Chronicals of a Bride

I’ve spent five wonderful years within the events industry going to fittings and tastings…. picking out colors and linens…. and making sure that everyone gets down the aisle sans a crisis.  I’ve hand-crafted bouquets and hand-sewn faulty zippers.  I have helped dozens of brides find a voice and determine how to translate it into the wedding of their dreams… And now- it is my turn.  That’s right… I am getting married Spring 2009.

So what is it like to be a coordinator and a bride?  Well, the truth is that it really is not unlike any other girl that gets married.  I am still have a real budget that I must work within.  I still have cultural and traditional elements that I must respect- and others that I must respectfully decline.  I have a guest list that needs a bit of trimming and a wee little issue with control that I must learn to overcome.  Thus, for the next few months, I invite you to join me on my journey to the alter.  I’ll take you along throughout the process in hopes that it will make your own planning a little easier- knowing that we are in this together…

Be Our Guest: Avoiding Wedding Purgatory

Continuing with our series on how to be more concious of one’s guests… today we will address the cocktail hour entertainment, or rather lack there of.  I would say that about 50% of my brides, regardless of budget,  often overlook designing an entertaining cocktail hour experience.  In fact, I would venture to say that most of my brides see any money spent on this element as frugal.  Guests have just sat through the ceremony, and while they will enjoy the time to wind down (and will undoubtedly appreciate a cocktail or two) the full hour can feel a little like wedding purgatory- a limbo of sorts where eventually everyone is standing around anxiously anticipating the arrival of the main courses, the couple, and the party. 

One of my favorite ways to bring a little life to the cocktail hour is by engaging guests with a playful and unexpected element.  Before you assume that this is yet another evil ploy from the “wedding industrial complex” understand that such an element does not necessarily mean spending a ton of money.

Perhaps you are having an outdoor cocktail hour on a grassy knoll?  Consider adding a little croquet, badmitton, or bocce ball for good measure. 

Have a little extra change in your budget?  Consider hiring an interactive entertainer like a card musician, fortune teller, cigar roller, silhouette artist, caricature artist, etc.  Having someone either work the crowd, or provide a station, can really loosen up the mood of the evening. 

Beatles on Youtube

Looking to stay traditional?  Go ahead and get a little cheeky with a string quartet that plays strictly Beetles and contemporary selections.

The greatest benefit to providing cocktail entertainment is that your guests will soon forget that your photos are running over time or that they’re starving.  Those guests who are not familiar with anyone else will find common grounds to start conversation over.  Let this hour set the stage for the rest of your evening… as the more comfortable that your guests become during this hour, the more apt they are to engage the rest of the evening and stay until the end.

Be Our Guest: Musical Chairs

Recently, I have noticed that brides are being more attentive to their guests’ comfort levels.  This can be as simple as  providing an alternative to dancing, a welcome bag for out of town guests, or flip flops at a beach ceremony.  It’s these thoughtful touches that really make an event special and memorable.  Thus, I’ve decided to author a weekly editorial here on the blog called “Be Our Guest” where I’ll share some of my favorite ideas on how to make a wedding more approachable for your guests.

One difficulty that brides often overlook when planning their wedding, is how they will make time for EVERY ONE of their 300 guests.  While being the center of attention can be flattering, it is also a little overwhelming.  After an 8 hour plane ride, two nights in a hotel, a $50 wedding gift, and an hour long wedding mass… your guests are going to be more than anxious to chat with the happy couple.  Enter the difficulty.  Somewhere between the avande garde photoshoot after the ceremony, seated five course dinner, rigorously scheduled reception, and sparkler exit… there just doesn’t seem to be a whole heck of a lot of room to spend a quality minute or two with each guest.  What is a bride to to?

In the past, this was the reasoning for a receiving line after the ceremony.  It gave the bride, groom, and their parents time to formally receive each guest and make them feel acknowledged and appreciated.  However, these can be rather time-consuming and will eat a huge chunk of your 4 hour reception.  And, truth be told, it can feel a little awkward to have a quality conversation while 150 guests are behind you waiting their turn… thus I come bearing a few modern alternatives to the receiving line:

1. See Eachother Before the Ceremony

I know, I know.  You’ve pictured that intimate moment where the doors to the chapel fling open and you are there looking at your groom from afar.  His eyes well with tears of pride and happiness and it is all captured on film forever.  But, and hear me out, imagine this same senerio a couple of hours before the ceremony – in a secluded, picture perfect spot.  You can eliminate post-wedding photo taking by having ALL formal photos done before the wedding begins.  This leaves the cocktail hour open to mingle with guests one on one.

2. Eenie Meenie Miney Mo

If you are having a buffet, consider going from table to table as your Master of Ceremonies dismisses them.  It will give you time to say hello to guests as they are waiting for their table to be called… and timing it just right with your dj will mean that your conversation will end just as they are invited to the buffet. (Have a member of the catering staff make you a plate as you are nearing the last table being called.  This will also ensure that everyone is done eatting by the time the toasts and dancing begin.)

3. Musical Chairs

If you are opting for a seated dinner, consider having two additional place settings at each table (i/e seat 8 guests and have 2 extra chairs making 10).  Start at one side of the room and set your watch.  Every 7 minutes or so, pick up your plates and move on.  This relieves the need for a “head table” and makes every single guest feel like a VIP.

Agnes Lopez Photography

Agnes Lopez Photography

Here’s what Kristen, a recent bride had to say about her expierience:

“…the wedding day, she had the idea of my husband and I talking to all the guests at their tables, avoiding the typically line at the Bride & Groom’s table. We went to our guests tables while each table was being dismissed to the buffet. This was the number one thing that we received feedback on from our guests. Most guests said they had never been to a wedding where the bride & groom did not start eating FIRST and then talked to a few guests. “

Jillian & Jason (10.19.07)


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With the success of the book “Offbeat Bride,” and the spawn of DIY Weblogs, a new generation of indie brides are whipping out their sewing machines and craft supplies in hopes of an Etsy-worthy wedding.  While I have seen some frightening DIY projects, and it is my experience that this very special occasion is best left to the professionals, every once in a while a bride is able to manage the perfect balance of personalization and sophistication.  Such was true with the wedding of Jillian and Jason.

Jillian is an uber-talented indie fashion designer, with her line of SIMONE all over Etsy.  Jason is equally accomplished in his love of music, playing percussion for a local band.  Together, they are one talented rockstar couple- and anything but your typical bride and groom.  Thus, they took cues from their relationship and a little guidence from great vendors… making a destination wedding to remember!

Their 80 guests travelled from as far as Boston to be a part of the Sunshine State wedding- and by some grace of God… the rain held out.  It poured for miles and miles for hours and hours- and then the clouds parted just in time for their 5 o’clock ceremony- and it was nothing but blue skies, sunshine, and rainbows for their vows.  Guests were greeted by bagpiper, and invited to toss their heels aside for the barefoot beach ceremony.  The ceremony was officiated by the couple’s close friend… and the highlight of the whole day was seeing Jillian walked down the aisle in her hand-made wedding dress.  It was stunning!

Guests were then treated to a casual reception at The Finch House… just a brisk walk from the beach.  Here, they dined on a tropical-inspired menu created by Smashing Pans atop tables with custom linens sewn by none other than the crafty bride.  They ooed-ahhhed over the cake (Publix) which was designed by- you guessed it- the bride!  The ecclectic blend of reggae, punk, and rock and roll love ballads (One Voice Productions) were so indicative of the evening’s lighthearted mood… with guests lining up to leave their well-wishes in the retro polaroid guestbook.

As the evening drew to an end, and Arte de Palm Photography prepared for their money-shot… the couple danced to one last song all alone.  This was my favorite part of the entire night… the bride was so giddy with glee- the groom in his yellow and black nike sneakers and tux… dancing to “You are my sunshine”… and then they made a mad dash down an aisle of sparklers to their antique get-away car (Majestic).  Off to St. Lucia for the honeymoon!

Jen & Mike (10.06.07)

Jen & MikeJen & Mike 

Many warm wishes to “The Mr. and Mrs.”  Jennifer  and Mike  (both of Channel 4) were such a delightful couple to work with over the last month.  Their courtship has spanned over six years, as they met while working at a tv station in Michigan.  Their families traveled from all over (12 states in total) to be a part of their special day, and to get a glimpse of the “sunshine state”.  While the weather was less than cooperative, the wedding was such an amazing event- one of those really special occasions where you can see two families weaving into one right before your eyes.

 The week began with a welcome party at the couple’s residence on Thursday.  The festivities continued with a Rehearsal Dinner at The Sawgrass Marriott, hosted by the Cabana Club.  While the showers forced the party indoors, the staff at the Cabana Club did such a wonderful job accomodating the large group (nearly 180) on such short notice.  The Champions Ballroom was transformed into a tropical paradise, complete with cabana umbrellas, Mai Tai, and music via Steel In Motion.  Festive beach balls, sunglasses, sand pails, and welcome bags greeted guests.

The ceremony was held at Holy Family Catholic Church, where Father Dan moved the entire congregation to tears with his touching homily.  The bride was escorted by both her parents and her adorable grandparents offered the gifts.  The entire mass was so very personal and indicative of their strong family ties.

While the monsoon poured outside, guests were escorted to the Sawgrass Marriott via limos courtesy T & T East Coast Limousine.  Phyllis did such a wonderful job of keeping our bride dry and our groomsmen on time! 

During the cocktail hour, guests were invited to find their seat via sand dollar escorts, beautifully penned via Calligraphy by Joy.  Jen and Mike had such fun with the table numbers, opting to do years that were of importance in their lives- giving a brief description and then fun facts of other events occurring that same year.  It was a lovely conversation starter for their destination guests who were not be familiar with one another.

Guests were then ushered into the Masters Ballroom, where a beautiful palette of ice blue and subtle shades of lavender were laid by Rose of Sharon, Jax Stage Lighting, and Aloha Interior Plants.  Each of these vendors did their part to really make that ballroom amazing!  After a wonderful plated dinner, guests put on their dancing shoes to the sounds of KTG.  As always, KTG delivered an amazing performance. 

The entire night was captured through the lense of the ever-so-talented Leah Powell, with a superstar second shooter (Darice Michelle).  — pictures to follow shortly—-

To round off the weekend’s celebration, guests were gathered for one last hoorah brunch on the Cascades Deck, perhaps the first rays of sunshine all weekend. 

It was such a pleasure to work with this couple, as they were so organized and sincere.  Their love was ever aparent with the never-fading smiles on each of their faces.  It further touched me to meet the lovely families that Jen and Mike are so fortunate to have… and the fact that 180 of their 250 guests traveled from nearly 12 states is testiment of the impact that they have of each person that they meet.  Mike actually had guests representing every year of schooling since preschool AND every job that he has ever had… how impressive.