Monday, February 22, 2010

Ask Amber Answers

Want to ask me (almost) anything? Ask HERE!

When on earth are you supposed to do table visit at the reception!? ...and eat too! We get served first, however I'm doing the math and if we visited all 20 tables it will take at least 1 hour alone. Not to mention our slideshow. Help! :)

Yes, if you plan to visit every table during dinner, you will more than likely not have time to eat.

I recommend this:

-See each other before the ceremony to do all of your photos. That way you can join the cocktail hour and greet a number of your guests there.

-Show the slideshow before dinner as you are seated and DO NOT get up until you eat! You have to eat at your reception or you'll forever regret it.

-Make it to the tables of the elderly family/guests first as they are the ones who will be offended if you do not visit their table.

-Let your younger friends/coworker know that you'll meet them on the dancefloor.

-Don't pressure yourself to make it to all of the tables, just the elderly guest's tables. And don't attempt to take a table photo at each table, especially if you're having tall centerpieces as they have to be taken off and that takes more time.

Good luck and enjoy your wedding!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Band vs. DJ

I talk with my clients a lot about what is BETTER: a band or a DJ at their wedding. The answer, in my opinion, is YES. Which means, there's really no right answer, only personal preferences and how each relates to your budget. They each have a PRO/CON list (if you haven't gathered, I love making those lists)

In this PRO/CON list, I am going to talk about a professional party band that can keep the crowd rocking with Oldies, Motown, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and today's Top 40. These bands are usually a minimum of four instruments (drums, bass, guitar, keys) and two vocalists, both male and female. They sound much, much better with horns and multiple vocalists though! These bands are NOT CHEAP. In Los Angeles, their rates start around $5,000. To get around this fact, many couples will find a specialty band like Latin, Swing, Bluegrass, or Jazz. Unfortunately, they don't realize that people consider these bands novelties, and after Swing dancing for 30 minutes, they're over it and the dancefloor fizzles down to those two drunk people shakin' their thang. People need variety to keep the dancefloor rockin'. They need Frank Sinatra and Outkast within minutes of each other. If you really want a Bluegrass band, I recommend hiring a DJ along WITH the Bluegrass and let them alternate.

In this PRO/CON list, I'm also talking about a professional DJ who will also MC your event. Not your cousin Bobby. Contrary to popular belief, being a DJ isn't just pressing play. A great DJ will read the crowd's mood and play what everyone wants to hear before they even know they want to hear it. I work with a DJ who is so good that people get up during dinner to ask him what song this is. A great DJ will work in sync with the other wedding vendors making sure that we are staying on the timeline, activities are happening as they should, and the guests know what is going on. A great DJ will whip the guests into a frenzy and will make your Uncle Charlie attempt the worm across the floor.


1. Cost. You're hiring one guy (plus a possible assistant) as opposed to 10.
2. Variety. Not only does he literally have thousands of songs to choose from, most requests can probably be accomodated, as well as those specialty or specific songs that you want incorporated into your reception.
3. Flexibility. A DJ can turn on a dime. He can fade the music down with a signal of the hand, and he can keep the music playing as he runs to the restroom or eats his dinner.
4. Sound. A DJ can play as quiet or as loud as you want him to. Keep in mind that if the sound level goes down during dance sets, those sets will fizzle .


1. Appearance. You just don't get a "WOW" factor from a DJ booth set up off to the left of the dancefloor.
2. Energy. While the music is good and loud, there just isn't the live energy of a band performing to pump up the overall energy of the ballroom.
3. Attitude. We've all been at a wedding where the DJ was a total tool. And it's cringe-worthy. If you have not seen your DJ in action or given a high recommendation from someone you trust, tread with caution. A bad DJ can ruin a reception.


1. Appearance. If image is important to you, then nothing less than a stage with 10 attractive people belting out hits will work for you.
2. Sound. No matter how loud a DJ turns up his speakers, it just won't have the depth and fullness that live horns and a drumset can give
3. Energy. 10 people on a stage doing what they love to do carries out to the guests and the energy between the guests and band feed off of each other.


1. Cost. Not only is it incredibly expensive to hire a good band, but you have to feed those people as well. Vendor meals range between $25-50 per person depending on the venue.
2. Sound. Sorry, but there's no such thing as turning down a drum set! Yes, the horns can play softer and the amps can be turned down, but this WILL take down the engergy in the party and people will stop dancing.
3. Breaks. Bands are hired and paid for four hours, yet they only play three of them as they play 45 minutes then take a 15 minute break. Some bands are flexible and won't cut into a screamin' dance set to break, but most will put down their instruments after 44.5 minutes and walk off stage, even as Uncle Charlie is mid-worm. You can pay extra for continuous music where the band members will rotate on break, but you will be charged a hefty amount for this.
4. Attitude. Most bands don't have the best attitude, but that's something that normally affects myself and other vendors as opposed to the guests. Unless you have someone like Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer.

Best line ever:
"Cindy and Scott are newlyweds.....WHOOOPEDY DOOO!"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Random Wine Blog: why isn't life a musical?

Tonight's random wine blog is brought to you by a very pretty bottle (I'm partial to pretty packaging) of a 2008 French Valreas "Cuvee Prestige" from Cotes Du Rhone Villages. That was is very fancy way of saying that this is a bottle of red table wine. It tastes a bit like really creamy fantastic cheeses and fancy crackers. Totally lame way to describe a bottle of wine, I know, but it tastes like good cheese to me. And that's a good thing.

On to the Randomness:
  • I just finished working out and watching the musical Mama Mia at the same time. And by work out I mean jump around in my living room like a fool until I start sweating. It's fun as long as no one but my cats is around to see this craziness. I don't even do this "work out" in front of my husband.
  • I have no idea how I've never watch this version with Meryl Streep? Oh, right, my husband hates musicals, that's why.  I've saw Mama Mia musical live at the Pantages Theater years ago and of course, loved it. This movie is better than the live musical, and now I love Meryl Streep even more. 
  • I wish life was a musical.
  • The scenery of the Greek Islands in Mama Mia was  so beautiful and it really made me want to go back. A few years ago the husband and I spent a week on a yacht in the Dodecanese islands with a small group of travelers. My favorite day of that week was the day we rented mopeds on the island of Leros and rode up to the top of the island past the windmills to the old castle. I'd never driven my own moped and kind of lied (well, ok, I totally lied) and said that I had driven before because I wanted my own. It was awesome! I didn't wreck anything or kill myself. We had the best pizza that night on a little rocky beach at a perfect Greek Tavern.  The only way that day could have been better would be if we had all broken out into spontaneous choreographed song and dance.
  • I was on Millionaire Matchmaker last week. I blogged about it.
  • The other night one of my girlfriends was driving us to get frozen yogurt and we were pulled over. We had no idea what she was doing wrong until the officer told her her plates were expired. She opened her big blue eyes wider and told him she had her registration sticker, but it was still in the glove box, not the license place like it was supposed to be. After collecting insurance, driver's license, and registration, the officer gave her a "fix it" ticket and told her she had to put the sticker on her car and take it to the police station to show them she had the sticker on. Then he asked her if she had any questions? I said "Yes, will you put the sticker on plates for us?" And he did. He still gave her a ticket though. 
  • Chronicles of Nathan update: my older brother, who is living on a 20' sailboat with a stray dog named Mattie, was honestly shipwrecked on an island off of the Mississippi coast in a storm and had to be rescued by the US Coast Guard in full "The Guardian"  (have you seen that movie? Hello, Ashton Kutcher's biceps!) fashion, complete with a swimmer jumping from a helicopter and putting Nate and his dog in a basket. I am not making this up. Thankfully, his boat, The Waltzing Matilda, wasn't destroyed in the storm and my brother was able to get her towed back to a marina a few days later. And Nate and Mattie were in the news again.
  • I'm cannot get over how funny it is to type a word into Google to see what Google thinks I am trying to find, based on what other people are Googling.  It is hi.lar.i.ous. Below is what popped up when I typed in who, what, why, I kid you not. Seriously, try it:

Ask Amber Answers

Below are some of the Questions I've been getting and the answers I've been writing. It's fun! Want to know (almost) anything about me? Ask HERE

How do you get your clients?

Because I have a Lead Log in Excel where I track my leads, I know exactly where my clients come from. In 2009, 62% of my clients were referred to me from former clients or vendors, and 38% of my clients found me through advertisements or blogs.

My numbers also show me that I tend to book one wedding for every 7.5 leads, which is a better average than my 2008 average which fell to one wedding to every 9 leads. Some leads are just emails or phone calls, but many of them meet with me and obtain proposals. There is a LOT of time that goes into booking just one client!

I've read your VERY imformative blogs regarding timeline busters, thank you for the insight! I'm having a buffet for my reception, when do I do the toasts?

Thanks so much for the compliment! It makes me so happy to know that I'm helping someone out!

My recommendations are:

Either before dinner while everyone is "captive" in their seats but not released to the buffets yet.


At the tail end of dinner when everyone is still pushing food around on their plate but they're not totally full yet.

In order to not break up the flow of the evening, toasts need to happen while the guests are seated and focused. You'll want to tell your toasters to KEEP IT SHORT. I tell the bridal party at the rehearsal that they need to keep it under 3 minutes per toasts. Guests just can't maintain focus for more than 4-5 minutes and they'll start talking amongst themselves at their table. Very embarrassing.

Good luck!


Do you always use/recommend the same vendors, or do you try someone new from time to time?

I only refer vendors that I have already worked with, or vendors who have been referred to me by another wedding planner. My reputation is on the line with every name that I recommend, so I don't recommend based on the work alone.

I wrote a blog last year that elaborated on this topic a bit:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Guestlist Grapple

Oh, the guest list! About half of my clients are dealing with this issue for their summer weddings. Let George Banks bring some humor into this subject!

Monday, February 15, 2010

How to get a fire permit for candles in Los Angeles County


Many venues in Los Angeles county require a Fire Permit to be obtained for candles to be used in the ceremony or reception, and a lot of the historic downtown buildings are actually prohibiting the use of real candles completely. If this is the case for your venue,  fake LED candles become the only alternative.

Your venue is who determines whether or not a permit is needed, so make sure you ask. Most florists will obtain the Fire Permits for you for an additional fee (or they build it into their proposal), but for the DIY bride, the steps for obtaining your permit are as follows:

  • Call the Los Angeles Fire Prevention department at (213) 978-3580 and find out which Fire Inspector handles your venue. Ask them how to make an appointment to come meet with them to obtain a Fire Permit. You can also just go to their department in City Hall East at 200 North Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012-4126 on the 17th floor and take a number to see the next available Inspector. I don't recommend doing that though, as each Inspector likes to know what is going on and being permitted for "their" venues.
  • Purchase the type of candles and holders that will be allowed to be permitted. Standard votive candle holders are 2.5" tall and a strict Fire Inspector will NOT issue a permit for them. Some will if you use tea candles though, so it really does depend on your Inspector.  Officially though, the flame has to be at least 2" below the top of the candle holder, so you have to get tall votive cups. (note: the candles in this photo were at a venue that did not require a Fire Permit. If it had, the water level would have to have been much lower in the vase to comply.)
  • The candles have to be stuck down with double stick tape or putty to a secured base.  Purchase the mirror or glass that they will be affixed to.
  • Get from your florist (or make yourself if you are DIYing it) a sample centerpiece and ANYTHING that is going to be on the table close to the candles. Take all of this down to meet with your Inspector to obtain a Fire Permit for your centerpieces.  Currently, there is no charge for obtaining this permit, but they will start charging in 2011.
  • Be nice to the inspector.
Important Note: Fire Marshals DO show up at events asking to see the permit. If one is not presented to them, or there are 5 votives on the table instead of the 4 that are permitted, they have the authority to shut the event down. Most of the time they make you remove the non-permitted candles, but I wouldn't gamble with this.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ask Amber

Some of my online buddies have been making these Formspring accounts where it keeps a running list of questions that people ask and they answer. I'm fascinated by other people and love reading their replies. If any of you want to ask me any questions, ask HERE!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

matchmakers getting married

I was just on The Millionaire Matchmaker on Bravo. Who is she, you ask? Great question! I had no idea who she was before I went on her show either. Patti Stanger is THE Millionaire Matchmaker, an "experienced third-generation matchmaker" with a reality show on Bravo. The show matches millionaires who are looking for "true love", but really the show is about Patti, the viper-tongued matchmaker who refers to men and women by their genitalia and screams at people who dare disagree with her. Patti herself is also finally getting married, so this season the show will feature her planning her wedding. The producers thought it a great idea to match Patti up with her own wedding planner, but from the tantrum that Patti threw as she met with those of us who were picked for her, she's not into the whole wedding thing. I've never seen a more angry bride.

I, along with four other successful and incredible wedding planners, was brought in to meet Patti. Thankfully, the show only aired about five minutes of the hour long process that was as pleasant as a shark feeding. One of the planners left the room crying after she was viciously torn apart based on her appearance alone.

The worst thing Patti said to me was that I looked like a "Victorian librarian who lives in Pasadena" and exclaimed as I was leaving the room how much she "hates redheads". I don't know about you, but living in a mansion in Pasadena and reading books all day sounds like an awesome life to me! Maybe I'm in the wrong field? Oh, wait, I love planning fabulous weddings for happy brides. Nevermind!

PS: Oh, and Patti? ALL of my clients are celebrities. For one day, at least!

Monday, February 8, 2010

You are cordially invited,

Invitations look so innocent. It's just a few pieces of paper telling guests where your wedding is, right? Yeah, not so much.

Many brides are shocked when it comes time to start pricing out their wedding invitations as they have no idea how this can be so expensive. But think about it from this perspective for a second: when you go to a gift shop or a drug store to buy a birthday card for a friend, how much does a nice card cost you? The cheapest and flimsiest ones are $3.00. A nice one costs $5.00-6.00 and handmade ones are higher than that. And that's just ONE card. A wedding invitation normally has: the invitation, envelope, response card, response card envelope, directions or map, and another insert such as a next day brunch or accommodations. This is MUCH more complex than a greeting card, yet many brides expect to pay less than a greeting for their invitation set.  I don't blame brides for thinking this though, because there are quite a few big online invitation companies that advertise that you can get invitations for as low as $1.45 each. Um, kind of...

I asked one of my vendors, Diana, from Emily Rose Papers to tell me a bit of what goes on behind the scenes when brides are dealing with invitations from one of these big companies. This is what she told me:

"Prices listed on online sites that say "as low as" is not necessarily the actual price that you are paying when you have your set chosen.  So, don't fall for the low price, until you have added up the "additional charges", such as proofing charges, charges for extra lines of text, additional envelopes to allow for addressing mistakes and additions,  shipping charges and sales taxes.   

Paper quality and printing from low cost suppliers isn't always reliable.  Unless the couple has the option to order a sample or color swatches, it's not always certain that the color seen online it accurate.  Also, invitations are tactile: the weight of the paper denotes it's quality and some sites use lower quality stock, which is fine if you intend to mount it to a more substantial card stock, but otherwise it might end up feeling "flimsy".  And, when invitations are printed incorrectly there can be "gripper marks" from where the printing press grabs the paper.  Quality invitation companies will trim the gripper marks off, but most online suppliers do not.

Customer service that rarely includes advice. Most of these sites are set up to make bulk sales, so they have limited customer service.  Wording for invitations is intensely personal, especially since the wording and font style help set the "tone" of the invitation.  So, even though online sites have etiquette sections, it's doubtful that the customer service representative will put very much thought into considerations that are important to the couple, or guide them through any special needs, like how to word their RSVP so that they get the information that they need for the caterer or venue. 

In an effort to save time, couples will make the assumption that if they shop online, it will save them time.  In some cases, it's easy to spend a lot more time looking for the "right fit"  that will coordinate with the decor at the wedding.  This can take up valuable time in their overall timeline, which can result in rush orders and avoidable mistakes.  Plus, on most of these sites, there are so many designs available, it can be overwhelming.

In an effort to save money, couples will decide that if they choose to "DIY" it will be a savings in money.  In reality, by the time the cost of adhesive (or printing if the couple is just buying paper stock) ends up being the same or higher than some of the pre-designed invitations available.  This is especially true when someone is new to "DIY" and forgets to plan for some loss due to human error or the papers needed for the set up for printing.  Plus, with some paper only suppliers, they don't explain well what types of printers to use or the specifications for printing.  For example, some card stocks, like the metallic papers, aren't always suitable for inkjet printing and may curl or get stuck with the average color laser printer, designed for home use."

The moral of the story? Expect to pay more than $1.45 per invitation. And seriously consider dealing with a human being that specializes in invitations. It will save you tears, time, and potentially money. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Random Wine Blog, it's February already?!

This random wine blog is dedicated to my former clients Derek and Angela Z., who got married in October 2008. That sounds like much longer ago than it feels. It's dedicated to them not because they gave me the bottle of wine that I'm enjoying tonight (which would have been awesome) , but because Derek is one of my Facebook buddies who enjoys a good wine and my wine blogs. So he told me about a great deal on and told me to buy some. So I did. And then I told him I'd dedicate this blog to him. Anyway, tonight's blog is courtesy of a 2006 Havens Merlot from Napa Valley. It's thick and heady without being too oaky the way Merlots sometimes are. It's lovely.

On to the Randomnes:

  • My husband and I put away our coffee pot probably three years ago (and our microwave...that's another blog)  and devoted ourselves to our sassy red tea kettle in its stead. For some craaaazy reason, he drinks tea with 3 or 4 tea bags in it and so I estimated that we go through probably 120 English Breakfast tea bags per month. That is insane. 
  • I hate grocery shopping, but I love, Love, LOVE Trader Joe's. It's like Joe knows me and knows that I'm overwhelmed by an aisle solely devoted to fluorescent colored canned goods, so Joe only gives me two options of black beans instead of 18. When the husband and I cook, I joke as we sit down to eat that we're thanking God and Joe for our dinner.
  • Now that it is February, we are in My Birthday Month. Not only is it My Birthday Month, but it is also the year that I turn 30. Expect narcissism to the fullest for the next 24 days. 
  • Speaking of birthdays, my husband asked me what I want for my birthday? I told him I can't decide between a skydiving excursion or a Roomba. That's aside from the trip to Paris that I'm taking with my sister, of course. Oh! But, get this: so while I go to Paris for one week, he is going to Laos and Cambodia for two. My Thunder has totally been stolen. Remember when I talked about narcissism? Yeah...
  • My new website ROCKS!
  • Twenty-ten (I'm still pushing for people to say that, instead of two thousand and ten) is going to be a fabulous year. It's only February 3 (well, now it's 4 because it's 12:20 AM) and I already have as many weddings booked right now as I did the entire year of 2009! And currently, all of my clients are all incredibly kind and lovely people. And really good looking. Not sure how that happened, and it's probably inappropriate to say, but my clients are quite attractive. Not that my previous clients weren't good looking.....oh, nevermind. 
  • Chronicles of Nathan update:  my older brother, who is living on a 20' sailboat with a stray dog named Mattie, has made it to the Gulf of Mexico (all the way from Arkansas, y'all!). He has recently discovered, after a near death experience in a storm, that to brave the wide blue yonder, you need at least a 50' sailboat. So he's hugging the coastline as he sails up the eastern seaboard. 
  • I'm loving the show "Community" (starring Joel McHale!) on ABC lately. A few weeks ago they had Luke Wilson and Jack Black make guest appearances. If they would only have Jason Bateman on the show I could die from geeky-funny-guy overload. 
  • My poor geeky-funny-guy husband has been sick today so I need to go tend to him.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

This made me smile today

The raw emotion captured in this surprise proposal is just so beautiful. Love is a splendid thing.

Casey proposes to Amy from One Small Instrument Pictures on Vimeo.

How to Get Married 2.0

Back in December I wrote a blog called How to Get Married. It talked about the process of getting your marriage license in SoCal, Los Angeles County specifically. Well, now that it is February 1, 2010, the rules have changed again. As of February 1, the fees jumped from $70 to $90 and the hurdles to jump through increased even more. 


  • Both the Bride and Groom are required to appear with either a valid driver's license or a passport.
  • The counties in California below to NOT require blood tests to obtain a License.
  • Payments can be made in cash or by check or money order made payable to the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk or RRC
  • Processing time is approximately 20 to 40 minutes.  Afternoons and Fridays are the busiest times and the processing time is likely to be longer.
  • There are two kinds of marriage licenses, Public and  Confidential. The Public marriage license can be purchased at any county clerk/registrar recorder's office in California and the couple can get married anywhere in California. The Confidential license must be purchased in the same county where the ceremony takes place                                                                                                                                                 
  • IMPORTANT: After you get married, either you or your officiant files the Marriage License with the county. Once your License is filed, then you are legally married. The county does not send you a copy of your Marriage Certificate unless you send in the following paperwork with your Marriage License:

o     A check for $14.00 made out to the   Registrar/Recorder Clerk
o    The Certificate of Identity form, which must be notarized (this paragraph pertains to  LA and OC)
o    The Application for Public Record Form

I you are one of my clients, I give you all of these forms at a meeting, if you're not one of my clients, you can obtain all of these forms HERE.