Reception Timelines

One reason to hire a wedding planner – the coordination of timelines and event flow throughout your reception. Some people wrongly believe their photographer or DJ will serve just fine as a timeline creator and monitor the timing and flow of events.

While timelines are something most vendors can create, they will be created to serve their needs. This isn’t a criticism it’s just truth. A photographer needs to make sure they get the best photos and at the times that are optimal and within your contract. No matter who sets your timeline this is an important truth. But beyond your photos, food must be served, toasts given, cake cut, dancing and fun should be had.

You absolutely need time to sneak away from the reception for sunset pics on the beach and you need time for all of the group photo musts on your list – but who’s making sure your guests are happy while you’re doing these things?

Fun story. This summer one of my groom’s brothers had a lot of fun at the reception. He wanted to make sure they allow me to dance at these things and kept checking to see if I had danced yet. I told him don’t worry, I will.

The couple and the photographer had gone on a climb down to the beach for perfect sunset photos, and I was back at the reception. The bride was worried people would notice them gone and head back to their rooms because we were at a destination resort on the coast and everyone was staying on site.

This DJ was a champ though! Which brings me to the question – can’t your DJ just set the timeline? His goal was to get everyone dancing and keep the party jumping. He was awesome at it, but he doesn’t have to care your photographer is driving back to Portland and was only paid to go until 9 and you want garter toss photos.

So while the couple was gone, I danced. The groom’s brother was pleased. I checked in on the mother of the bride and made sure her son escorted her back to her room because her husband was still partying.

When the couple got back we prepped for dessert/garter/flower toss. But the dance floor was lit and we still had the photographer for 30 minutes. The couple joined in. I danced with the bride’s sister. A LOT. And just like that people started taking a beer break, I got the DJ to fire up the bouquet toss music (Single Ladies, of course) and right on schedule the photographer was on the road, the DJ kicked it back in to high gear and everyone was happy.

One vendor can’t direct your event the way a planner can serve everyone’s needs. And a good planner will make sure to notify all your vendors of the timeline before. They’ll reassure them we don’t stop a wild dance party to stick to a plan, and we make sure our vendors are just as happy we were there as the brother-of-The-Groom and the happy couple.

I’m a director of your event, my goal is to make everyone happy I was there.

Love, Sweets Love!

Let’s talk sweets at your wedding. Most couples are offering options for desserts, mixed hand pop-able sweets plus a cutting cake are always a hit. Some just do cupcakes and a cutting cake, or just pie or just cake. Whatever you do, here are some tips:

1. Your Guests Like Variety

Most of your guests will be up and mingling or dancing by the time you cut your cake. We have found people love it if you have a centrally located sweets table where anyone can grab a hand sized single-serving treat, after the cake cutting, and move along. The larger your crowd, the more diverse your treats table should be. Favorites are cupcakes, donuts, tarts, mini pies, cake pops, macrons or other cookies, bars, brownies, mini cupcakes, and on hot days boozy pops or ice cream stations/carts.

2. A Small Dessert Display

On a similar note, if you are having a very large wedding (150+ guests) don’t do one sweets table. Instead, place a small dessert display sweets table with your cake next to your sweetheart or head table, and then either have desserts served (if you are doing plated service), served family style by table, or have your caterer set out slices of cake and other desserts on the buffet table. You don’t have to place all of your sweets on your sweets table. It can get too crowded or awkward for large receptions.

3. When Serving Everyone Cake

If you will have a large cake to serve all of your guests (or a wedding cake and hidden sheet cake), here are a few pointers. Plan to cut your cake, then do toasts or bouquet toss or a game or something special to distract your guests as your caterer cuts and serves, or plates and sets out your cake slices at your buffet table. Do not cut and serve your own cake, unless you really want to.

If you have more than 150 guests, you do not have to display a cake large enough to feed all, you can have sheets of matching cake prepared by your baker and in the kitchen with your caterer.

4. Things You See On Pinterest Guests Don’t Tend To Actually Enjoy

  • Cake. No seriously, a lot of people hate cake. See point 1. It’s not everyone’s favorite.
  • S’mores. Even if you have a fire pit, maybe ten people actually want a s’more when they are tipsy and dressed up. Don’t worry about an ornate set up, instead pass some sticks (store bought kind) to those by the fire, either pass a tray with a bag of marshmallows and a box of graham crackers and some right sized chocolate, individually wrapped Ghiradelli Squares. That’s plenty. If you want to be super fancy have a very small table, a serving bowl with the marshmallows, a serving plate of stacked and still wrapped Ghiradelli Squares, and a serving plate of Graham Crackers broken in squares. Have enough set up for about 1/4 of your guests and task a friend or your planner to replenish if needed.
  • Donuts served on a wall. Nobody seems to want to peel donuts off a wall. It’s not even as aesthetically appealing as a nice platter of donuts. Donut holes or round donuts are easier to eat while mingling. Jelly filled is kind of mean if your cousin is tipsy in a pretty dress.
  • Cheese cake in summer. As a mom of older kids, I remember those horrible days of cleaning up after a sick child. Cheesecake goes bad in the heat while sitting out. Serve it at your rehearsal if it’s your favorite. Desserts may be out for hours at your wedding, stick with all the desserts that won’t get icky.
  • Poisonous flowers and berries on the cake. Even when prepped with a barrier, as pros will do, don’t order poisonous plants to be set on or poked in to your cake. Those Pins and insta pics you’ve seen are from styled shoots. Nobody ate that cake. We hope.

5. Finally, Delivery vs. Set Up

If you order flowers or desserts or cake to be delivered, that is different from having a dessert table installed or set up. If you do not have a planner, or even if you do, please make sure you know the difference. As a seasoned planner and designer I know the difference well. I check the contracts. But many venue Day Of coordinators, or bakery shops, or florists do not plan to decorate your dessert table. Don’t assume they will.

Wedding specific dessert specialists typically include display tray rentals and platters, as well as set up, in your quote. Many floral designers, just deliver extra flowers for your baker that aren’t prepped or necessarily food safe, which is totally fine if your baker is setting up and decorating the cake. It’s not ok if a novice, or friend, or who knows? is setting up your cake.

As a wedding floral designer, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a wedding venue “delivering” flowers, when a bakery delivery is dropped off. Nobody knows who should do what. There is no planner, what am I not going to do – leave without setting up the desserts!

Make sure, if you don’t have a planner, or even if you do, that you know who is doing what. Somebody has to set up your desserts! Somebody has to decorate the cake. Nobody is going to do this if you don’t pay them to. And somebody may jump in to save the day who doesn’t know what they are doing.

“To The Happy Couple! Cheers!”

Federico x. Photography

Many couples wonder when to do toasts and speeches, who should speak, and sometimes ask how they can tell somebody they really don’t want them speaking – without offending them. There’s a right way and a wrong way to be nice. Here are some general concepts of how to do all of the above, and some basic gentle advice I can give on this subject.

To start, when should speeches and toasts happen at a wedding?

There are many answers to this question. The perfect time to do a toast and speech varies, but here are some options. A good time to hear from the hosts (usually the bride’s parents) is immediately after the bridal party entrance, as the couple is seated. The Father Of The Bride traditionally welcomes everyone, thanks them for coming, toasts the couple and then may introduce the groom’s parents before dinner begins.

The second toasting opportunity is as dinner is coming to an end, as soon as the couple finishes eating. In Oregon most couples do not do served or family style service. If you are doing a buffet, food trucks or a taco bar, for example, you may still do a welcoming toast just be certain it is simple, sweet and then let the people eat. Other key honored guests should be invited to toast after the couple finishes eating and just before The First Dances happens. This is the perfect time to have the groom’s parents, your Maid Of Honor, and Best Man speeches. If you don’t do a welcoming speech, do that here allowing parents from both families to speak here, and bump the Best Man/Maid Of Honor speeches to later.

The third toasting opportunity is right before you cut the cake. You might choose couples toasts only right here, or all toasts here. A nice order is toasts followed by cake cutting. If you are doing a bouquet toss it’s a good time to do that right after the cake cutting. Planning tip – put your toss bouquet at the dessert table in a vase. It’s a pretty decoration and then your bouquet is right where you need it to go from cake to toss. This timing gives your catering staff time to serve or plate the cake and set it out on the dessert table.

Who Should Give A Toast?

There is no right answer to this question! Typically it’s nice to break up the speeches if you have a lot of people you want to speak. A lot = more than 4.

Traditional speakers:

  • Father of The Bride
  • Best Man
  • Maid Of Honor
  • Groom

Who might you want to have speak?

  • Parents of The Bride (both or any you like)
  • Parents Of The Groom (both or any you like)
  • Best People (whomever you choose) best friends, siblings
  • Bride
  • Groom

Don’t up the list or open the mic. Try hard to limit your total speakers to 6-8 absolute max. Beyond 4, break it up.

I love my brother, but he’s kind of an ass when he drinks – and he’s going to drink!

I’ve heard it all over the years, from super awkward to truly brilliant speeches. Some people speak too long, some say too much, many do their best and therefore get it just right. You know your friends and family. If you are worried, in my experience, you should be! It is ok to give people direction. Let them know a time limit, tell them examples of things you really don’t want to see or hear on your wedding day.

Have very direct conversations with your friends and family. Let them help decide who should speak and when. Some people hate public speaking, don’t make them speak. You can share a sweet private moment earlier in the day. Schedule it, and enjoy that private time.

If you have ten people who want to speak, ask one or two to have a special spot during the ceremony instead. Have them do a reading or write you a poem. If you know somebody is likely to get wild after they’ve had a few drinks ask them to do the ceremony parts, and let others speak later in the reception.

Seriously, give direction. It’s not pushy to say, “We would love to have you give us a toast during the reception. We just want something very you – sweet, funny, real and not too long. Maybe 2-5 minutes.”

If you tell somebody what you want but leave the details to them, you’ve empowered them to honor your request. It’s not bossy, it’s direct and gives them an expectation.

It’s also fine to have a special time with your whole bridal party during the cocktail hour right before you join the main party where you do mini private toasts. You can do this before the ceremony if you’ve done a first look and are all together.

I hope this helps. As always, contact me if you have questions! Or comment below.

Hiring a Hair and Makeup Artist for your wedding day

Ali Mae Photography + Blossom & Beauty MUAH

Ali Mae Photography + Blossom & Beauty MUAH

This time of year, I get a lot of requests for referrals for Makeup and Hair Artists. Brides frequently ask me if they should do their own Makeup and hair, have a friend do it, or just do it themselves.

Yes, hire a professional, and here’s why – your wedding day can be very stressful if you are nervous about being in front of all those people, or jittery about getting married, or just generally excited and anxious about everything going perfectly.

Spending your wedding morning with your best friends getting your hair and makeup done, laughing and sipping mimosas and coffee, eating a light brunch, at your chosen getting ready location or venue – these moments are priceless. But the actual price tag is actually just the cost of a few nights out on the town. So do yourself a favor, put that money aside during your engagement and just treat yourself instead of going out. It’s worth it!

You can also tell your Maid of Honor to tell your Bridal Shower guests to pitch in and gift you a donation to your “pamper yourself fund”.

Absolutely find and book your MUAH early! Find out the rates for just you, vs. just hair, just makeup, and both for your bridesmaids and mom. Once you have those rates in your girls’ gm, let everyone know how much it costs for each or both and tell them all please let me know if you’d like to buy in. If so have them Venmo you the total by a set date (within a week or two of the message) and book each who pays you.

Do not let them pay the vendor themselves that day. Do not let them say maybe, I’ll decide later. It is ok if they want to do their hair and makeup themselves, as long as they will listen to general guidance about styling and shades.

If you’re worried about DIY makeup matching gift them a pallet you like and a lipstick.

If you have the budget and want to gift this MUAH service to your bridal party, that’s awesome. Let them know in advance, so they aren’t surprised or worried about having to pay. Also if you really want to make sure everyone has the look you want, it’s ok to come up with the funds somehow to pay for those who can’t afford it. Don’t feel bad asking them to pay, it’s expected when you say yes to being in a wedding, but also be understanding if they just can’t.

Also, you can find more info in my blog on tipping, but in general, if the artist is the owner, a tip is nice and appreciated, it’s not required. If the artist is an assistant, absolutely tip! Tip the same as you would in a salon for the same service. You do not have to tip based on the overall bill including travel fees, etc. but for your specific services (15-20%).

I hope that helps, and as always if you need a referral just ask. I’m happy to help!

Wedding Invitations

Ellie Asher Photography

Let’s talk about wedding invitations. It is 2019, Global Climate Change is real, and let’s be honest – who even buys stamps or goes to their mailbox more than once a week anymore – unless we know something arrived from Amazon?

Wedding invitations are super important, they set the feel for your wedding, literally invite your friends and family to the wedding, and some of your family and best friends will save and treasure these pieces of paper for life. That said, will everyone?

So many couples are buying mass produced invites from or one of the many national internet invite sites. That’s great, but you’ve probably personally received five invites in the past few years that were basically the same. And then when the wedding got closer you went searching for this piece of paper somewhere in a stack so you could find the wedding website to RSVP on, or to find the registry. Or worse, you’re all dressed, ready for the wedding, can’t find the wedding website login info and you can’t remember the exact time of the wedding or if this weeks wedding is at Abernathy Center or The Ainsworth House! Shit!

We live on our phones. We schedule phone calls, visits, girls nights, everything on our calendars on our phone. We one click to get driving directions to that 2 o’clock meeting – we do not look for pieces of paper and type shit to figure out where we are going.

So why are you wasting time and making life less fun and licking envelopes and buying soooo many stamps?

Here’s a different idea, if you are working on a Save The Date, don’t get the same picture postcard everyone you know has plastered on their fridge for five weddings this summer. Instead, contact one of our amazingly gifted local wedding videographers. Have them do a live story session with you. I have recommendations if you need them. Create a cute film announcing your engagement, and the set date to mark those digital calendars with one simple click on your phone. Put this on your wedding website, send this with a digital card, like those on Paperless Post, or a combo of digital cards, Facebook, text, emails and you can still buy paper cards but buy 15-25, instead of 100. And make them super awesome because you’re buying a few dozen, not 100+.

For your invitation, you can have a local calligrapher like Letters and Dust custom create an invite for you. Send these amazing invites to the 20 people who will save them, and for the rest of your guest list, create a digital invite with the exact same digital tone and mood, with the same wording, but for a very small investment. Your guests will thank you if they are younger, organize their life digitally, wouldn’t save a paper invite, and want to reduce their personal impact on the environment every day.

These are not money saving tips. These are going green, change the way you look at what you have to do, practical tips to organize your wedding and design your big day to reflect your personal style, life, and values.

When it comes to writing your invites, you can get detailed advice on etiquette and proper wording from us if we are your planner. But here are some basic tips if you do not have a planner.

1. You must address your digital or paper invites to the exact guests you are inviting. If you do not want children at your wedding, and honestly most weddings are not events parents should want to bring their kids to, address the invite to just the person or exact persons you are inviting. You may put something on your wedding website about this not being a kid friendly event, but you don’t need to put that anywhere in your invite.

2. If you are inviting a single friend, and you don’t want them to bring a date, do not put plus one or “and guest” on their invite.

3. If your family is paying for the wedding and you would like to acknowledge this in your invite, the proper etiquette is to word the invite such that your parents are requesting the honor of their presence at your wedding. If the couple is paying, you are requesting their presence. None of this is at all important, but if it is important to you, that is how you handle it.

4. Never include your registry info in your invitation, instead direct people to your website for lodging, to RSVP (if not by mail with an addresses stamped response card) and for detailed information about the wedding. Your website is where this info should be provided to guests. Again, if you sent digital save the dates and/or invites your invite is easily searchable in their inbox and contains a quick link to everything they need to know.

5. Mail your Save The Dates 9-12 months out, or as soon as you’ve set a date and havechosen a venue, especially if travel will be required, or if you expect it to be a popular date like 6-6-20, or 6-20-20.

6. Mail your invitations about 6 weeks out and not more than 8 weeks out, unless this was a swiftly planned wedding, with no save the dates, and within 3 months from engagement to vows, then send them as soon as you have a date and venue.

If you have questions, contact us. We offer hourly consultations. Or if it’s a quick question, we can give you an answer by email.

Wedding Floral Design

Deyla Huss Photography

So many couples ask for a floral quote and design 9 months plus before their wedding. They tend to fall in to one of two categories:

1) They have a big budget and they want a quality expert, so they know booking a floral designer last minute will leave them with very few options.

2) They have no clue what wedding flowers cost and they just need a ballpark.

I’m always happy to help either type of customer. As a planner and designer, I know the importance with setting a firm budget early and sticking to it. I’m happy to help either type of client become informed or book me well in advance. That said we have our full service customers meet for a walk through a couple months out to update and confirm their final design because what you wanted early in the planning process may not be the same a few months out.

If you are just getting started, what should your floral budget be? On average expect 10% of your overall budget to go towards flowers/decor. A full service design and set up on site, for 100-150 guests will typically cost a minimum of $2500 and depending on your design it can easily cost $3500+.

Common myths to cut a floral budget:

1) DIY is less expensive – no. DIY is usually going to look DIY and can easily cost you more. When you order an out of town friend or mom a small bouquet online with delivery, you’ll pay $150 plus, so what makes you think your wedding bouquet and centerpieces can look good and cost you $20? They will not.

We often offer non-floral centerpiece options and decor for our planning customers to either supplement the floral centerpieces (half and half) at a deep discount – if you are renting the candle holders, vessels, and lanterns, etc. from us and are already our Day Of, Partial or Full Service Planning customer. We are already investing in labor for set up, so yes you save on non-floral items through us vs. buying from a store and doing it yourself.

Kaylee Rad Photography

2) Shop at a florist or grocery store or farmers market.

When we do full floral design for a wedding we begin processing flowers between Monday and Wednesday of your wedding week. By Thursday, your centerpieces and bouquets may be done and in the cooler (depending on numbers and style). On Friday your boutonnières, corsages, hair pieces, cake flowers, prep for on site installs and large pieces are all completed while you’re probably at your rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. When do you plan to do all this? Are you taking the week off? Do you have help, do they know how to design? Any of these options will do pieces for you to pick up, few will deliver or set up, and some just provide you with a bunch of flowers.

Ali Mae Photography

3) Using online flower services and Costco. I always recommend Costco green garland over ordering it from me if you are on a budget. It’s not as pretty as my hand made or local bought garlands, but if you supplement it with flowers in water picks, it will be fine. Of course, $99.99 for six rectangular table segments, plus adding flowers and labor, that’s still a lot of money per table. Add up the costs! If this is the look you want go for it. If you prefer a different design that’s the same or within $5/each what will you do? We also recommend rose petals for your aisle from Costco if you want white or pink their price ya $69.99 for 5,000 if you want good coverage buy 2 orders. Sparse sprinkles 1. As for flowers online they could be ok, they could be ugly, it’s sometimes ok, it’s sometimes horrible. If my supplier gives me dead flowers I just reject them and they hand me over similar replacements in stock. Or better yet for smaller weddings I can hand pick wholesale local flowers first, then fresh beautiful individual bundles that look awesome that day. You can’t do that online. Do you want to risk it?

If you are looking early for a professional wedding decor and floral designer, you do need to book at least 6-9 months + out to get a designer who specializes in continued design training and experience in weddings. A neighborhood florist can handle your wedding, but if they spend their year designing sympathy flowers, birthday bouquets from online national orders that must meet a set recipe, their designers may not be up to date on all of the current wedding designing techniques and trends. They may be very technically capable of copying a design you want but less able to creatively custom design your personalized wedding.

Who should consider a florist vs. a wedding specialist? Some may think it’s if you are eloping or on a small budget – not necessarily! We and most wedding specialists absolutely design a la carte items for elopement or intimate affairs. You will typically have to pick up your order. Pick up may be required on Friday for a busy wedding week Saturday, but it is rare we and others will not easily accommodate your minimum order. That said, we have a minimum of $300, typically. I’ll always refer people who just need a few boutonnières to go to one of several florists we adore. They can make one or two small order pieces with zero minimums.

Elisa Ivers Photography

If you are using a florist who will not be installing or delivering, think about what you are ordering and how to set it up. Some designers will let you pick up arch decor, we will not. Our a la carte pieces are limited to bouquets, to go capable centerpieces, boutonnières and corsages. Why? Wedding arches are designed on site. Every arch is different and our designs are 100% created at your venue, and if we had you take it, we’d be sad if you weren’t able to attach it, your measurements were off, something broke off while you transported it. We see our designs as art, and therefore we just don’t do that.

Hailey Joy Photography

You do not want your arch to be a mess my heart felt advice if you are a DIY couple, invest in quality draping and silk permanent designs that are designed as a garland. They will look better in photos than a potential disaster with novice installs. Resources – we can design you a custom garland and sell you garland and drapery to install yourself when you pick up your bouquets. You can find non-custom items on Etsy. Order very early to make sure you like it and to practice setting it up. For draping, buy by the bolt on Either tulle or chiffon or organza will look best. Tulle is the easiest for a novice to use. It doesn’t run or thread and is super sturdy and easy to cut.

If you’d like a ballpark quote for budgeting, contact us and tell us what you are looking for.

If you’d like a complete floral design quote, set up a free consultation or fill out our online detailed quote form and we’ll give you a full mood board and quote.