Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Menu Cards


Dear Menu Cards,

I don't like you. Don't get me wrong, you are all sorts of pretty tucked into a crisply folded napkin looking innocent enough. You are beautiful, match the decor, you take great detail shots and look good from any angle. But you're a wily one, Miss Menu Card, because you tease and temp guests with the your scrumptious sounding descriptions of your wares and get guests so worked up over your mouth watering courses that that forget all about the fact that they, in fact, checked the "beef" box on their response card yet decide to "order" fish because it looks so danged good. And thus the chaos begins. All that counting that the bride did in order to get her counts in so the food could be ordered and the kitchen could prep the correct amount goes out the window.The kitchen freaks out. The servers get yelled at by their floor captains because they didn't ask to see every escort card that has the secret mark that shows that the guest should be served beef, not fish. Then we have the poor coordinator who has to go up to an entire table of guests to explain to them, sorry, but the kitchen ran out of fish because tables who had their orders taken first decided to change their flippin' minds and get fish instead of beef!

Please, menu cards. Go away.

Not Yours Very Truly,
Amber Gustafson
Amber Events


Yes, I have been that poor coordinator to go to a table of guests and explain to them that the kitchen pretty much ran out of what they want and they can only have chicken. They were unhappy, the servers were miserable, the kitchen was furious, and I was mortified. Thankfully, I don't think the bride & groom ever found out (unless a guest told them......tacky!!). I asked my friend Melissa Allen, the catering director of the historic Ebell of Los Angeles if she had any tips to share regarding this tricky, tricky subject:


MesSometimes it helps to print on the header of the Menu "Your Pre-selected Entree of xxxx or xxxx" but that isn't always read by the guests. Or perhaps the guest does remember their meal selection but then in reading the delicious descriptions, might change their mind. The kitchen gets hit hard when that happens. And since food preparation and quantities are ordered based on the counts given by the client, too much of a range will knock the counts off dramatically and then guests are not getting what they had requested. Its disappointing to guests and its a frustration that caterers want to avoid at all costs. At the Ebell of Los Angeles, we require that the place card or escort card shows the entree selection that the guest selected on their RSVP card. It allows us to collect entree counts without having to interrupt conversations and it eliminates the opportunity for a guest to change their mind on their entree selection.

Just like any aspect of a formal event, the hosts will want their guests to be most comfortable and pampered, and clearly indicating directions and information is always best. If possible, have the venue or caterer provide a fully detailed menu well in advance so that the invitations can include an RSVP card that fully states the scrumptiousness of the menu (there is a huge difference between "beef or chicken" and "Grilled Beef Loin with Roasted Potatoes and Winter Vegetable Ragout or Juniper Berry Chicken Breast with Braised Red Cabbage and Rosemary Potato Puree").

While menu cards can be an excellent decorative element, I suggest using menu cards or displays when the menu is completely open to all the guests: a buffet or menu stations, or family style service. If pre-selected entrees are part of the plan, then customizing a menu for each guest and assigning seats at each table is an elegant way to provide the information. Just be sure the service staff has a way of designating the choices too.

Thanks for the advice, Melissa!

Photo taken by the fabulous Mi Belle photography

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mallika and Steve: Real Wedding Advice

Back in May I had the honor of coordinating Mallika and Steve's wedding. They are and were some of my favorite couples and the coolest people in the world! I have not blogged or posted pictures of the wedding as we are going to submit to some magazines in order to get them published, and sometimes magazines won't publish a wedding if the photos have made the rounds on the Internet. So this adorable picture will have to suffice. I can't WAIT to share the pictures that the talented Suthi Picotte of Picotte Photography took though!

Mallika was kind enough to fill out a post-wedding questionairre for me to share with my blog readers. Enjoy!

Q. WHAT WAS THE BEST PART OF YOUR WEDDING DAY?
A. Just after the ceremony, Amber led my husband and I into our reception venue for a private moment. It was amazing to get a few minutes with him, to celebrate what we just did, have a moment to calm down, change my shoes, have a bite to eat, etc. Amber and Krista were very attentive and sweet!

Q. WHAT DO YOU FEEL WAS TOTALLY UNNECESSARY?
A. We chose not to do a couple "typical" wedding reception activities (bouquet toss, garter toss, money dance, etc.) because we felt they were unnecessary. Ultimately, the flow of the reception was perfect by just doing the reception activities we felt were necessary.

Q. WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE, IF ANYTHING?
A. I would have worked on what to say to the guests before the cake cutting. It was thrown together and I didn't end up saying everything I wanted to. Also, would have communicated with our photographer about someone being there to video, and that he had little to no experience shooting a wedding. And probably wouldn't do the unity candle, but instead some other unity thing, like sand or water.

Q. WHAT WAS UNEXPECTED THAT YOU LOVED?
A. Having done the pictures before the ceremony, I knew that the whole wedding party would be hanging out as guests arrived. But I didn't realize how much fun, and how relaxing this would be. It helped everyone not feel nervous, and just be really excited.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES OF YOUR WEDDING DAY?

A. Dancing with Steve, and with our friends, seeing the reception hall all set up for the first time, cutting and eating the delicious cake, the toasts, and our first dance as husband and wife followed by a short high energy dance set (the reception really came alive early!)

Q. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WISH YOU HAD SPENT MORE TIME OR MONEY ON?
A. We wish we had spent more time communicating with the videographer and about his presence to the other vendors. We hired a cousin, and because of his lack of experience, I felt like he wasn't aware of where to be and what to do. He got good footage, but was too close to us during the ceremony, and that made me feel nervous.

Q. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WISH YOU HAD SPENT LESS TIME OR MONEY ON?

A. The invitations. People just throw them out anyways. I wish that we had just picked one and gone with it, rather than hemming and hawing of which to choose.

Q. WERE THERE ANY UNEXPECTED SURPRISES OR ISSUES?
A. Just the unity candle/lighters not working and the groom's mother's long, drawn out speech.

Q. WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER 1 TIP FOR FUTURE ENGAGED COUPLES?
A. Hire a coordinator! It seriously makes all the difference. On our day we were so relaxed, and everything went perfectly! The weddings I've been to that didn't have one were a mess, and stressful and awkward for everyone there.

Q. HOW DID YOU FEEL AFTER THE WEDDING?
A. Blissful, happy and satisfied. It was the perfect day.

Thank you, Mallika and Steve for allowing me to be a part of your day! It was gorgeous and touching!

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Day at Del Mar version 2.0

I just had to post this sassy photo taken by the wonderful and talented Sarah Yates of Sarah Yates Photography. From left to right: Erin Skipley of Bellatrix Studio in Seattle, myself, Tara Dowburd-Luftman of Makeup Therapy in Los Angeles, Krista Malinin of Amber Events, Christy Weber of Junebug Weddings in Seattle, and wedding coordinator Cassandra Santor of Los Angeles.

Not in the photo but also a part of our group that day: Sarah Yates, and Blair DeLaubenfels & Kim Bamberg of Junebug Weddings

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Day at Del Mar


It's funny how every now and then you meet people randomly that you just click with instantaneously. That click happened back in March at the Soolip Bridal show at Vibiana when Krista and I met Blair, Kim, and Christy, the fabulous ladies of Junebug Weddings. They asked if they could take our photos, we said yes, then we exchanged cards and swore to be besties forever. Well, not really, we just follow their blog and keep in touch via Facebook and email.

A few weeks ago the Junebug girls emailed us to say that they were coming to SoCal to do a photoshoot for Monique Lhuillier and would we and a few other wedding professionals like to join them for opening day at the Del Mar Racetrack? Would we?!?!My next thought: what will we wear?! Hats are a must on opening day, so the hat hunt was on.
Fab hats were found. Wednesday we battled 3 hour traffic from LA down to Del Mar near San Diego. I thought since we were going to be right on the ocean we'd have a cool crisp breeze and lovely San Diego weather. Yeah, not so much. It was dusty and hot as anything.

I'd never been to the races, so I decided I had to place at least one bet. I bet in the third race on Brother Man, just because I liked his name. Unfortunately, disaster hit that race and I found out what happens to horses when they break a leg on the track. Let's just say it's not the green pastures of a horsey retirement farm like I had naively thought. It was horrifying and we were all done with the races after that.

We decided to raise our spirits and our glasses to the fallen horse and head to the Grand Del Mar Resort and Spa for dinner. Oh my goodness, paradise found!

The Grand Del Mar is a 5 star golf resort that takes you away to a fantasy world that makes you feel like you are in Spain, France, and Italy all at the same time. Everything was exquisite! The views, the food, the staff, and the yummy dessert sent to our table by the lovely Catering Manager, Paige Levy.

After dinner we toured the venue to see all of the different options that could be utilized for weddings and special events. The property is magnificent and everywhere you turn there is something beautiful. I so look forward to doing a wedding at the Grand Del Mar!
Images taken from the Grand Den Mar Website

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Move over choreographed first dance and crazy bridal party dances...

...cause you just got SERVED! Snap!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Dirty Secret

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: you're not going to always love your wedding as you are planning it. In fact, sometimes you're going to be so over your wedding you can't handle it. For those of you dreaming about your wedding but are not engaged yet, you probably think I'm tripping, but someday you'll find yourself where most of us have been.

The bridal magazines are always so happy! Happy! HAPPY!!!! and it's totally OK that you don't feel that thrilled all of the time. You're going to be uninspired at times. You're going to fight with your fiance, you're going to get mad at bridesmaids, you're going to cry about the seating chart, and you're going to get really, really mad at the people who don't RSVP when you've made it so dang easy for them!!!

And it's completely OK. Just roll with it and take each day for what it is. Maintain a sense of humor and just keep crossing things off of the TO DO list one at a time. The wedding day will be totally worth it and all of these feelings of aggravation (that you more than likely keep inside) will go away.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Choose Wisely, Treat Kindly

Choose Wisely, Treat kindly.

I don't know who first said those words, but I know that the infamous Dr. Laura (who I have a Love/Hate relationship with--I yell at the radio a lot when I listen to her) says that often when talking about choosing your mate. It's good advice. Good advice for choosing something as monumental as your life partner, and good advice for choosing something important like the people who are going to work for your on your wedding day.

When it comes to the professional wedding vendors that you hire to work your wedding, it's a good idea to trust them to do their job (after all, you hired them!) and to always treat them with respect and kindness. I know that personally when I have a client that treats me with respect and kindness, I go waaaaay above and beyond my contractual duties in order to make them happy. When the opposite happens, I go into survival/auto pilot mode. Don't get me wrong, I am a professional and I will always do my best, but I love loving my clients and I truly get sad when that love goes away and only bitter taste is left in the mouth.

So when choosing the team that will make up your wedding day: do your homework, check their references, trust them to do their job, and then treat them as you would like to be treated. Like my momma always said--honey draws more flies than vinegar! Now I know you don't want flies on your wedding day, but you know what I mean...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Addition to the Amber Events Team


I am happy to introduce you to the newest member of the Amber Events team, Krista Malinin! Welcome, Krista!


Krista Malinin combines her passion for design and organization, her enthusiasm for working with people, and her delicate attention-to-detail in order to create the ideal event for you. She approaches each event with a modern, fresh, artistic point-of-view, yet has a deep love and appreciation for vintage, old-Hollywood style and glamour. When it comes to planning weddings, Krista absolutely loves what she does, which shows in her relationships with her clients and fellow vendors.

You can trust and depend on Krista's focus, creativity, and grace-under-pressure to create an event as unique and exquisite as you are. But don’t let the hard-working, professional persona fool you… she still tears up at every single one of her events.

Born on the East Coast and raised in the Midwest, Krista has that perfect combination of a strong work ethic and a warm heart. And as a recent Los Angeles bride herself, she understands the importance of trust, security, and care that a coordinator needs for her brides and grooms.

Whether it is a lovely, intimate affair or an extravagant, elegant occasion, Krista will strive to see to it that each detail of your day is flawless.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Engagement Photos: a great investment

The above photo, taken by the fabulous Adi Benner of Next Exit Photography, is of some of my clients getting married in August at the amazing Rancho del Cielo in Malibu. Adi wrote in the Next Exit Blog about the above photo:

"Eva and Brinton met at the Claremont Juice Company where we started on our little engagement photo safari. Their’s is an adorable story that involves unexpressed feelings, many many months of being “friends,” and lots and lots of juice."

How great is that photo above? It tells such a story!

In my opinion, Engagement photos are not only a time for you and your fiance to get great photos of the two of you in a spot that has special meaning (some of my clients who were high school sweethearts are doing their photo shoot at their school), it give you both the ability to bond with your photographer-- someone who will be with you during the most intimate parts of your wedding day. The few hours that you spend in front of the camera at your engagement shoot will help you start to relax in front of the camera in prep for your big day, will help your photographer gauge how long it takes you to loosen up, and will help your photographer take better photos of you as he or she will learn about what angles flatter you the best. It also helps you and your photographer develop the type of relationship where your photographer has no problem directing you on your wedding day ("lower your chin" , "pull your shoulders back", etc) in a way that you are comfortable with.

I have had some grooms in the past who were not too thrilled with being a male model (insert Zoolander joke here) for the day, but they told me that they were very glad that they went ahead and did it. It made for MUCH better wedding day photos.

I'm so looking forward to this wedding! Eva and Brinton are a lovely couple that is going to have a gorgeous wedding and have amazing photos to show for it!

Friday, July 3, 2009

God Bless America

Happy Birthday, America! The Amber Events office will be closed for the holiday weekend. The husband and I will be camping for a few days in the Sequoias and will be cut off from all civilization. No computers, cell phones, traffic, noise, or makeup! This is the same place where we had the camping fiasco last year (read about it HERE) but I'm feeling pretty optimistic this year because of the amount of preparation and oh yeah....a spare car key in my bag!

Enjoy your 4th of July Weekend!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

And now, let us all raise our glasses to the Bride & Groom!

At the risk of sounding long winded myself, I have to talk about one of my personal pet peeves: unending "toasts". I put toasts in quotation marks because if it's that long, it's not a toast, it's a speech. Proper toasts are less than 3 minutes. Nothing is more of a downer at a wedding reception than watching the energy of the room fizzle away as the minutes slowly tick by during neeeeeeever eeeeeeeending speeches.

Dictionary.com description:
TOAST [tohst] –noun
1. a salutation or a few words of congratulation, good wishes, appreciation, remembrance, etc., uttered immediately before drinking to a person, event, etc.

I've had weddings where a father or an honor attendant will go on for 15, 20 & 25 minutes while the guests hungrily sit there waiting for their food or for the dance floor to open up. I've heard of (thankfully have not had one of my own) weddings where the best man or maid of honor, after a day of drinking, launches into innapropriate territory.

My advice?

1. Try as much as possible to keep the number of people toasting to a minimum
2. Encourage family members who want to speak to speak the night before at the rehearsal dinner. They'll be the ones to appreciate the childhood stories & inside jokes anyway.
3. Schedule them as early in the reception as possible so you & your guests can spend the majority of the evening drinking and dancing!
4. Encourage the people who are going to toast to keep it short and keep the drinking until after!

Don't get me wrong, I am not against toasts, I just don't like the abuse of them! It is a wonderful thing to see a room full of teary eyes or laughter as a result of a beautiful, touching and heartfelt toast.

Now that I'm done preaching, enjoy Michael Scott of "The Office" ruining Phyllis' wedding.....AGAIN!

The Office - The Michael's Wedding Speech