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Q: can we ask for money?

Today I thought I’d answer some frequently asked questions about invitations, etiquette and gift requests!

Q: We would like money in lieu of gifts—is it okay to indicate this on the invitation?
A: You should never mention gifts in your invitations. While it’s perfectly fine to include registry information with shower invitaitons, your wedding invitations are not the place to include registry information, or outline any specific requests for gifts. My best advice is to spread the word via family and friends that you are in the market for cash instead of presents. Also, registering for fewer items will be a huge clue to guests! So if you’re looking for cash to fix up your new house (or buy one!) pass the word to you parents so they can answer any inquiries about gifts!

Q:Do we have to list our parents on our invitations?
A:This is completely up to you—but if your parents are contributing to the cost of your wedding, my best advice is to ask them! Some parents will be fine with throwing the old-time traditions to the wind—while some may be surprisingly offended by being left out! Sit down and discuss it with your parents so that you’ll all be happy!

Q: How many stores do I need to register at?
A: There is no magic number here, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure you offer options that will appeal to all of your guests! If you’ve got guests coming from different areas of the country, make sure you’re not excluding your relatives in the South by choosing a retailer that only services the midwest! If you’ve got a favorite regional retailer, make sure you also include a national chain, or another retailer that will appeal to other regions! And, more importantly than where you register, make sure you register for a variety of items in a variety of price ranges to meet all of your guests’ shopping needs (and yours! You’ll be surprised how handy those tiny kitchen gadgets can be!)

If you’ve got wedding-related questions you’d like to see answered, feel free to email us at info {at} Stellaeventdesign {dot} com. We’d love to hear from you!

photography resource: wedfog

I first heard about WedFog when Monika Caban, a photographer here in St. Joseph had mentioned she was writing an article for the website.  I was intrigued and had to check it out! WedFog is an online resource where you can search for local photographers, look through pictures (categorized, which is great!) and read articles written by Photographers from around the country!

(Top L:Cindy Patrick, R:Danseni Studios, Bottom L:Happily Ever After, R:Dual Shot)

I looked through some pictures, and used the handy search option where I chose to look through only “beach” pictures—ahd here are just a few (of the hundreds) that came up!

Each picture has its photographers info, including a website link, so if you see something you like you can check them out! And, I just had to post this next picture. It’s another one that came up under my “beach” search, and I couldn’t stop looking at it! What is that deer doing on the beach—and why is she letting it eat her bouquet?! She doesn’t look too upset, so she must have gotten a great deal on her flowers! Stay tuned tomorrow for our next featured local photographer, MONIKA PHOTO!

(Bob Summers)

photography planning tips for your southwest michigan wedding

While every photographer does things slightly differently there is one thing we all have in common—we want our brides to love their pictures! The following tips are just a few things that I hope will help you plan for the perfect pictures!

Communication is KEY!
When planning your wedding day, talk with your photographer about expectations, time lines, and what it will take to get the images you are most excited about. Many of the best photographers get great images because their clients work with them to create opportunities to capture those images. The more you communicate with your photographer the better they’ll be able to serve you on your wedding day!

Start the photography early!
Not only are prep photos beautiful story telling images they also give you and your bridal party an opportunity to get used to having your picture taken in a low-pressure environment. By the time the portrait session rolls around you’ll be more relaxed and feel more comfortable in front of the camera!

Personalize your Must-Have photo list!
Photo lists are a hotly debated topic amongst photographers—are they helpful or harmful, useful or useless? While the majority of photographers will agree that downloading a list of 125 “must have” pictures from isn’t going to be very useful, I think we’d also agree that having a short list of what are truly the most important images to your family is a good thing. I always suggest starting by asking both families to come up with their own top 5 lists. The photos should be unique to the family and not include typical shots, like the bride and groom with parents. Personalizing the list and keeping it short will help make it more manageable for both you and your photographer on the wedding day while ensuring that the most important photos are not forgotten.

Consider seeing each other before the wedding ceremony!
While this trend goes against nearly 100 years of tradition there’s a reason it’s becoming so popular! The “First Look” shoots are an incredible way to document the moment you see each other for the first time, they give you a few precious moments alone together, and getting family photos done before the ceremony not only ensures that you’ll look your best in the photos it also frees up time after the ceremony for a photo walk at a fun location.

Do a photo walk on your way to the reception!
While most brides would love to be able to do bridal portraits at the beach or a beautiful park sometimes the days’ time line just won’t allow it—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still consider one. Talk to your photographer about the possibilities for a photo walk along the route between your ceremony and reception! Usually you’ll be able to find something you don’t have to go out of your way for and it could be as simple as an old barn, a deserted warehouse, or even an open field. Think you’ll still be pressed for time? Consider leaving the bridal party behind and doing the photo walk with just the two of you.

Add 15 minutes to all of your travel times!
One common mistake I see brides make is forgetting to account for the size of their wedding party when they plan travel times. It just takes bridal parties longer to get places! Adding 15 minutes to your travel times is an easy way to account for some of the things that will inevitably slow your bridal party down as they try to make it from one location to another and it will keep your travel time from taking away from the time you planned to spend taking pictures!

finding the right wedding photographer

(Tim Holte via

I always tell brides that one of the vendors they’ll remember most will be their photographers! You’ll be looking at the pictures they snapped for the rest of your life, and you’ll spend an entire (emotional) day with them. They’ll get to see you at your most excited, possibly most nervous and most beautiful! If the person making your cake has an obnoxious sense of humor, you may never know…but you’ll definitely be interacting with your photographer, so pick someone you’ll be comfortable with! You want someone who you can consider a “friend” for the day, as you invite them into your personal moments!

I cannot stress enough how important it is that you have some sort of connection with your photographer. Not neccessarily an “instant best friend” connection—but at the least, you should be able to talk with them, spend time with them, and tell them what you want without problems. Your photographer should show interest in your wedding, be willing to listen, and have a general excitement about helping you with your day.

Don’t be afraid to shop around—there are photographers out there with every style and personality you can imagine! First, find photographers who take images you love!  Start out by talking to friends and family who were recently married—how did they feel about their photographer? Do you like the pictures? Check out websites, blogs, The Knot or your local wedding planner to compile some possibilities. Once you’ve found some photographers who fit your style, set up meetings and get to know them—after spending a whole day with them, you’ll be glad you picked someone you’ll mesh with!

the {not so} beautiful beach

(Actual Lake Michigan “Snow fence” via Flickr)

I shared this information with a prospective client today, and realized it would be useful to anyone planning a beach wedding….

One thing many people don’t know (especially if you’re not near the lake year round) is that the beach is not always the lovely, pristine gem it is in the summer. In the winter, massive waves roll in (it’s incredible to see) causing an amazing amount of erosion on the beaches. To help curb this, “snow fence” is put up along many city and county beaches. Snow fence is a wood and wire fencing combo that is placed along the length of the beach at different intervals.

Okay, so now you’re thinking, “Get to the point Jessica, I don’t care about snow fence!” Well, if you’re planning a beach wedding, it’s something you’ll want to consider! Even though those snowfalls and waves don’t roll in until late November(knock on wood!), snow fencing gets installed as early as mid-September on many city and county beaches. Mid September! I think this is total overkill on the part of those parks people, but they’re not listening to my vote on it these days! So if you’re planning a beach wedding after the first of September, I would advise you to contact the city or county who governs your beach (if it’s public) to check on the status of snow fences. Not all beaches put it up, and your local parks department should be able to give you the 411 on which beaches will be picture-friendly after September!

Happy 4th of July!

let them eat {old} cake?

(photo courtesy Ben Pancoast Photography)

A lot of people {whom I blog stalk} are celebrating one year anniversaries–congrats Aletha & Emilie! So all of the recent blog-talk of anniversaries this weekend made me think about 1 year anniversary traditions. Mainly, why am I going to be eating year old cake in a few months? So, I did a little investigating, and here is the explanation I found…

It used to be common occasion that by the time a couple’s first anniversary rolled around, they were also welcoming their first child. So, instead of shelling out the extra cash for a bright and shiny new cake for the baby’s christening, they served the leftover wedding cake. The wedding cake was made larger than needed, and the extra was served at the christening party! I don’t know about you, but I feel like the baby got the short end of the stick on this one!

To be completely honest, I have no intention of eating old cake, but we will be having our top tier re-created to enjoy!

the secret to a perfect wedding

As a wedding coordinator, I’m often asked by family and friends, “What if something happens at the wedding? or “What if something goes wrong? Aren’t you worried the bride and groom will blame you? Or be angry?” My simple reply: “Something will happen at the wedding, and they will be happy I’m there to handle it!”

Couples who enlist the services of a planner {either for full planning or day-of} often do so because they are realistically aware of the fact that there are many things that they will be unable to control on their wedding day: the weather, unexpected illnesses, lost guests, forgotten items, incorrect linens, vendor mishaps, etc. As a wedding coordinator we also cannot prevent all of those situations, but we are able to trouble shoot them, so that even though there may be an “issue,” the birde and groom can still go on enjoying their day. The trick is not to expect that there will be no problems, but to relax in the knowledge that you have put a team in place to ensure that any situations will be handled, and that you can go on to enjoy the day!

I, on many occasions, have helped brides and grooms to trouble shoot their wedding “issues.” I have often been the runner-of-errands, making runs from the reception to fetch forgotten cake servers, a missing guest book, or a more comfortable pair of shoes. I’m a giver-of-directions, opener of locked buildings {when the venue doesn’t do it themselves} and a finder-of-the-bestman’s-tie. When the bakery delivers a sheet cake far too small to feed the group, I’m off to the bakery to pick something up!

Here are some more real-wedding examples from other coordinators {who were nice enough to share their stories!}:

April{Blu.Sky.Designs} Check out her blog for a real-wedding example of how mother nature sometimes has her own plans!

Emilie{Chere Amie} Read about how one MOB was MIA for the wedding due to an unexpected illness!

Melissa{Masterpiece Weddings} Melissa shares her stories of a Florist Faux Pas and a ‘Maids Jewelry Fix

Emilie also shared this great story with me:

Once, the bride and groom forgot to mention to me that they had decided to get a shuttle for six of their spanish-only speaking guests. The shuttle got lost, and these out of town guests missed the wedding (by about 45 minutes). The bride was quite upset, but this gave us the opporunity to take 15 minutes out of cocktails to have a short, private ceremony for the missing guests … in spanish! The bride and groom were TOTAL troopers, and the day was a success because they went with the flow!”

I love that story! What a special moment they had, because someone was there to offer a solution to a not-so-great situation! If you’re tying the knot soon, one of the most important things you can do to ensure a great day, is to have realistic expectations. Picture perfect would be ideal {who wouldn’t love that!?} But it’s not realistic. Remember what the day is all about—remember the person, the love, and the commitment you’ve joined with friends and family to celebrate. And, whether it’s a professional coordinator, a family member, trusted friend, or mistress of ceremonies—make sure you have someone in place to take care of any issues, so you can sit back and enjoy your day–you’ll be glad you did {and you probably won’t hear about any of those little wedding “issues” until after it’s all said and done} which is exactly how it should be!

Do you have any wedding “issues” you experienced {or helped to trouble shoot?}

setting your wedding date

(image source)

Picking a date can be very exciting. Often, couple’s pick a date without too much consideration, which can lead to trouble down the road. Before you pick your date, consider the people and places around you—do any of the “key players”—you know, the important people like your parents, bridal party, and siblings—have prior engagements? You don’t have to completely rule out a date because one potential bridesmaid won’t be able to stand up, but if she’s really important to you (or 3 or 4 of your bridesmaids will be MIA) then you may want to consider another date. Will you have relatives unable to come because you’ve chosen a date that correlates with high school or college graduation, or because their kids are finishing up school?

Secondly, consider the places around you. Do you live near a major university, sport facility, or festival location? Here in St. Joseph we are roughly 40 minutes from Notre Dame—however, many couples are surprised to find that on home game Saturdays, a hotel room in the greater St. Joseph area is extra expensive, if not elusive all together. The same goes for the annual Venetian Festival in July, which brings in more than 100,000 tourists to the town and hotels. So if the venue you love is booked for the entire year, and has ONE hot date available….take a closer look, and make sure that you’re not missing an important event or activity that will throw a wrench in your plans. On the other hand, if you’re willing to battle crowds, and subject your guests to limited or pricey accommodations, you may be able to negotiate some great deals on these weekends!

your budget

(image source)

When planning weddings, I always have a budget to consider. Whether that budget be $15,000, $25,000, or $50,000, I have yet to meet a couple that doesn’t have some sort of pre-determined idea of their personal spending limit. Determining the amount you have to spend may be the easy part, but sticking to that magic number often poses a challenge once you become inundated with couture gowns, custom stationery, and every must-have wedding trinket under the sun. It’s easy to get carried away, and the longer you wait to set a budget, the more you will get pulled off track. So, first things first, sit down and determine how much you can spend. If parents will be contributing, ask them up front, and find out how much you can expect. You shouldn’t assume on a contribution unless you’ve already discussed it {trust me, you’ll be glad you did!}.

I found a great article called “Your Wedding Budget: 41 Ways to Save,” which offers great ways to trim your budget, and keep things on track.

Here are a few tips::

Time Is Money
The most important money-saving issue is time. And the less time you have, the more likely you are to make rash decisions and thus compromise your finances. Give yourselves enough time to shop around for the best vendor prices.
Forgo the personalized accents; napkins and matchbooks alone can cost several hundred dollars.

Keep it Simple

Consultants Cut Costs
Hire a wedding consultant. You will undoubtedly recoup his or her fee with the sound advice he or she can provide about getting more or better service for your money.

Limo Limit
Don’t get caught up in the idea that you need a wedding cavalcade to transport everyone to the reception. Limit the number of limos you use, or ask a friend with a vintage car to drive the two of you and book a mini bus or van to transport both the wedding party and your parents.

Read the Full Article.

tanning tips for your wedding

It’s May, and as the sun starts to shine, it’s time to think about protecting your skin from the sun, and getting that pre-wedding glow for those wedding pics! If you’re going to hit the tanning bed, now is a great time to get started for your summer wedding. Find a reputable tanning salon in your area that will help you to determine your skin type, and set you up on a gradual tanning schedule that will get you golden without burning you to a crisp!

To protect your skin, you can also go with a UV-free option. If you’re thinking about a faux tan for the first time, it can be a little scarey! You’ll want to weigh which option is best for you, from doing it yourself, to getting a professional application.

Check out this super helpful article from The Knot, to find out the pros and cons of all of the methods to making you a sun-kissed wedding goddess!