Remember those jars my mom and I spent weeks creating? They're no longer mine.
I remember walking into our venue on the morning of Sept. 1 and feeling stunned by how well everything was coming together, thanks to the early-morning efforts of our wedding planners, Kim and Meredith. The burlap runners, the jars wrapped in burlap, twine and lace, the simple and pretty daisies from Robyn's Nest, a Vermilion, Ohio florist, complemented each other and our log cabin venue, Vermilion on the Lake Historic Community Center, so well. (If you decide to book the same venue we did, Aunt Ruth's Family Store is right across the street and will deliver all of your bar needs.)
I recently sold the jars my mom and I made, along with the burlap runners, the burlap signs I created and more to a bride I know. It was a little bittersweet: A part of me was sad to let go of things that were crafted over so many weeks with my one and only parent during such a special time in my life. But the other part of me is happy to imagine those beautiful things bringing to life another couple's special day.The Bartering Bride now has a page, where those of you who *like* and follow it can be among the first to know when I post new blogs and perhaps divulge bigger plans for the brand I've built. I'm hopeful, too, that having a Facebook page will encourage more people to ask the wedding planning, bridal blogging and bartering questions on their mind. I've learned far too much NOT to share it.
With engagement season upon us (I don't know about you, but sparkly rings were cropping up on my Facebook feed for a while), I figure it's time for me to come out of blogging hibernation and share some of the best vendor decisions I made for my new husband and me. I know many of you newly engaged get right at it, after all.One thing I urge you not to do as those first price quotes roll in: expect the world for nothing. I said this during my recent chat with a magazine writer (who interviewed me about bridal bargaining and negotiating): Wedding vendors are small businesses, not nonprofits. They are here to share their talents and to make your wedding tasty, memorable and successful, but they also are here to feed their children, pay their mortgages and achieve financial success using the skills they've spent time and money to build.
I hear too often brides complain that wedding vendors take advantage of people getting married, that they charge WAY too much for photos and that they charge more for wedding cupcakes than they would for corporate events. Well, of course they might! Don't you want them to take extra care to ensure your once-in-a-lifetime event's treats are fresh, stunningly piped and delivered without a hitch? Shouldn't a cupcake baker, or a florist, or a photographer be prepared to meet your expectations, which likely are higher for your wedding day than they would be for a family reunion? Remember: You get what you pay for -- or barter for, of course!These were the cupcakes delivered by SweetPea Sinsations. We received so many compliments about these, even weeks after our Sept. 1 wedding. (All photographs in this blog are by our easy-to-work-with, talented and kind photographer, Ken, of Cavanaugh Photography. I could tell you all about his work, but I think I'll let it speak for itself.)
I also accidentally fed my new husband a cupcake liner. (There were two on each one -- who knew?!)
Jenn from SweetPea Sinsations was professional, had exquisite pride in her product and delivered to our venue. I never even saw her on our wedding day; she was in and out, took care of business and provided exactly what she promised she would in our barter agreement. You know who else I never saw the day of, but would hire again without hesitation? Elegant Assets Events. The linens were delivered early in the morning to our wedding planners, just as we asked and for every size table we needed, the linens were steamed on site as the company's owner promised they would be, and they were picked up at the end of the night. We asked their company to do very simple ivory tablecloths, but they do a heck of a lot more. See it all on the company's Facebook page.There are so many perks to hiring professionals to handle your wedding, not the least of which is having them take your event very seriously and deliver as they promised. And then, you may find as we did that some vendors OVER-deliver. Something New Entertainment was incredible. They impressed for all of the reasons we expected -- playing our party's music, manning our party's karaoke, which was sung on the best equipment we've ever used to sing, and really transforming our venue with amber uplighting. They played every song we selected for special moments, including for our outdoor ceremony, and they were right -- the wireless microphone they provided did ensure our vows were heard, loud and clear.Yes. We do take our karaoke seriously.
Something New Entertainment also designed and executed this lighted monogram on our dance floor, using the same fonts we used in our invites and printed materials. It may just be the journalist in me, but I think consistency, even in fonts, elevates an event.
Look at the uplighting they did, but better yet, look at the party Something New fostered. Photos like these are my absolute favorites because I wanted our family and friends to let loose and have fun, and it sure looks like they did.
Something New's Anna-Jeannine and Justin did more than handle the entertainment, though. They brought us water. They asked more times than I can count if they could do anything for us. They were there not just to do the job we hired them to do; they were there to ensure our wedding was a success in all ways they could.
I wouldn't hesitate to hire Tom's Country Place again, too. They catered our event, and the food was tasty, the mashed potato toppings bar was executed just like I requested, and importantly, their service was top-notch. Their staff was incredibly attentive. I kind of felt like a movie star. Empty plate on our table? Gone quickly. All night long.We struck gold with the vast majority of the people we paid or bartered with, and I think we did it in a few ways:
- One, we tried to be kind and transparent with our vendors. Isn't it easier to strive to do a great job for someone when you actually like them? So I tried to be the kind of bride people liked working for, albeit a bit Type A. That said, I made it abundantly clear what we wanted. No one can meet (or exceed) your expectations if they don't know what they are.
- Two, I did my research. I Googled these businesses. I read their blogs. I scanned reviews on various websites. I interviewed them myself. Though I didn't do this, one also could look up potential wedding vendors on the Better Business Bureau site in their region. I personally checked with the local health department to see which catering companies had clean records, and I also asked other brides what they wish they'd known when planning their own weddings in my 30 Days of Wedding Questions. You could do the same exact thing in your own geographic market. Harness the power of social media to your benefit.
- Finally, I didn't simply go cheap because we didn't have the money to hire high-caliber vendors. You get what you pay for in this world. The reason some photographers charge $2,000 for wedding coverage is because they've done enough of them, captured some pretty terrific images and generated enough buzz that the market will pay that price. Period. Of course, as you likely know, I bartered for vendors' work. I exchanged publicity on this blog for discounts. I did what I could to WORK for what we couldn't afford.
I'll leave you with a little more vendor love and some other vendor-selecting advice.Before Harleigh M. Hodge stood before our guests and married us, she met us to get to know us better, provided us with documents that helped us know how ceremonies are structured typically and also gave us page after page of readings we could select. Later, she recorded herself reading through the ceremony we wrote so we could hear her delivery before the big day. It felt like she really revels in the joy of weddings.
I loved that I wasn't yanking my heavy dress up all night long, and Miranda, my alterations expert, was easy to work with and suggested something I hadn't considered could be done: She transformed my gown into a sweetheart neckline, which I adored. That dress fit like a glove, thanks to her. And I found my bracelet and earrings in her adorable shop. Shoes? Payless. I never bought things for my wedding based on brand. I bought based on what I liked.
I love our wedding invite designer. Literally -- she's my sister. If you haven't seen the incredible invitations Stephanie designed, read this past post and see below. Of course, brides and grooms can order wedding invitations off any number of websites. But you also can hire a custom invitation designer (like my sister), who will listen to the type of event you are planning and create invites that reflect it. Ours were rustic (with a wood grain touch) and tied together with the same materials my mom and I tied around some centerpiece jars. Email my sister for more information.
This was a little detail, but such an affordable, nice added touch: my personalized hanger from Whiskey & Wedding Bells. Our wedding planners were clutch. Of course, they decorated the venue in the morning and distributed vendor checks and tips (yes, we still tipped most vendors with whom we bartered). But bottom line was this: It was nice to have Kim be there to handle the timing of everything, to direct people and answer questions, to help tear down at night. It was nice not to be the one people were turning to for instructions, and it was nice to let my mom be a guest at her daughter's wedding.When it comes to finding a wedding planner, you'll want to go with someone who fits your style of planning and orchestrating. Kim is caring, but serious as a heart attack, and, after all of the research and planning I did, I wanted someone to handle the day as if it were her own. She was on top of things all day and all night long.To say I am glad we had a florist for our event is an understatement. (And frankly, flowers were the wedding touch I might have cared about least.) For whatever reason (I'm no expert in floral matters, but I'm told it was all of the rain), this year's baby's breath did not smell nice. One of my co-workers told me he attended a wedding where the baby's breath smelled like body odor. If I had not hired Holly of Robyn's Nest, if I had just decided to buy and arrange wholesale flowers, I might not have known until our arrangements were cut and the whole venue smelled.But we did hire a professional, and she learned in a seminar mere weeks before our wedding that she'd need to swap all of our baby's breath for white daisies. And she did it for the same price she'd quoted us all along. This, folks, is why you hire professionals when you can. Yes, they can be more expensive than doing it yourself, but as you can see here, there are tangible and intangible reasons for their prices. Well before the baby's breath discovery, I'd been convinced to hire Holly because she has this nurturing sense about her (very calming for a Type A bride), and because she said she only works one wedding a day. Our event would be her focus. I think it showed. I'd never seen or heard the word delphinium until our wedding. I told Holly our groomsmen were wearing blue ties and Steven, a yellow one, and she knew just which flowers to match AND fit to our price range.Makeup and hair is one wedding service you can try on before the big day, and I did -- twice. In the end, the ladies of Fringe and Foundation Studio delivered on their promises: They arrived on time to the bed and breakfast where the girls and I met to get dressed, they finished every woman's look and even the looks for some who asked for one service or another last-minute, and when Allison said the product she used would keep the frizz at bay, she didn't exaggerate.
Despite it being 80 degrees and it misting rain throughout our day, see how tame my curls stayed?
Finally, one of my favorite vendors we hired is our videographer, the trained journalist, Ryan Loew. We just received our video and watched it last night, and I cried. A lot. It was incredible to be able to not just see images of our day, but to hear our loved ones' voices and watch them and us live our wedding. Ryan's camera work was superb and surprising -- in no way, shape or form was it run-of-the-mill or predictable. The way he weaved together moments of our day with an interview he videotaped that morning made our wedding videography fun and so sweet to watch.So there you have it: the men and women who made our wedding a professionally executed, memorable and happy event. To them, I say: Thank you very much, and I wish you many continued successes into the future. You deserve them. To those of you planning a wedding, I say: Hire them.
This year's top wedding colors, says Jessica Gabrenas, are bright. Pool blue. Neon green. Fuschia. Orange.And Jessica would know. Her company, Elegant Assets Events out of Elyria, offers a service I've not heard other linen companies advertise: They color-match, to ensure that a couple's linens match exactly the colors they're incorporating into their big day."We offer it because no one else does," she said. "Everybody seemed to have a book or a stack of swatches, and that was all they had."Elegant Assets has gone as far as importing material from vendors overseas, or making linens themselves, to ensure a match.
Jessica's website explains: "In the process of planning my own wedding, I saw a need for honest, down-to-earth service that provided professional options with affordable pricing. I since have obtained my MBA and am working to expand Elegant Assets as a one-stop shop for event services in our area."
Before I go any further, I want to share: Elegant Assets is offering 10% off their services to anyone who mentions The Bartering Bride blog. So, scroll down to see their work, like what you see (because I'm confident you will) and email Jessica soon!
Given that our wedding colors are namely ivories and browns (the whole rustic motif), Elegant Assets is delivering to our venue simple, floor-length, ivory tablecloths. (We have a pale yellow and Dallas Cowboys-esque blue involved in the women and men's attire and flowers outside, but inside the log cabin venue, we're keeping it natural.)It was my bridesmaid, Katie, who convinced me to rent linens rather than buy. "Wouldn't it be 'smarter' to buy my own linens and then resell them?" I'd asked her. I told her simultaneously that Elegant Assets builds into its pricing delivery, on-site steaming and teardown, which would mean I wouldn't have to worry about a thing, theoretically.Katie was adamant. Time is money, she told me, and you'll have enough to worry about without buying your own linens, transporting them there and steaming them, or leaving them wrinkled.She's right; sometimes in the planning of the first, and often only, large orchestrated event of a woman's life, she needs to be reminded that if you can pay someone else to not only do something for you, but to eliminate a worry you might have had otherwise, that's more than worth it. So, Elegant Assets is hired.Jessica founded the company in 2010 after she found herself feeling disappointed in the "overpriced" offerings on the market when her husband and she wed. "Every little thing was extra," she told me. "Mileage costs, setup, removal."So, she did what I was planning to do and bought her own linens. But, she says, she learned the hard way that linens, while seeming simple, can take an inordinate amount of time to arrange."The day of my wedding, I wanted to pull my hair out," Jessica said. "I was like, 'Oh my goodness, what did I do?' I had my mother, my sister, all of us crawling on the floors. Our bows were crooked. It took us about 6.5 hours to set up the chair covers. I was running in circles, trying to micromanage."I never want my brides to freak out," she told me. "You'll see in September."There's nothing that sets this bride more at ease than a vendor with confidence. And, Jessica has going for her company not just the color-match (something she chose to do because so many brides voice disappointment with the inability of others to match the colors they've chosen), but she also has a price-match.It's simple, but it goes a long way with penny-pinching brides like me: If, even after you've contracted with Elegant Assets, you find someone offering a better price than Elegant Assets did initially, they'll match that better price. It's a business model rooted in Jessica's own experience as a bride: "I really was wary to sign any contracts," she remembered. "I always felt I was going to go somewhere else and find something better."Without further ado, here is some of the past work of Elegant Assets, which, by the way, offers lighting, draperies and backdrops, too. I'd not seen a chair sash quite like this before:
And is drapery not super romantic?
While Steven and I would love a burlap backdrop (OK, I'm sure Steven hasn't thought once about it, so maybe it's just my wish, lol), it's one of those would-if-we-could items. Like the following image, though, we have chosen to have a sweetheart table, where we alone will sit -- one, so that we can spend time together, since so many people have told me the day passes by in the blink of an eye, and two, so our bridal party can sit with their dates and/or their friends, rather than at a head table where, frankly, I'm not sure many people can converse anyway. (My own perspective. To each their own!)
Elegant Assets is providing full service linens for our wedding, but they offer a do-it-yourself option, too, wherein they'd deliver all of the items to you, including a steamer for your own use, and leave you responsible for returning the items the following Monday.I asked Jessica: What's the biggest mistake couples tend to make involving linens? She replied that not paying attention to the way that linens can finish your look can result in an unfinished, disjointed feel to a room. From her perspective (of course!), linens mean a lot to the overall look of your venue. I've heard former brides say the same in answers to my 30 Days of Wedding Questions."Everything fits together like a puzzle," she said. "If you leave out one piece, then it's not money spent very well."
The final vendor we contracted with was our limo company. After much indecisiveness, I decided the cost would be worth avoiding multiple cars getting lost in multiple ways, thus, delaying our grand entrance and the start of our party. We do not want to keep our guests waiting.Additionally, I won't lie: Having a limo bus sounds fun. I like the idea of sharing the time inside one with our mothers and our closest friends. So, after gathering multiple quotes from area limo companies, we've selected Lifestyle Limousine Service, which came recommended by my bridesmaid, Amy. Carl the Limoman's rates were the most reasonable rates out there, and he suggested a limo bus because it's easier to get out of (especially when wearing a wedding dress) than a lower-to-the-ground limo.As I hunted for our limo, I learned a few questions to ask: One, does the company have a business license? Two, does it have a livery sticker on the limo (or proof of insurance)? What is its vehicle substitution policy, and what's its minimum booking? (Most say four hours.) Oh, and how many people can fit into the vehicle?Now that I've introduced these vendors, I only have three more and you've met the entire vendor cast for our impending nuptials. I cannot believe how time has flown. Truly. My focus now is on creating our burlap runners, framing signs for the venue, contacting guests who haven't RSVP'd (hint!) :], making sure vendors are paid when vendors need to be paid and assembling our programs.
Brides who've been here: What were the loose ends you spent your final weeks tying up? What did you forget altogether?!