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?!
 
"You don't expect me to smile, do you?" Steven teased me as he agreed to stand still for a picture at the entrance of the one place I'm sure every football fan wants to be during playoff weekend: Northeast Ohio's largest bridal show. He flashed his best version of surly man. Then, victimized man. Tell me that face doesn't make you laugh.
Having exhibited at the Today's Bride I-X Center show last year, I knew it was going to be one crowded, creative place. And, I was right. Peacock feathers found their place on cakes AND table settings,
and there was crystal-encrusted everything, plus this very sparkly setup:
With so much already chosen for our rustic wedding, the Husband-To-Be and I attended the show to find inspiration for those things we have yet to nail down (flowers, chair solutions and invitations).

I've received quotes from florists, but those quotes aren't probably as accurate as they could be because I never know how to answer the question: What do you want? When I daydream about how that day this fall will unfold, it's not flowers I see: It's his face upon seeing me. It's our friends and family enjoying a good meal and letting loose inside a candlelit, energetic dance party.

We walked away with new ideas from our visit with Vince from Forest Woods. For one, we think this bouquet is gorgeous:
And when I asked Vince what is the most common mistake couples make in choosing flowers, he said having their hearts set on off-season flowers. Have second choices, he advised. 

He also planted a seed: One budget-friendly way to keep things simple and pretty for the one Mason jar we plan to fill with flowers on each table is to use Baby's Breath, Vince suggested. Upon looking at the bunch he had on display (below), I started to believe that Baby's Breath might make for a pretty, little touch to tables decked with ivory tablecloths, dark brown burlap runners, tree trunk slabs and lace-wrapped jars. Can you see it?
Carolyn from The Finishing Touch had on display a dark brown, cotton chair cover that would fit a wedding as rustic as ours so much better than most of the satin chair covers we've seen that seem to ooze elegance.
A certain Cleveland Browns fan I know started talking about the perfection of the colors at play here, which gave way to the perfect opportunity to ask: Could Carolyn do something more rustic for the sashes?

Carolyn's response has me hopeful that we've found the solution to the seriously ugly chairs our venue provides (described and pictured here). She told us that while she doesn't currently have lace or burlap sashes to use with the covers, she'd be open to obtaining them since rustic weddings are all the rage right now.

If that could happen, I think it's safe to say we'd be happy to take advantage of the 10% off discount we received ... today.

Other inspirations included one for my curls,
the idea of providing a timeline to guests,
and this hot chocolate wedding favor idea, which seems like it would be relatively inexpensive and straightforward to make, but also fits our wedding theme and offers a source of warmth for the brutal cold Northeast Ohio often delivers this time of the year. 
Last but not least, I received some jewelry insight from Nichole of Frosting Accessories, who actually names some of her custom jewelry pieces after the brides for whom she designs them. How does a bride pick jewelry to complement a dress she can't wait to wear and searched hard to find? I asked her.

She first recommended keeping true to the type of jewelry you typically wear, to which I said: What if my ring is about the only jewelry I typically wear? 

The gown, then, will be the starting point for inspiration, she replied.

I wrapped up our conversation, asking if she creates jewelry using a certain type of material, the identity of which I won't reveal because, well, the HTB does read this, and there's a very dress-related reason I asked.

Tomorrow, we taste-test cupcakes. Among the flavors we'll be biting into are an apple caramel, complete with apple compote filling, and chocolate pumpkin filled with pumpkin cream cheese. More on these and the barter I've arranged with this culinary-trained baker later.

A final note: If you haven't heard of the Boutique Bridal Bazaar, you should click here. It's a small, intimate show with vendors committed to keeping you creative. Mark your calendars: Jan. 20!


Oh, and as for the boy who met the bridal world today, he concedes: "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be." 
 
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?
 
Meet Bill.
He's been tending bar off and on since he was 21, and now, he'll be tending ours. What cinched this deal was a combination of Bill the Bartender's experience and his overt desire to please and work within our budget. (Never, ever hesitate to ask for a discount; more vendors are willing to do it than you might expect.)

We found Bill's business card at the venue the first time we toured it. The venue has a bar, and the ability to bring in our own alcohol was attractive (it helps keep costs down). But we definitely wanted someone behind the bar, keeping things sane, clean and, well, did I mention sane?

When Bill offered to stay within our budget and emailed us information about how much alcohol he'd suggest we buy for the number of guests we expect, he established himself not only as flexible but as a resource, too.

"I never truly liked the corporate world of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.," Bill wrote to me. "Bill the Bartender was officially created during a shift at a restaurant. A regular asked me for recipes to ‘umbrella drinks.'  I told her she needed a bartender. And as they say, the rest is history."
 
That was October 2004. Today, those who hire Bill can expect him to show up with his portable bar, garnishes and mixers and a canopy, in case an outdoor bar is desired. He also has a staff of part-timers upon whom he calls when second and third bartenders are needed.

"Your guests should not have to wait for drink service," he said. "Understand that the first ‘slam’ at the bar is always stressful, but leave it up to me to keep the line moving."
 
Will do, Bill. If you, too, desire a bartender who comes across as incredibly eager to please and helpful, click here.

And now, an unrelated story:

I received my first "gifted" glass jar from a coworker last week. Then, I went and bought pasta sauce, a different brand than ever before because I liked the jar.
Then, using whole wheat pasta (see previous blog), I whipped up a turkey sausage pasta dish for me and Handsome.
And then, there were two!
 
I had begun to think that expecting to walk into a place and know instantly it was THE PLACE was idealistic and unrealistic. Then, today, I stepped inside here and knew.
Choosing a venue has been a task. Without naming names (because it's no one's fault that we cannot afford most venues), here's a summary of our search:

A few weeks ago, we met with a caterer and salivated over the pasta station, the fajita station and the crepe station their event planner described. Then, we learned that the cost of the food ALONE would fall a few hundred dollars short of our entire budget.

On to the next.

This past Saturday, we went to see a fairly well-known and frequently suggested venue about 45 minutes away from Cleveland. It had a lot of character and a pavilion by the lake for ceremonies, and its pricing was more reasonable. In fact, everything included (food, alcohol and service) totaled what the first place's food totaled, which meant it was more affordable but still cost-prohibitive.

Also, though the event planner there showed interest in my writing content for their incomplete web site (one of its pages says, content coming soon, and another is blank), she said they wouldn't know until January if they would be willing to barter and offer us some kind of discount. In the world of wedding planning, that's an eternity, especially when Steven and I want to marry on Labor Day weekend (so we can take advantage of Sunday rates without inconveniencing our guests).

So, we visited a restaurant today (it was OK, but had sailboats sailing all over the walls), followed by this cabin-y community center, which is super rustic (made of logs in the late 1800s) and fits perfectly with the rustic theme we want. Its enclosed patio and pavilion overlook Lake Erie, plus it has a stage that will be SPECTACULAR for the karaoke we will have, courtesy of Something New Entertainment, the company with which I've traded blog-writing for DJ, karaoke and uplighting services.

So our deposit is made, and the date is saved. In a little more than a year, I will be a married woman. It. Cannot. Come. Fast. Enough.