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Monthly Archives: March 2011

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

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:
Call her at 231.668.6587