Monday, November 29, 2010

Bay Area Venue: Villa Montalvo

One of the couples I am working with next year chose Villa Montalvo in Saratoga as their venue and I couldn't be MORE excited to work there. It has what I call a "Great Gatsby" feel to it -- I can just imagine beautiful people sipping champagne and dancing the night away on the gorgeous grounds. My bride loves Art Deco touches so I already know this wedding is going to be right up my alley!

I personally don't think their website does the venue justice, so I thought I'd share a few pictures from Style Me Pretty and Snippet and Ink to give you an idea of the beauty of this magical spot! This first picture was taken by Lori Paladino and this pretty wedding was planned by the adorable Kristina Taheri. I had the pleasure of meeting Kristina at Wedding360 this spring and she could not be nicer -- what a great girl! To see more of this stunning wedding, check out the StyleMePretty.com feature here.



Style Me Pretty also showcased a Pride & Prejudiced themed inspiration shoot at Villa Montalvo shot by the very talented Lisa Lefkowitz. Can you believe these trees? This is the entry to the ceremony area where my clients are getting married. What a dramatic aisle for the bride!


As you can likely tell, I'm really excited to work at Villa Montalvo! For some more beautiful shots of this lovely venue, be sure to check out this post on SnippetandInk, also planned by the talented Kristina Taheri!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Five Quick Tips from Julie Hill of Elysium Productions

Take a break from your turkey coma and check out this week's Five Quick Tips from frequent Style Me Pretty contributor, Julie Hill of Elysium Productions.

Here are Julie's Five Quick Tips:

1. Don't chew gum! You'll have a weird look in your photos and video.

2. Bring flip-flops. Those Louboutins will hurt after awhile. I see it happen every weekend!

3. Don't have a ton of people give toasts or... gasp... have an open mic at your reception. A few toasts are great, but any more and your guests start to tune out and start to wonder when they get to eat cake.

4. See each other before the ceremony. Yes that's breaking tradition, but it will calm your nerves AND you'll get a great photo session out of it!

5. Scope out your location for awesome photo opps and don't be shy about suggesting them to your photographer/cinematographer in an email before your wedding day.

And a few more questions for Julie...

What was your favorite thing about your wedding?
Having my gigantic family in from Denver & Seattle and Alex's friends and family from England out for a fun week in Southern California.

If you could change one thing about your wedding, what would it be?
Oh many, many things, but all my mistakes could totally have been avoided if I had hired a great wedding planner. Definitely my #1 regret!

Thanks, Julie, for sharing those great tips! Be sure to also check out Elysium Productions' blog.

If you would like to be featured in our Five Quick Tips column, please contact me at info AT amynichols DOT com.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

In honor of Thanksgiving, what better topic to write about than thank you notes? While they may be something that most brides dread, they’re one of the most important ways a bride and groom can show their gratitude to their friends and family. And brides take note: just like you know the name of every person who did not buy you a wedding present, guests usually remember when they haven’t received a thank you note.

The Thank You Note Rules:
  1. Every gift merits a written thank you note (no matter if it is received at a shower, engagement party, wedding or wherever).
  2. Everyone should receive a thank you note. This includes parents, bridesmaids, good friends, family — no matter how “close” you are to these people, they deserve your gratitude and thanks just as much as the people you do not see as regularly.
  3. You do not have a year to write thank you notes!! This is an urban legend. Peggy Post of the Emily Post Institute says that a bride has three months MAXIMUM upon receipt of the gift (note - not the wedding date, but the date you receive the gift). Do it sooner though and you’ll be glad.
  4. You can (and should) send thank you notes for gifts received before the wedding. This is another urban legend that says you must wait until after the wedding to send thank you notes for wedding presents. Not true.
  5. When writing thank you notes BEFORE the wedding it is key that you use stationery with your maiden name or monogram, NOT your married name or your married monogram. Don’t bust out the Mr. and Mrs. Brad Pitt stationery until after the wedding.
  6. It is okay (and encouraged) for today’s modern couple to share in the thank you note writing duties. Grooms can and should write thank you notes. He should use his own stationery or blank notecards prior to the wedding. After the wedding, he can of course use the new Mr. and Mrs. Brad Pitt stationery.
  7. Get organized. Use Excel, index cards, or a notebook to log the following information: date the gift was received, gift, gift giver, and when the thank you note was mailed. Having a designated area with stamps, return address labels, stationery and a printed list of your wedding guests’ addresses will make this much easier.
  8. Email is not okay. The one exception, per Peggy Post, is to notify the recipient (especially those who you speak to regularly) when something large or substantial arrives in the mail. The giver may be wondering if you’ve received the gift, but doesn’t want to ask or put you on the spot. It is okay in this instance to dash a short email to the giver acknowledging that you received the gift, and be sure to mention that a formal note will follow. Even better - just write the thank you note that day and put it in the mail. No need to email.
  9. A friend of mine gave me at tip that I thought was brilliant. When she was engaged, she did not allow herself to open the next gift until she had written a thank you note for the previous one she opened. How easy is that? My brother told me that he and his wife would not deposit any checks or cash received until they had written the thank you notes to the gift giver. Another good idea.
  10. When writing, be personal, warm, and thankful. Even though the gift may not be what you always wanted, try to think of something nice to say about the gift, or how you look forward to using it. If you are planning to exchange the gift, you do not need to mention that in your note. But, be just as gracious when writing a thank you note for a gift you plan to return as you would be in writing a note for a gift you love.
For a great article about etiquette in general, check out this recent interview in the LA Times with Anna Post, Emily Post's great-great-granddaughter. Both she and her sister have joined the family business and are working for the Emily Post Institute. I'm proud to call Anna my friend and she's incredibly knowledgeable and interesting if you ever have the opportunity to see her speak. She's also authored four books, including these wedding titles:  Emily Post's Wedding Parties, Do I Have to Wear White?, Emily Post's Great Get Togethers: Casual Gatherings and Elegant Parties at Home.

This article was originally posted on my blog, Amy's Guide to All Things Bride in November of 2005. It has been updated for today. Wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Engage Pictures - Day 3

Engage11 has been announced, and I cannot wait for this wedding industry event, education and celebration with old and new friends in San Diego! I have been completely delinquent in posting my pictures from Engage -- and finally had a chance to find a few from Day 3 to share. Day 3 was the gala night -- and we were greeted with men in tuxedos and women in ballgowns on STILTS serving us champagne! Our dinner started with individual raw bars on ice sculptures and finished with the biggest ice cream sundae in a martini glass that I've ever seen. After dinner it was straight on to the dance party and I know I stayed up til the wee hours of the morning. Here are a few pictures to share from that fun evening!

Here I am with my pal Alison Hotchkiss of Alison Events

The awesome girls of Soiree Charleston and the Lettered Olive

My friend Ali Phillips of Engaging Events by Ali and Trisha Dean of Trisha Dean Events


Tait and Abby Larson of Style Me Pretty. Love them!

My Engage Roomies + Tara Guerard of Soiree

The adorable Beth Helmstetter

Beth Helmstetter and Laura Hooper of Laura Hooper Calligraphy

Laura Hooper of Laura Hooper Calligraphy
Safe travels to you and your family and I hope you have a happy and healthy holiday!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Cookie Swap Tips + Free Printables

Photo credit: Hersheys.com
Thanksgiving is almost here, which means Christmas is right around the corner! One of the blogs I read regularly is A Charmed Wife and its resident blogger Lily Fink Harrington also blogs for BonAppetit.com.

She recently wrote a great post about How to Throw a Cookie Swap Party. I attended a cookie swap party last year and made a Nichols' family favorite which is completely un-unique (and frankly, not Christmas-y at all), but my family loves them and any time I make them they go fast.

They're called Peanut Butter Blossoms aka peanut butter cookies topped with a Hershey's kiss (our recipe came from a Sunset Magazine cookie cookbook).
 
Want to make your holiday party just a little bit cuter? Take advantage of this free Cookie Swap Party download from LivingLocurto.com. Since it isn't holiday themed, so you can use it year round. Want something uber-festive? I love this holiday party printable from Anders Ruff (on sale for $10). I'm planning to use it for my little holiday cocktail party for the ladies.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Advent Calendar Alternative from Anders Ruff

Printable 
ADVENT CALENDAR TREAT CONES - Classic HolidayChristmas is 35 days away... One tradition that I know I loved as a kid was opening the advent calendar. Of course that was largely related to the fact that there was chocolate behind the little doors, but I remember running downstairs to the kitchen each morning to pop open the next day's window and see what was inside. Since I had a brother we had to trade off (one of us would get evens, the other would get odds). These advent calendar cones from Anders Ruff are such a cute an fun alternative -- and an easy way to decorate your tree if you don't have a ton of ornaments. Granted if you decide to go this route, you'll need to make sure you have your tree by December 1st! At only $5 in Anders Ruff's Etsy shop, they're probably one of the best buys you'll find this holiday season.  Now deciding what to put in them? That's up to you!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Engage11 - San Diego!

Engage11's location and dates have been announced I personally could not be MORE thrilled! After a few years in the Grand Cayman, the ladies from Engage are taking a look at the west coast and planning this wedding industry heavy-hitter in California!! The event will be hosted by the Grand Del Mar, and I know they'll knock our socks off. I attended my first Engage earlier this year in Palm Beach (and yes, I still need to post my Day 3 pictures!). For me it was an incredibly inspiring event, and now that it is in California it is an absolute no-brainer for me. I am thrilled that my local friends and fellow wedding planners Trisha Dean and Kate Miller are planning to go too. I know we'll have fun -- there's pretty much no doubt of that!

I hope to see you at the Grand Del Mar May 30 - June 2, 2011 in SAN DIEGO!!

Veggie "Dessert" Table!

Party styled & designed by Ester Kim, Photo by Serena Grace
I've always thought it would be fun to do a veggies or "healthy" snack table styled with the same details and cuteness as a dessert table. I knew that *someone* would be able to make vegetables incredibly tempting and delicious by using a few styling secrets, and sure enough, Amy Atlas had a reader (Ester of My Bride Style) who was up for the task, which was lovingly photographed by Serena Grace

What's not to love about veggies, with their bright colors and crisp freshness? Add some colorful dips, organic-inspired "florals" and fruit, and you have a stunning table that would tempt even the pickiest eater. How can you not want to sample from this beautiful spread?

Visit Amy's blog for more details and tons of stunning pictures!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Five Quick Tips from Minted.com's, Mariam Naficy

Photo credit:  Elisabeth Fall
I am beyond thrilled and honored to share this week's Five Quick Tips from Minted.com CEO and founder, Mariam Naficy.  This smart and savvy business woman was recently recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of 2010's Top 10 Most Powerful Women. What I love about Minted too is that it is a San Francisco-based company and it supports independent designers -- making their designs available to a much larger audience than they might normally reach. Be sure to also check out this recent interview with Mariam in the San Francisco Chronicle.

And now, let's hear what Mariam's 5 Quick Tips are for your wedding!

1. If you want to feel like you’ve had a chance to talk to everyone at the wedding, keep the guest count to 125 or under.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for creative solutions from your wedding vendors to achieve what you really want. I’ve noticed that some brides assume we can’t customize elements of Minted’s wedding invitations, when we actually can and are happy to do so. The bride who asks is the bride who receives!

3. Find the time for intimate moments with your groom and your family during the wedding day – perhaps a special private toast before hors d’oeuvres are served, for example.

4. I absolutely loved my own wedding, which we pulled off beautifully on a tight budget. The one thing I would have done differently, though, is paid for a videographer. I had thought prior to the wedding that wedding videos were a bit cheesy, but immediately after the wedding I wanted to watch a video of it!

5. If you are on a budget, pick one thing very meaningful that you will splurge on to be a focal point of the wedding. For us, it was our location, Ralston Hall in Belmont, California – a beautiful mansion with gorgeous gardens.

We also asked Mariam, what was your favorite thing about your wedding?
My husband Michael and I were married at Ralston Hall in Belmont, California. My favorite thing that happened was that the fire alarm went off in the middle of dinner. There was no fire at all, but fire trucks showed up and we were able to get great pictures on the truck, including me in my wedding gown. My mom, who is Chinese, thought the whole thing was good luck, as in Chinese tradition fire signifies warmth in a marriage.

Thanks, Mariam, for sharing your wonderful tips!

If you would like to be featured in our Five Quick Tips feature, please email us at info at amynichols dot com.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rules of Engagement

One of the questions I get asked often is, when attending an engagement party, am I required to bring a gift? And if so, what should I bring?

Chances are, if you’ve been invited to the engagement party, you are most likely expecting a mailbox full of shower invites, possibly a bachelorette weekend, and of course the wedding itself. So bring a present to the engagement party too? What’s a gal to do?

When researching the topic a few years ago, I remember reading that traditionally, engagement gifts were given to the bride only, and often personal in nature (such as a piece of jewelry or a handkerchief). These gifts were from close relatives and friends.

I’ve always had my opinion of what to bring or not to bring to an engagement party, but I thought I would consult a few of my “sources” to give you some other food for thought on the topic of engagement party gifts. For my first source, I chose to consult Emily Post’s Etiquette, copyright 1950 (yes, I still have an edition that is fifty-plus years old, courtesy of my grandparents). I’m fairly certain that the engagement parties of today (generally at someone’s home, in a restaurant, or even a bar) were not the norm back then. On the topic of engagement presents, Emily Post’s Etiquette says, “it is not unusual for a bride-to-be to receive a few engagement presents sent by her very intimate friends or by members of her fiance’s family as special messages to welcome her — and as such are very charming. But any general fashion that necessitates giving engagement as well as wedding presents is rightly tabu!”  Hmmm. Sounds rather different than 2010, no?

On to my next source, Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette, fifth edition, updated by Peggy Post. The advice here is the following: “In the past, engagement gifts were not obligatory or expected, and usually this is still the case. However, in many parts of the country, bringing a gift to an engagement party has become de rigeur… Ultimately, your decision whether to give an engagement gift depends on local custom, your relationship to the couple, and your budget… An engagement gift is really a good-hearted gesture of affection, and it need not be expensive or elaborate.”

My advice: if you feel inclined, and it is in your budget, go ahead and bring a small gift — but don’t feel that it is mandatory. You also don’t need to get something from the registry (the couple may not even be registered yet). What I often recommend (and do myself) is to bring the couple a nice bottle of champagne or wine. Another gift I sometimes give is two champagne flutes, and a thoughtful note. Of course, a beautifully written card is always a lovely gesture too.

This post was originally published on my first blog, Amy's Guide to All Things Bride in March 2006. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Royal News

Princess Diana & Prince Charles Tie the Knot (AP Photo)
It's official.... Prince William and Kate Middleton are engaged after months of speculation. This is going to be huge for the wedding industry as we witnessed the frenzy over Chelsea Clinton's wedding this summer. I still remember when Princess Di and Prince Charles got married -- I was five years old and I have memories of the official pictures. I remember a school friend's parents bringing in commemorative bookmarks with illustrations of Princess Diana and Prince Charles on them.

I can only imagine how crazy the royal wedding watch will become! What designer will Kate wear? Who will be the royal wedding planner? Where will the wedding take place? So many big decisions -- it will be fun to watch them unfold!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sage Wedding Pros - Great Post Yesterday on Asking for Help

If you work in the wedding industry and haven't visited Michelle Loretta and Kelly Simants' website SageWeddingPros -- you absolutely must -- no matter if you're brand-new or if your company has been in business for several years. The site is chock-full of fantastic tips on referrals, networking, establishing your business, how to price, how to create a business plan, how to manage your finances. Their advice has been incredibly helpful to me since I discovered their website last year.

I also had the pleasure of attending their live event, The Simple Plan where you meet and work with other wedding professionals to write and/or update you company's business plan, and also think about your five year goals. The Simple Plan is reasonably priced, and what's nice is the focus is solely on working ON your business and not on whatever else might be pulling away your attention for those two days -- and everyone attending has that same goal.

Their post yesterday on Asking for Help really was a great one that I wanted to share in the event you missed it. A few of these were good reminders for me -- and also it reinforces too that first and foremost is that there are people out there who can help you (both personally and professionally).  The wedding industry is full of wonderfully supportive and caring people -- don't be afraid to lean on them if/when you need help!

A few highlights from the post:

….. You are not alone.
….. No one is good at everything.
….. Identify your weaknesses and ask others for help.
….. Use your colleagues as a resource for information. This is something I personally do all the time, and I'm always amazed at how many planners write back complimenting me for not being afraid to ask or share information -- why wouldn't I be? Isn't that why were planners - we're resourceful and good at knowing who to ask to find that great or hard to find vendor!
….. Hire and contract people to build your business where you cannot.
….. Hire experts in key areas that support your business: legal, tax, accounting, finance, branding.
For more wedding business insights… read their sage declarations.

Also check out the recent interview we did with Michelle on her"5 Quick Wedding Tips" by clicking here.  (We're planning to have Kelly's up in the future too).

Yesterday's 5 Quick Tips from Marilyn Oliveira from InsideWeddings can be found here

Happy Friday - GO DUCKS!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Five Quick Tips from Inside Weddings Senior Editor, Marilyn Oliveira

Photo credit: Jay Lawrence Goldman
This week's five quick tips for your wedding planning come from Inside Weddings Senior Editor, Marilyn Oliveira! If you haven't checked out it - be sure to visit Inside Weddings' blog too!

1. Invest in an excellent photographer. The event will last for one day, but the pictures will last forever. Don't shortchange yourself (or your future grandchildren) by skimping on the all-important element of photography.

2. Use unique seating. Don't go to great lengths to personalize your event and then use the same Chiavari chairs as everyone else -- there is more seating at a ceremony and reception than any other decor element!

3. Take a look back before you exit the ceremony. You will again never see so many people you love in the same place at the same time all gazing at you with joy. When you and your new spouse reach the end of the aisle, look back and take a mental picture of that beautiful moment.

4. Accept that you needn't attend the cocktail hour. Keeping your guests happy and cared for while you take photographs is the main point of cocktails. You don't have to rush your photos to be there.

5. Consider the "big picture" decor elements as well as the details. If your flooring, ceilings, and/or walls are unattractive, all of the small personal touches in the world won't distract from it.

Thanks for sharing your tips, Marilyn!

If you would like to be featured in our Five Quick Tips feature, please email us at info at amynichols dot com.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Five Quick Tips from Camille Styles, founder of Camille Styles Events

Today's Five Quick Tips come from Camille Styles, Founder of Camille Styles Events! Based out of Austin, Camille Styles Events is an event planning and styling firm that designs private, nonprofit and corporate events.
Camille's Style Notes are updated daily and have all sorts of inspirational eye candy. One thing we have in common is our adoration of all things Layla Grace, but especially those gorgeous cake stands!

Here are Camille's Five Quick Tips:
Photo credit:  Cory Ryan Photography

1. Choose a wedding dress that FEELS as great as it looks! With all the hugging, toasting & dancing you'll be doing on the big day, a comfortable dress is key.

2. Don't be afraid to make decisions that buck tradition; a successful wedding is one that truly reflects a couple's personality, so do what makes you happy!

3. If budget is a major factor, consider limiting the guest count. That way, you can splurge on the little details that you've been dreaming about without breaking the bank.

4. HYDRATE!

5. Following the ceremony, plan a few minutes of alone time with your new husband before heading into the reception. There's nothing like that first moment when you can look at each other and say, "We're married!"

Camille shares her favorite thing about her own big day...

What was your favorite thing about your wedding?
I'm so glad that we decided to get married in the morning. We arrived at the ceremony fresh and ready-to-go, without having spent the whole day obsessing. Our reception was an elegant garden brunch, and by late afternoon we were on a flight to Italy!
 
Thanks for those great tips, Camille!
 
If you would like to be featured in our Five Quick Tips feature, please email us at info at amynichols dot com.

Holidays are Coming Plus Thanksgiving Cookies from A Dozen Eggs

turkey collectionAre you in the holiday spirit yet? It is hard to believe that Christmas is a little over six weeks away. I started thinking today about Christmas gifts -- thankfully I have a pretty short list: mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, niece, and soon-to-be born nephew who won't even be one-month old on 12/25!

This week I'm starting to really feel like the holidays are here -- I've ordered my holiday cards for both my business from Minted.com which I love and I picked up some cards to send to friends and family from Snow & Graham yesterday at the DeYoung Museum. I think one of the true indicators though was when a holiday song came up on my iPod shuffle yesterday and I didn't hit "next" -- does this mean I'm in the holiday spirit?! It was James Taylor's rendition of "Baby It's Cold Outside" which is one of my favorite holiday songs -- I especially love Zooey Deschanel's version of it that she sings in Elf, not knowing that Will Ferrell is listening.

I loved these Thanksgiving cookies when I saw them -- the bright colors and the fun turkey feathers would sure bring a few smiles to your Thanksgiving table. They're from a Dozen Eggs Bakeshoppe.  Their blog is a fun read and one that's in my Google Reader. I think I have a soft spot for them because they're based in Vermont, where I went to college, though I've never tried their cookies. But they are always posting fun projects and great dessert ideas on their blog - so check it out!

What are you doing to get ready for the holidays? 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How Do You Close Your Emails? - Great Article from NY Times

I loved this article from this morning's New York Times (thanks so much to Merci New York for posting the link on twitter!) Email sign-offs tend to be a loaded topic -- I personally have closed emails and letters for YEARS either Love or XOXO to friends, boyfriends, family alike. Though in recent years I've wondered if I shouldn't sign off "XOXO" to male friends or acquaintances lest they get the wrong idea.

For business emails, I don't have a signature sign-off -- I know many people in the wedding industry do - including one of my coaches who signs off with "Wedding Love and Hugs". In business I find that I usually default to "Thanks!" or sometimes "Kind regards", or even "Look forward to hearing from you soon".

I CRINGE anytime someone ends an email with "Take care" -- to me that sounds like something you say to someone you'll never see again. I love that one of people who commented on the article suggested signing off with "Carpe Vino".

How do you close your emails?

xoxo
Amy

Friday, November 5, 2010

Five Quick Tips from Floral Designer, Natalie Bowen + Our 100th Post!

Photo credit: Adi Nevo
What a treat to have the incredible floral designer, Natalie Bowen, owner of Natalie Bowen Designs, giving us her Five Quick Tips this week! In addition, this is our 100th post in 2010 - wow!

Natalie's passion started very early, as her grandmother was also a florist.  She grew up around flowers and has literally been surrounded by them her entire life. Along the way, she developed an amazing talent for designing them in a modern and creative way!

In addition to her website, you can also see more of her work by visiting her blog.

Here are Natalie's Five Quick Tips:

1.  Hire a planner. It will help the entire process be smoother for you and all your vendors. Even if you think your wedding is "too small," or you "can do it yourself," it really helps to have another person there to bounce ideas off of and to take over when it is time for you to just enjoy the big day. It also helps vendors to have a point person to talk to, so they are not bothering the bride the night before her wedding and on the wedding day itself!

2.  Gather images that inspire you -- this is especially important for me as a florist.  Seeing what someone wants to communicate visually is what helps me "see" their overall vision. Many people are worried that because they don't know the names of flowers they won't be able to describe what they want. This isn't a concern with images.

3.  Know where you are flexible. Know your "must-haves" and must "have-nots." In terms of flowers, let you florist know the flowers you really want and really don't want. Let them be creative and let the season inspire them in between. You will have a much better product if there is some wiggle room to choose what is most beautiful and available on the day of your wedding.

4.  Don't try and do it all! Choose the projects that are most important to you and that you will enjoy most and don't worry about the other things. The process of the wedding planning lasts much longer than the wedding itself, so be sure you enjoy it. Remember, you may always delegate, too!

5.  Trust yourself. You will get a lot of input, so be sure that you design and plan, the wedding that you want to have. In the end, it really is about you on this day!

Natalie shares a few thoughts about her upcoming wedding....

1. I am not married yet, but I am engaged and planning a wedding for next June. The process has been a great experience and I have learned a lot about what my clients are experiencing when I do their flowers. Because I know the business, I wanted to hire the vendors I knew I wanted right away. Hiring a wedding planner (Amy!) was one of the best decisions I made and I cannot believe the amount of information she has passed on to me. I also knew the photographer I wanted long before my fiancé popped the question, so I booked him immediately!

2. The part of the planning process I have enjoyed the most has also been the most challenging. My fiancé is an architect and an incredible designer, so we are both 100% all about the design and look of the wedding. His taste tends to be on the more modern side and mine on the more feminine vintage side, so finding a happy medium has taken some thought and time. While this has proved to be difficult at times, it has been a great learning process for us and a great lesson in the compromises of marriage!

3. My fiancé made me an "engagement" floral arrangement on the night he proposed. He said he couldn't ask me to marry him without flowers. This was one of the most memorable and special parts of that very special day. When my wedding planning gets out of perspective, I just remember the way I felt when I realized what those flowers represented: a caring, thoughtful, creative future husband!

Thanks for sharing your tips, Natalie! Here are a few links to some weddings we've worked on together. I adore working with Natalie and think she is so very talented! 1) Cornerstone Sonoma, 2) Copia, and 3) University Club. Enjoy!

If you would like to be featured in our Five Quick Tips feature, please email us at info at amynichols dot com.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wedding Crossing Sign from Bellochio

I love this cheeky "wedding crossing" sign for sale at one of the most amazing shops in San Francisco, Bell'ochio. Just walking into the store is like a gift in and of itself.

The signs are made to order and exclusive to Bell’occhio.  The directional arrow can be pointed in any direction, and couple can be customized to be two brides or two grooms. The size is a generous 24” x 24” - making it actually a functional piece of decor that you can use for your wedding.

For a fun interview with Bell'ochio owner Claudia Schwartz, check out Alexis Swanson Traina's interview with Claudia on Alexis's blog here.

If you haven't visited the shop, Bell'ochio is absolutely worth the visit - especially if you love ribbons, unusual gifts for the ladies in your life. The last time I visited I picked up a special pair of earrings - but also keep your eyes peeled for gift tags or paper goods that might suit your fancy too. It's a guarantee you won't leave empty handed!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You've Been Served

Couples often face the dilemma of what to serve at their wedding. Beer and wine only? Full bar? Specialty drinks? Here is some advice to guide you through the process.

1. Check with your venue first. If you’re getting married at a winery, chances are the venue has already made the decision for you — you’re usually limited to wine and beer, and the wine you serve must be theirs. The one exception is that if they don't have a bubbly varietal, they’ll usually allow you to bring in sparkling wine or champagne.

2. Hosting a morning or afternoon wedding? Consider just serving Bloody Marys and Mimosas, which will keep your bar tab down.

3. Most importantly, know your audience, or in this case, your guests. If your crowd is mainly a wine-drinking bunch, then you can skip hard alcohol. However if your parents or your fiancé’s parents are gin or vodka drinkers, then you know that you’ll have to add a full bar to the mix — at least for the cocktail hour. At a recent wedding I attended, I was very surprised to see several guests drinking beer out of cans. But, I think the bride and groom knew their friends and knew what they liked to drink, so they made sure the resort had their favorite beer on-hand.

4. Don’t forget to add regional specialties to your drink menu — even if you’ve moved away from the South, it might be fun to serve Mint Juleps at your wedding or pass Manhattans if you’re an ex-New Yorker who misses her roots. These can be fun additions to make your wedding unique.

5. Ask your venue for their package drink prices (generally priced by the guest for a certain number of hours). These can sometimes be good deals especially if you have a big drinking crowd. It also allows for fewer surprises at the end of the night than if you’re being billed on consumption.

6. Find out from your venue if you can bring in your own alcohol (also a money-saver). You may also be able to return unopened bottles of booze to the store where you purchase your wedding beverages — ask before you purchase about their return policy.

7. On the Big Day, be sure to ask your caterer or the venue not to pre-open bottles of wine and specify no over-pouring or serving guests without asking them first. Lastly, ask that the waiters not bus full glasses of wine when guests are getting jiggy on the dance floor. Each of these measures will ensure that your crowd consumes less wine in the long run.

Cheers to your wedding day!

This post was originally posted on my first wedding blog, Amy's Guide to All Things Bride in August of 2006.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Calligraphy by Jennifer: Vendor of the Week!

I'm thrilled to say that I'm currently being featured on Calligraphy by Jennifer's blog this week as her Vendor of the Week!

Take a look at Jen's blog to read my interview and see some pictures from recent events. For more information about Jen and her calligraphy services, visit her website here.

Thank you, Jen for this fun opportunity.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS!!! I'm proud to be a San Franciscan!

Monday, November 1, 2010

An Engagement, by Mr. Haack

I found this photo session of a man proposing to his girlfriend in a roundabout way (I had asked Jesi Haack for a photo for her upcoming "5 Quick Tips Interview") and she included a photo credit to the photographer, who happens to be her husband, Ryan Haack. In checking out his blog, I found this post which just warmed my heart. I don't know the exact story, but my assumption is that the soon-to-be groom asked Mr. Haack to document the proposal. Unbeknownst to the future bride, the entire morning (coffee, a walk on the beach, the proposal, and then post-proposal picnic) was beautifully shot by Ryan.

As a wedding planner, people always say to me, "Oh you must have your entire wedding planned out", but the truth is - I don't. Sure, I know some things - like I love the color blue, and I love blue flowers, but beyond that, I really don't have any idea what I'd do for my own wedding. I've always felt that whatever my wedding day looks like or is, it needs to reflect my future husband and our life together just as much as whatever ideas I have spinning in my head.

Having a seen a few photographers (secretly) document an engagement though, that is something I truly would love -- just seeing the excitement, love, hope and joy would be something I know that I would treasure for ever.