Wednesday, May 30, 2012

“We’re three months out, here’s our Save-the-Date.”


Save-the-Dates are a great invention: they allow you to notify your guests of an impending invitation to your event and are a great way to showcase a different side of your personality - one that may not necessarily be involved in the wedding décor. But, they also have a very specific timeframe in which they should be sent: no less than five months before the event. Why? Because, depending on location, your invitation will be sent perhaps three, but no less than two, months before your wedding.

Having an invitation sent hard on the heels of a save-the-date isn’t just the equivalent of flooding a recipient’s mailbox, it’s also just generally superfluous. After all, how much advanced notice did you really give your guests by leaving only a week or so between the two mailings?

By and large, the purpose of a save-the-date is to allow guests enough time to book their travel. When they first arrived on the scene, these stationary notifications were intended mainly for guests of destination weddings or weddings in difficult-to-travel-to locations. As more and more couples from different states began to tie the knot, save-the-dates started to be used as a way to notify out-of-town guests of the impending need to travel. Eventually, they became commonplace in almost all weddings.

The term “commonplace” should by no means be taken to indicate that sending save-the-dates is necessary. If you’ve planned a small wedding or are uninterested in sending them, no guest, wedding planner or invitation specialist is going to be shocked at your not sending save-the-dates.

Any save-the-date should contain the specific date of the wedding as well as the location of the reception. “Location” refers to the city, not the specific building in which your guests will dance the night away. Therefore, save-the-dates don’t have to be overly specific.

They also don’t have to tie into the wedding theme. While they can reflect the colors or motif you selected, they can also be entirely different or generic. Today, many save-the-dates contain a photo of the couple, wedding date and wedding website address. This last part – the website address – allows guests to visit the site and learn about which hotels and airports they should use. Not having a website is no problem: guests will just ask for information.

Invitations contain the specifics of your event, which is why this information is not included on save-the-dates. Here again, if your guests want to know about hotels, they’ll simply ask.

Sending them is more a courtesy than anything, and not an obligation. If you’ve got the time to send save-the-dates, and want to do so, go ahead and start addressing. If not, don’t worry, you won’t receive glares from guests or wedding professionals.

Are you looking for save-the dates? Here are some cards we love.  

 Why do we love these two Washington, D.C. cards the best? 
Because they're part of HJ Planner's "Charmed" line!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Here's Your Table, Here's Your Seat: Escort Cards vs. Place Cards

With the seemingly unending stationary options available for weddings, what each item is intended to be used for is sometimes confusing. One of the most frequent questions we here at HJ receive concerns the difference between escort cards and place cards.

Escort cards tell your guests which table is theirs.
Place cards tell your guests what seat is theirs at the table.

Since you are busy on your wedding day, escort and place cards act as a paper-form of a hostess:

Escort cards “escort” your guests to the table; place cards hold out the chair for them.

Although almost all seated receptions use escort cards, today’s trend is to forgo place cards. Most couples feel it unnecessary to dictate each guest’s specific seat, finding it enough to merely direct guests to their table. Not only does this cut down on immense amounts of organization (and, therefore, stress), but it is also an easy and unnoticeable way to keep the stationary budget in check.

Escort cards are often displayed on a table outside the reception room, usually in the cocktail hour space. This allows guests to pick up their card before entering the dining area, making the transition from cocktail hour to dinner faster and smoother because guests know where they are headed.

Another idea is to create an escort card “map”. This map is an alphabetical list telling each guest of their assigned table.

When seated, most guests instinctively place their escort card above their plate – turning their escort card into a place card. This not only helps each guest identify each other, but also helps servers know which meal each guest receives. By using different color ink, decoration or otherwise marking the front of an escort card, you silently inform the wait staff of who receives chicken, fish or beef.

Escort card tables should be obvious, meaning that they should be something your guests see when they first enter the cocktail hour – a hidden table counteracts the cards’ purpose – but it should also be eye-appealing. The table is a great way to tie in your wedding’s theme or color scheme, and any décor you use on it can be later appropriated to the favor table.

Here are a few escort card tables we love: 

 Happy planning!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday's Meeting: Courtney Goimarac

Courtney Goimarac has a business background and creative edge that allows her to make any vision come to life. She has a dedication to detail and a passion for making your event stand out. She understands the importance of each event, and is fully devoted to making your event occur effortlessly while being beautiful.

What is your favorite part of being an event coordinator?

I love watching the event come to life from the initial concept and idea to the end product. It is a great joy to be a part of someone’s vision from the initial concept through its design and its finally coming to life.

What made you want to be an event coordinator?

As an event coordinator, I am able to use my organization and attention to detail to help others create a memorable experience. Without my help, my clients may not have been able to create exactly what they wanted for their special day.

Is there one common piece of advice you give to all brides?

Brides should enjoy the whole process from engagement to planning and the wedding. This process is the time couples have to celebrate their new life together; worrying about things like escort cards take away the fun.

What is the one thing you love that couples include in their wedding?

I love when couples include items in their wedding that are specific to them, whether it be serving their favorite pie instead of cake, having a signature cocktail named after them, or something as simple as putting their favorite candy in favor bags. These personal touches add uniqueness and personalize a wedding.

What is the most essential tool you use to plan a wedding?

Both the budget and checklist are essential to planning a wedding, but the biggest tool is really listening to what your clients want and helping them accomplish that with as much ease and joy as possible.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Top Five: Bridal Shoe Websites

"I DO" patches available through HJ's Charmed Line

The market for bridal shoes can sometimes seem quite small. Many times, brides looking for something in a shade of white, unique and not costing a small fortune can become quite frustrated, quite quickly. Here are HJ's top five recommended websites to find the perfect shoes to wear down the aisle:

  1. Grace Footwear: Like the style, but wish that the shoe came in a different shade of white? This website will custom-make your selected style in whatever color silk satin you select. 
  2. Tom's Wedding Collection: The updated version of the tennis wedding shoe. Plus, we just think it's really cool to be that comfortable on your wedding day.
  3. Perfect Details: The one-stop shop for everything from designer to low-cost wedding shoes. This site also offers hair and other accessories for the entire bridal party.
  4. My Glass Slipper: From couture to colored, this site runs the gamut of wedding shoe options.
  5. Bellissima Bridal Shoes: Although offering more basic shoes that the other sites, this company also has great sales on discontinued designer bridal shoes.
 So go ahead brides and have fun shopping! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Destination: Washington D.C.

HJ Planners often assists couples who live outside the District who have chosen Washington D.C. as the location for their destination wedding. To us, it’s not surprising that many soon-to-be-married pairs choose the historic city for their nuptials: Washington D.C. is well-prepared to handle visitors, has plenty of (free) museums for guests to visit during their stay and offers numerous venue locations for celebrations.

Built for a Wedding

Washington D.C. thrives around big events, and not just political ones. With innumerable hotel rooms, restaurants, and easy-to-manage public transportation (thank you Metro!) the city is literally built to handle thousands of visitors. Historic venues like DAR Constitution Hall, the Carnegie Institute, Decatur House and Corcoran Museum combine historical American architecture and modern-day American culture to serve perfectly as the backdrop for any party – particularly a wedding.

The Newseum, Woodend Sanctuary and embassies present a different way to incorporate the city’s unique attributes into a celebration. The Newseum provides fabulous views of the Capitol from its 7th floor event space, Sanctuary a glimpse of the city’s natural surroundings that many strive so hard to preserve and embassies an understanding that what makes America such a melting-pot is its openness to other cultures and countries.

Periodically, we here at HJ jump into the car and drive around town searching for new venue locations. We are constantly surprised by the new venues that seemingly appear every month. Recently, we’ve discovered Fathom Gallery, which boasts outdoor space containing a Morse Code-laid floor, whiteboard kitchen cabinets and moving images in its bathroom mirror. The Hamilton Hotel’s renovated hotel bars now offer a mirrored mosaic tile backdrop for engagement parties or rehearsal dinners. The Four Seasons recently-renovated Seasons Room boasts a glass-walled space overlooking Rock Creek Park.

Tying the Knot

Not only do many venues allow ceremonies on-site, but there are also churches available for any denomination. JFK worshiped at Holy Trinity Catholic Church; Luther Place Memorial Church openly celebrates the recently legalized gay weddings. The National Cathedral offers a great locale for couples looking for a big venue that screams America.

Vendors Galore

D.C. is constantly changing. Thanks to being one of cities that was least affected by the housing crisis, the economy has remained relatively stable, if not stronger and larger. This means an increase in the number of available vendors as well as the reliability of established vendors. Tom and Ashlee Van Veen of Documentary Associates continuously re-think ways to photograph couples among the backdrops offered by D.C.’s monuments and venues. Edge Flowers and Chica Chica Boom Boom can create any floral and event design to compliment a couple’s tastes and venue’s needs.

Want a food truck at your wedding? No problem. D.C. has recently experienced the food-truck craze, and has even formed an association for food trucks in the area.

Whether classic or contemporary, Lettering by Lynne provides invitations to suit every taste. Speaking of taste, Main Event Caterers offers contemporary, unique and flavorful bites suitable for any event. Fluffy Thoughts bakery and Stephanie the Baker can create any mix of cake, filling and frosting flavors that are sure to wow guests.

And We Send You On Your Way…

D.C.’s accessibility is one of its best attributes. Not only do the area’s three airports make it easy for guests to travel, but it also makes it a breeze for couples to jet off on their honeymoon. When having the perfect wedding is a simple as jumping off a plane, and having a wonderful honeymoon as simple as jumping onto one, it becomes even clearer why more and more couples are clamoring for destination D.C. weddings.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday's Meeting: Maria Martinez

What is your favorite part of being an event coordinator? 

Working the event!  As hard as it is to know that we will not be working with our couples after their wedding day, I love seeing everything we planned come together for the final, complete presentation. 
What made you want to be an event coordinator? 

I love seeing brides so happy on their wedding day. Knowing that I was able to put a bride’s vision together and make her day exactly what she wanted is thrilling because the day is so special for her. It’s an honor to be involved in each of our brides' wedding days.

Is there one common piece of advice you give to all brides? 

Eat on your wedding day! Nothing is worse than being hungry while you’re supposed to be enjoying your day, not to mention saying hello to your guests.

What is the one thing you love that couples include in their wedding? 

I love the personal touches each bride puts into their wedding - be it a touch in homage to their culture or family. Unique personal touches are what make each wedding entirely reflective of the couple and their life together.  

What is the biggest budget blunder you see most brides commit? 

Some brides focus too much on favors and décor for the reception rather than on the food and music. Trying to get favors, décor, and flowers at the expense of good food, a great cake and great music is a big blunder because guests and couples usually remember the latter and not so much the former.

What is the most essential tool you use to plan a wedding? 

The timeline! It helps keep everything straight and running smoothly. I can’t imagine anyone running a wedding without a detailed timeline.

What is the strangest request you’ve ever had from a couple? 

One couple released doves during the ceremony, right after the officiant announced that they were officially married. It wasn’t a logistical nightmare, but I had fears of birds flying into guests and causing chaos. By the way, did you know that doves will fly home? That saved on the bride’s return delivery cost!

Are there any unusual items you would tell brides to include in their emergency, day-of kit? 

Carry anything you use on a daily basis. Chapstick, lipgloss, Kleenex…if you use it every day, you’ll absolutely need it on your wedding day.

Do you have any pre- or post-wedding rituals? 

I’m pretty reflective after weddings and like to sit back and analyze the day. This way I learn what worked and what didn’t so that my next wedding is even better than the one I just finished.  

What aspect of a wedding could you do without?

The bouquet and garter toss. Outdated!

What was the strangest request you ever received from a couple, their family or their friends? 

It wasn’t a request, but I once had to clean up a guest after they became sick. Being a mom, it wasn’t too difficult for me to do, but it was still not my favorite happenings at one of my weddings.

What is the single most important piece/item of event design for any wedding? 

Flowers! They really set the mood and are expected and, therefore, essential for any wedding. Additionally, if the budget allows, uplighting can be very important because it can transform any space and truly make it unique to reflect the bride and groom.

What is the most difficult part of event design?  

Color matching! Determining what will look great in the space and what colors the couple likes is extremely tricky. Choosing colors requires considering the colors already in the space, the time of year, bride’s chosen color palate, photos…you name it, and it’s a factor! Trying not to overkill on design is also difficult – knowing when to stop decorating can be tricky.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday's Five: Pats on the Back

Normally, today's posting would consist of a list of five. Today, however, we're changing it up and giving ourselves five pats on the back instead. 

This morning, HJ received some nice words and permission to post them on our blog from one of our brides-to-be:

"Thanks for all the helpful advice...there is no way a bride can plan a wedding and have a full-time job, no way. Thank God for wedding planners!"

No, thank YOU for the kind words. It's nice to receive an pat on the back once in awhile.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hello Timeline My Old Friend…

Simon & Garfunkel’s lyrics in “Sound of Silence” ARE definitely a little dark, especially as they pertain to wedding planning. However, although not exactly on-spot regarding topic, the song’s idea of being in the dark and lost applies to one very big, very important aspect of planning: creating a timeline.

A timeline is just what it sounds like: a schedule of events for the day. For a wedding, it contains the progression of what will happen, who will perform that activity and when it will occur.

A timeline is one of the most essential components of a wedding. Not having a timeline can mean that your event stops dead in the middle of the reception because a vendor was confused about what was to happen. Not having a timeline can mean that your event never starts because the officiant was unaware of where he needed to be.

HJ’s timelines span many pages and often contain a precise, to-the-minute list of what is happening when. It’s not uncommon for our timelines to consist of five or more pages; it’s not uncommon for them to be extremely intricate. For example, I just started a timeline that contains three-minute intervals for some of the day’s events. Why? Because it takes precisely three minutes to walk from the ceremony location to the reception venue (I know, I walked and timed it myself!). Those three minutes are important to note so that the caterers, photographer and myself know where guests will be at all times and what time to have everything ready for their arrival.

One of the biggest misconceptions about a timeline is that it should start when the bride walks down the aisle and end when the couple departs the reception. In fact, the majority of work for an event happens before and after these events occurs. Therefore, these important times must be included on the schedule. Florists, bakers and photographers need to be told what time to start or deliver their work. The caterer and band need to know when to stop playing and start cleaning up.

Creating a timeline is not an easy task, and is by no means accomplished in one go. Start creating a timeline for your wedding a few months in advance and revisit it every week to add to or change its components. As your date approaches, check it more frequently to ensure that its contents are accurate and all-encompassing.

And then…share it!

The final, crucial step to creating a timeline is giving a copy to everyone involved in the wedding. This includes all vendors, but also family members and the wedding party. Having every actor in your big day informed of the day’s plan makes mishaps and problems less likely, and your having fun and no worries more likely.