Archive for March, 2010

Hiring Destination Wedding Vendors

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

What you don’t know (or fail to ask) can hurt you. So don’t be shy and ask! I’m not talking about living in Chicago and calling the ubertalented florist out in California that is well respected, known by everyone in the industry and lives up to their contracts. I’m talking about living in Chicago, not speaking the language and calling the flight by night operation florist in the middle of Los Cabos, Mexico the hotel referred, or the musician in St. Lucia that doesn’t have much to back themselves up in the form of a website, references but is the only vendor allowed to play music at the boutique resort you have set your heart on.

You should be ready to:

Ask for client references… current and past. Talk to a current client, there is nothing like talking to a current bride that is in the thick of the planning stages who can give you a good assesment if this vendor is returning calls, responding to their requests in a timely fashion and living up to their agreement. In addition, don’t forget to give a past client a call and make sure you ask how did the vendor perform before and on the day of the wedding.

Ask for vendor references~ The wedding industry is a small world when it comes to vendors, and I know that a good vendor always has vendor references from someone else they’ve worked with in the past. For example,  the local photographer may know that great salsa band, who is easy to work with because they always arrive on time, make the correct announcements and keep the dance floor packed.

Make sure there is a well written contract in place and signed by both parties~ Enough said.

Get wedding insurance ~ If you are planning a wedding out of the country, get wedding insurance before you start planning the wedding. If a vendor goes under, you still have to find a new one (sadly you still have that hurdle to go thru) but the insurance will eventually pay for the cost to get a new one.

And one little tidbit of information for any bride planning a wedding out of the country (and any planner reading that hasn’t planned a wedding outside the US). A lot of the smaller vendors don’t take credit cards, nor checks from the US, so be ready to pay for a lot of your vendors by wiring them money.

Last but not least, hire an experienced planner when planning a wedding overseas. It will save you a lot of headaches, will keep your sanity in one piece and will tell you the rules of the game so you know what to expect.

Tomorrow, lessons learned and the one question I failed to ask the saxophonist at a wedding in Los Cabos, that did end up hurting me.

Destination Weddings ~ Ask lots and lots of questions

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Today, I’m going to talk about destination weddings and what questions you should ask during a site walk thru at a resort. I have planned lots and lots of weddings in Chicago but when I go somewhere outside the US, I ask the client to take me with them on a two day site scouting trip or I send my clients with a really good list of questions to ask so we can talk about their findings upon their return.  And of course, I ask them to bring their camera and use it.

Things to ask the resort/hotel/venue as you scout a location for a ceremony /reception ….

  1. Ask to see the ceremony location. Is there more than one option? Make sure you take pictures and look at the overall flowers, things that are around this area. And make a note of it.
  2. Is it windy were the ceremony will take place? I know this one is crazy, but you want to be prepared in case you need to re-think the veil altogether or be ready for the attack of the veil (on you!) during the ceremony.
  3. Are there any other weddings happening at the hotel on the same day?
  4. Is a microphone provided for the ceremony? If you are outdoors in an open area, you will need one.
  5. How will guests know where the ceremony is taking place? Are there directional signs provided by the hotel or is someone letting guests know where to go?
  6. Are chairs provided? What type of chairs? Ask them to show these to you, are they acceptable. Take a picture of them.
  7. Is there a platform provided for the ceremony as an altar? If so, take a picture of it.
  8. What kind of flowers (if any)  are included in the wedding package?
  9. How early do they start to set up for the ceremony?
  10. Make sure that the amount of guests coming will fit in the ceremony area. Therefore, ask what is the maximum amount of guests that can be seated in the ceremony area comfortably.
  11. What is the back-up plan in case of rain? When does a decision have to be made if plan B has to be put in place  due to inclement weather?
  12. What are the areas for the cocktail hour? Who ushers the guests to these areas?
  13. What are the tables and chairs provided for the reception? Round or Rectangular? How many guests can fit per table? What are the sizes of the tables? You need to know this in the event you rent linens.
  14. What are the linens provided for the tables? Floor Length or Dinner Length (Half way to the floor)?
  15. What does the silverware, napkins, dishes and glassware look like? Ensure sure these are in good condition…. No chips or cracks.
  16. Can we have a choice of entree?
  17. How long does dinner usually take once guests are seated?
  18. What is more cost effective? Full Bar or Drinks on Consumption ( Believe it or not, it varies )?
  19. What kind of wedding cake flavors are offered? Which one is the most popular? Can they make a wedding cake? Ask to speak with the pastry chef. Not every pastry chef knows how to make a tiered wedding cake!
  20. Since we are having guests stay at the hotel…. Can the hotel put welcome baskets in the guests rooms prior to the guests arrival to their room (Preferred) or do they hand it over to the guests upon check-in? Is there a cost for this? If so, what is the cost?
  21. Can we do a food tasting at a later time if the hotel/resort is selected?  If so, make sure you take pictures of every plate before you eat it. If they say no, make sure you take a trip to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Order a few items off the menu and sample the food. Does it look appealing (is it hot, flavorful, is there enough food)?  This is important, bad food is just that… bad food. Guests remember good food.
  22. Are there any vendors that are not allowed to work on site? If so, who are these vendors. Some hotels control what vendors are allowed on site, so make sure you ask.
  23. Do any vendors have to go thru (be paid by) the hotel or can the couple hire the vendors directly. Also, it’s a very important question. Most often than not a few properties like to markup the vendor costs so it’s important to ask if the vendor can be hired directly.
  24. Ask for a tour of the hotel….. check out the guestrooms, spa, workout facilities, restaurants, etc.
  25. Ask yourself, do I get the warm and fuzzy feeling about this place? If the answer is no…. keep looking.

Make absolutely no assumptions, ask questions and don’t apologize for asking them.

Does anyone have any questions?!

Tomorrow…. hiring destination wedding vendors and what to expect.

Cake Cutting Secret ~ Chicago Style

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Sometimes in the spirit of keeping the wedding dinner flowing smoothly and letting the couple cut the wedding cake whenever they want a few venues have the baker make a fake cake. GASP!  Yes, the cake looks exactly like a real one but with the only exception that one layer of the tiered cake is real and the rest is…. not-so-real. It is done this way so the bride and groom can cut their cake at the end of dinner and the cake slices can magically appear a few minutes later from a sheet cake. It’s not always done this way, but for the most part I would say that 20% of the time it is.

Photo Credit: Marc Harris Photo

If you prefer to have a real cake and if this will be served as your dessert course, talk with your wedding planner and let her know. The planner will ask you to cut the cake before the first course is served or shortly thereafter. That way the kitchen staff can plate the cake slices and decorate the plate immediately afterwards and be ready to serve your guests their dessert. If you are not serving the wedding cake for dessert but on a sweet table, then there is really no rush to cut the cake at all.

What’s old is making a comeback~ Glamelia Bouquets

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Although handtied bouquets are very popular right now, I’m slowly seeing a comeback to Glamelia bouquets. These were a big trend in the 1940′s. Even Katherine Heigl had one for her wedding to Josh Kelley a few years back. You would need an experienced florist to make one for you as they are fragile but they definitely make a bold statement as you walk down the aisle.

Old Tradition of Cake Pull Charms

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

A few years back, a client of mine did a lovely bridal luncheon were the bridesmaids got to do a bridesmaids cake pull charms. Although, this tradition is a little “forgotten” out in Chicago (mostly because brides don’t know about it )  it is a great way to treat your bridesmaids to a luncheon and letting them know how much you appreciate each one of them as your friend.

Wedding charms date back to Victorian times. Tiny charms, typically made of silver with ribbons attached, were placed inside the  wedding cake. During the reception, the bridesmaids pulled the charms out of the cake. Each charm tells a fortune or predictions for the future and usually becomes a wedding keepsake for the attendants.

This little ceremony was called a “cake pull”, and it is still practiced today, but mostly in the South. Since most brides would rather have the attention centered on them (and who wouldn’t!) on the day of the wedding, I suggest you start the festivities a few days earlier and treat the bridesmaids to a bridal luncheon, were you can have the bridesmaids pull the charms from a small cake.

I found a few on and

As they say what old is new… and this is one old tradition I would love to see make a comeback to Chicago.

What to wear to an engagement photo session ~ Interview with Elizabeth Sisson

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

I recently asked Liz Sisson a photographer with Orange2Photo in Chicago to answer a few questions in regards to engagement shoots and dressing appropriately for them.

First off, let’s hear a little about Liz’s background……

I’ve been a photographer most of my life and shooting around Chicago area for 15 years. My style is what I call photo editorial. I love capturing those unexpected moments but I also want to be engaged with my clients. I want them to be comfortable and natural. Weddings can be stressful, the photography or photographer shouldn’t add to that.

So with that in mind we asked Liz the following questions:

A. What should a bride wear during an engagement photo session?  What about the groom?

When brides ask me that, I usually say, wear something fun and cute and most of all that you are comfortable in. If you are futzing with it (always pulling it down or pulling it UP) maybe that isn’t the right thing to wear.  As for the groom, the same applies to him. If you don’t normally wear a button down shirt, don’t start now. With that said, Don’t wear your sweats. Thinking about going out after work on a Friday you look nice but you aren’t dressed to the nines. Save the really dressy for your wedding day. This is more about capturing you and your love. Choose colors that compliment each other , stay in the same contrast. I usually recommend staying away from really dark colors like black or really like like white.

B. Should the bride do her hair and makeup trail on the day of the engagement pictures?

I’d say if you are going to do the trail run the same day you do the engagement pictures have your hair dresser loosen it up a  little bit before the shoot, that way it’s still done but not like it’s going to be for your wedding. I prefer a more natural look for the engagement pictures. Same with the makeup, your wedding day makeup is naturally a bit heavier than you’d wear everyday. It’s got to stay on all day with a few touch ups.

C. How long does an engagement photo session usually take?

It depends but rarely more than an hour and a half. I try to hit locations that mean something to the couple , places that are fun.

Liz, thank you for  answering these questions. I love working with you and the team at Orange2Photo!