Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Flower Power For Your Wedding

When we dream about our weddings, most women spend a fair amount of time fantasizing about how they will look as they make their way down the aisle. They imagine the gorgeous gown that they will wear, and possibly the hairstyle and jewels that will best go with it. Often they will picture a veil and maybe even the type of shoes to best offset the gown. The picture isn't complete, however, without an image of an absolutely magnificent bouquet carried in the arms of the bride as she heads towards her intended groom.

It could be said that bridal bouquets are as unique as the wedding. They come in a multitude of shapes, colors, sizes, and even styles. Each one differs slightly, depending on the wedding, the bride, and the florist. So many brides begin planning their big day knowing that they want nice flowers, but not much more than that. Where do the begin? How do they even begin to choose their flowers?

Choosing the flowers that are right for you depends on a number of factors. Some of the important ideas to consider include the design of your dress, the theme or style of your wedding, the date and location of the ceremony and reception, and even the shape of your body. These are necessary decisions you should have in place before even making an appointment with a florist.
A good florist should be able to help guide you through the multitude of other decisions that you will need to make. She should be able to educate you about the difference between nosegays and pomanders, free-forms and hand-tied. She should be able to recommend flowers that will complement you and the type of wedding you're planning to have, possibly even introducing you to new ideas you hadn't considered before. She may even be able to suggest ways that you could save some money by selecting flowers that will be in-season and could be found locally rather than having to have them shipped from elsewhere. They are the expert in their field. Count on them to guide you along the way and provide you with valuable information and advice.

So how do you prepare for your first meeting with the florist?

First off, I would encourage you to through books and magazines for pictures that appeal to you. These photographs can really help give you a starting point to work from, but remember that they are just a starting point. Encourage the florist to share their ideas with you, allowing them to create something truly unique and personal to you versus a copy of something else that has already been done. The photos allow the florist to see what you like, but add their creativity and expertise and you will find that they can up with something absolutely stunning.

Secondly, have an idea in mind of what you will want to spend. There are countless books and software available with information on wedding budgets. These can help break down your overall dollar figure into how much should be spent on each item. If you use a wedding planner, they should be able to give you a realistic estimate on how much you have to spend on flowers, specific to your area, as well as some possible ideas of who to talk to. Another important piece of information to know is how many items you are looking for. Are you looking for just bouquets and boutonnieres, or will you need centerpieces as well. In many cases, knowing your budget, the florist may be able to suggest substitutions or alternatives to stretch your budget a little further, but maximize your flower potential.

Third, don't be afraid to ask for references, but be sure to follow up with some brides in regards to their satisfaction with the flower arrangements and the service received by the florist. I recently did a wedding where the florist made beautiful centerpieces, but for whatever reason, struggled in getting them to the reception venue on time. Thirty minutes prior to the reception, the incomplete centerpieces were still sitting on the floor of the ballroom waiting for additional elements to be added. They wouldn't have been on the tables ready for the 5:30 PM reception if myself and the other members of the planning team hadn't stepped in to help get them finished. Not an experience I personally wish to repeat!!!

Other items you may want to take into consideration include:

  • One of the advantage of fresh flowers is that most do have a scent. Do you want your flowers to have a strong heady perfume, something more citrusy, or maybe a more subtle scent?
  • Do you want the groom's boutononniere to match your bouquet? Your florist should have ideas on how to do this. I would also encourage you make the groom's boutonniere a little different than the ones for the other groomsmen.
  • Are they able to do your centerpieces as well? Sometimes florists will offer you a better price with larger volume involved. They may also have packages available for you to consider.
  • Can they deliver the flowers on your wedding day? Flowers will look fresher if they are made up the day of than the day before.
  • When are you taking your wedding pictures? Will you be outside in extreme temperatures (hot or cold) which could give the flowers a wilted look? (One of my bride's getting married in February specifically chose silk flowers for her bouquet for fear of the results in taking photos in -25 degree Celsius weather.)
Last of all, don't be afraid to get ideas and quotes from a few different florists. Possibly even talk to some of your other vendors and see if they have any recommendations for florists you may want to speak with. Once you meet with the florists, you will quickly get an idea if you feel comfortable working with them, and on whether or not they can give you what you 're looking for.
Choosing the right florist to design your wedding flowers in an important decision in the overall planning process. Their expertise and advice can guide you in making the critical decisions that can take your wedding flowers from boring to beautiful!


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasionsand Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at info@creativeweddingsandoccasions.com.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sorting Out Wedding Stationary: The Necessities Versus The Niceties

Figuring out what to do with your wedding stationary can be puzzling for any couple. Somewhere between RSVP cards and Menu cards, your head starts to swim with all the details as you try to figure out what is needed and what is not. When you're on a tight budget, these decisions become even more important.Bulleted List

If you're trying to prioritize, there are three main stationary items you should look at for your wedding:

  • Invitation / Invitation Set
  • Escort Cards
  • Thank-You Cards
Invitations are the most important and necessary piece of wedding stationary. They give your guests all of the pertinent information in regards to your wedding. The should include the date, the time, and the location of your ceremony and reception. They also usually include an RSVP card (and an addressed and stamped envelope) for guests to send back so you can know whether to count on their attendance or not. Other options are to include are maps or directions to ceremony and receptions sites. Your invitation is often the first hint your guests will have about your wedding. When possible, they should include elements of your wedding theme and colors.

Escort Cards are available for guests to pick up as they arrive at the reception. On each card, the guest's name is printed, as well as which table they are assigned to sit at for the meal. A definite necessity for large weddings, escort ideas are still a good idea for small ones as they ensure that close relatives and family friends are seated in prime locations and seated together. It wouldn't be right for grandma and grandpa to get stuck in the back corner or for families to be split up. If you're opposed to individual escort cards, another option is to build a seating board that can be mounted on an easel outside the reception venue. For a large wedding, you might even make two. These boards show the position of each table and who is assigned to each one.

Thank-You Cards should be self-explanatory. Common courtesy dictates that you should give a personal thank-you note for each and every gift you receive. This includes shower gifts, engagement gifts, as well as wedding gifts. The same applies to everyone who attends your wedding. To save time, many try to combine the wedding thank-you with the wedding gift. To save yourself time and trouble later, make sure you have someone help you when opening gifts by keeping a detailed list of each item and who gave it to you. This will make your life significantly easier when doing up the thank-you cards. The rule of thumb is that all cards should be sent within six weeks of the wedding.

It is up to each couple to determine the importance of other stationary items.

Save-The-Date Cards are especially useful for couples planning a destination wedding or a wedding around a holiday period or long weekend when you want guests to know about the event six to nine months before the actual wedding. While e-mail invitations are considered tacky, you can get away with e-mail Save-the-dates.

Place Cards are another fairly common item, assigning guests their actual seat at each table. Not necessary, but sometimes add to the decor and theme at each table. It also ensures that enough seats have been left for families and couples. Note that if you are having a small wedding of 30 people or less, you may want to skip the escort cards completely and use place cards instead.

Programs are considered a nice, but unnecessary item. They can be used to explain the order of events at the ceremony, especially the order of any special cultural traditions that guests may not be familiar with. Sometimes they also list the wedding party and any other additional information that you may want shared, such as hymns that will be sung, or prayers that require a response. Others include meaningful poems or maps to the reception venue.

Menu Cards are another item that is really up to the couple on whether they need them or not. Whether it's a buffet or plated dinner, they let guests know what they are about to eat. I'm personally okay without them, but if guests get to make a choice on what to eat, they are a nice idea. If you feel that they are important, another option is to print one larger one for each table to share instead of individual ones.

Like most aspects of your wedding, it can be easy to get carried away when choosing your wedding stationary. I would recommend you decide ahead of time on what pieces are most important to the two of you and stick to your guns!


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasionsand Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist helping couples plan their weddings in paradise all around the world. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at info@creativeweddingsandoccasions.com.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Turning Your Dream Wedding Into A Reality

Whether it's dreams of castles and princesses or whimsical fairy tale fantasies, most brides have envisioned their wedding day right from an early age. They have such big hopes for their wedding day. However, as newly engaged couples start pricing out ballrooms and caterers, many of those dreams seem to come crashing down around them. Their once elegant plans dashed and the budget slashed as reality and the true cost of things comes brutally crashing down around them.

So often I talk with couples who want a beautiful wedding, but don't know how to go about it. They have sacrificed on the venue and cut down the guest list. The meal has been changed from five-courses to four. They have simplified as much as they can to the point that it seems like all of their wedding dreams have slipped away, leaving them with a big headache versus a unique and special celebration of their love. How then do you get the wedding that you want?

It is essential to start by making a list of what you envision your wedding to be. Write it down on paper. List what words you would use to describe your event. What would it look like if money wasn't an object? Where your wedding be? What would the venue look like? What would you look like? Be specific about as many items as possible - flowers, cake, food, centerpieces... What special touches do you envision? Look at "real weddings" in bridal magazines and wedding websites to get ideas that appeal to you. When making your list, don't worry about whether things are possible or not. Just focus on thinking big at this point as big ideas can inspire us. Your descriptive list will create a vision to work with, a starting place for go from. Just like building a house, your list will provide you with a foundation to build from.

During this process, I would strongly encourage you to work with a wedding coordinator that can also design and decorate for your wedding. Initially, it may seem like a big cost, but think about what you are getting out of it. A good decorator can take a basic, simple community hall room, and with the proper lighting and decor, transform the space into something else entirely, saving you big dollars on what you would have spent on a luxury hotel ballroom rental. She can take your vision and find affordable ways to incorporate your ideas. She may not be able to recreate your entire vision, but she can emphasize enough elements to create the ambiance that you're after. Often times, she can even suggest cost-effective special touches that you may not have even considered. She knows which venues will probably work best and knows the florist that can give you exactly what you're looking for. She may have ideas about rental props and decorating tips that you may not have even considered. The money you spend on the wedding planner/decorator will often end up stretching your dollar further than if you went out and contracted these services on your own, getting you more value for each dollar you spend. Furthermore, she also has the ideas and expertise to add the special little touches that will be able to transform your space into something spectacular.

Regardless of whether use a wedding coordinator/decorator or not, selecting a theme is essential as it pulls together all of the various elements of a wedding celebration. The theme can be subtle, such as simply choosing coordinating colours that will be used throughout, to completely over-the-top, where the theme is incorporated into every aspect of the wedding. It can be as simple as pinning paper butterflies on the back of chair covers to as grandiose as bringing in a literal forest of trees and fairy lights. The important things is that whatever theme you decide on, it should reflect you and ideas from the list that you originally came up with.

Always remember that your wedding has the potential to be great without costing an absolute fortune. With careful planning and consultation, you can create an event that your guests will still be talking about long after the wedding is over.


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasionsand Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at info@creativeweddingsandoccasions.com.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

One of the bonuses of being a wedding planner is that when I meet people for the first time, they often start sharing the special memories associated with their own wedding day. I get to learn all about the details - the good, the bad, and the ugly!

More often than not, the one thing I hear on a consistent basis are regrets about the wedding photographer. Maybe they used a family friend with a hobby in photography, but who missed a number of critical shots throughout the ceremony and reception. Another person complained that the pictures were not centered properly, and often included extraneous people in the shots that should never have been there. My personal favorite is the the story about the wedding photographer who shot my parents' wedding completely inebriated. (Too bad they hadn't had a wedding planner like me to make sure this didn't happen!)

Photography is the one area that most couples wish they had invested more of their wedding budget. After all, this is the person responsible for capturing all of the special moments that you will cherish in the years to come. A good photographer will be able to tell the story of your wedding, each picture representing another page in story, capturing the special feelings and deep emotions of the day.

So how do you go about finding a great wedding photographer? The first thing is to know what you're looking for and figure out what you like. There are two main styles of wedding photography. The first one is the more traditional approach of posed shots, much like the wedding pictures of our parents and grandparents. The newer trend is photojouralism, where the photographer captures moments as they happen. It sounds simple, but actually requires a great deal of skill to done effectively. Many couples are choosing someone who can do a combination of both - someone who can do a series of posed portraits as well as the spur of the moment shots throughout the day.

Once you have figured out what style you like, the next step is to find the photographer who can accomplish what you want. Wedding planners have a good sense who the reputable photographers are in your area. They know the ones to use as well as the ones to avoid. They also have an idea of the costs that each one charges. This can save you hours and hours of time spent checking and researching it yourself. However, if you're set on finding a photographer on your own, one of the best methods is to look at the portraits of married friends that appeal to you and ask them who they used. As well, talk to acquaintances who have been recently married to get a firsthand accounting of the pros and cons of their wedding photographer. From there, check out photographer websites and try to see samples of their work. If you like what you see, arrange an appointment with the photographer to learn more about pricing and the packages that they offer.

Other strategies to ensure you get the photographs that you want:

  • Find a photographer that specializes in weddings. [Skip this step at your own risk!]

  • Verify who will be taking the pictures at your wedding. Is it the photographer you met with or will he delegate to an assistant?

  • Make a list of the shots that you want and give them to the photographer ahead of time. The photographer may also have some ideas so be sure to listen to him. After all, he is the expert!

  • When you get the pricing information, make sure you know what the package exactly includes. Some couples are shocked to learn that their photo package only includes the actual taking of the photographs, and all photo finishing costs are extra. Is it really worth spending a fortune to get the photos taken if you can't afford to pay for them to get developed afterwards?

  • Ask the photographer to see complete photo shoots for weddings that he has done. It will give you a better idea of their complete coverage of a wedding, whereas their portfolio may only include their best shots.

  • Ask for references and follow up on them.

  • Make sure you remember to provide your photographer and his assistant with a meal if they are going to stay for the reception.

Your wedding portraits are going to be around for years to come. They will have places of honor in your home on the fireplace mantle or centered on the living room wall. Your children and grandchildren will want to see them time and time again. Make sure they are photos that will cause you to stop and smile as your remember the official beginning of your lives together. We've all heard the saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words." Wedding pictures are worth more like a million!


Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasionsand Del Sol Destination Weddings. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at info@creativeweddingsandoccasions.com.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Choosing Your Bridesmaids Wisely

With the excitement of announcing your engagement out of the way, many brides feel weighted down as they try and make the all-important decision of who should be in their wedding party. They have ideas of who they want to share the entire experience with, but don't want to risk disappointing, or worse yet, offending any close friends or family members.

Being asked to be a bridesmaid is considered to be a gesture of honor and appreciation. It signifies that the person is someone of great importance to the bride, but more importantly, the person is someone who the wedding couple trusts to help them make their big day a success. All of the bridesmaids are expected to assist during the planning process of the wedding, help relieve stress and anxiety of the bride, and provide much-needed emotional support in the months leading up the ceremony. This is even more true of the maid of honor, who basically become the bride's right hand throughout the entire process, helping her along each and every step along the way.

To ensure your wedding runs smoothly, it is critical to make good decisions about who should be in your wedding party. One of the best ways to help make this important decision is to consider some key factors when looking at the various candidates.

The first step is to consider is how important is this friend in your life. Are they someone you see often, or if they live out of town, at least someone you communicate with on a regular basis? I mean it's great that you were best friends as children, but are you still close? Growing up, the two of you may have inseparable. The two of you may have even planned out your dream weddings, promising with a pinky-swear to be each other's maid of honor, but it's okay to recognize that circumstances in our lives cause things to change and that people grow apart. Your childhood friend may be someone who is still important to you, but they could be just as easily invited as a guest instead of a bridesmaid. You aren't expected to keep promises that you made when you were 10 or 11 years old. Your bridesmaids should be people who you currently count as your closest friends. They would be the people that you immediately called as soon as you got engaged. They are the ones that you still envision being close to 10 or 15 years down the road. The people you choose should be the ones you consider to be your closest friends now in this current stage of your life.

Another critical component is to consider how reliable this person is. Face it. You're going to be counting on them a lot to help you out with a variety of tasks. It could include everything from addressing and sending out invitations, attending dress fittings, helping plan bridal showers, attending all the various pre-wedding and post-wedding functions, and running errands for you, particularly in the last week before the big day. Are they someone you know will be able to step in and help out as needed ? Are they someone who is good at anticipating things that will need to get done or in solving problems as they arise? You want to choose people who you can rely on to be organized and on top of things. Do you really want to have to deal with someone who blows off a dress fitting because something came up at work or continuously finds excuses to avoid helping out with the invitations and other odd jobs that all need to get done? More importantly, do you want to deal with the added stress of dealing with this person on top of everything else you will be worrying about? Choose people who won't let you down.

The final important factor is to consider how will the members of your wedding party get along? If you choose people that are high maintenance, or can't stand each other, recognize that you could be setting yourself up for disaster. One would hope that people would be professional enough that they could put aside their differences for the day, but unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Some people need to be the center of attention. As the bride, you are entitled to be in the spotlight on your big day. You shouldn't have to share it with a high drama bridesmaid that requires excess attention.

Once you make your decision on who is best suited to being part of your wedding party, there is nothing stopping you from finding other significant ways to include some of friends and family who didn't make the list. From picking up people at the airport, to making sure people sign the guest book or photo mat, there is an endless list of jobs that need to be completed. With some careful thought and consideration, I'm sure you can find something to help make other friends and family members more involved. It is critical that you make sure that these friends know that you value their friendship and consider them to be an important person in your life. Most people will understand and be happy to be included in some way.

Your bridesmaids should be close friends or family members that will share the entire wedding experience with you. It's not to say that there won't be tension along the way, but a wedding can be something that draws all of you closer together. You want your bridesmaids to be people you can rely on and count on to support you every step of the way. Make good decisions about the people who are going to stand by your side so you can focus on the real goal of actually getting married and enjoying the entire experience!

Cathy MacRae is a certified wedding and event planner, and owner of Creative Weddings and Occasions. Located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, she plans wedding for couples in and around the Calgary and Banff area. She is also a destination wedding and honeymoon travel specialist. For more information about planning your own wedding or for advice from Cathy, please contact her at info@creativeweddingsandoccasions.com.