Wedding Planning Advice: Send-off Items

In American weddings, we have a tradition of distributing a "send off" item to guests at the end of the night that they then use to celebrate the bride and groom as they exit the reception.

Previous generations used rice exclusively for their wedding send-offs. This tradition stemmed from Roman times when wheat (as a symbol of fertility) was thrown at the bride and groom. Under Queen Elizabeth I, wheat was replaced with wheat cakes, which were broken into pieces and thrown. These wheat cakes were later replaced by the more affordable substitute of rice.

These days, rice is rarely the send-off item of choice, largely because of an urban legend that rice makes birds explode when ingested. Aside from this misconception, there are many other reasons rice is rarely chosen - rice is difficult to clean-up, it's a slipping hazard, and it HURTS when you're pelted with a handful of rice.

Italian tradition is to throw confetti, symbolizing money and good fortune. Scottish tradition is to throw flower petals as a symbol of fertility. Both of these options can be troublesome to clean-up crews and are thus forbidden by many reception venues. What are other options?

Our clients frequently choose sparklers, which make a beautiful exit. But sparklers have their own troubles - they are dangerous for obvious reasons (especially when handled by inebriated guests) and are frequently not allowed, especially when there's an active "burn ban" in the area.

Bubbles are another popular option, but create a silent send-off, as it's impossible to cheer and blow bubbles at the same time.

Noise makers, streamers, kazoos, glowsticks - we've seen so many great, creative choices for send-off items!

Recently, I've noticed an increased number of couples choosing to forgo the send-off items all together, leaving the guests to simply cheer and applaud. I must say, I love this trend! It eliminates unnecessary waste, is safe, and is just as fun as the other options. Win!

What did/will you use for your send-off item? Why?

Happy Planning!

Cigar Rollers

Although the wedding day tends to be the Brides day, it can always be fun to include a few things for the Groom. Ways to include the Groom's taste into the wedding could be by picking his favorite food and/or dessert to serve at the wedding or incorporating his favorite color into the color theme. Another way to include the Groom is to have something special for him and the other men at the wedding. One way to do this is to have a cigar roller at the reception. I was at a wedding with a cigar roller and the men loved it! As soon as they were told about it, many of them went straight over and picked up a freshly rolled cigar. Here are a few images from that wedding to inspire you. 

Happy Planning!


Decorating the Aisle

The aisle is where you make your grand entrance for everyone to see you on the big day, so don't forget to make it look special! There are so many ways to decorate the aisle, from something simple and elegant to something colorful and extravagant. Below is a collection of different styles to give you some inspiration!

Happy Planning!

*the top three photos were found on Pinterest

Tips for a Stress-Free Wedding Day

You've planned for the big day for weeks, months, or maybe even years. A lot of hard work and time went into making your wedding the happiest day of your lives. Make sure you can put that aside and actually enjoy your wedding! I have seen super-stressed brides, and have also witnessed relaxed, care-free brides.. guess who ends up having more fun? Here are a few tips to staying calm on your wedding:

  • Get plenty of rest the night before. It will be a long day, and you will need all your energy on the dance floor. If you know it may take you a while to fall asleep because you're anxious, then go to bed an hour or so before you need to be asleep to allow for that.
  • Delegate tasks. Don't try to do everything by yourself. If you have a wedding planner, this shouldn't be as much of an issue for you. Make sure you're organized, and delegate all of your tasks to reliable friends and family members. If there's something that you must do yourself, try to get it done a few days before the wedding so you aren't worrying about it last-minute.
  • Pamper yourself. Hit the spa. Go get that massage you really deserve. Get a manicure, pedicure and whatever else your heart desires. You want to look and feel your best for the big day.
Photo credit here.
  • Eat. Take enough time to slow down and grab a bite. If butterflies won't allow you to have breakfast the day-of, then try to have something light like toast. It'll calm your nerves and keep you going.
  • Take "me" time. If you start to feel really stressed out, or too much is going on, just step outside and clear your head. Sit alone, chat with a friend outside, enjoy the weather or do whatever else you know will make you feel at ease.
  • Remember to Have Fun! You shouldn't spend the happiest day of your life worrying about something that may possibly go slightly wrong. Things happen, but you will mainly remember how you felt and the fun you had. Twenty years from now, you won't care about the minor things that went wrong.
Photo credit here.

Wedding Sparklers

Brittney and Matt's Sparkler Send-off at Camp Lucy

Hope your 4th was a fabulous one! I, personally, missed the fireworks - darn drought! We're lucky enough to have amazing fireworks at several of our weddings each year, and sparklers at probably close to half of our Austin weddings. I figure this pretty much makes us sparklers experts! Sparklers can be a fun and dramatic finale for your celebration, but there are a few things you should keep in mind:
  • Consider your space. Is there enough room for your guests to comfortably form two lines and still have plenty of space for the two of you to walk through? How about when those guests are wielding sticks of sparking ambers? Make sure there's plenty of room that you minimize your risk of being touched with a sparkler. Did you know that sparklers burn at a higher temperature than a lighter? You don't want them too close to your (or your hair or your dress!).
  • Be honest with yourself - are your guests responsible? Remember that most of your guests will likely be quite inebriated by the end of your celebration - how responsibly will they handle fire?
  • Buy the 10" sparklers. Sparklers come in all sorts of sizes, and "they" will tell you that you need to buy the long ones. Don't do it! The huge sword-like sparklers burn far longer than needed and let's be honest, do you want your drunk guests holding fire longer than necessary? ;) The 10" sparklers are plenty long enough because we at STC have sparkler-lighting down to an art. We know exactly when and how to light them so that the timing is perfect. Any longer and they'll put out too much smoke, shorter and they'll go out before you've made it through the line.
  • Check with your venue. More and more venues are prohibiting the use of sparklers. Sometimes there's some wiggle room but you want to choose your battles wisely - how important are wedding sparklers to you?
So how about you - what will you use for your wedding send-off?

Happy planning!
Jessica and Michael's Sparkler Send-off at The Mansion at Judges Hill

Engagement Session (featuring Lora and Derek, with Sweet Caroline Photo)

Should you do an engagement session? Absolutely. Yes. Definitely.  :)

Here's why:
  • You get to know your photographer, and vice versa. I notice a discernible difference in my clients who have Engagement Sessions with their wedding photographers. On the wedding day, these clients are much more at ease with their photographer, which allows the photographer to capture more genuine and intimate emotions.
  • Engagement Sessions are a great way to see how you'll work with your photographer, before the wedding day. I have had one client who actually chose to go with a different photographer for their wedding, because the engagement session showed them that they didn't enjoy working with that particular photographer.
  • You're young, you're fabulous.... you need to capture this time of your life while wearing something other than formal wear or a bridal gown. Excellent photos that capture you as a couple, in the place(s) that are important to you.
  • Guestbooks that incorporate engagement pictures are awesome. The photographer provides an album of images from your Engagement Session, with lots of white/neutral space. Guests love flipping through the books, finding their favorite images to sign around. And the guestbook is then worthy of coffee table display, rather than being tucked on a bookshelf, rarely to be seen again.
  • Save-The-Dates are more personal when they incorporate a picture of you guys, and even better if it's a stunning, professional picture.
When considering your photographer budget and customizing your package, be sure to seriously consider adding an engagement session.

Check out these fun engagement shots of STC couple Lora and Derek, who will be getting married this October. They did their Engagement Session with their wedding photographer, Sweet Caroline Photo.

Happy planning!

You're Engaged!!! Now what...?

First, allow me to say CONGRATULATIONS!!!  It is so exciting to be newly engaged! And I read somewhere that 60% of American proposals happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day. So a heartfelt welcome and congratulations to all of the newly engaged. :) Hold on to your seats - you're in for an adventure!

So the question has been popped, the ring is fitted and the news is being spread. What's the first thing you do when it comes to wedding planning? Find the perfect dress? Decide on the exact date? You're ready to get this ball rolling! Here's my advice for stress-free wedding planning, step by step:

  1. Enjoy this moment. Take a deep breath to just live in the "I'm engaged!" excitement. Don't let the pressure of wedding planning hit just yet. Enjoy the bliss, then start tackling the many decisions you'll need to make.
  2. Where will your wedding be? Talk with your fiance (*squee!!* fiance!) about where in the world you want to host the celebration of your upcoming lifelong marriage. Austin? Houston? Turks and Caicos? Disney World? We've done it all. :)
  3. Figure out a rough budget. Mainly, who's contributing what? It's a tough talk to have, but things are so much smoother once everyone is on the same page.
  4. Hire your wedding coordinator. Before you pick your venue or select a date or assign dollar amounts to each item in your wedding budget, be sure to hire your wedding planner. Don't try to go this on your own - you've never done this before. You need an expert on your side, keeping you well-advised, and the wedding planning process manageable. 
  5. Once hired, your wedding planner will help you create your detailed budget.
  6. After your budget is established, you're ready to look for your venue. It's good to have a general idea of when you'd like to get married, but avoid setting your heart on a specific date. There are few things more frustrating than to find the perfect venue for your wedding only to then find out that they no longer have your date available.
  7. Budget and venue done, you now have your date! From here, your wedding coordinator will guide you through the selection of each vendor, starting with caterer (if needed) and then photographer. You also get to do the fun stuff like dresses and showers.
  8. As you continue planning, remember the point of all of this time and money - you're planning an amazing celebration where the people who mean the most to you will get to witness and celebrate the beginning of your marriage. You have something to celebrate, don't let it become something you dread. Much joy to you. :)
Happy planning!

Celebrate Culture

I love culture. And I admit I'm somewhat jealous of people who have a strong cultural background, because mine is so lacking! I am such a melting pot mix of cultures and ethnicities that I have to go back more than 4 generations to find an ancestor who was more than 50% of one particular ethnicity. Don't get me wrong - I think it's great that racial barriers have been knocked down, and I'm proud of my American culture - but I can't help but feel I'm missing something. I'm missing out on traditions that are older than a few hundred years, for one!

Bea and Sam are getting married tomorrow, and they'll be celebrating many cultures. They'll be getting married under a Jewish chuppah.

The canopy of the chuppah will be made with Bea's grandmother's beautiful tallit.

They'll be wearing Greek crowns, reflecting Sam's culture.

The amazing reception menu (crafted by Primizie Catering) will reflect the Peruvian heritage of both of Bea's parents, with a hint of Greek flair:
Passed Hors d’ Oeuvres:
  • Lobster Empanada
  • Phyllo Triangles 
  • Bocconcini Mozzarella and Wild Mushroom Polenta Crostini 
  • Mixed Shellfish Seviche’
First Course:
  • Avocado Salad with Lemon, Bacon and Watercress
  • Pana de Bono 
Second Course (choice of one):
  • South American Hanger Steak 
  • Masa Crusted Chicken
  • Spanish Paella


I have no doubt Bea and Sam's guests will notice and appreciate these personal touches that reflect their cultural backgrounds.

Moving forward in your wedding planning, be sure to take note of your cultures. As you begin your new family, hold on to those cultural nuances that make you who you are, and celebrate your combined cultures as often as possible so that your children will inherit your cultural pride.

Happy planning!

Grey Likes Weddings - Particularly Shira and Kumar's! :)

So thrilled to learn today that Grey Likes Weddings chose to feature Shira and Kumar's gorgeous wedding. Congraulations Shira and Kumar!!!! And kudos to Stacy of SMS for the praise-worthy photography!

See the feature here.


Plus One

When budgeting for your wedding expenses, the biggest factor to consider is your anticipated guest count. Before you have a clear idea of how many guests you're expecting, you are not well-equipped to dive into wedding planning. Not only is an accurate anticipated guest count steer you to an appropriately sized venue for your celebration, it also helps you determine a large portion of your budget. Many brides assume that the guest count just affects the food bill - not so! There's food and beverage, but there's also rentals - a seat on the bus, a chair at the ceremony, a chair at the reception, a table for that reception chair, a linen for that table, a centerpiece on that linen, a pinspot on that centerpiece... it all adds up! Additionally, more guests = more labor = more money. The per person cost will vary by menu and rental selections, but you can expect to pay an average of $90-150 per guest for your wedding.

Beware the courtesy invite! You know that distant relative you've never met, who lives in another country. Your co-workers at the job you just recently started. Your boss. Your friend from college who you don't talk to anymore. Your parents' friends. And then, that guest may bring a date!
If you invite them, be prepared for them to say Yes!

While 75% of the invited actually attend, you can not plan around that guess/hope - I've planned weddings where 50% rsvped Yes, and weddings with 100%! You just never know, so be prepared and plan for 100% just in case. Then, if you end-up having more than 75% attend, you can accommodate them in both your venue space and budget.

Happy planning!

Cake Toppers!

I am all about customizing a wedding to each individual bride & groom! I am also a huge fan of etsy! What's even better is combining the two of those, customization and etsy! It's the perfect combo!

I found this really neat designer that makes custom cake toppers. For around $160, bthanari will design your cake topper wearing your actual dress! How neat is that!

For more personalized items for your big day, check out

Happy Planning!!!!

Kristen Barton

Name Change Made Easy

When I came back from my honeymoon, back to reality, on July 2nd I had a moment of panic, I have to change my name! I started with a bang and knocked out my social security card within the first week of my return. As I got back into my regular routine the changing of my name slowly came to a halt, until a friend told me about the website MissNowMrs.
MissNowMrs. is your one stop name changing shop. After you create your account you will be asked a series of general questions, as well as more specific ones for your state. Your answers to the questions will be used to auto complete your Social Security, IRS 8822, U.S. Passport, USPS, State Driver's License and State Voter Registration forms as well as notification letters to all your creditors. Each form or letter prints out with a detailed filing instruction sheet. The instruction sheet includes the order of form submission, fees, required filing documents, office locations/addresses, as well as insider tips on how to file the easiest way possible. The convenience MissNowMrs. provides is well worth the $29.95 fee.
Thanks to MissNowMrs. I am back on track and heading off to the DMV this morning with completed forms in hand! :)

Signature Style

"Exciting news!" read the email sitting in my inbox. "This is your one and only opportunity to showcase your signature style to over 150,0000 eager {brides} searching for the perfect ideas for their wedding. Not an ad but a platform to express your style, expertise and Professional Advice to Texas brides!"

This email literally made me cringe - does anyone else see the problem here? My brides' weddings are not about MY signature style! There are certain coordinators who have boxed themselves into the same habits - "She always hangs candles in that window" or "He always uses hydrangeas." So sad! It shouldn't be about what is appealing or easy for the coordinator, it's about what best reflects the personalities and tastes of the bride and groom. You won't see MY style unless it's MY wedding (back in 2003).

Make sure that your vendors really get your vision, and only hire vendors that you trust will make YOUR vision a reality. In every little detail, your guests should see you - after all, you and your fiance are the reason your guests have flown across the country. Your wedding is a celebration of you and your new marriage, not a platform for a wedding planner to express his/her own signature style.

Happy planning!

Keep it simple

Whenever potential clients ask me what my personal style is as far as events go. I always tell them that I love keeping it simple and chic. So to keep things easier for you, why not pick one color (various shades) and one type of flower to make a statement at your wedding. Here are some bouquets and centerpieces that are using only ONE type of flower. Take a look!

Photo: Future Mrs. Darcy

Ask the Expert: Should we assign seating at our reception?

As a wedding planner, my clients frequently ask me if they should assign seating at their receptions. My reflex answer is "Yes!" but it really depends on the circumstances of your celebration - every wedding is different.

Escort card: A card with a guest's name that notifies them of their assigned table. Escort cards tend to be easier for the guests to navigate than seating charts, as escort cards are displayed in alphabetical order, making it easy and quick for guests to find their name. And, because each guest has their own individual card, you have to remake/add only those cards affected by a last minute RSVP change, instead of having to recreate an entire chart. An escort card directs guests to their assigned tables, but allows them the freedom of choosing their seat at those tables.
Place card: Communicates the exact seat where a guest is to sit, usually placed as part of the place setting. It is recommended that escort cards be used with place cards so that guests are not left to walk around every table, searching for their place card.

Here are some examples from two different Something To Celebrate weddings with flower themed table assignments (click for larger view):

Escort card
Place cards

The Cons:
  • Assigning each guest to a table and/or specific seat is a lot of work, taking relationships and anticipated preferences into consideration.
  • Pressure - what if you make a mistake in assuming who a guest would like to sit with? Oh, the pressure!
  • Changes - Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to receive RSVP changes up to the day before the wedding. That means redoing your seating chart, escort cards, place cards....
The Pros:
  • Your guests will appreciate being seated with their friends and families, without feeling the need to "save" seats.
  • Money saving - by assigning tables, you ensure that every chair is used. By avoiding empty chairs, you avoid the need for extra chairs and even extra tables, which will also eliminate the need for extra linens, centerpieces, place settings, etc.
  • Space - by avoiding the need for extra tables and chairs, you free up more space for your dance floor. Par-tay!
  • Place/Escort cards are a wonderful way to communicate meal choices to the catering staff. If your guests RSVP choosing one of several entree options, the design of your place card can be a secret code that reveals those pre-made choices to the wait staff. For example, "beef" entrees could be indicated by the monogram/logo/design on the left side of the card, "fish" on the right.
  • The escort cards afford you another decor opportunity! Some may see this as a "Con," I suppose... but not those of us who I love stationery. :)
Other points to consider:
  • You'll want to reserve tables for your friends and families who will be involved in the post-ceremony pictures, since they'll most likely be the last (other than you, of course) to arrive at the reception. Often times my clients realize while assigning those seats that they're working on assigning seats for so many guests that they may as well assign everyone else while they're at it.
  • Most of our clients assign tables, but not seats. This is a little easier for you, and also allows your guests to figure out exactly who they sit next to - so you're really assigning groups to tables rather than individuals to seats.
  • Assigned seating will enhance the elegance of your atmosphere. If you want a very casual feel, do not assign seats to those other than those who are involved in post-ceremony pictures.
Whatever your choice, don't let the little details overwhelm you. Remember that the point of all of this hard work is a fabulous celebration with the people who love you most, on an amazing day.

Happy planning! :)

    The Perfect Wedding Favor

    I think one of the hardest decisions to make regarding a wedding is the wedding favors. Besides all the photos that your guests will have, it is the one way for them to remember your wedding and the special day that they shared with you! I found this cute idea on The Knot! While giving your guests treats and what not, why not think about giving them something that they can in turn give back to the planet. Give them a cute little tree planting kit!

    If you are looking for another idea for favors then maybe consider donating to charity on behalf of your guests. That way, on your special day you are brightening another person's day! Just a thought! :)
    Happy planning!

    <3 Kristen Barton

    Camp Lucy

    Last week, Lorena and I had the privilege of visiting Camp Lucy. Lorena featured this venue before on this blog, and there's been lots of talk about Camp Lucy throughout the wedding industry. Now that I've seen it first hand, I can vouch that Camp Lucy is worth the hype!

    This venue is gorgeous. The owner bought a Vietnamese church and then disassembled and shipped it to the Texas hill country where it was reconstructed in gorgeous splendor. I was so glad to bump into photographer Matt Johnson there, as my iPhone camera just didn't do the venue justice (maybe one day, when I get the 4G, but I digress...).

    Camp Lucy is hosting its first professional wedding next month - it has previously hosted two weddings for family members. So excited for Lorena to coordinate Brittney's wedding at Camp Lucy this December!
    Here are some of Matt's shots - check out his blog for more:

    Love this cottage - the Bride's House.

    Main room of Bride's House

    Restroom of Bride's House

    Amazing chapel. The pavilion is almost identical, but with open sides.

    The Camp Lucy heart logo is found throughout the property.

    We're excited to coordinate many weddings at Camp Lucy. :)