Pro Tip: Wedding Insurance

wedding ceremony,program,sage green,house party

Phase 3 Photography

Wedding insurance is not a new phenomenon, but a lot of couples don’t realize it exists. It’s designed to protect your investment in this special, often expensive day, and bears serious consideration, regardless of your overall budget.

Sometimes your existing insurance company will have this available, so check with them first. If they don’t, however, navigate on over to Reviews.com and check out the list of providers whose services and policies they’ve reviewed to see which meets your needs.

Some policies include:
– vendors not showing up or going out of business
– cancellation/postponement of the wedding due to a key player (like dad or one of you) being hospitalized
– some companies offer a “change of heart” policy that protects your parents’ investment in case you or your groom suffer from cold feet

No one likes to think of any reason a wedding could be derailed, but prudent planning can take the sting out of misfortune, and allow you the breathing room necessary to get everything back on track.

Vendor Spotlight: Katie Cassidy Photography

Some gorgeous images accompany today’s Vendor Spotlight on Katie Cassidy Photography! Katie herself answered our questions, so read on and enjoy the scenery.

All images courtesy of Katie Cassidy Photography.

katie cassidy photography,ivy wall,bride and groom

What led you to the wedding industry, specifically?
I was working in corporate graphic design and was tired of the creative restraint. I wanted to create something beautiful that had purpose and meaning to people.

What do you love most about being a wedding photographer?
I would have to say hands down that client relationships are my most favorite part of what I do. Capturing such an important day creates a special bond with people and I love it.

katie cassidy photography,bridal party,floral,mint green

What are your favorite wedding trends right now?
DIY!!! I am a huge sucker for all things DIY. To see the character and personality of a couple shine through the design aspect of their wedding gets me every time!

katie cassidy photography, bridal portrait,front porch,lace veil

How long have you been in the industry?
This is my 8th year!

What makes you unique from other wedding photographers?
I would say our “All Day wedding Coverage” sets us apart from most other photographers. I hated having to see the internal dilemma my brides were having trying to decide what parts of the day were more important and needed capturing. We take all that away by capturing the whole event! Our clients get the “whole” story from start to finish.

katie cassidy photography,bridal portrait,church

Tell us about your most memorable and fun wedding/event.
We shot a wedding last year for a dear couple that have since become good friends. They chose to have a first look and I was honored to have been a part of such a touching and sweet moment. It takes a lot to get me to tear up when I am working and I have to say I could not hold it back!

Tell us one thing we might not otherwise know about you.
I LOVE designing and throwing my kids’ huge birthday parties! I am totally obsessed with my kids and think that they deserve to be celebrated!

katie cassidy photography,vintage car,bride and groom

Do you have any special discounts or offers for Katie Cassidy Photography at this time that our blog readers should know about?
If a bride books her wedding with us during November, December, or January, she will get a FREE bridal session!

There you have it, folks! Check out Katie Cassidy Photography’s website here. Have a beautiful day!

Please Respond!

Invitation suiteLet’s face it – there’s just not that much paper mail worth opening anymore.  Junk mail, bills, and advertisements make the occasional personal piece of mail shine a little brighter.  Wedding invitations are generally still sent by mail, rather than in electronic form, and tend to echo long-ago etiquette in address and style.  Inside the envelope, you can count on seeing an invitation and a response card with a return envelope.  That’s it – the dreaded RSVP.  What do you do with it?  How do you fill it out?  What matters and what doesn’t?  As we move away from formal invitations for parties and showers and into the realm of e-vites and digital cards, more and more often guests are confused as to how to complete a response card correctly.  So, here’s a brief rundown on what to expect and how to keep your engaged friends happy!

Part One: The Date Line

Each response card is going to include a line indicating the deadline for returning your response.  This is usually a carefully selected date that allows the couple enough time to verify final numbers with their various vendors (catering, linens, floral, etc.).  Please do send your card in by this date!

Part Two: The Name Line

This line can be formatted one of several ways, depending on the couple’s choice.  Traditionally, the name line on a response card looks like this:

M____________________________

The initial at the beginning of the line indicates your title (Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss).  Your name and the name of your guest or spouse should follow.  Don’t know if you’re allowed to bring a guest?  Check the outer envelope.  If it’s addressed just to you, the couple is subtly requesting that you attend unaccompanied.  If the envelope lists you and your spouse, but not your kids, the couple would prefer you leave the little ones at home.

Some couples will send you a response card that has a little additional information that can help you identify who, exactly, is invited.  There might be a list of guest names on the card – this is who is invited.  Others will include a line like “We are saving  seats for you!” – that means four people are invited from your family.  Couples everywhere will love you for reading carefully and responding appropriately vis a vis number of guests!

Part Three: The Meal Choice

For a seated, served dinner, the couple needs to know what you would like to eat!  If you are responding for more than one person on a single response card, it can be extremely helpful if you put the initials for each guest next to the appropriate meal selections, rather than indicating number of guests for each.  For example:

 TK  Chicken    WK, BK  Beef

If you have allergies or dietary restrictions, feel free to write those in, but please do recognize that not every kitchen can accommodate every situation at a large event.

Part Four: Additional Instructions

Your response card might include additional language, depending on the event.  One line that is being included more frequently is something like, “Brad and Sarah request an adults-only evening.”  Please keep in mind this isn’t a personal attack on your family; this may be a choice necessitated by venue space, budget, or other considerations.  Adults, in the context of a wedding, would be those over the age of 18 for the most part.  If you’re confused, again, refer to your outer envelope!  Other instructions might include online RSVP information, rehearsal dinner or ceremony-specific response opportunities, or something more entertaining, like Mad Libs!  Roll with the punches, but complete every line before sending it back!

Now you’re an expert on response cards!  Go forth and respond (if you please)!

Photo courtesy of Katie Cassidy Photography

So You’ve Been Invited To A Wedding…

guest book,sign in,wedding,ben q,ampersand

Ben Q Photography

For an engaged couple, deciding who to invite to their wedding is sometimes the most strenuous, anxiety-inducing part of the entire planning process. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have made the cut (congrats to you!), you owe it to the hosts of the party to be an exceptional guest. Below are some pointers for honoring your hosts and insuring you have a great time.

1. RSVP! The folks hosting this shindig are paying pretty decent money for you to attend, and they need to make sure you’re going to have a seat at a table, food to eat, drinks to drink, and that they haven’t exceeded the capacity at their venue(s). If you’ve been sent a method to respond, do! As soon as possible!
**See more about how to read an invite and fill out an RSVP card in our next blog entry!**

2. Show up on time. If a ceremony is slated to begin at 6, the wedding party is lined up and ready to go by 5:55. This is a big reveal moment for the bride. Respect the planning efforts of the couple and plan to arrive at the ceremony location a half hour before the start of the ceremony. This means you should arrive in plenty of time to get a good seat, barring any serious traffic issues.

3. Read your invite suite and your wedding program for instructions. If the reception is at a separate location from the ceremony, there are likely instructions or directions in the literature you’ve already received for the wedding. Sometimes the officiant will announce instructions at the end of the ceremony, as well. So pay attention, and you’ll be sure to end up where you need to be!

4. Exercise some restraint at the open bar. This is a tough one, as a lot of couples want you to party at their reception, and partying means drinking to a lot of people. You shouldn’t mistake this as permission to get drunk. Reception photos and video don’t need to feature your alcohol-induced decisions. Responsible celebration means you can still get yourself home at the end of the night, and remember how fun it was to see the newly-married couple enjoy a night of firsts during their reception. Most bartenders will cut off guests whom they have observed to have been served what they are certified to know is the maximum amount of alcohol allowed. If this happens to you, be gracious about it and switch to one of the non-alcoholic options. Belligerence only reinforces the decision, and can result in your removal from the event.

5. Eat! Drink! Dance! This party has been thrown as a celebration honoring the wedding of the happy couple, and you were invited because they wanted to celebrate with you. You, specifically! The food was ordered for you. The drinks bought for you. The musicians or DJ hired for your enjoyment. Do your hosts and yourself a favor, and enjoy them!

6. Be aware. Notifications will abound throughout the event in one form or another. Ushers and House Party will let you know whether you should sit on a specific side or anywhere you like for the ceremony. Planners will let you know it’s time to be seated for the introduction of the couple into the reception. MCs will let you know it’s time for toasts, or cake cutting, or bouquet tossing, or exit sparklers. A seating chart lets you know where the couple wants you to sit. All of these things were planned ahead of time, and will be executed in a particular order, on a schedule. Don’t miss out!

7. Don’t leave too soon, don’t leave too late. It is common wedding etiquette not to leave the reception before the cake is cut. So if you don’t feel like you can last the entire party, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to leave, but only after the cake has been cut. Conversely, if you’ve been a dancing fool, or just run into some people you haven’t seen since forever, it can be hard to shut it down. Unfortunately, venues have time restrictions on clearing the equipment, food, drink, tables, chairs, linens, floral, and all the other myriad details that went into creating this awesome event. So do all those wedding professionals skittering around you a solid, and move your party or catch-up session to another location.

8. PUT THE ELECTRONICS AWAY. That’s right, you got all caps on that one. A photographer was hired, the couple does not need you to capture their wedding for them. In fact, you should put your phone on silent and put it away entirely. This goes double for any guest who wants to bring their professional-grade camera with them to capture the event their way. Photographers are often restricted in their movements during a ceremony (especially in a church venue). Blocking the aisles with your person or equipment during the ceremony – processional through recessional – may seem like it’s not a big deal, but it is. It’s a big, big deal. Unless you were asked specifically by the couple to bring your equipment and take photos or video, do not do it. Etiquette dictates you should be present in the moment for the entire event. There were people hired to stare through a lens all night so you don’t have to. Unplug and enjoy the food, the fun, and the fellowship.

Weddings are fun! But as much as the party is for you, it’s not about you. There are more rules for guest etiquette, and you can find a more exhaustive list here. Following at least the list above will insure your hosts’ efforts feel appreciated, and the newly-weds feel loved. As a guest, it’s the best gift you could give them.

Vendor Spotlight: Elan Makeup Studio

“Hel-LO, Gorgeous!” That’s pretty much what I say every time I scroll through the images of Elan Makeup Studio’s clients. Owner and artist Anita Brown kindly took a moment to answer our questions about her time in the industry. Check out what she had to say, and then feast your eyes on some of the lovelies she shared!

elan,anita brown,makeup artist

Anita Brown by Sarah Kate Photography

What led you to the wedding industry?

Working in the production field in Los Angeles as an assistant artist and coming back to Dallas (where I am from) was a tough transition. I learned that weddings are a wonderful way for me to show off my work on the beauty side. I have loved working with each and every bride and vendor over the years!

What do you love most about being a makeup artist?

Making clients feel amazing and showing them that just a little makeup can go a long way. I have lifetime clients that still contact me for photo shoots with their families and events, which to me is the biggest compliment.

What are your favorite wedding trends right now?

Less is more, natural beauty and the classic chignon is coming back. I always say, 10 years from now I want you to LOVE your look and not regret a thing!

How long have you been in the industry?

This is my 14th year. Hard to believe, but I still love my job!

What makes you unique from other makeup artists?

I honestly don’t like to compare myself to others, only because each of us is so unique. I like to think clients hire me because of my professionalism. I also offer both hair & makeup services, so it’s easy for clients to want to book with my team.

Tell us about your most memorable and fun wedding/event.

A few years ago I was flown to St. Kitts for a beautiful beach wedding. I love doing destination weddings but this one took the cake! It was gorgeous and the experience was something I will never forget. The family was so wonderful to work with and the bride and bridal party made my job easy and memorable!

Tell us one thing we might not otherwise know about you.

I love to run, it relaxes me. Like yoga to most, running is my therapy… and it’s the only thing that I can beat my husband at because I am super competitive!

Do you have any special discounts or offers for Elan at this time our blog readers should know about?

Yes! We are offering holiday makeup and hair in studio for only $65 per service and they will receive a complimentary upgrade to airbrush makeup. They just need to call and say the code elanholiday to receive the upgrade and discount.

Good news from Elan! To see more about their artists, their services, and their story, check out their website here! But first, scroll through to see all the pretty!

Kathryn Krueger Photography

Kathryn Krueger Photography

Carter Rose, F8 Studio

Carter Rose, F8 Studio

Sarah Kate Photography

Sarah Kate Photography

Chapa Images

Chapa Images

Sarah Kate Photography

Sarah Kate Photography

Sarah Kate Photography

Sarah Kate Photography

Venue Spotlight: Hickory Street Annex

If you’re looking for something a little more rustic or vintage feeling in the downtown Dallas area, you just can’t do better than Hickory Street Annex.  This historic venue is located in the Deep Ellum part of town, just a stone’s throw from Fair Park, and offers a wonderfully authentic space for wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Hickory Street Annex wedding venue

The building itself is an older industrial space – think exposed metal beams, brick walls, and a fab wooden ceiling – and has a great view of downtown, without putting you 30 stories up.  Built in 1921, it retains a unique flavor, but also offers a blank canvas for couples to bring in their own feel and style.

Let Love Sparkle photo shoot

The venue can hold up to 250 for a reception-only event; for both ceremony and reception, Hickory Street can accommodate 200 comfortably.  Rental fees include tables and either gold chiavari chairs or wooden folding chairs.  Linens can be ordered from any one of several companies through Hickory Street’s staff.

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Catering is available through any of the companies on Hickory Street’s approved list, and alcohol can be provided by the client or by the caterer.  Hickory Street Annex has ample parking, with an overflow lot across the street.  Only one event can be booked each day, so you know that you will have the property to yourselves!

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One of our favorite areas in Hickory Street Annex is The Studio, which is included in all Saturday rentals and can be added on other days.  It’s a fantastic cocktail hour space, allowing your guests to enjoy beverages and appetizers while your photographer finishes photos of the empty room upstairs.  It’s also a great space for a photo booth!  The shelves outside The Studio can be filled with photos, knick knacks, bunting, floral – you name it!  It gives you a chance to put your personal stamp on the entryway and make your guests feel at home.

Let Love Sparkle Wedding Soda Table

In the words of Hickory Street’s team, “We love weddings, it’s a very special time. It can be stressful and emotional but also very happy and exciting. We like to make life easy on the couples and their family. Planning a wedding should be fun, and memorable. We want our couples and their family to walk away with a night full of happy memories and awesome pictures.”

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If you’re interested in learning more about Hickory Street Annex, check out their website or contact Michelle Meyer at michelle@hickorystreetannex.com or 214.828.1414.

Vendor Spotlight: Simply Music

brian prescott,adante mayo,greg beck,simply music,wedding dj

photos courtesy of Simply Music

I’ve heard it before, and witnessed it a dozen times: a planner’s best friend is the DJ. They’re a planner’s voice during the party, and that’s why today’s vendor spotlight is all about one of our favorites: Simply Music Events. DJ Brian Prescott was kind enough to answer some questions for us. Read on to find out more about him, and check out their site at simplymusicevents.com!

What led you to this specific part of the wedding industry?

Actually, I fell into my career path as a DJ. I grew up and traveled all over the country as a performer (singer/actor/dancer). I already did a lot of work for several entertainment companies around DFW as a performer doing corporate events, etc. When the idea to start a DJ company popped in my head, I already had base to work from with company parties. Starting that way really helped me become a better “Wedding DJ” by developing my skills in being able to read crowds of different ages and backgrounds. Once I moved into the wedding industry, I haven’t looked back. I enjoy every facet of a wedding (song choices, floral arrangements, wedding planners, lighting, ceremonies…). I love being a part of a day in one couple’s life they’ll never forget. I feel truly blessed!

What do you love most about being a wedding DJ?

What I love most of all is the relationships I have with all my brides, grooms and fellow vendors. I love being a part of their day and a memory they’ll never forget. I like creating the song list based around what the bride and groom like as well as their guest’s. My favorite is when a bride says to me, “I can’t believe everyone danced all night!” or “It was better and more amazing than I could’ve ever imagined!”

What are your favorite wedding trends right now?

One of my favorite trends right now is brides and grooms recognizing the importance of a wedding planner [Good answer, Brian! – EED staff]. It seems like over the past few years, more and more people are having wedding planners for their weddings. I tell all my brides and grooms… never underestimate the value and expertise of a good wedding planner.

Another trend I’m very fond of is specialty lighting. It’s been a trend for a while, but people are really recognizing the importance of lighting and what it can do. It’s amazing how a few up lights and pin spots can transform a room.

How long have you been in the industry?

This is very hard to admit, but almost 17 years!

What makes you unique from other wedding DJs?

I think what makes me and my DJs different is our level of service and comfort we give to a couple. I think after they meet with us, they know we’re not going to be some “Cheesy DJ” that’s going to take over the focus of their wedding. We can be entertaining and emcee the evening without stepping over the line. They know we are professional DJs with integrity, class and elegance.

Tell us about your most memorable and fun wedding/event.

OHHHH! Some of the memorable ones I can’t talk about because I would have to change the names for their protection. I’ve had so many fun weddings; it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. Some of my favorite weddings are the ones where I’ve been the DJ for several of their family members or I’ve been the DJ at most of their friend’s weddings. I feel as though I’m a part of the family.

Tell us one thing we might not otherwise know about you.

I was Rupert Morris of the Morris Brothers from the FOX Kids Club. We used to have a show on Fox locally then WB33. For many years I dressed as a “Nerd/Superhero” and perform for elementary students doing counseling related programs on: Anti-Bullying, Drug Prevention, Safety and Test Taking Strategies. The overall message being: It’s not what you look like on the outside, but how you feel about yourself on the inside that truly matters. I’ve performed for almost 1,000,000 students around the country.

Do you have any special discounts or offers for Simply Music at this time?

We discount any specialty lighting if you use us as your DJ.

Venue Love: Five Faves in McKinney

Oh, McKinney, how we love thee. Let us count the ways. Well, at least five ways. That is to say, we’ll be counting out five of our numerous favorite venues in the fair town, in no particular order.

~ Bella Donna Chapel ~

bella donna chapel,wedding ceremony

photo credit: David Cheney Photography

This petite stunner is situated in the Adriatica Village in Stonebridge Ranch, and boasts gorgeous architectural and decorative detail, from stained glass to arched doorways to colonnades to iconography. The chapel holds up to 155 comfortably, on the floor level and a small balcony, and has changing rooms for both the bride and the groom.

~ Gather ~

Gather,long table,brick wall,chandeliers,reception,rehearsal dinner

photo courtesy of Gather; credit: Texas Red Photography

One word: charming. For small, intimate weddings and celebrations, look no further than the sometimes-restaurant right off the square, Gather. We’re talking brick walls, tin ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and more personality than you could shake a stick at. Get a peak at their menu by dropping in for lunch one day – you will not be disappointed.

~ The Grand Hotel ~

brick wall,chandelier,grand hotel,mckinney,ceremony,wedding

photo credit: Peyronet Photography

Speaking of brick walls and chandeliers, how about western elegance at its finest? Accommodating up to 150 guests, The Grand Hotel Ballroom has charm and style, with ample ability to wow your guests as they walk through this restored hotel on their way to your celebration. The hotel also boasts several more intimate spaces, such as the Library, the Wine Room, and Rick’s 110, and is even connected via lounge to Rich’s Chophouse, next door. The food here is top-notch, so your menu tasting may become your instant favorite part of your entire planning process. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you.)

~ TPC Craig Ranch ~

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photo credit: Littrell Photography

Did you know that TPC Craig Ranch offers its amenities to non-members, too? It does! So whether you’re a card-carrying member of this golf club or not, Tournament Players Club (that’s where the “TPC” comes from) can provide an immaculate backdrop for your wedding. In the clubhouse, two adjacent ballrooms can create either an intimate or spacious setting for you and your guests, with seating for up to 200, and a cocktail reception for up to 250. And on the links, TPC’s PGA golf course is everything you would expect from the #10 ranked course in the state!

~ The Cotton Mill ~

cotton mill wedding

photo credit: The Mamones

Historic spaces are a special draw for lots of reasons, and when as much love and care has been placed into restoration and modernization as has gone into the Cotton Mill, the results are spectacular! The look is a special mix of rustic and industrial, and has to be one of the most photographed sites in McKinney! Two spaces exist for event rental: the Event Hall, and the Indigo/Dye Room. Able to accommodate up to a staggering 450 guests, the Event Hall is a blank canvas, surrounded by original 1910 wood floors, beams, and ceiling, brick walls, and multi-paned windows. More information about the Event Hall can be found on their site: mckinneycottonmill.com.

The Cotton Mill also has a smaller, outdoor space available, perfect for ceremonies and cocktail hours (or even small receptions!): The Indigo/Dye Room. This was once the enclosed dying room for the denim produced at the mill. Now a gorgeous ruin of ivy-covered brick walls, this is one of few urban outdoor locations that’s easy to find and access (and even boasts a waterfall!). Their website has an FAQ page and even shows some common layouts/floor plans along with pictures from past events in those spaces. Check out the options on their website or contact Darla Lovett at 972-838-7558/cottonmill@tx.rr.com!

There are many more venues in and around McKinney we love. If you need help finding a venue, or would like more information about what we do and how we can help you, please contact us today.

Happy hunting!

Finding the Venue – Part Two

Ready to finish your list after working on the first part of our venue hunt tips?  Then read on!

#5 – Contact your 10-15 venues.  Don’t set up a tour yet.  Just reach out and see if they are available for your date (be generic if you’re flexible, like what dates do you have available for the month of March?).  Ask them to send you information on the venue, such as capacity (double-check they can fit your guest list) and an average cost for a wedding of your guest list size.  They are going to want you to come meet with them, resist!  This is about preserving your sanity and time, so try to get info by phone or email.  You want to get an idea of what clients there spend, not what their basic fees are.  This will help you stay on budget!  Once you get all the info, try to narrow your list down to less than 10.

Bella Donna Chapel captured by David Cheney Photography

#6 – Set up tours!  Yes, now you’ve finally reached that point.  Grab your list and start scheduling appointments.  We suggest setting aside a couple of weekdays and set up all your tours for those two days.  Make sure to include any key decision makers, such as you, your groom and parents that might be contributing.  (You are trying to avoid making all these tours multiple times.)  You’ll get the full attention of the staff, instead of being rushed through while they are setting up for an event.  You can always come back later to see what it looks like during an event.  For now though, you want the staff to help you understand how their venue will work best for your wedding.  We highly discourage you dropping by a venue without an appointment.  You can receive misleading information from staff that is not the sales person, plus it might be set up for an event that does not fit your style and turn you off.  We know it can be hard to fit the appointments in because of work, school, etc.  However, it really will be worth those two vacation days for everyone if that’s the only time you go, instead of losing lunch and weekend time to this hunt for a month or two.

#7 – Now that you’ve seen them, compare, compare, compare!  Break it down by listing the services and products you’ll get at each, and then try to average it out to how much you are spending per person (don’t forget to include tax and service charges).  Make sure to include items, like table and chair rentals, to compare your true costs from one venue that provides them to another that doesn’t.  If you have a tie, set another appointment to go look at each.  Maybe while a wedding is being set up so you can see it in action.  After you’ve looked at it all and compared, the final thing to do is just go with your gut.  If you love a venue, get it!  You don’t want to make a decision and regret it later on.

Happy Hunting!

Bella Donna Chapel captured by David Cheney Photography