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Cathartic Vendor Review

At first I struggled with whether or not to review my vendors because the information is only relevant to those people getting married in Minnesota.  But being that there are not very many Weddingbee blogger bees from MN, I decided to go ahead and write the post.

The reason this is cathartic for me is because I had a bit of an issue with one of my main vendors.  I’m not sure how to handle my frustration while still being the bigger person and avoiding pointless catty comments other than to be as vague as possible while still letting it all out.

I am disappointed in how things went down with my photographer.  Sister Big Eyes’ and I shrendored her, which makes my frustrations doubly upsetting.

Our photographer is a talented artist no doubt but she was not easy to work with.  For example, my photos were late, multiple other promised deadlines were missed, and there was an overall lack of business savvy.  Days before Sister Big Eyes’ wedding there was an issue via email that could have been easily avoided with better communication.  There were misunderstandings about expectations, excuses instead of apologies, and both of us are still waiting on a part of our package, an album we were promised.

While I do love my pictures and am incredibly thankful for them, it’s hard for me to encourage others to hire her when she caused us both so much unnecessary stress, which is why I’m not linking to her website or recommending her.  (Although her information is not difficult to find if you go to any of my recaps.)

To turn this into something positive, here are a few things to remember that I wish I had known when interviewing photographers besides the usual, look at all the photos from one wedding, not just the favorites, and make sure they match your aesthetic/vision.

Picking the Right Photographer:

  • Get a timeline in the contract so that you have something to refer back to if they are late getting you your photos.
  • Ask them how many weddings they shoot per year, the lower the number the more time they will have to devote to the ones they have booked.
  • Trust your instincts, to quote Oprah quoting Maya Angelou, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
  • Respect them as an artist but remember you have a right to hold them accountable as a paying client.  Be kind but firm with expectations.
  • Finally, do NOT pass their name along to someone else until AFTER you’ve had the full experience of working them.  Unless of course you’re sisters getting married within three months of each other and it makes sense for you both.  🙂

Now that the icky stuff is out of the way, let me tell you about a shrendoring experience that was the complete opposite of the last one.

Laura Westrem: A+

Sister Big Eyes’ and I shared our hair/makeup artist and I would recommend her a million times over!  She was so easy to be around and really focused on making the bride feel special and happy.  She also got to know our family pretty well from doing both weddings and she offered Sister and I discounts at both weddings.  She works really hard but still makes time to respond to emails, and was extremely accommodating of my out-of-town schedule.  If I need a hair/makeup artist in the future, I’m calling Laura.

Midwest Sound and DJ: B

The music selection at the reception was fantastic but they caused us some unnecessary stress by phoning the week of the wedding saying they couldn’t get the legal copies of TWO songs for our ceremony.  I was pretty annoyed because I had sent them our packet of song choices back in February.  The issue was resolved in time but it was still frustrating.

Embassy Suites Bloomington: A-

What can I say?  This hotel knows weddings.  The two ladies in charge are both very nice and great with responding quickly over email.  They worked with me when I had to set up meetings pretty far in advance and they answered all my questions without making me feel stupid.  A few hiccups, one they asked for a payment after I’d already given it (I almost paid them twice for the same thing but luckily we caught it), and they switched my coordinator at the last minute, and AGAIN I found out the week of the wedding.  It wasn’t a huge issue, but being that I’d only met one of the two woman, I felt very much like the rug was pulled out from under me.  Their expertise in the wedding biz came through in the end and it didn’t matter who my coordinator was, it all got done.

Also, one last thing, that doesn’t really have to do with Embassy Suites, or so we think, our bathroom baskets were stolen!  I was pretty pissed at the time, not only because those baskets were from my own house but mostly because we were going to reuse them for Sister Big Eyes’ wedding and instead we had to purchase new baskets and new items and make them all over again!  Dear people who steal bathroom baskets: you make me sad.  Drag your ass to Target and buy a Tide-to-go pen on your own dime!

The Gunn Slingers: A+++

Our Ceilidh band was the highlight of the night.  Hire them.  They rule.  Since they don’t have a website Google them to find their Facebook page or private message me for an email address.

Evan the Bagpiper: A+

He was young, sweet, talented, and on time.  He even came to our rehearsal.  Everyone loved his music.  Private message me for his email address if you want pipes for your Minnesota wedding!

Lake Harriet Florist: A

My bouquets were stunning and she worked within my meager budget.  The first and last place we went to, win win.

Videography

I can’t review or link to my videographers because they are done filming weddings and do not want inquires about them, but they rocked.  And if I ever need to film a commercial, I’m calling them.  🙂

Did you have a frustrating experience with a vendor that you need some closure on?  Is anyone else shrendoring?!?!  🙂

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The Big Bad Budget Post- Sword Edition

I want to start this post with a collective groan (ullllhhh) because it’s all about wedding budgets and money.  I’m going to share our real figures accurately as possible, aside from rounding up or down to keep things easier.  (I hate math.)

Obviously, some of you might be like, “HOLY SH&T MRS. SWORD, you spent that much on one day?!?!?”  And some of you might be like, “Wow, that’s barely anything.  My entire budget is two or three times that.”

But hopefully most of you have less extreme reactions to our budget and can find something that relates to your own wedding.  Everyone’s situation is unique to them, and we all know there are two major things that affect the cost of a wedding: location and budget.  That being said, here is the Sword nitty-gritty.

Mr. Sword and I got married in Bloomington, MN in the County of Hennepin (much to the dismay of many of our friends who wanted an excuse to take a trip to Scotland).  I went to this Cost of Wedding website for more information on the average budget for someone getting married in this area.

Average Cost of Wedding in Hennepin County, MN: Between $20,732 and $34,553, with most couples not spending over 10,000 dollars.

The Sword’s Wedding Budget Goal: $25,000

Total Cost of A Highland Fairy Tale: $28,267

For a grand total of 3,267 dollars over budget, we’ll take it!  🙂

Who Contributed: 1/3 Mrs. Sword’s parents, 1/3 Mr. Sword’s parents, 1/3 the Swords themselves.  It was a group effort!

The Budget Breakdown:

Rehearsal Dinner at Cowboy Jack’s: $1,500 (this includes burgers and a drink for about 70 people and Mr. Sword’s tres leches groom’s cake)

Bridal Attire (including alterations, jewelry, and shoes): $1,300

Groom’s Attire (including custom-made kilt from Scotland and accessories): $2,000

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YES, we spent more on Mr. Sword than me!  Love it.

6 yards extra fabric of family named tartan that is really one-of-a-kind and was used multiple times: $645.00

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personal photo

Flowers: $550 (five bouquets and four corsages)

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Centerpieces: $285 (this is just what we spent, Mom Sword spent more finishing them up)

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Venue and Catering: $11,000 (this includes three sections of the ballroom and all that comes with them, one hour open bar, plated dinner for all guests, beer, wine, signature drinks, soda, late night snack, draping behind sweetheart table, purple uplighting, and the cake)

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Atrium rental fee for ceremony: $500

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Officiant: $275

Marriage License: $40 (MN charges $115 unless you show proof of premarital counseling which lowers it to 40 bucks)

Bagpiper: $250

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Photography: $2,160 (after a discount for finding her through a blog)

Videography: $2,300 (for four separately edited films- trailer, full video, ceremony, and Best Man Speech)

Ceilidh Band: $550 (for one hour of playing)

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DJ (including glow sticks, extra lighting, and lapel mic rental): $1,040

Wedding band hers: $600 (white gold)

Wedding band his: $210 (tungsten)

Hair and Makeup: $200 (for a trial and the day of, which was super discounted, I love my girl!)

Hair Extensions: $170 (have worn them a total of four times so far and plan on wearing them again in the future, so worth it!)

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personal photo

Gifts for bridal party and family: approx. $1,000 (which sounds scary but that is split between 20 people which equals roughly around 50 bucks a person, seems reasonable to me)

Shortbread favors for guests: $115

Invitations and STD’s: $642

Sorry for the blurs!

Sorry for the blurs!

Storybook Guestbook: $90

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Crafting supplies, OOTG bags, stamps, and other misc: $500 (most of which was spent at JoAnn’s)

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personal photos

Tips for vendors: $370

Accommodations: $260 (for two nights, one before wedding, and one after, wedding night was complimentary)

Sword escort card display: Gifted by Mom Sword

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Pre-wedding Mani/Pedi: Gifted by BM L Dawg

Not Included Costs: Honeymoon and engagement ring.  We feel those two items are separate from our wedding budget.

What We Skipped:

Transportation:  One stop shop wedding meant we didn’t need to transport guests at all.  The hotel had a shuttle that ran people to and from the airport as well as the Mall of America.  When we went off-site for photos we had family and friends drive us.

Chair Covers:  Ah, yea, didn’t miss ’em.

Photo Booth: A good wedding trend, but one I had no desire to indulge in.  Our dance party reception was a hit without it.

All photos by Crystal Liepa Photography unless otherwise noted.

Phew!  Hope this post was informative and interesting at the same time.  Tomorrow I’m going to share my vendor reviews and then it’s time for The Swords to say goodbye.  😦

A Highland Fairy Tale: We Ditch Our Own Cocktail Hour

After I finished hugging every single guest at our wedding, this happened:

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That’s right, I sat my ass down and relaxed for a minute.  My shoes were relatively comfy but they were still tight heels and I’d been standing for a good portion of the day already so my toes and legs needed a wee break.  Did you notice what was happening on the right side of the picture?

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Yep, I was being interviewed about my post-ceremony thoughts for our wedding video by one of our awesome cinematographers.  Mr. Sword got his turn as well but we must not have said anything too exciting because these interviews didn’t make the final cut of our video. haha

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After snapping a few more pics, Mr. Sword and myself went up to our hotel room on the 8th floor to be alone and spend some quality time together before heading to the reception.

I know there are two schools of thought on this, some say, do NOT miss your own cocktail hour, it’s a great time to mingle and visit with your guests, but I’ve also heard it’s so calming and wonderful to get a few minutes alone with your new partner for the first time as husband and wife and honestly, that is what appealed to us more.

So we skipped our cocktail hour and we went off alone without any photographers or videographers to relax and cuddle in newly married bliss.  It was a great way to regroup and I recommend it if you have a reception that will be on the longer side because trust me, you’ll still get plenty of time with everyone later on!

Of course our cocktail hour was still pretty awesome!  We had FBIL playing guitar and singing, and there were passed hors d’ oeuvres and lots of drinking because the bar was on us for the full hour!

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Our signature drinks: a whisky sour named after Mr. Sword’s last name and a vodka sprite with chambord after my maiden name.

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MOH/Sister Big Eyes even joined in the fun and sang with her future groom!

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These are the only food photos I have from the entire wedding (thank goodness I’m not a foodie or I’d be seriously annoyed) and they are from cocktail hour.  Since we skipped it, once we arrived to our reception we found a HUGE plate of appetizers had been saved for us and was sitting at our sweetheart table, YESPLEASEANDTHANKYOU.  Everything was delicious!

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I’ll spare you multiple pics of guests you don’t know and leave with you just one, my friends (and both honor attendants) posing for the camera during cocktail hour:

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From the looks of it, everyone had a blast, but I don’t regret anything and I was happy to have had those few moments alone with Mr Sword.  Plus, we had more energy for the reception and dancing the ceilidh, which was probably similar to performing in a circus (I speculate).

Finally, I wanted to save these pics for the end of this post because hive, seriously, these are my FAVORITE ones of Mr. Sword and I, mostly because I can’t get enough of the gorgeous lighting and the stunning fountain.  We took these before sneaking away to our room.  Our first portraits as husband and wife.

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All photos by Crystal Liepa Photography.

What are your thoughts on skipping the cocktail hour?  Did you or do you plan on attending yours?

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Pre-Wedding
Teaser video!
Final preparations, snow, and tears!
Ladies’ Luncheon!
Elevators of anxiety!
Rehearsing and screaming!
Burgers and surprises!
Kisses at midnight!

The Big Day
Bacon for bridal baby!
Hair and makeup!
Men in kilts!
Tiara and bouquet!
Becoming a bride!
Champagne toasts!
First look!
Cold couple portraits!
The Swords with swords!
The men pose!
The women pose!
Altogether now!
Elevator madness!
Big reveal!
Family photos!
Posing with our flower girl!
True Scotsman indeed!

Ceremony
People processing!
Bridal cry/laugh walk!
Ceremony readings!
Vows and handfasting!
Receiving line!

A Highland Fairy Tale: We Ride the Elevators of Anxiety

Before we get to the elevators, let me back up a bit…

Immediately following the luncheon, the bridal party and I left to get our nails done at Livvy Nails and Spa in Lakeville, MN.  I had picked this salon on a previous planning trip and they were ready for us when we arrived (although there was some miscommunication on when exactly that time would be).  Some of us got regular manis, some got gel manis, and some of us went for both a gel mani AND a pedi (like me!).

I was happy as any nail snob could be and since I asked you all for an opinion on my polish colors, it’s only fair that I tell you what I picked!  I went with Essie’s dark purple “damsel in a dress” on my toes and bridal white in gel on my hands!  I also brought Essie’s lavender  “go ginza” as option for the girls’ and most of them did choose either the dark purple or the lavender to compliment their dresses.

Personal photos/Collage by Mrs. Sword

Personal photos/Collage by Mrs. Sword

We ended up leaving the nail salon in shifts as people were finishing up because it was time to check into the hotel rooms and get organized for the rehearsal.  I was in the last car load, being that my appointment was one of the longer ones, and I was starting to get a bit anxious on the drive to Embassy Suites.

My biggest concern was making sure we had the right people in the right hotel rooms near each other.  I wanted the girl’s getting ready room (where I was sleeping Friday night) to be directly next to my parent’s room so I could get my dress on with only Mom Sword and Sister/MOH Big Eyes in the room. I wanted it to be a private moment and I didn’t want clothing and makeup supplies in the shots.  Mrs. Sword Wedding Tip:  Keep an area clear in your room to get into your dress OR go somewhere else entirely.  It’s amazing how calming it was to step into my dress one hotel room over from where the getting ready commotion was taking place.

The problem was I wanted to be next to my parent’s room and my parent’s wanted to be next to my grandparent’s room and everyone in the family was checking in at different times.  Oh and to complicate things further, the girl’s getting ready room had to be on a different floor than the guy’s getting ready room.  Due to all this and who knows what else, my poor father had to transport my heavy, ruffled wedding gown to a grand total of FIVE hotel rooms before it could be officially hung up.

The funniest part was (and I heard this later on) that Mr. Sword was sitting at the hotel bar chatting with his groomsmen and buddies who had just arrived that Friday afternoon.  And since my dress had been steamed our alterations friend L suggested we don’t cover it again so it was imperative that Mr. Sword look away every time my Dad went huffing and puffing across the lobby.

Photo by FIL Sword

Photo by FIL Sword

Poor Dad Sword, I wish there was some way we could have prevented this, but the truth is with hotels there is no guarantee of early check in, or which rooms you’ll get, or who you’ll be next to, you just have to wait until the day of and hope they are accommodating.  And thankfully Embassy Suites Bloomington WAS very accommodating to us!

To make matters worse, the elevators at our hotel were awful.  This is truly my only complaint about this Embassy Suites, but it’s a big one! Update and improve your elevators people!  The elevators are actually quite beautiful, they are clear glass, and centrally located in the hotel, but slow.as.hell.  I wish I could say this was the last time they were problem but alas it is not, and you’ll just have to wait for a later recap to find out more!  😉

Photo by Aunt K

Photo by Aunt K

Dad Sword wasn’t the only one running laps and waiting on the elevators, I too had to run around and finalize details with Mom Sword, Pastor P, and Mr. Sword!  Then a little before 7 PM our amazing videographers arrived to start taping the family and friend interviews to put in our wedding video so we had to get them to a secluded room and make sure people knew where to go.  And yes I did take the stairs when I could but we’re talking 8 floors here and all while wearing heels and carrying things!

Apparently there were other issues surfacing as well, like the stickers we had bought last-minute to label who had a vegetarian or a kid’s meal on the escort card swords were not stickers at all but jewels with no adhesive so a few ladies had to run out and buy glue.

There was also a mad scramble to get the keyboard, amp, and music stands set up for the rehearsal later that evening.  Luckily I knew nothing of these issues (I love my family and friends) and my biggest focus when I got back to the hotel was squeezing into my fancy rehearsal dress which I first talked about HERE.

I blame 40% of my stress level on being a bride the day before her wedding and the other 60% on those damn elevators!

Looking back now, it’s a big joke in our family, the worst part of the Sword wedding were the elevators from 1970, HAHA, and in retrospect, who really cares?  I can TOTALLY laugh about it now.  🙂

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Skipped some of the Sword saga?  It’s OK, catch up today!

Pre-Wedding
Teaser video!
Final preparations, snow, and tears!
Ladies’ Luncheon!

A Highland Fairy Tale: We Begin With a Teaser Video!

Hello hive!  Happy June!  It feels like I’ve been gone forever but it’s only been a little over a month since my last honeymoon post.  I had to wait a bit longer for my professional photos (which was really difficult) but I’m happy to report they were worth the wait because they are insanely amazing!  And they make me miss my wedding day ten-fold.

Luckily I get to relive it in epic detail with all of you and I’m totally pumped about that.  So let’s get these recaps started, shall we?

For those of you who aren’t as familiar with my story as others, here are a few highlights of my time as a blogger of Weddingbee:

engagement photo by Jennifer Jackson

engagement photo by Jennifer Jackson

I joined the hive declaring it was my dream come true (and it was).  My other half Mr. Sword, (who proposed to me at the top of the John Hancock building) is from Scotland but didn’t have a family tartan to wear at our wedding, so we decided to design and create our own.  Even though it turned out better than we could ever imagine, it only came about after some disagreeing between myself and Mr. Sword and many opinions from the hive.

I love Mr. Sword's eyes in this photo- he's so good in front of the camera!/engagement photo by Jennifer Jackson

I love Mr. Sword’s eyes in this photo- he’s so good in front of the camera!/engagement photo by Jennifer Jackson

Despite my determination to make my wedding planning year all about me and my boobs, exciting things happened to other people and both my little sister AND Mr. Sword’s wee sis got engaged as well!

In the beginning, I encouraged us all to laugh at ourselves and figure out what type of bride we were most like, I openly showed my support for gay marriage, I begged you all for help in finding a suitable wedding reading, and I made up some new WR lingo.  Speaking of which, how can I get “shrendoring” into Urban Dictionary??  🙂

engagement photo by Jennifer Jackson

engagement photo by Jennifer Jackson

As my planning year came to a close I acted like a drama queen when my dress didn’t fit the first time, but it all worked out in the end thanks to a five-pound weight loss and a new bra.  In my last week as a single lady I admitted my true feelings about plaid/tartan and wrote about how amazing it was to be getting married to the man of my dreams!

And now for a beautiful overview and teaser of our special day:

And with that, it’s time to begin the Sword Recaps!!  Whoo-hoo!  I can’t promise I’ll be brief but I can promise I’ll be open and honest, I’ll be entertaining and at some points embarrassing, and I won’t skip a single major moment!

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My Vendors and I Are Tight, Yo

At this point in the game, I’m pretty sure I email and talk to my vendors more than I do my friends and family.  I kid, but I do feel like my relationship with the people I’ve hired to do my wedding is growing rapidly.  The closer we get, the more questions they have, the more questions I have, and the more decisions there are that need to be made, which means we need to be in constant contact.

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(All of the photos in this post are just for fun!  I miss the days of browsing for inspiration and I figured pictures of other people’s weddings made sense for this post about vendors.  In the photograph above, those chocolate centerpieces remind me of the my initial decor idea that was thrown out by, wait for it, EVERYONE.  Pine cones.  Sigh.)

Personally, I have to say I’ve had a fabulous time working with the professionals I’ve hired.  I can attribute this to two things, 1) Mr. Sword and I only hired people we liked/got along with/respected.  2) Mr. Sword and I did lots of research in advance before we even met with our vendors in person.  I won’t go into detail about picking vendors, (because well, yawn), but I will give you some advice to help benefit BOTH you and your vendors throughout the planning process.

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(Clearly the above photo needs to be me on my wedding day, surrounded by men in kilts.  Yes.)

Your relationship with your vendors should be symbiotic, which means you both benefit from it.  Here are Miss Sword’s Top Tips for Vendor Success:

  1. Show respect for their art.  Listen to their concerns and ideas, and try to work within their perimeters.  If a vendor explains they need space for this thing or extra equipment for that thing, try to accommodate them.  It will only benefit you if they are comfortable and have what they need!  For instance, my photographer asked to be fed dinner at the same time as myself and Mr. Sword, meaning, before our guests.  This is a bit uncommon as the vendors are usually fed after all the guests have eaten dinner, but Crystal explained that she often misses key events or touching moments if she eats after the bride and groom eat.  She says it’s best if she’s done eating before the guests are done eating so she can take more photographs of the party.  So I asked our hotel coordinator to change the vendor meal time.  Simple as that.
  2. Respond quickly to emails.  Don’t you hate it when you don’t hear back about something you’ve been dying to know in regards to your wedding?  Vendors are the same way.  We all rely on email as a quick way to exchange info and ask questions.  I’m so grateful that the two wedding coordinators at my venue respond right away (usually within an hour) to my questions and therefore I always try to respond as quickly as I can to their emails as well.  It goes both ways and keeps everyone on the same page.
  3. Feed them.  We are feeding all of our vendors, from the photographers/videographers to the DJ and the band.  Even though our Ceilidh band is only playing a one hour set, we invited all four band members to come to the hotel early and eat dinner on us.  They are taking time out of their Saturday evening to play at our event and I appreciate their time.  Speaking of time, it also ensures that they won’t be late because they’ll have to show up early to eat dinner!  And isn’t everyone happier and more fun on a full belly?
  4. Communicate constantly.  This might sound excessive, but every time I think of something that is important to us or to Mom Sword or whomever, I email it to my vendors.  If I’m unsure of something, I ask them right away.  The more you communicate the more likely you are to have a smoother wedding day without too many hiccups.*  I also encourage letting your vendors see your wedding timeline first before showing your bridal party and family, because that way they can give you any necessary changes before you send it out to everyone.
  5. Tip them.  ARGH, TIPPING!!  Side note:  Tipping stresses me out.  I’m big on tipping but I really dislike being asked for a tip (which recently happened and by letter, what??).  I also feel like the wedding standards on tipping are extremely high.  That said, for most vendors, it’s not optional.  What goes around comes around, so tip the folks that worked their asses off for you on your wedding day.  If someone goes above and beyond, then tip them extra.  You might find yourself in a service job one day and will want the same courtesy extended to you.

I can think of 3 extra special things that three different vendors have done for us just because they know we’re going to treat them well and they know we respect the work art they do create.  I can’t go into it because frankly, that’s tacky, but I’m so happy that all of people I have trusted to make our day special are going above and beyond my beginning expectations!  It’s making me so freaking excited for the Big Day!

*This is mere speculation as I have not yet had my wedding day and cannot confirm this to be true!  🙂

Pink Vintage Wedding Inspiration

Photo by: Couture House of Imagery on Every Last Detail via Lover.ly

(I pretty much fainted when I saw that cake.  Breathtaking!!)

How is your relationship with your vendors?  Will you or did you tip them?  Is there such a thing as too much communication?