Does Bigger, Fancier, More Expensive Really Make It Better?

November 12th, 2012 by Desert Light Weddings

Right now I am researching new cars and thought it would be hard to resist the ‘premium’ cars, beautiful lines, colors and all the luxurious extras inside. I have always wanted a luxury car and thought some day. Well some day is here.

As I do with most big expenditures or tasks, I mull over the details and then put my thoughts in writing; both the positives and negatives. I have to say that luxury car with the high price tag is not even a consideration. Not even a want at this time. Why? Bigger, fancier, and more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better!

I recommend you approach your wedding the same way. It is not a competition with your sister or best friend. It is not about having the biggest, most expensive and elaborate celebration. It is about two hearts coming together as one.

When considering your budget, guest count makes all the difference. Invite those truly important to you two and your parents (do consider your parents in this). There is no need to have a guest count of 150+ if 75 of those on the list are just acquaintances.

Keep your venue search to a place within your budget and your taste. Just because your best friend rented the mansion on beach does not mean you have to. If that is what you like, can afford and a reflection of who you two are; absolutely, but do not do it just because someone else did.

The flowers, the dress, the food … all of it think before you spend. Why do we want this? If you can’t answer because this is what we want, but are feeling the pressure to do it even if self imposed DON’T!

Our previous two weddings were smaller and I have to say amazing! The guests, families, and of course bride and groom at each wedding had a wonderful time and couldn’t have been happier.

One the guest count was about 50 with a bridal party of 9. The venue was beautiful, food excellent, and even the stormy weather did not damper the party.

The other was an elopement package with only the bride and groom and 4 guests. Ceremony, cake, and champagne toasts then off in a limo to dinner. No fuss, no stress and bride and groom could not stop smiling!

I see too many couples stressed over the details and the cost of trying to have the ‘best wedding ever’. My opinion is your wedding is the best wedding ever for you two whether you have a budget of $50K or $10K. It is your wedding; you two beginning your lives together. My experience in this business has shown me while the dream of the expensive wedding is wonderful, the only thing that really matters is bride and groom surrounded my close family and friends saying ‘I do’.

 

 

 


 

Back to the Basics

August 31st, 2012 by Desert Light Weddings

With wedding season about to begin, I’m busy checking with vendors, doing time lines, and helping keep the bride’s (and sometimes groom’s) stress level from peaking. There is a lot to do for the countdown before the wedding and I am often asked how I manage it. Simple I go back to the basics.

When describing me, a few of the things others have said are focused, detailed, strong willed, a planner (imagine that), and driven. Sometimes I wonder are these good qualities or not so good, but in the end I lean towards good. I get things done, ahead of time, and normally (not always) with minimal stress on me.

For me the basics are:

  • Have a plan
  • Write your plan down
  • Prioritize the items/tasks on your plan
  • Work the plan and give yourself time
  • Check off things you’ve done (it really, really feels good)

Pretty simple; yes the basics. When planning for your wedding you can do the same:

  • List what you two want and what you can afford
  • Decide what you have to do from right now until your wedding day – write those tasks down
  • Can anyone help you? Delegate and give those people your list
  • Have a plan B for things; knowing sometimes you will have to use (the venue is already booked on your date for example)
  • Work your plan; do what you can and do not over do
  • Take time for you two; after all the time, effort, and money is all about the two of you
  • Verify everything the month before with venue, vendors, and your bridal party. Know who, what, where and when
  • Create a time line with input from your venue, caterer, DJ, and photographer
  • List what you need and want on your wedding day. Bring extra things just in case of an emergency.
  • Have someone manage your day – the timeline, making sure details are handled, and all problems are resolved

Of course I’m simplifying the process that goes into planning your wedding, but this is a great place to start. If you decide to hire a planner, we do most of this for or with you which really makes your planning time so much easier.

The important things to remember are give yourself time to plan, try not to stress, and DO NOT stop exercising! It is so good for relieving normal day to day stress and trust me with such an important day to plan for your stress level will increase significantly.

Friend or Pro?

July 29th, 2012 by Desert Light Weddings

I think it is typical for most people wanting to buy or do something to research, set a budget and then do whatever needs to be done keep within our budget. I’m no different. For the past 3 maybe 4 months I have been on a quest to do some remodeling of my home. Some of the improvements are necessary and some are optional. I have my budget for each item and I have researched, checked reviews, asked friends for recommendations and took the time to have many businesses stop by and quote the jobs. I have to say it exhausted me.

Is it our economy driving us? I’m sure it has something to do with it, but I have seen it over and over especially with back yard weddings that some part of the ceremony or reception is a family member or friend of the bride and groom. With a venue most times there are requirements to hire from a preferred list or at least licensed companies (like your bartending service), but at a private residence you can do whatever you want.

Your food is another area you don’t want to cut costs. While family members cooking can save you money, do they have the experience to know how to feed a guest count of 100, 150, more? You don’t want to run out of food with 40 guests waiting to go through the buffet line. Servers too; just because someone works in food and beverage does not mean they have event experience. It is very different.

Hiring your friends, family, or co-workers can cause some unwanted stress on you as well. If they are integral in the success of your ceremony and reception you have to be firm on arrival time, your preference on drinking alcohol while working, responsibilities, and end time.

Being a planner of course I think having a professional planner assist you is important, but my business aside even if you don’t want help ‘getting you there’, you want a professional managing your day. Your planner will do everything to handle all issues and while we cannot guarantee the delivery of your individual vendor’s products, the success rate is typically higher when professionals are all working together.

I won’t go into detail here, but I could share stories of wedding problems and potential disasters which could have been avoided if professional wedding vendors had been hired.

Will it cost you more money? Yes, but do your research (or your planner will) and ask for a customized package and you may save some money! You will be happy you did.

 


Customer Service Basics?

July 1st, 2012 by Desert Light Weddings

While I try to keep my blogs wedding or event centric, customer service is part of almost everything we do. From the trip to the grocery store, the phone call to the cable company, to the initial inquiry regarding quote and services from a vendor – good and bad customer service can ‘seal’ the relationship or break it for me.

While we have to be realistic we can also have a standard by which we deliver and in turn expect others working with or for us to as well. To me whether I’m working for my couples or like now looking for businesses to do various remodeling efforts on my home, my thoughts on good customer service and customer service qualities include

  • Responsive – Always, always, always respond quickly. If you get an email or call respond. Even if it is I have to get back to you, you’ve shown the client is important.
  • Courteous – Be polite. Sad that I feel it needs to be mentioned, but it does.
  • Professional – If I’m hiring you to work for me or referring you to one of my clients be on time and if you are running late or need to cancel make a phone call. When you show up come ready to do the job. I will do the same for you and your clients.
  • Honest – Never do the bait and switch. Just had it done to me and a very well known local business. Never lie (my blood pressure rises just thinking someone is lying to me).
  • Respectful – Keep the jokes and off color remarks for your friends, listen to your customers, keep your cool even if the customer is stressing out.
  • Follow through – This is huge for me. Do what you say you are going to do. If you can’t communicate this.
  • Admit when you are wrong – Everyone makes a mistake from time to time.

These are all very basic ideas, but not always followed. The company I mentioned above that did the bait and switch on me, lost the sale. The business I think I will be going with is not as well known, but responded to my inquiry immediately, sent me information ahead of our meeting, confirmed our meeting, was on time, took his time explaining in great detail what they would deliver to us, did not pressure to sign that day, and gave me a very fair and honest quote.

I expect this level of service. I also pride myself in delivering it as well. I am probably my worst critic which is a good thing…I always strive to do more. I expect quality and I deliver it. The people I surround myself with do the same. Our customers deserve our best!

Avoiding Wedding Day Disasters!

May 20th, 2012 by Desert Light Weddings

 

Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life. The months leading up to it whether planning on your own or with the help of a planner like me can be tiring and overwhelming. There are so many decisions to make, little details that you may not even know about, venue and vendors to research, and then the biggest stressor signing the contracts and writing the checks.

 

So you’ve planned, signed those contracts, written those checks, invited special guests how do you ensure your wedding day will run smoothly and not be a wedding day disaster? While no one can guarantee nothing will go wrong (it’s a wedding, something will go wrong), if you organize, communicate and double/triple check the details you can help avoid many issues.

 

  • Prior to your date, contact and discuss details like arrival time, end time, what they are delivering for you with your vendors. Make sure to write these down plus a cell phone to check status if you need to.
  • Appoint someone to be your go to person. This person can be your assistant and interact with your vendors. You want someone you trust and who knows what you want.
  • Have a timeline for your day. This should include hair, makeup, and time to be ready for photos, when family and bridal party MUST be ready and at your venue. Make sure everyone knows what these times are.
  • If you have made last minute changes make sure you tell the vendors involved.
  • If family or friends are providing a service (like catering) treat them as you would a vendor with communication and follow up.
  • Have a plan for gifts, your items like centerpieces, clothes whatever to be packed up for you either during or right after your reception.
  • Know where and how you are getting to your destination at the end of your evening.
  • And I think my favorite recommendation is have all of your planning, running around, and the items above completed at least one week prior to your wedding day.

 

If you hire us as your planners we will handle many of the items on the list for you. I know who your vendors are, know what your contracts say, have contacted them and have their phone numbers with me and they have mine.

 

With the time line, I know where you are and what you are doing throughout your day. I can check on you, make sure you don’t miss something and have time for a breather and to relax before your ceremony.

 

Have I seen wedding day disasters? Fortunately no. I have seen potential disasters though and with some quick action have been able to ensure that our bride, groom, family, and guests had absolutely no idea that something was about to go wrong! Planning, communication, and attention to detail will help ensure your wedding day success!


 

The Dreaded Budget

March 31st, 2012 by Desert Light Weddings

One of the things that is common to most weddings s is budget. It doesn’t matter if you have a huge wedding bank account or really need to contain your costs, there is some idea you (or those helping you pay for your wedding) want to stay below. It just makes sense to have this threshold.

Obviously if that line is higher you have more options for venues, vendors, and decorations. Guest count can be greater as well. You have the flexibility to go ‘bigger’, ‘grander’, or however you envision your perfect day to be.

If you are working with a smaller budget, you have to be realistic and a bit more compromising, BUT your wedding can be the perfect day too! It just takes diligence and research to ensure you are getting the best vendor and best price.

I have seen the outcome a “we will save money regardless” attitude can yield. Going for the least expensive is not the way to choose your venue and vendors. Not only is there a good chance you will end up with someone who does not deliver the quality you want, but the stress of having to choose based on price alone can make the planning miserable for you. You want the opportunity to interview and then select a vendor based on professionalism, experience, reputation, customer service (huge!), and price.

So how do you keep within your wedding budget? Here are tips I give my couple’s as we start planning:

  • Start with a realistic budget ceiling.
  • Set aside a bit of that for a cushion for a ‘just in case’ item.
  • Limit your guest list. Catering, bar, linens, rentals, and some venues are based on a per person price.
  • If you are not finding the venue matching all of your criteria; modify your ‘must haves’ slightly.
  • Go for an off Friday or Saturday wedding. Many venues and vendors will offer discounts for a non-prime wedding day. Summer months can get you discounts as well.
  • Do your research on your vendors and negotiate with them. Many of the people I know in this industry try to be flexible in their packaging and will work with you.
  • DYI…great way to save! If you can afford it, a professionally made floral centerpiece or some other creative designs are wonderful. If not, make them yourself. If I can do it, trust me you can too.
  • We’ve all heard of job sharing, but perhaps not ‘bride sharing’. Ask your venue (or planner) if they know of another bride with your colors, decorations, or theme. Get onto bridal forums and ask as well. Many of the things we purchase for our wedding and reception are for that day only, why not share the cost with another couple and both of you use the non-perishable items.
  • Enlist the help of friends and family members. If someone is a professional, photographer for example, perhaps he/she (will use he) will offer his services as a wedding gift or if he can’t do that, discount his fees. A caution here is make sure he is a professional or at least a very talented amateur…Uncle Joe may have the best intentions, but those intentions don’t always lead to the end product you want.
  • Attend bridal shows. You can win gowns, photography, venue, planners and normally even if you don’t win you can find discounts on the things you want and need.
  • Lastly think about hiring a planner. Weddings are what we do. We network with other businesses all the time so have established business relationships. Many times we can get discounts for you that you cannot get on your own.

The perception is that a planner is a luxury expense and in reality we probably can save you money. Obviously, I’d like to have you hire me, but regardless of whom you hire, have open two way communication and listen to the advice and suggestions before making your decision. You may be surprised at the money you can save!

What’s Your Stress Level?

January 30th, 2012 by Desert Light Weddings

Your wedding is one of the ‘big’ events in your life and the months before should be exciting and fun. Yes fun. Absolutely it will have stressful times where you both are ready to head to the court house without telling anyone, but that should only be for just a moment.

We all manage stress differently and when you know you are ready to blow… stop, breath, and step away from the computer, the phone and wedding magazines!

Just the other day I received a call from a fall bride who told me she was so stressed planning her wedding she was not eating, sleeping, and it was causing issues between the two of them.

My response? STOP stressing!!! Of course I gave her some suggestions on how to accomplish that no, or less anyway, stress state. Life is hard enough, but start planning your wedding and it is so hard to just remain calm!

So what can you do?

  • Ask for help
  • Know your budget
  • Stick to your budget
  • Be realistic with your guest count
  • Give yourself time; there is no rush
  • If you can, be flexible while picking your date
  • Don’t make rash decisions or succumb to pressure
  • Do your research
  • While you are looking, have more than 1 choice for venue and vendors
  • Make your “gotta have” list and go for those things first
  • Make a to do list
  • Prioritize your list
  • Turn over tasks to others, forget about them for the moment, and check back later
  • Take time to exercise
  • Take time to relax
  • Make ‘you two’ time a priority

I recommend these whether you are planning for yourself or are working with a planner. Obviously a planner will help with all of these and be your resource. Let us stress for you.

Above all remember to take care of your relationship. After all you two are the reason you are doing this in the first place, no one else. At the end of this journey the number of guests, how great the food was, or what you have as wedding favors really won’t matter…you two becoming one will!


An Arizona Winter Wonderland Wedding

December 17th, 2011 by Desert Light Weddings

With the exception of snow which came to Arizona a day later (yes even to parts of Phoenix!) we walked into a beautifully themed Winter Wonderland wedding and reception. The attention to detail started with the invitations and carried through to the gift cards waiting for each guest on the table.

The couple’s colors were white with red accents.

The bride carried a bouquet of red roses with small studs sparkling like snowflakes glistening in the sunlight. The bride’s brother carried two red roses and placed them on a chair of honor adorned with a red silk sash in memory of their mother who passed recently.

The bridal gown (gorgeous) white with small rhinestones sparkling as she moved. Her veil sheer and elegant. Bridesmaids and maid of honor in flowing floor length red gowns. The groom and his ‘guys’ all dressed sharply in tuxedos with red vests.

As the ceremony ended the guests were welcomed into the ballroom which was a celebration of their love, a celebration of winter and the holidays to come.

The linens on the tables and the chair covers pure, clean white with red chair sashes contrasting perfectly. The cake was tiered, white with red ribbon and small snowflakes (and delicious!).

Each guest received a thank you card folded in half. The front cut out in the shape of a snowflake and inside a snowflake cookie cutter and a recipe for making holiday cut out cookies! For the guests enjoying a glass of wine red gift bags with wine ornaments were placed on each table.

From this planner’s view point other than the gorgeous setting the things that stand out the most for me were when the weather, which as I mentioned was chilly for an Arizona afternoon, quickly changed and rain started falling just as the ceremony started. Always making sure the couple’s wishes are met, we asked what do you want to do and both replied ‘we are doing this!’ and proceeded into the rain showing the enthusiasm to have two become one!

The cocktail hour with DJs and Mariachis taking turns entertaining the guests, the last minute posed photos and then the grand entrance. The dinner was excellent and the cake well the taste matched the excellent presentation.

After the usual tosses and money dance, the floor was open for dancing…and yes they danced. Ending at midnight you would expect the good nights, but on to more celebration for this wonderful couple who I heard over and over were perfect together and a marriage that will last…congratulations to Erin and Tony!

It was an honor being a part of your wonderful day!

(Amazing cake provided by Fleur de Lis, gorgeous photos by The Pic Chick, beautiful flowers by Petals and Lucy, great music by the  DJs from G&R Entertainment  and ceremony/reception/wonderful food and service by The Embassy Suites North Phoenix.  All a pleasure to work with!)

Hiring preferred or not?

November 11th, 2011 by Desert Light Weddings

Have you ever gone to a wedding or party where you thought WOW someone did a great job? Everyone had fun, the vendors were busy and knew exactly what to do when. Now how many times did you think this could have been better or even jumped in to assist yourself? People do not know where to go, meal is served late, items have disappeared during the ‘wedding day crazies’, vendors look scattered?

 

Ever wonder what it takes to get that smooth, flowing ceremony and reception? It takes coordination, planning, and most of all willing vendors!

 

If you are getting married perhaps you have wondered why venues and vendors alike have ‘preferred vendors’ or ‘vendors we like’. The answer for me (and most of those I know) is because these are the people we know we can count on.

 

As a planner, I am tasked with your day…I don’t play your music, chase you around for those perfect shots, or serve your food, but I am the coordinator to make sure those things happen, timing is right, everyone including vendors know what will happen next, and just overall ‘celebration management’.

 

I build my preferred vendors list based on reputation, quality, customer service, and very importantly how they work with others! Discounts offered to me that I always pass directly to my customers is great too, but next to service/quality playing nicely is huge.

 

We all have our job to do. We all have experience. We all have our ideas on the best way BUT I find the smoothest weddings are when each looks out for the interest of the others…to you and your guests we are 1 team.

 

Can I work with those not on my preferred list? Absolutely…do it all the time. This is a great opportunity to add to that list and sometimes unfortunately have to make a mental note of ‘no not that one’.

 

The ultimate goal regardless of what list or where you found them is to have 1 team working for you…like a perfectly choreographed dance.

CAN I JUGGLE?

October 21st, 2011 by Desert Light Weddings

When I started in my current senior level IT job, my 2 peers handed me 3 balls and a book on juggling. At first I thought these two are a bit odd, but soon their point hit me. Can I juggle? The answer, yes quite well.

In many professions and things we do in life juggling is a must to be successful. Wedding planning is one of those. Nothing comes at you single threaded. Wouldn’t that be great if it did? You could say so today I will work on DJs. Done? Yes, check. Ok now flowers. I know people who prefer it that way and I get it, but that is not reality for wedding planning. In fact, not reality for life or at least not my life.

Many of us have work, school, family, exercise, personal life, bills, grocery shopping and the dreaded house work just to name a few things that just don’t stop, take a number, and get in line. We can put them off, but with all of them we have to give them attention or suffer the consequences.

Planning a wedding includes so many ‘to do’ details from the very large like your venue to the little things like picking out your guest book. Many times each detail requires several vendor meetings, quotes, contracts and ultimately decisions and it is just overwhelming. Once you start the wedding planning it just takes off and you try to keep up!

As your day gets closer you have to double check and verify everything. Some of the things you are checking you did months ago. This is when the tasks and details that were hiding from you surface! They were lurking, yes lurking just waiting to pop out and yell SURPRISE! Just when you thought I’m almost done, you are at it again, but now your wedding day is almost here so delays are not an option!

So you are getting married, you are excited, you are ready to plan on your own…stop and ask yourself ‘Can I juggle’?