Monday, April 27, 2009

A weekend in the desert

I am beat! This past weekend was an absolute blast though! Kind of a last hurrah before things get busy during wedding season. I spent the weekend Palm Springs with some friends attending the Stagecoach Country Music Festival. My husband's band was playing a show in Detroit so he wasn't able to come with us, but it was probably for the best since he really doesn't like country music anyway.

I read an interesting article in an industry magazine a while ago about the use of the grounds that Stagecoach is held. It is also the same grounds that the huge rock festival Coachella takes place the weekend before. They set up the stages, food courts, port-a-potties, and beer gardens to accomodate up to 60,000 people for rock Coachella and then re-use all of the set up one week later for country Stagecoach. Great planning and management. I would have LOVED to have seen Paul McCartney headline Coachella last weekend, I heard he was incredible.

I only attended the festival on Saturday as it was pretty hard to stay out of the sun in the middle of the desert, but it was a blast. The people watching was hilarious--I decided that I'm in the wrong industry: I should have become a tatoo artist! The musicians were great and the atmosphere of the festival was just plain fun.

Sunday was spent by the pool (under an umbrella, of course) with Pina Coladas. It was a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blah, blah, blah

I'm dry. I think I have nothing to say. As opinionated as I am I about pretty much everything, I can't think of anything wedding-ish to blog about. And that's crazy because all of my weddings are right around the corner, and I'm in the process of keeping my clients happy and sane. My clients are so cool and their weddings are going to be gorgeous, but I'm losing my inspiration to write. I try to get inspired by keeping up with all of the crazy good wedding blogs around and then I get writers block because I'm not as creative, funny, inspiring, or whatever as some of the rockstar bloggers out there. Seriously, some of them are awe.some. I feel like a chubby teenage girl looking at fashion magazines knowing that I'll never be that skinny!

I've been "Wedding Planner Amber" in my blog for so long, that to keep this thingy going I think I'm just going to be Amber. I'm Amber, and I happen to plan weddings for rad couples. I try my damndest to come across way more professional than I am. I lost a potential client the other day because an off handed joke slipped out before I could stop it (seriously, it wasn't anything inapropriate or bad, it's just that brides are so edgy when interviewing vendors that every word weighs 1,000 lbs). I'm only half as busy as I could be right now because my rates are not cheap enough or expensive enough. Sometimes I feel like a therapist more than a wedding coordinator, but as long as people still like me at the end of the day, I am A-OK with being their therapist. I really don't like using excessive !!!! and :) in my emails, but I kind of have to because my emails may come across harsh or sarcastic even though I'm being neither. I will never type LOL though, that's just too far over the line for me.

I'm not a workaholic. Some of my colleagues kick so much ass with everything that they do that I start to think I should be working more, but then I realize that I'd way rather go hiking or take a day off. My musician husband still thinks I work waaaaay to hard though. Oh, to be a true artist...

So this blog is going to be a little bit more realistic from here on out. I tired of playing perfect, ya'll.

**I had to censor and take out some of the things that I originally wrote in this blog because I can't be that open.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Where will your wedding be held?

If you are recently engaged and working on finding your venue, know that this is one of the hardest tasks you have to accomplish! Choosing the venue for your ceremony and reception is a difficult and time consuming process as it is usually the first step into the wild world of wedding planning. You will quickly learn about things and even words that you have never heard or thought of--Food & Beverage minimum, off-site venue, service charge, ceremony fees, and so on. What do all of these things mean?

If you live in Southern California, the options are literally endless but the biggest question is--what can you afford? A hotel ballroom, unique wedding venue, restaurant, or park? Before you even go look at venues you need to know what your budget can allow. The reception venue and all costs for the reception such as food, beverages, staff, taxes, and service charges need to take up NO MORE than 40%-50% of your entire budget. This means, if you have a $30,000 budget, your reception should cost no more than $15,000. You really need to know this before you fall in love with the venue that has a $30,000 Food and Beverage Minimum!

The Food & Beverage Minimum (F&B min.) is not what your wedding reception will cost, but what your reception costs will start at. Saturdays are prime real estate in any city, so if you are on a tight budget, I recommend steering clear of Saturdays as they have the highest F&B min. and vendors are less likely to negotiate with you. Once you determine if a venue has a F&B min that you can handle, you will need to get an estimate of what all costs involved will be: this would include the room rental fee, set up fees, food and beverage for X number of guests, Audio Visual costs for microphones or screens, staff, taxes, and the service charge. Many times, to hook you to book at the venue, the sales person you are working with will leave off the (9.25%) tax and (20-22%) service charge on the proposal that they send to you. You may not find out about this charge until much later when you have booked them, and a 30% surprise is not a fun one!

Offsite venues are what we in the industry call blank spaces where you bring everything in--catering, rentals, lighting, A/V, etc. Depending on what venue you choose, what caterer you bring in and whether or not they own their own cooking equipment (many times the stoves and hot boxes are rented from the rental company), and the rentals you choose, these weddings can save you money, but more often they end up being much more expensive in the end. It's the little stuff that adds up--for instance, if you plan on serving coffee to your 150 guests, you will spend around $250 on just the rental of the coffee cup, saucer, and spoon. If you decide to serve Martinis, Champagne, Wine, and Beer at the bar, you need glasses for each of those drinks.

I recommend finding a few venues in your budget range and making a PRO/CON list to compare them to each other. There are very few 100% perfect venues that will match each criteria, but you need to decide which negative aspects will bother you the least--is it the fact that you can hear the 10 Freeway roaring by your ceremony, or is it the fact that this amazing venue has a locker room for a bridal changing room? Make sure that you can live with the negative aspects of your venue because once you are locked in it is very hard to undo.

Below is a sample of what my venue scout reports look like for the clients that hire me for it. It is an incredibly time consuming process and so beneficial for the busy bride and groom to have me do this!

Ms. Amber's Class

This blog post has nothing to do with weddings, I just wanted to share how cute this is! Last Wednesday I was the guest speaker in my friend Erin's (Ms. Jindra) class as her kindergartners are learning where clothes come from. I used to sew quite a bit so I brought in my sewing machine, patterns, a dress I made and the material that I made it out of and I taught 20 five year olds how clothes are made. Then we then made a pillow together. It was fun and the kids were way too cute!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A day in the life of a florist

My last blog post only covered the three hours I spent helping my florist friend Alison Franchi of Le Petit Gardenia strip flowers, but I asked her to give an idea of what it took on her end to create those amazing centerpieces!

Hey Amber,

You caught me at the perfect time on this question and to be honest I am so happy you wanted to inquire about what goes into the day and life of a floral design firm.

First, I would like to say this job is 100% a LABOR of love. The time invested in design, making the client happy, and keeping perishable flowers alive is extremely time consuming. The difference between our companies and other is that each event, design, wedding is unique and one of a kind. Therefore, we spend countless hours thinking of a design, purchasing product, experimenting, and then once the client is happy with a sample, executing it.

Here is the labor aka not so glamorous part: We head to the market around 4:00 - 5:00 AM to get out fresh pick to begin the flower process. Then we start the process of hydrating and giving the flowers nutrients to stay alive and strong for an event. Then we move on to stripping flowers. We can spend two to three solid days cleaning flowers. Ohh, the roses are brutal as they come with hundreds of prickly thorns that easily end up in our delicate fingers and palms before the design process! The purpose of cleaning the flowers is to make it easier on us designers and quicker for getting the arrangements done. After the flowers are clean we go in and re clean the buckets because when flowers sit in a dirty bucket bacteria grows and affects the life span if the flower. When I sell an event, I sell quality as well as beauty. I always want the best flowers as my clients are giving these as gifts and they should be enjoyed as long as possible. The wedding I did last Saturday took us months of planning and countless hours to create.

When you are working with flowers, the production can only be done one to two days in advance. This particular wedding took six people cleaning flowers for a total of 18 hours, three designers working on ten centerpieces for a total of 11 hours, and five people on set up (starting our day at 6am). At this particular wedding, once we got to the venue my crew spent three hours pulling the hydrangea out of the arrangements and re hydrating them because they were sucking all of the water out of the oasis and the flowers were wilting! We had to take each hydrangea out, cut the stem, put it in water for a while, then put it back into the centerpiece.Whew!

It's a science to know how each flower reacts in certain environments and we have to produce a top notch product. After set up, the crew takes a break until the event/wedding ends and goes back in usually at midnight or later to strike. One to three vans and four to eight people are needed to break down as at his time of night everyone is exhausted and the venue staff want to go home. It's a crazy, tiresome process but to watch the faces of the guest as they entire a room transformed by beauty for the night is worth all the sweat and pain of the floral labor of love. We have never had a unsatisfied client!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Playing with Flowers

I'd say a good 85% of my job consists of me sitting at my computer with my cats walking across my keyboard, music playing (right now it's the Best of Motown), and my fingers furiously typing as I plan weddings for my wonderful clients. If I don't stop myself, I'll work around the clock, so to stay inspired on the days that I don't have meetings, I plan "playdates" with some of my friends that work in the wedding industry. Last Thursday I went and helped Alison, the talented florist and artist of Le Petit Gardenia prep for a huge wedding she had on Saturday. It was great--I got to play with flowers and do something with my hands, she got an extra bit of help, and we got to catch up and bounce business ideas off of each other. I showed up at her studio to find buckets and buckets of flowers waiting to be stripped and prepped. If you have never worked with flowers, you can't imagine just how much time goes in to getting the flowers ready for arranging! The flowers have to be taken out of one bucket, unpackaged, all leaves and greenery stripped off by hand, the ends trimmed, then the flowers put into a new bucket with fresh water. And that's just the regular flowers. Roses are an entirely different story. They are monsters--along with the process I just mentioned: every single thorn has to be shaved off with a knife. The thorns that have not already embedded themselves into your hands, that is....

In the two hours I worked with Alison I only got through 20 bunches of tulips and 3 bunches of evil roses. I'm sure she and her staff worked late into the night and spent all day on Friday arranging.

I should have taken pictures of those countless buckets of flowers, because they turned into THIS:

WOW! Alison said that the bride was so happy with everything that she almost cried. The wedding and reception was held at the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena.