Sweetheart Tables

At your reception, you can seat your bridal party at a long head table with the couple, at nearby guest tables set for them and their significant others like semi head tables with the couple at a sweetheart table, or everyone mixed with the guests at the guest tables.

Some couples love having those few moments of privacy and the best seats in the house. The other benefit of a sweetheart table vs. a long head table, it can cost a lot less to decorate than a super long head table. You can do so many cool things to decorate your sweetheart table.

If your ceremony is in the same space as your reception with a cocktail hour room change, using your ceremony backdrop as a sweetheart table backdrop will cut back on extra decor needs. The table can use minimal candles and a well placed bouquet display combined with small designs to match your guest tables, or be specially designed to fit with your backdrop, you can add specialty linens for this one table, or a complete cohesive design that fits with your guest tables while using special elevated dishes, decor items you can take home and use for special occasions or for every day decor.

Your options are unlimited! This week, we’ll be at The Luxe Bridal Event at The Castaway taking part in the Sweetheart Table Showcase. The concepts we’ll have on display will show you how you can use the basic round venue sweetheart tables and decorate them in very different ways.

We’ll have three on-trend designs highlighting different concepts we’ll be seeing a lot of this wedding season.

Music At Your Wedding

You absolutely need music at your wedding. From the moment guests are seated, there should be calm background music, to your processional and the end of your ceremony, and on in to your cocktail hour and reception.

To Hire A Pro Or Not?

If you plan on having more than 40 guests, if your venue doesn’t have a sound system, if you don’t have a trusted family member or friend who can do this without error, you need a DJ. If these do not describe your situation, hire a professional DJ! They are not a huge expense and they are worth more than they ask for.

Picking songs

You have so many decisions to make. What songs do you want your bridal party to walk down the aisle to? What’s your song at that moment while all eyes are on you? What’s your “hell yeah we’re married” song?

You can and should choose any songs you love from “Moon River” by Frank Ocean as you’re walking down the aisle song to “Concerning Hobbits” from LOTR.

For your recessional, choose a fun song that matters to you and is a celebration of your new life together. Nbd. That’s easy for one song, right?

At your cocktail hour soft background oldies but goodies and jazzy fun, works. The level should be conversational. Nobody wants to shout over the music.

Everybody loves a great grand entrance. This tradition made a ton of sense when people got married in a house of worship then joined you with their bridal party at the reception, but it can be weird now. If you do first looks, join everyone for the cocktail hour after about fifteen minutes of full family pics, and signing the marriage certificate, you can still do a grand entrance. Have your DJ or emcee announce that it’s time to find your seats. The bridal party should go to a staging area determined during your rehearsal. The couple might “disappear” fifteen minutes early for golden hour shots with their photographer. Then rejoin the bridal party once the guests are seated. If you really want to wow your guests make this song choice a key decision. Choreograph something big, goofy, spectacular or simple. It can be modern or a throwback. Whatever you want.

This piece of advice is important! If you want everyone to have fun, hire a great DJ or band. Somebody that plays music your guests can’t help but dance to. DO NOT GIVE YOUR DJ A “PLAYLIST”!!

Seriously, the most fun group will not dance to the songs you think they will. Pick genres. Decide on a “Do Not Playlist” and a short must play list, that’s it. Trust your DJ! They know how to read a crowd and flow in and out. That’s what they do! The songs you think are great hits may not be. Requests are fine (as long as the DJ can flow them in if they fit and the song isn’t on your do not playlist. This is also why you shouldn’t use your own Spotify playlist if your guest list is more than 40 people.

We all think we have the greatest playlist, maybe for a dinner party. Not for your wedding!

Special Dances

Have your DJ mix it up for a surprise Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dance. Start with something sweet and predictable (and stay there if that’s you) or surprise everyone with a surprise change and choreographed dance. The best mother/son dance I ever saw was performed by a band. They started with soft jazz music, then softly lead in to a wild rendition of jailhouse rock. It was amazing, and it showed this was a son and mother moment they had lived out before in life. It felt like we were in their kitchen after Thanksgiving dinner watching a loving family let loose and have fun.

Is there a song you and your father have always enjoyed together? A ridiculous dance you do to celebrate good grades (seriously my husband does a goofy good grade dance for my kids)? Do something important and meaningful to you.

Your first dance. It can be fun. It can be cute. It can Showcase your mad dance skillz or it can be a sweet nice slow dance to a song you love. My husband and I danced to Cake’s “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.” James doesn’t like to dance in front of others, so we went with a combo of funny, cute and simple.

It’s your wedding, add your favorite songs in the mix and enjoy!

Processionals + Recessionals

So, I’ve planned a lot of weddings over the past 20 years, 21 if you count my own wedding. There is no right way to have a wedding! Just repeat that – out loud – anytime somebody gets mad at you for suggesting you want to have your wedding just exactly the way you want it.

That said, a lot of people want to know, how do I actually do this? How do people know where to sit? How do we actually walk down the aisle? What’s the order of the ceremony?

Again, there is no right way to do it. But your religion, ceremony type, formality, personal style and preferences will all shape the true answer to this question.

If you are having a Jewish wedding, the Rabbi is already up front. The Groom may be there with the Rabbi, or they may walk out together. His parents may escort him down the aisle and take their seats or stand at two posts of the chuppah. If you are having groomsmen or a best person, your parents may sit or they can stand together at one corner while your best person takes the other corner, or your parents may take their seats and the groom’s attendants line up down the right side of the front (this is the most common). There is no right answer.

If there is a bridal party, the bride’s attendants line up on the left side. Both of her parents escort her down the aisle.

In Christian or non-denominational or non-religious American weddings, you have options.

Option 1 – the most common modern processional. The grandparents (first grooms then Brides) they walk as a couple or if just one are escorted, they are seated, groom’s family front row right side. Next the groom’s parents. If they are no longer married father and escort then mother and escort. Then mother of the bride. If she is walking alone, that’s fine she may want an escort, choose a groomsman. She is seated. The music may change. The groom and officiant walk in line to start. The groomsmen follow right behind with best Person last, first person files all the way to the end mark this during your rehearsal. Best Person stands next to groom. Then by size. Music changes. Bridesmaids followed by Maid/Maitron/Man of Honor. Next come the ring bearer and flower girl, they may stand or sit depending on age, they usually sit. Music changes for bride and Father (or chosen escort, or alone).

Option 2. Groom and officiant go out first. Next grandparents ushered by best man who seats groom’s grandparents then stands up front. Followed by groomsman ushering grandparents, seats them takes his place. Next mother of the bride ushered by groomsman. If you have too many groomsmen they walk out alone in line next. Next come bridesmaids exactly as in option 1.

Option 3. Groom and officiant, followed by grandparents, groom’s parents, and mom ushered by best Man. Bridesmaids and groomsmen pair up. Maid of honor alone or best man returns to walk with her. The rest is the same as option 1.

For Same Sex weddings or modern weddings where you want things done different, you can choose from a lot of options. Choose a side for each set of parents. The officiant enters first. Have grandparents enter next, one family sits on right other on left. Next have bridal party enter they can stand left or right, gender never matters in any wedding for any attendant. In same sex weddings this is even more common. But choose who’s standing up for whom, and who will stand on each side during the rehearsal. Everyone may walk in a row and file in all on the right then all on the left, or they may walk in pairs and split right and left. It doesn’t matter. Best Persons go last, right before ring bearer and flower person. Finally one spouse to be accompanied by both or one parent, followed by the other accompanied by one or both parents.

Some same sex couples opt to follow a more traditional format or a blend of traditional and non. Again there is no right way. If you have immediate family who will not be attending your wedding for any reason, have a loved one from either family, or a very important honored guest serve in their place. Somebody who loves you dearly wants to serve this roll, I promise. Don’t go it alone.

More info about ceremony parts and details to follow in a future post. After it’s all said and done, the recessional happens! The newly weds exit first, followed by flowergirl and ring bearer, best person and maid/matron/man of honor comes next, followed by bridal party paired off. Extras walk alone. Next officiant releases aisles left to right front to back.

The average wedding is like this …. but we’re not average!

We only have this sheet as an example of averages. It serves the purpose of understanding how an average wedding is budgeted. And I like to tell couples I’m working with, who are just getting started, to see it, then throw that image out for a bit and imagine what you want your own wedding to be.

Your wedding can and should be anything you want it to be. If your entire budget is $5,000 and you want 150 guests something is going to have to give. It doesn’t have to be your guest list but it has to be your picture of your wedding. Your dress can’t be $2000. Your flowers can’t be $2000. Your venue can’t cost $4,500 with no food.

You can get married on a small budget, it just either needs to be an intimate wedding or you need to change up what your wedding looks like. Maybe it’s going to be at a park, with pinic tables, a bbq and diy foraged flowers.

What do you want to do?

I do not care about printed invites!

Then go green! GreenVelope.com sells high quality digital invites with rsvp tracking. So does PaperlessPost. You can even buy a small run of paper invites for moms, grandmas, aunts, the people likely to save these for life and send your friends high quality digital invites to match. They can also match your wedding website. Be cohesive in the designs you choose. These services cost money, but no where near the cost of all printed invites. You can even do it for free with more work on your end through evite and social media events. You can hire a videographer for around $350 to add a love story invite video and GreenVite can incorporate any Vimeo or YouTube short film in your digital invite!

We hate the idea of a huge wedding ceremony with everyone crying and watching us!

We live in Oregon!! Do the ceremony someplace wild and very private with an elopement photographer, your best closest friends, your parents if they can do the hike, and your officiant. Hire a videographer to do a short film you can share later with those who couldn’t be there. Then throw a big party at home, at a restaurant, or a traditional reception style venue later that night or another day. Yes I’m saying elope if you want to. It’s your life.

I really don’t want a lot of flowers or decor.

Then don’t pick an ugly venue, with wobbly banquet tables and folding chairs. Pick an outdoor garden ceremony area, a scenic forest or Mountain View, and you won’t need to do a lot. For your reception two big huge things that will save you money, don’t use banquet tables, rent more expensive farm tables, but no linens (besides napkins) and don’t do a buffet, have your food served family style on large platters. There will be no room on your tables for anything beyond a pretty place setting and some candles and a few small potted plants or floral bud vases.

I want a designer dress!

Then get it. But first, try it on. Leave. Before you buy it, go to Brides For A Cause and BHLDN, check out locally made custom designed dresses at The English Department, to try on other less expensive options. Do you still love it and want it? If yes, BUY IT. Now I’m talking if you can afford it. If it’s $10,000 and your budget is $15k and you’re not eloping, try harder to fall out of love with that dress.

I’ll just DIY all the decor, it will be Pinterest perfect and save me money!

No it won’t. Crafting is not cheap. If you’re crafty, what comes out in the end will be lovely, but it won’t be cheap. Pros like us get everything wholesale. I’ve been online and to Michaels, Joanne’s and Dollar Tree. I know how much the things you buy cost. Also, there’s that little part where you have to go get married! If you’re not crafty, do you really want Pinterest fails at every table? Or to be putting together flowers on your wedding day? No. You don’t. Now seriously, if a designer told you $50 a table and you say no I’ll buy everything instead, for how much? Price our all the parts, what does it actually cost for the tools the pieces, candles, everything? That $50 professional table would be beautiful, your DIY not so perfect display can cost $40 – $80, on the low end! Is it worth it?

I do not want a reception with boring music grandma likes!

I love this one. Then either don’t worry about grandma and dance to whatever the hell you want on your wedding day OR have a ceremony and cocktails and dinner, THEN buy out your favorite restaurant for dinner and dessert, then toss a bouquet and leave the older people behind. Go to your favorite club with all of your party people and dance til you can’t dance anymore. Or have the ceremony and reception earlier in the day end by 9:30 go do your after party. My wedding ended at 4:30pm, we served a late lunch and left on a road trip to Vegas in a van with our best friends. We lived in San Diego. It wasn’t a long drive. That was 21 years ago, I did it then, you can do whatever you like.


Day Of vs Partial Planning

I get this question a lot when couples are first looking to hire a planner. What is the difference in rate and services for Day Of vs. Partial Planning? The truth is, it’s a big difference!

If you find a planner who is just starting out, they’ll often offer really inexpensive Day Of Coordination packages. They get a lot of bargain hunting brides on a budget and they just need a portfolio, so they’re willing to do this service for less.

It’s a win + win. You’ll have less to do on your wedding day and they’ll get much needed experience. It’s like hiring an intern. If you hire a good one, your workload will go down, you’ll appreciate having them there, but you will still need to take on the heavy lifting. That is what you are paying for, and you will be thankful not to have to do all the work yourself on your wedding day. It’s not a good idea to hire a new planner for very large detailed weddings or for partial planning services unless they have a portfolio of work and reviews for similar weddings.

Many more seasoned planners, like us, will tell you the differences between Day Of and Partial Planning, and charge accordingly. For starters, a Day Of Coordinator is just that. Many couples will expect this to include a rehearsal and creating your ceremony plans, and confirming all of the details with your vendors. We could do that for you, believe me it’s better for the disorganized and confused couples if we do – but that is not Day Of, you are looking for a partial planner, and you will need to pay accordingly.

If you hire a photographer for their smallest wedding coverage package it’s usually either 4 or 6 hours. If you hire a Day Of Coordinator it’s usually for two preceding meetings and 8 hours on your wedding day. That’s it. If somebody is offering more, it’s usually because they are either charging you Partial Planning prices and misnaming the service to attract more business, OR they are newer, and only getting Day Of Requests from bargain hunters and trying to offer more for less to get business.

Who should hire a Day Of Coordinator? Very organized people! This service is super valuable and needs to be available because many couples have at least one partner who loves to plan! They are usually very organized and love every second of planning their wedding. They hire us to double check they haven’t forgotten anything. We also give them detailed vendor set up plans based on the details they’ve already organized, and create a timeline for them to distribute. We discuss the options for their ceremony and write up the wedding timeline to include these details so one could run their own rehearsal or have their officiant do it. But our big task is to manage the set up process, help with the decor details on the Day Of, and be there throughout the day to keep everything on schedule, put out figurative fires, and make sure you never need to know the cake was droopy and needed to be repaired, or there weren’t enough tables.

Some planners will charge a lot more for partial planning vs. Day Of. Usually because it adds value in the mind of the shopper – to the lesser service. For example if Day Of is $1200 and Partial Planning is $2800, and newer planners will book it for $600 for Day Of, you might think this more seasoned planner is really a bargain at $1200, because their next level up is so expensive! It’s not usually a bargain, it’s just a fair price for a seasoned planner to do the work you’re asking for. Booking a busy peak day months in advance is a risk for a small company. For a company that hires interns or other coordinators, they are building in money to pay the labor costs for whomever will be assigned to your wedding.

Partial Planning is always more expensive because it’s a lot like full service planning minus all the detailed help getting started and venue and vendor visits up front, in short. With Partial Planning, you’ve already booked your venue and some of your vendors and you have a budget, now you need help designing the decor, reviewing your contracted services to see if you’ve got everything covered, booking the last few vendors, helping you with your rental orders, help figuring out what to order from a florist vs. a rental company vs. sourcing wholesale through us, figuring out how the set up should look, organizing all of the details, and really most importantly that last month or two you need to be busy with your life and work – not scheduling vendors and on the phone or emailing twenty people every day.

You may need somebody to help your officiant, who’s also a best friend and never done a wedding, to figure out how to do the ceremony. I’m actually an ordained minister, and every planner should be, for two reasons 1) it takes five minutes online and 2) I have an emergency kit and back up plan for everything else – no way I’m letting a wedding not happen because your officiant gets sick or missed their flight, or whatever. As such, I’ve studied, attended, planned and learned all there is to know about most types of ceremonies – religious or non-religious. I’m planning an upcoming blog post on the subject of friends and loved ones as officiant very soon if you know somebody who needs this specific help stay tuned.

Speaking of officiants this brings me to the next difference, the ceremony rehearsal. You need to have a rehearsal. It is important! If you have clergy or a professional officiant, great! You still need to have somebody there to organize your bridal party and direct the rehearsal. That said your rehearsal does not need to be at your venue.

So many people stress about getting a time The Friday before, many of your bridal party just got off a plane, they rush to your venue and do a rushed rehearsal so they can hurry off to a dinner you planned nearby so were forced in to a restaurant you didn’t want and you have to get there on time for your reservation.

Man, a planner could have helped you with this. A partial planner would have helped you. There are so many better ways to plan your rehearsal.

In the end, hire a planner. If you can only afford a new planner that’s ok, hire one with a lot of skills. If you are super excited to plan your own wedding and good at it, but want an excellent planner to carry out all of the details of your plan, hire a good Day Of planner, make sure you know who your coordinator will be, will they assign somebody else if they book another partial or full service wedding on your day. If you have the budget and are a busy couple hire a partial planner. If you are seriously deciding between Day Of and Partial, find a planner with less cost difference between the two services. Hire them for partial services.

Cookie Cutter Weddings

SNL did a wedding venue commercial and it was life!

The thing is, parodies based on truth are funny! One of my favorite things about being a wedding planner in Oregon – our diversity of venues and styles of weddings you can plan. But be very wary of venues that tell you they do everything for you with their own included wedding coordinator.

There is a big difference between a wedding planner and a venue wedding coordinator. When you hire a venue that has an on-site coordinator who will work with you or your own wedding planner to perfectly plan your day, that’s great. They are there to manage the event on behalf of the venue to make sure the vendors you hire are actual businesses, they hold the proper insurance, and will comply with all of the venue rules. They make sure everyone knows when they can arrive, where they can load, what kind of equipment is allowed, and what time they need to clean and load out by.

Your wedding planner is very different. Depending on what you hire them to do they help you select vendors, venues, set a budget, design the decor, menu, and overall flow and details of your wedding. They plan your timeline, organize your processional and ceremony details, read your contracts to determine exactly what you ordered from your vendors, schedule all of your vendors, run your ceremony rehearsal and manage every detail of your wedding set up. They are there to direct the bridal party, vendors and venue staff throughout your wedding, and direct clean up and load out.

I call a venue cookie cutter if they force you to work with their preferred or required or in-house wedding planner, do not at least give you options for catering (they can be in house catering only and not cookie cutter if they offer a lot of options, or if they have select approved catering with diverse styles, expertise and pricing options), limited options for decor and florists, and if they have strictly limited access to the venue on a dictated preset timeline.

Some may wrongly assume a wedding planner wouldn’t like cookie cutter venues because they don’t work with planners – maybe a fair thought but I’m not just any type of planner. I’m the Creative type of planner. The more original a wedding is, the more I love working with that couple on their wedding. I love it when couples are true to themselves, turn timelines and traditions on their head, and think outside of the box. You can’t do that if your entire wedding came pre-packaged in a box set served up to ten other couples in the nearly exact same way, on a busy week.

This is 2019 you have so many options open to you. If you just want to get married, not think about anything and you have a lot of money to spend, hire a full service planner, like us. We’ll provide you the exact wedding you want with very little effort. Show up to some key meetings select from a few options then forget about the worrying part. You don’t have to check anything but your texts or emails from us asking you for final decisions or reminding you of meetings or to pay this amount to a certain vendor that day.

The alternative – hire a venue that does it all, one meeting, tell them your colors and date and budget and which options you like – boom your wedding is pretty much done. If anyone has been to a wedding there before they’ll recognize it.

Tip 1) When hiring a planner, make sure you look at the styles of weddings they’ve done in the past. If their Instagram is filled with nothing but similarly styled photo shoots but their blog has real weddings that look nothing like that type of work, be wary! Planning a 250 guest wedding with 8 bridesmaids and groomsmen, at one or multiple venues, is a lot different than making models look pretty with the help of professional photographers, make up artists, and florists in a perfectly artificially lit studio.

Also, if a planner has nothing but one style of wedding or design they style in their body of work, that planner may not be very creative. Anyone can follow trends, but can they style different styles and types of weddings with traditional and non-traditional timelines, and truly help you get the destinct result you are looking for?

Tip 2) Do you want a very specific style of wedding, and does the planner either match that style or more importantly does the planner show a huge variety in the style and locations of the weddings they’ve planned? I love specific venues. They’re a blank slate and every wedding you design or plan there is or can be completely different. The red flags to watch for – every wedding is at one or two venues. Either that planner just gets a lot of referrals at one or two venues, and enjoys very different events that happen to be in one place, that’s not at all weird. Or they may just be comfortable working with the same few vendors in the same few places. Again, that’s fine if you are not looking for a creatively destinctly you wedding.

I personally love what we do BECAUSE we work with a limited number of couples per year and work with couples who are all so different! Our couples have different planning challenges, styles, venues, and character. A classy beautiful affair at a beloved non-cookie cutter venue, or an extremely large wedding, or an intimate multi venue event, or something totally different on a private estate. We do it all and love every minute of it.

Tip 3) When talking to or meeting with a planner at your first meeting do they ask you detailed questions about all of your ideas and visions for your entire weekend of wedding events? They should want to know a lot about you and your vision. You can’t design or provide valuable recommendations if you don’t know what it is you’re trying to plan. If they seem less interested in your ideal wedding and more interested in convincing you to do your wedding a better way, or different than you are asking, that’s a red flag.

We have lots of opinions and tons of advice on this blog, none of that matters or is valuable to planning YOUR wedding. I don’t love buffets, so what. If you want a buffet you will get the best buffet and I will organize it to run efficiently and smoothly. You want a friend as a photographer, great we’ll connect and I will get them all the info and support they need to be successful. Your planner should not spend time convincing you not to do the things you want. They should work with you to make sure your plan succeeds – provided your ideas are something that should work out just fine.

We hope you find this info useful in understanding what a cookie cutter wedding is and how to avoid them.