Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Party: Signature Drink - Christmas Martini

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year. I love to play Christmas tunes every chance I get. And who can say no to the many yummy cookies and seasonal treats? I feel giddy at heart like a kid again at the very sight of Christmas lights or a tree. But most of all, I love spending time with friends and family celebrating the season during the holiday parties.

If you are hosting a holiday party or getting married, a fun detail to include would be a signature drink. One of my favorites is the Christmas Martini.

1 oz Dry Gin
1 1/2 oz Peppermint Schnapps
1/2 oz Water
1 Stick Peppermint Candy

Strain gin and peppermint schnapps into martini glass. Add peppermint stick.

Happy Holiday to you and yours!

Samantha Darr

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Real Wedding Part II: Stephanie + Ben - The Reception

Ben & Stephanie had such an amazing wedding full of classic details and captivating moments. When choosing which pictures to share, I found myself struggling as each and every one was amazing. Morgan Lynn Photography is very talented in capturing the moments that matter with so much life and vividness to her pictures.

After the full Catholic mass wedding ceremony, the couple and their bridal party boarded the trolley with much festiveness to shoot more post ceremony pictures. The couple choose to return to Hotel Derek for its contemporary decor and modern settings. This also allowed them to include their precious 4-legged family member.

For couples who may have a little time lapse between the ceremony and reception, this is an ideal opportunity. During this time, a couple is most relaxed, happy and solely focused on each other. This sometimes can replace a "day after" session.

As the couple finished pictures, the guests enjoyed the cocktail hour at The Courtyard on St. James as the DJ spun jazz tunes in the background. In my experience, I find that many brides choose to have seating arrangements for their guests. Many do not think about the display to which it will be communicated to the guests. I love that Stephanie chose to make the table assignments a design focal point in the cocktail hour space. To maintain an affordable option, we utilized the alter arrangements and restyled them into one main arrangement for the table.

Stephanie and Ben share a love for wine. As a unique touch, we used wine bottles as their table numbers. To remember the evening, the guests were encouraged to write messages on the bottles with a silver pen. Ben & Stephanie will enjoy the memories for years to come each time they open one of the bottles from their wedding.

The guests were treated to a 4 course sit-down dinner at the Courtyard on St. James. One of the highlights of the meal was the champagne intermezzo. This is served prior to the main course to cleanse the palette to fully enjoy the flavors of the next course. When it came to toasts, the Best Man and Maid of Honor opted to pre-record the most entertaining excerpt to play as part of their toast. Truly one of the most entertaining I've seen thus far.

Congratulations to Ben & Stephanie! May the next 50 years be just as memorable and enjoyable as their wedding day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Preparing for Wedding Day Part III: The Timeline

When approaching the wedding day, most brides begin to feel anxious about the little details and concerned with how everything will come together. This is where hiring an Event Day Manager (EDM) is truly one of the most important investments in a wedding. Some planners refer to this service as "Day of Coordination". However, for me, I start working with my clients 45 days prior to the wedding so I can be fully briefed and knowledgeable on all aspects of the wedding. Truly, there is a difference in simply coordinating the bride's plans vs. managing the logistics, set-up details and executing the event. The cost for a highly skilled, professional and experienced Event Day Manager (EDM) is between $1,000 - 2,000.

When considering an EDM, it's important to ask for references. Don't hesitate to ask them to describe the level of service provided to each client so that you can better understand their experience. Most importantly, if their pricing seems to good to be true, it probably is. Most professional event planners know their worth and their cost of operations and will not give away their services dirt cheap. I've seen it too many times. A bride will hire the cheapest planner only to regret the decision later as the "said planner" had no experience and made a mess of their wedding day.

Another service option to consider, have a professional event planner create a personalized timeline for you. This will require at least a two hour conversation to discuss the details of your day. This meeting should be scheduled 21 days prior to the wedding.

If you're budget does not allow for an EDM, there are many things you can prepare in advance to ensure your day runs smoothly. One of the most important tools will be your timeline. I have included some helpful tips in writing your timeline:

1. Write your timeline in chronological order of the day with the day starting as early as when you wake up and shower. Don't forget your bridesmaids, groom, and groomsmen. They need guidance on when to arrive and the location. Don't assume that it is understood. A newsletter can be prepared ahead of time for your bridal party. (Example).

2. Include an address for each location which you instruct bridal party members and vendors report to. This will certainly help eliminate the chance of anyone getting lost or going to the wrong location. If you know you have bridal party members prone to getting lost, help em out! Provide a map!

3. Provide your vendors a contact number for the day of the wedding. This needs to be a person who can be reached no matter the time or what is taking place. It would be best if it were an aunt, cousin or close friend whom will be in bridal pictures and helping you dress. This will allow any last minute questions to be resolved with the highest level of efficiency.

4. Make your timeline as detailed as possible including set-up details (ex: where should the guest book be placed, how the napkin should be folded or how to place the table number in relation to the centerpiece), behind the scenes logistics (ex: time which the bartender will begin pouring champagne for the toast), transportation pick-up times and even a hair/makeup schedule for the bridesmaids.

5. Be realistic when timing your events for the day. Remember that even in a perfect world nothing happens in 5 minute increments. Talk to your pastor/officiant to get the exact estimated length of the ceremony as this will determine when your cocktail hour will start. Remember to include drive time to and from locations. And for most brides, you tend to walk a little slower in a wedding dress. This will need to be accounted for as well. At the reception, remember the following:
  • The time it takes for you to arrive and bustle your dress

  • Your guests will need adequate time to be seated

  • It roughly takes 3-4 minutes to introduce your bridal party

  • Toasts on average are only 1.5 - 2.5 minutes long. For those more passionate, a max of 3 minutes

  • If you have a photojournalist photographer, it will only take 4-6 minutes to cut the cake, 6-9 if there is a grooms cake

  • Post ceremony pictures should never take more than 30 minutes or else your bridal party and immediate family starts to get overly restless and less attentive causing the pictures to take longer

  • For hair and makeup - discuss this in detail with your stylist to accurately plan the timeline of service for the bridesmaids
  • To move through a 3 course meal, the wait staff on average should only take 45-50 minutes if they are adequately staffed. If you are having a soup, intermezzo or appetizer course, add on 15-20 minutes for each item.

6. For the purpose of logistics and set-up, call all your vendors 7-10 days prior to the wedding to confirm load-in and set-up details. This is information which will need to be included on the timeline for the reception venue. AND, most importantly, it will give you peace of mind. Make sure to have the vendors arrive in sequential order, linens first, flowers, lighting, cake and entertainment. It would certainly put a kink in the process to have the flowers arrive before the linens. Or worse, have the cake arrive before the lighting. It would be disastrous to have the lighting crew bump the cake table when running cords or lights. Remember to communicate to the florist when you will begin shooting pictures before the ceremony. The flowers will need to arrive 30 minutes prior to the photo start time to allow someone an opportunity to pin and distribute the personal flowers. Remember to confirm the exact count of flowers. (Photo credit: Serendipity Photography)

7. Include in your timeline drawings of your personal decor or unique detail items and how you would like them set-up. You've put so much thought and preparation into your wedding. This will be the last step in knowing it will come together exactly as you've envisioned.

8. To better assist your vendors, include in the timeline your "Must Take Photo" list for the photographer, specific shots the videographer should capture and the song list for the ceremony and reception.

9. Share your timeline with all those directly responsible for executing the details of your day. It will be important to email one to the venue coordinator, musicians/entertainment/DJ, church coordinator, photographer, videographer, florist and personal friends who are helping. Your vendors should receive the timeline at 5-7 days in advance.

10. And lastly, this item isn't directly related to the timeline, but very helpful. When organizing your personal decor items for set-up, pack your ceremony items in a separate box from the items for your reception. Remember to remove all price tags prior to packing them. Put Post-It note tags on all items stating exactly what the item is or intended for. Secondly, put a packing list on the outside of the box indicating what is inside the box. Lastly, inside the box, place a master checklist of the contents inside the box along with a description of the set-up. Second copies of the set-up would be helpful.

Included is an example of a timeline to get you started.

Blissfully Inspired,

Samantha Darr

Friday, November 19, 2010

Engagement Proposals: The How To on the Will You?

Alright guys, it's go time. You've met "The ONE" and now you're ready to pop the question. You've probably been racking your brain on deciding just how to surprise and the moment perfect. That's why I'm here to guide you along the way and give you a few pointers so you can come out looking like the savviest, most romantic man of her dreams.

There are a few things that are definite musts:

{Make It a Surprise} With more and more women coming along with their significant other to go ring shopping, the element of surprise might be non-existent. BUT, you can still make it happen guys! You know she's seen the ring and will be waiting on the edge of her seat. Whatever you do, don't buy the ring with her present. This is a financial transaction and truly a gift for her. When deciding just how to surprise her, there is an endless list of ways. For example, call her boss to arrange for her to have a day off. Book plane tickets to a romantic local. Ask a girlfriend to pack her overnight bag of essentials and send a limo to pick her up. All this is truly something she's not expecting. You could be waiting for her at the airport when the limo drops her off. This would make any girl absolutely gooshing with happiness.

{Stay Away From Cliches}There are a few ways to propose that are so cliche, it makes every woman cringe. Like putting the ring in a glass of champagne, having the waiter bring the ring out with the desert, proposing on Valentine's Day, etc. I know it's tempting, but resist the temptation.

{Ask Her Dad AND Mom for Their Blessing}It may sound a little traditional, but asking her Dad for his blessing will not only make your future fiance beaming with pride, but will make her Father feel like you truly respect him. To get even more brownie points with everyone, you should include her Mother as well. What better way to start your new life with their family?

{Cater to Her Personality} If your girlfriend is more on the private and quiet side, you definitely don't wanna propose with a lot of people around, like on a big screen at a baseball game (I'll talk about that in a minute guys)

{Listen to Her Hints} Women have a way of letting you know what she wants. Let's face it, we drop hints. Listen to them, this is your cheat sheet to making the proposal PERFECT. If she makes comments on a friend's proposal like "I can't believe he did it a beach, how beautiful and romantic." She obviously likes something like that but do not copy it. Her proposal should NOT be exactly the same as her friend. Get creative and think of a way to ask her that fits your personality and incorporates some experiences that you have shared together as a couple.
{Get Down on One Knee} I know this may sounds like common sense, but you'll be so engulfed in the moment that you'll probably keep standing while asking her to marry you. We've been thinking of that special moment since we were little girls so don't forget to get down on that knee!

{No Sporting Events}
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but women do not want to be proposed to at a baseball game, a football game, or any other kind of sporting event. Women like romance and pretty things and sporting events just don't have either.
{Hire An Expert} Yes, it's truly possible. If you're still feeling overwhelmed and a touch clueless, call an event planner to make all the details and plans for the evening. They can guide you in selecting just what will make your future fiance beam.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Real Wedding Part I: Stephanie + Ben

Over the past 10 months, my team and I have had the opportunity to plan, organize and manage some of the most incredible weddings. For me, one of the most fun parts of my role is to see all the details come together to create this magical evening. And yes, some may cringe at the word "magical" for being a bit too cheesey. However, for a Bride, there's nothing more amazing than seeing the details of their wedding right before their eyes while being surrounded by all of their loving family and friends.

To wrap up the year, I plan to share with you many of those weddings. One of the first I wanted to post was an incredibly fun couple from Dallas. Not only were they a fun couple to work with, but they two were athletes like myself and most of of the most romantic couples. Stephanie and Ben were complete smiles all throughout the process. On the day of the wedding, she absolutely glowed with happiness.

For their wedding, Stephanie and Ben chose a more classic, romantic look. Their colors were shades of white complimented by a more summery shade of steel blue. (Which has been a hot color for 2010 and will carry over to the winter 2010/early spring 2011. It's a good neutral tone.) This was a perfect compliment to reception venue's existing decor. Their invitations and complimenting stationary items were a couture letterpress design by Crane. While they chose some very richly designed components to their wedding, they chose to compliment in other ways with simple, equally elegant items. Their pew markers were clusters of baby's breather wrapped in a ivory satin ribbon. Normally, baby's breath would cause one to cringe at memories of the 80's prom coursage. However, in the past 12 months, baby's breath is being used in a more modern vintage way. For her dress, she wore a couture gown with her mother's veil.

Morgan Lynn captured the day with so many amazing pictures, I have had such a hard time selecting just a few to show you. I have decided to break it up into two post. Tomorrow, I will show you the details from the reception.

Wedding Day Recipe:

Church: St. Micheal Catholic Church
Reception: Courtyard on St. James
Photographer: Morgan Lynn Photography
Cake: Cakes by Gina
Flowers: Events in Bloom
Ceremony Music: Divisi Strings
Reception Entertainment: JM Productions
Linens: Elegant Beginnings
Hair/Makeup: The Perfect Face
Transportation: The Original Trolley Company
Host Hotel: Hotel Derek

Blissfully Inspired,
Samantha Darr