What does a Wedding Designer do?

When you start planning a wedding it very quickly becomes evident that there is a whole new world of professionals about to enter your life. Not only will this likely be the first time you hire folks in many of these various fields but it may also be the first time you become aware that they even exist. As an event designer and planner I’m often contacted for my planning services but its only after talking with my brides that they start to voice concerns about style elements as well. Today I’m digging into what I do as a wedding designer and how having someone to fill this role on your big day can be a huge stress reliever. 

 
Wedding Tablescape Menu Bolingbroke Mansion Radnor PA
 

A short summary of wedding or event design is that we make things pretty, thats really only scratching the surface though. As a wedding designer I take a deep dive into who my couples are and how together we can best tell their love story through each and every element of the biggest day of their lives. 

Tell your story- No bride starts her planning process looking for a cookie cutter copy of someone else wedding. Every wedding should be as unique as the couple themselves, I love to get to know my brides and find out what makes them tick. I’m not just talking about how they see their celebration or what their 'colors' are, but rather what activities fill their free time, what books they read, what causes pull on their heartstrings. Looking past the surface and fluff takes the experience of a wedding from simply pretty to a carefully executed love story that unfolds throughout the wedding day. 

Lookbook-  My process starts by meeting with a new bride and having a deep dive in to her Pinterest boards (and not just the wedding ones)  I want to get a sense of what she finds beautiful and images are the best springboards for conversation. From those pins I can see what elements of the wedding are going to be most important to her (100 pins of cakes but only 3 of florals is a pretty quick clue) Visuals are often a more solid way of communicating than words, they provide something to respond to and ask questions about. 

I then in turn create a visual of my own in the form of a wedding lookbook. Here I’ll mix in her image ideas with some of my own and compile a color palette pulling from that imagery. Depending on the details required for the day this can be two or ten pages and it covers every aspect of the wedding day from paper goods to attire. This document serves as our roadmap when making all of the selections for the celebration. When we meet with the stationer you bet that look book will be front and center of the discussion to inform line, style and color. This doesn’t mean that we will be copying directly from a invitation suite image but rather the style lines from a floral image can inform the soft, deckled edge that the stationer recommends to help pull together a curated, cohesive look. 

Vendor selection and management- As a designer I want to work with the best of my areas local wedding vendors, the top artisans in any given field. I like to provide my brides with recommendations of vendors I’ve already had experience with and know produce quality work. No matter what their area of expertise every vendor is going to have their own style and I want the style of the vendor to fit perfectly with my bride. I carefully recommend decor vendors who align with the needs of the day and my bride. 

Next, depending on the services my bride has booked, I'l fully manager or act as consultant to the vendor team. No matter what collection a bride selects I want to ensure that her wedding is more beautiful and cohesive that she could have dreamed. 

Day of styling- This is where all of the careful plans become a reality. On the day of the wedding I’m hard at work pulling together each element so that it's just how we planned. I’m trouble shooting any problems that might arise on site and with my fellow vendors. All of the careful planning would be for nothing If the day of element wasn't in place. This can range from the nitty gritty of alphabetizing escort cards to creating custom decor installations- every element counts. 

I don't just want my brides to have a pretty wedding- my role is so much more than that. I want them to have a beautiful experience that tells and celebrates her love story. 

Are you a 2017 bride who values style? I’ve still got room on my dance card this year for a few more sweet thoughtful ladies and I would live to lend a hand planning and styling your big day. Click the button below to contact me and schedule your complementary consultation.  

Photo: Lauren Schwartz Photography Rentals: Modern Relics Floral: A Styled Fete

3 Wedding Trends I Hope For In 2017

As we flip the calendar over to 2017 you may have noticed that the wedding world is very interested in predicting trends for this upcoming wedding season. Trends like how to use the Pantone color of the year and how to get that celebrity wedding feel. A stylish wedding celebration is absolutely my jam but the type of trends I’m really interested in seeing more of are all about mindset. I’ve made a list of my top wedding trends that I hope couples will join me in embracing in 2017. 

 
Bride engagement ring wedding Philadelphia trends 2017
 

 

 Meaningful Details- In 2017 I want to see more couples put themselves, and their love story, into planning their wedding. From start to finish I want the smallest of details to tell a story of who these two people are and why their love is worth celebrating. I want to see save-the-dates that reflect what they value and favors that share love in a way that honors both the guest and the newlyweds. I want the charities and organizations that they care deeply about to be featured at the celebration too. I want more remembrances of loved ones who have passed. I want more tributes to friends and family who have guided the happy couple along. I want to see table linens that help tell a story of love by creating a welcoming environment. 

Emphasis on Commitment- In my time in the wedding world I’ve seen that a majority of couples focus on their wedding reception rather than their ceremony. In 2017 I would like to see that focus flip, I want the commitment to be the center of the day and the party to become a delightful addition. So often couples rush past the nuptials, which are the reason anyone is gathered together. I want to see careful planning going into pre-marital counseling and relationship goal setting for a strong, life-long commitment. I want the ceremony to reflect who they are through music select to floral choice. Ceremonies don’t have to be boring, think outside of the box and make this the foal point of the day. 

Focus on Serving- A final trend that I want to see more of in 2017 is guest service. All of your favorite people have come from near and far to celebrate with you and I would encourage couples to put a focus on serving those guests not only on the day of the wedding but throughout the wedding weekend. I want to see careful planning in accommodation sections, transportation and ways to welcome and delight your guests. Couples get nervous about this topic because it can be seen as an extra that is only adding cost, but I promise this is what your guests are going to remember about your wedding, how well they were taken care of and if their needs were met throughout. 

 

I love the pretty part of weddings- sorting out styles and creating color palettes in a fair portion of my business but more important to me are the relationships. I love when couples focus in on the commitment before the celebration, I love when they create a cohesive day that tells the story of who they are together and I love when they show hospitality to their guests and put their needs first. 

Are you a 2017 bride who values commitment, service and style? I’ve still have space this year for a few more sweet thoughtful ladies and I would live to lend a hand planning and styling your big day. Click the button below to contact me and schedule a complementary consultation.  

Elements of A Wedding Photography Contract

An aspect of wedding planning that new engaged couples rarely give much thought to is how much time they will be spending with contracts during this process. These documents, while not very exciting, can be key to a successful event. Navigating the ins and outs of a solid contract shouldn't take a law degree, today I would like to suggest some key elements you should be on the lookout for specifically when reviewing wedding photography contracts. 

 
Wedding photography contract bride getting ready Philadelphia, PA
 

 

1. Get Specific

Make sure that the specifics are spelled out, where the services will be preformed, by whom and on what date. Its ok is you haven't yet settled on a ceremony start time yet but do make sure the the proper venues are listed and your wedding date is correct. Also look for specifics on who will be leading the services day of. Second shooters and assistants will be sorted out by your photographer closer to the big day but the contract should list your primary shooter. 

2. How will you Pay

A payment schedule should be very clearly laid out in your contract. This includes the total cost of good and services (including tax where applicable) and a breakdown of what payments are due when. Its completely normal to pay a retainer when booking to secure your wedding date. Beyond retainers each photographer will have a unique payment schedule. It might be broken into two or more additional payments, often falling on benchmark dates in the process. The contract should also include information on how the photographer expects to receive payments; credit card, check etc. Likely there will also be a note about the late payment policy. 

3. Refunds & Cancelations

Should disaster strike know what your options are. Retainers are almost always non-refundable. Other payment installments may be though depending on the the situation. If for some reason you need to alter your wedding date understand how that effects your photography booking. 

4. Travel & Meals

The majority of wedding photography contracts are going to have clauses for travel and vendor meals. depending how far you are away from the Photographers home studio a travel fee (for transport and or accommodations may apply) Every contract will be unique on this item, but the policy should be very clearly stated up front. It is also widely expected that you will be providing dinner for your photographer and their team on the wedding day. Some contracts will have specifics about dietary restrictions and seating be sure to read this carefully so you take care of these important folks. 

5. Contract Lifespan

As you can imagine a photographer can't be expected to hold on to your wedding date indefinitely. The contract should state how long they will hold your date from other inquiries and also how long the quoted price is good for. 

6. Delivery

A photography contract should let you know how you will be receiving your images after the wedding. Common options here are a digital gallery, USB and occasionally you will still see delivery on CD. Prints, albums and gallery wraps are all options too. The contact should also state that your total cost includes the professional editing and retouching of your final images. I can't stress enough how important the post production work is to the process of a photographer. Trust me that you 1. don't want all of the photos they took that day and 2. you want the images you do receive to be completely edited. 

7. Copyright & Credit

Brides and grooms are often unaware that they aren't actually the owners of their photographs. This distinction lies with the artist who took the photo. You are free to use your photos as you wish as long as those uses comply with your contract. If you haven't purchased print rights as a part of your photography package then you must go through your photographer to order any prints. Also it is important to note that photographers should be credited (online its nice to 'tag') when their photos are being used. 

9. Mediation

A photography contract should lay out the terms for settlement should a disagreement occur between yourself and the photographer. If anything in this very legal section of the contract doesn't make sense to you or isn't spelled out as plainly as you would like, ask the photographer for more information.

10. Behavior of Guests

I still chuckle when I see this section, because you just know that some poor wedding vendor has lived through all of their crazy scenarios. However, poor behavior on the part of guests can be a real concern and distraction from a vendor being able to do their job. I've seen my fair share of flirtatious guests and let me tell you this is a hard aspect of any wedding to control.  Ultimately your guests are your responsibility and if they act in an inappropriate manor towards the vendor team those vendors do have a right to discontinue services. 

11. limitations

Many photographers will include a section in their contract that states that they can't possibly capture every single moment of the day and that they may not be able to capture each image that you have requested. I believe that all photographers will try their absolute hardest to photograph as many moments as they can but it should anticipate that they can't be everywhere at the same time. 

12. Acts of God

Another very popular note in a photography contract is that there are somethings that even the best intentioned photographer can't control. Natural disasters, death, illness etc... all fall into this category. What you should look out for here is that the photographer will find a replacement individual at no additional cost to you. Bad things happen and of course we all hope that those bad things won't interfere with our wedding day but preparing and protecting yourself in the event that something may happen is wise. 

13. Model release

One final section that you will find on most every photography contract is a model release. This means that the photographer has your consent to use their images publicly on social media, their website, marketing materials and so forth. I find that this section can be up for discussion if you would prefer not to have your images shared publicly but it would be in bad form to ask your photographer not to use the images but then post those same photos on your own social media channels. 

 

Each wedding photography contract is going to be different. They are as unique as the vendors themselves. Please don't hesitate to speak up and ask questions when reviewing these documents. These are legally binding agreements and I don't want to see anyone locked into something they did know they were signing up for. 

Do you have more questions about photography contracts? Or the contracts of other wedding vendors? Please don't hesitate to reach out to me, I would be happy to help! 

My Number 1 Tip for Keeping Focused When Planning a Wedding

Distractions are so easy to come by in the highly visual world of weddings. Everywhere you turn there are a zillion gorgeous images and new ideas for wedding styles. Amongst all of the noise on social media, magazines, blogs and the biggest culprit of all- Pinterest it is so easy to loose focus. Today I want to share with you my number one tip to help you stay on track during the wedding planning process. 

 
Keep focused while planning a wedding bride Philadelphia, PA
 

Alright, here it is my single biggest tip for staying focused: Create a top three list. by this I mean a list of the top three things that are important to both you and your guy on your wedding day. These can be anything at all that speak to your values or your taste. Really, really love soft pretzels (like I do!)? Then plan to include a pretzel station in your late night food line up. Will reliving your wedding day be important to you after the fact? Consider investing in high quality video and photography services. Want to make the focus of your day on the huge commitment you both are making rather than just a fun party? Then work to make your ceremony the hi-light of the day rather than the reception. 

My suggestion is to plan a thoughtful date night where the two of you really hone in on what you want the message or take away from your wedding to be. This seems like it should be easy- but a lot of couples struggle to create a cohesive wedding day both in terms of design and values. I recommend that you each choose your single most important element for the day and then also decide on one element together. By creating a top three list you give yourself guidelines and perimeters for planning all of the other elements of the day. Your Top Three are where larger budget allocations should be placed. More effort an attention should go toward selecting the vendors that will make your Top Three come to life than the other wedding components. 

Find out what is important to both of you about this wedding and put all of your heart into those pieces. When the noise on social media is getting to be too much, take a step back and return to your Top Three list. ask yourself questions about all of those pretty images you see and discover if they are moving your forward towards your Top Three goals. If not then dump those ideas and move on, re-centering yourself towards what you truly value. It is important for both you and your guy to be in agreement about your top three or else it won't help solve the problem of wedding planning distractions. Be intentional and find time to craft this list thoughtfully and let it be your guide to navigating the crazy world of wedding planning. 

Having trouble getting clarity on your Top Three? Send me a note, I'm happy to help you hone in on this important list. 

Alexa & Jarrett's Old Mill Wedding in Rose Valley

 I'm so excited to share a collection of images from Alexa & Jarrett's September wedding. This couple not only planned their big day in just a few short months but did so from clear across the country, Classic styling and the incorporation of Military traditions make this Old Mill wedding a gorgeous celebration to remember! 

 
Wedding day Bride and Groom garden The Old Mill Rose Valley PA
 

The Concordville Inn was the center of all the getting-ready fun for this couple. The ladies toasted the occasion with mimosas in lovely stemless champagne flutes, each with their name etched in gold script and finished with sherbet striped paper straws. Alexa selected a gorgeous a-line lace gown and completed her bridal look with a dramatic cathedral length veil. Jarrett and his best man Blair are seen below preparing for the ceremony by making sure that their dress uniforms are in tip, top shape. 

 
 

Alexa and Jarrett's wedding ceremony was a traditional Catholic mass held at St. John Chrysostom in Wallingford Pennsylvania. Beautiful florals accented the alter and the ceremony concluded with one of my new favorite things- a military saber arch! Jarrett has been serving his country as an army captain and I was so excited that the couple wanted to include this classic military tradition in their big day. At the conclusion of the arch Alexa and Jarrett chose to surprise their friends and family with a bagpiper. Including these two elements in their ceremony made the traditional mass feel personal and unique to the couple. 

Wedding Ceremony Flowers Wallingford, PA Catholic Ceremony
Catholic Wedding Ceremony Bridesmaids bouquet Wallingford, PA
 
Bride Groom Wallingford, Pa Catholic Military Wedding ceremony Saber Arch
 

The reception venue, Rose Valley's Old Mill was the perfect backdrop for portraits. Post ceremony Jarrett opted for a costume change from uniform to suit. 

Alexa chose to incorporate so many delightful details into her wedding celebration. The escort cards were custom blush tags featuring gold calligraphy and a single vintage key. The tags were finished with a masala ribbon and tied to plantation shutters. The guest tables were dressed in blush, damask linens accented by crips ivory napkins. Gold chargers and chiavari chairs with white cushions created a romantic tablescape. Fresh Designs Florist created three unique centerpiece styles that created a dramatic environment in the dinning room. Perhaps my favorite decor element of this reception was the lush floral garden wall that featured vintage shutters covered in florals and greens accented by candle bedecked lanterns. 

Alexa and Jarret's wedding was just so pretty! I had a great time working with both of them to create a stunning celebration. Cheers and thank you so much for letting me be a part of your big day! 

 

Thanks to Erin Keough Photography for sharing these lovely photos of Alexa & Jarrett's wedding day

 

Floral Fresh Designs Florist | Reception The Old Mill | Catering Connor Catering | Dress In White | Suit The Black Tux | Hair Elegance Artistry | Makeup Megan McCormick |Ceremony St. John Chrysostom | Cake Bakers of Buffington | Calligraphy Tallulah Ketubahs | Invitations Paper Source | Transportation Krapf's Coaches  | Vintage Rentals Modern Relics | Signs Layers of Lovely Events | DJ Tom Barrett

Questions to Ask Potential Wedding Caterers

One of the largest expenses at any wedding is the catering bill. Many times the choice of catering company is made for you when you book your reception venue by agreeing to use their exclusive partner. Depending on the venue though you may well find that you have a choice in this matter; thus starts the difficult position of selecting a a caterer for the largest dinner bill you will ever be faced with before sampling their food! Today I’m here to help by equipping you with a list of questions to ask potential caterers before booking them for your big day. 

 
Wedding reception catering questions sweets display
 

 

Working With Them

1. Have you worked an event at my venue previously? Are there any serving limitations I should know about in that space? 

2. What is your booking process like? Can I see a sample contract? What forms of payment do you accept? 

3. What is the tasting and final menu selection process like? 

4. What equipment and rentals are included with your service? Flatware? Linens? Tables? Chairs? 

5. When will I need to have my final guest count to you and how is the best way to provided this information?

6. Is service gratuity included in my final bill? If not what is the best way to pay?

7. What cleaning up elements am I responsible for at the end of the event? 

 

Food Service

1. What serving styles to you offer? Plated? Buffet? Stations? Family Style? 

2. What serving style would you recommend based on my guest count and event style? 

3. What entree items are your most popular and the best suited to my favorite serving style?

4. How many different entrees can I offer as choices to my guests? 

5. Can you incorporate seasonal ingredients into my wedding meal?

6. Can you accommodate non-traditional or themed meal requests?

7.  What cost and flow differences are there between tray served or station appetizers? 

8. How can you help me accommodate the varying dietary needs of my guests?

9. How long does a typical dinner service take? 

10. What fun add on options can you offer? Sweets stations? late night or departure stations? 

11. Can wedding cakes be done in house? Do you charge a cake cutting fee for outside bakeries? 

12. What regulations do you have on outside food such as favors and wedding cakes? 

13. What options do your have for children’s meals?

14. What options do you have for vendor meals? Do we need to provided a full dinner from our chosen menu for them? 

15. What happens with any leftover food? 

 

Bar Service

1. Is bar service included with dinner service? 

2. Are their any serving regulations I should know about based on your liquor license?

3. Can we provide our own alcohol? 

4. Can we work together to create a signature cocktail for my event?

5. What happens to un-used alcohol at the end of the night?

 

Still in need of a bit more guidance with vendor selections? Send me a note with your questions, I'm happy to help!

Dear Bride, Planning is Invasive

Dear Bride, planning a wedding is invasive! Weddings have a very sneaky way of taking over every aspect of your life. No matter where you turn more weddings! Details that you never previously considered important now seem to be life or death decisions. Letter press or Foil Press Printing? Chiavari or Cross back chairs? Notched or shawl collar? So many decisions! 

 
wedding invitation and bridal earrings
 

Friends, its ok to let these details go. Start with what matters most to you- friends, family and marriage will likely be at the top of this list. Make selections that honor your values and showcase who you are as a couple. The wedding police won’t arrive and tell you your doing it wrong. Each and every wedding is as unique as the couple who are being joined together. Take care of details that support your commitment and make your guests feel welcome. Then have fun making it a beautiful celebration. 

Take a break. All of the decisions don’t need to be made this moment. Rather breakdown the tasks to be completed and work backwards from your wedding day. Take pen to paper and schedule these tasks out in your calendar. Once you have written it all down and made a plan to handle each item in the time you have remaining take a step back. Give yourself (and your fiancé) a weekend off from wedding talk. Just spend some time together and enjoy each others company again. 

If you let it planning your wedding can and will take over your life. Plant your wedding in a small pot- don’t let it run rampant like a weed through the garden that is your schedule. Find ways to compartmentalize tasks and once you have decided on an element cross it off the list and move on. Keep your chin up and move forward- you’ve got this girl!  

 

All of this wedding planning still more than you can handle- send me a note and lets see how I can help:

 

Invitation: PaperTree Studio Earrings: Sabrina Ann Couture