy, you must look into the Wynwood Walls in the Design District.  The Wynwood Walls are an homage to graffiti and Miami street art.  If I had taken my engagement pictures in Miami, this would be my location.  It’s so bad ass!

Miami Marine Stadium

The Miami Marine Stadium is like the Wynwood Walls on crack.  If you want a really urban engagement session, this is your spot.  The Miami Marine Stadium is located in Virginia Key, south of Brickell and north of Key Biscayne.  I’ve actually seen engagement pictures that were taken here and they’re impossibly cool.

Gold Coast Railroad Museum

This would be a great spot for a vintage engagement shoot.  Dress up in 40’s inspired outfits and go nuts.  There are some rental fees associated with this spot, but you’ll definitely add a lot of drama to your e-session at this location.

Another unique idea?  Take the pictures in your own home!  I’ve seen this done and they’re incredibly cute.  You’ll never regret having pictures of you and your fiance cooking or listening to music or just being your authentic selves.

For our e-pics, we had a friend take shots of us in the West Village and Meatpacking District.  We’re still deciding how we want to use them (other than for Facebook profile pic purposes, of course).   Here are some of my favorites:

Are you taking engagement pictures?

Flower-less wedding?

I know what you’re thinking.  Flower-less wedding?  Blasphemy!  Flowers are generally a must for most brides.  But flowers can also be pricey.  Sometimes very pricey, depending on what you want.  I suspect this is why individuals far more creative than me came up with flower-less flowers.  If you like DIY projects or are going for a more organic or whimsical feel to your wedding or you’re on a tight budget, here are some very cool options.

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Paper flowers

Im not sure how I feel about this trend for bouquets, but this one is actually very pretty- brooches and fabrics.

Pearls, fabric, and lace for a vintage bouquet.

Your Brooches in a Custom Jewelry Memory Brooch Bouquet - made to order

Add some bling with a brooch bouquet

Paper flower table runner.

Fabric flower centerpieces.

DIY Paper Flowers

Paper Flowers

 

Fun with Numbers!

Numbers.  My number one sworn enemy.  I concede their usefulness, but they trick me all the time, and I don’t like that.  Nonetheless, they’re a part of everyday life.  And they’re especially important to your wedding planning process.  You may not realize it initially, but it turns out, numbers are hiding in every corner of your wedding.  From guest numbers, to table numbers, to 5 piece band or 10 piece band, to the number of invites and programs you’ll need – numbers are everywhere!

But the very first number you need to think about?  BUDGET!  I cannot stress enough how important a budget is to your wedding planning process.  Without it, you’ll easily end up spending way over what you ever thought possible.  Weddings are great, but you don’t want to go bankrupt (or cause your parents to) just to celebrate your big day.  So how should you go about setting this oh so important wedding budget?  Glad you asked.

Step 1:  The very first thing you need to do is decide who is going to pay for this shin dig. Personally, I don’t subscribe to “the bride’s parents always pay for the wedding” school of thought.  It’s the 21st century, people.  The tab can be paid in endless combinations: bride’s parents, groom’s parents, bride’s AND groom’s parents, you and your fiance, etc.  Whoever is contributing, make sure you know exactly how much you will have to spend.  This will keep you in check when someone tells you that you must have imported trees from Bali at your cocktail hour.

You don’t need this lovely tree from Bali.

Step 2:  Once you know the absolute maximum you have to spend on this wedding (and not a penny more!), it’s helpful to break down all the categories of payments you’ll need to make and what percentage of your budget should be allotted for each category.  For example, you should allot about 50% of your budget for the reception.  This includes  venue, food, drinks, tables, chairs, bartenders, waiters, cake etc. Real Simple Wedding Budget Worksheet is a good site that can help you put together your budget.  The Knot also has a really great budget calculator that automatically does the math for you!  Make sure to leave a little extra wiggle room in your budget for gratuities, taxes, and any little extras you may pick up along the way.

Step 3: This might be the most important rule.  STICK TO YOUR BUDGET!  As you plan, you will come across vendors whose work you will fall in love with, but ultimately can’t afford.  This happens.  It’s heartbreaking, but you will survive.  To avoid such heartbreak, try not to research (and especially don’t contact!) vendors you know are out budget.  There’s always room to negotiate, but don’t expect a photographer with packages starting at $5,000 to lower his price to $2,000 just for you.  It ain’t gonna happen.

Treat your budget like your bible.  It will be the guiding force behind all your wedding planning choices.  And don’t be disappointed if the cherry blossom centerpieces you want (sigh) won’t happen.

There will always be a way to make your vision a reality within your means.  And even if there isn’t, don’t fret.  Remember what this day is all about – you’re marrying your dream guy! And that’s worth more than all the cherry blossom centerpieces in the world.