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.
 
I love it when a plan comes together.

As I browsed the pictures I took during a recent visit to the venue with the Husband-To-Be, my little sister and designer extraordinaire, Stephanie, and my event-planning friend, Katie, I realized: We have chosen most of the vendors  who will transform this wonderful place into our wedding. So, so happy to have such an incredible *cast*!

Capturing it all will be Cavanaugh Photography, which recently gave us access to all of our engagement proofs. We are thisclose to selecting which will be the image for our save-the-dates.

Doesn't this stage seem built for the karaoke and DJing Something New Entertainment will deliver?
And we're excited to have Bill the Bartender behind this rustic bar, too. Nice and spacious:
Here's where our officiant (whom I will introduce in my next blog entry) will marry us. Interestingly, those who get married here have to pay a fairly nominal fee for security because otherwise, there's really nothing separating guests from the cliff into the lake (except common sense, lol):
We still are looking for ideas as to how we can transform this simple gazebo into something rustic and whimsical, perhaps using fabric of some sort. Have some thoughts? I await your email: mrandmrslazette@yahoo.com.

There's another vendor I have yet to introduce: OUR CATERER!! But I'm waiting until our taste tests, which are scheduled for January, so I can show off their food. Our wedding meal will be served up for our guests in this enclosed patio overlooking Lake Erie. We figured it'd be a nice view for people to take in while they wait. I'm not revealing our menu yet, but here's a clue: Every plate will be completely customized to each person's tastes.
What remains to be determined is what style and color flowers we'll use. My mom is somewhat allergic to flowers that possess strong scents, so I'll need a florist's opinion on which would least harass her. (Hint, hint: If you're a florist with ideas, I'd love to hear from you!)

I also am contemplating crafting one or more of the 40 DIY projects presented here. Namely some variation of numbers 3, 13, 20 and 21. Maybe you'll see some ideas you like?

In the meantime, I am quite pleased with the collection of pickle, spaghetti and Mason jars we've amassed, as well as the 20+ tree slabs. We're planning to outfit each table with an ivory linen and a contrasting lace overlay, topped with three tree slabs and an assortment of twine- and lace-wrapped jars, a la this (though we only had two slabs during this particular visit):
A word to the wise: Always take a second (or third) walk through your venue, especially if you're responsible for the decorative vision. Top reason I'm glad we did? It solidified for us that chair covers are a MUST:
Waiting to hear why this blog's title references a bear? Behold, our furry friend. My handsome HTB joked that we should dress him up. There will be no toying with the big, dead bear, I retorted.
I guess, when you ask for rustic, a taxidermic animal isn't such a stretch.
 
The Bartering Bride might not exist at all were it not for a Facebook message I received on May 17 from Anna-Jeannine with Something New Entertainment. She became the first to prove to me that this could work, that there are vendors who will barter.

Anna-Jeannine had seen that I'd posted on a Today's Bride message board about wanting to write/edit in exchange for wedding services. Did we still need a DJ? she asked.

We did. In fact, at the time, we'd not found any vendors for the wedding. The Husband-to-Be had only asked me to marry him a month and a day earlier. We were just getting started!

Given that Something New Entertainment is very plugged in (i.e., everywhere), I was THRILLED to hear from her. In fact, just last week, they were recognized as one of the top 10 wedding entertainment companies in
Beacon's Best 2012, compiled by the Akron Beacon Journal.

As a new mom, Anna-Jeannine explained to me that she could use a hand in writing her company's blogs.

"At the time you posted your inquiry, my son was just a few weeks old, and I really needed help with some writing," she told me. "I love to write, so delegating any writing tasks was NOT easy for me, but it just seemed like the universe was sending me a message: 'PSST!  Anna-Jeannine!  You need her and she needs you.'"

I am so lucky and grateful that she did.
Fast forward some weeks, and we'd signed a contract, setting forth that I would ghost-write nearly 20 blogs for her, and she would provide DJ, uplighting and karaoke services for our big day. Here's an example of one such blog. And here's another.

Oh, and here's Anna-Jeannine:
Anna-Jeannine and her husband, Justin, operate the company, which has been contracted as far south as Florida and as far west as Denver, but does 97 percent of its engagements within 40 miles of Akron, where the company is headquartered.
One of the perks of bartering with your wedding vendors, I've discovered, is you get to know them a whole lot better. I interview Anna-Jeannine for the blogs I write, so I have more than a surface understanding of her passion for the work she does and the clients she serves. I know we're in the very best of hands.

"I have never had a job where I really felt that I was using all my skills, until now!" she told me recently. "I love my work -- it's less like a 'job' and more like a 'calling.'"

It makes sense, considering that Anna-Jeannine is a trained theatrical designer and technician, and a musical theatre performer, musician, singer, actor and more. She's studied theatre arts and theatrical design at the undergraduate and graduate levels, plus she can MARRY you, too!

I'm working on a blog for Something New Entertainment about what brides and grooms should look for in DJs. Here are some take-aways from Anna-Jeannine:

*Watch out for someone who tells you repeatedly how they usually do things. Do you really want your event to mimic others' events? (Not me!)
*Beware the do-it-yourself mentality. DJs aren't just playing music. They're announcing your arrival, coordinating your important dances and making sure things keep moving. Here's a look at why some in the business call DIY destroy it yourself.
*Finally, make sure to ask what happens if your DJ falls ill or cannot make your party for some other reason. (Something New Entertainment always has staff on call for such occurrences.)

They also have a handy online portal where clients can browse their entire music library, connect to samples of songs, get song suggestions for special events, create song lists for "must plays," "do not plays," and dedications, and customize their itinerary.

What would be a "must play" or "do not play" for your wedding day? Or what were they?