Richelle + Matthew’s Modern Whimsical Balloon-Filled Wedding (11*18*12)

Yet another 2012 wedding I have yet to share…  But I can’t just skip over it.  It’s so delicious.  So much fun!

I met Richelle for the first time at her venue; she said she was pretty convinced she wanted to hire me, so if it was ok with me we should meet there so we could brainstorm.  I think we talked for three hours (my normal “first meetings” are usually about one)!  She had some big ideas –  I mean, BIG ideas…  Balloons cascading down the side of the wall ideas.  But in the end we created just the wedding to make both Richelle and her husband Matthew smile, while interpreting some of her big ideas in a way that wouldn’t put too big a dent in their new home fund!

Richelle is, probably above everything else, FUN!  She loved the idea of incorporating balloons into her day, in a way that wouldn’t look cheesy, but would make a big impact.  She also insisted on having a cake, a doughnut cake, a chocolate fountain, and a sweets table.  If you follow my Pinterest, you’ll see that she’s my kind of girl. 😉

So we played.  And we played and we played.  I designed a custom stationery suite for her based on a rabbit figurine she loved.  We created an I Spy game.  We made a cocktail area inside the venue with sweets galore, comfy couches, and a photo booth.  Outside in the courtyard we decorated with twinkling lights and hung an installation under the pergola.

I will admit it: balloons are not my favorite wedding accessory.  They can look amazing.  They can also look tacky and strange.  I am pleased to say that despite the wind wrecking our first plan, I felt like the balloons we used at Richelle and Matt’s wedding were elegant, fun pops – get it? – of whimsy, just as they were intended to be. 🙂

rm-portmisc-022155w rm-portGM2-6653w rm-portbride-9229w rm-cer-103w rm-cer-104w rm-cer-106w rm-cer-107w rm-cer-150w rm-cer-153w rm-portBG-9599w rm-portBG-9555w rm-details2-6822w rm-details2-6818w rm-details2-6810w rm-details2-6875w rm-details2-6772w rm-details2-6758w rm-details2-6777w rm-details2-6784w rm-cocktail-2201w rm-cocktail-2220w rec3toastD-102359w rec3toastD-199869w rec4cake-037064w rec4cake-052385w rec4cake-062386w rec4cake-132390w rec4cake-182392w rec4cake-352405w rec4cake-372406w rec4cake-432414w rec4cake-532425w rec4cake-542427w rec2dance-159707w rec2dance-349721w

Richelle + Matthew’s Modern Whimsical Balloon-Filled Wedding (11*18*12):

Ana + Gina’s Colorful Rustic Handcrafted Wedding (07*14*12)

As you can see by the date in the blog title, I’m just slightly behind in sharing the weddings I’ve been working on. 😉  But in truth, I realized that I’d started this blog post a while back.  I was encouraged to publish it finally after last week’s marriage equality ruling.  And see?  I’m trying to keep my promise for moar!blogging!

Ana and Gina are one of my favorite couples.  They have such wonderful energy and chemistry, and I immediately liked them.  Mind you, I have a LOT of incredible couples that I like immediately – it’s something I am proud that I can say about just about everyone – but I still remember our first phone call.  Ana had just e-mailed me and set up a time to talk.  They lived in the Bay Area and couldn’t meet in person.  She hadn’t mentioned anything about Gina at all.  “My fiancé is here and wants to meet you too!” she said, as we were introducing ourselves on the phone.  I heard Gina’s voice, and my heart leapt.  It seems a bit silly now, but in 2011 marriage equality was still such an uphill battle.  I’d always wanted to do weddings for everyone, but you can’t really pick and choose your clients.  So I had to wait for someone to choose me.  I remember getting off that phone call and dancing around.  They liked me!  They really liked me!  And I liked them!  This was happening!

Over the next several months, we worked together on decor plans for their wedding.  We always had the most fun when we were together; it felt comfortable, like we had been friends for a long time.  The venue, Hidden Valley Retreat and Spa (which is no longer), was one where literally everything was do-it-yourself.  It was lovely, but challenging, especially given their tight budget, so we had to get creative!  You can see the results in the photos – lots of paper and streamers…  But it was so very lovely.  I’m so proud of the way their whole day looked!  I loved how colorful it was (they were inspired by a painting they loved), and how many fun details we were able to bring in.

On the wedding day, I had a team of four working from 10 am to 7:30 pm (when the reception was already starting, we were still finishing up the cake table that was, thankfully, in the other room), hanging lights and lanterns, setting up tables and chairs, doing table settings, putting together a DIY Photo Booth, and so much more.  We’d have been there sooner to get started, but we were running last-second errands for the wedding!  It is actually because of this wedding that I require additional assistants for venues that aren’t “set up” for weddings, since simply placing, setting up, and dressing tables for 60 guests took two of my staff several hours to complete!

At any rate, the wedding itself was incredible.  Happy and gorgeous couple, happy friends and family, heartfelt vows, beautiful decor, and a great party!  Kaysha Weiner took the most stunning photographs (more on my website).  It’s no wonder that Ana and Gina were featured on Equally Wed!

Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner Photography Ana and Gina's Wedding, image by Kaysha Weiner PhotographyAna + Gina’s Colorful Rustic Handcrafted Wedding (07*14*12)

Photos AND Video of Marisa + James’ Wedding Day Featured on Sutography’s Website!

I just found out that Marisa + James’ wedding photos and video were blogged this week by Holly and Matt Sutor of Sutography, so I had to post a link!  There are so many joyful images in their blog!

My favorite is this one, a shot from right before Holly and Matt left for the evening, when we slipped the happy couple out the back door for some private photos with the San Diego skyline as a backdrop.  Aren’t they beautiful?

And check out their adorable hilight video for some more smiles from these two (seriously they have the BEST smiles ever  – I can’t help but grin when I see them!):

Excited I get to work with Holly and Matt again this fall!!!

Can You Send Me a Price List? Why I don’t like standard pricing

As you probably know, I completely redid my website in early April.  I had been meaning to do so for a very long time.  I realized that so much of it was out of date, and so much had changed within my business, that it really needed a facelift.  One of the many, many changes I made was to move to simpler packaging for weddings.

Just design, planning, or coordination.  Well, and Design with Coordination, or Design+.  I decided that having Day-of and Month-of services was just too confusing.  That, and I kept finding that my Day-of Coordination package was actually equivalent to most other Month-of Packages.

For the last few months before the big change, I had been explaining this change in e-mails to prospective clients.  I wished so badly that I could snap my fingers and make it all happen on my website too, but these things take time to get right, and this change actually took longer than I had originally intended because my first design simply wasn’t very functional.  So I had to keep explaining that what I do hasn’t changed – just how I talk about it.

With that move toward simplification, I also decided to publish my adjusted pricing for the first time.  I talked about this briefly in my announcement of the new site, but I wanted to get into it a little more here.  There are several schools of thought for wedding professionals as to whether prices should be published online, and originally (before my first site went live to the world, when I was asking for feedback from friends and mentors) I’d published mine.  I wanted transparency.  I remembered planning my own wedding, and how helpful it was to have prices published.  I was counseled to have them by request only, at first, and I’m glad I was, because the more weddings and events I did, the more I learned about how long each process takes and what is involved.

But now I am pretty confident in my pricing structure.  And I still think it’s important (in fact I heard feedback once from a friend who had referred someone to me; that someone had taken one look at my services page and said “She doesn’t publish her prices, so she has to be too expensive for me!”).  So I’m feeling pretty good about service structure and price publishing.  But it also is tough.

I often get e-mails that say simply, “My fiancé and I are getting married [on a certain date, in a certain month, or sometimes even in a certain year].  Can you send me your pricing sheet?”  It’s hard, really.  Because I don’t like standard pricing, and I have never had a pricing sheet.  Even now, my website reads “starting at…” for a reason.  Because each wedding is different.

Wedding Design, Planning, and Coordination are all best when they’re personal to you.  Just like your house, your phone, your wardrobe…  You are an individual.  Your wedding is not the same as anyone else’s.  In fact, I relish weddings that are personalized, handmade, and quirky.  It’s my favorite thing to do, planning a wedding with a couple who wants their personalities to shine.

Married by a Robot. Oh yes.

Standard pricing assumes that you have a “standard” wedding.  And what does that mean?  That you’re just the same as the next couple?  That you have the same needs? That your planner or coordinator just charges everyone the same price without putting any thought into it?  That you’re getting charged for services you might not need, or maybe that you’re not getting enough service for your wedding because it’s not in the package?

For a while I was actually putting together a full quote for every couple who contacted me, adding up all my costs each time (which is why I was glad that I was counseled to not post standard pricing, because it did fluctuate).  As I said before, I have decided to streamline my packages, based on what normally happens at a wedding and what I’ve learned is necessary (all my weddings now happen with at least one assistant, for example).  This will help give my potential clients a ballpark figure for the service they want before they ever contact me, and I think that’s important.

But I’m leery of standard pricing.  It’s like going to buy your first house without any inkling of the market around you.  You know you want three bedrooms and two baths, but you’ve never bought a house before and have no clue if you’ll need to plan on $20,000 or $200,000 or $2,000,000 to purchase it (and have apparently been living under a rock, but bear with me on the analogy).  You contact a real estate agent who says to you that all of their three-bedroom, two-bath homes cost $400,000, regardless of neighborhood, lot size, or condition of the home.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense in real estate, and I don’t think it makes a lot of sense in wedding planning either.

Every wedding has it’s own personality – the unique number of guests and attendants, location, and setup details.  An outdoor wedding under the stars will require far more complicated a setup (tables, chairs, dance floor, lighting, heaters, restrooms, cooking equipment, etc.) than a ballroom wedding.  Especially an outdoor wedding with tons of DIY details (or one without professional vendors for things like floral design and music).  Hanging hundreds of ribbons in a tree for your ceremony or a backdrop to your sweets table looks amazing (and I love, love, love doing it – I’m so looking forward to sharing my next post with you where I can show you what it looks like!), but it can take hours.  Hours of painstaking detail work.   On a ladder.  So can arranging the perfect combination of wildflowers in jars.  Or creating that tower of favors, or that escort card puzzle.  The Chinese lantern sculpture I created last year for Emily + Jeremy  was insanely gorgeous and a breathtaking piece to decorate the entry to their wedding reception.  But it took three people four hours to complete.  No joke.

One of the biggest factors in my pricing is making sure that I have enough hands to complete heavy setup jobs like these.  But the number of guests is also a factor, since setting up place settings and favors for 300 guests is a far different story than setting up for 50 (to say nothing of guest management during the wedding or cleanup afterwards, or all the other things we do and decor we set up).  Based on the whole picture of the wedding day, I’ll hire either my regular assistant or a combination of full- and half-day assistants to help make it all happen.  And of course, I have to charge for travel outside of San Diego County, in order to make sure I don’t lose money on events in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, or Santa Barbara Counties.

The thing is, I suppose that if I charged an extreme amount for my services, I could absorb things like extra assistants and mileage into my bottom line.  But I don’t – I try to provide the best value cost possible for my services while still offering excellent service and quality.  And I hate charging people for things they don’t need.  So I always will need more specifics before confirming a price for a potential client.  Which is part of the reason I’m excited that I built my new website with an inquiry page that asks for more information than would be included in the e-mail I mentioned above.

And I’m happy about that.  I’d much rather review all the details of a wedding day before giving my potential couples a final price.  It takes a little longer, and is more work intensive.  And there’s the dreaded “starting at…” listed on my site.  But I’m truly happy.  Because I don’t want to do cookie cutter weddings, and I don’t want to overcharge any of my clients.  I’m proud to say that my weddings are anything but “standard,” and that’s just the way I want them to be!

Photo from the McAwesome Wedding, by Events by Elisa