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saving money on your wedding flowers

hydrangeas

I’ll be honest, I cringe at the thought of buying flowers on the internet to make your own bouquets as a way to save money. It makes me sweat just thinking about it: flowers arriving the day before the wedding, still needing to be cleaned and prepped, with the potential of being dead, half-dead, the wrong color, the wrong flower all together or just plain not showing up. Like I said, it makes me nervous.

So, as a happy compromise here are a few tips to save money on florals without going the DIY route :

  • Use bigger blooms. Flowers like hydrangeas, shown above have large blooms, so you can use less of them and still have a dramatic and full effect. Other big-bloom choices: peonies, gerber daisies and lilies!
  • Re-use florals: At last weekends wedding we re-used the aisle decorations (bundles of wild flowers) by adding them into the centerpieces at the reception, using them as decoration on the cocktail tables by tying them in with the sashes, and using the altar pieces to decorate the escort card table and bar.  We had the appearance of twice the flowers for 1/2 the cost by utilizing the ceremony flowers at the reception.
  • Ditch the bridesmaids bouquets and have them carry a cute clutch. It can also double as a great bridesmaids gift! Swap out a $120 bouquet for a $50 clutch and you can save a chunk of cash. Yes, I know…grandma may not approve (where are their flowers?!) but it’s your wedding, so break the rules if you want to!

bridging the gap for out of town guests

icecreamwedding

(Sakura Photography*)

While planning Megan+Gregs wedding (see the results below!) one thing Megan and I discussed was the gap of time between her ceremony and reception. Because of restrictions on the time she could get married at the church, she was left with a 2 hour gap between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of cocktail hour at Mill Creek Barns. Going along with all of the other fun touches she brought to her wedding, Megan wanted to offer something special to her guests to pass the time and encourage them to explore downtown St. Joseph. I spoke with the Chocolate Cafe, a local confection shop, to arrange for vouchers for each guest to get an ice cream cone, courtesy of the bride and groom. The certificates were handed to guests by the bridal party as they left the ceremony and each one read (written by Megan):

“You sat through the ceremony, that’s quite a feat
You’re probably hungry for something to eat
So head downtown for a delicious confection
While we take some pictures before the reception!”

So cute. We weren’t sure what the response would be, but I stopped by the Chocolate Cafe today and found out that 110 of the 145 guests stopped in to enjoy their ice cream cones, including the entire bridal party. Such a huge hit and it worked exactly like we hoped, drawing people into downtown to kill some time. If you have out of town guests, take into consideration any substantial gaps in your wedding day schedule. Provide them with information on local attractions, restaurants, or children’s museums for the younger guests! They’ll appreciate the thoughtfulness and it will be one more way they can enjoy your wedding weekend!

A big thanks to The Chocolate Cafe in downtown St. Joe for being so accommodating in making Megan+Gregs ice cream hopes a reality! Check them out for awesome favor ideas including candy apples, caramel corn mixes, chocolates and even chocolate covered wine bottles (more on that later!)

*Picture shown is not Megan+Greg, but we’ll get their happy, ice cream-covered faces on the blog asap!

tips for your west michigan beach wedding::part 2

beach-wedding_bpancoast(Mt. Baldy, courtesy of Ben Pancoast Photography)

Consider any policies, ordinances or restrictions
For example, some public beaches will not allow chairs brought in and will request all guests stand. This is fine for a group of 50 or less guests, but can be difficult for a larger wedding of 150. Also, if you’re renting a public park or beach area, you’ll want to check on any restrictions with serving alcohol if you’re hosting an outdoor reception. In Southwest Michigan, most public beaches are governed by the city or county and do not permit alcohol.

Is there ample parking available?
This is one area where unexpected costs can arise. When budgeting, take into consideration the cost for shuttle service to get guests to rhe location, or for many public beaches, the cost of admission/parking. This can add up to as much as $9 per car in our area, but can often be paid for ahead of time if the proper arrangements are made. If your ceremony location has an admission fee, that is a cost you’ll want to cover for your guests.

Is it easily accessible to handicap or older guests?
Secluded beaches or outdoor areas can be beautiful, but make sure to consider accessibility. Do you have older guests who will not be able to walk the distance? Is it handicap accessible?

Is there an option for inclimate weather?
If you want to tie the knot near the water,  look for areas that may also provide for shelter in the case of inclimate weather. Certain beaches will offer a covered pavilion, or areas where you could set up a tent. While I always like to stay positive, it’s best to be prepared—-always have a back up!

Read tips from Part 1

tips for your west michigan beach wedding::part 1

beachpost1(Kelly & Russ|September 2008, Photos by Kelly Powers)

Beach weddings on Lake Michigan can be absolutely wonderful. The natural light, beautiful backdrop for pictures and open air can make a lot of couples want to host a beach wedding. However, you don’t want to pick your ceremony location without some serious consideration.  Give yourself some piece of mind by considering some important factors before deciding if a beach wedding is the right choice for you!

Choosing the right beach
I plan a lot of beach weddings, and in West Michigan you can throw a stone and hit 12 beautiful beaches. While your  first instinct may be to go with a beach you spent your childhood at, or a main beach with a great view of the lighthouse or boardwalk, unfortunately, these beaches are often the busiest. When you’re looking at locations, consider how busy it will be at the time of year you’ll be tying the knot. Will you be able to secure a private area? If you’re on a public beach, ask a designated friend or family member to watch your area during the ceremony to avoid bikini-clad onlookers from wandering into ceremony pictures. While you may think people have enough common sense to stay away, trust me…many don’t. If you’ve hired a coordinator, they can also assist with this. People can be surprisingly cooperative when they’re asked not to disturb a wedding!

The time of day
A 1:00 ceremony in a church may be quite pleasant, but on a beach in August, it very well may be a sauna for you and your guests. For a beach ceremony, consider a later start after 4:00 to avoid the heat, large mid-day crowds and that blazing sun which will wreak havoc with your photographs!

Part 2 is coming up tomorrow!

sanity saver: needs vs. wants

(photo by Marie Labbancz)

Before you jump into all of the “fun” of planning a wedding, do yourself a favor and take some time to sit down and do the grunt work. Determine how much you can spend, write out your personalized budget and list the things that are essential to making your wedding day what you’ve always dreamed of.

Whether it’s amazing centerpieces brimming with your favorite flower, live music, or a world-class photographer, determine how much you have to spend, what you want to spend it on, and what your “extras” are. “Extras” are all of those little things that you would love to have (if you can) but can live without. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, money and even more stress, by knowing what you want before vendors start telling you what you need!

finding inspiration

(photo by Jessica Claire)

When you’re flipping through the endless bridal magazines out there, it’s easy to get sucked into all of the glossy pics and think your wedding has to be a mirror image.  To make your wedding beatutiful and unique, keep a few things in mind when looking for ideas for your big day.

Use Elements
When you find a picture you like, decide what element makes it so appealing. If it’s a beautiful bouquet you’re gazing at, what makes that bouquet stand out? Is it the structure of the arrangement? The use of a single bloom? The combination of colors? The unique handle wrapping? Even if that bouquet isn’t your exact color scheme, look for the elements that make it attractive to you, and apply those to your own design. You  don’t want your wedding to look like someone else’s photo spread—instead, choose elements that you can make your own!

Be Flexible
You don’t have to carbon copy a design concept to make it your own. Take a picture of that stunning Martha Stewart bouquet into your florist—but be prepared for sticker shock if you’re on a tight budget! If you can’t swing $400 on that bouquet of your dreams, ask your florist to substitute some blooms.  Does that silk and orchid covered chuppa make your head spin with bridal delight? If it’s not within your budget to have one professionally made, seek out a friend or family member who could construct one, and substitute more reasonable fabric and floral accents.

Using inspiration will give you lots of elements to pull into your own design concept, while imitation will make you feel restricted and cookie cutter—so go out and be inspired! (and send us pictures—we’d love to see the results!)

caring for your wedding ring

(photo by Ben Pancoast Photography)

Recently, I made a stop at my favorite jeweler to have my rings inspected and cleaned. I try to do this at least every 6 months, which is required to keep my insurance up to date. But, truth be told, I get it cleaned just about every time I’m in the area because I love to see that rock shine!

However, it seems that while I am incessant about cleaning it, I’m not taking the best care of it, and my jeweler gave me a good old fashioned lecture.  I was surprised by what I learned, and wanted to pass it on to all you gals sporting shiny new rings!

First, she was none too happy that I had not soldered my rings together. I’ve always intended to, but it was just something I never got around to, and I got used to them twisting and sliding around on my finger. However, I was told this is actually horrible for my ring, and not only scratches the rings finish but can also weaken the structure that holds your diamonds. In my case, I found out the bridge underneath my middle stone was cracked, and I probably would have lost my middle stone very soon!

Looking back, I would have soldered my ring before the wedding—trust me, once you tie the knot you won’t want to take that ring off! Instead, I’m stuck without my rings for a whole week while they get a shiny new finish, a fix-job on the cracked bridge, and they solder my pair together! Don’t get me wrong–it’s not all bad—those rings are going to look brand new when they get back on my hot little hand!

{Fast Forward: I got my rings back and they look AMAZING! And it’s so nice to not be twisting them around all day to re-align them! I was pretty OCD about lining up my rings, so I figure I’ve gained at least 40 minutes of extra time each day—maybe a little extra blogging with all that free time?}

outdoor wedding venues

(Tracy+David in South Haven, JK Photography)

Outdoor weddings and events can be absolutely wonderful. The natural light, beautiful surroundings and open air can draw a lot of people to want to host an outdoor affair. However, you don’t want to set up your ceremony or throw up a tent just anywhere! Give yourself some piece of mind by considering some important factors before choosing your ideal outdoor wedding location.

Are there any policies, ordinances or restrictions?
For example, some public beaches will not allow chairs brought in and will request all guests stand. Also, if you’re renting a public park or beach area, you’ll want to check on any restrictions with serving alcohol if you’re hosting an outdoor reception.

How public is the area?
I plan a lot of beach weddings, and in our area you can throw a stone and hit 12 beautiful beaches. When you’re looking at locations, consider how busy it will be, at the time of year you’ll be tying the knot. Will you be able to secure a private area? If you’re on a public beach, ask a designated friend or family member to watch your area during the ceremony to avoid bikini-clad onlookers from wandering into ceremony pictures. If you’ve hired a coordinator, they can also assist with this. People can be surprisingly cooperative when they’re asked not to disturb a wedding!

Is there ample parking available?
This is one area where unexpected costs can arise. When budgeting, take into consideration the cost for shuttle service to get guests to rhe location, or for many public beaches, the cost of admission/parking. This can add up to as much as $9 per car in our area, but can often be paid for ahead of time if the proper arrangements are made.

Is it easily accessible to handicap or older guests?
Secluded beaches or outdoor areas can be beautiful, but make sure to consider accessibility. Do you have older guests who will not be able to walk the distance? Is it handicap accessible?

Is there an option for inclimate weather?
If you’re tying the knot outdoors, look for areas that may also provide for shelter in the case of inclimate weather. Certain beaches will offer a covered pavilion, or areas where you could set up a tent. While I always like to stay positive, it’s best to be prepared—-always have a back up!

Now go out there and find your perfect outdoor location! There are a lot of hidden gems out there, that you’ll never find browsing from your computer so hop in the car and explore your local area—you’ll be surprised at all of the unique and beautiful areas you’ll find!

press::stella event design in shore bride magazine

A month or two ago, I was contacted by Shore Magazine BRIDE to contribute to an article on post-wedding tasks.  Contibute? Me?! Yes, please! I love to write, and I love helping out brides, so I was very excited to lend some help! I’ve been anxiously awaiting the magazine to come out, and today I finally got a copy in my hot little hands! Sorry about the grainy image, but the pages are glossy and my scanner was not liking it at all!

press1

(click to enlarge)

If you haven’t checked it out before, this magazine is great, and you can get it at most of the local retailers in downtown St. Joseph as well as Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area. It features everything wedding-related and fabulous along the lake shore and they always offer some beautiful pictures and inspiration for the local area!

So, to keep with the topic of post-wedding tasks, next week we’ll have a series of giveaways (yes, free stuff!) to help you with your post-wedding to-do list! We’ve got some great prizes lined up, so make sure to check in next week!

managing your budget: taxes & gratuity

We all know that wedding costs can add up quickly. Between the catering, beverage service, linen rentals and bridal party gifts, you can charge up a big bill—and if you’re not prepared for it, the total costs could come as quite a shock!

One of the first things I do with my clients is make a detailed budget. While you may have things that arise later in planning, this will give you a blueprint to your overall spending. Sit down with your fiance and come up with a detailed list of wedding-related expenses.  Several sites, such as The Knot offer budget calculators that can help!

Tip: Make sure you don’t forget to budget in sufficient funds to cover tips, gratuity and other miscellaneous charges. If your caterer charges 20% gratuity (which isn’t out of the norm) plus state sales tax, you can be looking at several thousand dollars—so budget that amoutn in, and don’t let it come as a surprise on the final bill!