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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ordinary to Extraordinary

Good morning blogettes!

In yesterday's blog I made a brief mention about making water fancy for a party! You should always plan to serve water to refreshen guests, offer something non-alcoholic and to balance the other vices available for drinking! ;)

Today I want to offer you a few options to fancy these up just in time for all of those fabulous holiday parties!

Photo: Hostess with the Mostess

In the pictures above... there are two waters flanking the pink strawberry lemonade.  Water served beautifully in gorgeous apothecary jars, (which you can pick up at Home Goods for a steal or at Z Gallerie) flavored by fruit, fresh herbs or vegetables. 

Above the hostess served her guests Melon-Mint and Cucumber-Basil water.  I also love simple lemon, simple strawberry, strawberry-basil or especially for the holidays Cranberry-Mint!

You can use just about any fruit or fresh herb leaf you wish to create a desired taste to fancy your guests! I can assure you this is one time that guests will be eager to hit your "water bar" before the actual bar! 

This is great for all those pre-wedding parties, such as showers or engagement parties too!!

Happy Hostess-ing!  

Be Inspired!

I wanted to share this with all of my blog readers... simply because sometimes we all need a little reminder or inspiration! 



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Think "Outside the Ballroom" ... the budget bride's guide to an elegant backyard wedding

Today's couple need to be mindful of budget unlike couples from years before.  It is no secret that our economy is seeing troubling times.  Many people are out of work, making the contributing hands, at least financially, a bit more scarce.  A wedding should not be a focus of dollars... it should be a focus of love. 

Now, don't get me wrong... I love a big ballroom reception.  A chic hotel event.  A wedding held in a historical venue. However, there is nothing that compares to an elegant, timeless and intimate wedding thrown at the couple's home or at the home of a loved one. Now, most of us do not live in a mansion so envisioning 75 people cozy inside of your home might be difficult... but how about the back yard?  Is there adequate space in your back yard for this number?

There are a lot of factors to consider with planning a back yard reception... and a lot of details to cover.  The most wonderful thing about having the reception in your home... besides not having a venue site fee, is that you have the ability to control the details.  Before we get into all of the fun decor details that you can control, lets discuss a detail you can not control... the weather.

Photo: Weddings Unveiled 

Now, being a Chicago gal... I can tell you like I always tell my brides... you can not control the weather!  I laugh when I have a bride who says, I have to get married in June because I want beautiful outdoor pictures.  Well, as a June Chicago bride... let me tell you, we've had tornadoes the last two years on our anniversary! :) And last year we wore tee shirts to the pumpkin farm.

But in Chicago, typically there are better months than others to plan for an outdoor wedding.   End of May, June, early or late July, August and September are pretty safe.  Notice I left out early to mid May because of rain and mid July because of intense heat and humidity. 

You can always rent a tent, which will protect guests from light to mild rainfall... just no promises for one of those tornadoes.

Plan out and map out your space.  It is not necessary to have a completely separate space for ceremony and reception if you absolutely can not swing it.  Just create the space by combining the two.  Start by separating your tables into two sections, creating an aisle down the middle.  Make sure you create a focal point to act as an altar so your groom knows where to meet you and your guests know where to draw their attention.  In green grass I love heavy layering of rose petals lined with floating candles.

Photo: Vibrant Bride

When possible, use long tables for guest tables, creating elegance and sophistication.  This also adds to the intimacy in a grand way... by allowing guests to be seated at the same table, the same way they would be at the family dining table.

Photo: Simply Sophisticated

I want to point out two very important details of the above pictures.  The first is I love mixing rustic with elegant features, such as hanging crystal chandeliers outdoors.  You can rent these from any major event rental company.  They do have a heavier price tag, but perhaps with savings from other places... this price tag can be justified.  The second detail that is equally, if not more important is the rental of high quality chairs.  With having your wedding outdoors in the back yard, you need to lend sophistication where it can be incorporated to give an elegant touch to your wedding.  White aluminum folding chairs will simply not do.

Create a special area for your "head table" or "honor table".  Adorn the table with elegant flowers, use crystal curtains as a backdrop, be creative, but make it special.  Who know an old worn picnic table could look so good?

Photo: huppahs blog

With the dollars you are saving on venue fees and catering and bar (we'll get to that), focus more time, energy and a few dollars to the little details that will be unique and make your wedding really special.  No need for fancy place cards, but don't leave table placement completely up to guests... create a vintage seating chart.  I adore the use of old glass windows with table numbers and guests names listed. It's elegant and sophisticated.  This style can be dressed up (think script font or calligraphy with crystal draping and flowers around) or dressed down (think worn rustic with woodsy branches).  Guest book tables made from vintage dressers or vanities are my favorite.  Dress up a pretty vanity with flowers and hand made guest book cards or vintage post cards for guests to fill out and pair with a rustic wooden sign like below and you've got the perfect combination.  

Photos: Project Wedding

Now let's get into your biggest savings... food and drink.  Although you will save the most by having someone in the family cook... I would not recommend this.  Hire a catering company.  The wedding, while it is called the "brides day" really is for everyone... no one should be stuck in the kitchen.  Many catering companies offer a buffet style menu at a fraction of the cost of a formal banquet hall.  Additionally, they will supply all of the warming dishes needed to keep food at the correct temperature.  Create a special place for your buffet to be set up so guests can locate it easily and it will be dressed up for your event too!  Another important detail... never, ever use paper plates.  Rent china from a party rental or at the very least, use clear acrylic and faux silverware if budget is getting tight. 

 Photo: Google Images

I love the creativity you can have when you are outside a formal setting with food.  Think stations.  Below is a macaroni and cheese station with ALL the trimmings... guests can customize their macaroni to suit their individual comfort.  I love mash-tini bars for the same reason.  It's a flirty and fun way to serve your wedding food and will definitely be loved and remembered.  And think... pasta and potatoes are cheap!! 

Photo: Ryan Estes Photography

Now let's talk drinks.  My personal suggestion would be to serve beer and wine (in bottles, please) in large ice tubs so guests can help themselves and create about 3-5 signature pre-made drinks in beautiful apothecary jars, again where guests can help themselves.  Make sure to serve water as well.  Fancy up your water by making cucumber melon water, strawberry basil water or simply adding lemons.   Create a down home feel to your drink station as well by having ball mason jars for your glasses (cut costs too) and pretty them with ribbons or personalized flagged straws like below.

Photo: Google Images

Photo: Sugar Plum Invitations

If you really want a fancy touch to your back yard reception create a champagne bar.  Provide a good, inexpensive champagne in large ice tubs with mixers to add.  Peach puree, orange juice, raspberry liquor, etc.  I love how beautiful and creative you can get.  Just make sure to use pretty bottles for the mixers.  There's nothing fancy about a bottle of Minute Maid.

Photo: Green Wedding Shoes

As with all events or weddings careful consideration to the details is key.   Make sure you invite your neighbors so no one complains about noise and do not park 200 cars on your street without a permit or notifying the fire department.  Think intimate and outside of the ballroom, and you can have a gorgeous wedding for under $10k, possibly less than $5k.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wedding Worthy Miracle Make Up - Feature Fancy Face Cosmetics

Photo: Fancy Face Cosmetics - on Facebook

From the time we are little girls, most of us dream of what our wedding day will be like.  Who we will marry, what we will wear, an outdoor ceremony, a big ballroom reception dancing the night away, the flowers and of course.... we can not help but imagine, what we will look like on our big day, our wedding day! 

Creating a flawless look for our wedding day often times takes weeks/months of preparation.  We hit the gym, eat right, get facials, tan, whiten our teeth and so on. Just as important as all of these preparations is the cosmetics we chose for our big day.  Today, I want to feature a company that produces wedding-worthy "miracle makeup".  Trust me girls, this is makeup you absolutely must have for your big day!

Chicago Based Fancy Face Cosmetics

Fancy Face Cosmetics has created sweat proof cosmetics which are perfect for your wedding day.  Let's face it, (pun intended) hair and make up usually begin very early in the day. Many of my brides are in hair and make up around 9 or 10 am.  You want a make up that will last ALL. DAY. LONG. Fancy Face Cosmetics definitely do!  No matter what the season, or unpredictable Chicagoland weather, your face will stay flawless, and fancy all day long.

I love their heavily pigmented eye shadows!  They last all day and night with the same striking color as when you first put them on.  One little pod will last you forever too since a little bit goes a long way! Start light and work your way to the amount you're looking for!

Photo: Fancy Face Cosmetics

The colors are wonderful too as you can purchase colors to match your bridesmaids dresses and gift these to the girls as bridesmaids gifts!! Just don't forget the waterproof mascera too!

Whether you want a natural look or you're going for wedding drama... Fancy Face Cosmetics has a vast variety of colors and you can find a color palate to match your needs. 

Photo: Fancy Face Cosmetics

The product line does not stop at eyes alone... make sure you pick up their newest sweat proof mineral based loose powder to finish off your look!

Photo: Fancy Face Cosmetics

Chicagoland based, founder and president, Nicole Khayat founded Fancy Face Cosmetics after a lifetime love of the fashion and beauty industry.  As a former cheerleader and 2011's Mrs. Illinois International, Nicole knows how important it is to always "put your best face forward".  This is no exception on your wedding day.   Although the cosmetics line was created with cheerleaders, dancers and ice skaters in mind... the make up has been used by brides all over Chicagoland.  The make up is designed to keep you looking fresh and flawless for hours, picks up beautifully in photographs and creates a look that can be seen while you are on the altar.  Best part... it stays even though those tear jerking moments!

Fancy Face President, and 2011 Mrs. Illinois International, Nicole Khayat

President Nicole Khayat and Vice President Amanda Ray work hard to market and promote their brand... and it's taking the cosmetic's world by storm!  You can purchase these fabulous fancy products on their website at  While you are there... be sure to check out their blog! It's fabulous and covers lifestyle topics as well as fashion and beauty topics!

Remember, your wedding day is the most important day of your life... make sure you keep it Fancy!



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Budget Bride: Ways to Save on Your Wedding Day

The terrible "B" word... and no, I don't mean Bridezilla.... I mean budget.  It is a very uncomfortable conversation for anyone involved in the wedding planning process to have.  For this reason alone, the first email I usually get from a bride or groom inquires cost before anything else.  It is the same reason why I devote one entire meeting to budget discussion alone.  You need to be very realistic with your wedding budget ... whether your budget is $5,000 or $50,000 staying true to your budget is the most important aspect in starting your life together off on the right foot.

Here I will share with you my advice on getting the biggest bang for your bridal buck.  If there is one thing I understand, both as a bride and as a planner ... it's the importance of a budget.

1. Hire a planner.  No matter what your budget, you can afford to hire a planner, even if it is only for partial planning packages.  I, for example have packages for consultation hours and day of services.  These are very reasonably priced and will put you in the right direction and save you money in the long run.  I have said it a hundred times and will say it a hundred more... planners have built relationships with vendors they continue to bring business to.  For that, the vendors often times provide a discount to those planners - which gets passed on to you. 10% here, 20% there... adds up to you getting the best vendors for the best deal and often times your planner's fee is paid for and then some in the discounts you receive working with their vendors.

2. Mind your Calendar.  Fridays and Sundays are often time much less than a Saturday wedding.  The biggest discount you will see will be from your caterer or banquet hall... but other vendors often time have lower prices for these days as well... such as limo companies.  Note, where this does not apply will be the Sunday of a holiday weekend (such as Memorial or Labor day... these are often times treated as Saturdays).  In many areas, November - April are considered "off season times" and may offer a bigger discount.  Be mindful that days like Valentine's day are not among these dates and are a busy time for all florists... plan to pay an extra pretty penny for a Valentine's wedding.... in all aspects!

3. Be a Lady who Lunches or Brunches.  Day time weddings/receptions cost far less than a dinner reception.  Having an early morning garden ceremony followed by an elegant lunch will not only be special and remembered.... but you will save major dollars.   Savings will include your location, meal, bar tab, and other vendors who would offer a discount since this is an "extra time" for them where they may not often be hired.

4. Chose a Banquet Hall.  Opting to have your reception at a furnished banquet hall can save you major dollars versus a chic hotel or a blank canvas modern venue.   Selecting a space that already has tables, chairs and other furnishings cuts down your cost on rentals significantly.  Keep in mind however when you select your banquet hall the overall decor and or chair furnishings.  If you need to bring in chairs or covers or pay money to drape the walls or up light the room excessively... you may not be saving much money.

5. Lower the Bar.  By cutting down the bar to say beer, wine and soft drinks you will cut your alcohol budget by more than half.  Worried about guests who prefer a mixed drink, talk to your bartender about featuring one fabulous signature cocktail.  Many venues will be more than happy to pass these as you will in turn be passing less appetizers during the cocktail hour. This is also a great way to keep guests comfortable as the drinks will come to them instead of them having to wait in line at the bar.

6. Save In-Season.  If you adore peonies... plan on a May wedding or plan to pay.  Know your flowers and the seasons they grow and you will save a bundle on your bouquet.   Even the priciest flowers are less expensive when they are in season. 

There are other ways to cut your floral budget.  Adding branches and greenery will boost your arrangements for less cost.  Keep in mind that an arrangement with several varieties will cost much more than a design featuring only 2 or 3.  Most cost effective is to go clean and chic and feature one type of flower.  (Create drama by doing the same varietal in monochromatic coloring with offset shades).

7.  Cut your Guest List.  Talk to parents honestly and explain that their long lost bestie from high school simply can not make the list since some of YOUR friends needed to be cut.  Think in terms of longevity... will this person be a part of my life forever.  When was the last time I saw this person.  Change plus one to plus none.  Limit guests of guests to only significant others, engaged or married. Host an adults only reception.

8. Skim Down your Bridal Party.  You are not obligated to have 10 bridesmaids... no matter how many friends you have.  Consider the expense of each attendant to you.  Gifts, flowers, transportation, etc.  Give close friends wedding honors in other ways.  Readings, ushers and usherettes, toasts, program attendant, etc.

9.  Stash the Stationary.  Keep wedding invites simple and to one piece of paper and direct guests to your wedding website for additional information such as directions.  Skip formal save the dates and send out an evite directing guests to the wedding website.  Skip menu cards, unless allowing guests an option at dinner.  Opt for table assignments on a pretty chalkboard and skip individual place cards.

10.  Plan Ahead.  The average engagement lasts 13 months.  Use this time to plan wisely and purchase items on sale.  Glittery candles and lights post holidays, heart shaped glassware after Valentine's day, pastel items after Easter. Buy purchasing items post season... you'll likely save up to 70%.

11. Cut the Cake.  Serve cupcakes.  Or have a small display cake for cutting and have servers cut and serve sheet cake in the back.  No one will be the wiser.

12. Ditch the Jones'.  Instead of keeping up with them.  Think about what is really important to YOU and STICK TO IT.  Put down the bridal magazines and just do what you can afford.  Don't worry about your best friend, cousin or co-worker and what they are doing.  There is a big difference between wanting a wedding and wanting a marriage.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for so many things.  This is one of my favorite holidays.  It's a time to be humbled, to take a moment or an entire day and be with the people you love and think of those you love you can not for whatever reason be with.  It is a time to reflect on your life, it's blessings and the challenges you have pulled through and become a stronger person because of those moments.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for my husband first and foremost.  He is my strength and through ups and downs we come out stronger together... thank you, Eric for making me a better person each and every day.  I am thankful for my family ... who love and support me unconditionally.  I am thankful for friends, both near and far for reminding me that sometimes family is the one you make for yourself.  I am thankful for my live each day with the ability to get up and do what I love.  I am thankful to my brides and my readers for believing and supporting me... you are helping me live my dreams and that I am extremely thankful for.  I am thankful to vendors who are amazing and talented and make my job easier.

Finally, I am thankful for those who are skeptical and who are not believers in me.  You challenge me to make you a believer and more importantly, make me appreciate those who do believe in me...

I hope all of my family, friends, brides and grooms and my readers have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.  May you love much, laugh often and eat well... today and every day!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rules of Engagement: Mission Impossible, Your First Holiday Season Together!

Your first holiday season as newly weds can be a tricky one.  With the bird scheduled to land in less than a week, and no doubt turkey plans are more than likely well under way... I thought I would share some words of advice to all you bloggettes out there who may be feeling a bit "stuck in the middle".

No doubt you are starting to feel the pressures as a newlywed... your parents expect your undivided attention, as does his.  Maybe things are even more complicated if you have extended families due to second marriages or other interesting additions.  Let's not forget, as you begin your new life together and create your own nuclear family... what about time for yourselves?  All the "where to spend the holidays stress" can be enough to dim anyone's lights.

Here are my tips on how to get through the holidays without hurting anyone's feelings while keeping your sanity in tact!

1. Prepare for the emotions that come with this new transition of roles as husband and wife. Things are different now.  While for the most part, that different is a wonderful, blissful feeling... it can also make you feel void from your old role as a single gal.  The holidays are a time that will highlight your new martial status, not only for the two of you ... but also for everyone close to you... including parents.  Your parents may feel hurt, or brushed off by the new traditions that you create for the two of you that will undoubtedly shake the traditions they have created and celebrated over the years. Understand, that this will wear off in time and everything will feel "normal"
in time and the new traditions will be embraced.

The stress of the holidays can bring out the worst in everyone. People love holidays for all of their joy and traditions and the time that they get to spend with family.  Also remember though, that the holidays are a time of reflection and make voids feel deeper.  Loved ones may miss others they spent holidays with before.  Sometimes, even surrounded by love the holidays can make people feel lonely.  Do not take any hurtful words said during the holidays personally, especially in your first year as a married couple as the change rocks the sleigh for everyone.  Tread holiday emotions lightly... and learn to forgive and forget.

2. Prepare for hurt feelings a head of time.  Discuss a game plan for holidays in advance if possible.  It may be too late for Thanksgiving, but not for Christmas.  Think about what is special to both of you as traditions with your families and work up your plan from there.  You will be better armed going into the discussion that way.  "Mom, your Christmas breakfast has always been my favorite part of the holiday season for me since we were little. That's why I want Brian to experience that with our family and we will do dinner with his family".  While mom probably will still want you around for dinner and miss you when you are gone... you've flattered her, kept your favorite tradition alive and still allowed time for both sets of family.

3. Stick together.  You are a team now... and your family (you and your husband) are the immediate family with both sets of families as extensions which make you stronger.  Embrace the WE in your new marital status. It's not HIS family or MY family, it's OUR family.  Work together and stand behind eachother as the discussions get tense.  When in doubt, use phrases like "This is what works best for us" or "This is a decision that we made together with our families in mind"

4. Find a time somewhere in the chaos to celebrate a holiday tradition just the two of you.  Whatever that tradition be, no matter how big or small it is important that as a married couple now you begin to create your own holiday traditions together.  These do not have to be on the holiday itself, but any time that you two can take a moment to spend together.  It is important, especially your first year married that you set a tone for your holiday traditions and embrace the wonderful blessing that you two together have many many years of holiday traditions together and that you have committed to creating this life together, as husband and wife.