Holiday Ideas Amidst a Pandemic

I know I post a lot of wedding content over here in the blog section, but the truth is I am available to plan all kinds of events! My goal as a planner is to take the stress off of your shoulders, whatever that may look like. So, as we venture into a very different kind of holiday season, here are some ideas that may help you through.

Disclaimer: All of these are intended to be virtual or contactless event ideas. Though it may be hard not to be physically with your family this holiday season, it is most important that you keep yourself and others safe!

Without further ado, here are some ways to spend time with loved ones as the year comes to an end!

Have everyone cook (or order in!) the same meal

Have a cookie or gingerbread house decorating contest

Omit gifts- or give virtual gifts such as e-gift cards, donations to their favourite cause, etc.

If you want to give physical gifts, have the packages sent straight to the recipient’s home so there is less contact with the products inside

Watch the same movie at a set start time

Play a virtual party game- there are many platforms to do this

Have a “drive in” movie night: stream a movie onto your garage with a projector and have each family unit participate from their vehicles

Do a drive by to say hello

Wear matching PJs and hop on a video call

How To: Write Your Own Vows

Depending on the comfort levels of you and your partner, personalized vows can be a beautiful addition to your wedding ceremony. People often have an overwhelming feeling when beginning to write vows because there is so much emotion attached to them. Whether it be because you don’t know where to begin, or because you have so much to say, these tips should help you get out of your writing rut.

Start the process as soon as possible

Having as much time as you can is super helpful because it allows you to have more time to explore your feelings in writing as well as create and edit multiple drafts.

Drafts, drafts, drafts

Once you get writing, try to write down everything that comes to your mind. It doesn’t have to be cohesive at this point, but getting as many thoughts on paper as possible helps you to have more material to choose from when you create your final draft.

Take pieces from other writing

There are many sources of writing that contain perfect material for your vows, and writing your own vows doesn’t mean that you can’t throw in pieces from other places as well. You can find vow books, poetry, lyrics, or even just quotes online that resonate with you and your relationship and make perfect additions to your vows.

Make it personal, but not too personal

Be sure to share stories and moments of your relationship that reflect who you are as a couple, but be careful not to share stories or anecdotes that are too personal. You want your partner to be comfortable with what you are sharing, and you also want your guests to not feel like they are left out of an inside joke.

Include actual vows

Vows are just another way to make promises to your spouse. These promises are a big part of writing your vows, and whether you make silly or sweet promises, make sure you include some form of written vows to your partner.

Have a third party read both you and your partner’s vows

Having someone outside of the relationship read both sets of vows can be incredibly helpful in making sure that you and your partner are on the same page. Since personalized vows can be done in so many ways, it is always a good idea to make sure that one partner isn’t overly funny while the other partner is pretty serious, as an example. Having a quick conversation before either of you begin writing can also be helpful to avoid that problem.

Keep it between 2-4 minutes

Especially if you aren’t particularly comfortable with public speaking, keep in mind that your vows do not have to be lengthy. You want to say enough to capture the moment and show your partner how you feel about your relationship in it’s past, present, and future, but you want to do this in a short enough time that people don’t begin to lose interest in the story you are trying to tell.

Practice

Make sure you take the time to practice saying your vows out loud. It may feel silly, but this is a key step in making sure that you don’t stumble over your words during the wedding. If you still do, don’t worry about it! People will remember your stories more than they will remember how you spoke them.

That’s the end of the tips, so now it is time for you to get writing!

For a more personal and detailed example, here are the vows my husband and I wrote for each other:

My dear, sweet Jacob,

I love you so much. Before you, I’m not sure I loved anything more than pie (just kidding mom). But actually, before you, I didn’t believe real gentlemen even existed anymore. You are the sweetest, most gentle, and most selfless man I know. I could never have asked for someone like you, but now that I have you, I have everything I could have wanted in a husband. Somehow you always find a way to make me feel better even on my lowest days, and I hope that I can do the same for you throughout our life together. I can’t wait to have endless days with you watching reruns of Gilmore Girls, exploring thrift stores and eating more than the suggested amount of ice cream that two people should have in a lifetime. I am excited to be able to say that I will do life with you, through all of the highs and lows it will throw at us. I know that we are going to have good and bad days, but I hope in all our days, whether they be days where we love fiercely or argue frequently, that we will always demonstrate through our love for each other that we have a fervent love for God. I vow that in all our years together, I will never make you play Jenga, though I can’t promise that I won’t still ask. I promise to give you all the kisses on our good and bad days because I know that sometimes that is all you need. The last two years together we have had some of the best days of my life, and I know we will continue to share adventures and explore the world together as we change and grow closer as a couple. I am certain that my future with you will be even better than the past that we have already shared, and I can’t wait to begin this new chapter with you as your wife. I love you a coffee.

Jenna Marie,

I love you with the force of a thousand lightyears. The love I have for you is second only to the love I have for Christ my savior. You are a gift. You’re a gift I never dreamed I could want or need and everyday I will show you that you’re a gift I deserve. You make me the best person I could ever want and hope to be and I want to spend, learn and love the rest of my life with you. I pinky promise todo my best to make God the steadfast pillar of our marriage so we may lean on and hold to Him everyday. I vow to do my best to lead, support, and strengthen you through times of plenty and in times of less so. I vow to hold your hand, kiss your cheek and massage your back until I no longer can. I vow to be honest, caring, patient. To be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Our marriage will be testing, humbling, gratifying and God-glorifying and a million things we could never prepare for. But I want to be by your side and face with you every victory, failure, smile and tear. You make me so proud to be myself and to stand by you yesterday, today and every day hereafter. I love you a lottle. For forever and a week, my love. God has blessed me immeasurably more than I ever thought possible and today I can’t wait to start a new chapter with you.

Eco-Friendly Wedding Tips

It’s not something most people think about, but events, especially weddings, tend to create a huge excess of waste. Obviously, your events are special and not an everyday occurrence, so for some people, knowing that is enough to justify the extra waste. That being said, every little bit counts, so if you are looking for ways to reduce waste or have a more environmentally friendly event, here a few good places to start:

Avoid disposables where you can

  1. rent or buy dishes and cutlery
  2. rent or buy linens
  3. use fresh flowers unless you will reuse or resell

Buy preowned

  1. décor
  2. dress
  3. flowers (faux or fresh from a wedding near your date)

Choose ethically made products

  1. rings (find a Canadian or lab-made diamond)
  2. attire
  3. any gifts or products being purchased

Support local

  1. vendors (photographer, rentals, etc)
  2. choose a caterer that also sources locally
  3. find gifts and supplies locally to reduce shipping

Have a daytime wedding

  1. less lighting needed
  2. less music and overall energy use
  3. generally less formal event-requires less supplies

Save the stationery

  1. use a large menu sign instead of menu cards
  2. use a seating chart and ditch place cards
  3. use compostable or electronic invites

Ditch aspects you don’t need

  1. save-the-dates
  2. send-off supplies (sparklers, rice)
  3. favors

Use in season supplies

  1. florals
  2. catering

Opt for less

  1. guests
  2. stationery
  3. linens (don’t have tablecloths, just choose nicer tables!)

Think about gifts

  1. ask for charity donations if you don’t need anything
  2. ask for experiences
  3. ask for good quality products that won’t need to be replaced as often

Choose and reuse (ceremony to reception, wedding to home decor)

  1. decor can be transfered froom your ceremony to reception to use less
  2. choose decor that can be reused as household decor for yourself or family afterwards

Reduce travel

  1. less guests
  2. local vendors
  3. have a shuttle from ceremony to reception or have a venue that offers both
  4. have a staycation honeymoon

Boho Elopement

Part of being an event planner is working with other vendors on styled shoots to get to know them outside of real events! We had a wonderful time shooting this styled boho elopement at Cellar 52 in St. Jacobs, ON, and I can’t get over how beautiful it turned out!

Here are some of the beautiful shots we took:

Grateful for vendors that are so talented and flexible! If you are looking for vendors for your upcoming event in the Waterloo or surrounding area, check out the following!

Photographer: Honey Photography

Venue: Cellar 52

Catering: Little Mushroom Catering

Stationery: Sam Culham Creative

Bouquet: Heart and Sola Canada

Decor Rentals: Awe Event Rentals

Hair+ Makeup: BeautiMarkPro

Women’s Attire: David’s Bridal

Models: Adecia & Francois- Vogue Models and Talent

Planning Your Own Wedding: When Your Heart Is Too In It

Planning your own wedding IS possible.

I know, it is wild for me to say that as I run a planning business, but here’s the thing: I did it. I planned my own wedding, before I ventured into my event schooling, when I was as inexperienced as most people who try to plan their own event (not that that is the case for everyone planning their wedding).

So, I get it! You want your day to reflect your wishes and you are confident that you can make that happen yourself. Logistically, maybe you can (See: Should you hire a planner?). So, we’ve talked about the logistics before, but there is a whole other side to think about before you decide to plan your own wedding: Your emotions.

Even if you have the skillset to plan your own wedding, sometimes you need someone who is unbiased to help you focus and hone in on the practical, less-dreamy side of things.

In simpler terms:

You may not be the best person to plan your best day.

In my own experience, there are mistakes I made for my wedding that were not huge errors in planning, but rather errors in my own judgement because I was clouded by my vision for my “perfect day”.

I bought two wedding dresses- not because I wanted to do a dress switch, but because I didn’t think through my venue, my personality, and my comfort level before I purchased the first one.

Our wedding was freezing, and yet I went ahead with my fully outdoor ceremony with no heaters because I visually liked it better than my backup plan. I wanted to keep my reception outside, too, and we had to do a last minute switch indoors that was only made possible by SO many friends and family members that helped us literally move things around.

Those are the biggest ones, but there were mistakes here and there that also could have been avoided by having an impartial sounding board for my big decisions.

Now, I also realize that admitting these things probably doesn’t make me sound like the most competent planner. But again, we had backup plans and things set up to run perfectly in the first place, I just didn’t want to admit that my day couldn’t go how I had envisioned it and give the go ahead for the switched to be made, because my heart was too involved in the planning process to give up my vision.

At the end of the day, your wedding will be perfect for you. Mistakes and all, it will be a day that you remember going exactly how it was meant to go. My hope for you is that you will know that it is not a process meant to be done alone, whether that means you enlist someone for partial planning or full service planning.

You can see my services here, and I am always open to chatting through your plans to see if we are a good fit for each other. Your wedding should reflect YOU, my job is to make sure it does that without sacrificing any of the more practical details.

Hello lovelies! Times are getting busier, so this is a quick update to let you know that this blog will only be updated monthly (on the first Tuesday of each month), rather than the weekly posts I’ve been keeping up with! We will chat again soon, and in the meantime, feel free to look through my previous posts if you haven’t before!

How to: Choose a realistic wedding budget

Previously on this blog, we talked a little bit about tight budgets and where you can find extra wiggle room (See Budget’s tight? Here are the first things to cut from your event.). Before you can focus on where to cut costs, or even on what your main priorities are for your event, first you have to create your overall ideal budget. For some people, a range of a few thousand dollars is okay, but others want to have a specific budget that is set in stone. Either way, finding that number that works for you and your spouse can be confusing if you’ve never planned a large event before. This post isn’t going to dive into what percentage of your budget should be allocated to each area, but rather will give you an idea of how to pick a overall wedding budget amount that works for you and your spouse.

Here are the things you will want to consider:

Industry Costs

Before anything else, you will want to find out how much each vendor typically costs in your area. This will help you create a budget that will be realistic, and thus help you stay within the budget you end up creating.

Income

How much money will you make in the length of your engagement that DOESN’T go to necessities (food, housing, etc)? Are you a spender or a saver? Where can you cut costs comfortably? You’ll want to consider how much you can realistically save to put towards your budget while still living comfortably.

Other Funds

Is there anyone other than you and your partner that will be contributing to your big day? If so, you will have to have upfront conversations with them about how much and where/how they will be contributing so that you can make your budget accordingly.

Guest Count

Typically, the more people you invite to your wedding, the more costly it will be. This very occasionally is not the case, but definitely think about your guest count when creating your budget.

Inclusions/Exclusions

Some people prefer for every wedding related expense to be part of the budget, while others are okay leaving a few things out. Think about what counts in your budget, and what will just be other costs outside of it. Do rings count? Does your honeymoon count? What about alterations to your attire? These are the main things that people tend to leave out, but it is important to think about how you will pay for everything, whether it is in the budget or not.

Priorities

When you envision your day, what stands out the most? People prioritize different things, such as food or photography, and the budget you create should reflect what is most important to you.

Date

If it is important to you to have your wedding on a certain date, the costs could reflect that. Off season weddings are significantly more inexpensive that mid-season weddings, so keep in mind your date, or at least the season you would like if you don’t have a date set.

Hidden/Extra Costs

Sometimes vendors have extra costs associated with services they perform (such as a corkage fee). It is a good idea to think about these and ask your vendors about hidden costs, so you can factor them in to your budget. In addition to this, it is a good idea to factor in vendor tips, as these can add a few hundred dollars, sometimes more.

Add Contingency

Contingency is just a fancy way of saying you’ll need extra money. This extra will allow for anything unexpected to still fall in your budget, where without it you could be going over.

Once you have figured out all of these factors, you should have a pretty good idea of what you should spend on your wedding for the budget to be realistic and comfortable. I’ll leave you here with something you’ve probably heard a thousand times, but please, please, don’t go into debt for your wedding. Weddings are a beautiful and exciting time, but they are just one day at the start of many with your new spouse.

How to: Pick Your Event Vendors

Picking your vendors is definitively one of the more challenging parts of planning your event. Some vendors may be more obvious to you- like picking that barn venue you have had your eye on for years- but others can be a little more complex when it seems they are all offering the same thing, or when you just aren’t quite sure what you want yet.

I will be the first to admit that this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the things you should do before you hire your vendors-there are about a million questions you should be asking each and every one of them before you sign any papers (blog post to come 😉). However, if you are looking for a starting point of how to narrow down the sea of vendors available to you, this list should help.

Budget

This is probably obvious, but find out pricing of vendors before falling in love with their work when you can. If you love the vendor and they are on or below budget, continue on with the rest of these considerations, but also keep in mind that your budget allocations should be somewhat flexible. This doesn’t mean your overall budget needs to go up, but if you have your heart set on a venue that is more than you allocated to that expense, as long as you are okay with cutting back in another area, you don’t have to completely rule the dream venue out.

Location

The ease of which you can hire vendors near your event location depends a lot on where you decide to host the event. Just keep in mind that if a vendor does not typically service events in your area, there may be costs associated with them travelling to the event location. This is not always the case, but when possible it is usually best to hire vendors within the area. This will also help things run more smoothly on the day of, as they will likely be familiar with the venue or the area you are hosting the event in.

Personality

This is a pretty important one. You may not be overly concerned with the personality of your vendors, but when you are trying to enjoy a special day, there is nothing you want less than nitpicky vendors, or people that just don’t jive with your vision or personality. Make sure that you meet with your vendors in person (or at the very least over the phone) before you hire them so you can be sure they are someone you know you will communicate and get along well with.

Style

Most vendors have a specific style of the services that they offer. For example, venues can vary in style from a rustic barn venue to a sleek modern hotel venue and pretty much anywhere in between. This is the same for every type of vendor- photographers can have edgy or airy styles, caterers may serve formal plated dinners or barbeque style truck food, and so on. Hiring vendors that specialize in the style you want captured on your event date is key to ensuring your day looks the way you envisioned. Though it is sometimes possible to transform an event space or ask a vendor to do something in a specific style, it tends to be best to choose vendors that are experts in the style you are looking for, so that you know they get your vision and are able to capture it.

Reviews/References

Reviews and references can be super helpful for ease of mind, and to get to know a bit of behind the scenes of how a vendor works and communicates throughout the planning process. If you can get a phone number of a previous client from a vendor, that is perfect so you can ask them any questions you have about their side of working with the vendor. Another good reference is to look at the vendor’s social media profiles to see if they fit your vision (tagged photos are great to see the unstaged photos of real events). Sometimes vendors are just starting out and don’t have much experience to share with you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you will just want to be sure that you align with the vendor’s personality and the services they are offering you.

Please, Get Contracts

Get everything in writing, read the fine print, and make sure that you ask questions if you aren’t sure about something. You will be paying these vendors for their services and you want to make sure that you are getting all the services you need, and that you know what it will be costing you.

It can be overwhelming seeing how many vendors are available to you. This list should help you narrow your choices down so that you can meet with vendors and begin putting together your dream day.

How To: Registry Tips

For some people, thinking of things they need or want for their new venture comes pretty easily, and that is great! However, a lot of people have a hard time asking for gifts, or just don’t know where to begin, especially if they already have a lot of what they need. Loved ones really enjoy spoiling you during special times in your life, but it is also important that they know what kinds of things you need or want so their gifts will be put to good use. Here are some tips on how to make a great registry so the gift giving and receiving process is seamless:

1. Do it early

You want to be sure that your registry is ready early enough for people that want to give you a shower gift or that like to get their shopping done early.

2. Have a variety for EVERYTHING

A great registry has options for every single person invited to your event. This means you have to diversify your gift wants and needs to cover a wide scope of options. You want to include:

Various price points- Anywhere from $5 to $150 is a good ball park range. This way people can choose to bundle a few things if they want more than one item or people who want to spend a bit more have options they know you want to receive.

Various stores-Have a variety of stores so you know there is at least one store each person will have access to.

Various buying options- Have options for both in store and online purchasing. This doesn’t mean you have to have an in store registry somewhere, but having options on your registry that can be purchased through a link as well as ones that can be purchased in store is a good idea.

Various gift types: Your registry doesn’t have to be all physical gifts, though obviously those are a key part. Believe it or not, some people actually want to give you cash, so having an option on your registry to give cash towards a specific fund like a honeymoon fund helps them know where that cash is going. Another option is to register for vouchers or gift cards for experiences, such as getting a couples massage or going to dinner together.

3. Over-register

It is a much better idea to register for too many gifts so that people have options than to register for too few and have the registry run out of items before everyone has purchased their gift.

4. Find a registry checklist so you don’t miss anything

Especially if you will be moving into a new home or this is your first babe, having a list to reference is a good idea so you don’t miss any of the small details (think box cutters for your home or pacifiers for your new babe)

5. Think of getting upgrades or extras

If you are struggling with ideas because you already have everything, think of registering for upgrades that you may not have purchased yourself, or extras of things you know you will consistently need (think diapers in growing sizes or cleaning supplies).

6. Add an address

Often times people don’t want to have to bring their gift to the event, or people want you to have it as soon as possible, especially if it is something they know you could also use before your event date. Adding an address (or a ship to home option with a hidden address) lets the gifts come straight to you, and you can choose whether you want to open them right away. This will also take the stress out of loading so many gifts up to bring home after your event.

7. Keep track of all gifts

Have a handy spreadsheet to keep track of every gift you get, who it is from, and when you sent the thank you note. This will ensure that nobody’s gift gets forgotten once you open it up and put it to use in your home, so that you can reference exactly what each guest purchased for you in their thank you card.

This list should give you a good starting place for building a useful registry. Enjoy your gift choosing!

The Average Wedding Day Timeline

Every wedding is unique in its priorities and therefore its overall timeline. Some couples choose to focus heavily on traditions during the ceremony making it longer, while other couples choose to keep it simple and short. Both options can be captivating and memorable, but the differences definitely impact the overall timeline of your wedding day. This same idea can be translated into getting ready, photo sessions, and your reception- everything in your timeline is dependent on how you personalize your day. Because of this, finding a timeline template for your day that fits with your exact vision can be difficult. If you hire a planner, they will most likely create your timeline for you in a way that is tailored to your day and ensures you have the best amount of time set out for each portion of your event. On the other hand, if a planner simply isn’t in your budget or your planner doesn’t offer this service, you may be looking for a place to start getting an idea of what your timeline could look like (congrats, you found it!).

Rather than creating an hour by hour timeline that can’t be translated to every couple’s wedding, I have created a basic list with each wedding day segment and how long it takes on average. This way, you can take these basic guidelines and apply them to your wedding by cutting out or adding in any segment, no matter what you want your day to look like.

Getting Ready/ Pre- Ceremony (5-7 hrs):

Bridal Hair and Makeup: Hair should take between 45m-1.5hrs (your hairdresser will be able to give you a better estimate once they know what style you are looking for), and makeup takes about 30m-1hr.

Bridesmaids Hair and Makeup: About 30m-1hr per bridesmaid should be enough, but this depends on how many bridesmaids to artists as well as the complexity of each look.

Getting dressed: 15-20m depending on photos.

Groom & Groomsmen: The men need only about 30m-1hr depending on what they need to do the morning of (usually it is just getting dressed, a few photos, and maybe shaving, so this is plenty of time).

Photos: 30m-1hr before the ceremony should be allotted for any bridal portraits as well as photos of the bride with her maids and the groom with his men

First look: If you are doing a first look you want to allot 1-1.5 hrs, depending again on how much time you need for photos (your photographer will be able to tell you how much time they need for your shots)

Ready to go: Though it seems like a silly thing, you want to give yourself 30m on the timeline before the ceremony begins to just be ready. This will give you extra time in case anything takes a little longer than expected so that your ceremony can still start on time. If you would like, this time can also be used to snap a few photos since everyone will be ready to go.

Ceremony (20m-1hr):

This depends pretty heavily on what traditions you want to include, and since they are so vast, having a chat with your officiant or planner will give you a good idea of how long each piece that you want to include will take. As a general rule, a simple ceremony with just a processional, welcome, vows, ring exchange, kiss, and then recessional will take 20-30m, and each tradition or ceremony you add after that usually takes about 5-10m.

Family and Bridal Party Photos (45m-1hr):

You want this step to go as fast as possible, as these are more formal photos that don’t tend to get looked at quite as often as the more creative portraits. Giving yourself 20-30m for family photos, and then another 20-30m for bridal party photos will be plenty of time as long as everyone knows they need to stick around for the photos.

Cocktail Hour (1-1.5hrs):

Some people choose to skip this step all together, especially if you have already done your portraits during a first look, but to allow more time for photos, having a cocktail hour where your guests can mingle is a good idea. Just make sure you don’t go over the 1.5hr mark, or your guests will start to get a little antsy,

Reception (4-6hrs):

Grand entrance: This step only takes about 5m, which gives you and your party time to enter and seat yourselves.

Meal: You want about 20-30m per course, this will give your guests enough time to chat and still enjoy each course.

Speeches/Toasts: Give each person making a toast a 5 minute limit (or better, give them a 3 or 4 minute limit, but allot 5m each expecting them to go over). You should have no more than 8 speeches (40m), but if you have this many, try to space them out if you can.

First dances: You want to allot 5m each for m/s, f/d, and first dance, which brings you to 15m.

Cake cutting: This only takes about 5m, and that gives you enough time to snap a few photos while doing so.

Bouquet/Garter toss: Give yourselves 5m each if you are including this step.

Dancing: You want to have at least 1.5hrs for dancing if you are having it, but this step can really go on as long as you like.

Grand exit: Depending on what you are doing for your exit, this step takes between 5-15m to get everyone ready and have you on your way.

There you have it! These are all the steps that you will have to include in your timeline, however, it is important to note that there are a lot of other steps going on within the set up (and tear down) of your event. This should be something your vendors will be able to coordinate, but if you want to have the vendor steps on your timeline as well, you can always chat with them to see how long they need for each portion of their tasks. Hopefully this was helpful to your planning, but if the task seems a little overwhelming once you see it on paper, feel free to use my Contact page to shoot me an email, as I offer timeline creation as a separate service if you are needing a little help!