The husband-to-be and I are compiling two lists currently: our must-shoot list for our photographer, and our must-shoot list for our videographer. 

I know this: I want Cavanaugh Photography and our videographer, Ryan Loew, to capture all of our day's little details: the jars my mom and I spent many a night gluing and crafting, the signs my friend, Lauren, has designed that we will frame. I won't reveal all of the signs we've made (because I want some to be a surprise for our lovely guests), but here's one:
An editor of mine who teases me for being a tad wedding-consumed was incredulous when I mentioned we have this.

"Michelle, this is what I mean," she sighed. "You made a cupcake key?"

So I explained myself: I've been to events where several varieties of cupcakes were served, but no one knew what the pretty little things were. So, I asked Lauren to look at my blog post about our cupcakes and draw cartoon versions of them for pairing with descriptions provided by our culinary school-trained baker, Jenn with SweetPea Sinsations. (Speaking of Jenn, I pick up her finished Story of Your Life, which I bartered for cupcakes, on Monday!)


In case you decide to make and frame signs for your big day, too, we've found an easy way to make sure all of our different size frames match in color. I picked up some fairly cheap, raw wood frames from Jo-Ann Fabrics and dark brown spray paint. Then, Steven got to work today.
They now are drying on the patio.

On to our videographer, whom I have yet to introduce. Ryan Loew actually attended Kent State University's journalism school with me back in the day. Like me, Ryan is a working journalist who puts his skills to use outside his full-time position for brides and grooms. He is the EXACT type of videographer I wanted for our big day because he does much more than pointing, shooting and piecing film together in the order it happened.


He interviews people and inserts their reflections. His cinematography and composition are gorgeous. He intertwines B-roll and images with the video and audio he captures on the big day. 

Want to see what I mean? Click here, and scroll down to the second video. Fast forward to 10:25, and watch how Ryan blends the conclusion of this couple's emotional ceremony with their first married moments. And that shot beneath the leaves? Swoon! It's art AND journalism. His focus on the details (both in subject matter and in execution) produces the only form of videography I'd pay for. Lucky me, I knew him and thus knew it could be done! 

Same video, scroll to 19:37, and watch how Ryan does what any journalist is taught to do: show, not tell. The end of this couple's video is so fitting. He allows their personalities to shine without narration, without audible leading. I can't say enough about how excited I am to see what he captures on our day.

There again, I don't have to say much. Click on the first video on the same page, and scroll to one of my favorite parts: 2:40. The story of what this couple faced down is touching and heartwarming, and the way Ryan led them to tell it just works. 

Oh, and want to see the best recovery ever by a minister who accidentally speaks the wrong name for the groom? Watch from 7:05 to 8:20. 

Here's Ryan. 
He's a Pittsburgh-based visual journalist who shoots one or two weddings a year. I'm brimming with excitement that we fit into his 2013 schedule. (Remember, he has a full-time journalism job, so like my sister and me, this is work he does all year, only a lot more outside weddings than inside them.)

(For those of you who don't know, my sister is a working magazine designer, and I'm a working newspaper journalist, and together we offer her design and my writing to clients through Story of Your Life, which we co-founded in 2011.)

When Ryan started shooting weddings, for which he offers both full-day and half-day coverage, he told me he wanted to bring something different.


"I approach it as, let me tell your story as opposed to shooting your wedding," Ryan said. "I approach a couple's wedding as though it's an assignment or a story I'm working on. When they watch that video, I don't want them just to see that day. I want them to see themselves."

These are the types of stories Ryan says he enjoys doing most as a journalist: those about people.

Couple Ryan's intentions with his tools (DSLRs, large sensor cameras and cinematic tools such as dollies and steadicams), and the end product is a modern, high-definition video including the feature (which hones in on the key moments) and other separate video he knows brides and grooms want to see again in their entirety, such as toasts and the ceremony. 

While he wouldn't say it's a regret, Ryan wishes his wife and he had video from their Aug. 23, 2008 nuptials. 

"It just wasn't in our budget," he said. "I would really love to, five years later, watch some video of that. I have memories (and) you can look at photos, but it's just not the same as seeing things, hearing people laugh."

Frankly, were it not for all of the people who've shared with me that they were sorry that they hadn't hired a videographer, I probably simply would've written it off as something we couldn't afford. But I guess I'm of the mindset that not having it and later wishing we did is a greater cost than finding a way to afford it now. They say the day flies by. I'm glad we'll have video for remembering and relishing all of our special moments for years to come.

I already cannot wait to see ours for the first time. Watching these other couples' videos, I'm struck by how close we are to our own vows, to our own party, to the unfolding of all of these details I've researched and worked to make happen for the man I love so much and our family and friends. 
 
Last week, after confirming that our florist had received our final payment, I asked her (as I ask all of our vendors) if she needs anything else from me in advance of our big day. Her response made me smile.

"No. I don't worry about you like I worry about most brides." 
Me: "Did you receive the timeline of our day?"

That, she replied, is why she doesn't worry about me. The timeline accounts for every little thing: hair and makeup, flower pinning, toasts. I've edited it several times based on feedback from our vendors, whom I've relied on to tell me if we are allotting enough time for our ceremony, for first look photography, for all of these things I've never planned before.

As an example, I had been planning to get to the venue much closer to our start time, until I was reminded by one of my wedding planners that I'll need to be inside and out of sight of early bird guests. Valid!

I am privy to invaluable advice, know-how and some very fitting accessories for our wedding because I've hired Kimberly Lehman from Love, Laughter & Elegance, Wedding and Event Planning out of Massillon and Meredith Masaveg from Rain Wedding Planning in Painesville. They answer my questions, Kim has sent me wedding ideas for months now and they both will report the morning of to decorate the venue.

Here's Kim, at a few weddings she helped coordinate. She did seven last year, and is available to help brides in all of Ohio and contiguous states.
"I've been obsessed with weddings since I was about 12," Kim said. "All I had to do was watch Princess Diana get married. That was it, that's all it took for me to get hooked. I guess I believe in the fairy tale for everyone."

In exchange for a Story of Your Life, created by the company I co-own with my sister, Kim and Meredith are Steven's and my wedding planners. Kim will serve as what the industry calls our "day-of coordinator," and Meredith will help decorate the venue and lend us some cute, rustic cupcake towers, among other things. I've provided Kim and Meredith with a drawing of how we want the venue site arranged and a description of our centerpieces, and they will decorate the ceremony and reception sites, using the jars my mom and I made and a lengthy list of other items Kim will pick up from us soon. She also will deliver to each of our vendors remaining payments that need made, manage any issues and hiccups that may arise and tear down at the end of the night.

I am very much a do-it-myself type of woman because I would rather do things on my own rather than badger others to do them the way I want them done. But, I can tell I can trust Kim. She is extremely detail-oriented. She took notes during our recent venue visit. She's collected all of our vendor contracts from me, plus the names and numbers of our bridesmaids, groomsmen and mothers.

I know there are many brides who don't hire planners. But I have my reasons for hiring Kim and Meredith. 

1) I didn't want my family and friends to lift a finger to execute our day. I wanted them to be our guests, to experience that magic I've felt walking into a venue and seeing the finished space without having made it the finished space.

Kim actually told me she felt bad after she put her mom to work on her wedding day 14 years ago. "When I saw my mom running around the day of the wedding, trying to keep tabs on the caterer, on the bridal party, I thought, 'This isn't fair to her,'" she recalled. "My mom should be beaming as the mother of the bride, enjoying every moment. This wasn't fair to her."

2) I wanted someone who would handle any issues that arise. Someone running late? I don't want to have to deal with it. Selfish as it might sound, I want to savor every moment of this day, not fuss over the details. People tell me it flies by, so I don't want to waste time worrying.

3) Wedding planners have know-how, experience in tackling issues in a graceful, effective manner, wedding materials a bride can borrow and industry connections. The shepherds hooks from which we're hanging jars of flowers along the aisle will be borrowed from Meredith, too.

Here's what a shepherds hook looks like (courtesy of The Knot):
Getting married this year, or even this month? Both Kim and Meredith offer day-of coordination separate from full and partial wedding planning services, so it's not too late to hire a helping hand. 

Kim's one-woman business was founded in 2000. She prides herself on her ability to organize and to keep people on schedule. And she's thoughtful, too. When we had our planning meeting a few months ago, she brought me a pretty, bright plant. It survives on my patio, despite my inability to remember to water it.
I asked both Kim and Meredith for their wedding planning advice, so I could share it. Kim stressed the need to be organized and to delegate where possible.

"The best kind of wedding is one from the heart," Meredith told me. "The worst kind of wedding is when you forget that it comes down to two little words -- 'I do' -- when you worry that you have to have the best of everything and if something doesn't go right, your day is ruined. In my book, everything else is just a party. Mission accomplished if you both say, 'I do.'"

Meredith founded Rain Wedding Planning in 2008. The company employs four, including her. She named it Rain because, "as the old wives' tale goes, rain on your wedding is good luck."

Tangent time: Rain on our wedding day would derail our plans for an outdoor ceremony. Steven, my husband-to-be, is wrapping up a collegiate class in statistics, and one day last week spent an hour analyzing 50 years of weather information for the city where we will wed on the date that we will wed. (We are nerds, we know.)

Here were his results:

  • The average high temperature: 78.72 degrees
  • There's a 52% chance that it will be at least 80 degrees (a bit warmer than I'd prefer)
  • There is a 68% chance that our day's temperature will fall between 71.71 (yes, please) and 85.74 degrees (sizzle)
  • 68% of the time in the 50-year period, it didn't rain on our date in this city (oh Mister Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun...)
  • There's a 92% chance that there will not be significant rainfall (woo!)

"So it seems like a very fat chance it's going to be a rainy, thunderstorm-y kind of a day," my meteorologist informed me.

My ideal would be 70 to 75 degrees and sunny. (Please, Mother Nature?) But, if you married on a very warm day or a rainy day, feel free to comment below and tell me how you coped. How'd you cool off? Best stayed dry?

Back to Meredith. This is her at a wedding she coordinated, and the second image is of a wedding she set up. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.
Meredith's favorite part of a wedding is when it hits a couple "that they had their perfect day." The part she enjoys most, she continued, is being able to take someone's idea and executing it the day of so that they and their friends and family can be guests. It makes sense, she noted, that it'd be easier for a wedding planner to remember all of the things that need to get done because they aren't as emotionally involved as the bride and groom.

"Don't forget that those friends and family who have offered their services (for a wedding) are going to want to have the guest's experience," she told me. "Somewhere down the road, they mentally check out. They have a guest mentality, rather than a vendor mentality.

"It's my job to worry about how things are going to get done," Meredith continued. "If there's a problem, I have to fix it. Something that would fall on somebody else's shoulders, it falls on mine."

When our big day arrives, I'll be happy to eat what minimal breakfast I (and my rabid butterflies) can stomach and have my hair and makeup done and my dress slipped on, all the while surrounded by my family and friends and knowing that the decorating, vendor coordination, solving of problems and general management of the largest party I've ever planned are in the hands of two people who've been there, done that.

Sound good? Ask Kim or Meredith what they can do for you.
 
Here it is: the final magazine my sister and I completed as part of our barter with Cavanaugh Photography. (Have I mentioned how generous she's been?!) As with the wedding and senior portrait magazines, I interviewed the Cavanaughs and a few of their clients and wrote all of the text, and Steph designed it. Isn't her work (and the Cavanaughs') simply stunning? 

If you own a business and want something similar, I think it's safe to say we're open to doing more.
And now, a look at our invites! We included a quotation from "The Notebook" that really speaks to Steven and me; a map with directions to the venue, hotel information and places to dine and things to do; and a fun Mad Lib RSVP card that asks, among other things, if guests have foods they can't or won't eat and songs they'd like to hear or even karaoke. Once everything was printed and delivered by Vistaprint, we tied everything together with twine and burlap thread.
Excuse the blur. I made my sister do it for privacy reasons, and she makes me tell you that they looked clear, not blurry. 

Have a special event coming up and want custom invitations? Email my sister. (You can hire her no matter where you are, since design and edits can happen virtually.) 


Word to the wise on invitations: Remember that you do not need 80 envelopes or 80 postcard stamps or 80 Forever Stamps if you're inviting 40 people with a guest. Steven and I may or may not be sending anything and everything we can in brown envelopes to use up a stack of them that a certain someone, who surely suffers from wedding brain and shall remain nameless, purchased. Oops.

And finally, a word to the wise for those of you receiving invitations this wedding season, or next year and so on: RSVP, on time. I have a friend who also shall remain nameless who's had to try to track down guests who haven't RSVP'd for her wedding, which is in days. The postage is paid for you. A date by which the couple needs your reply is kindly provided. 

Here's why RSVPing is important: For one, brides and grooms have enough on their plate without needing to track down adults and ask them whether they can make it, what food they'd like served, etc. If you're forgetful (and I am the QUEEN of forgetfulness, so I get it), write the wedding date and the RSVP deadline in your planner. Or put it in your smart phone. Whatever will make you remember.

I can't speak for my friend, but your RSVPing on time for our wedding tells us:
  • You are coming, and maybe so, too, is a date.
  • What you can't or won't eat so we can accommodate your allergies or your veganism. We also, upon receiving your RSVP, know to include you in our headcount for alcohol and cupcakes.
  • Ultimately how many tables we'll need, and with that, how many linens we'll pay to rent, centerpieces we'll need to have arranged, chairs we'll need to have set up for the outdoor ceremony, etc.
  • That you are excited enough to keep it top of mind! :] We're eager beavers when it comes to checking the mailbox. Every day. Even with the RSVP deadline weeks away.

I feel genuinely sorry that I didn't RSVP for others' weddings as promptly as I will now that I've planned my own party and understand why it's so important. In fact, I'm fairly positive that from now on, I will compete to be the very first response a couple receives. 
 
The husband-to-be and I are on a smoothie binge. Banana strawberry. Mixed berry. Cherry. And this morning: pineapple strawberry.

Made with fat-free Greek yogurt, frozen fruit and whey protein, all of them make a surprisingly filling, carb-free breakfast. I have Steven, armed with the Ninja blender I gave him for our "askiversary," to thank for it.
Askiversary, you might ask? April 16 marked a year since my best friend asked me to marry him, and we celebrated. Given how much Steven enjoys the smoothies from Liquid Planet, but also given how frugal he likes to be, I had a suspicion that he'd enjoy his very own blender with which he can make smoothies at a fraction of the retail price.

If the frequency with which he's used said blender to make smoothies and hummus is any indication, I do believe I've scored. :]

The before:
And the [yummy] after:
It was sweet to take some time -- in the midst of everything we have going on, not the least of which is wedding planning -- to enjoy each other and to celebrate the question that started it all.

Both of us ended up using anniversary cards as "askiversary" cards for the day -- something I suspect will become a tradition unless greeting card companies wise up to the need for "askiversary" cards, ha. Great minds, as they say, think alike!
I've been quite busy on the wedding planning front. After writing probably a half dozen hairdressers and bugging out when most of them said they were booked for our date, I've hired an incredible hairdresser and soon will share pictures from my first hair and makeup trial. We also have chosen our florist (more on her later) and ordered and received our invitations and RSVP cards (wait until you see them; we did mad lib!), and I am working out the menu with our caterer and have found a jeweler who's creating commissioned pieces for my big-day look (lucky me).

All the while, of course, The Bartering Bride continues to work for her amazing vendors. I'll leave you with this, the e-magazine I wrote and my giving sister designed for Steven's and my photographer. I made sure that it's chock-full of advice for brides, so please read up!
Suffice it to say, Cavanaugh's one to call -- now -- if you need a photographer.
 
It's official! The Bartering Bride (yes, I'm speaking about myself in third person) officially signed her fourth bartering contract this weekend. This one is in addition to the contract I've signed with our DJ, our photographer and our officiant, and it buys us the talent and time of a culinary school-trained baker. She will be crafting six varieties of gourmet cupcakes for our big day, and I'll be introducing her (and the delectable flavors) to all of you very soon.

People tend to ask me two questions when I reveal that I'm doing this: 1) How do I work full time while planning a wedding, blogging about planning a wedding and bartering for the wedding while co-owning a business with my sister, and 2) How do I find vendors who will barter?


The answer to the first is useful advice for any bride, I have to imagine: I take each day as it comes. Really. I have colossal to-do lists, and I take them on as I can. In recent weeks, I've spent more time on the phone with more caterers than I care to admit, met with a chair cover company that says it's willing to order burlap chair sashes to complement the table runners that my mountain of burlap someday will become, met with a florist to conceptualize our plans and talked bartering over coffee with a videographer.

Keeping an organized day planner doesn't hurt. This doesn't either: Recently, as the stress of not having a caterer closed in (we only have about a half year to go, after all), I've reminded myself to ENJOY this -- yes, the planning -- too. It's a privilege to get to plan a wedding. It means I've found someone I'm in love with who loves me back.

As for how I find vendors with whom to barter, it's very similar to how any bride finds her vendors (I presume). Email. Phone calls. Bridal shows. But, unlike most brides, I throw in an additional question: Do you have a need for a writer or editor? Lucky for me, some vendors even want a Story of Your Life.

It's extremely important to make sure that a vendor who says s/he wants to barter REALLY wants the barter. If you've been following this blog since the beginning, you might remember that I talked with a photographer for more than a month and drafted a contract, only to find out that she really wasn't interested. So now, when I meet with a vendor, I'm very up-front. I make sure the project I would tackle for them is truly something they want. You can tell.

Speaking of bartering projects, my sister (and maid of honor) and I recently completed one of the three digital magazines we're creating for Cavanaugh Photography. This one is targeted to prospective high school senior portrait clients. Here's the cover:
And these are the inside spreads, written by me based on my interviews with Ken and Natalie Cavanaugh, plus some of their former clients: 
And last but not least, the page that describes the people and family behind Cavanaugh Photography:
Our work is nowhere near done! We now are designing the wedding photography magazine for them, and by we, I mean my incredible sister, Stephanie, who's agreed to help me barter so I can secure one of the best photographers in Northeast Ohio. I'm a lucky woman in more ways than one.

If I haven't answered your question about bartering, feel free to email me -- mrandmrslazette@yahoo.com -- or comment below. Bartering is hard work (way harder than writing a check), so if you do barter, make 110% sure that what you receive in the end will be a quality, worthwhile addition to your big day.