Sunday, February 28, 2010

Monday Coffee: our top 5 tips for picking a wedding reception venue

So many of our clients don't know where to begin in the wedding reception venue search. On the other hand, some of our clients have pre-picked a venue (their favorite restaurant, the hotel where they were engaged) before hiring us on and we have to go back and fix or clarify contract terms.

Here are our Top 5 Tips for picking + booking a reception venue:
  • make a list of your favorite places in your wedding town. Have a favorite hotel that has an amazing view of the ocean? Love a little inn overlooking a romantic lake? Were you engaged at a swanky restaurant? Check out these places and see what they can handle in regards to your estimated guest count. Ask them how they can accommodate, say, 100 guests, and how they typically run receptions. Ask them what the timing of your wedding will be - some of the best locations might have a 9:30 pm or 10:00 pm cut-off time!
  • talk budget. There's almost always room to negotiate the minimums - ask the catering manager what they can throw in (chivari chairs/waive the cake cutting fee) and if they can knock $1,000 off of the minimum. Some will waive the ceremony fee if your reception is at the same place. You'll be surprised by what just asking gets you.
  • talking about minimums - be sure you understand what a food + beverage minimum is. Several of our clients have assumed their minimum is grand total of what they're bill will be (plus tax + gratuity). It is not. The minimum is simply the minimum price you agree to pay. Say your minimum is $15,000 but your guests/food/drink count only reaches $12,000. You are responsible to pay that $3,000 difference (plus tax/gratuity). You can do so by making your dinner a 5 or 6-course dinner, offering top shelf liquor, or having a late-night menu. Be sure you are clear how many guests and what type of menu/beverages you need to account for to reach your minimum. If your budget is tight, be sure you know how many guests will push you over your minimum.
  • location, location, location. Be sure your location is close to hotels for our of town guests (or a quick taxi ride away). Are you having a marathon of wedding activities over the weekend? You'll especially want to make sure that either A) your venue has restaurants, lodging, and activities or B) restaurants, beaches, parks, and other activities are nearby for your guests - especially if they're coming from afar.
  • check with the venue - how many weddings do they have going on at one time? You'll likely want to feel like your wedding is special and don't want to run into three other couples on your big day. This really happens - some venues have up to 10 or 12 weddings going on at one time. This should be a red flag - remember; it's all about the entire experience of your wedding!

Happy Planning! Aleah + Nick

Photo by Montestigliano, Italy

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Vibrant Cayman Island nuptials

We love tropical destination events and couldn't help but share this vibrant, lovely, and downright fun Cayman Island wedding. Captured by Jim Gates, the images are just so cheery! Enjoy! Aleah

Photo love: Gene Higa

This image from a Maui wedding just spoke to me - I love the subtle blush orchids against the pewter dress. The bouquet is absolutely stunning while being so understated. Enjoy! Aleah

Friday, February 26, 2010

A scrumptious visit to Thee Bungalow

We were recently invited to attend an out-of-this-world dinner at Thee Bungalow in Ocean Beach. What a treat! If you haven't been to this 40 year-old establishment, you must! Nick and I enjoyed every second of our nearly three hour dinner (and we are pretty tough critics). Greeted by lovely Luna, the manager and catering coordinator, we were seated by the window with a cute bottle of sparkling water - love the logo. We were fortunate to have the incredibly talented Chef Paul create a tasting menu entirely for us - so cool! He came out to meet us and explain his choices. I had a delicious glass of Malbec (they have a 500-bottle wine list!) and the enjoyment began with tasty marinated olives with warm bruschetta (seriously the best bruschetta I may have ever had). We also noshed on jumbo shrimp poached in star anise juice on a bed of apple slaw and cocktail sauce - these were incredibly scrumptious.

We indulged in two salads - a wild arugula salad with blue cheese, candied walnuts, dried figs, and an apple champagne vinaigrette AND a golden beet salad with poached pear, shaved parmesan regiano, and an aged balsamic reduction. Both were fresh and so tasty.
Next was the lobster bisque. Now I consider myself a bit of a lobster bisque connoisseur (I am also a bread connoisseur!) and this was THE best I have ever tasted. The bisque was subtly sweet and full of large lobster chunks. Yum!
We were given four entrees to taste. By this time we were both full but ate almost every bite on each plate - it was that good! The first dish we tried: steak & frites - 8oz prime sirloin with black truffle butter and skinny fries - great portion, perfectly cooked and so juicy.
What can we say; Chef Pal's Beef Bourguignon -was incredibly awesome. Nick and I kept eating and eating it thought we were stuffed! We both kept saying how happy the dish made us. We get to taste lots and lots of food in different countries and at all sorts of restaurants, and this is hands-down the best dish we've had in years!
The salmon was perfect and the sweet, yet understated, sauce was the icing.
Finally, the swordfish with potato gratin, asparagus, and citrus confit...the portion was great, the fish so fresh and perfectly cooked - really outstanding.
For dessert: one of Nick's favorites - crème brulée - so delicious and light!
To top it all off; Chef Paul's fresh chocolate mousse with chantilly cream and berries was the perfect end to an absolutely perfect meal.
With the at-home feeling, the soft jazzy music playing, the 500 wines to choose from, and just the nicest staff you can ask for, Thee Bungalow is truly a gem that you must visit!
Cheers! Aleah + Nick
Thee Bungalow
4996 West Point Loma Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92107-1311
(619) 224-2884

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nick's Picks: How to get your party started on the right foot

The start of the party is what sets the tone for the rest of the event. Here are my top (simple) tips for getting your party started on the right foot:

1. offer a coat check and/or a gift depository (yes, even if the weather is stellar)- you'd be surprised how many people don't provide this and it leaves your guests carrying bags and coats while trying to eat, drink + visit.

2. after guests make a deposit at the coat check, have waiters greet them with drinks and hors d' oeuvres. If you're offering up a bar, have waiters at the ready with trays of red wine, white wine, and water. *Don't pre-pour beer - it's best served fresh and cold.

3. the music you start off with sets the initial tone of the party. In most cases we're fans of starting off slower and working in faster/more energetic music as the party progresses.

4. greet your guests. make sure, as the host/hostess, you work the room and thank your guests for attending. This is especially important for a wedding reception.

5. timing is key. If you're hosting an event with significant markers (like toasts, announcements, performances, etc.), make sure that you don't leave your guests waiting...and waiting...Have an emcee make some sort of announcement if there's something to come.

Maybe most importantly, end on a high note. We spend a lot of time explaining to our clients that there is an expiration time on a party. Leave your guests wanting more - and don't let them stick around to watch the breakdown. Cheers!

*Photo from blog.wineenthusiast.com

Monday, February 22, 2010

Check out the Chic Clutch Hunt Giveaway from Merci New York

Our lovely friend Jackie from Merci New York has whipped up an amazing giveaway on her blog. Here are the details:

One lucky reader will have the chance to win a luxurious Amanda Pearl clutch, valued at $298. We're also featuring an assortment of Amanda's other pieces, which are absolutely stunning. She's truly a rising star in the luxury accessories market and someone brides should have on their fashion radar...

Visit the Amanda Pearl website and comment below with your favorite Amanda Pearl piece {it need not be bridal, so have fun perusing her entire line}!

To increase your chances of winning the Le Pouf clutch, there are four additional ways to enter this contest:
1. Tweet this: I just entered to win the @AmandaPearly #chicclutchhunt giveaway at Merci New York! Check it out here: http://bit.ly/doaqQR{via @MerciNYC}. Then leave a second comment once you’ve tweeted.
2. Blog about the Chic Clutch Hunt giveaway {feel free to use our oh-so-pretty giveaway graphic!} and comment with your blog link.
3. Post about the giveaway on a message board and comment with your link.
4. Share the Chic Clutch Hunt giveaway on Facebook and let us know via a comment.

The giveaway winner will be chosen at random and announced via the Merci New York blog on Monday, March 8th at 8:00 PM EST

Be sure to enter and add Merci New York to your daily reads; Jackie has an amazing sense of style and posts great finds often!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Monday Coffee: 2010 stationery trends

We thought it would be fun to get an East Coast take on invitation and stationery trends - Owner and designer Corrie from Invite Couture was kind enough to answer some questions and lend insight to our readers - enjoy!

Q. What new trends are you seeing for 2010?
A: I'm not sure if other designers are seeing this as well, but I've been getting a lot of requests for black and white printed designs. Not only is this palette beautiful and works with every color scheme you can think of, but it's also a very economical option as far as printing goes as well. Another trend I'm seeing is the elimination of RSVP cards. Nowadays to save money on their invitations, couples are opting to in addition to their invitations create a wedding website where they allow their guests to RSVP. That eliminates the need to include RSVP cards, envelopes and costly stamps with their invitations. I've always had a lot of requests for pocketfold style invitations. I'm not sure if its still a trend (it was back in '08 when I got married) but nonetheless I still have a lot of brides asking for them.

Q: What advice do you have for couples looking to go "greener" with their invitation suites?
A: One thing I recommend is asking your stationer about the types of stock they use. Invite Couture uses all FSC Certified stocks, meaning the papers we use are produced using trees grown in sustainable forests. Soy and other eco-friendly inks are also popular, but another printing method which is worth asking about is digital offset. Digital printers use less chemicals during the printing process and are much more eco-friendly than other methods, as well as economical. My final tip for creating greener invitations would be to pare down the number of pieces you include in your wedding stationery suite. For example, if you don't need them don't include a bunch of insertion cards in your invitation suite. The trend I described above referring guests to a wedding website allows you to up additional information on the web as opposed to wasting paper and ink. Same goes for items like escort cards, menu's, etc at your reception. Instead consider doing signage instead of printing an item for each guest. You'll save money as well as the environment as well.

Q: What is your favorite color palette for 2010?
A: I love the turquoise trend. It can be used so many different ways and get totally different effects. For example, for a ranch wedding you can pair turquoise and silver like southwestern jewelry. Or for an South Asian wedding do turquoise with a variety of jewel tones. For a modern city wedding turquoise, gold and cream would be especially classy. Because it's such a strong color I love all the different combinations you can create with it.

There you have it!
Happy Planning, Aleah + Nick

A few pieces from Invite Couture

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Fun: galoshes

I came across these super cute images of a bride and bridesmaids donning galoshes and had to share!
Happy Saturday! Aleah
*both images via Chicagonow.com

PSA for military couples: amazing packages for you at the Pala Mesa Resort in San Diego

The Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook is offering those who are going to be deployed an amazing wedding package, around $50 for your guests - including a ceremony and reception. If you are wanting to tie the knot in an intimate ceremony, this is the place with gorgeous grounds, fantastic food, and an all-around unique setting. Visit the Pala Mesa site to contact them for more details about the military package.
Happy Planning! Aleah + Nick

*Photo from the Pala Mesa site

*these two gorgeous photos from Melissa McClure Photography

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A look inside: The Palm San Diego

Nick and I were invited by Cathy DeLeon to visit The Palm restaurant in San Diego and what a treat it was. The Palm has been an institution since the 1920s when the first opened in New York. While it is technically a chain, you certainly don't get that feeling.

The restaurant has some great upstairs space for events, an almost Manhattan-style piano bar feeling, and some fun caricatures on the walls. The restaurant is the perfect setting for birthday parties, rehearsal dinners, corporate gatherings, and even the right wedding.

The Palm might just have the best happy hour in downtown San Diego. From 4:30-6:30pm weekdays and 9pm til.....all prime bites are $3.50/ea - the ultimate chicken strips - not what you're thinking! These were pretty premium! Also try the mini broiled crab cakes, Kobe beef sliders, and the prime cheesesteak. All delicious and what a great price. For drinks, be sure to taste the Upper East Side Sidecar or something lighter - the French Twist (with my favorite, St-Germain).

Located in the heart of downtown San Diego, the close proximity to hotels, the stadium, and the convention center, makes The Palm a great destination for diners.
They have this awesome customer loyalty program as well. The more you dine and host parties, the closer you work towards having your own painting up on the wall; pretty fun! Be sure to tell them we sent you! Being a steak house, their food and desserts are true steak house fare - sides come family-style, desserts are oversized (and all look great!), and the steaks are prime!

My favorite-petite filet Oscar style with crab and Bearnaise

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A vintage-inspired pale pink and pea green vision

My inspiration this morning was a spring vintage affair. I wanted to create a romantic garden feeling, complete with peachy/pink, whimsical details and pea green accents. Enjoy! Aleah
bride and groom from rockstarsandroyalty.blogspot.com
green pillow by apartmenttherapy.blogspot.com
seed packet setting by countryliving.com
pink hankie by dewittco.com
chairs by ecotiques.com
pussy willows by gardenlovetoknow.com
invites by hautepaper.com
pink champagne sketch by polished-zeal.blogspot.com
bird cages from polvore.com
green shoes from toniaconger.blogspot.com
peach ranunculus from mysmalltreasures.blogspot.com

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A roundup of really great finds

We wanted to do a roundup of some great finds this week - there's surely something for everyone!

Falling whistles: you must check out this site and read about this cause- it's an amazing story that will touch your heart. Starting at just $30, 100% of your purchase of a whistle necklace will help rehabilitate children of war in Congo.

WeddingChicks.com has posted a template to some very sweet menu and escort cards for free

We love Paloma's Nest (I just ordered the 2010 egg for our office!) and yesterday Caroline went live with a lovely new site for easy ordering. Her heirloom pieces make for great birthday and thoughtful gifts and, of course, ring bearer bowls. For all of you industry pros (and our clients) Julianne Smith (AKA Garter Girl) has launched a fantastic program for planners. She's offering two delicious garters for emergency kits (we all need 'em!) and...she is offering a 10% discount to clients of wedding planners! Check out her site for more details
Happy Planning! Aleah + Nick

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Coffee: a few tips to help you select wedding artists

A big step in the planning process is locating amazing florists and invitation designers who will work with you to bring your wedding vision to life.
Here are some of our top tips for helping you to interview and select those artists:

1. ask all the right questions - how many weddings/events does the vendor work on at each time? Most vendors know their talent and work load ability and won't take on too much as they don't want to compromise their reputation. But it's always best to ask. Ask about experience but also ask get to know the artist on a more personal level. Inquire about where they get inspiration from, how they like to work, and what makes them tick. Relating on a personal level is great for a mutual relationship.

2. show the artist photos of your vision to help relay your thoughts. Reading back to our last Monday Coffee post re: staying true to your vision, be sure to give your wedding artists some creative freedom. Most invitation or floral designers we know really don't want their clients to want to simply copy a wedding from a photo or something they found online. After all, they are the experts so let them show you what they can do.

3. work with them to get the creative juices flowing. Meet over coffee or in their studio and work on sketches together, create vision boards, and let them whip up some color inspiration. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish in a fun + relaxed sit-down.Photo from Kate Hill Flowers via polkadotbride

4. talk budget up front. We work with our clients to determine how to best allocate their wedding budget so if you are without a planner, be sure to relay this information to each artist up front. Most artists are willing (to some extent) to offer up great suggestions or alternatives to help bring your vision to life if your original budget doesn't allow for certain flowers or invitation styles you might want.

Happy Planning!
Aleah + Nick

Friday, February 12, 2010

Expert Advice: Flowers by Annette Gomez

If you know Annette Gomez you know that she's adorably sweet and an incredible florist. We recently partnered with her for a stunning design shoot (to hit stands next month in Exquisite Weddings Magazine). We turned to her for her expert advice in regards to floral trends and tips for 2010:

1. what wedding trends are you seeing for this spring and summer in Southern California? Vintage inspired weddings with no real definite color.. washed out color.. muted coffee shades, apricots, buttercreams… touches of mercury glass. Raw silk, natural fibers.. less is more.. no more big giant overhead ball centerpieces. Yippee!
2. what local flowers are blooming now? The ranunculus fields in Carlsbad are starting to show their color… a great time of year for ranunculus. Garden roses, anemones, field tulips… spring has sprung.. even with all of this rain.3. what suggestions might you have for those who aren't sure where to start in their floral design process? Trust your instinct. If you have always loved hydrangea because your grandmother had a yard full of them… use hydrangeas… this will help to create a special memory for your wedding day… Think about the mood you want to portray.. if you have a favorite flower, that is a good place to start.. look at what is beautiful and in season and use those flowers.. find a great designer.. someone you click with.. and brainstorm.
4. do you have any exciting projects coming up? We are working on a wedding for Valentine's Day.. wonderful clients.. have worked with the family for many years.. soft and romantic.. no red! Lots of amber shades and romantic at the Grand Del Mar.. Ceremony in the Capella… filled to the brim with candles.. should be fun. Happy Valentines Day!

Thanks so much, Annette! This advice is right-on; the colors trends for this coming year are so lovely. Be sure to check out her website!
Happy Planning, Aleah

Photo:mocha ranunculus
This week's recap: vintage wedding treasures
A gorgeous Italian wedding
Our exciting Eco-Beautiful Weddings announcement
Inside 57 Grand - stunning bridesmaids dresses
Monday Coffee: staying true to your vision when planning

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Truly Vintage Wedding Goodies

Nick's parents were married in May of 1974 in a sweet celebration. We came across these treasures in a box and I just had to share them for Valentine's Day.

I love how bright and charming the flowers on this invitation are.Check out these cocktail napkins! So funky + sweet!This is pretty cool - this handy little system helped them track their gifts with stickers and a coordinating book to write names and gifts. Wow - 360 gifts?
Do you have any vintage finds from your parents' or grandparents' weddings? Or your own wedding? We'd love to share them!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gorgeous Italian Wedding

This stunning wedding was captured by Lilian Haidar in Orvieto, Italy.
The colors, the backdrop, and the charming simplicity make for a very stunning wedding.

A ceremony inside an old castle's ruins - how magical

Happy Planning! Aleah


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