Friday, January 30, 2009

our planning :: 15 :: beauty trial

"I recently visited a salon which said that one hairdresser could do 7 girls up-do's in two and half hours.... That doesn't seem right to me. Does anyone know how long it should take???" -- forum excerpt by LCK, Uh, that doesn't seem quite right! LCK, make a hair trial appointment as soon as you find a stylist and then get a feel for how long it takes to have your hair done, give or take 30–45 min on the actual consultation. Some hair stylists are quick, but I'm not talking "quick" as in 20 minutes per attendant, like LCK was told. I've been doing wedding up-do's part-time for a loooong time -- 10+ yrs. From my experience, it shouldn't be a race against the clock, but rather a smooth process. A stylist who works too quickly and intensely can stress the bridal party. Most of us have visited a stylist, and as a paying client, we expect a certain level of professional service and one-on-one time, right? Same holds true for wedding hair and makeup. The trial is important because you can communicate these issues with the stylist(s) beforehand, getting a feel for not only their craftsmanship, but their time management and professionalism as well.

Back to my note on vendors, spend your time wisely by researching stylists who are within a reasonable price for you and your attendants. Once you find one, schedule a trial appointment asap. NOTE: It is not necessary for attendants to do a trial, but they are most welcome to do one. Some stylists have a trial fee, which is usually priced less than the actual up-do on the day of. NOTE: Items to bring to a hair trial: clear photos of several hair style options, a photo of your dress, your veil or hair accessory, and any other specific details, like hair extensions or your own supplies, that will help the stylist. During the trial, your stylist should provide professional advice, like start and end times, and communicate which hair styles flatter your face shape, your personality, dress and formality. He/she will get acquainted with your hair's texture and health, length, and ability to curl or straighten. The fun part about it is that you can try several hair styles and then choose one that you love!

During my trial, Skipper, my stylist, looked at my photos and mentioned that she thought the model was using hair extensions. I didn't completely shut down the idea, but when she felt how thick my hair was, she said she would be able to accomplish a "similar" up-do w/o using extensions. I, too, try my best when working with clients to achieve a style comparable to a provided photo, but know that differences in hair texture, length, etc. will change the outcome slightly. We tried several options with and without bangs and even tried a completely different up-do, which didn't look great on me. She also asked about a veil, which at the time, I hadn't planned on wearing, and ended up sharing that it would complete my look as a bride! I couldn't be more grateful for her advice. NOTE: During the trial, make sure someone (usually the stylist) is taking notes on the up-do and makeup choices or take photos after. You should see these "notes" again on your wedding day.

After the hair trial, we went straight into the makeup trial, which I had a blast with. Skipper's a movie make up artist, so she had so many types of foundations and bases, each providing different coverage on the skin.
Makeup is amazing! She also tried all sorts of lipstick colors on me, and experimented with the smoky eye look. NOTE: While most ladies try to stay away from using a ton of makeup on their wedding day, a professional stylist is great at putting on excellent, even coverage for photos, and at the same time, not making it feel so heavy. The beauty trial is a must in my book! ;) . . .(click for full post)

our planning :: 14 :: wedding bands

You've booked the major vendors, bought the dress, selected the attendants' attire, and have covered lots of details, but what about the wedding bands?! Ring shopping can be fun for the ladies, but challenging for the men! ;) The fiancé, upon buying the engagement ring, may opt to buy the wedding band at the same time, like in a ring set, which makes shopping convenient. Too, he can most likely negotiate a better deal. But no rush, as many folks still choose to buy the band later. Remember to order your fiancé(e)'s band in time. If you are special ordering or simply resizing a ring, a jeweler can take any where from 2 weeks to several months. If you haven't taken care of the bands early in the engagement, it should be done at least 4–6 months prior to the big day.

Do the bands have to match? It really depends on the two of you. I've seen them match and not match. I had never looked for mens wedding bands, so my first assumption was that they should be of the same material. So I searched and searched, but in the process, learned otherwise. I also took into consideration the fact that Abram was so drawn to a band that was light in weight and not shiny. I wanted him to be happy with the only piece of jewelry he was about to wear -- forever! We researched the types of materials and learned about very hard materials that, in the event of an emergency, had to be cut off with machinery! Wow. If you're wondering what material that is, it's Tungsten. For more info on the durability of materials, check out Ezine Articles. I've attached some photos of men's bands and materials.

Last note, and truly an important one, remember to insure the rings! I can't emphasize this enough! It's unfortunate, but I have heard of situations where rings were misplaced and diamonds fell out of ring settings (*knock on wood). You can purchase jewelry insurance through most insurance companies.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

our planning :: 13 :: bridal party attire

For bellz&whistlez, we do care about the budget, how beautiful the flower centerpieces are, and how scrumptious the dinner is, but in the end, what we try to achieve is that the overall planning makes sense. From a big budget to a small budget, to the choice in vendors, # of guests, to colors and motifs, and even the bridal attire -- all should be relative to the big picture -- to the vision. Your bridal party is a huge part of the wedding and they should definitely stand out amongst the guests. And their dresses and suits … it'd be nice to tie them into the look and feel of the event.

Short dresses, long gowns, tuxedos, suits, shoes … so many things to consider. Need help? A popular way of sharing the responsibility is having the bride handle the bridesmaid and flower girl dresses and the groom handle the groomsmen and ring bearer suits. Remember to share your thoughts on dresses and suits with one another and ask yourselves if your choices reflect your vision. Other Qs: Do you and the fiancé want to select the style of dress and suit they will wear? Do the MaOHs wear the same dress as the MOHs or BMs? When should they do a fitting? NOTE: Take into consideration the cost of the dresses and suits and be sensitive to your attendants' financial qualms. Some attendants may not be aware of the expenses involved in a wedding -- and it can get expensive! Communicating early about some of the costs may better prepare them, esp to the attendants who have another immediate family member participating in the wedding, like a child.

For our planning, Abram decided on the suits, and I selected the dresses. We were pretty aware of the monies that would be spent by our bridal party. We knew about other expenses: gifts, bachelor/ette parties/activities, travel, hotel accommodations, dresses, suits, hair, makeup, shoes, etc. I did see dresses at Mon Amie for the bridesmaids, but they fell out of the range I was targeting. In our case, the attendants were paying for their own attire, so to stay cost effective and also solve the issue w/sizing, I decided that the bridesmaid dresses would be sewn by a known seamstress. I just had to supply an illustration of the dress and materials. To ease the selection process, I sent 3–4 options/examples, which reflected our style, to the ladies to choose from and then had them vote on the style of dress. Majority won. NOTE: You can make the decision by yourself, or simply have the MaOH or MOH help you decide. If you want feedback from all the BMs, select several options and present them. Not having any options can complicate the process.

In the very beginning of our planning, Abram mentioned that he wanted to go classic black and white. It made it easy and definitely complimented the ladies. I was all for it. Because some of guys lived in LA and San Diego, each went on his own time, with the specific style # and color, to get fitted. Same went for the ladies and flower girls.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

our planning :: 12 :: the invitation

I was so excited to work on the invitations because I started out doing custom invitations, so working on ours was something I anticipated. The most asked Q is, "how much do I budget for invitations?" Over the years, I've read in magazines to factor in programs, favors, name tags, and all the other paper goods into one amount. I'm finding that that breakdown is changing and a separate budget is created for a number of reasons. 1) First impression: more couples are prioritizing the ability to make a great 1st impression by means of the invitation. Couples are seeing that the invitation is much more than a piece of white paper; they're realizing that the colors, monogram, paper type, ribbon, typography, and enclosures all reflect what a guest imagines about a couple's big day. 2) Couples are more involved: No longer are the bride's parents picking the invitation and sending them out, it's the couple who takes on this task, being more particular of the style of the invitation they are buying. 3) Cohesive event design: More couples are interested in planning a cohesively designed event, making sure everything from the invitation, to the bridesmaid dresses and centerpieces, match. 4) Originality: Many couples want to be original, and customizing the invite is a great place to start. Originality definitely adds value.

Our 2-color, letterpress invites w/ die cut, lined inner envelope, custom logo; save the date; & program

In royal times, the invitations were delivered by horse back. They came as a scroll on hand made paper, imprinted by a calligrapher with fine ink and tools, and were enclosed in an expensive, usually lavish casing, marked appropriately by a wax-seal portraying the family crest. While now, we depend on the post office to send out our invitations, the tradition of how a custom invitation is put together remains. The beauty of the invitation lies in the materials and printing, and they also determine the cost. Specialty paper, lace vs. poly-satin ribbon, engraving vs. letterpress printing, calligraphy vs. computer fonts, and custom monogram vs. simple text, are all facets of the delicate process and pricing.

Abram and I designed our own wedding invitations. We chose to have them letterpressed, 2-color, with a very non-traditional style. We knew the invite would play an important role in our wedding because it had a purpose for us -- to give the impression that we were producing an event/party vs a traditional reception. This goes back to what we envisioned and planned. As a result, and with the addition of a red carpet and lounge music to welcome guests, the invite did its job. We ensured design consistency by matching our modern vision, venue ambiance, and theme by incorporating a simple layout with lots of white space and use of modern, sans serif fonts. We also loved the fact that our logo (7.7.07 @ [seven-degrees]) acted more as an event logo and encompassed our theme. In regards to mailing, we sent them out 7 weeks prior to the big day.

  • Ideal mailing for an invitation calling for a destination wedding is about 7-8 weeks. For a local wedding, 5-6 weeks is typical, though it's still ok to send them out 4 weeks prior.
  • Be aware of the types and weights of materials you are using. Adding multiple inserts and folds, including the use of thick stock can not only add to postage, but potentially get crumpled at the post office.
  • Weigh a complete ensemble at the post office before mailing them all out. Get accurate postage and buy enough. Last thing you want is for all your invites to get sent back for insufficient postage.
  • Square invitations cost more to mail out due to being outside of standard dimensions.
  • Indicate a "respond by" date on the response card reflecting enough time for you to organize your accepts and declines. Responses are typically due 30 days before the big day.
  • Custom invitations can vary in production time. Allow at least 3-5 months prior to the mailing date for custom invitations to be designed, proofed, printed and delivered.
Take your guests through a process, from start to finish. Start with invitations that truly reflect what you are planning, hinting colors and elements of what's to come. It's the 1st statement you'll make and definitely have a ball with it!
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

our planning :: 11 :: the guest list

The guests -- they are VIP, close to the bride or groom, and are about to create the life of the party. Initially, couples usually have a pretty good idea of who they will invite, but don't realize until later, how difficult it is to create one. Biggest issue: keeping the list to a minimum. For the majority of brides and grooms who are required to stay within a specific # due to a particular budget or venue space, drafting the guest list is quite challenging. I've only been to maybe three weddings that had an "open guest list" -- where as an invitee, I was allowed to bring as many guests as I wanted. Yes, they exist, and these weddings usually abide by certain cultural customs or just have a limitless budget. I have also heard of brides who were simply hesitant to designate a particular seat #. My personal opinion, if you can afford an open guest list, why not? But if you, like most couples, have a more rigid budget, it's important to be very particular about who you invite. NOTE: If you have other people (parents) sponsoring a portion of the wedding, it's fair to allow them to have their own guest list (obviously determining a reasonable # of guests they can invite based on what they are putting in). I've shared some ways of keeping the guest list organized and to a minimum.

Set some boundaries or criteria in determining your guest list.
  1. Agree on a # of guests and stick to it, keeping in mind your budget and space of the venue. The more guests you invite, the more tables, entrées, linen, and favors you'll have to get.
  2. What type of event are you planning? Is it a black tie event with an open bar and adult party feel? Or a casual beach wedding with a family gathering feel? Who you plan to have at your event reflects the type of ambiance you're trying to create.
  3. Figure if you want an open guest list or pre-determined list. Most couples pre-determine the # of seat(s) made available to each invitee on the invitation response card -- usually 2 -- to ensure their head count.
  4. Determine if you would like to invite children. This totally depends on the couple's feelings and type of event, but if you are seriously tight w/#'s, inviting the children to the shower or morning-after brunch, instead of the wedding might be the way to go. Most guests will understand.
  5. If your parents are helping out, tactfully communicate that you will figure a # of "VIP" seats that you will make available for them and their guests -- and do this early. That way, you've prioritized their needs. Be sensitive in the process; parents are super excited to show to their friends that their children are getting married. Try to be reasonable as well, giving only five seats might not do it. If they're still insisting on inviting 100 of their own guests, some of whom you don't even know, figure if they are entitled to it -- are they paying for a majority of the wedding? If not, and all else fails, you can get technical and calculate the % of $ they put in to determine how many seats they've alloted themselves. Your excellent communication skills will be important!
  6. Prioritize. Typically, the list starts off with family, bridal party spouses, relatives, friends, close neighbors, and co-workers. But, friends could be closer to the couple than the couples' own families. For co-workers, keep it to a minimum or if you're # crunching, it's ok to keep them off the list. *Keep wedding plan conversations to a minimum at work -- esp if you're not inviting any co-workers.
  7. A-B-C lists. A-List for immediate family, bridal party & their spouses, and close friends. B-List for distant relatives and friends, close neighbors. C-List for all others. You could decide to mail out A first, then B, then C after you've received declines from A/B. *A courtesy invite could be sent out to your immediate relatives who live outside of the country and you know most likely won't attend.
  8. Begin requesting addresses right away. Create two separate guest lists in Excel using the same template (one for the bride and one for the groom). Each of you can be responsible for your own list. At the end, you can easily combine them.
  9. Do they know the both of us? You don't have to base your guest list on this criteria, but it definitely helps in trying to keep the list down, esp if you're having a difficult time. It's easy and a reasonable way to invite guests. I think people appreciate a couple's wedding more when they've seen the couple together.
  10. Trust yourself in your decision making. I've never limited myself to rules like, "I'm only inviting people I've seen or talked to in the last three years." Surprisingly, some books say to do that. I think it's circumstantial. Yes, it makes it pretty easy to cut down on the guest list, but in reality, many people are more likely to get their feelings hurt that way. People look forward to being invited to something huge like a wedding. You might have a childhood friend that you haven't spoken to in the last three years, but spent 18 years of your life with -- weigh it out and trust your gut feeling. It might make it a little more challenging, but it's better than dealing with an upset childhood friend later on, sometimes resulting in a broken friendship.
Abram and I started working on our guest lists early, dividing it exactly in half -- we were each responsible for creating our list and obtaining addresses. My family is bigger than his, so I had a harder time -- my list consisted of probably 80% family and really the rest were my bridal party and their families, and my other really close friends. Good thing we have some of the same friends, so he was gracious to put them on his list!

Our space accommodated 200 in the main room comfortably w/ a large dance area and stage for a band, and knew it was going to be verrrry difficult since we had a lot of family and friends to consider. Because our venue is a high liability space, with $$$$ art installations hanging on the walls and high-tech fixtures, we didn't want to be responsible for any damages, resulting in an adult-only event. It took some communication to relay this info to relatives, but once they stepped into the reception area, saw the art, glass fixtures, open alcohol bar, live band, and dimmed lights, I think they knew that it was designed to carry an adult party feel. And oh, boy, it was so nice to see our friends and family step out of their element w/o kids to babysit all night! We did invite the children to our shower and other celebratory events.
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our planning :: 10 :: all the bellz and whistlez

So, most of the major things had been completed about 6 months out and it was time to get to work. The first half of the planning consisted of the "big" things, like the engagement, finding the venue, vendors, and dress, but it was time to move on to the second half: all the bellz and whistlez. It would probably take me close to one hundred posts to talk about the last 6 months before the big day and all the errands we had to run, but I'm going to simplify it and highlight some things I found insightful.

flower panels made by Abram and his best man, Noel; decorative bouquet holders made by Cyril

(left) custom chair sashes by Cyril; (right) custom card box: by Aunt Gaye and myself

Though the rest of our time would be spent on the most tedious of tasks, this was my favorite part of process...the heart of the planning. I say "bellz and whistlez" because truly, all the little details do matter; I'm not only talking about favors, programs, and name tags, but the other side to event planning that I really love: organizing the logistics, rehearsing the timing, coordinating with vendors, communicating with guests, preparing itineraries, etc. It did feel like our list of things-to-do quadrupled in size, from figuring out the guest list, to selecting our bridal party's attire, to booking hotel accommodations, and in the middle of it, coordinating with traveling guests, we were multi-tasking like crazy. We were also handling a majority of the hand-made details, paying attention to the most minute imperfections. Where did we find all the time? (Soon-to-be brides, it does get done, believe it or not. Just keep moving forward, pushing to complete tasks, one at a time.)

What we did do that made all the difference was over-communicate. Abram and I met with each of our vendors on several occasions, and we also kept in close contact with our bridal party. Too, we used the internet as a source to keep our guests, family, and bridal party tuned into the wedding plans. Yes, our handy wedding web site was a very useful tool. NOTE: Sign up for a free wedding web site. It's an awesome and FREE way to keep your guests informed. Since you're not limited to including info in the web site, like in a formal wedding invitation, include anything you feel will benefit your guests -- the more info, the better. {,,}

Another really important factor that made this part easier was the fact that we reached out to our bridal party and family. I enjoyed working with Abram's aunt sewing the overlays and working with my best friend, Cyril, making chair sashes, and watching Abe and his best man, Noel, drill flower panels. My dad made custom wire votive holders; my sisters even ventured out in Arizona to find details for us; and Abram's sister helped plan the bachelorette party and wedding shower. I could go on with the list of who helped; it was this part that we hold close to our hearts. Yes, we could've done it on our own, but we chose otherwise, only because weddings come around once in a while, and we really wanted it to be a memorable experience for everyone, esp for those who were in it.

(left) custom flower pails by myself; (right) hanging candle votives made by my dad
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

update {01.15.09}

So sorry, but I've been working on a photo shoot for the past three days, and that's why I haven't been posting. ;( And to tie my hands up even more, I've started to do some minor maintenance to the appearance of the blog! Thanks for your patience. I'm working hard to get some new content up soon and improve the look! -- charmae . . .(click for full post)

Monday, January 12, 2009

bellz & whistlez web site

If you haven't gotten a chance to take a look at our site, please do! have (4) case studies with photos so you can see more samples! Enjoy~

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Friday, January 9, 2009

our planning :: 9 :: booking the vendors

Booking the vendors is, indeed, one of the most critical parts of planning. After we finished selecting our vendors and placing deposits to secure our date, it seemed as though the wedding planning was all done -- we knew it wasn't, but it sure felt like a huge accomplishment and great sense of relief. I treated our wedding planning the same way I've treated other clients' weddings -- with a ton of effort, so finding the right vendors was equally challenging. I had to ensure we were getting vendors who not only did quality work, but were within our budget & understood our vision. NOTE: In my opinion, vendors ought to mesh with the couple personality-wise and understand the vision of the event, style-wise. I've noticed that many vendors have their own style.
It took us a total of 2 weeks to book all of our vendors. I know, truly atypical. Trust me, we probably wouldn't have been able to do this if I didn't work from my own studio and had prior experience. I give you ladies and gents so many high fives for being able to do this while working in the office and not having gone through the process. Our secret: Abram and I shared the responsibility and took care of specific vendor bookings on our own (but we had to agree on them, of course.) Because we were on the same page about our vision (through lots of communication), it ran smoothly.

NOTE: It's always awesome to get referrals from friends; this is the most popular way to find a vendor. But if you haven't gotten any, consider the venue's preferred vendors. Preferred vendors are usually experienced, service with excellence, and have a relationship with the staff -- there are great reasons why they made it on the list. We found our photographer via the preferred vendor list of 7-Degrees and we couldn't have been more happier. Nicole Caldwell, our photographer, knows how to get around the venue, what the angles are to get the perfect shots, and how to work with the low lighting. NOTE: Some photographers are more comfortable with certain types of lighting, though some are excellent with all types. She is also familiar with the staff which eased us and happens to work right next door! Nicole also took our very fab engagement pictures.

Just some NOTES:
  1. Figure your budget. I've helped plan corporate events which are similar to weddings; they both use a specific kind of breakdown with vendors. If a small company wants to spend $40k on, say, the décor, it would make sense that they spend a relative amount on their other vendors. It might disappoint guests to be served a bland dinner and look up to see a $2,000 centerpiece on the table. Couples usually weigh their options and sometimes spend a little more here and less there -- smart. If there's one vendor (not including a venue that is providing the food) you want to allocate more $ to, I'd, hands down, say the photographer.
  2. Set a deadline to book all vendors. Most vendors are reserved 6-12 months prior to the big day. The earlier you start, the better, esp for summer weddings.
  3. Do research and ask around for referrals or look at the preferred vendor list through your venue. Get friends' testimonials, pluses and minuses. Spend your time with vendors who are within your budget, not with those who fall way outside of the range. Time is money.
  4. Focus one at a time. Pick a vendor, do research, and work on that booking until its complete. (But make sure you know your deadlines.) You'll save so much time and energy. Too, it keeps you organized with placing deposits.
  5. Go out and look when you're financially prepared. Vendors usually require a deposit (asap) to book your date.
  6. Schedule an appointment to see sample work and meet the person who will work your event. E.g. if it's a wedding photographer, look at an album of one entire wedding, not just the best photos of all the weddings they've done & see if your personalities click!
  7. Ask the right q's. Sample q's: (1) Am I being double booked? (Some vendors will fit 2-3 weddings in one day.) Figure if you are ok with that. (2) Will you be working my event? If not, who will and can I meet him/her/them? (So you're not in for any surprises.)
  8. Be decisive. I know, it's tough, but the more decisive you are, the easier it becomes. A bride and groom who changes their mind all the time bumps into more issues -- it'd be a good thing to consider hiring a professional.
  9. Manage yourself. This will probably be the biggest and most challenging event you'll ever plan so it's important you center yourself from time to time. Staying organized and optimistic will prevent you from having a really negative planning experience. Seek professional assistance if you need extra support.
  10. Pay on time. You depend on them for certain services; they depend on you to pay deposits and balances as indicated on the contract. Final payments are typically made 1-2 weeks prior to the event.
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Thursday, January 8, 2009

sweet winter wedding REFLECTION {12.27.08}

Taking a break from "our planning" posts. Here is a reflection blog from Cyril, our Event Coordinator, on the sweet winter wedding that we coordinated on 12.27.08 at the La Jolla Hyatt Glass Pavilion...and some pictures provided by Cheryl, the bride, thanks to her family and friends and the b&w team. Benny and Cheryl are the perfect match; let me add, they dated for 10 years before tying the knot! Congratulations!!! (We will post professional pics as soon as we get them so you can see how it all came together; these pictures are only a small snippet of the entire event.)

b&w setting up before guests arrive; draping to frame the entrance by FloralWorks

The whimsical, winter wedding cake

Tall centerpiece w/butterfly, silver twigs, orchids, gems and boa; Sweets Station

Cyril here writing my first official blog of 2009!

My main goal as the coordinator of b&w is for the bride and groom to be a guest at their own wedding. I have always heard of other couples who didn’t hire a professional coordinator, expressing how much they wished they did. Because of this, couples were too busy working their own wedding--juggling time, vendors, and guests--sadly, they did not get to enjoy themselves! An important event like this, where a lot of time, planning, and preparation is involved, it is a MUST that the bride and groom get to relax, relish, and cherish every moment of their special day.

I cannot express how essential it is to hire a wedding coordinator, even if it is for the day-of…and Benny and Cheryl did just that! Not only did they plan and design this beautiful winter work of art, but they truly were guests at their wedding. They were relieved from the stresses of timing and coordinating with vendors because b&w stepped in and executed the itinerary successfully.

It was absolutely amazing how the couple was able to spend quality time with each other, appreciate their dinner, and mingle with friends and family throughout the entire evening, without having to feel rushed! Nonetheless, the program still ran smoothly and was on time- to the very minute!

- Cyril (event coordinator for bellz & whistlez)
other side of the room; white dance floor with custom gobo

amazing sweethearts table décor

Winter ornament give away with custom printing

Photo of groom and a friend clowning around in the photo booth (lol)

Table arrangement: crushed white linen with silver chair covers
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Monday, January 5, 2009

our planning :: 8 :: the dress!

Choosing the dress -- one of the most exciting parts of planning! After seeing tons of gorgeous strapless dresses in mags, which were an '06 hit, a few things stuck out. I actually grew a liking for lace and sashes from seeing such beauties, but I didn't see one off-the-shoulder dress, and that's what I wanted. From researching, I found that an a-line dress best suited my figure. For info on styles, necklines and shapes of gowns, check out: ArcaMax. My goal: youthful, feminine and modern. I also kept in mind the style of our wedding and wanted a dress that matched the occasion. Anyhow, I went out to search on my own (not typical, but being out away from home, it was difficult getting my mom and BMs out at the same time, and time was ticking). NOTE: Some dresses (usually designer ones) can take up to 8 months to receive. Keep in mind you will need an additional 1-2 months for alterations, so try to shop early!

Trying to find a reputable gown salon can be easy -- just ask the right q's. NOTE: When it comes to a gown salon, ask about variety, price range, customer service and quality of work (whether they have on-site experienced seamstresses whose only job is to alter bridal gowns). I asked around and was referred to Mon Amie Bridal Salon in Costa Mesa; I didn't know it would turn out to be my first and last stop. What I love about this salon is that they have a great selection and quantity of gowns and the price range extends from under $1,000 to $10k+. I liked the thought of that because 1) I'd have better chance of finding styles by competitive designers that fit within my price range and 2) I could look at the expensive ones, try them on, and just I think I had an easy time compared to others. With the help of an awesome personal consultant, I tried on a total of 7 dresses and loved the 3rd -- a strapless, semi A-line dress, with a sash..and lace! I made my decision and scheduled another trip to purchase the dress. NOTE: I didn't buy right away. I knew that was the one I wanted, but I sat on the idea of the style of dress, price, and talked Abram about my planned purchase w/o giving him details on the look. I wanted to make sure I was 100% sure! I also looked up the dress at competitors' sites and shops.

Photo of the original dress.

So, you're probably wondering why I bought a strapless dress if I was looking for an off-the-shoulder neckline? Answer: I turned it into my vision and added off-the-shoulder straps using the same alençon lacing from my dress and a sweethearts cut, obviously consulting with the on-site seamstress. I could wear them off the shoulders and on the shoulders! ;) Yes, there was a premium to be paid, but I wanted to personalize my dress. It'd be one-of-a-kind and would definitely add to the emotional value. But keep in mind, customizing a dress comes with a price because alterations can be costly. NOTE: Don't forget to calculate alteration costs into the purchase price of your dress. Simply taking up the length can cost $250 from a reputable salon. I spent almost $770 extra for alterations alone. I also purchased a custom sash (they didn't have my exact gold) -- more $...

Photo of my dress wearing the sleeves in two ways -- on and off.

* Veil -- Originally, I opted out of wearing a veil, but when I met with my hair stylist, I was so glad she convinced me -- it totally completed my look as a bride! Because I had spent a little more than I budgeted for my dress, I skipped the $750 veil that was suggested and bought one for $15! LOL. Hey, I highly doubt anyone would've figured that out. Plus, I only wore it during our short 22 min ceremony. ;)
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Friday, January 2, 2009

our planning :: 7 :: selecting the bridal party

Though some already know right off the top of their head who they will choose as attendants to their wedding, I think this was a pretty tough one for me and Abe -- it was such a personal and delicate decision. Abram and I spent a lot of time selecting those who would stand next to us to witness our matrimony. Each attendant not only had special meaning to us individually, but watched Abe and I grow together. It was challenging, but we we were able to narrow it down about 8-9 months before our big day. We chose to have 6 ladies/6 gents: (1) MaOH, (1) MOH, (3) BMs, (1) jr. BM / (2) best men, (3) GMs, and (1) jr. GM. NOTE: In my opinion, you can select/change your bridal party any time during your engagement. Ideally, the earlier the better in the event you plan to call on your attendants' help with the wedding, and the ordering of dresses and tuxedos runs a lot smoother.

Photo of my attendants with Abram (I don't know what this was all about. lol)

Creative Tip:
Send a care package with goodies along with a hand written note to each of your attendants to let them know they were chosen and why. Sweet!

Acronyms & definitions (Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary):
  • (MaOH) matron of honor: a bride's principal married wedding attendant
  • (MOH) maid of honor: 1 : an unmarried lady usually of noble birth whose duty it is to attend a queen or a princess 2 : a bride's principal unmarried wedding attendant
  • (BM) bridesmaid: a woman who is an attendant of a bride
  • best man: the principal groomsman at a wedding
  • (GM)groomsman: a male friend who attends a bridegroom at his wedding
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our planning :: 6 :: who's hosting?

The biggest question and probably one of the most sensitive questions is, "Who's hosting?" NOTE: I've read many etiquette books just to get insight, & most of the books say it boils down to who's putting up the most mula (this is typically the person(s) listed first on the invitation). But there are "ifs" and "buts" to this, 'cause a parent who offers his house as a venue can save $15,000 in renting a ballroom. Tradition says it's the bride's family who hosts, but that tradition has been slowly going away. I think it's because in current times, couples are financially capable to help with costs and the groom's family wants to be involved. For the more modern couple, if your ideal planning consists of both sets of parents' $ help, including some of their suggestions, yet you would like greater control of the decision making, you can consider a breakdown like so:

It seems fair, in my opinion. If this is not feasible, and requires more help from your families, then you might want to put on your patience hat and plan to be flexible with working with them or whoever is helping out with a bulk of the costs. If you get 100% help from your parents and they allow you to do whatever you want -- you're one lucky couple and be very appreciative! ;) NOTE: The more people involved in the planning, the greater risk for lengthier and more challenging decision making.

Abram and I don't come from wealthy families, so upon agreeing to have a big wedding, we decided we were going to put up all of the costs. (I will add that through the process, family members voluntarily extended their help and generosity.) I know this isn't a common hosting scenario, but this was pretty much our only option to have a big wedding. (I know other couples who have done this.) Stressful, but we knew we would have control over the planning without having to hear fuss about our decisions -- esp our non-traditional ones... we just had to work hard to save, save, save. It was worth it 'cause we didn't run into any issues with any one.

Article: "Wedding Etiquette for the Modern Bride and Groom" by Deah Paulson
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our planning :: 5 :: the church

Ahh..the church. This is another important factor in planning, should you have a religious ceremony. Ok, so Abe and I booked our venue, yet we didn't check with the church first (but we didn't plan on booking a venue that fast neither) -- easy way to get set back. We're originally from San Diego, but moved to Corona, and were having our reception in Laguna Beach. Hmm. This was definitely considered a destination wedding, because most of our guests would be coming from San Diego, some of whom were to stay in our provided accommodations.

We knew we had booked our venue first, so to try and go to the church next, we had better be prepared. To prepare, we consulted with churches in Orange County, but every single Catholic church was reserved on 7.7.07, even our church in Corona -- we were battling with the most popular wedding date of the year! We were 11 months out and some couples booked the date 2 yrs in advance! It was grueling trying to find a church near our venue that still had the date avail. So, we made the decision to approach our deacon, who is the sweetest deacon alive -- Deacon Marlon at our favorite church, St. Mary Magdelene in Corona. After much deliberation, it was decided that we would have a non-denominational officiant conduct the ceremony at 7-Degrees and then have a convalidation (ceremony recognized by the church after having been legally/civilly married) ceremony at the church. This wasn't part of our plans as I'm more for the sacred church ceremony, but again, because we kept ourselves flexible to changes, the idea grew on us, and as long as our church was ok, we were ok.

We still went through the church process of taking wedding-prep classes and attended the Engaged Encounter in Redlands. I've heard mixed reviews about the EE, but we would highly recommend the Redlands EE -- lots of laughs and lots of tears. It was such and eye-opening experience and really gives you insight as to whether you're really ready! There were couples of all kinds of religions who attended the EE.
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our planning :: 4 :: picking a venue

NOTE: Plan on having a religious ceremony? It's a good suggestion that you approach your house of worship first to discuss your preferred dates and their open dates, and then search for a venue. Abram and I did it reverse -- to us, there was good reason. To our church, the question arose.

Abram and I, after much discussion on the type of wedding we wanted, started to research venues (all out of curiousity). We liked the idea of having our reception at a different kind of location; our first idea was to rent out an estate and have a backyard wedding. Early in our engagement, we found 7-Degrees through a simple search and saw that they were having a wedding event in two days. We went, seriously, just to take a look at the place, and fell in love -- we knew it was the perfect place! (*This was the 1st and only venue we toured.)
Because it was called "7-Degrees," we thought it'd be ironic to find out if they had July 7th, 2007 (7.7.07) available. We inquired and they said 5 people had shown interest, but no one put a deposit. We took a look at their packages, figured it was just a little bit above our budget, but manageable and jumped on the availability. If we waited even a day or two, the date would've been gone -- though we would've been ok with it and gone with our Sept date, 7.7.07 seemed a lot cooler. Our vision of our wedding came together just by previewing the architecture, space, and ambiance.

So, instead of the Sept date we initially thought of, our wedding was to take place 2 months earlier. Kind of strange, but the date and name of place determined our overall theme -- "7.7.07 @ [seven-degrees]."

inside the main gallery (blank canvas)

view from the zen garden looking down at the rooftop (ceremony location)
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our planning :: 3 :: picking a date

This is one of the more important things in planning. Why? Picking the date can present several challenges, like weather, school vacations, busier work schedules, and holidays. NOTE: Depending on the formality of your wedding and size, allow a good 9-12 months to plan. I'll talk about weather, since that one small issue can determine the type of wedding you are going to have. Spring and summer seasons have always been the more popular times of the year to have a wedding, but fall and winter weddings are becoming favorable. In San Diego, for example, the sun sets close to 8PM during summer, making a wedding event seem longer. A winter wedding has colder weather, keeping most guests inside the venue, to keep cozy. We're blessed here in California 'cause we have great year-round weather, making it somewhat easier for us to select a date. But for others, they've got to factor in things like stormy weather, snow, humidity, etc.

In any case, Abe and I liked September. I've gone to many weddings around Labor Day, and I've always experienced great weather and good turnout. Families are usually home from summer vacations, and celebrating a marriage is a fun way to end the summer season. We didn't set ourselves on an exact date, and I'll tell you why in the next post. Again, we liked September. . . .(click for full post)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

our planning :: 2 :: engagement party

Though it's optional, the engagement party is thrown 1-2 months after the official engagement and is really an opportunity for close family and friends to celebrate the occasion. It's also a great time for both families to meet if they haven't done so already. NOTE: Tradition says either parent(s) can host the party, but in recent times, I've seen close relatives, friends and even the couple host their own party.

For our casual engagement party, held 3 months after our engagement, Abram's mom graciously hosted the event at our house. Abe and I wanted to keep it really simple and quaint, and weren't particular about having all the bellz & whistlez. We invited about 80 guest (all of whom were going to be invited to the wedding, of course!), rented some nice white chairs and tables, and decorated with really inexpensive décor. My sisters hosted the games and gave away some small prizes.

NOTE: Bringing a gift to an engagement party is optional. If you like to bring gifts, a small gift, like a bottle of wine, should suffice. Really, your company is most important at the announcement party.

Here is a picture of Patrick, one of our groomsmen, and all the yummy Filipino food! On a side note, Abram (the comedian hubby of mine) had the task of ordering one of the cakes and we got a mango mousse cake that said, "Congratulations, Jackson!" (he's our little dachshund)

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our planning :: 1 :: the engagement

I'll make this super short. To back track, we met in high school, had several classes together, carpooled, and were even going to be college roomies at UC Irvine, but ended up going our separate college ways. There was no chemistry back then. (lol) We lost touch and time passed, but in 2003, we magically reconnected in Orange County and to our surprise, began dating. Abram and I were together for about 3 years before he proposed. The proposal date was July 16, 2006. It was one of the most memorable days of my life. I never thought I was going to marry the guy who sat right behind me in class!

Here's Abram, Cyril and I in high school in the 90's. (haha..check out my boy cut hair...)

In regards to the ring, I really wanted a simple band -- to be precise, it was this Cartier Love wedding band in platinum.

But after all the window shopping, I slowly transitioned over to wanting a ring with a stone. And Abram picked the most gorgeous ring for me. ;) NOTE: Educate yourself on the 4 c's (Carat, Color, Clarity and Cut). The ring is an investment, monetarily and emotionally -- so make sure you (the person buying it) know what you're paying for. Example: A very good-cut diamond gives off more scintillation (sparkle), which also gives the illusion that the diamond is bigger than it really is. Plus, it'll always shine, even if it hasn't been cleaned for years.

We made the announcement to immediate family by phone, insured the ring, and then began planning an engagement announcement party.
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upcoming for 2009: our planning experience

So, I've been giving a lot of thought to what I'd like to write about, and though I have many topics I'd like to cover, I thought as a newlywed, why not share some of the planning/design challenges that most couples experience, or at least the ones my husband and I faced. I'll share what it was like for us, who hosted, what our priorities were, where did we sacrifice, picking a venue, etc. To be honest, I know I'm a planner, but our experience was so fun, we both agreed we'd do it all over again. I'll do this within the next few weeks, but I won't forget to post some more b&w work! ;) Hope some of this insight will help you in preparing for your big day, whether you're doing it all on your own or with the help of some one else.

Photo taken at the Dalisay-Romo Wedding: 08.13.2005
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