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Worthwhile imperfection

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You know how life gets out of whack every once in a while? (Or maybe more often for some of us!)

It feels like you’ve lost your balance and for me it comes out in kind of humorous but practical ways. My house gets dirty, I fail to go grocery shopping and we end up eating something with rice for every meal, I never think about dinner until my husband’s already home (actually, that’s pretty normal…), Matthew starts wearing things I’ve never seen before because the laundry mountain is growing (“Really, I’ve had this for years!”), et cetera.

Then comes the 4th of July. A holiday commemorating our declaration of independence from Great Britain. A time of celebration as we revel in the countless blessings from God that this country affords us. The idea that each man is immensely full of worth, independent and can govern himself. Pretty cool stuff that we don’t think about every day. Then there are the traditions: barbecue, fireworks, games, family, the works.

Ah!

A couple weeks ago, I had invited my family over for the 4th and had been preparing ever since. Kind of. It had been one of those off-kilter months and I had gotten a little distracted from my normal routine. Needless to say, life was out of balance. Lots of projects undone. Lots of rooms needing a dusting. I had been doing a lot of thinking, but not enough doing…

By the time Friday hit, I knew things would have to change so Matthew and I sat down and made an action plan.

1. Conquer the downstairs bathroom (Matt installed a toilet, mirror, light fixtures, trim, and a hook, and I added the towel and soap). Check.

Bathroom

The downstairs bathroom looks beautiful now thanks to my hubby :)

2. Feed people. This involved a Saturday afternoon trip to Meijer on a holiday weekend (worst time EVER to go grocery shopping) and lots of prep for our beautiful kabobs. Aaaand there might have been a slight detour to Target to pick out new cute and summer-y plasticware. Check.

Cute summer dishes!

Cute summer dishes!

3. Clean the house. Because of my procrastination, this took all day the 4th of July up until about 5 p.m. Yeah… I was slow, but the place sparkled! Check.

Then the fam showed up at 6:15 and we had a fantastic time just sitting around the backyard eating, launching screamers, sipping lemonade, and talking. It was great! I love spending time with my family and this was actually the most meaningful part of the day (although it wasn’t quite complete until Matt and I mustered the energy to take our bikes downtown at 10 p.m. for fireworks).

But what was the point of all my housework? It got me thinking about our heavily-Martha-Stewart-influenced-society. I love their ideas, but Martha Stewart and others like her are just so good at what they do that the rest of us can either exhaust ourselves (and our wallets!) trying to make each party the epitome of perfection, or we can pretty much fail our job as a hostess. Ok, so I’m exaggerating, but you get my point. My question is, whatever happened to old-fashioned hospitality? The kind where your napkins don’t have to match your plates, and you don’t have to have a perfectly coordinated menu and drink selection as long as you actually ask someone over??

We put so much emphasis on the little details that sometimes it’s easy to forget the reason why we ask people over. It’s not to show off or perfect your hostess skills (although it is a good excuse to buy cute stuff!). Ultimately, it’s about the people you invite and spending time with them. That’s what is ultimately important.

Don’t get me wrong, I am one of those people who absolutely LOVES putting together those little details that make a party feel well-collected and trendy, but I sometimes wish there wasn’t any pressure to be like this.

Do any of you feel this way? Do you love the details? Do you wish you could simplify your get-togethers?

Challenge yourself to ask someone over, and keep it low-key. You won’t be disappointed, and your friend will be glad you asked!

One final piece of advice: USE PAPER PLATES, because conquering the aftermath of a good party should be simple too! ☺

My mess :(

My mess :(

Survive Wedding Planning: Your Chill Pill Prescription

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Survive Wedding Planning: Your Chill Pill Prescription

This week, Selwa Lukoskie, founder of SolaceSing Productions will be sharing her insight on how to relieve stress during wedding planning. Selwa founded her company out of a desire to tell other peoples’ stories through music. She helps brides and grooms relive their stories by crafting custom wedding songs.

In her words:

I was a DIY bride on a budget who planned her entire wedding from scratch. In fact, when it was all over, I was convinced that I should become a wedding planner. I don’t say this to brag. In fact, though I’m one of the most organized people I know, I’m not sure I could ever be a wedding coordinator. The process of planning my own wedding was very stressful, because I wanted it to be the most perfect day of my life. After all, I was only going to do this once (assuming all goes well).

Through it all, I realized how important it is to minimize your stress level. Even if you don’t do it alone, it can be a very nerve wracking process, and it’s crucial for your health and for the happiness of all involved that you remain at peace. Here are some tips on overcoming stress that I garnered from my own wedding planning experience:

Hire a wedding planner

Wedding planners do it for a living, and they work with multiple brides at one time.
They have connections to vendors and are often able to secure lower prices on goods and services. If you can work a wedding coordinator into your budget, it can save you a lot of time and headache in the end, as they will be in charge of all the little details. This will leave you to focus on the bigger stuff, such as who to invite and where to buy the perfect wedding gown. And, you’ll have more time to spend with your future husband. Remember, he is the reason you’re doing all of this in the first place.

Enlist the help of your wedding party

If you can’t afford to hire a wedding planner, you can still ask your friends, family, and bridesmaids for help. Invite them over for an afternoon and devote a few hours to addressing those wedding invitations. I had a hard time asking my bridesmaids for help, because I didn’t want to inconvenience them. But if they don’t want to help you, they wouldn’t have said yes to being in your wedding in the first place. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Treat yourself to a spa day

Get a massage; or a facial; or a manicure and pedicure; or splurge and get all four. You’ve put a lot of hard work into planning this occasion and you deserve to relax. Spa days also make great bridesmaid gifts if you’re at a loss on how to say thanks to your girlfriends for all their help.

Be prepared

No wedding is perfect. Things can and will go wrong, so prepare for it. Pack an emergency kit that includes deodorant, breath mints, makeup, a nail file, extra pantyhose, a mirror, dental floss, and anything else you think you might need at the last minute. If you have children in your wedding, be prepared for the unexpected. I received this piece of advice from our wedding director a few months before our big day: “Tell yourself, over and over that you’re going to have the best day of your life, no matter what happens, and you will have the best day of your life, no matter what happens.” She was right.

Remember who, and what, this is really all about

You can’t please everyone. Though you’ll probably have friends and family members insisting that you implement their “two cents” into your ceremony or reception, in the end, your wedding day is about two people: you and your groom. Ultimately, it comes down to the two of you and your unique love story.

As a singer/songwriter, music is my solace in times of stress. Before I was even engaged, I had decided to write a song for my future husband and surprise him with it on our wedding day. Throughout the wedding planning process, I would sit down and play this song, to remind myself of our story, and why I was doing this. The excitement over seeing his face when it played during our first dance was both comforting and motivating. If you find yourself stressed over the little details of your wedding day, go back and relive the bigger picture – your story – the best way you know how. Your wedding day will go by so fast that most of the little details will disappear from your memory. What will remain is what is most important: your husband, your relationship, and your story.

For more information

If you’d like Selwa to help you relive your story by writing a special custom wedding song, please visit her website at www.solacesing.com, or email her at Selwa@solacesing.com

Follow her on Twitter
Like SolaceSing on Facebook

To begin your custom invitation design, contact Mara by clicking here.

More than a collection of names…

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More than a collection of names…

We all know the traditional guest book. Usually a beautifully bound book with a fancy pen for guests to sign their names and addresses as they enter the chapel or ceremony location. This traditional guest book used to be legally required because each guest was considered an official witness to the wedding.

Martha Stewart Weddings

Martha Stewart Weddings


(Photo from Martha Stewart Weddings)

This tradition has slowly morphed over the years to encompass something more meaningful for the bride and groom. Something that guests used to be legally required to do has become a way for them to share their well-wishes and advice with the newlywed couple. A way for the bride and groom to gather memories from their wedding day and from the people who have influenced their lives and relationship up to that point.

My own wedding guest book was a collection of engagement photos with space for our guests to write a note. It became a keepsake for my husband and I as it is more than a collection of names, it is a collection of memories.

Photo Guest Book

Photo Guest Book


(This photo and featured photo at the top of this article are courtesy of LVL Photography)

Tips for putting together your guest book:

Your guest book should reflect you and your unique wedding!
Whether you love the details, or if simplicity is your mantra, dress your guest book to reflect you! Use colors, ribbons, beading, pictures and other details to make it yours. I have seen guest books where guests are encouraged to type out a note on an old typewriter, a jar of cards, a framed picture, or can be as simple as a Polaroid camera and ink pen. Be creative!

Preserve your memories
Use a pen with non-fading ink. You will thank yourself years from now when you can still read every sentiment from your closest friends and family on this important day.

Recruit friends and family to start writing
Your guests may be shy about being the first one to write in your guest book. Break the ice for them by having your bridal party or family write a note before guests arrive.

Your guest book attendant is important!
Your guest book attendant should be someone who is outgoing and willing to draw people in to sign your guest book. Collect those memories!

How are you using the details of your wedding or relationship in your guest book? Any ideas to share? Please comment below! I love hearing your thoughts!

The nightmare before dinner

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You know how it goes… You’re waiting, waiting, waiting for those RSVPs to come back. Your mom, maid of honor, and wedding planner are all making phone calls and the caterer is bugging you for head count. You’re trying to get your table seating in order, but you’re not sure if Uncle Bob and Aunt Sally are even coming and that could throw off your entire reception plan.

It’s something like a bridal horror film the moment the bride realizes she chose the wrong RSVP date. It could end in tears and agony. Or forbidden Häagen-Dazs ice cream indulgence. And the guests don’t even know they’ve done anything wrong.

At my own wedding, I set the RSVP date a couple days before the caterer needed the final head count and I was lucky. All but two of my 350-ish guests had given me their response – but the two that were left were key family members that lived out of town and were difficult to get a hold of… to say the least!

Here are some quick ways to prevent an “RSVP horror” from happening in those critical weeks before your wedding:

1. Talk to your caterer.
Find out how much surplus food they cook and when they need your final head count. When you know that your caterer cooks an extra twenty-percent, for example, you don’t necessarily have to have those last five RSVPs turned in to know that you will have food for them even if they do show up. Bam! Bridezilla moment averted and your fiancé will thank you for not freaking out.

2. Set your RSVP return date to 1-2 weeks before your final head count is due.
This should give you plenty of time to collect the responses you need and make phone calls to those who haven’t answered by the date you requested.

Even if you don’t get all of your RSVPs on time it is going to be alright!

We had one guest at our wedding that wasn’t even invited. That’s right, we had a wedding crasher! But the funny thing is, we didn’t even realize it until we got back from our honeymoon, and then we were able to laugh about it. Love conquers all? Eh, who knows…

When it comes down to it, just relax. This is your day.

Survive Wedding Planning: Eleven Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Survive Wedding Planning: Eleven Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

This week’s wedding advice comes from Anne Coulter of Anne Coulter Productions. Anne is one of two Certified Special Event Professionals within the state of Michigan and the only Accredited Bridal Consultant™ in northern Michigan. Ms. Coulter has planned, coordinated and assisted with some of the finest weddings and events across the United States and in Canada for more than 20 years. I am excited for you to read this very helpful article from Anne: “Eleven Mistakes Most Bride’s Make When Planning Their Wedding And How to Avoid Them.”

1. Forgetting to have fun!
I encourage all my brides and grooms to spend at least three hours each week on a “date night.” Date night does not have to cost a lot of money. Go for a walk, to a museum, dinner, watch a movie. The catch is that you are not allowed to talk about wedding plans at all during that time. Stay connected with each other during the planning process. To your groom this may just be a great party with family and friends. Realize that to you this may be more than that. If your wedding planning is consuming all your time, your friends, family and even your fiancé may start to avoid you. Be sure to not get swallowed up by the planning process.

Melisa McKolay Photographer
Photo by Melisa McKolay Photographer
Anne Coulter Productions Portfolio

2. Spending the whole budget on one or two items
Spend your budget on more than just your dress or the location. Pick details that will create lasting memories: photography, food and some “wow” moments for guests are my favorites. After the day is over you will have your photos to remember those moments you may not have noticed. You can’t go back to re-create photos, so choose make sure your photographer is bringing an assistant to help them. Take the time to write out a list of must-have photos you want to be sure the photographer takes. One photographer missed taking a number of photographs of the bridal party and reception site before guests arrived because he decided to get shots of each of the guests as they left the church. These photos could easily have been taken at the reception rather than holding up the guests at the church.

Guests will be talking about the food—and you want this to be in a good way. Bring in favorite recipes when you meet with the chef. You should have a great meal.

Wedding cake with gray swirls
Photo by Harrison Studio
Anne Coulter Productions Portfolio

Remember that just because you love a certain brand of wine or liquor does not mean your guests will be drinking lots of it. Save your money here-you don’t always need the premium bar. The bar tab is where your budget can get out of control quickly. Consider butler-passed drinks for the cocktail hour to slow the drinking down just a bit.

Also, remember that while flowers are gorgeous they are often discarded after the reception, unless you can find someone who wants to put them in the car and drive them all the way home.

This day is about you and your fiancé, and also it is about the guests. Add some special touches such as gift bags or a meaningful favor or details that really reflect who you are. At one event I handed out imprinted flashlights to guests who were parked in the orchard across the road. Several guests said “You thought of everything to make this a wonderful day!”

Sand dollar decor
Photo by Jen Kroll Couture Archivist
Anne Coulter Productions Portfolio

Also, I always encourage up-lighting to set a mood for your reception area. You can change the look of a room or an ordinary barn with lighting.

3. Oh my- You Should have Said No to that Dress
Go to a dress shop where they can take a look at your body shape, size and height and recommend several dresses for you to try on. Many brides go down the aisle in a dress that is not the best suited for them. You want to feel comfortable and look like a million bucks. Also, don’t forget to get the proper undergarments. These can make or break any outfit.

4. Not Having Someone Else Phone Your Guests
Have someone else call guests who have not RSVP’d by your deadline. Let’s face it; you just don’t have time to chit chat two weeks before your wedding. You just want to know if they are attending and if they are having the filet mignon or the salmon. You will have a catering count due, and it will end up costing you money if you don’t have an accurate count. If you make these calls everyone will want to chat for 20 minutes. If your wedding planner makes the calls it will only take a few minutes per call.

5. Ordering Too Much Food
Ask how much overage the caterer cooks. You will have guests who don’t show up (illness, just delivered a baby, job, etc.) so you are probably going to have extra food. That means you can cut your catering count a bit or you can feed your vendors with this. Be sure to feed vendors-after all most of them are putting in 8-20 hour days. Seat the vendors outside of the main reception. It is usually our only time to sit and relax a bit.

6. Keeping Your Guests Waiting
Don’t keep your guests waiting. Build the timeline for the day so your guests can be eating or dancing when you go to get some extra sunset photos taken. You don’t want them sitting there starving because you took 2 or 3 hours to get photos taken after the ceremony. They will remember if they had to eat all the Tic Tac’s in their purse and nibble on their napkins because you were late. A wedding planner keeps everyone on schedule, while still having fun. I like to see a bride and groom plan in 10-15 minutes of time during the day for some time alone away from guests and family. If you need to, take the photographer with you. These photos of just you two are always special.

7. Not Ordering Enough Stationery
Order extra wedding invitations and envelopes. If you cut this number too close and need to go back and order even ten more invitations the stationery company may treat the order like a brand new order and the cost for ten additional invitations and envelopes might be about half of what the first order for 150 invitations cost you. You will make mistakes in addresses, or have people who move and need their invitation re-sent. You also want to keep a copy of all your printed materials. Have lots of people proof everything for grammar, spelling and etiquette rules.

Priceless Photography
Photo by Priceless Photography
Anne Coulter Productions Portfolio

8. Forgetting the Guy Who Got Down on One Knee and Proposed
Don’t forget to include your fiancé in the plans for your wedding day. Remember this is group effort from now on. Include your fiancée in some of the fun parts of planning. Food tasting and cake tasting is always a good time. Is he a music buff? He might have a great time picking songs for the reception. Keep in mind he may not really be interested in the tablecloths or the flowers—or maybe he is…, so now is a good time to communicate about what aspects of the wedding day are most important to you both. I loved my bride and groom who met in Indianapolis and had a common love of football. After dinner they were out on the lawn tossing around a football. Some of the most priceless photographs from that wedding are of the bride out on the lawn in her wedding dress kicking the Indianapolis Colts football (see them under our portfolio at http://www.annecoulterproductions.com).

9. Forgetting to Check Your Seating List and Check it Twice
Do make sure the seating chart is correct. This is where I usually spend most of my time the night before the wedding. Double and triple check that you have the correct amount of each entrée and that you have only 8 or 10 guests seated at a table. Remember that a high chair or booster seat needs to be counted. Both take up space around a table. You don’t need a disaster when everyone goes to sit down and there are not enough places for everyone to sit, or you left your maid of honor’s steady boyfriend off the seating list.

FACES by Yarling
Photo by FACES by Yarling
Anne Coulter Productions Portfolio

10. Being a –Zilla
Smile and take some deep breaths. You are the one who sets the tone for the day. If you are stressed and yelling at your bridesmaids and mom and…everyone else will pick up on it. This is a day or a weekend when you have gathered together all the people you love and care about in the whole world. Expect that there will be a few things that may not happen just as you hoped. You may be the only one who knows something did not happen. Be flexible. When you are dealing with people and weather you can only have so much control. In the end your goal for the day is to get married to that wonderful guy you love. Focus on the marriage, not just the wedding. A wedding planner can also handle the other –zillas that might pop up-a guest zilla, mom-zilla, etc. As true professionals we can handle almost anything in about ten minutes or less-which brings us to tip number 11.

11. “I’ll just have my Sister Coordinate the Wedding
Your sister probably does not plan weddings and events full time. Even if she does, she can’t be one of your bridesmaids standing next to you at the ceremony and for photos while she is taking care of last minute details with your reception, going over the song list with the band, thanking the kitchen staff and giving them instructions, pointing out grandma to the photographer and calming a crying flower girl. “Working with a true professional makes all the difference in the world,” said one of our grooms. Your sister (mom, friend, aunt), as wonderful as she is, should either be in your wedding or attending as a guest-not working at your wedding. This goes for your friends too. It is our pleasure to take care of all the details for your wedding weekend, so you can be the bride and the star.

Congratulations! You are going to be a beautiful bride!

For further information:
Find Anne Coulter Productions online
Email Anne: info@acpweddings.com
Call her at 231.668.6587

Sip a secret.

Sip a secret.

My husband doesn’t know it yet, but he’s about to find his Valentine’s card.

Do you celebrate Valentine’s day? Maybe a nice dinner with some candles? Yup. We did that!

During dinner, we reminisced a bit… Last year I had to pop a room full of balloons to find my gift and the year before that I followed a scavenger hunt all day before it came to it’s close. Then Mr. Wonderful announced that this year he is building me a vanity for my upstairs bathroom!

It was a tad unconventional as far as Valentines gifts go, and to the untrained eye it might seem quite practical and un-valentine-istic… But to me, it is severely romantic that he would do that for me! Let’s face it, we have an ooold house and things are always needing to be fixed. But something like this vanity is something that didn’t have to be done, but something that he wanted to do for me. So sweet!

Here’s where my part comes in. Even though I’m an avid invitation designer, my creativity doesn’t always happen on paper. So I tried something completely different. Maybe a little more masculine (it’s for my husband so it’s okay), and something that he LOVES. Check it out…

Unique Valentine

What can I say, he loves this stuff!

Yes, it’s a bottle of Coke. His fav. Mine too, although I’m slightly biased toward the Vanilla flavored type… Anyway, he had spent all evening constructing the vanity for me so it made sense to get him something cool and refreshing to drink. But here’s the secret:

Unique Valentine

My Valentine

You didn’t know Coca Cola could be cool, refreshing and romantic, did you?

It hardly compares to the work that he put into the vanity, but we’ll roll with it. Happy Valentine’s Day, Matt! I love you with all my heart.

Do you have any unique Valentine stories to share? I love hearing from you!

For wedding inspiration, visit March 27 Designs.

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Survive Wedding Planning: Venue & Catering

Survive Wedding Planning: Venue & Catering

Below are some helpful tips for choosing the venue and caterer that is right for you from April Butler, who has been the Sales & Event Manager for Celebration! Banquets & Catering for the past five years. Celebration! Banquets & Catering is an award winning company, which is part of Celebration! Cinema.

I love my job!

One big part of what I do is to play the event planner role with brides and grooms when they’re both considering Celebration! as a venue/catering option and once they’ve booked. I love my job! It is always rewarding to be able to help someone with one of the most special and important days of their life.

Not all venues are created equal…

When selecting a venue it is important to ask specific questions, but don’t forget to ask questions that are important to you, too! Some questions you might want to consider are:

• How much does the room cost and what is included with that price?
• How many people can the room hold?
• Do we have to meet a minimum with catering and bar services?
• How long will we have access to the room?
• When can we set up?
• Do we have to use specific vendors?
• Is it handicap accessible?
• Do you have restrictions on decorations?
• What is the deposit and is it refundable?

Celebration! Banquets & Catering

Celebration! Banquets & Catering

As you determine where you’d like your reception to take place, make sure to consider what is important to you. Should the room look traditional and elegant or be more unique? Is price a factor? Do you want staff to be in tuxes or more laid back? Ultimately don’t choose a place that doesn’t fit with your personality or your budget!

Celebration! Banquets & Catering

Celebration! Banquets & Catering

Don’t pick a caterer before you’ve picked a place…

Many reception venues offer exclusive in-house catering, which can make it tricky to find the place of your dreams if you already have a caterer in mind. Before you commit to a caterer make sure that they can cater at the place you like or make sure to secure a venue that doesn’t have restrictions. On the other hand, try not to get too set on a caterer – venues that offer in-house catering can really simplify things for you. In many cases you’ll only have to work with one person who will be your contact for any questions you have about the room, the food, or the bar services – and that person can also be a great resource for other wedding needs such as a photographer or a DJ.

Celebration! Banquets & Catering

Celebration! Banquets & Catering

Make sure you like the food…

Many venues will set up public or private taste tests so you can sample a variety of menu selections before making a commitment. This is one of the most important meals you’ll ever have, so be sure you attend a tasting! If your caterer doesn’t have a public tasting for you to attend, ask them to provide a private one. The food is one thing all guests will remember about your big day, so make sure to provide a memorable meal – in a good way!

Celebration! Banquets & Catering

Celebration! Banquets & Catering

The event planner at your venue makes a difference…

This may not seem that important, but you’ll be working with the person at your reception venue for the majority of the time you’re engaged – and probably more than any other vendor you choose. This person will be your go-to with questions about everything – ideas for other vendors, decorations, food, alcohol – and it won’t be fun or easy if you can’t relate to that person. Define your expectations and your vision for your big day with your event planner to make sure that they are feasible. Some ideas are just not possible to execute, but a good event planner will help you make as many of your wedding dreams as possible a reality.

Have FUN!

So often I see brides forget to do this. Your wedding day is special, and ultimately nothing else matters but the fact that you’re marrying the love of your life. If something doesn’t go exactly according to plan, don’t sweat it. Let those you’ve hired handle things for you – that’s what you’ve hired them for! Relax and enjoy your day because it’ll fly by and be done before you know it!

For More Information

Check out Celebration! Banquets & Catering online.

Email: abutler@celebrationcinema.com
Phone: 616.447.4210
Find Celebration! Banquets & Catering on Facebook

Thanks for the great article, April! As you are planning your wedding or special event, what do you look for in a venue or caterer? What does your dream venue look like? Do you have more questions for April? If so, please post your comments below! I love to hear your thoughts!

For more wedding inspiration, visit March 27 Designs.

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