Heirloom Family Gathering | Awake Photography

I sat down to write this post a few weeks ago, this post was the outcome which had absolutely nothing to do about the Heirloom family gathering. Somehow I forgot that I was supposed to write about Heirloom…and just remembered a few days ago that I never shared this event properly. So here we go! Hannah and her husband reached out to me to help them plan and design this event, I had a lot on my plate the month of July, but this was something I couldn’t pass up. I love Heirloom mag– I love their message, I love their style so it was something I was going to find the time for. It was possibly my favorite thing to plan ever too…I basically just asked all of my favorite Houston wedding vendors to make this thing happen. I even weaseled my way out of doing the flowers because I have been wanting to work with Blush and Vine forever and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I got Rent the Foundry on board to do the furniture- I wanted like 3 vignettes so this was no small task, but they were game. So the deal with Rent the Foundry is that they are a brand new business here in Houston and they are KILLING it. They are basically starting the business that I have needed in my life for the past four years. Paige with Awake Photography has a love for all things vintage and after hearing me complain that there are no good mid century rental places in Houston at a number of shoots, she decided to jump on it. So I know they are still working on photographing all of their inventory and getting it up on their website, but seriously if you are in need of some beautiful and unique things for your wedding they either have it or will source it for you.

Heirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake Photography

I asked The Weekend Type to create a welcome sign for us and Korie of course made it more special than I would have imagined.

Heirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake Photography

We held this shin dig at The Studio above Tout Suite. I love everything about this place- the look, the feel, the food is fantastic, and PRETTY to boot! BUT be forewarned that they are hard to get a hold of and deal with. That was just my personal experience, but I have heard this to be true from others as well. I think it was literally the day before the event and I was still waiting to hear back from the right manager to confirm all the details. Yeah…I was a little sweaty that day.

Heirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake Photography

Heirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake Photography

Heirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake Photography

I am completely terrible at attending events like this, so the fact that I planned it was a great avenue in actually getting me to attend. It made me want to go to things like this much much more. It’s always strange being in my little work at home bubble…it’s really fantastic to be around other people that are in that same bubble. They get that working from home is fantastic, difficult, overwhelming, lonely, and wonderful all at the same time. It’s also not every day that I get to chat with a room full of gals who work in the wedding industry, so that was also a complete treat. GET OUT MORE JENNIFER.

Heirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake Photography


Heirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyAwakePhotography-1135

Heirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake PhotographyHeirloom Mag Houston Family Gathering | Awake Photography

Thank you to everyone who was involved in putting this event together and making it SO so lovely. So much love to all of you!

Vendor Credits | Planning and Design- Jennifer Laura Design, Photography- Awake Photography, Rentals- Rent the Foundry, Flowers- Blush and Vine, Welcome Sign- The Weekend Type, Venue, The Studio @ Tout Suite, Linens- La Tavola

5 ways to save money on your wedding…that WORK

After reading about all the ways to not save money, here are some ideas that will save you money and keep your guests from thinking they are at a DIY budget wedding.

5 ways to save money on your wedding that work | Jennifer Laura Design | Photo by Feather and Twine

1. “Our venue allows us to bring in our own alcohol”- This will save you a boat load if you have a venue that allows you to do this. You will need to provide TABC certified bartenders, and you can get glassware through your caterer (they may also be able to provide bartenders), or provide your own plastic cups. My recommendation here is to find a full service liquor company- there are some amazing ones that will deliver everything that you specify and even extra then come back at the end of the night and pick up what you didn’t use, then only charge you for what was used. Find someone who can provide this service for you. And if you can’t it still might be ok, enough alcohol to serve 100+ people is pretty cumbersome, this could possibly be a groom and groomsmen task, but then needing drunk groomsmen to remember to get leftovers at the end of the night could prove to be problematic, especially if you are at a venue that requires everything to be out at the end of the night.

2. “I want to have a small, intimate wedding with only the people who are closest to us”- I think everyone says this. I think almost everyone wants this. No one really wants their wedding to be full of people they don’t know or distant relatives they haven’t seen since they were born. But the truth is the lower you can keep your guest count the less you will have to spend, it’s just a fact- the food, the flowers, the rentals….will all be less when you keep your guest count in check. It’s easier said then done once you start factoring in who your parents want to invite, but if you can actually do it, KUDOS.

3. “I’m going to have a cocktail reception”- This is such a great way to save money. This basically means that you are going to have heavy passed appetizers all night, maybe some fun interactive stations, and no seated or buffet dinner. Guests love it because they get to chow down all night and I love it because it allows us to bring down your costs everywhere else. When we do a cocktail reception, we do a ton of cocktail tables, but we only seat about 30-40% of your guests. Therefore driving costs down in rentals, linens, florals, etc. This is a great idea for big weddings on a tight budget, and my favorite part about it is that it doesn’t have to feel cheap or like you are scrimping- find a creative caterer that can do some really fun stations- build your own stuffed avocados? a raw oyster bar? Meanwhile you have servers passing fun little one bites to people while they wait in line. It’s a pretty great/fun atmosphere and your guests aren’t going to notice that it cut your food/decor budget in half.

4. “I’m getting married on a Friday or Sunday”- This will save you money on your venue rental fee- sometimes 25-50% cheaper simply because you are not taking their coveted Saturday slot that everyone wants. Keep in mind that other vendors likely will not charge less due to the different day- photographers, planners, DJs, caterers- they are all providing the exact same service no matter the day of the week, so keep that in mind when you are budgeting. BUT that venue savings will likely be worth it.

5. “My uncle is going to be our officiant”- I have seen this work out well on so many occasions. It isn’t a huge savings, but it’s something and means that your ceremony will likely feel even more intimate and special. You will want to make sure  your officiant brushes up on some simple ceremony normalcies like “all rise”, “you may now be seated”, etc. You know so your guests don’t stay standing for the the entire ceremony. Oh Lord….yes, I’ve seen this happen and had to quietly walk around telling everyone they could sit down.

If you missed part one- ways NOT to save money, check here. Now get to planning and please tell me- do you have any money saving ideas that are amazing? Any money saving ideas that just didn’t work out? I want to know!

5 way to NOT save money on your wedding

I have had a lot of clients in the past who are looking for ways to cut corners or save money on their wedding and I get it, weddings are very expensive. But as someone who has managed quite a few events over the years I have some thoughts on some of these “budget saving” ideas that are simply not worth it.

Jennifer Laura Design | photo by Sugar and Cloth

1. “I’m going to purchase my own linens and then sell them after the event”– This is a bad idea for a lot of reasons. Have you seen what twenty-thirty 120″ round linens look like? It’s a lot of fabric, you have now put yourself in the position to store this before your wedding and then haul it to your wedding, but the biggest reason why this is a terrible idea is that you don’t realize quite how gross the linens are going to be after your wedding. They get very dirty, if you want them to look good enough to sell you are going to have to pay to get them dry cleaned and that bill right there will likely be about as much as you could have sold them for. Not to mention that after your wedding you (or some poor family member) has had to collect them (you don’t have a soiled linen bag because they don’t give you that when you buy) and try to bag them somehow, transport them home (warning- they will take up even MORE space when they are dirty), store them until you have them dry cleaned, then find someone who wants to purchase used linens. You may be able to sell them locally on craigslist if you are lucky. Now…don’t think you will save money by washing them at home and skipping the dry cleaners…because now you have horribly wrinkled linens that probably won’t ever quite look the same again. No one is going to want those.

2. “My aunt Silvia is going to be my wedding coordinator”– How did your poor aunt Silvia get stuck with this job? Who decided that she was so unimportant that she wouldn’t be able to enjoy your wedding day? Also, think about the people that will be helping aunt Silvia- her husband, her kids, her brothers or sisters (more aunts and uncles), by assigning one family member to “coordinate” your wedding day you are in actuality putting the stress and strain of all the set up, problems, dealing with vendors onto an entire segment of your family. Don’t do this. Even if they offer it up as a gift, chances are they just don’t know what they are getting themselves into.

3. “My friend took Photography classes in college and has offered to photograph my wedding for FREE!!”– I can understand why this might be appealing, good wedding photographers are expensive, but chances are your friend has never photographed a wedding before, do you want to be their guinea pig? You are likely going to be spending thousands on your wedding day and your photos are all that you will have left. You want your photos to be great. You don’t want someone that will forget to take photos of the rings or your dress…or someone that will not get endless angles of your centerpieces. Professionals take thousands of photos in the span of 6-7 hours on your wedding day, they typically have multiple cameras and gear worth THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS that will allow them to get that many shots. I liken it to being a sports photographer- they have to get moments that will never happen again, they have to be fast, and ALWAYS in the right place at the right time. Your friend may be a great photographer, but someone with experience will be able to capture all the little things that you are going to want to see when you reminisce about your wedding…details your inexperienced friend may not have thought to capture. They will likely also have a second shooter that allows them to essentially be in two places at once and get shots one person could never get.

4. I’m getting married at home so I don’t have spend thousands to rent a venue” This can work to save you money in some cases- if you are having a very small (and let me stress the word SMALL) guest list. I’m talking less than 50. There are a lot of factors that go into planning a wedding at home- parking, ceremony space, reception space- your parent’s backyard may be beautiful, but do you have a back up rain plan? If you don’t have a space to fit everyone indoors in case of rain you may find yourself not only having a rainy wedding day, but coming in thousands of dollars over budget to rent a tent and have it lit and draped (you know, so it’s not ugly). There are also a lot of things that come with a venue-  can your at home plumbing handle 150 people? You may need to rent a bathroom trailer. You will definitely have to rent tables and chairs, you may want a security officer if guests will be drinking, insurance is always a good idea to protect your home, a cleaning crew is a must, and then the inevitable stress that the wedding will put on the home owner, it’s unavoidable since they are essentially the hosts of the party, whether you have a planner/coordinator or not.

5. “I don’t need a DJ, I have an Ipod” I’ve been to a wedding with a crowd that didn’t know each other very well and in general wasn’t very lively. A DJ could have gotten people up and onto the dance floor and kept the party going, but because there wasn’t a DJ present and only an Ipod, it was a confusing mix of family members making announcements at random times, it felt pretty disorganized and the wedding ended about 2 hours early because everyone was leaving and the bride and groom wanted to leave before everyone else did. I also saw groomsmen awkwardly trying to queue up the first dance song and not sure exactly which one it was and having to check with the groom as he was waiting to start dancing. If you are having a SUPER low key affair and you don’t want specific dances or any announcements made then I think playing an Ipod is totally ok. If you want a party going late into the night, if you want a grand entrance with all of your bridal party, if you want a big cutting the cake moment where everyone is watching….then you need a DJ to orchestrate all of that, otherwise you will be so disappointed with how some of these important moments turn out.

Stay tuned for part two of some ways to save money that I do think are great ideas and ARE worth it!

so you want to be a wedding planner?

Q: Hello, Jennifer! I hope you do not mind, but I was hoping to get some advice. I am very interested in a career as a wedding planner and have recently been researching the necessary steps and different options for doing so. I have not been researching very long, but I have already seen everything from certifications at career schools, to simple how-to classes, to there are no qualifications necessary in the United States. No matter the case, I am still very interested in getting into the business. I have always loved planning, or just watching the planning for parties and other events for family and friends, and became seriously interested when I began stage managing for a local community theater about five years ago, albeit, a slightly different form of planning. I found your company in researching wedding planners in the local Houston area and I was hoping to speak with you and get your opinions on what path I should take.  Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to hopefully speaking with you!
A: Hi Brendis! I actually get this question all of the time and lately have found myself in 10-15 minute phone chats with gals who are looking to get into the wedding biz. Now I seriously wish I could talk to all of you out there for hours on end and give you all huge hugs, because I was in your shoes exactly two years ago (and I remember looking for something, anything, to grasp onto…to fuel my charge ahead into this big scary business world), but in this crazy wedding season you know time is just not on my side…SO  I thought I would jot down all of my thoughts down here so I could share them with you and other future gals (or guys, hey why not?) looking for some advice, words of wisdom (ha!), or just to hear that everyone starts where you are starting right now at some point and hey, that’s ok. Two years ago I got grains of advice from this very talented gal as well as researching my little heart out, google, and a little bit of making it up as I went along. Heck, I might still be doing that from time to time. I’m going to approach this question like you are starting your own business since that is exactly what I did and therefore all I have experience with. With that being said I don’t think it would hurt to gain experience with an internship or working for someone else for a few years, I often wish I had that core experience to pull from, but I don’t and it’s definitely not a deal-breaker.
Images/creating your website
I started my business on a shoestring budget. By this I mean less than $500. I’m not recommending you do this, but I’m sharing my experience and here to tell you that it can work. I did all of my own graphic design…which looking back I’m not overly proud of this fact…
Jennifer Laura Branding- throwback 2012
Does anyone remember this?? It kind of makes me chuckle…it looks like I was trying to run a fancy dog grooming shop. BUT…miraculously it worked and that site brought me my first few really special clients that got this business off the ground. The most important thing about your website are the images…I think that’s the biggest takeaway here, clients clearly weren’t booking me because of my dog-tastic branding, but the images of my own wedding were perfect for letting people see my style and abilities. So if you have images from your own wedding or a friend’s wedding that you planned use them on you own site. On this first site I didn’t even have a portfolio, I didn’t want to broadcast that I only had one project to showcase, but I made sure every page had some of the pretty imagery from my wedding. I did A LOT of research and looking at other planners that I thought had great sites or I liked their work and surprisingly some of them didn’t have portfolios either, so I just crossed my fingers and took a leap of faith that it would work out. Spoiler alert- it did. If you don’t have any images here is an idea for getting some- put together a styled shoot- hunt around your area for some vendors that may be in the same boat as you- fresh out and hungry for work and projects. The most important vendor will be your photographer- they can make your work look SO much better. My work has been shot by a total range of photographers and there have been times where my work looked better in person and the photos just don’t do it justice, but most of the time with an amazing photographer something miraculous happens where things look even better than they did in real life. If you can find someone like this- you’re golden.
Jennifer Laura Design | Feather and Twine Photography
As for creating my website- I have no knowledge of coding or tweaking wordpress templates ( I wish I did), so I used Wix to create my site. I pay about $25 a month to keep my site ad free and to have my own domain name, but overall Wix is incredibly easy to use and no coding knowledge is required. If you can upload photos and drag them around you can use the wix website builder. It’s pretty idiot proof- which is perfect for me :) If you think even this sounds too complicated I might recommend hunting around on Etsy to find a graphic/website designer that is reasonable. There are lots of talented people getting their start that post their services there- you can usually find someone talented for a bargain.
Having a great (or not so great) website with good images will accomplish absolutely nothing if no one can find it. I’m about to share a few of my marketing secrets that are what allowed people to start finding my website. The first is weddingwire- it’s a great site and I actually used it to hunt down vendors for my own wedding as well as leaving reviews. After spending a ridiculous amount of time on sites like yelp, yellow pages, google, etc. registering Jennifer Laura Design as a business in hopes that it would start making me look good in the eyes of the google gods, I started receiving offers from wedding planning websites like the knot and mywedding.com. Both places offered to list my business on their website in exchange for a monthly fee- the sites are all different, but the principal is basically the more you pay the higher you are on their list of vendors. For example, when Jim Bob goes searching for wedding planners in Houston at theknot.com, Jennifer Laura Design would pop up on the first page. Both places were expensive in my mind- over $100 a month to be listed on their first page and that was just one website…I kept thinking that being listed at all of these places was going to cost a fortune and I would just have to wait until I had some business cash flow coming in. The only problem is that no one was finding me therefore there would never be any cash flow coming in….catch 22. Enter weddingwire…they still wanted to charge me to be listed, but when I found out I would be listed not only on their weddingwire site, but also ten other sites including Martha Stewart and Wedding Bee, they started looking awfully appealing. They also weren’t near as expensive- about $85 a month (now remember this was about two years ago so their current prices are different), which was still a lot in my eyes, but to be listed on ten sites as opposed to one…it seemed like a no brainer. And sure enough, the client inquiries started rolling in about a month after listing with them. The second key to helping people find me has been my SEO- this is kind of a complex concept, but basically SEO stands for search engine optimization and it just means optimizing your website so that google thinks it’s worthy of listing in their search results. No one knows exactly what google is looking for, but the thing that helped me the most was starting a blog- tagging each blog with search keyword tags is extremely important. I would take the time to add about 10-12 tags to each and every blog I posted… add in search buzz words that you think people would be typing into google. So some of my typical tagging would look a little something like this “houston, texas, wedding, planner, coordinator, event, stylist, jennifer, laura, design, designer”. That way my business name is getting associated with the terms Houston Texas Wedding Planner with each and every blog I post. Google sees this and for one reason or another they really like it…it will take some time to see results SEO is a very slow and peculiar beast, but if you are patient (and diligent) you might start to see your business popping up on the 2nd and 3rd page of google (when you google your key words like “houston texas wedding planner”) in a few months. I also took the time to optimize my website as best as I possibly could with my limited knowledge, I won’t go into that here, but I did a lot of researching to find out the best ways to do that and I did it.
Fake it till you make it
I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I did a lot of this. I didn’t always know the exact right answer or the perfect thing to say, but acting like I was knowledgeable and being willing to find answers or go above and beyond for my clients made them really happy. At the end of the day I knew that I didn’t know everything there was to know about wedding planning, but I knew that I would a) learn along the way and soak up everything that I could and b) I would literally do anything in my power to make sure my clients weddings were everything that they were dreaming of. I still do this and some days I have a lot of guilt because I’m drowning in e-mails and can’t respond to everyone that I want to or I know someone is waiting for me to finish up a proposal that they have been waiting for….being a perfectionist and incredibly impatient myself I HATE that sometimes I can’t be on top of everything the way that I want to, but I console myself that I am still that girl that would DO anything to make my clients wedding as perfect as I can possibly make it.
So there you have it…my advice in a nutshell! Now this is in no way telling you all the ins and outs of business, I mean you need a license and you have to do boring things like file your own taxes, but this is wedding field specific and these are the things that really helped me book those first few clients and the truth is if you can book some clients you can totally figure out all of the other aspects- getting those first clients is definitely the hardest part! But if you are passionate and you love what you are doing the clients will see that and they will come…eventually!

Some Budget Wedding Tips from The Insider and JLD

Today I am sharing the cutest little infographic you ever did see. Jenny from the insider sent this over to me last week and wanted me to share it with all of you along with some of my wedding budget tips…and while it’s not something I normally do I was digging the information and the adorable way it’s presented.

Jennifer Laura Blog | Wedding Budget Tips | Jenny Creno The Insider

So now I’m going to give some of my money saving tips- especially since I don’t think hiring your friends as wedding vendors is the way to go. I also wanted to comment on a few things up there to clarify, applaud, or straight up disagree with…

1. Asking for discounts from everyone- This can rub some people the wrong way if you don’t do it carefully. Sometimes I get potential client inquiries that don’t sound excited to work with me, don’t mention any fun details for their big day and are just “how much are you?” and “can I get a discount?”. This is such a turn off and a huge red flag in my book. As a client you want vendors who are excited to work with you- if you know you want a specific vendor because you think they would be awesome for your day start your message with that- and then after a little back and forth let them know that you would really love to work with them, but your budget is X. I guarantee if they have gotten excited about you and your wedding they will be much more likely to try to fit into your budget. It may not be with a straight up discount, but I always have ideas of getting my prices lower- let’s take out this service and this service that you probably don’t need anyway and I can usually get people right to where they need to be.

2. The second comment I want to mention is from Pamela and Steven from My Married Life Blog- ranking the things at your wedding in order of importance is a great idea! Everyone has a budget and everyone has to trim back at some point. If you start this list early on in the planning process when it comes down to it and you can’t afford something refer back to your list and you can see that maybe the photo booth was at the bottom of your list and you can easily chop it in lieu of something a bit more affordable.

3. “Remember that it’s your wedding, don’t make decisions based on tradition or pressure from others” Ok, so this isn’t really a budget tip, but I think it’s great advice. Sometimes I have a lot of couples that get kind of bummed out by all of the traditional wedding fanfare- the bouquet and garter toss, pachelbel’s canon and the wedding march… I am here to tell you it’s not 1975 anymore and the wedding rules are kind of out the window. I get asked by a lot of my brides well what’s the tradition? I will always let them know what the traditional thing to do is, but give them the disclaimer that this is YOUR wedding and you can really do anything you want. Guests love being pulled into new things that they have never done before and I promise your friends won’t be mad when you don’t make them catch your bouquet. In fact, they might thank you.

4. Investing in a professional photographer and videographer is priceless. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Your wedding photos are SOOO important. After your wedding day they are all you will have left so don’t scrimp here.

5. I love the budget allotment pie chart- it’s pretty close to a similar one I use with my clients. However, some of these average expenses are scaring me a bit….I’d say for the most part these are good averages with the exception of the cake and flowers. I don’t know many places you can get a wedding cake for less than $500. I would say a better estimation here would be the average cost of a slice of wedding cake is $4-$5 for buttercream and $6-$8 for fondant. So take those numbers and multiply your guest count to get what your cake might end up costing. And for flowers- I hate to say it but less than $2000 doesn’t go very far. I spent quite a bit more than this at my own wedding and I had really simple centerpieces, nothing over the top at all. I think $3000 is a much better average here.

As for my own budget tips, let me lay a few on you:

– One of the best ways to keep costs down is to keep your guest count low. I get so excited to work with couples when their guest count is under 100. There are always more things we can do with a smaller crowd versus 400 guests. Your expenses will go down in all areas- less food, less drinks, less tables to decorate, less tables and chairs to rent, etc. etc….

– If you can’t keep your guest count down consider having a cocktail reception- this is a super trendy thing to do right now and I promise it won’t feel like a budget wedding at all. Chances are your guests will have a blast interacting with all of the different food stations you could have- build your own quesadillas, mashed potato bar, s’more station. It’s a really great way to accommodate a large crowd. I usually recommend seating about 30-50% of your guests at a cocktail reception, so your tables, chairs, and decorations count will go way down as well.

– Give yourself plenty of time to plan. If you are pulling everything together in a couple of months you may not have the time to get your favorite vendors or make the best financial decisions. If you are planning over a year out chances are everything you want is still available and you may even get a cheaper rate. For example- I got married in 2011, but I booked my venue in 2009 (I know that is a bit crazy) so we got 2009’s rate which was over a thousand dollars cheaper than 2011’s rate. Vendors and venues all tend to inflate their prices a bit each year so keep that in mind.

Hope this helps a few of you out there in the thick of planning! Any tips to add to my list? I’d love to hear them!

Happy Wednesday!

Hiring a professional vendor vs. DIYing

Oh the stories I have to share today! Tuck in and grab a snack- it’s about to get wordy up in here. Now I know this sounds tempting…your friend told you about her brother who has photographed a wedding or two and only charges a couple hundred dollars. Or your mom LOVES arranging flowers and reeeaally wants to make all of the bouquets and centerpieces…Oh the money you could SAVE!!!! Money you could put towards awesome catering, or that expensive dress you accidentally fell in love with, or something totally logical like a deposit on a house…I mean I really do get it. Your wedding is just one day and then it’s over and the amount of money we spend on it is well, kind of insane. It is. It just is, there is no getting around it. And I am here to warn you about these DIY vendors…I’m going to be honest. I’ve seen it work out really (really) badly and I am going to let you know every dirty detail. But on the upside there are a few occasions I’ve seen it work out awesomely… and I’ll be dishing both. As a general rule of thumb I think it’s a BAD idea, let me just say that up front. I always warn my clients that people with experience in the wedding industry charge a lot for a reason- a wedding photographer has thousands of dollars worth of equipment and tons of experience shooting weddings, a real DJ is used to reading a timeline and conferring with the coordinator (and again has thousands of dollars worth of equipment), a caterer knows how to cook food for hundreds of people and get guests through a buffet line quickly…I could go on and on. So let’s talk about some of the horror stories first.

Let’s start with my wedding shall we? See, I told you I knew it was tempting to forgo the professional wedding vendor, I made the mistake myself! I obviously didn’t hire a planner or a coordinator, but surprisingly enough that’s not even what I’m here to warn you about- if you hire the right vendors- a good DJ, experienced caterer, etc…you can probably squeak by without a coordinator. I did and my wedding went pretty smoothly, I’m sure it would have gone smoother if I had hired someone, but I didn’t and it wasn’t the end of the world. The two real vendors that I wish I had hired and didn’t are a hair stylist and a videographer. Let’s start with my hair- I did it myself…for some reason by the time I started contacting hair and makeup peeps a lot of my favorite options were already booked up and the ones who weren’t charged out the wazoo for travel to Wimberley (about a three hour drive outside of Houston). So I did my hair myself…it looked ok at the beginning of the day, during the ceremony, and for photographs, and those are the most important times so thank goodness for that…

Jennifer Laura Blog | why hiring professionals wedding vendors is super duper important But after dancing for a few hours and sweating my petticoat off (wedding dresses are HOT) my hair looked a hot mess…a professional would have been able to remedy this and I’m sure my hair could have stood the test of time.

Jennifer Laura Blog | why hiring professionals wedding vendors is super duper important

Boom. Frizzy lesson learned.

Now for the videographer- I don’t want to name names or hurt anyone’s feelings, but Kris and I “hired” our friend to do this for us. He was a cinematography major in college and it seemed like a great idea. I say “hired” because he was willing to do it for free in exchange for the experience- which was awesome, but we did pay for his travel and lodging out to Wimberley which we felt was the least we could do.  Now I have to say if he hadn’t filmed our wedding no one would have- a videographer was a vendor that we just didn’t have in the budget… but we both felt strongly that we really wanted a wedding video, I mean who doesn’t? So how did this go so horribly wrong? Well, the day of the wedding my friend came up to me as I was walking around oohing aahing over my pretty wedding flowers and asked me where the camera was…

“umm…what camera??”

“The camera you want me to use to video everything…”

“….errr….You mean to tell me you agreed to video our wedding without a video camera??”

cricket. cricket.

Luckily, my soon to be mother-in-law had a video camera he could borrow so that crisis was averted. But then , THEN… here I sit more than TWO years after my wedding and have yet to see one stitch of wedding video. Topher and I have texted, asked nicely, e-mailed, facebooked until we were blue in the face….and we haven’t received anything. We even asked if we could just get the raw footage- we don’t care about editing at this point we just want to SEE IT!!! But here we sit and here we wait. That’s just the thing, with a professional you sign a contract- they are legally obligated to give you the promised product. Not that I would be taking anyone to court over this, but a professional videographer would have given us an edited video in a timely manner- they have to if they want to stay in business. Boom. Lesson learned. We’re still hopeful that one day we’ll get a hold of the footage.

On to the next horror story and this is a doozy of a story about a caterer…that was not a caterer. Two of my very favorite clients hired this guy who makes barbecue- he does large events fairly often I believe (or was told), but he’s not a caterer and hiring a waitstaff was something we knew we needed to do. Now they got a great deal, I think it was $5 a head or something ridiculously appealing like that…I mean I get why they hired him, but flash forward to the wedding day and we have a buffet line that guests waited in for 30-45 minutes (!!!) this guy borrowed chafer dishes that were faulty and at one point one of the dishes came crashing to the floor- food and all. We provided staff for this guy, but he didn’t know how to direct and manage the staff which thrust Topher and I into the catering role when there are A LOT of other things that needed to be taken care of at that time. We were in over our heads for SURE. This guy also didn’t follow direction and was kind of in his own little world, many times throughout the dinner service we needed new trays of food and we would see him casually filling dishes- no urgency whatsoever (!!). To put a cherry on the entire night he thought it would be a good idea to put about 50 business cards fanned out over the entire entry table so the guests would know who to hire at their next event! I shoved the cards into the trash and then had to do this two more times throughout the night- guys, this dude seriously thought the guests couldn’t get enough of his business cards. Party at the entry table, making it rain barbecue business cards…???…. and let me just say as much as I can make recommendations and let my clients know my opinion- I can’t force them to do anything and this guy was already hired before me,  so looking back I’m just not even sure what I could have done to prevent this….warning to everyone- hire a caterer!! Please! Seriously, serving food to a mass amount of people is A LOT of work. You might think it’s expensive, but peace of mind that the food will be tasty, warm, and served in a timely manner is priceless. Boom. Lesson learned the super duper hard way.

My next story is about hiring a florist- I have had two clients that have wanted to DIY their own flowers. Sounds like fun right? The thing about flowers is that you can’t really get them done a month beforehand- this is something that has to be done the day before and sometimes even the day of (things like corsages, boutonnieres, and anything else you can’t put into a vase all need to be crafted the day of). Both times my clients DIY’d their own flowers it worked out. It worked out…but it’s just another example of something taking a lot longer than you think…if you want to do this just be aware that you need to dedicate the entire day before your wedding on flowers and flowers alone. Both times doing this put a lot of stress and anxiety on my brides the day before their wedding and no one needs that.

Now for a story about linens- yes, a bride who purchased all of her linens herself at a wedding garage sale and only paid $10 per linen. Ya’ll!! What a bargain!! Now, if you know anything about renting linens then you know that you can rent them for just a couple dollars more than this. Which sounds expensive to rent, but let’s be honest here- there’s a reason that these are rentals! You don’t need 30 red linens suitable for 60″ round tables. You just don’t. Sure, you can re-sell them I suppose, but let me tell you why this is a bad idea. Linens are huge and unless you have a table in front of you to spread it out on chances are you really have no idea what you are getting…just because it’s labeled floor length doesn’t mean it really is. So fast forward to setting up linens on the wedding day- whoever is doing your set up needs to be prepared to spend an extra 30-45 minutes sorting out the different sizes you have- some might be a rectangular linen for the DJ table, others might be a lap length or a floor length, oh but wait this one is for the sweetheart table…no wait that doesn’t fit there…It’s basically like musical chairs for your linens moving them around until you figure out what fits and what doesn’t fit. Chances are they are also going to be WRINKLED. Rental companies provide you with linens that have been professionally cleaned, steamed, folded on a hanger, and clearly labeled. If you insist on buying your own linens at least take them to a dry cleaner to have them in great condition for the wedding day (by the time you add this expense though you seriously should have just rented them), wrinkle release and an iron is not going to work and trust me on your wedding day you don’t even have the time. Boom. Wrinkly lesson learned.

Have I scared you? I hope not, I hope you can just learn from these mistakes so you don’t get yourself into a bind! Now for some happy stories- there have been some times when my clients (and their friends) saved some moolah and it all worked out great!

The cake- this sounds like a scary one and I wouldn’t give a green light to everyone who wanted to DIY their own wedding cake…but in some circumstances it can totally work. Like Alice and Paul’s roommate Nicole who made this adorable cake.

Jennifer Laura Blog | why hiring professionals wedding vendors is super duper important

Now I didn’t know Nicole’s background in cake baking, but I’ll tell you why it didn’t pull up a red flag in my brain- it was a simple, small, one tier cake- the design was simple and it was going to be surrounded by a lot of professional desserts provided by the caterer. In this case it worked out great- I didnt grab a slice, but from everyone I talked to it was delicious. Now if they were planning on a giant 3-4 tier cake and that was the only dessert we had planned…I may have wanted to see some credentials :)

Another great place to use a friend- your officiant! I have seen this work out so great so many times. Topher and I did it and probably 60% of our clients have used a family friend. It has worked out every. single. time. I can’t recommend this enough- it will probably mean a lot more to you if someone you know and love is marrying you too!

Jennifer Laura Blog | why hiring professionals wedding vendors is super duper important

Jennifer Laura Blog | why hiring professionals wedding vendors is super duper important

Jennifer Laura Blog | why hiring professionals wedding vendors is super duper important

Now in case you didn’t read any of that (too. much. text) here’s a quick little chart to sum it up for you:


– catering- bad idea. Go hire someone right now.

– rentals- trust me you don’t want to deal with this. You probably aren’t even going to save that much $$ just hire a rental company- chances are they can even set everything up for you- worth it.

– florist- DIYing your own flowers is time consuming and since this is a task you have to do the day before/ day of your wedding, I promise there are things you would rather be doing on those days.

– photographer- even if you are pinching pennies left and right at the end of your wedding day the flowers will die, the food will be eaten, and the dancing will be over. Hiring a good photographer is integral to make sure those memories get preserved properly. They are all you will have left. Don’t scrimp here, I promise you will regret it.

-videographer- let my story be a warning…chances are you want to see your wedding video. I sure want to see mine. Even good friends can let you down…

– wedding planner/coordinator- hiring a coordinator is a gift to not only yourself, but your friends and your family- this takes the set-up stress off of all of your loved ones involved. Hiring a planner/coordinator allows everyone to relax and just enjoy the day.

– makeup/hair- your wedding day is long, you will get HOT…you need someone who knows what they are doing and can give you a face and hair that are going to last throughout the entire day. Your photos of a melty face and scraggly hair will haunt you.


– favors- you and your friend can make your own favors!! Turn it into a favor party- it will totally be fun and you’re hard pressed to mess these up and if you do…just make sure you have time to remedy the mistake. DIY these yes, but don’t wait until the night before your wedding :)

– invitations/ save the dates- I DIY’d my own invitations and in retrospect I would have left it to an expert, but this is another one of those areas where you could if you wanted to. Make a sample, time yourself…are you up for making 100+ more…then go for it.

– officiant- see above and then go ask your bff from grade school to get ordained :)

– cake- I wouldn’t recommend the bride taking this one on…but if you want something simple and you have a talented friend then go for it. Ask her to make a sample for you if you are nervous about it. And know that you can always change your mind and hire someone if you don’t feel comfortable with it.

Now it’s your turn- do you have a horror story? Or you think I’m dead wrong about one (or all) of these?? I’d love to hear your experience :)

9 questions

A few weeks ago I had a high school student ask me if I would mind filling out a mini-questionnaire for her. Their assignment was to write a paper on a profession they were interested in when they graduated college. She was ever so polite about asking there was no way I could say no…once I got into it I realized it was a pretty good self reflection and I ended up spending more time on it than I meant to…it was kind of fun, so I thought I’d share it here as well.
Q-  What college/university did you attend, and what was your major?
A- Stephen F. Austin State University- My degree is in interior design and art. I never intended to end up a wedding planner or designer, but my degree lends itself nicely to this field. One of my favorite wedding bloggers actually just wrote a blog on this very topic…it goes to show that a background is simply that- a background. I believe you can do anything you have a true passion for and a certificate, degree, etc. probably won’t matter too much *she says as she weeps into her student loan bills*
Q-  How did you get started in the business of wedding planning, and how did you become so successful?
A- After planning my own wedding I fell in love with weddings. Never having been the girl that dreamed of the picture perfect wedding this came as a surprise to even me. I quit my day job as an interior designer and started working out of my parent’s office. It wasn’t glamorous and a lot of people probably thought I was crazy! I had my own wedding as a portfolio starter but that was about it- from there I got so blessed by my first few clients who really put their neck out and trusted me and here I am a few years later with some projects and weddings that I am really proud of and a full 2014 wedding calendar to boot. I would never call myself SO successful, but a girl can dream and maybe someday…
Q- What do you do on a typical day at work?
A- I work from home which is nice because it gives me time with my little boy, but it can also be a drag (sometimes) because it means getting a full eight hour work day in everyday is very challenging. My husband and I both work full time and with only a little babysitting help from my mom I somehow manage to juggle meetings with potential new clients and current clients, budget wrangling, putting design proposals together, writing a blog post three times a week (or trying to), keeping up with my taxes (ugh), calming an anxious parent over the phone (oh yes, this happens more than you would think), sending my weddings to blogs and magazines to try and get my work featured every so often, drafting a venue floor plan (told you that interior design background came in handy!), putting together a wedding day timeline, pinning wedding inspiration photos on pinterest for an upcoming design presentation, or e-mailing vendors to schedule upcoming meetings. #whatweddingplannersreallydo
Q- What inspires you in you field of expertise?
A- In this industry inspiration is everywhere- I have my favorite wedding blogs that provide an overabundance of inspiration on a daily basis- 100 Layer Cake, Green Wedding Shoes, Style Me Pretty, Ruffled, and many others. Pinterest is also always overflowing with amazing images. I also try to let my clients inspire me- getting to know them and what makes them tick also helps me when designing their event. I want my work to be different, inspiring, and unique.
Beachy Boho | Jennifer Laura Design | Awake Photography
Q- What is the most rewarding part of your career? And why?
A- There are two very rewarding moments. The first are the hugs I get from my clients at the end of their wedding day- when they are so happy and thankful that their day turned out just the way they envisioned. I’m always so relieved! The other most rewarding part is getting the images back from a wedding day- now hopefully their photographer was awesome and the photos do the wedding day justice because when this happens it is pure perfection! My favorite part for sure! Beyond that I love being able to share the images I’ve worked so hard to create on my blog, website, and with other blogs and sometimes even magazines.
Bridesmaid Tea Party | Jennifer Laura Design | Bertuzzi Photography
Q- What is the hardest thing about your job?
A- The hardest thing about my job would have to be the time struggle- there is always too much to do and not enough time. This is probably not planner specific, but more about being a parent :)
cowboys and indians first birthday
Q- What was the most memorable wedding that you have planned?
A- There are so many that I love, but probably the most memorable would be my own. I remember every moment of that day- I didn’t have a planner or a coordinator, but it was perfection and just the way I wanted it. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Q-  What is the greatest challenge in the life of a wedding planner?
A- Sometimes things go wrong at a wedding that are completely out of my control. A DJ says the wrong thing, a faulty chafer tray comes crashing to the floor, I could go on and on. No matter how much experience I have or planning I put into a project in advance there are things you can’t account for. Reacting to these sticky situations definitely keep me on my toes and in full stress mode throughout the entire wedding. I never know what could happen and I have to be prepared for anything and everything. 
Rustic Wildflower Wedding | Round Top Texas | Jennifer Laura Design | Bertuzzi Photography
Q- What advice would you give an aspiring high school student?
A- I might ask if I could shadow a wedding planner on a wedding day so you could see how much work goes into it…it’s definitely a lot more than people think. A lot of manual labor (unpacking vans full of wedding decor, hauling trash…), on the spot problem solving, and stress stress stress. You have to really love it to stay with it! But like I said…those end of the wedding day hugs and event photos keep me going back for more! 

a controversial topic- tipping your wedding vendors

As you can see in the title…this is somewhat of a controversial topic. I know this. Over a year ago one of my very first clients asked my advice on whether or not they needed to tip their wedding vendors. It’s an unbelievably common question, understandably so because there are a lot of mixed messages out there so I wanted to give my take on the topic and what I tell my clients when they ask.

When I first started researching this (back when I was getting married) I found loads of websites that had written articles on this topic- some gave general guidelines which I think are pretty fair (like this), but there are others who give some advice which I don’t really agree with (like this and this).  Every time I get asked this question my answer is always- 1. make sure your waitstaff and bartender tips are included in your catering fee, if they aren’t then you may want to send a tip their way (this is the one exception!) 2. After the wedding is over if you think any of your vendors went above and beyond the call of duty and you are just feeling overly generous then go ahead…but I would never want any client to tip me because they think it is expected or rude if they don’t. It’s not. I do not go into a wedding expecting to get a tip and I honestly don’t think other vendors should either. With that being said- there are a lot of vendors who expect a tip and are upset when they don’t get one (as evidenced by some of the above links). I can’t comprehend expecting additional money on top of what I’ve already charged my client…it’s just plain entitled and rude in my opinion. This needs to change.

I didn’t tip my wedding vendors (*gasp*) even though several of them went above and beyond we just didn’t have the money. Plain and simple as that. I felt really guilty because so much of the research I had done seemed like it was expected and something mandatory….so I really felt terrible about it for a long time. Now that I am wedding vendor myself I have let that guilt go because the truth is NOT EVERYONE TIPS!!! Yes, isn’t that freeing to know!? It’s not mandatory, it shouldn’t be expected, and it’s ok if you don’t.

How often do we get tips you might wonder? I would say maybe one out of every three or four clients sends a tip our way. And I promise I don’t love those clients any more than the others (yes, sometimes I really do LOVE my clients). There have been so many awesome clients that we didn’t get a tip from and I could have cared less. Most (if not all) of those clients ended up writing me a really nice review on weddingwire which in my opinion is just as valuable. Are we incredibly grateful and humbled when we receive a tip? Yes, absolutely. Do we go into a wedding expecting a fistful of cash at the end of the night? Absolutely notPlanning a wedding is expensive. Sometimes I wonder about these vendors who are expecting tips- have they planned their own wedding? Do they remember what it’s like shelling out several thousands of  dollars a month to keep up with all of the vendors you have hired? Probably not. I do and it wasn’t pleasant. Worth it, yes. But still not pleasant. Tipping should be reserved for vendors that go above and beyond the call of duty and even then if it’s not in your budget, just don’t. Take a few minutes out of your day to write them an amazing review instead and please don’t stress about it. We charge the fees that we do for a reason and I promise you that in itself is enough.

There is also some information out there about tipping business owners vs. employees. As in- you shouldn’t tip a business owner because they set their own prices and you should tip employees because they aren’t setting their own price and it’s nice to give them a little extra. Rubbish. Again, my rule still holds true- business owner or not if they go above and beyond and you can afford it and want to then by all means give them a tip. Employees are getting a fair wage that they’ve agreed to and again should not expect a tip. This is coming from a woman whose husband was a waiter for many years and yes, by all means you need to tip your waiter because they are probably making $3 an hour and they live on tips…but that’s an entirely different topic. I promise you that none of the vendors at your wedding are making $3 an hour, even the wait staff and bartenders are probably making at least $7-$10 an hour (gratuity not included).

Then there are the vendors out there that say- well normal people just don’t understand how hard and physically demanding it is to work a wedding. This is absolutely true. I probably lose 3-5 pounds every wedding I have. My day usually starts at 7am, doesn’t end until 11 or midnight and it is pretty much non-stop. Sure, it’s a hard day- but there are a lot of people who have hard jobs who wouldn’t dream of expecting a tip. My husband’s mother is a flight nurse and taking care of patients on their death bed everyday. I promise you her job is a million times harder than my job and I also promise you she would never expect anyone whose life she saved (which I’m sure have been hundreds) to shell out a $200 tip for her. I mean let’s put things into perspective amirite?

Ok, I’ll climb off my soap box for today. I’m just a little tired of these entitled vendors that think they have the hardest job in the world and should be rewarded for doing a good job. -end rant-

A few takeaways:

– tip only if 1) that vendor rocked your face off 2) you have money in your pocket 3) you really really want to

– NOT EVERYONE TIPS- It’s not the standard. I promise.

– working a wedding is hard, but we’re not saving anyone’s life here.

– if you loved your vendors and you are wedding poor, take the time to leave them a review. We LOVE reviews!!!! They are worth SO much to us!!

-Peace out. :)))