Monday, August 31, 2009

A Wedding Officiant's Perspective: Reverend Clint Hufft

If you recently watched the "I do Redo" wedding contest on KTLA, you saw non-denominational minister Reverend Clint Hufft in action. You also might have seen him a few years ago when he officiated the wedding of Trista and Ryan of ABC's "The Bachelorette". He has also done weddings for Amber Event's clients, and he's not only a fantastic wedding officiant, he is a dream to work with! Prompt, kind, name it, he's got it. Rev. Clint took a few minutes to answer the questions in the series that I am doing. Enjoy!

Q. Who are you and what makes you fabulous?
A. My name is Reverend Clint Hufft, non denominational minister. My only goal is to give each bride and groom the opportunity to create amazing memories of their wedding ceremony. Each couple is "hands on" during the ceremony creation process. They have complete freedom to write their own vows or choose elements from a large collection of wedding ceremony content. Every detail of the ceremony is discussed: text, location, logistics, family, fears and dreams. Hopefully, nothing will get in the way of the magical, mystical, intense romantic connection at the moment where their beloved becomes their spouse.

Q. What is it like working a wedding WITHOUT a wedding coordinator?
A. The stress level on the couple, family & friends is higher. Little, forgotten details get in the way. The entire day doesn't flow as smoothly. Molehills sometimes become mountains.

Q. What makes a coordinator good?
A. Kindness, efficiency, attention to detail without forgetting the primary goals. A bit therapist, producer, people mover & expert.

Q. Do you have any funny wedding stories?
A. The Sunset Restaurant in Malibu is a beautiful location where ceremonies happen on the sand, yards from the surf. There is a public access road between the restaurant and the beach. At the beginning of a wedding ceremony a few years ago, I was welcoming the guests and sharing what the bride and groom had chosen for their introduction. At the most specific moment, when I was taking a breath, a pickup truck drove by and one guy yelled at the top of his lungs, "Don't do it!". The timing couldn't have been more precise. Fortunately, the couple thought it was very funny, started laughing, which gave the guests permission to laugh. Great moment. "America's Funniest Videos" opened their Valentine's episode with that clip.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Wedding Day from the perspective of a Wedding Planner (part 4 of 4)

The Reception
Right before we open the doors, I station one or two assistants by the escort card table and the entrance in order to assist guests find their cards and their table. I wrote a blog about the importance of providing your coordinator with an alphabetical list of guests and their assignments that I recommend reading.

It takes 5-15 minutes to get guests seated depending on how many guests there are and whether they were able to find their escort card during cocktail hour or they have to find it on their way to the ballroom. If we are doing a grand entrance with the entire bridal party my assistants have to round them up as guests are finding their seats. If only the bride & groom are doing a grand entrance I just keep them hidden as guests won’t go ANYWHERE if they see the bride or groom! I always feel so bad pulling my couple away from their guests, but we just can't get anything happening until they are hidden!

Once the guests are seated my assistant runs to tell the DJ or Band that we are a GO! for the Grand Entrance. We open the ballroom doors and the reception begins. Once the activities start happening, I make sure that everyone gets their cues for their toasts, etc. Rarely during the reception is the room left without myself or one of my assistants keeping an eye on everything. When the reception starts I cut my staff down to one or two assistants. I talk to the Banquet Captain throughout the evening to make sure that they are ready for things like the champagne toast and cake cutting, and I check in with my clients at least every 30 minutes. After guests are served their entrees I check with the Captain to see when and where the vendor meals will be served. When our meals are ready I let my clients know that the vendors will be out for about 15-20 minutes to eat. This is usually the first time I sit down since I had breakfast that morning. Getting back up hurts my feet and legs so I’ve started taking an aspirin or two around the reception start time.

Once all of the big activities such as cake cutting are finished and guests are dancing, my assistant and I start discretely packing up items so that when the reception is finished, we have almost everything packed and loaded either in the bridal suite or a family SUV. A checklist of all personal items is kept and either a family member or bridesmaid signs off stating that they have seen all of these items packed and secured.

When the reception ends I’m usually around for about 30-45 more minutes to say goodnight and make sure everyone is ok. Once I get home I pour myself a glass of wine and fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes. I find that soaking my feet in ice water takes away all of the swelling and soreness and I’m good to go the next day!

And that, my friends, is a wedding day from my perspective.
To see a 5 minute video of me actually working a wedding click HERE.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Style Me Pretty presents: Mallika & Steve's wedding at Eucalyptus Lane

Today is like Christmas morning for me! The incredible Abby Larson of Style Me Pretty has featured Mallika and Steve's wedding today! The photographer, Suthi Picotte of Picotte Photography, and I have been sitting on the images until we got word that this wedding was going to be published on Style Me Pretty. Now I can share!

Mallika and Steve's wedding was May 31, 2009 and was the LAST wedding to be held at Eucalyptus Lane in Ventura. They had an original wedding date in August but were told in March that Eucalyptus Lane was shutting down and they had one date left. They hired me in a panic to help them pull together their wedding and give them the confidence that they needed. Mallika designed the wedding with the help of the incredibly talented Holly Vesecky of Holly Flora. Mallika grew up in Hindu /Yoga Commune and Steve grew up Catholic. They combined their beliefs and had a touching ceremony that included a red string strung around the entire ceremony site (I had the privilege of tying the string after Mallika walked down the aisle) that was later cut up and tied to the guests wrists as a symbol of the community they created.

For images right away, you can see the pictures at Style Me Pretty. I'll post some here shortly.

Command Performance Catering
Picotte Photography
Holly Flora
Simply Flawless Makeup Artistry
Couture Cupcakery
Red Cheese Photobooths

And a big thank you to my always awesome assistant, Krista. I could not have done it without you! (the photos below are of us "testing" the photobooth. We have to make sure it works, you know)

A wedding day in the life of a wedding planner (part 3 of 4)

The Ceremony & Cocktail hour

When guests start arriving I bring one of the assistants to start answering their questions and I have the bridal attendant round up the family and bridal party for lineup. Ceremonies usually start 15 minutes after the invitation time (30 minutes in the Jewish culture and up to 1 or 2 hours in some of the middle eastern cultures!) unless we are waylaid by guests lost in traffic.

Once the musician’s are cued, we start the Processional. I stay with the bride and we don’t open the doors until she is ready. Once the door closes behind the bride I high-five the closest assistant and race to talk to the Banquet Captain about the food and cocktail hour. I keep one assistant to watch over the ceremony and to text me (or radio me) when it ends.When the ceremony ends I run back to the doors to congratulate my clients and lead them to a private area where they can have some appetizers, champagne, and some deep breaths. Many times after these 10 or 15 minutes they want to see the ballroom and I love the look on their faces when they see it for the first time! Most of my clients see each other before their ceremony, but if all photos are not taken prior to the ceremony the entire cocktail hour has to be used for pictures.

If all photos are done the bride & groom can either join their guests for cocktail hour or just spend some alone time together. During cocktail hour I speak to the MC and Banquet Captain to go over the flow of the reception and the timing of the food. My assistants are finishing up details of the reception such as the candy bar, favors, or candle lighting. The photographer uses these last few minutes before guests come in to take detail shots of the reception. Once we announce that we are seating for dinner a bridesmaid or assistant and I usually bustle the bride’s dress in preparation for the reception.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A wedding day in the life of a wedding planner (part 2 of 4)

Pre-Ceremony Set up

If my car is not packed already, my husband helps me load it up with my emergency kit (a 60lb suitcase) and all of the bride’s personal items. I get to the venue between two and three hours before the invitation time depending on the amount of set up involved. Usually I have a bridal attendant assigned to the bride who will arrive earlier to assist the bridal party with whatever they need (and to be my eyes and ears). I have a powwow with the assistants who are working with me that day (as few as 1, as many as 6 depending on the complexity) to go over the flow and things to be aware of that day.
Photo by Alex Morgan of Blue Silver Photography

Vendors start rolling in asking tons of questions and I feel like the air traffic controllers on the runways flagging planes in. The assistants start on ceremony set up first, then move to cocktail hour set up, and finally reception. Sometimes the set up is not finished until minutes before the guests walk through the door. One of my pet peeves is for guests to see ANY sort of set up, so I start walking through the areas giving call times. 20 minutes! 10 minutes! Florists are usually scrambling to get the ceremony finished and I’ve been known to keep guests out of the ceremony area so they don’t see somebody’s khaki’d backside unrolling the aisle runner! Throughout all of this set up time the bridal assistant has been keeping the bride on time, herding the bridal party around for photos, and keeping me informed as to whether or not everyone is happy. If someone is not happy I jump to fix that.

Once family arrives things become chaotic and the train is barreling full speed ahead toward a wedding! Everyone has a question or concern and I try to stay in the area to address his or her needs.

In between family questions, I talk to the ceremony musicians to make sure they have their cues, I pass the marriage license off to the officiant, and I make sure that all set up is ready for the ceremony.

(Interesting story about the wedding in the photo: the Chuppah that you see above was made by a relative and had ZERO weight to anchor it down. It was a windy day and it started lifting up like a balloon and we almost had to have the groomsmen walk it down the aisle. Thankfully, one of my assistants thought to wire it to the trees with some of the wire in my emergency kit. It worked!)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A wedding day in the life of a wedding planner (part 1 of 4)

Well, this wedding planner at least. I thought it would be fun to walk through what the 24 hours before a wedding looks like from my perspective. Because I went to a blogging workshop last week (Liene Stevens of Splendid Communications ROCKS!) and found out that my blog posts are way too long, I’m going to break it down into a series of blog posts.

It starts with the rehearsal. The rehearsal is, surprisingly, my LEAST favorite wedding activity. I have more butterflies in my stomach about the rehearsal than I do on the wedding day. It's the first time everyone in the bridal party meets me and if I lose authority for one second, forget to place the flower girl, or call someone the wrong name I feel like I've blown it. I arrive with the ceremony format written down and a "script" to help keep me on track. Before everyone arrives, I meet with the bride and groom and gather all of the personal items (escort cards, Kiddush cups, etc) and tie up any loose ends we might have. Rehearsal usually goes smoothly and I send everyone to the rehearsal dinner and head home.

I go home, update all of the paperwork with the changes that the bride and groom made, make notes for set up, print out paperwork for myself and my assistants, pull out my emergency kit, pack my wedding day bag, lay out my clothes, and try to be in bed by 11:00 PM. I sleep until 8:00 or 9:00 AM. I keep my cell phone in another room on silent because I have to get 8 or 9 hours of sleep to be able to handle what's going to come at me the next day. If anyone calls before I’m awake, they just have to wait for me to call them back, but once I’m up I keep my phone glued to me.
I have a pre-game ritual of the same breakfast with my husband at Hugos in Studio City. He teases me for eating the SAME thing every time, but it’s the perfect mix of carbs, protein, and calories to keep me going until I get to eat next (usually at a vendor meal that night). In the restaurant I have the binder for the inevitable vendor phone calls with miscellaneous questions.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Wedding Florist's Perspective: Le Petit Gardenia

Alison Franchi of Le Petit Gardenia is incredibly talented. I once had a bunch of left over sticks from the escort card display that I didn't want to get rid of but did not know what to do with. I gave them to Alison and she utilized them in the awesome display that she created for the cake table. I would never have thought to do that! Alison can do traditional wedding flowers, but really shines when she is given the liberty to do more avant garde stuff like the yellow and orange canvas she did for a wedding of mine at Marvimon. Enjoy her answers!

Q. Who are you and what makes you fabulous?

- I am floral designer / artist working in my field for eleven years.

- I run an amazing floral company in Los Angeles. Travel to oversee/create projects as well.

- I have a great sense of humor and adapt to all personalities.

- I Love to push the envelope and think out side of the box.

Q. What is it like working a wedding without a wedding coordinator?

Planners make my life so much easier and the entire process less stressful on all accounts. They know the business so it makes work move smoothly and efficiently during the whole planning process. I find working without a professional planner has been a bit chaotic as so many things change the day of and weeks leading into the wedding/event we are not informed of. We are one of many vendors that day and with out a planner we really do not know what's to come about until a few days before and sometime when we get to the venue. Planners make it possible to tweak things and organize the day so all runs well and orderly.

Q. What makes a coordinator good?

-Staying in constant communication with the client and vendors.

- Having good social skills and organization.

- I think a coordinator needs a creative edge as well to fully understand the vision and have the right vendors to execute it in a friendly/professional manner.

Q. Do you have any funny wedding stories?

We had a bride and groom that wanted us to dance with them on their wedding day. We smiled and joined in for just a second. :) We can not forget it is a celebration and when the client is that open they usually are extremely happy with the work and staff. It's a great way to show appreciation.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An ABC Workshop with Mary Dann at The Viceroy Santa Monica

I am on the steering committee for the Association of Bridal Consultants Greater Los Angeles Chapter and Beth Helmstetter and I are responsible for putting on educational workshops bi-monthly for wedding vendors. Beth planned the last workshop on blogging at Andaz with Liene Stevens of Splendid Communications and I headed up this month's workshop with Mary Dann.

The fabulous Viceroy in Santa Monica was our host venue this month, and it was a treat! We were in the Bristol Room with the patio attached and we started off the evening mixing, networking, and listening to the fun tunes played by DJ Martin Felipe of Invisible Touch Events (Salt-n-Pepa's "Push It" was my guilty favorite for the night). The Viceroy fed us well and we settled in for an inspiring evening with legendary coordinator Mary Dann of Mary Dann Wedding and Party Coordinators. Mary's topic was "The Art of Delegation" and she spoke about the ways to grow your team by bringing in interns, assistants, etc. The Q&A session after the DVD she presented was unanimously the best part of the evening. It seems like almost all of our 55 attendees were able to ask some really meaty questions that were beneficial to all of us.

The whimsical and fun flower arrangements were provided by the incredibly talented Susan Tom-Wellis of Peony and Plum. Her work is fabulous and she is a dream to work with!
Images were captured by the talented and vivacious Ellice Schwartz of ES Photography and a five minute video of a wedding that Mary Dann had recently done was shown by videographer John Goolsby of Orange County Video (he is also the 2009 Co-Director Inland Empire Association of Bridal Consultants).
It was a great evening and we all had a good time catching up with friends, making new contacts, and learning ways to grow our team in order to better serve our clients. Thank you to the vendors who donated their time and a huge thank you to Alison Montgomery of the Viceroy for making this happen!

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Wedding Photographer's Perspective: Mi Belle Wedding Photography

It's funny how small the world is sometimes. 6 years ago I when I was the office manager of a small boutique lawfirm in Brentwood I became very vocal to my then 50 something year old bachelor boss about how much I loooved his (at the time, casual) girlfriend Cindy. Being the opinionated person that I am and armed with my belief that she was "the one" for him, I aligned myself with her and started badgering him daily about how much he needed to get serious with her. I also might have fed her a bit of top secret information. They got married not too long after I had moved on to another career (the legal world never did it for me) and on their wedding day, Cindy asked me to come to her bridal suite for some photos before the wedding because she said that I had been an important part of their courtship. Their wedding photos were AWESOME but at the time I didn't really pay attention to who the photographer was as I wasn't in the wedding world yet.

Fast forward to May of this year to when I met the photographers on Jessie and Zack's wedding day at The London hotel in West Hollywood. Immediately after we shook hands, husband and wife team Josh and Michelle started asking me how they knew me? I had no idea, but when they asked me if I had been a guest at Neville and Cindy's wedding it all clicked. They were the same photographers! Jessie & Zack's wedding was flawless and we had a blast working together. Not only are they incredible photographers, they are true team players and have zero attitude. In a wedding world full of diva vendors, it's a wonderful thing!

Josh and Michelle of Mi Belle Wedding Photography answered each of my questions individually and I love hearing both perspectives. Enjoy!

Who are you and what makes you fabulous?

Mi Belle is fab because of the relationships we make with our brides and grooms! It's our/ my favorite part!

What is it like working a wedding without a wedding coordinator?
Working without a coordinator is not an option. Period. Without one all of the other vendors become mini coordinators, which means if we are coordinating we are not shooting, which is why we were hired in the first place!

What makes a coordinator good?

A good coordinator works with all vendors as a team. In order for the couples wedding to be a complete success we all have to do our part. Ego should not be welcome. Coordinators that respect all vendors needs usually have a very happy couple.

Do you have any funny wedding stories?

Funny... not off the top of my head but the last wedding we photographed the bride gave the groom a motorcycle for his present and that was pretty cool

Who are you and what makes you fabulous?

we are fabulous because we love what we do and actually care about our clients!

(editor's note: and because you don't have attitudes the size of California!)

What is it like working a wedding without a wedding coordinator?

oh man, without a coordinator things are beyond confusing, crazy, hectic, etc. plus the bride does not get to enjoy her day as much because often times she is worried about everything and trying to run things instead of just being a bride. many times it make us, the photographers, end up running things, people asking us questions about what should be taking place, where things are, etc, and that is not what we are there for. all that does is distract us from doing our job, which is to take amazing photos. we actually just did a wedding that had an "in house" coordinator. they decided to start the ceremony without telling us. that was interesting, and a first for me.

What makes a coordinator good?

a good coordinator will run the event smoothly but not be overbearing and micromanaging. most vendors know what they are supposed to do and don't need a "boss for the day". some coordinators like to be in charge of everything and everyone. all that does is alienate the other vendors. it's a team effort and everybody needs to be on the same page. in addition to that, a good coordinator will be in communication with other vendors before the day of the wedding to make sure everybody knows the master plan. what we do at mi belle photo is build our own photo timeline into the coordinators timeline. this helps us keep our photos on time which makes the whole day run smoothly. throughout the event, a good coordinator will keep us informed as to what is going on and when. they will also make sure we get food. there is nothing worse than not eating after working 7 hours straight. feed your vendors!

Do you have any funny wedding stories?

funny wedding stories? i love best man speeches that turn into roasts of the groom. maybe because i'm a guy i can relate to it, but those always make me laugh

Friday, August 14, 2009

Top Tips: Ten Things to Know about Wedding Planners

I like this article from about Wedding Planners. It's a very matter of fact, straight shooting, article. Original can be found HERE. I bolded #5 because it is something I stress. I always say, "you should like your vendors, but you should LOVE your planner and photographer!"

Why plan in fantasyland? Get the truth.

Top Tips: Ten Things to Know about Wedding Planners

It used to be that hiring a wedding planner was something for the rich and famous. Today though, it’s becoming increasingly more common for everyday brides and grooms, with everyday budgets, to hire a planner. With good reason, hiring a planner can actually wind up saving you as much money as it costs, with the added benefit of reducing stress.

Choosing the right person can make a huge difference in your wedding planning, and the day itself. I recently talked to Heather Lynne Vickery of Greatest Expectations, an event planning company in the Chicago area, to learn what sorts of things couples should know before hiring a planner.

1. There are three kinds of “Wedding Planners”
A) Event Producers – If you speak about your wedding as “a wedding production” and have plans to have the video screened at your local theater, this may be the way to go. Event producers can cost $20,000 or more, and specialize in very large events with multiple moving parts.
B) Wedding Day Coordinator – Many people love doing all the legwork and planning of their wedding, they just don’t want to worry about details the day of the wedding. For $500-$3,500 a wedding coordinator can step in, and take care of making sure all the details are in place the day of your wedding.
C) Wedding Planner – A wedding planner helps bring your vision of your wedding day to life. He or she takes care of all the details from day one through the last dance and beyond. Depending on what services you need, and where you live, a typical wedding planner will cost between $1,700-$15,000.

Knowing which kind of event planner you’re looking for can make your search process a lot easier.

2. This should be your first step
If you’re hiring a wedding planner, do yourself a favor and make it the first thing you do (well, besides finding someone to marry). No matter where you are in your planning, an event planner can always step in and help, but involving one at the very beginning will increase your savings of both time and money.

3. Get recommendations and referrals
If you’ve read a lot of these top tips articles, you’re probably sort of bored with this point. But, as I’ve said before, it’s the single most important thing to do. It’s why sites like OneWed let you rate and review vendors. When you first meet with a planner ask him or her for 3-5 referrals. Heather always tries to refer people to more recent clients, including someone for whom she is currently working. If you have any special concerns about your wedding make sure to ask for a referral to a similar couple. For example, if you are planning a Jewish or Catholic wedding, which both have specific requirements that other weddings don’t, ask for a referral from another Jewish or Catholic couple. The planner should also have a portfolio of events, but keep in mind that each of those events was someone else’s vision, it doesn’t have to be yours.

4. Wedding planners are supposed to be helpful
Contrary to reality shows and movies, wedding planners are not supposed to be scary. They are not supposed to make you nervous, yell at you, or impose their will on you. A good wedding planner will listen to you, understand you, and make you feel less stressed, not intimidated. At your first meeting he or she should be asking you questions about your ideas and vision, not forcing their own ideas or vendors on you.

5. Fit is everything
As with the perfect dress, fit is the most important aspect of choosing a wedding planner. You’ll be working closely with this person through most of your planning. One of the things a good planner can do for you is run interference with family members, if you feel that this is a service you’ll need, make sure you feel comfortable that the planner can handle it with tact and discretion.

6. Understand how a planner saves you money
If you’ve ever been a regular customer at a local store or restaurant, you know that it has it’s benefits. You get extra goodies, special treatment, and special deals. Hopefully, you will not be a repeat customer of any wedding vendors! But, your wedding planner is. This is one of the ways they save you money. It’s not that vendors overcharge brides (of course some do), it’s that planners are repeat customers who know how to ask for favors. Similarly, they know how to check vendors’ contracts to make sure that all your needs are included, and prices are reasonable.

The other way planners save you money is by understanding what is and isn’t needed for an event. For example, if you’re having both wedding cake and a sweet table, do you know how big the cake should be, and how many sweets you should order? Probably not, but your planner does and can keep you from over-ordering.

7. You’re paying the planner to have recommendations
One of the reasons you hire a planner is for his or her expertise with other vendors. Your planner should have great options for venues, caterers, photographers, etc. Notice, I said OPTIONS. Planners should recommend vendors they know will serve you well, but they should not push any specific vendor on you. It is important to note though that the more comfortable all your vendors are with each other, the more smoothly your event will run.

8. Understand what you’re paying for
Different wedding planners charge in different ways. Some have specific packages from which you can choose. These packages may specify the number of hours they’ll be working for you, or the services they’ll provide. Others, like Heather, work with you to determine your needs and then give you a flat fee. In either case, the contract should spell out exactly what the services and fees are. You should expect to pay 50% of the fee when signing the contract.

As with all “day of” vendors, tips are not required, but are of course appreciated. Under much duress, Heather suggested 10% of your planner's bill would be an appropriate amount to tip a wedding planner who had gone above and beyond the call of duty.

9. Ask about emergencies and contingency plans
One of the main reasons to hire a planner is so that you don’t have to worry about anything the day of your wedding. That includes, whether or not the planner will show up! You should ask a planner what happens if he or she is sick, or has a family emergency the day of your wedding. There’s no right answer to this question, but you should get a sense that this person is a professional who has thought about how to handle this issue.

If it won’t stress you out, you might also want to ask the planner about day of emergencies he or she has handled for clients. For example, Heather told me about a limo stuck in traffic, and having the wrong cake show up. These problems were both handled without stressing out the couple, AND after the wedding she was able to contact the vendors and arrange for refunds for the couple. This is another benefit of hiring a planner. If you have a problem on your wedding day, a planner has a lot more pull in getting a refund then you do.

10. The wedding is over, the planner is still working
It may seem impossible to believe now, but the day after your wedding, you won’t want anything to do with weddings! A planner can take care of everything from returning tuxes, to having your dress cleaned and mailing out your pre-written thank-you notes.

Thanks again to Heather of Greatest Expectations for sharing her expertise.