Helpful Tips

Don’t Forget To Relax!

Jacksonville date ideas - Friendship Fountain

We see so many couples get completely wrapped up in their wedding plans. And yes, it is an important day. Some say, THE most important day. But it is just ONE day, after all! Now is the time that you should also be focusing on building your relationship. Take some time off from work, school, and yes, wedding planning to spend some time together. Here are a few cheap (or even free!) activities to do around Jacksonville as a couple:

  • Art Walk: Downtown Jacksonville’s Art Walk is held from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm on the first Wednesday of each month. 30-40 galleries, museums, restaurants, bars and other businesses showcase visual and live art. Art Walks are also held at the beaches and in St. Augustine.
  • Riverside Arts Market: Every Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Riverside comes alive with the Riverside Arts Market. RAM features the work of up to 160 artists, musical entertainment, street performers, food vendors, and a fresh produce market! Admission and parking are free.
  • Apron’s Cooking School: The Publix location on San Jose Blvd. at I-295 has a hidden secret – it’s home to one of only seven Apron’s Cooking Schools in the country! Check out their Couples Cooking series, including topics like Great Grilling and Mexico. While prices range from $40-60 per person, you get a great meal, often paired with beer or wine.
  • Cummer Museum: From 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Tuesday evenings, admission to the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens is free! Grab a bite to eat at the Tree Cup Cafe and enjoy dinner in the beautiful gardens.
  • Candlelight Tours of Ft. Clinch State Park: Guided tours of Fort Clinch take place Friday and Saturday evenings after sundown during the summer.  Reservations are required for Candlelight Tours. While you are in Fernandina Beach, have dinner in the historic district!
  • Friendship Fountain: Long known as an icon of downtown Jacksonville, the Friendship Fountain underwent a massive renovation last year. There are now nightly light shows set to music from 8:30 pm to 10:00 pm. Stop by Bistro AIX to pick up a delicious dessert as you enjoy the show! (Shown in the photo above, via

Can A Wedding Planner Save Me Money?

wedding budget worksheetA lot of websites and blogs claim that hiring a wedding planner can save you money. And a lot of brides and grooms read that as, “I’ll get discounts.” In today’s post, we’ll explore this topic in detail.

Prioritize Your Budget

The best way that a wedding planner can help you save money is by helping you prioritize your budget. He or she should sit down with you to discuss what is most important to you – fantastic view, great food, terrific band, lush floral displays to name a few. Then we’ll look at your total budget, and offer suggestions on how best to splurge on your top priorities will cutting back on the things that aren’t important to you. It’s best to do this before you book any other services, so that you aren’t locked into anything that won’t fit into your budget.

Avoid Making Expensive Mistakes

Couples often dive into booking a venue or a photographer or a dress before they allocate their total wedding budget into smaller categories. An example may be:

My wedding budget is $40,000, so this venue with the $20,000 food and beverage minimum will be perfect.

In theory, this sounds great. Food and beverage costs are typically somewhere between 40% and 50% of your total budget.  But let’s look a little closer. That same venue has an average menu price of $150 per person. You’re expecting 200 guests. That brings the total to $30,000. Add on tax and gratuity, plus room rental fees, bartender/chef charges, and other miscellaneous expenses, and you could easily be a $40,000 spent AT THE VENUE ALONE. You still need a dress, entertainment, flowers, stationery… the list goes on and on.

With the help of a good planner, you can avoid the costly mistakes by having a pro analyze your decisions with you and help you get the most bang for your buck.

Relationship-Based Discounts or Upgrades

It is true that your planner may be able to offer some discounts or upgrades from time to time. For example, your planner may rent $20,000 worth of linens from the same rental company each year, so he or she may get a discount on their orders that may be passed on to you. A photographer that really likes working with your planner may throw in a complimentary engagement session or upgrade you to a better album in order to get your business. A baker may not charge a rental fee on a cake stand because she trusts that the planner will return it promptly and in good condition.

While “saving money” shouldn’t be a top priority when choosing a wedding planner, it is a definite perk that you should look into.

Pearls For Your Wedding – Or Everyday

Even though Florida isn’t always considered “The South,” I have always felt like a Southern girl. And as such, I know that a strand of pearls goes with everything, from a business suit to a pretty sundress to jeans and a sweater at a football game. Pearls are timeless, classic, and versatile.

There are three key pieces that should be in every girl’s jewelry box:

  • A classic single strand necklace (16″ to 18″ flatters most women.)
  • Pearl stud earrings (7mm is a good size for everyday use.)
  • A strand of colored pearls  (my faves are pink! Other popular options include gold, black, and gray.)

Then add in some little extras:

  • A super-long strand that can be knotted, layered, or even wrapped into a bracelet (Coco Chanel loved  the 60″ rope of pearls, and was quoted as saying “Every woman should have ropes  and ropes  of pearls!”)
  • A pretty pearl pendant, hung from a sterling silver chain
  • A multi-strand bracelet embellished with some sparkly jewels

On your wedding day, you may want something simple that can become a family heirloom, or you may want something extravagant. We were recently introduced to Pearl & Clasp, a jewelry company located in New York’s Diamond District that specializes in – you guessed it – pearls and clasps. Here are some pretty options beyond the basic strand of pearls, although they do those too!

Another service they offer is pearl restringing. Imagine taking a family heirloom necklace that is a bit dated, and having it restrung into a new piece for your wedding! Or, they could add a beautiful new clasp to your necklace to make it unique.

As a special bonus for our readers, Pearl & Clasp has offered a special discount of 20% off any item on their website (use promo code Heather20). They also offer free restringing with the purchase of a clasp, and shipping for orders over $175 is free as well.

What kind of pearls will you wear on your wedding day?

Honeymoon Registry Tips

Did you know that you can register for your honeymoon? With so many couples merging two households when they get married, the need for traditional gift registries isn’t as prevalent as it once was.

The process is simple, and I’ll use Sandals’ Honeymoon Registry as an example:

  1. Sign up online and select your destination.
  2. Add items to your registry – you can add room upgrades, spa treatments, excursions, tours, golf, and dining options.
  3. Send a message to your guests to let them know about your registry. Remember, it’s never appropriate to list your registry on your wedding invitations.
  4. Start collecting gifts! Your guests will visit your wedding website and they will be able to select the item they’d like to pay for – for example, instead of an envelope with cash at the wedding, they could pay for a “Historic Fort & Beach Tour on Segway.” Isn’t that more fun?!

You will be notified when someone purchases a gift for you, so that you can write an appropriate thank you note. And when it’s time for your honeymoon, you can relax and enjoy all those wonderful gifts – instead of returning 10 toasters when you get back!

When you are starting to plan your honeymoon, ask your travel agent about registry options. Most honeymoon registries include a free wedding website too! What more could you ask for?

(Need help planning a trip to a Sandals resort? Give us a call, and we’ll connect you to an expert!)

How To Tie a Bow Tie

Let’s face it; most men do not know how to tie a bow tie. But on your wedding day, do you want to look like a high school senior in an adjustable-strap, pre-tied tie, or do  you want to look like James Bond and impress your friends with your bow-tying skills? With a little practice, you can feel sophisticated and dashing in your tuxedo. Here is an illustration we found on Google to help get you started:

David’s Tuxedos posted these tips over on their Facebook page:

1. Change the length of the bow tie if needed. A longer length is needed if you want a larger bow.
2. At the beginning, one end of the bow tie should be longer than the other by a few inches. The longer end should be on your right side.
3. Cross the longer end over the other end.
4. Bring the longer end underneath the shorter end and then bring it out from the center.
5. Fold the shorter end horizontally.
6. Place the longer end over the shorter end.
7. Fold the longer end horizontally.
8. Insert the longer end through the loop at the back of the shorter end. Pull both ends gently to tighten the knot.

Need more help? Check out the Bow Tie Tutor app for iPhone, or the How To Tie A Bow Tie app for Android.