Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Assignment!

Well my degree is in teaching after all, you had to expect there would be some "homework" somewhere along the line here, right?
Here's the story. In the shop we are going to use the area by the invitations, in front of the center window, to present a "Palette of the Month" display. We thought it would be fun to choose color palettes for weddings that would be trendy, novel and inspiring for our couples that come in the shop. We thought we would project it out about 7-8 months, so the January palette would be something designed for a July wedding, the February palette would be something for August, etc.
Our thought on this is to bring together everything for a wedding--tuxes, vests and ties, invitations and other paper products for your wedding, accessories, favors, etc. We are all really excited about this! It's going to be like planning a wedding every month! We even considered making up a fictitious bride and groom and telling "their story" along with the display. Won't that be fun?
So this is where you all, my readers (all three of you, haha) come in. We would love some suggestions, ideas, thoughts, on what colors to use for our palettes. Tell us what colors you are using for your own wedding. Tell us what your favorite colors were that you have seen lately. Tell us what you would like to see. Feel free to suggest one color, two colors or an entire array of colors. We will pick and choose the "Palette of the Month" for each month based on your input, the trend colors for next year, and of course, what we like the best! haha.
I think this will be a really fun thing to do, and it will give us a lot of great ideas for future weddings. I will post a photo of the Palette each month so that you can see it. But keep in mind that seeing it in person is always so much better and besides, we would love to have you come visit us!
So get on that homework assignment now Class! I expect to hear from you in the next day or two!
Class dismissed!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Megan's Reception (better late than never!!)

So,I believe we left off, two MONTHS ago (Gees! Does anyone have any ideas on how to be a better blogger? I am so awful at this! I have so many things go through my head that I think, "Oh! That would be a great topic!" But when it comes to sitting down and actually writing them, I have a blank mind! Help!) Megan and Trey had boarded the fire truck to go take pictures and all the guests headed for the garden and cocktail hour, right?

Ok, so in the garden, we had the Jeff Brown Trio playing on the patio, and a portable bar set up to serve wine and the bar was open in the ballroom for mixed drinks and such.
It was a little on the chilly side, and a lot of people in the garden, but it was very festive! The servers passed hors d'oeuvres in the garden on trays--crabcakes, asparagus beef rollups, caprese skewers and shrimp shooters (pipettes of wasabi sauce or cocktail sauce with a shrimp stuck on the end! So fun! You put the shrimp in your mouth and squeeze, so that you get the sauce with it, it was a kick!) Eventually everyone moved into the ballroom, and the festivities continued there. The wedding party came back and took a few photos in the chapel, then joined the party.
As the guests entered the lobby, they foun d their placecards and signed the 18x24 picture matte with brown pens.
The matte, emblazoned with a large taupe "W" also had a 5x5 picture of Megan and Trey from the rehearsal.

The tables were set with chocolate brown bichon tablecloths, and each had one of four different designs of centerpieces. The variety was interesting and very pleasing to the eyes.

The placecards, which were displayed in alphabetical order, matched the menu cards which were at each place on the tables.

(All of the paper pieces were coordinated both in the color and type of paper as well as the ever present "W"--save the date, invitation, placecard, menu card, program for the ceremony, and the gift bags for the golf outing and the hotel guests.)
The formalities began with the introductions of all of the parents, grandparents, wedding party, and then the bride and groom.

They went to their cake, in the middle of the dance floor and cut the cake.

This works out really nice because it gives you something to do besides smile and wave after you are introduced! You also have everyone's attention at that point, so they don't miss it. I can't tell you how many weddings I have been to at other venues where we didn't even know they had cut the cake! It was hidden off at the side of the room and no one could even see them cut it. What a waste. If you are spending all that money on a beautiful cake, your guests should see it! That's why we put it front and center in the middle of the dance floor!
After the cake was cut, Megan and Trey took their seats, and the Best Man, Paul,

and the Matron of Honor, Amy,

gave two very lovely toasts. All of the guests toasted the bride and groom with glasses of Frixenet champagne topped with strawberries on the rims. After a prayer, the dinner was served--and what a dinner it was!! The first course was a Granny Smith Apple Salad with crumbled bacon and bleu cheese, sliced apples, and spring green. Yummy! After the salads were served the bride and groom stood up and thanked everyone for coming and made a few comments. Then dinner was served. Filet mignon with a skewer of shrimp and scallops, sour cream and chive mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus. The spice wedding cake was served for dessert, topped with real whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
As the cake was being served, the bride and groom took the dance floor for their first dance. As Amy had mentioned in her toast, watching the two of them dance was truly a treat.

They dance so beautifully together. Trey ended it with one of the best dips I have ever seen at Aberdeen!

The rest of the formal dances followed, and then the dance floor was opened with an anniversary dance. Mike the DJ had all of the married couples come out and dance, and then eliminated them by calling out how many years they had been married. As the number got higher the dancers got thinner and thinner till only one couple, who had been married 43 years, was left. Mike introduced them and asked them what their advice was to the couple. It was a wonderful way to get the party started.
The dancefloor was packed all evening. My theory on this, and I have seen it happen time after time, is that if the bride and groom enjoy dancing and are out there the whole evening, they will have a crowd with them! Mike played lots of great tunes, and everyone had a terrific time.
At this point I must make a confession. I dance in the kitchen. It always seems like about 9:30 or 10 pm I get a second wind, and I walk through the kitchen singing whatever the DJ is playing or if it's a song I really like, well yes, I boogey down folks. It isn't appropriate for us to run out to the dance floor when we are working, but nobody sees me in the kitchen! The staff all think it's pretty funny, and they are particularly impressed that I know the words to "Apple Bottom Jeans" which is one of my all time faves.
Anyway,we invited all of our staff to come out and do the cupid shuffle with us about 10 o'clock; servers, bartenders, dishwashers, kitchen staff; they all came out and danced--it was SO much fun! We wanted to do something to recognize them for all of their hard work and effort. They did so much to make this day perfect for us, and we wanted them all to be publicly recognized for such a great job.
The evening flew by. I remember standing by the bar and just looking around at all that was happening, trying to make a mental picture of it. Megan came over and I said "Megan! We're already to the dancing!" So I put my arm around her and we just took a moment together and soaked it all in. It was really a special moment.
As the reception ended, Megan and Trey changed out of their wedding finery. Megan had a cute little hoodie and pants that said "just married" on the back in rhinestones. They gave eveyone hugs and said their goodbyes, and jumped in the limo that was waiting to take them to Chicago where they were leaving the next morning for Mexico.
Since the wedding, Megan and I have said many times how nice it would have been to have had some time the next day to "debrief"! We had worked so hard on this day for so many months. It was so difficult not to have any time to talk over the events of the day and go over every detail. I could hardly wait for her to get back! I think she will agree that this would have been one of the very very few things we would have done differently. It would have been so nice to have Sunday to talk about it. We had a brunch at the house for all of the out of towners, relatives, and close friends, but it just seemed like something was missing without Megan and Trey there. I think, ideally, the bride and groom might stay and one of our beautiful local B&B's for their wedding night, join in the fun for the brunch on the morning after, and then leave on their honeymoon either Sunday night or Monday morning. In my experience as an independent consultant, the afterparties are the most relaxed, and most fun of all the weekend activities. It's a shame if the bride and groom miss them.
So that's the whole story. And now I promise I won't bore you any more with the details of my daughter's wedding. But for those of you who were interested, I did want to finish the narrative.
All I can say is, I am so glad I have all of the weddings at Aberdeen to work on coming up, because if this had been the end of my wedding planning, I think I might have been very depressed! But I guess that's why I'm in this business. I really and truly want to make EVERY wedding we have at Aberdeen as unique and wonderful as Megan's was. I am here for ALL of our brides and grooms, to help them find ways to make their wedding different and exciting. It's what I do, it's what I love, and it's why I am in this business.
But I must admit, I am just a little bummed that all four of our daughters are married now!!!!!!!

Oh, and by the way, I need a disk for the additional photos I want to add to this post, so check back around the 10th and I will get them added in. If I can't add them here, I will put them in an additional post.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Megan's Wedding--Part 2

The weather was beautiful, sixties, sunny and not much breeze. A perfect fall day. The chapel was all decked out and looking absolutely gorgeous. Dodrill Construction had made a special effort to install the candles in the windows before Saturday, Dennis worked on it all week to get them done. They looked beautiful. We had liked the candles in the windows last Christmas so much that we wanted to have them year round. They look amazing.

Inside, The Flower Cart had worked their magic. Little antique copper containers hung from the pew ends filled with roses, orchids and bright green amaranthus.

The table at the front of the chapel was covered in roses, amaranthus and candles. Megan had wanted to have lots of candles. She and Trey worked some beautiful elements into their ceremony, which was officiated by Judge ProTem Doug McMillan. They had each of their attendants light a candle for each of the vows, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, etc. Then the two of them went up and lit the unity candle.

It was just lovely. I loved that it involved the entire wedding party in a unique and moving way.

Following the ceremony, the bride and groom went back to the front and released the guests themselves, rather than having a receiving line. As each of the guests came through the doors of the chapel, they were given balloons in the wedding colors of chocolate, burgundy and ivory.

(That's my little granddaughters, Mary Grace and Claire, the flower girls, with their daddy and their balloons, sooooo cute!)

When everyone had left the chapel and had their balloons, Megan and Trey rang the steeple bell, and came out the door. They released their balloons and so did everyone with them. It was so beautiful. Not very PC I admit, but it was magnificent.

Then the bride and groom boarded the Task Force Tips firetruck, driven by my brother Stewart, and they went down the street to take some pictures by the fountain, sirens blaring, lights, and bell clanging! It was wonderful fun!

So today is flying by, and I need to attend to the wedding we have this evening so for now you will just have to wait with eager anticipation to hear about the reception! If you can't wait you can always go to my daughter, Amy's blog where she has posted her take on the whole affair days ago, because she is a much better blogger than I! If you visit her blog be sure to read her poem from last Monday about "My Favorite Things" it was darling!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Being on the other side of the event!

Well, as many of you know, my youngest daughter, Megan,

was married last Saturday. It was awesome. What can I say? All the months of planning and thinking the entire event through, minute by minute, paid off. We really had a very stress free weekend, thanks to my Peeps at Aberdeen Manor! They did an absolutely amazing job, with the food, the coordination, the entire event. I never had to worry about a thing. I felt so at ease and so calm. I just knew that they had everything under control.
We started the weekend out with a golf outing at the Course at Aberdeen on Friday for the groomsmen, parents, and a few others. There were 16 in all, plus Trey (the grooom) who played a few holes with each foursome. We had made cute little gift bags with personalized tees and embroidered towels for everyone, as well as some water bottles and snacks.

The weather cooperated, although it started to get a little chilly toward the end, and it took a little longer than planned, so the mother of the bride ended up at the rehearsal in her golfing clothes!!! For the rehearsal dinner we had a Spanish Tapas

theme that turned out wonderfully. You would have thought that Don Quijote had catered it! The tapas were fabulous, and everyone had such a good time. We decorated with black, red and yellow linens (the colors in the Spanish flag) and wine corks. It turned out really cute.

Megan spent the night at our house, because she had lots of company using her house. On Saturday morning we all got up and had a leisurely breakfast. Megan said that she was moving back home after the wedding because she had slept so well and loved the breakfast Jim made for her! At 10 a.m. the bridesmaids came over and Maria Blanco also came to do their makeup. Everyone kind of took turns eating lunch (again supplied by my Peeps, enough chicken salad to feed an army! We made sandwiches and had chips and fruit and mimosas courtesy of Megan's stepsister Jill) At 1 everyone went to Terry Abner Salon to have their hair done. They did an amazing job on everyone. We were all out at the chapel later in the afternoon for photos. Oh, did I mention that Ed Collier, our photographer, came over about 11 and spent the whole day with us. He went to the salon for the hairdos, and then out to the chapel. What a joy he is to have around! Ed was like one of the family. After a while we didn't even notice that he was taking 9 million photos! It was like having a good buddy there to hang out with. We are all dying to see his shots though tomorrow!
I arrived at the building, my outfit and shoes in hand because I had yet to have my makeup done by Maria. Good thing too! When I walked into the ballroom I absolutely lost it! The flowers were absolutely incredible!!

The Flower Cart had told us they wanted to do "a couple little extra things" but I was NOT prepared for the absolutely amazing flowers! Everywhere I looked there were red roses. On the tables, on the mantle in the lobby, hanging from the chandeliers

with tiny burgundy orchids shooting out of the balls. it was an absolute fantasy of flowers. Over at the chapel they had gone crazy as well, there was even a rose petal "W" in the grass outside the chapel!

It was just beautiful. Unless you saw it there is no way that I could describe it adequately!

Amazing! It was all just totally amazing! The garden was lovely, with round glass bowls and tall cylinders full of reflective crystals on LED bases that would glow at night. The tables all had small bouquets of red roses with a candle in a glass holder on the chocolate tablecloths. These were high tops for the cocktail hour.

But I digress! I had intended this to be a post about what I learned from being on the other side of the coin. Well, one thing I really realized, was how oblivious you are to what is happening around you, and this is why you need someone there that is consciously aware of what is going on! It was funny how many folks asked us if we were "checking out" what our people were doing, and honestly, I had no awareness of that at all! I kept thinking "this is all going by so fast! Gosh, it's already to the dinner, or the dancing or whatever, it's going SO fast" I really wasn't aware of anything my staff was doing. I guess this is a good sign because if they hadn't been on the ball I probably would have seen it, but they were all so on top of everything--I knew they had it all under control so I wasn't even thinking about it. If you are going to enjoy your reception though, you need to have someone there to look after all the details, so that you don't have to!
Second, and I have already said this in so many words I guess, it goes by SOOOO FAST!!! You are trying to be involved in all that is going on, talk to all of your friends, participate in everything, and the evening absolutely flies by. I guess all I can say is that you need to stop every once in a while and just soak it all in. Look around you, and just be in the moment. I can hardly wait to get Real to Reel's video back, because I want to relive every little detail of the day.
Third, I think the key to having a beautiful, relaxing weekend, is PLANNING! You need to think through every single moment of the weekend, and what will be going on. Think it all through. Who will sit where, what will be happening, what will you need to do to make sure that it all goes according to plan? Megan and I drank many a bottle of wine over the wedding plans. We talked through each and every detail. We made lots of lists, and we set aside time every week for the last several months to work on wedding plans. It really paid off. We knew what was happening each and every minute of the wedding weekend, and so we could relax and enjoy it all, knowing that all the bases were covered.
Fourth, the other key to a perfect weekend is having great vendors! Your DJ, photographer, videographer, florist, cake person, etc. all make their contributions to your day that make it perfect. It's an orchestra, all playing together, and if one of them is out of key, it affects the whole symphony. We had wonderful vendors. Of course, having had the opportunity to watch all of them in action for years was a big help, but we also share all of this with you in our favorites list, so there is no reason that everyone can't have a perfect day.

I plan to write more about the actual ceremony and reception tomorrow, but I had a long weekend and I'm tired! So you'll just have to wait till tomorrow!

Happy wedding planning!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Theme parties--So much fun!!!

Well, those of you who are into such things, will notice that for the month of July I have 5 (count them, FIVE!) posts already and there is still a week to go in the month! Woohoo! I have really been trying to be more attentive to this blog. I'm still not sure that anyone (other than my daughters) is reading it, but I shall persevere and continue to write posts.
My week has been interesting. We did a seminar today with a carnival theme, so most of the week was consumed by trying to think up a centerpiece that said "carnival" to go with their other activities. Hmmmmm. I enjoy coming up with things like that, funky solutions to weird off the wall problems. But this one took some real thinking! We ended up with a tall vase that we filled with peanuts and had those mylar grassy fountain things coming out of the peanuts in purple, green, and red. Then we put stuffed animals all around the base with pictures from carnivals and fairs that I printed off and cut out, all over the animals. Then we put peanuts around them on the table. It turned out great. The pictures were all bright and interesting and really made it eyecatching.

We used lots of colors of cloth toppers on the tables and we put contrasting colored napkins flat in the center of the tables for additional color under the centerpieces.

The food was the most fun. We served hamburgers, chicken, potato salad and baked beans for lunch, with funnel cakes, deep fried Twinkies and deep fried Milky Ways, for dessert. For their afternoon break they had tortilla chips and salsa, popcorn, pretzel rods, and snow cones! It was definitely a fun theme to do this week since our county fair is going on out at the Expo Center. Patti even went to the fair to do some research on how to get those deep fried Twinkies and Milky Ways perfect! I hope this doesn't catch on for wedding receptions though! Those Twinkies and Milky Ways took a long time to fry! It was a fun day and a really interesting and fun project to work on. I like doing stuff like that. It keeps my brain working.
My theory about doing a theme, whether it's a seminar, a wedding reception, or any other type of party, is that you have to carry your theme through to touch all the senses--sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch. When we have an Asian buffet or a Spanish buffet, or any of our many themed events, we play music that goes with the theme, the food and the menu hit sight, smell and taste, the decorations on the buffet and the tables go for the sight and touch. It makes for a complete event. If you leave any of the senses out, then your theme has holes in it. So if you are thinking about a themed party, remember--appeal to all the senses and your party will be a huge success!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Warm fuzzies

Sometimes I receive notes that just make my day. This was one of them:

p.s. We went to a wedding this afternoon for some of our friends from college,their reception was at xxxxxxxxxx... and as we drove home tonight we both said how glad we are that we chose to go with you. We already know we are assured such a classy wedding reception and atmosphere and won't be sharing the space with the 50th wedding anniversary party tonight that had tons of kids running around! (with no special kids room to play in I don't blame them!) But we were just that much more confirmed in our decision to have our reception with you all and wanted you to know that we're glad that such an all encompassing friendly and knowledgable wedding service and classy place like you all are right here in Valpo and are taking such good care of us for our special day! Its very comforting and exciting! So thanks for being here! :)

Now I ask you, what better testimony is there? This is why we keep going in this business. It's couples like this that "get it" that make us feel like we are really doing something that is important and appreciated. So thank you A.! You made my day!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

December is available for the picking!!!!!!

Well, I had a meeting with my ad agency on Friday, and we talked with them about tying a calendar of available dates into our blog. Does that appeal to anyone? Does anyone actually READ my blog? (That would be other than my daughters who are loyal and faithful readers, haha) Our thought was to have some sort of list along the side of the posts that would show the available dates that are kind of getting missed in the shuffle. It's always frustrating when someone says to me "Oh, I hear you are booked three years ahead!" because we AREN'T booked that far ahead, and even if someone came in tomorrow wanting a date this fall, we could do it. Maybe not a Saturday night, but we do Fridays and Sundays all the time, and they work out great! We have a number of SATURDAYS in DECEMBER!!! This friends, is THE most beautiful month of the year to have a wedding! And for some reason, everyone is shying away from December this year! We still have plenty of time to plan it (heck, two or three weeks is enough for us to plan a wedding!) We are offering our winter discounts that normally start in January, in DECEMBER this year because we would really much rather do weddings than Christmas parties. What a deal you can get! Discounts on the ballroom rental and the chapel, free centerpieces and beautiful bichon tablecloths, the disounts amount to about 1500 dollars discount! AND you get the advantage of having all of our beautiful Christmas decorations AND the luminaries from the chapel to the ballroom, and of course, the WOW moment. (Don't know what the WOW moment is? Well, that's when everyone walks into the ballroom, and all the lights are turned down, the candles are lit, the fireplace is burning in the lobby, the tables are set and sparkling and perfect; and the guests walk in and breathe "Woooooooooow" because everything comes together in that one perfect moment, and they are just overwhelmed with the beauty of it!) Honestly, those fluffy pictures outside with the greenery behind them are overrated. You can get equal or better photos with Christmas decorations and just think, the smile on your face when you think of all the money you are saving will be even bigger!!
To be truthful, I start to get a little shakey if I go a month without doing a wedding! We'll certainly book Christmas parties in December if we don't have weddings, but gosh folks, save me!
If you are at all open to the idea of a December wedding, come see us, email me, or call so that we can talk about it!
By the way, Jim and I were married on December 14th, my parents anniversary, and my brother's was December 18th, Michelle's anniversary is December 2nd--so we can all tell you firsthand about how great a December wedding is! And just think, wouldn't it be a lot more fun to go to the Caribbean or Mexico or Hawaii when it's not 85 degrees here?
Check out this site for some fabulous ideas for winter weddings! If this doesn't get you thinking that it could be fabulous, I don't know what will!

Stephanie and William 7-19-2008

What a lovely wedding! Such a nice couple and so much fun to plan with. Their day started out stormy and dark but by late afternoon when the wedding party had arrived to take pictures, they were able to get some nice outdoor shots. When the wedding ended, they released the rows themselves, and when all the guests had gone out front with their bubbles, they rang the bell and then went out to a beautiful cloud of bubbles!! It's always such a great photo op!! There were just a few sprinkles in the air, but nobody seemed to mind.
Much love to you both Stephanie and William! All of us at Aberdeen Manor wish you many years of happiness!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Envelopments = Fabulous!!!

We finally received our Envelopments Design Studio a while back. What fun! We've been kind of keeping it a secret because we needed to familiarize ourselves with it, but now we are ready to go for it! They have tons of colors and types of papers, lots of different pocket folders, and different things to make an invitation unique and different. Envelope liners too that are patterned and match the solids. It's an amazing line of invitations because YOU are the designer! What is most amazing is that they are very reasonable when you purchase the components and put them together yourself. Labor is an expensive factor in any product, and that is what makes many invitations really high priced. The amount of hand labor involved in an invitation directly drives the cost; ribbons, layers, special papers, anything that a machine can't do.
So, with this line, you can do as much or as little as you want to, or feel capable doing. Of course, we can do all the printing here at Affairs, adding flourishes and decorative elements if you want them. We can do all the putting together too, if that's how you want to do it. We are very flexible, and will help you with as much or as little as you want. The big thing is the papers! I have never seen a company that has such a broad line of colors. Gosh! If they can't match your wedding, nobody can!
The coolest thing about the Envelopments program is that you can do a totally customized, unique invitation, for the same price as a generic hohum invitation, if you put them together yourself! It's really fabulous! Come by and see us and we'll show you all the possibilities!

Friday, July 11, 2008

How long does it REALLY take to plan a wedding?

I am always amazed at how many people think you need to have at least a year to plan a wedding properly. Honestly, there are only two reasons I can think of to wait a year, the first is to get the place to have the reception and the second is to SAVE for the wedding. But if you can get a date you like at a place you like for your reception sooner, there is really no other reason to have to wait a year.
Back in the stone age when I was in college, if you were engaged for more than 6 months it was considered highly improper. Couples would become engaged, and have their wedding generally in 3 to 6 months. Of course, back then I don't recall ever even going to a dinner/dancing type reception. It was usually cake and punch in the church basement or parlor or social hall. If you were really going all out, you served finger sandwiches or some other little hors d'oeuvre type finger food. And of course, there were always the little bowls of nuts and pastel pillow mints to go with the cake. Those were the days. :)
With the growth in popularity of the dinner/dancing reception, the planning period for weddings has stretched out longer and longer, but only because of the availability of the halls and the expense!
Personally, I LOVE planning weddings on shorter time frames. The biggest challenge is being organized and getting all your ducks lined up. I have planned weddings in as little as 4 days! We put together a wedding in three and a half weeks for over two hundred guests. The hardest thing with that one was getting their invitations out, but we ordered them the night that they came in to book their date, and since we usually get them within a week, they had them out in the mail the following week. Obviously it didn't give their guests the usual 6 to 8 weeks notice, but it didn't seem to bother anyone. Our favorites list was a big help for them too. We went through and decided what services they would need, and I flagged names from the list for her to call, with an alternate choice if the first choice was already booked. She told me later that she had all of her vendors lined up and booked in about 45 minutes!
Another challenge when you are on a short time frame, is the gowns. That's where a good bridal shop can really be a huge help. They all have certain lines of both wedding gowns and bridesmaid gowns that they can order quickly. One of my gals bought her gown on sale! She was able to buy a sample of a discontinued gown that was absolutely beautiful. Another option is to have your gown custom made by a seamstress/designer. When you are working with someone local, they are aware of your time constraints and can react.
Something else to consider; one of the big bridal magazines did a study a few years ago, and they found that for EACH AND EVERY MONTH OVER SIX MONTHS that you plan a wedding, the COST GOES UP 10%! So, if you want to SAVE money on your wedding, don't take a year or two to plan it!
Obviously, the key to planning on a short time frame is having someone to help you that knows what they are doing and who to call. That's where Aberdeen Manor is perfect because we have the expertise to help you with all the details whether you have 2 years or 2 weeks to plan it.\
So now that you have all sorts of confidence to plan a wedding in less time, think about some of the December through March dates we have coming up! We have HUGE discounts and specials going on for these months. Our Christmas weddings are awesome! The decorations are gorgeous and with the bichon tablecloths and centerpieces that are included for no additional charge during those months, you have your guests practically swooning when they walk into the ballroom! Think about it, and give us a call to check dates, or just stop in. Hope to see you soon!

Monday, June 16, 2008

DJ's the Trials and Tribulations!

Your DJ can make or break your party, it's just that simple. Playing the music is really a minor part of his job. The DJ is the "Master of Ceremonies" for your event. He keeps your guests informed of what is going on and where they need to be, he keeps the events of the evening (cake cutting, toasts, formal dances etc.) on track and timely. Think about it, when you have 200 people in a very large room, how are you going to make anything happen?

I had to testify in court against a DJ a few years ago who had totally ruined a reception at Aberdeen Manor. It broke my heart. He didn't have the right music for the formal dances, he delayed the dancing for over an hour and a half, and he then argued with the bride that she hadn't sent him the names of the songs (she had emailed him and had the hard copy to prove it!) Then at the end of the evening, he argued again with the bride that she should pay him the full amount due because he thought he had done his job. It was pathetic.

Needless to say, this DJ was never on our recommended list and he is one of the DJ's that I try to protect people from by asking them to CALL ME before they hire any DJ other than Transaudio!! It isn't that I am some sort of control freak, I just want to protect our clients from a couple of DJ's and a couple of photographers that are really awful. The guests at the above reception would unfortunately remember that reception as "the one where the DJ was so bad and ruined everything". That's not how we want guests to remember receptions!

So we started out with a list of DJ's that we felt we could recommend. Then we started having little problems here and there. Nothing huge, just little irritating things--a DJ that showed up with contacts that looked like goat eyes (really creepy!!) DJ's that were late arriving and ended up setting up their equipment when the guests were already arriving--DJ's that behaved in an inappropriate manner--DJ's that wouldn't listen to us when we told them we needed to let them know when we were done pouring champagne and consequently they would start the toasts and we would still be pouring! The only DJ that we NEVER had any issues with was Transaudio. They were consistently professional, cooperative, on time, efficient, and totally prepared. Mark even keeps one DJ always on reserve so that if one of the other DJ's becomes ill or has an emergency, you are not without a DJ! Think about it, what happens if you have a DJ that works alone, just for himself, and he gets sick? You are without a DJ! After a couple years of beating our heads against the wall over other DJ's we finally decided that we were crazy to recommend anyone else other than Transaudio.

We had always had an excellent relationship with Transaudio. And by the way, we have never accepted any kickbacks or commissions from ANY vendors, Transaudio included. We don't believe in that. There are many banquet facilities that have "recommendations" that are simply people that have agreed to pay them a percentage for being recommended! How would you know that they are any good? Maybe they are just giving the hall a big percentage in order to work there, and the folks at the hall really don't care if they are good or not because they are getting a nice fat check every time that DJ works there. Think about it. This is a question that you should ask any vendor who recommends other vendors. Are they doing it because they are good and they want to see you have a fabulous reception, or are they getting some sort of financial reward for recommending them? We work only for YOU the BRIDE and GROOM, no one else. Your best interests are our most important consideration.

Because we only recommend Transaudio, Mark has installed speakers in the center tray of our ceiling on the four corners of the dance floor. This makes for some really nice "surround sound" rather than the somewhat flat blaring sound that comes from speakers that are just around the DJ. It makes such a difference. His system is small and compact, and it doesn't take up half the dancefloor. They have also installed special lighting on top of the wall behind the DJ for spotlights and dance lighting.

Transaudio also has a separate small system that they bring out for garden weddings. This is SO important! We have had other DJ's come in and try to provide music and microphones for garden weddings, and it is always a piecemeal, patched together, inadequate mess. They are simply not set up for it. When Transaudio does the wedding music, they have a totally separate system, so the dinner music is playing in the ballroom and the wedding music is playing in the garden, it's seamless. There is no schlepping speakers back in to the dancefloor after the wedding--the guests are walking into a room that is ready for a party, not dead silence. It makes such a difference!

I guess I need to qualify this by saying that I know there are other good DJ's out there. I'm not trying to say that Transaudio is the only good DJ in the country. BUT what I am saying is that Transaudio is uniquely positioned to provide the BEST service for your wedding and reception at Aberdeen Manor.
I often compare a wedding to an orchestra. I am the conductor and all the vendors are the various sections of the orchestra. When we have all worked and practiced together many times before, we make beautiful music together. But when you put a violin section (i.e. a vendor who isn't on our referral list) in our orchestra that has never practiced with us, the music gets all messed up because the violins aren't on the same page and don't know the music! Just as there are lots of good violinists, that still doesn't mean that they can just walk in and sit down and play with an orchestra without practice! Even great musicians practice with their orchestra before a performance, and that is what I am saying--Transaudio has practiced and practiced and practiced! We work together so closely, and so well. Isn't that the way you want your team to be?

What it all comes down to folks is this--we want your wedding and reception to be the very best that it can be. We know how important the DJ is, and we also know how important it is that we all work together. We call them A-Team Weddings when all the vendors are off of our Favorites List, because everything goes like clockwork. Everyone works together, the bride and groom have a fabulous evening! They don't have vendors asking them questions every five minutes, they don't need to worry because they know that they have great vendors, and everything comes off without a hitch.

We really shy away from telling someone who they HAVE TO use, but when it comes to your DJ, especially if your ceremony is at Aberdeen as well as the reception, we really feel that if you want a perfect event, you MUST have Transaudio. And after all, you only get one chance, so let's make sure your orchestra is all tuned up!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Good Grief!!!

Yesterday was April 28th, and what a miserable day it was weather wise. In the morning it was cold, dreary, and stormy. But the kicker was last night when we put the dogs outside and the ground was WHITE! Can you believe it? Snow on April 28th! It was only about an inch or so, but still, when the grass is finally getting green, and the trees are leafing out, that is just wrong!

I guess we can't say we are ever bored with the weather around here. It seems like it is always changing, never consistent from year to year.

I'm always amazed by the optimism of brides. They plan an outdoor wedding in a park or location with nowhere to go if the weather goes bad, and they are convinced that there is absolutely no need for an alternative location! Ha! This is not San Diego folks! The weather around here changes daily, sometimes hourly! If you are planning an outdoor ceremony, you have to have an alternate location in case of bad weather, and the closer it is the better. If you have to move people a couple of miles to a church or hall, you will have to start letting them know early on.

The hardest days to deal with this are the ones where it's cloudy and overcast, and it looks like it might rain, but you just don't know for sure. Murphy's Law says that if you decide 2 or 3 hours ahead of time to move the ceremony inside, that it will be sunny and beautiful when the wedding begins, and if you try to tempt fate and have it outside anyway, it will pour. This is where having your ceremony AND your alternative location in the same place is so much easier. You can wait till the last minute to decide.

Outdoor weddings are risky, be sure you have your ducks in a row! They may need to swim for it! :)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cool Pictures!

Ok, so maybe this won't be as interesting to anyone else as it is to me, but I thought these photos my brother, Stu, took from a Cessna flying over our building were REALLY COOL! Since Jim and I are both Google Earth junkies, we thought these pictures were really something.
I just wish that our original building, the Manor, had a nicer roof! It isn't a very pretty roof from the air. The Chapel, on the other hand, looks great! Oh well, it IS a standing seam, 25 year guarantee roof on our building, so guess we can't complain too much. The Chapel does look beautiful sitting there though, doesn't it?

What do YOU think?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

To Market, To Market!

Well, I guess I flunk blogging! Sometimes life just gets a little crazy, that's my only excuse.
So anyway, now that I have begged your forgiveness for my neglect, the big news of the day.
We (Connie, Megan and I) went to the National Bridal Market in Chicago last Sunday. Bridal Market is where we go to buy all the fun things we have in our shop. It comes twice a year, in April and in October, the October show being much larger than the April show. We can always order from catalogs and the like, but it's so much nicer to be able to actually see products in person, touch them and turn them around in our hands. Sometimes things that look really boring in the catalogs are great in person, and of course, vise versa!
Being as the spring Market was much smaller than the fall, we didn't find as many new things as we will in October, but there are a couple of items worth mentioning. The first is silk thread jewelry. This stuff is GORGEOUS!!!! They use real fresh water pearls and Swarovski crystals, and they are strung and knotted on beautiful, shiny, fine silk cord. The best thing about this jewelry? It will NEVER tarnish! That's a biggy for us in the shop--polishing jewelry is practically a daily activity. We have a number of different styles coming as well as different colors, although the majority are the white/ivory pearls and clear or AB crystals.
We also have some beautiful new cathedral length veils coming from Malis Henderson. Many of our clients have been asking for cathedral length, so we tried to find some really beautiful new veils for display. Keep in mind that most of our veils can be ordered in many different shades of white and ivory. We can also special order different edgings and trims. You can try on some veils and the shop and then we can build a custom veil for you that is exactly what you want. AND all at a price that is usually 1/3 to 1/2 of the cost you will see veils in other bridal shops!
While we are talking about the shop, we also have the new samples of vest colors and ties for the spring. We have a new line of vests and ties that come in a rainbow of colors to match just about any wedding. Beautiful!
Stop by and see all our new goodies. The jewelry should be arriving any day now. We're all watching for UPS on a daily basis!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Guest counts, Seating charts, and other Painful Wedding Things

Here at Aberdeen Manor, we believe strongly in the power of the seating chart. There are a number of reasons that we feel that some sort of seating assignments are essential. First of all, guests like to know that they have a place reserved for them. If you don't assign tables, they will all sit down and not move, and your cocktail hour will consist of everyone sitting at tables holding their places. Boring! The biggest thing I see is that if you don't have assigned seating, the people who you want to have close in the best seats, don't get there, because they are usually the last to arrive at the reception. Yes, we can put "reserved" signs on a couple tables, but then, who sits at those tables and how do they know they are supposed to? Another issue we see is that when you have someone attend who didn't send back their RSVP, we have no way to know where there might be empty seats. These folks who didn't send back their RSVP, if they get there earlier, get a seat, and your good guests who sent back their little cards, are seatless.

Some sort of seating assignment is absolutely essential. Guests want to know that they have a place reserved for them that they can land. They are much more comfortable and sociable if they are sure that they have a seat that they don't have to stand guard over. So how is this most easily accomplished? Well, first of all, both families need to be on the same page about when guests need to reply (this is usually stated on the response card) and once that date has passed, someone needs to start calling people who haven't responded to find out if they are coming or not. The goal is to get a good, solid final count as soon as possible after the cut off date. I say someone, because the bride and groom and their parents are NOT the people to do it. This is what you have attendants and best friends for! If the bride calls, she will be thrown into a 45 minute discussion of the wedding plans, honeymoon destination, yada yada yada. No, you want someone who doesn't know these people to call. They will be able to do the entire list in the time that it would take the bride to make one or two calls.
So what to say? "Hi, this is Mary Jo, I'm calling for Heather Jones and Sean Smith. They were concerned because their wedding is fast approaching and they hadn't heard back from you yet. They wondered if maybe you hadn't received your invitation. Oh, you did receive it? Wonderful! Will you be able to attend? And how many of you will there be? Three? Great! Thanks so much, we'll see you at the wedding. Buhbye!
It's always nice to give them a little "out", and frankly, there is always the possibility that for some reason they didn't receive their invitation. There's no need to scold them for not responding, it's just important to find out whether they will be there or not.
Unfortunately, guests will string you along until the day of the wedding if you don't put your foot down and require that they give you a yes or a no. It seems that the people that are the ones that string you along are usually the ones that don't think they will be able to make it, but there's a little chance that they might. You need to pin them down and get either a yes or no from them, no more wishy washy, you have to give a count, and you need to know if they can come or not. Don't let them squeak out with a "maybe I can make it, I'll let you know in a couple days". You need to get a YES or a NO from them right then and there. Honestly, if you have sent your invitations out six to eight weeks before the wedding like most couples do, they have had plenty of time to figure out whether they can come to the wedding or not. Nine times out of ten, they will be able to give you an answer if you press them. Granted, there are circumstances where people just don't know. They are waiting to see if Great Aunt Tillie will be able to travel, or their daughter is supposed to deliver imminently but they don't know exactly when. Unfortunately, sometimes they just need to call it and make a decision. I'll warn you, most of the guests that are on the fence will end up being no's. Now, do you want to pay for the meal and bar for people who end up not coming? Of course not! And we don't want you to have to pay for people that don't end up coming either. So work hard at getting definitive answers from guests once the deadline has passed.
Once you have a good solid number you can begin to assign tables. You don't have to assign individual seats, just the table. Even before you get your final number you can start dividing the guests who have already responded that they are coming, into groups of 8. The easiest way I find to do this is to put the names on the place cards, without the table number, as they respond, and then just make little stacks. Once you have your final number and everyone is divided into little stacks of 8 (or 7 or 9 if necessary, or even 10 if you are having over about 250) then you can go back and write the actual table numbers on the cards. Once you give us a number we can make up a room diagram for you that shows where all the tables will be located, and their numbers.
Some of you that have been in our shop lately may have noticed the seating scroll that we have. It's a beautiful piece to add to your reception, and the best thing about it, is that it comes with a computer program to do your seating assignments that makes short work of the whole thing. You email the list to them through the program and your seating chart comes back to us a couple days before the wedding, ready to go on the scroll stand! Pretty slick!
However you accomplish this, you'll be glad you put the effort into it. It's probably one of the crumbiest jobs of planning your wedding, but it's also one of the most essential and important. Your guests will appreciate knowing that they have a place, and we at Aberdeen will be able to set your tables exactly to your room diagram so that you don't have a lot of extra seats that make it appear that lots of guests are missing. It will be appreciated all around. So bite the bullet, and get going on those table assignments! :)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Moms, Brides, Friends,

You know, I really love my job. I love all the people that I get to meet and work with. I love the people that work at Aberdeen. I don't even mind the long hours and the crazy weekends. I don't love the sore feet, but I guess that's another post. There's only one thing that I really hate about my job, and that's the fact that I come to love so many of our brides, grooms and moms and dads, and once the wedding is over, they are off and gone. There have been so many people that Jim and I both have really enjoyed talking with and getting to know. It's always hard when the wedding ends, and they leave, back to their every day lives. (Sigh)

I have often compared it to being an obstetrician. We are there to help couples through a life changing transition in their lives. Just as the obstetrician helps them make the transition from being a couple to being a family, we are there for them as they make the transition from being single to being a married couple.

I've read that there are three momentous occasions in one's life--birth, marriage and death. Marriage is the only one you can really plan for! It's no wonder that everyone puts so much time, effort and money into their wedding. It really IS a "Once in a Lifetime Day". Wow! The pressure!! One chance, one day, no redo's, no second shot, no chance to do it better the next time, the next year. It's no wonder that everyone involved gets themselves worked into knots over it. My theory has always been that the biggest causes of stress are not knowing for sure if you have people hired who are going to do a good job for you and not being sure that you have addressed each and every little detail that you want to include.

Maybe that's why so many brides and moms tell me that all their friends are asking them why they aren't all stressed out about the wedding. Between our Favorites List, which gives our clients lots of options for wonderful, dependable vendors, and our Event Sheets, which we go over in detail a few weeks before the wedding to address all the little details of the wedding and reception, what is there left to be stressed about? It always seems like the brides that we see the most of, are the ones that are the most relaxed about the whole thing. They know that everything is under control, and that we are there for them.

I can't even begin to describe the deep soul satisfying satisfaction that comes to us when we know that we have made this once in a lifetime day as perfect and fabulous as it could possibly be. It makes the long hours seem short and the sore aching feet seem light. It is what makes us want to come back week after week and do it over and over again. And those moms and brides, grooms and dads that leave us and go off to their lives again? That's ok too, because I know that I'll run into them at the grocery store, or the basketball game, or any of the many places I seem to see former clients, and when I do they will have big smiles and happy memories. And we will all briefly reminisce about their big day, and they will walk away feeling all warm and fuzzy about how great their day was, and I will watch them go and feel equally warm and fuzzy knowing that I did the very best that I could do for them and that it all paid off.

Yep, I REALLY LOVE my job!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

First Dance Night Photos

As promised, here are some photos of the party, courtesy of Mark Lindemer from Transaudio.

As you can see, our couples had a great time learning some steps to use in their first dance at their receptions. It will be so much fun to see how the "real thing" turns out! The photographers love to have a few "moves" to catch on film (or digital) so be sure you let your photographer and videographer know that you are planning to "kick it up a notch"! You don't have to do an entire choreographed routine. Just a twirl here and there, and a few things like that, particularly a dip at the end, will add so much fun to your dance. And when the crowd claps and cheers you on, you will enjoy your dance even more. So practice those moves in your living room to your special song. Don't forget to use the shoes you'll be dancing in, and keep in mind that you'll have a long dress and that can add a whole new dimension to dancing! Very few wedding gowns have a "reverse"!
Keep in mind that if you have Transaudio as your DJ for your reception, you can go to their office in Crown Point for your own personal dance lesson with Susan, set to your music. It's a great opportunity to really polish your skills and get comfortable with your moves.
I'm looking forward to seeing some amazing First Dances in the coming year!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Start'em Young!

My Granddaughter, Mary Grace, who is 2 going on about 15, was sitting at my daughter's computer the other day pounding on the keyboard. "What are you doing?" Amy said.

"I'm blogging" Mary Grace said in a very serious tone.

What a turkey!!! To say that I adore this child beyond all reason is a gross understatement!

She and her little sister Claire are the absolute shining stars of my life. Grandchildren are the world's best kept secret, what a joy. There isn't all the baggage of parenting them, all you have to do is love them. I just love love love my baby girls. All of you that are having a bad day being a mom? Believe me, it's so worth it, because someday these crazy children you are raising will bring you grandchildren! Score!!!!!
Amy has a delightful blog which is admittedly probably more interesting to me because I'm her mom, but she really has some useful and insightful things to say, particularly in regard to mothering and having two children under two. I love her sense of humor. She has great promise as the next Irma Bombeck.

First Dance Night!

Wow! What a fun evening! I hope that all of our couples and their parents had as much fun as I did! We should be able to post some photos from the party here in the next couple of days. Thanks to everyone that made it happen--all of our wonderful vendors, my fabulous staff, and most of all, of course, all of you that attended.
I want you all to know that we didn't forget about the door prizes! What happened was this. I hadn't planned on going over to the chapel, but several folks at the party asked if they could see it, so after the dance lesson we went to see the chapel. While we were over there, people started leaving, which was understandable in the whole scheme of things, but needless to say, when I got back to the ballroom, half the folks had left! So we decided to do the drawing and call the winners and let them know what their prize is. I promise, it will all be on the up and up, and we will let the winners know this coming week.
As I mentioned at the party, the doorprizes/bingo sheet thing was a thought that hit me the night before, and we really didn't have a lot of time to work the bugs out. It worked really well though, and I think we will probably do it again in November. The difference is that we'll have a few months to think about it this time!
Thanks for coming to First Dance Night! I hope that you had as much fun as I did. Our next First Dance Night will be November 30th (this is the Sunday after Thanksgiving) and we are thinking it will probably be a little earlier in the evening, maybe 4 to 7? If you have an opinion on the time, please feel free to comment, I would appreciate your input!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guest Counts

How do you keep your guest list from climbing out of control? The number of guests at your wedding is the biggest driver of the total cost. Each guest you add makes your food and beverage higher, but it also comes with other more subtle expenses. There are the additional invitations and favors, wedding programs, centerpieces, possibly rental dishes or flatware, linens and/or chair covers and sashes, and sometimes the cost of a larger space for the ceremony and reception. More guests also mean more attendants, additional ushers, etc. That means more attendant gifts, more boutonnieres and bouquets, more people at the rehearsal dinner. Additional guests means more expense.
Generally the food and beverage alone are about 60 percent of your total wedding costs. So what can you do to keep those numbers from going crazy? First, realize that your guests fall into groups that make ever enlarging circles around you. The first and smallest circle which is the one closest to you, is your immediate family, moving out from there, you have your extended family, your very close friends, your not so close friends, your work associates, your acquaintances, etc. Sometimes it's easier to have a very small wedding than it is to have a medium sized wedding, because of the way that these groups get larger and larger. What makes it difficult is that if you invite just a couple guests from one of these groups, you sometimes need to invite the entire group in order to not hurt any feelings.
So what can you do to limit the size (and therefore cost) of your wedding? Here are some ideas:
1. Don't invite anyone you haven't talked to in the last 5 years. (If you haven't talked to your second cousin once removed in 5 years, they probably are not going to notice that they aren't invited, they probably don't even know you are getting married!)
2. Don't invite anyone you wouldn't invite to your home for dinner. (In a sense, that's what you are doing, you are just having it at a bigger place that can hold more people at one time, but you are inviting them for dinner. So if it isn't someone you would want to have come to your home for dinner, then why would you invite them to your reception?)
3. Don't feel obligated to invite people just because THEY think they should be invited. It seems like as soon as you get engaged, there are folks who all of a sudden think you are their best friend, and they start talking about attending your wedding like they have already received their invitation; and you had no intention of inviting them! Don't be guilted into inviting them. Make up a list shortly after you become engaged, and only add the guests you may have honestly forgotten. Work associates are notorious for this ploy. If you feel that an explanation is necessary, (which it isn't, because they are being very rude to assume this) just say something like "We would have loved to invite all of our friends, but we both have large families, and our venue just wasn't big enough to invite everyone we would have liked to invite."
4. Work associates can be a huge group, how do you limit them? Try this. Only invite the people that you have done things socially with. Many people work in large departments with lots of people. Obviously they want to invite the few people they are really close with, but not the whole department. This makes it much easier, and you can always tell those others in the department that this was your criteria to limit the numbers. They really shouldn't ask, but if they do, they should understand that you can't invite all of them. Obviously, if you only have 4 people in your office, you might want to invite all or none of them, just to keep peace. You have to use your best judgment.
5. Don't feel that you have to invite all of your single friends to bring a guest. If they are in a committed, long term relationship, you can send an invitation to the partner. But to invite a single, unattached friend to scare up a date for the evening really isn't necessary. It's really a pretty awkward "date" anyway.
6. Don't invite children. It's certainly your option to have your flower girl and ringbearer at the reception, but you don't have to invite all the children of all the guests you are inviting. Children add significantly to the cost. Even if they are having children's meals, they still are generally counted in the open bar charges. Obviously you may lose guests you would have liked to have attend over this one, but if it is someone you really want there, you can always offer to help them find a competent sitter (if they are from out of town and don't know anyone for example).
The biggest problem I see with this one is guests who decide that you must have forgotten to mention their darling children on the invitation and they decide to bring them anyway. It takes a lot of tact, diplomacy, and guts to call up a guest and tell them that their children weren't invited. Unfortunately people just don't realize any more that if their child's name isn't on the invitation, that they are not invited. So the decision you have to make is whether you are going to stick to your guns and not have children, or are you going to let them get away with their rudeness? Personally, I think you can call them and just say something like"We would love to have your dear little Susie and Johnny at our wedding, but we are limited on the number of guests we could invite, and unfortunately it didn't allow us room to invite everyone's children. It would be very awkward to explain to all the guests who are not bringing their children " If they say well then they just aren't going to be coming then you need to reply "I'm SO sorry to hear that, we would have really loved to have you and your wife/husband attend. Please let us know if anything changes. We'll miss you being there." Stick to your guns!
I hope that this has helped with this tough area. If anyone has any additional ideas of ways to do this, please, jump right in!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Let it Snow!!!!

I luuuuuuuuuv winter weddings!!! They are SO cozy and warm. My parents were married December 18th, as was my brother. My sister's anniversary is November 17th, Jim and I were married December 14th. So I guess we practice what we preach! It just seems like the perfect time of year for a wedding. At Aberdeen Manor, we make winter weddings particularly special. We light the fireplace, we turn down the lights, the candles are burning, and when we have the wedding in the chapel, we frequently will place luminaries between the chapel and the ballroom creating a pathway for the guests to walk over to the reception. It's really fun, we put them out during the ceremony, after everyone has gone into the chapel, so it's a little surprise when people come out of the chapel. They all sigh and go "Oh that's SO pretty!" It isn't something we can do in the summer because it's still light out till 8 or 9 o'clock.
We had a wonderful little wedding on New Year's Eve. The couple were SO great, and their parents were a delight as well. It was small, maybe 85 or 90 guests. But when it ended at 2 A.M. there were still about 50 people there dancing up a storm! It had started to snow about 6 o'clock, right after the ceremony had started, and it was really coming down. I was afraid people would panic over the weather and leave right after dinner, but no! The majority stayed till the end! And the snowplows had been through by then and cleared the roads. Our snow plow people had been through our parking lot at least three times, and had put down enough salt to rejuvenate the Dead Sea, so it was no big deal. We had about 8 inches of snow that evening! Big fat "Ivory Snow" flakes. It was one of the most beautiful snowfalls I can ever remember. The garden looked like fairyland with the landscape lighting shining on the trees and bushes. It was an amazing night. I dragged my sorry butt into bed about 3:15 a.m. but it was so worth it. What a wonderful wedding. And the bride and groom? They were headed to Cancun! What better time of year to go where it's warm and sunny!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I’ve been a member of the Association of Bridal Consultants for over thirteen years. I attended my first Annual Conference in San Antonio in 1995. I had been “doing weddings” as we sometimes say, for over 30 years as a volunteer. After our daughter, Saundra, was married in 1993 (gosh, I think that’s right, eeks!) I told Jim that I wanted to start a consulting business and make weddings my profession. He was still working full time at Bethlehem, and was worried that we would never see each other since weddings require so much weekend work. So I shelved the idea and continued to hang wallpaper for another two years (for a total of 16 years! I know where a bunch of extra house keys are hidden all over Northwest Indiana!) Then in September of 1995, Jim’s brother and his long time fiance moved to our area from Pennsylvania, and decided to get married. They knew nothing about the area, what was available, or where to go, so they asked me to help them put their wedding together. I had SO much fun! I was so excited about seeing all my hard work come together! I think I was as charged up about the wedding as they were! After it was over, and we were driving home, I told Jim again that this was what my passion was, this was what I REALLY wanted to do, and he finally said, “If that’s what you really want to do, then do it”.
This brings me back to ABC (the Association of Bridal Consultants). I started doing research on where to find out about how to be a good bridal consultant, how to start a business, all the nuts and bolts stuff. This was before the days of Google, and it involved a lot of hours at the library chasing down a lot of dead ends. Somehow, and I don’t even remember how, I fell upon the name of Teddy Lenderman, a consultant in Terre Haute and the State Coordinator for ABC at the time, and I called her. (Teddy is also the author of a wonderful book on wedding planning, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Wedding” available from ) She talked with me about the association and mentioned that their annual conference was coming up in mid-November (this was the end of September!) and that if I was really serious about it, I should try to attend. She didn’t have to tell me twice! I was on the phone to the travel agent booking my flight that same day.

So off I went to San Antonio, all by myself. I think it was the first time in my life that I went anywhere by myself like that! I really splurged and payed for a half hour "session with the experts" to meet with Renee Grannis. Renee helped me with some major business decisions:company name, logo, stationery, business cards, just general thoughts on how I would do things. I think of anyone I have met through the Association, Renee has been my biggest supporter and dearest friend. We have had many wonderful dinners together over the years and great talks.

So, you ask, how did you go from being an independent wedding consultant to Aberdeen Manor? Well, it really wasn't a very big jump actually. Between 1995 and 1998 I had a number of weddings at locations all over the area, from South Chicago to Southeastern Michigan. It just seemed like nobody was very interested in being "wedding friendly". Cakes were stuck off at the side of the room where the guests never saw them, the walls and decor were busy and didn't work well as backgrounds for wedding photos, or there was NO decor and it required thousands of dollars worth of decorating to make it look like anything, but most of all, the staffs seemed to have little or no interest in doing anything to insure that this "once in a lifetime day" was as perfect as possible. They were inflexible, and unwilling to change the way they did anything. It just didn't seem like they really cared very much. Even at the places that had a "banquet manager", she usually left after the dinner was served. There was nobody to help the couple or the parents with anything later on or at the end of the evening! It just seemed wrong. There had to be a better way to do it.

We could also see that there was a need for more banquet space in Valparaiso, and particularly "wedding friendly" banquet space. So we started talking to builders and architects and bankers, and we made it happen. We opened Aberdeen Manor in January of 1999. Before the building was even finished we had booked 45 weddings and a prom. Jim and I would go out and clean up every weekend from July to December, sweeping, throwing away garbage, straightening up for the next week. It seemed like every weekend one of our couples would stop and visit. Their excitement and anticipation were what kept us going over those long months of construction.
After we opened in January of 1999 we found out that the hard work was just beginning. Jim and I both put in 80 to 90 hours a week for the first couple of years. For the first several months we set all the tables, cleaned the bathrooms, and everything in between. It was, to put it mildly, a tough couple of years. We had to send Ozzie to doggie daycare because he was home alone so much! We had two employees, Jim and Denna. For events we had bartenders but that was pretty much it. I don't think I have worked that hard since my kids were babies! But it was SO much fun. We finally hired a bookkeeper in the fall of 1999, and as we have moved along we have added others. It's been a wonderful nine years, and as we go into our tenth year of business, it astounds both of us how far we have come and how much we have changed over the years. One thing that has never changed though, is our love of weddings, our deep commitment to making every event the best that it can be, and the incredible sense of satisfaction that we all have knowing that we have made that "once in a lifetime day" special, memorable, and the most perfect that it can be.

Expressing Your "Personal Style"

Last November I attended a two day conference of bridal consultants from all over the world in Orlando. I've been a member of this organization since 1995. It's been fun to watch it grow from a tiny little organization of around 400 members when I first joined, to a couple thousand worldwide.
Our last session was a talk by David Tutera (you might know him as the guy who put together Starr Jones’ wedding as well as those of many celebs and also non-celebs with bucks! :) ) He was amazing! So interesting, so open, so FUNNY! He had some video and slides of some of the most amazing weddings I have ever seen. These weddings had budgets in the HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars! Incredible! But what really struck me, was that what he was saying was so applicable to ANY wedding, regardless of the budget.
Here is some of what he said. First, that having “style” is taking care of your guests, giving them an “experience” that is different from anything they have ever seen. Style is being conscious of your guests’ comfort, needs, and happiness. He said that the wedding and reception should reflect the lives of the bride and groom. It should make statements about their interests, what is important to them, what they love. Most important, he said that every thirty minutes, something should change, whether it is the music, the food, the place; something! It keeps the guests interested in what is happening and curious about what will happen next.
Now I hear what you are saying. “But Denna, WE don’t have that kind of budget!” But let’s think about this. Why do these goals require money? They don’t! What they require is imagination. We just need to think “outside the box”.
One of the things David talked about was that he hates wedding favors that are on the tables just for the guests to take home. He feels that what you give your guests should be something that they will use, value, enjoy, and that will reflect something about you, the couple. The example he gave was of a wedding where the bride expressed how much she wished that her grandmother could attend her wedding, but her grandmother had passed away a couple years before. As they talked about her grandmother, she told David about the wonderful apple pies that her grandmother had made and how she could still recall the smell of those pies baking when they would visit her. So what did David suggest? Each guest went home from this couple’s reception with a burlap bag (that had the couple’s monogram on it by the way) that contained enough apples for a pie, a little cellophane bag of spices, sugar, etc. according to the grandma’s recipe, and the recipe itself so that the guest could duplicate grandma’s apple pie themselves. Now how cute is that? And how sweet, and touching, and totally so appropriate to this couple’s celebration?
I recall a wedding we did at Aberdeen a number of years ago, that was for a darling couple who had met working at a lemonade stand for the summer. As we talked about them and their relationship and how they had met, the wheels started to turn. Their wedding ended up centered around the theme of lemons and limes. The centerpieces were footed bowls of lemons and limes with a few blossoms stuck in between. Their favors were boxes of lemonhead candies with a yellow bow. It wasn’t a zillion dollar idea, but it reflected who they were, and was significant to their lives as a couple. Years later I still have people come in and mention that wedding and how much they enjoyed the touches that this couple incorporated into their day.
This is why we love having our clients come by our shop, talk with us, share with us, and let us get to know them. If we know what you are all about, we can help you to bring things into your celebration that will make your day special, personal, and memorable.
It is what really makes our job fun. I hope that you will take
advantage of all that we have to offer, particularly in the idea department! Our ideas are free, you just have to stop in and pick them up! :)
So, what are YOU doing to make your day a personal reflection of you as a couple?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fifteen Minutes of Fame--Youtube Style

Well if you haven't figured this out yet, I am trying all the little blogger bells and whistles like uploading photos, uploading videos and such. This is really pretty easy!

At any rate, about those 15 minutes of fame. Have you seen the following YouTube video?

Well, as Paul Harvey would say (and I know that most of you have no idea who Paul Harvey is but that's another subject for another day) here's "the rest of the story":

Michelle who is our bookkeeper and "shop person extraordinare? and her husband went to San Diego to this wedding, and THEY filmed this video! Michelle put it on YouTube so that their friends could see it, never having any idea that it would go viral the way it has! She was excited when the hits went over 100,000! To date this video has had 8.5 million hits! Go figure. It has been really fun when people have told me about this video or sent me a link for it to say "Oh yeah, I know all about it, Michelle put it on YouTube."

The couple in the video, who are also named John and Michelle, just like our Michelle and her husband John (is that too funny?) appeared on Ellen Degeneres Show, The Today Show, Entertainment Tonight (or one of those video People Magazine Shows anyway) and apparently a couple other more local shows in California.

They really did a fab job with this dance, it was terrific! I'll bet they are getting kinda sick of doing it by now though. :)

Thoughts about Photos and Photographers

This is me with one of my favorite photographers, Ed. He has done lots of weddings at Aberdeen. We always have fun when Ed is around. He was showing me how to take a picture of yourself. I had tried it, and ended up with a photo of the top of my head! He says the key is to have a bigger lens. Isn't that just typical! So now I am shopping for lenses for my NikonD70. I do need something that goes to a lower f-stop, so that I can get more depth of field in my photos where the light is less than bright.

I take lots of photos, particularly of our weddings, and consequently I ask a lot of questions when we have a good photographer around. I've learned a lot that way, just asking questions. It's actually getting to the point where I almost understand what I am doing! I actually comprehend the relationship between aperture and shutter speed, f-stops, and film speed. But it's still pretty much dumb luck that anything I take turns out well. :) There's a whole shelf full of pictures I have taken in the shop, some of them are really nice, cool lighting, great expressions, cute kids, etc.

Which brings me to my point. When you interview a photographer, you want to see a couple of individual weddings from beginning to end. If you came in and looked at my shelf full of pictures, you would say, wow, she's really a great photographer! But there are maybe 25 pictures up there, and I have probably taken, literally, over 20,000 pictures! That means that 1 in a thousand of my photos are brag shelf quality! If you looked at one wedding from beginning to end, you would probably see that some of my photos are way too dark, some are overexposed, and I use a lot of cropping in Photoshop to fix things. There are three things that are important when you look for a photographer, that he shoots consistently high quality images, (they don't have to all be fabulous, but the majority should be focused, well lit, etc.) he/she should be someone that you like, that you won't mind having in your immediate presence for 12 plus hours, and the price should fit your budgeted amount for photography.

Another factor that couples sometimes don't consider is the amount of time devoted to the pictures. Do you really want to spend your whole day smiling for a camera? When you look at those sample weddings, try to determine which shots were actually candid and which were posed or more importantly posed to look candid? Keep in mind that you can probably figure 3 to 5 minutes for each of those posed or posed to look candid shots. How much of your day do you want to devote to those shots?

My personal belief is that 12 posed shots can cover every possibility you will ever care to have, and the rest should be candid shots that you aren't even aware that the photographer is taking them. The shot of the two of you smiling at the camera while you are dancing your first dance doesn't mean nearly as much in the long run as the shot of the two of you smiling at each other during your first dance. Emotion and feeling are what most people want in their photos. They want a picture to transport them back to that moment. That's what candid photos do.

Trying to compare packages and pricing among photographers is a mindbending experience. They all offer different packages, different components, different prices. You'll drive yourself crazy trying to compare them to each other. Find one who fits the above criteria and go for it. You'll save yourself a lot of needless confusion.

So that's my 2 cents on photographers. Sometime soon we'll talk about videographers! I have lots of opinions about that too! (Just a hint, I LOVE videos!)