Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Smog Shoppe Wedding: Erin & Brian

This picture above sums up Brian & Erin. While Brian didn't actually click his heels during the planning process, it is is exactly how they both acted during our months together as we planned their wedding. Joyful! Their happiness to have found each other and plan their wedding day was infectious and we laughed a LOT during the process.
Brian and Erin had fun infusing their personalities in the day. Erin walked down the aisle to the gorgeous song Con Te Partiro  and when they recessed down the aisle as newlyweds, they walked to Lucy & Linus's theme song from Peanuts.

Erin chose a vivid, summer sunset palette and fabulous ladies of Holly Flora worked their magic with Ranunculus, Poppies, Sweet Peas, Peonies, Garden Roses, Dahlias, and Tulips.

I'm so in love with this picture above! So far, this wedding takes the cake as the winner for most children in the ceremony.
 One of the greatest portions of the evening was the continuously scrolling slide show of ALL of the guests' wedding photos. One of Erin & Brian's friends Charlene headed up the big project of collecting wedding photos from guests prior to the wedding day and creating the slideshow. It was so neat seeing so many types of weddings over the years and hearing the guests talk about them. After dinner ended and the party began, Valley Girl was played on the big screen. Like, totally, radical!

The evening was wonderful and full of joy, laughter, and love, just like they hoped it would be! Thank you, Brerin, for letting me be a part of your amazing day!

The dream team that made it happen

Location: Smog Shoppe
Photography:  Skye Blu Photography
Coordination: Amber Gustafson, Amber Events
Catering: Auntie Em’s Kitchen
Floral: Holly Flora
Rentals: Town & Country
Transportation: Crown Limo
Dress Designer: L’Ezu Atelier
Ceremony Music: Irena Cherkova
Shoe Designer: Payless’ dyeable shoe line
Invitations: WeddingPaperDivas.com

DJ: Ian Gotler, Red Shoe LA
Lighting: Town & Country
Bakery: Auntie Em’s Kitchen
Officiant: Rev. Ronald David Beams
Make Up + Hair: Cathryn van Breene @ The Studio Agency

Videography: Floataway Studios

Monday, August 30, 2010

Los Angeles Wedding Venues (part 3 of 3)

These past few days I've spoken about the three different types of venues that we have in LA:

1. Hotels or All-inclusive venues
2. Unique or Off-site venues
3. Non-traditional venues

Non-traditional venues are the Holy Grail for a bride to find: they are awesome spaces whose owners don't know the going rate in LA for site rentals and don't know that they're sitting on a gold mine. I once was about to do a wedding at an insanely awesome loft in downtown LA and was told that the rental was $1,000. After I picked myself up off the floor I asked if we were the first wedding they were going to have there? They asked me how I knew? Then I laughed. Today, that loft charges $6,000.

Know that in order for a property owner to rent their space out, they have to hire a full time site manager to manage the thousands of inquiries that are coming in throughout the year. A property owner, if they have any other job at all, cannot do this enormous job themselves. In order to pay this full-time person and make a profit, they have to charge a certain amount.

But! The Non-traditional venue owner doesn't know any of the above. YET. They just happen to own a cool space and a resourceful bride finds them and asks what they'd charge for having their wedding there? The property owner thinks "how hard can one day be?"  and will then process through the learning curve to answer that question for himself. There is a joke amongst wedding industry professionals that says you can tell how many years we've been in business by the number of clauses we have on our contract.

So, the property owner then becomes the default site manager/wedding coordinator because they don't know any better, and when the wedding comes and goes, the wear and tear on their property is so heavy (furniture soiled by wine or burned by candles, glass broken, plumbing backed up, etc) and the amount of sheer time that the property owner spent with the bride & groom working through this maze blind with them has left them frazzled and exhausted.

Weddings at your own home fall into this category of Non-traditional venues, because chances are it's the first event of this magnitude that will happen there. Many things such as plumbing are never thought of until it is too late. The Third fastest thing that kills a party is a major plumbing mishap (First: cops showing up. Second: crappy DJ)

Pricing of Non-traditional venues


and that, my friends, is the beauty of finding one.

PROS of Non-traditional venues
  • The rental fee, or lack thereof
  • The fact that none of your friends have attended a wedding there
  • The lack of rules ("fire permit? what's that?"
CONS of Non-traditional venues
  • You don't have a site manager or a caterer that knows the space in an event flow kind of way and can say: "great idea, but it won't work and here's why...."
  • The lack of a contract that can harm you. One bride I know visited her non-traditional venue not long before her wedding and found that they had knocked down walls and completely changed the layout of the space.
  • The lack of rules can harm you in that you may not know what the sound ordinances are. Remember what I said the first thing is that kills a party? Imagine the cops breaking up your wedding reception ala a college kegger.
And these, ladies and gentlemen, are the three types of wedding venues you have to choose from. They all have their own PRO/CON list and there's no right or wrong about any of them. It's what's right or you, your fiance, and your families. Happy venue hunting!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Los Angeles Wedding Venues (part 2 of 3)

Yesterday I spoke about Hotels or All-inclusive venues. Today I'll talk about unique or "off site" wedding venues. These are my fa fa fa fa favorites!! to work because of the potential that they posses.

Unique or "off-site"  venues

These are sites such as historical sites (Greystone or Union Station), Museums (Los Angeles Natural History Museum or Pasadena Museum of California Art), Parks (LA River Center and Gardens or Temescal Gateway Park), Private Estates (Rancho del Cielo or Rancho del Diablo Dormido) or hip hot spots (Smog Shoppe or Marvimon)  that regularly rent out their facilities and therefore know what they're getting into.  I don't consider weddings at your own home in this group because chances are, you've never had an event this logistically challenging or large at your home. That type of wedding will be talked about in the next blog post on Non-traditional venues.

These venues don't offer catering, rentals, or staffing. Many times they also don't have lighting, power, water, restrooms, parking, and security. They cannot afford to keep all of that stuff employed or maintained like hotels or country clubs can.

We call these venues "off-site" because depending on their amenities, we are bringing everything in and creating a site. Most private estates won't even let you use the inside of the house--the rental is for the grounds only.  Why? BECAUSE THEY CAN. Because people will pay $10,000+ for an estate in Malibu just to have the views and the privacy.

Pricing for Unique or Off-Site Venues

In the Los Angeles area, I've seen some of the parks priced as low as $2,000 for the site rental, and the estates in Malibu in the $10,000-15,000 range.  Most off-site venues average in the $5,000-10,000. The lower priced ones get snapped up quickly, and many times are booked 18 months out for prime dates. So if you're glued to one meaningful date, you probably won't be having it at Villa del Sol d'oro or somewhere similar. Remember how I said yesterday that your reception budget needs to not take more than 50-60% of your entire budget? The site rental, fees associated with it, catering, alcohol, rentals and staff have to be included in that calculation for an off-site venue.

The base rental price is not factoring in other fees that come with it though: liability insurance, a site manager, security deposit, cleaning fees. Those all have to be added to the rental fee to get an overall number. Just so you know, the site manager/site coordinator is not your wedding coordinator--they are the ones who answer your questions about the venue, unlock it for you, and stay there to make sure that your guests don't destroy it. Most off-site venues require you to have a professional wedding coordinator (someone who is not related or a guest) to manage the day. These venues have gone through the learning curve of what it takes to successfully host weddings and they know the wear and tear that it does to their property.

PROS of Unique or Off-site Venues
  • Aesthetics and ambiance. Do you want an English manor? A Tuscan villa? An urban loft? LA's got 'em all for you!
  • Privacy and exclusivity. If you have security (and you should) you'll have no looky loos or wedding crashers messing with your day.
  • If you choose a gorgeous location, you don't have to do a whole lot to dress it up.
  • The freedom to bring in your own catering--Kosher food, ethnic food, In 'n Out truck, buffets or chef tended stations....you name it. ****
CONS of Unique or Off-Site Venues
  • Logistics, logistics, logistics. While you can do a wedding at an off-site venue without a professional wedding coordinator, you might lose your mind in the process. These weddings are twice as difficult as traditional or all-inclusive venues.
  • If you hire a team of non-wedding professionals or vendors who are not familiar with the property, you could be in for some trouble.
  • The way that these venues are priced makes it almost impossible for a lay person to know ahead of time what the budget is going to come in at because you usually don't have the time to price out catering and rentals before you book it.
  • RENTALS. Someday soon I'll devote an entire blog to this ugly beast. 
  • The natural elements. Yes, this is sunny Southern California, but we do have rain sometimes. You can't just pick up the phone the morning of your wedding and order a tent if it's raining. Everyone else in LA's back up plan will already be in effect by then. Heat, wind, cold, mud, and sun cannot be regulated and therefore backups for backups have to be thought of.

Stay tuned for part 3 of 3 on non-traditional venues!

****I neglected to mention in yesterday's post that if you require a certain kind of food (Kosher, Indian, Persian, etc) but your guest list is so large that it requires a huge ballroom, you CAN "buy out" the kitchen in order to bring in your own caterer. This means that you pay the hotel for the profit that they would be making if you were using their caterer, but then you bring in your own type of food. It's expensive, but mandatory for some people.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Los Angeles Wedding Venues (part 1 of 3)

I feel like I sound like a broken record when I say this, but I just have to say again: getting married in Los Angeles is expensive. Three reasons for that? Location, location, location.

I have some clients that are getting married at a summer camp 4 hours north of LA and what they are spending on the rental of the camp for 3 days and 4 meals (including their reception meal) is what an blank venue such as Saddlerock or Vibiana costs for a 12 hour rental. 

Read that above paragraph again. Let it soak in.

While we are blessed with any type of venue you could ever want here in LA (mountains! ocean! city! villas! cathedral! boutique hotels!) wedding venues here really boil down to three types:

1. Hotels or all-inclusive venues
2. Unique "off site"  venues

3. Non-traditional venues

This will be a 3 part blog talking about each type of venue and their pros/cons.

Hotels or all-inclusive venues

Hotels and all-inclusive venues (like Calamigos or The Ebell) are the easiest to plan and execute logistically because everything is there on-site: ceremony site, ballroom, parking, tables, chairs, food, drinks, staff, and so on. They do up to a few hundred weddings per year there and they really have it down pat. You can't really bend the rules or do things differently at venues like these, because they're set up to be efficient. Many times you will be told NO! if you want to do something that isn't efficient.

Pricing of Hotels or all-inclusive venues 

Most of these venues have a Food and Beverage Minimum that they have to meet in order to give their facility to you. Obviously, Saturdays are the best day, and therefore this day is priced the highest. Some venues deep inland, in the valley, or not to affluent areas have F&B minimums that start as low as $7,000 or $8,000 for the event.  Four and five star resorts, especially those on the beach or places like Beverly Hills, sometimes start at $50,000 and go up from there.  Know that these numbers above are NOT your wedding cost. They are the cost of the reception facility, food, and drinks. In order to have money for other things such as your photographer, DJ, coordinator, invitations, and cake, you need to spend no more than 60% of your entire budget on this.  I prefer no more than 50% though.

PROS of Hotels or all-inclusive venues
  • Efficiency of planning
  • Package pricing (this can let you know in the beginning if you really can afford it)
  • Comfort for your guests - handicap accessibility, parking, air conditioning or heat, etc
  • Easy logistics
  • Many times even non-hotel venues such as country clubs have rooms that guests can also book and stay at. There's something to be said for stumbling to your room upstairs at drunk-thirty...

CONS of Hotels/all-inclusive venues
  • Bland or generic feel
  • Bland or generic food 
  • Package pricing is set to get you in the door. ANY change/upgrade you to is going to cost you ("oh, you want linens to the floor? That will cost XXX")
  • You might run into as many as 4 brides that day. And their guests.
  • Ever seen "Wedding Crashers"? Enough said.
  • Many times the Service Charge (read more about that HERE) and Tax is not included on preliminary quotes. So that venue you thought you could afford and booked just cost you 30% more.
  • Strict times that event set up can begin (for a DIY bride, this will kill you) and when the event has to end

Monday, August 23, 2010

Post Wedding Survey: Sara & Brian

Sara and Brian got married at the Calamigos Equestrian Center in Burbank on June 26. You can read about it HERE. Sara took the time to fill out my post wedding survey. Enjoy!

Q. What was the best part of your wedding day? 
A. I loved seeing everything come together from the flowers to the music. The flowers were perfect in every way and the linens were amazing. Everyone's smiles and laughter throughout the wedding night showed us that are wedding would be one to remember.
Q.What do you feel was totally unnecessary?
A. Nothing, Amber really helped us to pick in choose things that in her experence she thought were unnecessary. I really do not think we wasted any money.

  Q. What would you change, if anything?
A. The massive wind storm while taking pictures. But everything was perfect. And maybe the timing, the site did not allow us at the location till 3 it was a tight schedule, but no one could have changed that. Brian and I wish we would have taken more time to take the day all in, but we were having to much fun to stop.

Q. What was unexpected that you loved?
A. I loved all the personal touches we created, like the chalkboards. I did not know how they were going to look, but they made the wedding more welcoming and totally went along with the rustic/elegant idea.

Q. What are your fondest memories of your wedding day?
A. Probably being put on the old wood bar for pictures, and then proceeding to eat cake up there with my husband. Also dancing the night away with family and friends and seeing how much fun they were having celebrating with us.

Also watching Amber and Michelle (of Mi belle Photography), carrying a couch out to take pictures on in the grass. The pictures should be amazing! 

Q. Is there anything you wish you had spent more time or money on?
A. I do not think so, I had everything I wanted.

Q. Is there anything you wish you had spent less time or money on?
A. We spent a lot of time on all the personal touches, but those were amazing, so no. I would not have changed anything.

Q. Were there any unexpected surprises or issues?
A. The wind! But no big things.

Q. What's your number #1 tip for future engaged couples?
A. Not to be discouraged by vendors, you can totally stay within your budget. Before, I met Amber I was told by other people that I would not be able to have the wedding of my dreams with our budget, but we did and it was perfect. All of our vendors were excited to be a part of our day and really brought our vision to life. So, having the right vendors can make all the difference in the world.
Q. How did you feel after the wedding?
A. Relaxed, excited, relieved, happy, and emotional. The wedding was amazing and the life after will be even better!! Thanks Amber Events for helping us start our life together on the right foot! xoxo

 photography by Mi Belle, Inc

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"all that money for just one day"

Does that phrase sound familiar? You know "Weddings are insane! All that money for just one day!" or "why would anyone in their right mind spend all that money for just one day?"

The blog, A Los Angeles Love, is currently my favorite wedding blog. It's not pretty, pretty pictures and inspiration boards, it's the inside of Becca's mind as she plans her wedding. And it's fascinating.

Today's post is titled The Progression of the Wedding Budget  and it's a worthwhile read for anyone planning their wedding right now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Random wine blog: car issues, the YMCA, Butterfly Bushes, Vegas, Cat Psychics, and Rainbows

Ay ay ay! It's been a day. I should be working on my ginormous to do list, but it's 11:30 PM and I need a glass of wine. And it's been a while since I've had some wine and blogged about whatever. So I will. Tonight's blog is brought to you by a Chiusa Grande Tommolo Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Denominazione di Origine Controllata. And no, I have no idea what that means--I just typed everything I saw on the bottle. It's one of the left over bottles from my ladies' wine night last week--every 6 or 8 weeks I invite a bunch of women over for an evening of gabbing and I ask them to bring one of their favorite (affordable!) bottles of wine. Then I have like 10 bottles left over. It's a good racket if I can keep it up.

Onto the random!

  • My car broke down on me yet again today. Right at the beginning of an intersection. Thinking I was strong, I opened the door and attempted for .02 seconds to see if I could push it, in heels, and steer it out of the intersection. Not so much. All I can say is thank the Lord for cell phones and AAA. And the nice girl jogging who offered to help me push my car. You rule, sister. Even though I didn't take you up on your offer, I totally think we could have done it. 
  • So last time my car broke down (PT Cruisers suck, honey, yes, you were right) I promised myself that the next time it happened I'd get another car. Today was 'next time', so I hit up 3 dealerships and tomorrow possibly one more. Dear "Gentlemen" who sell cars: I deal with brides and their moms on a daily basis. I'm a lot tougher than I look. Peace, Amber.
  • Last weekend my hubby and I got to get away for our annual camping trip up to the Sequoias! It was the first weekend this summer that I didn't have a wedding or he didn't have a show. Unlike THIS fiasco 2 years ago, we had an amazing and peaceful 4 days in paradise. I love, love, love camping, being out of cell/internet signal, and reading my favorite book for the 4th time ("Prodigal Summer" by Barbara Kingsolver)
  • Hubby and I just joined the YMCA by our house and I'm really liking it thus far. It is the complete opposite of the pretentious-Hollywoody-girls-wear-makeup-when-they-go-to-the gym that we joined when we first moved to LA. I'm loving the cardio salsa class taught by the spicy, 60-something year old Lilia who wears red stretch headbands. Most instructions are given in Spanish,  yet every now and then she yells out inspiring stuff like "shake it, mamacitas! shake it!"  She is fabulous.
  • My mom sent me this photo of her butterfly bushes at home and homesickness punched me in the gut
  • My husband gets to go home (Arkansas)  this weekend for his niece's 2nd birthday party. I have to go to Vegas with my 2 besties from highschool. And yes, I was being snarky when I said "have to" , although Vegas in August could be punishment for some. 
  • One of our cats is still dealing with allergies and so now, instead of buying crazy expensive hypoallergenic cat food from the vet, we're making, yes making, them food. I cooked down an entire chicken for them yesterday. And the ingrates don't like it! Weird, weird animals. And, yes, we know we're "those people" who now make our animals gourmet (and organic!) food. Next we're probably going to bust out the animal psychic for Milton.
  • Once again, I'm sure everyone who has access to the internet saw the hilariousness that was the Double Rainbow video a few weeks ago, but the song, below, makes me laugh and gets stuck in my head for days at a time. So now I'm putting it in your head:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Calamigos Equestrian Center Wedding: Sara & Brian

Sara and Brian contacted me in May of 2009, almost one year from their June 26, 2010 wedding at Calamigos at the Equestrian Center in Burbank. They are the nicest people ever, and talk about civil servants: Sara is a teacher and Brian is a police officer. They were so wonderful to work with! Sara envisioned loose, rustic, soft, and earthy for her wedding, so that's what we started going for as we designed the day. Everything turned out beautifully and the wedding day was smooth, stress free, and practically perfect.

You can read in detail about their wedding as it was featured on The Wedding Chicks blog yesterday!

Photography by the wonderful, talented, funny, and sassy Michelle Ferry of Mi Belle Photography




Photography: Mi Belle Photography
Wedding Planning & Design: Amber Events
Florist: Peony and Plum
Honey Favors: Rock Cheese and Honey
Ceremony and Reception music: Hey Mister DJ
Wedding Cake : Portos Bakery
Linens: La Tavola
Priest: Father Ara
Shoes: Badgley Mischka
Dress: Pronovias
Bridesmaids dress: Jasmine B2 Bridesmaid dresses

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Post Wedding Pics

A while ago I posted a beautiful photo on my blog of one of my brides laughing on her wedding day--she was radiant and exquisite. She emailed me asking me to take it down because there were some things about herself that she doesn't like that (she felt) were highlighted in that photo. So I did. And I was sad about it. As a woman, I totally understand how she saw herself, because I do the same thing. There are some things that I'm highly insecure about and when I see an image of myself, I only see one thing, the thing that bothers me.  Sometimes, all these years later, that is all I'll see in my wedding photos even. I have to stop and give myself a stern talking to when that happens.

Whenever my brides get their professional photos from the photographer, usually 4-8 weeks after their wedding, I email them to see what they think. About 2 out of 10 brides aren't happy with them, it seems like. It's so sad because the photos themselves are wonderful, but in the unhappy case, the bride is only looking at herself. I've had them tell me that they felt that they looked prettier, skinnier, tanner, etc on their wedding day and when they see the photos of themselves they don't look as beautiful as they FELT that day. 

Mentally we know that wearing a wedding dress and having perfect hair, makeup, and bleached teeth doesn't make us look like the models in the magazines, but the feeling of beauty and love and euphoria on a wedding day is a pretty elixir and we feel perfect. Then we see the images of what we looked like and our nasty insecurities come crashing down on us. If only we as women could see ourselves through other people's eyes.

If you happen to be one of those women that experienced disappointment when you saw your wedding photos, or if you think you might be one, this is what I recommend: don't look at them for a week or two after you have your first freak out. Stew about how jiggly your arms looked or how poochy your tummy was. After a good period of mopey time, go look at your images again. I guarantee you'll stop looking at your too-yellow teeth and start looking at the way your husband looked at you, the way your dad had tears in his eyes, and your grandpa disco'd on the dancefloor.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bride Wrangling

Bride wrangling is kind of like herding cats: it's a made up phrase. When I'm feeling fancy, I use the term "Bridal Attendant" or "Lady in Waiting". But in all actuality that girl following the bride around with her lip gloss and a Timeline is a Bride Wrangler. And she is extremely valuable to the bride and to me, although the bride doesn't really recognize that until the end of the day. While I'm overseeing set up, Bride Wrangler gently keeps my bride on schedule so all my bride needs to worry about is being beautiful and happy. Bride Wrangler is also in constant contact with me and alerts me when there is a problem with the bouquet, the dress, or the mom. Bride Wrangler sometimes has to operate as a Photographer Wrangler when when we have an exceedingly artistic (read: forever running behind) photographer who can't keep a Timeline to save his or her life.

This is kind of what we do: