Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad

36 years ago today my parents married in a tiny little church in Beulah, Colorado. There are, of course, less silly pictures of them, but this is the only one that I was able to steal...I mean, borrow from their photo album. I love it. Mom made her own wedding dress and I love everything about it. It just not get more 70's than brown rick rack! And that hat! That bouquet! Those sideburns! So adorable!

My parents are one of the couples that I can count on one hand who make me believe that true love, undying, passionate love can last a lifetime. After raising 4 children together they say that they are more in love and more over the moon for each other than on their wedding day. Their "secret" is their strong relationship with God and their belief that the the other should come first.

My parents have kept a log of how they celebrated each anniversary--from a split dinner at a diner when they were young and broke to their 25th vow renewal wedding & reception. I took their idea and I've kept a record of our 7 anniversaries in our wedding guest book. I also glued some of the cards from family members in it. I love going through it ever year.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad--here's to 36 happy more years! Thank you for being such an inspiration. I love you.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

two days, two weddings: one couple

Wow, what at weekend! This past weekend I worked for the fabulous Mary Sushinski of Occasions on the two day Indian weddings of Sheila & Rondeep. Sheila is Hindu and Rondeep is Sikh, so they had two complete weddings in 2 days. It was all so gorgeous! Friday I assisted Mary with the Hindu ceremony & reception at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu for 300 people, and Saturday I headed up the reception for 550 people at the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles as Mary had another wedding that day.

I decided to blog the weekend with my iPhone camera.

Ceremony Day
Friday, June 27

4:12 AM: Yes, you read that right.
4:45 AM: Breakfast en route.
Note to self: Boiling cheesy Hot Pocket + 70 mph = Not A Good Idea. Ouch!

5:00 AM: arrival at Calamigos

5:15 AM: Mary instructing Heather & Kamryn on the flow of the day

6:00 AM: Floodlights on in order to work before sunrise

8:30 AM: A beautiful Mandap and the 3 hour ceremony in full swing!

11:00 AM: Lunch reception set up

12:15 PM: Romantic photo session with B & G Photography . I cannot WAIT to see their shots! Along with being such a sweet person, Sheila, was a stunning, stunning bride.
Reception Day
Saturday, June 28

10:30 AM: Breakfast at Hugo's. And a much better one than the day before! 1:15 PM: Set up begins6:30 PM: No time to have taken other set up shots, as our team of 6 and all of the other vendors were racing the clock!

The weekend was a crazy amount of work, but everything came together so beautifully and the bride, groom, & family were so happy with everything. Managing 550 people is quite a difficult feat, but I learned so much and I am thankful to have had the experience. Indian weddings are so unique and beautiful and I really look forward to doing more in the future.

Congratulations, Sheila & Rondeep! Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your special day!

Sunday, June 29
A much needed Spa Day

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

When to splurge, when to save: Juggling the cost of your wedding

This article is faaaaantastic and I want to share. I also have some of my own opinions to share as well.

NEW YORK—Khris Cochran splurged for her wedding seven years ago. The ceremony was in a rose garden overlooking San Francisco Bay. The cake was made by a star baker featured on the Food Network. The honeymoon was in French Polynesia.

Then came the debt. She was $5,000 in the hole before she lost her Silicon Valley job in the dot-com bust.

“It took years to get out of that debt,” she says. “By being so tied to the wedding dream, I ended up in a financial nightmare.”

Weddings are said to be recession-proof, but the same can’t be said for couples’ budgets. As the economy takes a hit, many nearly-weds are looking for ways to scale back on a lavish wedding without sacrificing a special day.

Wedding spending is expected to dip slightly this year to about $28,700 per event, according to trend tracker The Wedding Report Inc. That’s down just $28 from last year’s high, but it bucks the 48 percent growth that surveys by the Conde Nast Bridal Group documented from 1999 to 2006.

At the same time, the fever for budget-busting weddings hasn’t broken. Wealthy couples are now focusing on understated flourishes, says celebrity wedding planner Marcy Blum: “Serving Cristal, for example, as opposed to having elephants.”

What’s worth the splurge, and what’s a smart save? Here are some ideas for richer and for poorer:


You can always elope. Barring that, if you want to save money, trim the guest list.

“You really don’t need to invite everyone you know or have a party of 20 bridesmaids,” says Maria McBride, an editor at Brides magazine and author of “Party Basics for New Nesters.”

If you really want a big crowd, consider a smaller wedding with a separate cocktail reception. It beats a 300-person sit-down dinner in both cost and atmosphere, says Blum. “There’s no way to go about making it affordable and really fabulous, unless you’re a rock star or someone you know is Kuwaiti.”

If your parents really want all their friends to attend, or your colleagues at work expect invites, remember it’s your day. A good rule of thumb: Have you had dinner with this person in the last year? If not, and you live in the same city, consider a cut.

Looking back, Cochran wishes she and her husband had invited only the people closest to them.

“It’s not only an instant budget saver but a way to make the whole event more intimate,” she says.

AMBER'S ADDITION: I know this is much easier said than done, but if money is an issue, and it always is, TRIM THAT LIST!!! Weddings between 75-100 people are the perfect size--it's small enough to be intimate but big enough to be a P-A-R-T-Y!


David Tutera, who planned Star Jones’ wedding, advises couples to focus their spending on the venue and decor, including flowers. One of his clients is spending $1 million on flowers and design, including 50,000 roses.

“People walk away remembering the unique experience you create and not the food that you served,” he says.

He and Blum each stressed the importance of lighting, which they say many couples overlook. “They spend tons of money on decor and they have a great band, but if they don’t spend on lighting, you can’t see what they’ve done,” Tutera says.

For Eda Kalkay, design and location were the most important decisions for her October 2007 wedding. The 150 guests to her city-meets-country wedding at an estate in New Hope, Pa., were treated to a white fantasy in the woods, with globes of white hydrangea, white candelabras and a surprise performance by a gospel choir.

The price tag? More than $300,000. But she has no regrets.

“It was so beautiful it felt surreal,” says Kalkay, whose wedding was being featured on WE TV’s “Platinum Weddings” this summer.

If you want a luxe setting at a discount, ask for a deal on a Friday or Sunday wedding, or cut costs with a daytime affair. And consider alternatives to expensive floral displays, like smaller “tablescapes” of candles and fruit, or centerpieces using a single type of flower, bought wholesale.

AMBER'S ADDITION: Lighting! Lighting! Lighting! Lighting! In my opinion, lighting is more important than the flowers and the cake. I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me for a minute. Think about your favorite romantic restaurant--what is the lighting like? Chances are it is sultry and and ambient and when you walk in to that space you feel warm fuzzy feeling all over, right? It's because a lot of thought has been put into the way the space is lit. Candles, uplights, pin spots, etc create a MOOD. You want your guests to feel the romance in the air. No offense, but the cake ain't gonna do it. If brides could personally see a ballroom before and after it has been professionally lit, there would never be a question about this. Unfortunately, lighting is one of those intangible things that seems less important than peonies in the bouquets. If you honestly can't afford to have your reception professionally lit, then go overboard with the candles. Good luck with that in LA though--the fire permits seem to be getting stricter.


Cochran, who now runs the Web site, says invitations are an easy way to cut costs.

“Paper is cheap and most people have a computer, word processing software and a decent printer already at home, which makes invitations an easy way to save some cash and be creative,” she says.

Invitations set the tone for an event, but Tutera, author of “The Party Planner,” thinks guests are more likely to remember the last moments of a wedding.

Etiquette experts still frown on electronic invitations, so prepare for raised eyebrows if you cut that corner.

Instead, Blum suggests cutting down on invitation inserts and heavy stock that waste paper and increase postage.

AMBER'S ADDITION: Hmmmm, I do and don't agree with this one. I am a paper snob. Cheap paper paper. No way around it. I do, however, advise my brides adding a personal touch to the invitation to get your guests excited about your wedding. I had a bride who ordered very simple invitations and we were using feathers at her reception, so I suggested that she add a single white ostrich feather to each invitation. The guests loved it--it was mysterious, playful, and sassy. Add crystals to your invitations or a "wax" monogrammed seal to the inner envelope. One trip to Michael's Craft store is all you need!


A wedding is only one day, but the photos last forever. Even on a budget, brides rarely lament the amount spent on a quality photographer.

“We really love our wedding photos and still get compliments on them to this day. She was worth the extra cash we spent,” Cochran says.

Photos were so important to Kalkay, she spent $50,000 to bring in photographers who regularly shoot celebrity weddings.

If you’re cutting corners, however, you may be able to find a skilled student photographer who’s eager to earn extra cash and build a portfolio. And you can forgo a videographer altogether.

“It’s very passe compared to photography,” says Tutera.

AMBER'S ADDITION: Amen on the photography. I don't agree about videography. I think videography is incredibly important (even if it is not professional) to have. I heard one person say "get the photographs for yourself & your parents. Get the video for your future children". What I would give to see a video of my parents getting married...


You might really love that silver box with your monogram on it, but guests who have been to several weddings will probably toss it when they return home.

“Nobody needs another placecard frame, or a bottle of crummy wine with your name on it,” Blum says.

It may seem like a small expense, but even cheap trinkets add up when you have a lot of guests. Odds are, there will be no complaints if you skip the favor entirely. (Cochran also points to money-wasting extras like toasting flutes as a bad idea.)

If you really want to give your guests favors, Blum suggests something edible.

“You’d be much better off to have all your bridesmaids or ushers bake cookies and enclose a great recipe,” she says.

Another nice touch: offering a coffee cake or brioche on the way out for the next morning’s breakfast.

AMBER'S ADDITION: I could not agree more. Unless the favors are edible or something on par with an iPod, you are wasting your money. After each wedding, we pack up all of the favors and send them home with the bride. HALF of the favors on each table are left there and sent back to the bride & groom. Put that money into lighting!

Wedding Slideshow: Justin & Catie

I LOVE getting the professional pictures from photographers! A big thank you to photographer Lukas VanDyke for providing the images to me of Justin & Caitie's wedding. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Any given Saturday

As a wedding coordinator with a lot of other coordinator friends, I assist at other weddings that aren't my own clients when I have an open Saturday I want to fill or my friend is in a bind. My coordinator friends do the same for me. It's a great way to "practice" working a venue we have not worked before, meet good (and bad) vendors, and it's kind of nice to be the one who doesn't have to take the heat and go tell people when things go wrong! Some weddings are good, some are bad, some are blah. Some couples I wish were mine. Last Saturday's wedding for High Concept Events was a wedding I wish was my own. The couple was sooooo cool and really made the wedding truly THEM! Paula's custom chartreuse wedding gown really got me excited. As did her funky venue at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, the gospel choir singing during the ceremony, the vibrant colors of chartreuse, orange, and blue, and the personalized touches she put everywhere. I snapped some shots througout the day on my phone:

I love pictures of what is actually happening! And look at that dress!

My iPhone camera does not pick up the colors of the chinese lanterns, but they were so pretty in alternating blue, orange, and chartreuse. So sassy and spicy!

I got to decorate the bridal suite that night as well.

Everybody go "Awwwww!!!!"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Destination: Ojai, CA

Ahhhhhh. I am still in a romantic haze from my anniversary weekend. The husband and I wanted a quiet, intimate, weekend in nature and Ojai, CA won over Idyllwild, CA. We do love Idyllwild, but with gas almost at $5 per gallon, Ojai was closer and we have never spent a weekend there. We have stayed in the past at the fabulous Strawberry Creek Inn in Idyllwild. For you Angelinos looking for a romantic weekend away, we cannot recommend it enough. Their breakfast is sooooo good.

After too much money was spent at Victoria’s Secret (my husband thinks that statement is an oxymoron) we hit the 101 north Friday afternoon along with every other person in Los Angeles. Or so it seemed. Ojai is only 70 miles north of LA, but crawling at sometimes 10 miles per hour makes it seem much farther away. However, traffic and stress simultaneously melted away once we came into the beautiful Ojai Valley.

We rented an adorable stone cottage with a private garden next to the Day Spa of Ojai and the historic Theodore Woolsey house. It was too cute! They even had candles scattered throughout the cottage and a great surround sound system with an iPod dock. Nice!

Our weekend started with a couples massage in the garden of the Day Spa of Ojai where we got great recommendations from our masseuses of where to eat & where to hike. Our massages were fantastic! Dinner Friday night turned into the biggest treat as we found the tiny place that our masseuse Frances told us about—the Farmer and the Cook organic market & restaurant. Funky, hippy, earthy, and fabulous atmosphere and food. The live French folk music was icing on the cake for the evening. Or was it the chocolate strawberry cake? I don't know. It was seriously good, good food. The best we’ve had in a while in fact. The hippy people watching was extremely enjoyable as well--one of the cooks came out into the garden by our table to do a hand stand at one point. Much healthier than a smoke break! I think it's required to do Yoga to live in Ojai. I could handle that.

Saturday we followed the map drawn by Frances the masseuse. Armed with sunscreen, a picnic lunch, and water we set out to find the elusive hot springs. We never found hot springs, but we did find a wonderful place to swim in the river.

5 hours of hiking/bouldering, a picnic lunch, a refreshing swim in the river, and a beer(s) at the groovy Deer Lodge made us hungry. Dinner reservations that evening were for the garden at Suzanne’s Cuisine. Also a noted (mostly) organic restaurant. The people watching was not as fun as the night before, but the food was yet again fantastic. So was the wine. Who knew that Ojai was such a culinary Mecca? Yum!

Sunday brunch was at The Ranch house, another organic restaurant down yet another tiny road. It was again divine. I know I have been gushing this whole blog, but I'm not joking about how good it all was. This restaurant has had reviews some of the top culinary magazines and it was romantic and gorgeous. The gardens are stunning--they even host weddings there.
After brunch we swung by the world famous Ojai Valley Inn and Spa so I could see their wedding & reception sites—I’ve had that on my must see list for a while. The Spa is a five star resort and is faaaaabulous. I can’t wait to do a wedding there.

After that we headed up to Meditation Mount to see the view of the valley. Weddings can also be held up on the Mount, but no alcohol is allowed as it is a spiritual place.

Ojai is the perfect Southern California spot for a romantic weekend or a destination wedding. Whether you are a country club girl looking for a 5 star resort with a Mediterranean feel or a Yogi girl looking for that perfect earthy, green, organic place--Ojai is for you. And did I mention the food?!

Monday, June 9, 2008

June 9, 2001

7 years ago today I married my high school sweetheart, soul mate, best friend, future children’s father, travel companion, confidant, buddy, and partner in crime. It was a great day. Time flies by with big ups and big downs and the wedding day is only one day in the picture of our lives, but it was a big, big day. It was so wonderful to be surrounded by all of the people we love and be able to feel their love surrounding us. It was a blessing to have family members with us that are no longer here: Grandma Jean, Grandpa & Grandma Jones, and Henry. We miss you, but are so thankful that you were with us on that Big Day.

Happy Anniversary, Eric. Here's to the next 7 years. I love you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

So you want to be a Wedding Coordinator?

So does everyone else, it seems. I am now getting 5 emails & resumes per week about this, so I drafted a response. It might sound a bit harsh, but after you read this, go read the Best Blog on this:

Thank you for your email and I do apologize that this is a form email, but I am incredibly busy and I have 5 other emails similar to yours sitting in my inbox that I need to address as well.

If you want to be a coordinator, you are starting correctly by emailing me instead of just printing up business cards & slapping up a website, but there is some information I want to pass along to ensure that the next crop of wedding coordinators coming up behind me is well informed, educated, and takes our industry seriously. However, I can only give advice from my perspective, if you really want this, only you can get it for yourself. Nobody is going to build a business for you!

First off, join an association and get certified. Association of Bridal Consultants, June Weddings, and Weddings Beautiful are all recommended. If you live in the LA area, you're incredibly lucky to have such good resources, but it's going to be a challenge as our market is fiercely competitive. I am a member and therefore partial to Association of Bridal Consultants. I would suggest starting out at our local chapter ( of the ABC ( . We meet bi-monthly to network and bi-monthly to continue our education. I am on the steering committee for the workshops and our topics have been things such as Public Speaking, Communicating Sales Success, Vendor Relationships, Videography, Floral Design, etc. The meetings are usually on the 3rd Monday of the month. Go to these, meet other coordinators, and intern with as many as you can to learn. Be up front and honest with however much experience that you have, but I would recommend stressing that you are a hard worker and not a flaky person. I would also recommend interning for other wedding vendors to get a better understanding of the industry and the production of the entire day. There are certain areas personally that I know that I need work on (lighting, AV, etc) that I have plans in the future to shadow some of my vendors.

I would HIGHLY suggest working as a catering/banquet server before you start out on this to gain a respect for what it takes to feed large groups of people. I hate dealing with food, but before I even started interning for other coordinators I spent 3 months spending my Saturday nights working at a large Persian Jewish temple serving at lavish weddings for up to 500 people. Try serving scalding hot soup over the shoulder of a woman wearing a fur wrap! I hope to never do that again, but I learned a lot. Speaking of serving food: I think that if you have never been a server whether fast food, restaurant, or bar you don't have what it takes to be a wedding coordinator. Call that harsh, but this is a service industry. We are staff. And we work HARD.
I grind my teeth each time anyone exclaims to me: "You're a wedding planner? That must be soooooo!!!! much !!!! FUN!!!!". It's not fun. But it IS rewarding. Putting out "fires" throughout a 12 hour day on your feet is not fun. Dealing with Catering Managers who don't communicate with you is not fun. Hauling chairs to another location is not fun. Having a DJ hijack a reception timeline is not fun. Not knowing where your bride & groom are because the Photographer did not read the timeline and took them away for romantic shots is not fun. Having a mother of the bride scream at you for a mistake her daughter made is not fun. Cake falling over? Not fun. Bad weather? Not fun. Washing dishes because there were not enough dishes ordered for this off-site wedding so the band can eat? Not fun. Playing the iPod for the ceremony? Not fun. Escort cards without last names AND non-alphabetized? Not fun. Drunk groomsmen & guests hitting on you? Not fun. Power outages? Not fun. Not having the time to eat dinner? Not fun. Pulling 300 pound bell carts loaded with gifts & then packing them into an SUV? Not fun. And this is all stuff I've had to deal with on just the wedding day alone. I won't get into cheap clients, budget issues, unpaid vendors, family problems, and non-communicative brides.

But this job is rewarding. It is rewarding to assist a couple through the maze of planning the largest formal event they'll probably ever throw. It is rewarding to be the last person standing with the bride as she is about to walk down the aisle. It is rewarding to be told by the couple that they could not have done this without me.
But know what is rewarding to you before you take on the most important day of someone's life. Don't just jump into this and call yourself a wedding coordinator. I compare coordinating a wedding day to directing a play when there has never been a rehearsal and all of the stage hands have never worked together. If and when something goes wrong, it IS your fault because you are the director. You need to have the foresight to see the problems coming, you need to have the grace to succinctly deal with the problems, and you need to have thick skin to be able to handle being blamed for the problems when they could not be avoided.
With all of this said, I can always use assistants on wedding days. If you are still interested in assisting me, come to the next ABC meeting and I'll introduce you around and you'll have more work you can handle. But I get first dibs on you :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


In the throes of wedding season, my husband and I moved last weekend to a new place. It's a long story, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I've been moping around this morning in the June gloom overwhelmed by things that need to be done and as I was catching up on my cousin's blog of her adventures in New Zealand, I watched this music video on her blog by Icelandic group Sigur Ros. It makes me smile and reminds me that life is beautiful as long as we keep a child-like sense of wonder and joy. I love this. Take a few moments to hop through puddles with me.