To Assign or Not to Assign, That is the Question

Many times, I have asked my clients the question, “Will you assign seating?”  And, sometimes I get an answer of “No.”  I am the first to tell you, this is your wedding day and you should do what you want. However, I know this may appear the path of simplicity, it is anything but simple.  In fact, the decision to not assign seating can open a large can of worms. 

First things first…this is very important…sort of a little pet peeve of mine.  Let’s get educated on the difference between an escort card (wall) and a place card.  Believe it or not there is a BIG difference. 

An escort card (or wall, frame, mirror, etc.) is a card that is available at the cocktail reception or at the entrance of the dining room.  The card displays the guest name and their table number.  The guest then goes into the dining room, finds their table number and chooses their seat at the assigned table. 

A place card is a card that rests at the actual place-setting of a dining table.  The guests find their name and table number on a board, go to the assigned table and look for the chair and place-setting that has their card.  Then they sit at that spot. 

Sounds awfully fussy right?  I disagree.  Have you ever been the kid in the high school cafeteria, with their lunch tray walking table to table with no place to sit?  Each table has a group of kids that know each other well and you perhaps don’t fit with any of the groups.  So, you choose the table that is empty or full of the misfits that no one else wanted at their table.  The feelings of anxiety, distance, fear and loneliness set in.  If you’re lucky enough to not have experienced this, please rent any teen movie ever made and this scene will play itself out time and time again.  Usually with the poor person spilling their tray of food on their clothes.   

While my description may sound dramatic, I promise you it isn’t.  I have been that person both at high school and at a wedding reception.  It is the most awkward, horrible feeling in the world.  And, I pray that my children or any wedding guests don’t have to feel this.  Don’t think it will happen at your reception?  Think again.  As the planner who walks the reception and listens to your guests, I hear them.  They say things like “Geez, there’s nowhere to sit, I don’t know anyone.”  Or, “Ha-ha, we have a table to ourselves, we look like total losers.”  It is uncomfortable.  I attended a wedding in which we were step-siblings.  Did that make us family?  I didn’t know.  My husband and I sat down at a table of eight chairs. Everyone walked by us.  One couple didn’t have anywhere else to sit.  They started to sit down with us as we invited them to share our table, but found some friends and literally got up so fast, I thought the table was going to fall over.  They bolted from us like we had Ebola.  So….wait for it….the two of us ate dinner by ourselves…completely.  In a room full of tables with laughter and joy…we sat alone.  I was mortified.  We felt so out of place and uncomfortable, we quietly made our exit hoping no one noticed. Given no one sat with us, I am certain no one noticed our absence.  Worst feeling ever. 

Hosting a wedding is just that.  Hosting.  This means you should do your absolute best to make sure your guests feel comfortable and wanted.  Every couple I work with says the same thing, “We want our guests to feel welcome, loved and taken care of.”  Assigned seating does just that.  Do you need to get as formal as telling them the exact seat they must reside?  No, but you can.  At a minimum, give them “their spot” at the reception.  A place where they will feel welcome and perhaps make new friends.  It can be fun, when you look at your guest list and start making table matches.  Paring a very social couple with a couple that perhaps is shy.  Or, partnering some work colleagues from your place of business with colleagues from your partner’s business.  It is amazing to watch the friendships that transpire through the night.  Suddenly you may see friends, who didn’t know each other prior, dancing the night away together.  And, you’ll realize that “of course” they would get along…they have a common love of football, Abba, Ed Sheeran…fill in the blanks. 

Be a good host.  Assign seats, don’t let your guests float around aimlessly or sit at a table alone.  That’s my soap box for this week, I’ll step down.  But, thanks for considering this simple gesture of kindness. 



You're Engaged. First Step: Hire a Planner? Nope.

Congratulations, you’re engaged!!!  It is such an exciting time full of love, joy, happiness, family and sometimes stress. Stress?!  Wait, can a wedding planner admit to you that this can be a stressful time?! Well, I like to be honest…and yes it can be stressful.  Balancing your desires as a couple with the desires of both your families can become the biggest lesson in diplomacy and tact you will ever have.   

So, now that you have the love of your life, what should you do first?  Get a venue?  Lock in a date?  Hire a planner?  I bet you think I am going to tell you to hire a planner first.  And, I probably should, but that “honesty thing” keeps winning out.  Here’s my little tip that will help set you up for success over the next 12 months, 5 months, 30 days or however much time you have to plan your special day:  Get your GUEST LIST done ASAP! 

I know what you’re thinking-there is absolutely no way a wedding planner is telling you to not seek me out first, and instead write down a tedious list of people you’d like present on your special day.  Yes, the guest list.  And, I don’t mean random sheets of paper and colored sticky notes with names of you and your parents’ friends.  I mean a legit spreadsheet or ten-page, handwritten list incorporating EVERY PERSON you can think of who would come.  Sounds easy, right?  NOT!  I promise you will likely find one person (ahem, or parents) who don’t comply with this urgent request and you will need to “shake the rug”, “light a fire” or basically force everyone to comply.  

Why is this guest list so important?  I mean, it’s just a group of everyone you know…but this can be extremely difficult. Simple answer:  every guest invited can possibly add anywhere from $50-$125 per guest to your budget.  Does that get your attention?  If not, I promise as you start to look at costs for photographers, videographers, venues, and everything else…that suddenly, this amount will matter to you.  It will really matter to you.  The guest list comprises the biggest expenditure of a wedding.  All your decisions should be made after your guest list is figured out. 

The blanket rule of thumb for me is 80% of your guests will attend.  For the past 20 years, that 80% has proved true for most of my clients.  But, to double check this percentage, add a column for a “Yes, No or Maybe” and the number of people per family that could come.  Then, tally up the “yeses” to get a decent idea of your base and then add 80% of the “maybes” to this total. 

Questions to help determine if someone should be on your guest list: 

  • Have you spoken to them more than twice this past year? 

  • Do you reach out to this person(s) more than twice a year? 

  • Have you met with this person(s) more than twice in the past year? 

  • Do you have a close, personal family connection with this person(s)? 

  • What kind of value are they going to add to your day? (Sentimental, added fun, rekindled friendships, new relationships, etc.) 


Once you have this list worked over at least twice, then you can move forward and YES, hire a planner. Your planner will be able to make amazing recommendations based on your anticipated count and help you plan a realistic budget.  And, trust me, a realistic budget is a blog post for another day. 

At the end of the day remember, this is about the joining of your families and the love the two of you celebrate for each other.  Don’t lose sight of that during this process.  Love makes the world go ‘round, celebrate, enjoy it and have fun!  Let me know if you need any help!  


Who Pays for the Wedding? An Exercise in Modern Society and Diplomacy

It happens time and time again.  As the wedding expenses start adding up, families feel the stress of paying for a wedding.  It used to be so cut and dry; the bride’s family pays for a wedding, period.  And, according to some traditional etiquette experts, this hasn’t changed no matter how much society has changed. 

So, if you want the formal, non-flexible/traditional answer, it is still: the bride’s family pays for the wedding.  However, I strongly feel that there is a grey area to this answer in the 21st century.  A woman’s family is no longer giving dowry’s when she marries, and not all couples are heterosexual.  And, with the average of marriage creeping up towards 27-29 years old, many couples want the autonomy of paying for their own nuptials.  If mom and dad don’t contribute, they can have the day THEY want and not what the parents want.  So, where does this leave us?  Below is a more modern guideline to who may choose to contribute and to what they may contribute toward. 

If we take the rules of etiquette as the law, the truth of the question, “Who pays for the wedding?” really takes root with the concept of, “What can, and should a groom’s family pay for?”  Here is my answer: 


Groom’s Family 

  • Officiant fees.  Priest, pastor, justice of the peace, they should be paid for by the groom’s family. This includes any special gift or tip that can be given. 

  • Bonus:  Payment of the ceremony venue and/or staff, if there is any fee.  This can include a facility fee for a church, sound person or custodian. 

  • Personal flowers.  This includes the bridal bouquet, bridesmaids’ flowers, boutonnieres and corsages. 

  • Bonus:  All wedding flowers including ceremony and reception arrangements and centerpieces. 

  • Reception bar tab.  This can be in the form of beer and wine or a full hosted bar including cocktails.   

  • Bonus:  Wine service with dinner 

  • Rehearsal dinner.  This would include invitations (we recommend a paper invite), meal, beverage and décor.  It should be noted, that it is appropriate to invite ALL guests who are traveling to the wedding to this dinner.  It is the proper way to host guests who have traveled so far to share in your joy. 

  • Groomsmen meal.  A light lunch prior to the ceremony to ensure blood sugars are kept level. 

  • SUPER BONUS:  Travel and accommodations for male attendants, assuming this was a desire of the family. 

As a mom of two boys, when the time comes, I want to be able to contribute to their special day.  I know I will be happy when they find love and to be able to contribute financially to such a special day would mean the world to me.  It would allow me to show support for their future family, as well as, be an active participant throughout the process.  I realize their partner’s family may not want my contribution; however, I will plan to offer, and I won’t be offended it if is declined.  But, at a minimum, an offer will be made.  Believe it or not, I was approached by a Mother-of-the Groom at a wedding who was livid she was never asked for a single penny.  She desperately wanted to contribute and felt she had been left out of her son’s future because she wasn’t given even the slightest opportunity.  

Is there a way to intercept this interaction?  Any way to politely suggest the groom’s family pay for something?  My answer is yes and no.  Yes, there is a way this information can be discussed in a positive, enriching conversation.  And, no, we can’t directly ask them to contribute.  How does this work?  Simple, the groom must have a private conversation with his family.  And it should go something like this: 

  • Mom/Dad, I am getting married.  Many modern weddings include financial contributions from the groom’s family as they wish to participate and show support for the couple.  I would like to know if you have a desire to contribute financially and if so, how would you like to help.  If not, that is perfectly fine.  I just want to make sure to give you the opportunity to say “yes or no” rather than just assume it is one way or the other. 

By talking with his family in this way, he offers them an opportunity to decline in a private setting.  No judgement is passed, it is just their family.  Now, is this the easiest conversation to have?  Judging by my experience, it isn’t.  However, difficult conversations are part of life.  It is a good step towards proving you can handle a marriage and all the diplomacy that comes with merging two families.  Trust me, a marriage doesn’t stop with this conversation.  There will be discussions about where holidays are spent, where grandchildren (dogs) will live, how presents are divided up in the family gift pool.  It only gets more complicated from here on out.  Now is a fantastic time to set a positive tone of open and honest communication with your families. 

Best wishes and have fun with this process.  Remember, this is supposed to be the most memorable time of your life!

New Love, New Year

Sierra + Joe

I am so happy to be writing this post exactly one year from the day Sierra and Joe joined hearts.  I know they are celebrating their love and the closure of their first year together.  I am positive I will think about their wedding every year…and this year was no exception, so I just had to blog about them.

New Year’s weddings are becoming more popular in the past couple of years. It only makes sense; the majority of the world takes vacation during the Christmas and New Year holidays; family is in from out of town; and it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Festive, warm, inviting and celebratory are all words Sierra and Joe used to describe their dream day.  We were truly honored to work with such an adorable couple.  What I loved most about their day was the sense of community that was prevalent from planning to execution of the day.  Sierra & Joe decided to get married in Joe’s hometown of West Point, Nebraska.  He has a large family, and they have lived there for generations.

I can’t remember New Year’s holidays in Nebraska where there was a -45 degree wind chill.  Yes, it can get cold here, but rarely does it get THAT cold during the holiday.  Well, December 30th, 2017 was recorded to be the coldest day of the entire year. I think 2017 wanted to leave its mark on our minds forever.  And, I have to say, it will live in my mind for as long as I am involved in weddings.

When it gets that cold, logistics become essential. Guests need to be watched out for; maids need to have boots to wear under their dresses; sidewalks and stairs need to be shoveled, salted and then re-salted; flowers cannot be exposed to the elements nor can a wedding team’s skin.  I must share a big “THANK YOU” to the driver with Elite Party Bus out of Lincoln, Nebraska. He came thru with a blow torch when we were lighting sparklers for a very, very quick photo opportunity with the wedding party.  I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see a blow torch in my entire life. I quickly decided a full-sized blow torch was an essential to any wedding planner’s emergency kit.  You can see the images were amazing. And, they were all courtesy of a party-bus driver.  Talk about a team effort!!

The reception was decorated with beautiful warm lighting that featured a pattern of branches that were replicas of branches featured on the wedding invitation designed by Loree Mayer Designs. Sierra and Joe’s monogram was featured on a wall behind the cake, as well as, cups that sat on a drink wall at the entrance of the venue.  Naturally, there was a donut wall, popcorn table, cookies, mini Bundt cakes and wedding cake…talk about my dream come true.  I love sweets and they were everywhere on this day…I am proud to say my will power was strong and I didn’t consume any of the tempting calories in front of my eyes all day. 

Despite the freezing cold temperatures, the day was full of warmth and love.  While a blizzard raged outside, the party inside couldn’t have been more full of warmth and feeling of joy and family for these two.  I can’t think of a more welcoming group to spend the new year with. 

Venue:  Nielsen Community Center

Photographer:  Ben Ramos

Floral/Décor: Events Etcetera

Transportation: Elite Party Bus

Paper: Loree Mayer Designs


A European Fete with a Side of Rain

Krista + Andrew

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

 Rain, rain, rain. Three words that summarizes the weather on Krista and Andrew’s day.  But, as a designer, I LOVED it!  I’ll let you in on a little secret:  I LOVE the rain. I do my best work when it is raining.  Something about the beautiful, glistening rain drops falling out of the sky, makes me want to write poetry, paint a romance and dream of stolen kisses under an awning. 

Krista and Andrew didn’t let the rain put a cloud over their day.    This day was simply about love and family.  And, I think their love for each other was so bright, I am not sure they even noticed the rain. 

The little details of their wedding were among my most favorite ever. Krista spent several years abroad in Europe. These years influenced her style and tastes. The menu was very thoughtfully designed to incorporate flavors of Europe.  Guests were greeted to a fresh Pimm’s cocktail upon arrival (something I instantly fell in love with), see recipe below. To top of their delicious cocktail, they served Curried Cashews as bar snacks.  Hors d’oeuvres included Liptauer on a Rye Crostini. During dinner, an artisan bread basket of Lavosh, Pumpkin Seeded Rustic Rolls and Rye bread graced the table.  Our vegetarian guests were not forgotten, which was something very important to Krista and Andrew. In conjunction with Abraham Catering we created a beautiful vegetable tower of Roasted Portabella Mushrooms, Zucchini, Squash, Roasted Pepper and Spinach with a Tomato Fondue and warm Goat Cheese Drizzle.  It was such a beautiful plate; the carnivores were ready to dine vegetarian that night.  Perhaps, my favorite part of our dinner was a well-planned children’s meal of Fresh Pasta with Garden Vegetables and a Light Cream Sauce with a side of Vegetable Sticks and Hummus.  With a single bite, every guest felt the romantic European flare that Krista and Andrew wanted to share.

Later in the evening, when dancing began, and guests were feeling the midnight munchies approach, the couple served A&W root beer floats with vanilla ice cream from the local E-Creamery. To add a salty and savory touch, the floats were served alongside a Pommes Frites station with curried ketchup and mayo.  This, of course, was in conjunction with the vanilla cake adorned with assorted fresh berries and vanilla buttercream made by The Chocolates Bar. Perhaps the sweetest addition of all though, a Kransekake made by a family friend. If you haven’t had a Kransekake, stop what you are doing and go find one, they are amazing.  In fact, I think I need to make sure I have one at least once a year. 

The food in itself was a well-thought out adoration of Krista’s European past, and the flowers also spoke to the same.The flowers were provided by Found and Flora and met Krista’s dream of incorporating many family serving pieces and antiques in a country garden style, they were beautiful. Creams, greens, with pops of berries, burgundy and soft purples adorned the tables. Family members, vintage birdbath champagne glasses and sprigs of lavender, resting in a grey velvet bow on the napkins, topped off the head table perfectly.

It was a stunning memorable day and the rain only made it more special. It was the perfect accent to a perfect wedding.



Pimm’s Cup

1 Part Pimm’s Liqueur

3 Parts Sparkling Elderflower Lemonade (Can be purchased at Target)

2 Cups Fresh chopped, strawberries, cucumbers and fresh chopped Mint

Muddle mint, strawberries and cucumbers in a pitcher, add Pimm’s and the lemonade. Let it sit for about an hour.  Pour over ice into a Collins glass. Garnish with a spring of mint and an adorable paper straw.

Photos by: Alyssa Schukar

A Night for Dancing and Love

Blending of families and cultures can be seamless and a lot of fun.  Meghan and Muff successfully blended two cultures and made the day so meaningful.  They truly looked at who they were as a couple and chose to make the day about what mattered to them most, family.  

We had a lot of fun putting their wedding day together. From margaritas (their favorite drink) to music, the entire event was personalized. This was the third wedding I planned for Meghan’s family.  At every wedding, the bride/groom from her family collected images from the previous generation’s wedding. Some dating back to great, great grandparent status.  It was so wonderful to see a reminder of the successful couples that led to this very moment.  Meghan and Muff chose to display these photos on a wall together with the guest seating chart.  It was such a warm way to welcome their guests. 

My most fond memories of this wedding were on the dance floor.  They played a fun mix of both American and Indian songs.  It didn’t matter what culture the guest came from; the dance floor was full. I will never forget hearing one of my favorite songs “Galway Girl” by Ed Sheeran come over the speakers. It is a more traditional Irish pop song.  I’ve never heard it at a reception and my first thought was, “Oh, will this work? I mean I love this song, like LOVE it but will people dance to it?” And, sure enough the floor was packed and most everyone was trying to do an Irish jig.  Now, every time I hear that song (and I do frequently as it’s on one of my playlists) I see the full dance floor of two different cultures dancing an Irish jig.   

When you’re planning your wedding, make it about you and your families, your guests will appreciate it and remember your day for years to come.

Photography: C.B. Yates Photography

Floral Design: Creative Fleur

Décor: Creating Atmosphere

Paper Suite: Dana Osborne Designs

Host Couples, Do You Need Them?

Host Couples, Do You Need Them?

Do you need a host couple? What is it they do?  Who do you choose?  All great questions, read on for some ideas and guidelines to help you choose the right host couple and set them up for success.

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