Do Your Guests a Favor....DON'T Give Favors

Photo courtesy of:  Studio Orange Photography

Photo courtesy of: Studio Orange Photography

Wedding favors are typically a gift to your guests to thank them for attending your event. They can be as simple or as elaborate as you want depending on your budget. However, they are also not at all a necessary expense. If you are looking to cut costs, this is definitely a place you can scratch off right away without guilt. 

In my opinion, being invited as a guest means you are already treating them to your event. 

You know, that event you planned so diligently, stressed out about, devoted the last year of your life to, and not to mention...paid for. 

While most couple's think that the purpose of the reception is to celebrate the couple's love, and is to be a day all about them...they're wrong. Of course marriage is a cause for celebration, however the reception is your time to be gracious hosts, and treat friends, family, and loved ones to edible delights and festivities, thanking them for their love and support in your relationship.    

Ok, ok. So you're telling me "But Shelly! My budget allows for it, and darn it, I want to give favors!" To which my response would be to then absolutely go for it....but do it right. This is a wedding, not a birthday party. If you decide to give your guests wedding favors, keep it classy and follow these tips.


  • Fit the theme: match the wedding and/or your personalities. 

  • Pay Attention To Detail: Treat the favors with the same consideration, and follow through as the rest of your event. 

  • Hand crafted items: Home made Jams, carmel apples, or Brews are a tasty heartfelt treat

  • Be Useful/Economical: Flower Plant seeds are useful, and echoes the feel of rustic themed weddings. OR consider ice scrappers or gloves for a winter wedding!  

  • Be Passionate: If you both share a love for wines or coffee, providing little take home sample packs is a great way of sharing that passion with your guests

  • Be Thoughtful: Instead of physical favors, consider placing cards on each setting that state "In Leui of favors, we've issued a donation to ________ in your honor".  

  • Draw Attention: Make sure your guests know what they are supposed to leave with at the end of the night. Attach a note, make an announcement, do whatever you have to in order to assure you do not leave with 100+ jars of jam. 


  • Candy: More than likely your event has provided a full course dinner followed by cake and alcohol. You have given them plenty to eat, snack on, and drink. There has not been a SINGLE time where a couple who has done a candy bar, have not left with pounds and pounds of uneaten candy. (Not to mention the mess it leaves in the venue carpets that result in cleaning fees.) 

  • Be Outdated: You've placed the wedding date on your invites, your guest book, your directional signs, customized bar napkins, and just about everywhere else you can think of. Thing is, the date is only the most important to you. Printing or etching it on the favors is like putting an expiration date on it. For example, as a guest, would you get more use out of a favor that was sentimental on its own? or one that was covered in "Charles and Cindy 4 Ever! 01-02-03". And just think...what would you do with the leftover favors after the wedding? It is much easier to reuse or gift leftover favors if they are not dated.

  • Be Tacky: Unless your theme is Backyard BBQ or Sporty Tailgate, then Koozies have no place at a wedding. If the items you're looking at are little better than customized Dollar Tree finds, it's probably better to go without. Also, nothing that needs to be "scattered" on the table (hershey kisses, mints, bells, etc.)--remember, stuff scattered on the table will wind up as stuff scattered on the floor. 

  • Overpurchase: Unless you are placing one at each place setting, then I suggest you don't buy more than 1/3 of what you think you need. Trust me...There is ALWAYS leftovers, and a lot of them. 

Again, I remind you that favors, while a nice gesture, are not at all necessary and most guests don't miss them. If you doubt me, I'd like you to recall if you remember what the favors were at the wedding's you've attended. Did they end up melting in your car? getting thrown away? Are they sitting in a cupboard or drawer somewhere unused?

For the ones you CAN remember, and that you DO enjoy, what is it about them that you like? I encourage your stories and comments of your best and worst wedding favors below. Happy Planning!

Photo courtesy of: Liliedahl Imaging

Photo courtesy of: Liliedahl Imaging

Food For Thought

Photo Courtesy of Studio Orange Photography

Photo Courtesy of Studio Orange Photography

The number one thing that guests criticize at an event is often the food that is served. You work so hard on your event’s overall feel and look from the decorations, bridesmaids dresses, invitations, to the cake design. The food should not fall by the waist side. Don’t leave a bad taste in your guest’s mouth by choosing a caterer with a bland or uninspiring menu selection. There are so many unique twists and presentation ideas for food available and often still way within budget! Here are a list of things you should consider when choosing the meals that are best for your wedding or event.

1.       Theme:

Make sure your food selections match the theme you are trying to achieve. For example, a BBQ menu would NOT be an appropriate for a formal black tie affair (Regardless of your love for those glorious saucy ribs). But it would be PERFECT for that barn or outdoor wedding with the laid back wholesome family feel!

Culture might also be a factor to your theme. You might be having a theme inspired by Asian design, so having a uniquely Asian inspired menu would emphasis the atmosphere you are striving to create. Or perhaps your theme is your love for travel? If so, why not include various stations with gourmet flavors from all over the world!?

2.       Timeline:

What time is the meal taking place? If you are serving food around dinner time, then make sure your menu is that which will be a complete meal. Appetizer or Hordourve menu would not be adequate sustenance for a hungry crowd lacking a filling meal. However, if your event is taking place after the normal dinner hour and a cocktail themed reception is what you crave, then heavy and stylishly assembled hordourves are the ticket!

What if you want to provide something for your guests late into the evening when dancing and drinking has struck their appetite? Why not host a late night food station? Usually brought out around 10pm and can consist of untraditional wedding delights such as a taco, nacho, or pizza bar.

3.       Presentation:

Dazzle your guests with your food display. Arrange your food station at different heights using risers (often times just boxes underneath the linen). This provide dimension to your display. Are you having a buffet? Include a carving station! Guests will drool over their meat being sliced in front of them. Plated dinners offer the guests the luxury of being hand served rather than waiting in a line. It improves your guest’s overall experience. OR you can try the newer twist on your food service by making it family style! In this option, platters of each menu item are placed directly on the guest’s table like a feast. Guests choose their own helpings, passing the dishes around like they would to family. All the joys of buffet options (choosing what goes on their plate and how much), without getting up from the table, while creating a sense of family togetherness.


4.       Seasonality

When making menu selections, you should also consider the seasonality of certain options. This will ensure you are serving your guests the best quality produce. Fresh or not, food always tastes better when it’s in its peak season. For example, if you want to serve a veggie option for your fall wedding; instead of choosing green beans or broccoli, serve squash, sweet potatoes or corn! This will likely also keep your cost lower. Also, by choosing comfort foods for fall and winter, and lighter or grilled options for spring and summer, you ensure that your overall meal will reflect the season.


If you love the food a caterer creates, then book them and remember that just because they have list of menu items posted, doesn’t mean they can’t make other things. Listen to your caterers suggestions and let them build the menu that’s right for you! There are so many unique options available to you and your guests. From flavorful bite sized versions of classics, breakfast for dinner, or dessert bars stuffed with every sweet treat your heart desires, there is sure to be something that will tantalize your taste buds! Happy Planning!

The Tipping Dilemma

I keep seeing questions from brides about whether or not to tip their vendors.

There is a lot of confusion about this topic. Popular wedding blogs and magazines will tell you which vendors deserve tips and how much. This information creates pressure for brides to allocate some of their budget for tips. And it also encourages some vendors to feel entitled to a tip.

This “advice” rubs me the wrong way, and here is why: A tip is, by definition, a gift or reward for services rendered. It is something given without expectation or obligation.

As a wedding coordinator, I deal with this issue all the time. But it’s even come up in personal experiences, too.

I was a bridesmaid at a wedding and happened to also be the e-mail contact given on the contract. Following the wedding, I received an e-mail from the limo driver. He was upset that he had not received his tip. To be fair, he was a wonderful driver, and the bride and groom intended to tip him, but during the hustle and bustle of the wedding day they forgot. Instead of letting it go or even waiting for a “thank you” card to arrive in the mail with an attached tip, he felt entitled to message me to complain about it.

This struck me as very off-putting and unprofessional. No one had mentioned to him that he was to be tipped, so it was awkward that he was now expecting one. All of the sudden it was no longer a gift of gratitude, but an expected addition to his fee.

In addition to the blogs and magazines telling brides how much to tip, they will also dictate which vendors simply don’t deserve a gratuity at all. They propose that any business owner or sole proprietor should not be tipped. What is a bride supposed to do? Interview all vendors to determine the size of the business and number of employees? This logic simply makes no sense. For example, if you order a drink at a bar, would you base your decision on whether or not to tip on the fact that the owner happens to serve you instead of someone else?

Yet this is the logic applied to tipping wedding vendors. A photographer might be with you the entire day and deliver exemplary service. But the blogs and magazines will tell you that if this photographer owns their business, they don’t deserve a tip. Yet the limo driver who is hired for only a couple of hours absolutely should be tipped. At this point, can it even be considered a “tip” anymore?

I would like brides and grooms to look at this topic of “tipping” as it should be intended. If you’re wondering WHO to tip, ask yourself these questions:

·         Did they help to make my day a better experience?

·         Do I feel they’ve earned a tip?

·         Would I like to show my appreciation?

When it comes to HOW MUCH to tip, keep in mind that the point of a tip isn’t just about handing out extra cash to vendors. It’s a show of gratitude and brides shouldn’t be expected to allocate an even larger budget just to accommodate services they haven’t even received yet.

It’s really that simple.

If you feel that vendors deserve something extra, it’s up to you to decide what best shows your gratitude. Maybe that is a little extra money. But even a gift can be appreciated. A photographer I know told me that a groom looked at his Facebook page and discovered his love of cigars. At the reception, the groom handed the photographer a bundle of cigars and he said it was one of the coolest things a client has ever done for him.

And to all of my fellow vendors, let’s stay humble. We do this because we love it. At the end of the night, the only reason our hands should be out is for a handshake of congratulations. Anything more should be received with pure gratitude.

A Photographer Costs WHAT!?

Photo Courtesy of  Studio Orange Photography

Photo Courtesy of Studio Orange Photography

Being a new bride is fun and exciting until it comes to finding out what it costs to have the wedding of your dreams. As a coordinator I work with couples in all different budget ranges. From $5,000 to $50,000. But if I’m asked what I personally believe the majority of the budget should go to, its always the photographer. (That’s right, I said it, a photographer over myself).

I feel it should go without saying that the value you are actually getting from those photos is priceless. Your day will come and go and most will be a faded memory unless you have the images that will keep the memory as clear as your day was. Those pictures will last you forever. They will be your treasures.

With that being said, NO I don’t believe photographers should use this sentimentality to gouge their clients of money. I believe that they should be “reasonably” priced for their field, talent, and the time that goes into capturing and editing those images. Now here is my biggest pet peeve. When searching for a photographer, while using the words “Reasonably priced” please understand what that means.

A “Reasonably Priced” photographer for the midwest will run you anywhere from $2,500-$5,000. It is okay if this just is not in the cards for your financial situation, but please PLEASE do not attack them for not being in your budget, and respect them as professionals. Every now and again I’m lucky enough to find “diamond in the rough” professionals that are at the cusp of their careers to help out my tighter budget clients. But the pictures produced involve SO much more than just a click of a button.

It is very easy to think “I’m only paying them for one day! That’s like paying them $350/hr!” But that’s far from true. In that day, your photographer will take around 1,000-2,000 photos. They are constantly in motion, and rarely stop even to scarf down an energy bar. Then afterwards, painstakingly go through each photo to give you the best 800. Of those 800, they will personally touchup or edit 500 of them. So by this point they have put in 10 hours for the day of, plus approximately 60+ hours going through each of your photos with care.

Hiring an inexperienced photographer (like a family friend or student) means that you will likely not get the same results as an experienced photographer. Even if said friend has a fancy camera. Its SO important that your photographer has shot weddings previously or they will miss important moments. Experienced photographers typically start off as second shooters for the professionals before ever starting their own business. They have seen many weddings and have come to learn the best opportunities, angles, lighting, and places to be during key points of the day. They know the timeline well and are always prepared to catch every shot.

So is it worth it? YES! How do you make sure you get the best photographer for the job? The most bang for your buck? Part of it will be asking the right questions. The other part (and most important) is examining their portfolio.

Questions: How long have they been doing photography? Are weddings their primary focus? Do they have backup equipment? Will there be a second shooter?

Things to Observe: Does their portfolio show a wedding beginning to end and tell a story through the images? Are the images clear and crisp or out of focus? Do you like the color? (some photographers work with more bold color and dramatic lighting, while others will have softer looks with lighter colors. This is just personal preference). Are the pictures visually interesting to look at or bland and plain?

photo by:  Liliedahl Imaging
photo by:  Studio Orange

photo by: Studio Orange

Do Your Research: Ask your other vendors and past brides if they know of the photographer or worked with them before. Get their opinions on how the felt they did, or how quickly they were to respond.

Basically it boils down to this: Once you have decided on a cost range you can for a photographer, look at the photographers within that range. Make your final decision based on the images you LOVE, not on which of them is offering the best deal or costs less. Because nothing is worse than a bride who tells me they loved "Photographer A" but hired "Photographer B". They usually say the photos were alright, and they like them. But they don't LOVE them. They realize too late that settling to save a few dollars on something as important as the physical images of the best moment of their life, seems foolish.

 If you are ever in doubt when choosing a photographer that is right for you and within your budget, you can always contact me for my professional opinion. When it comes to finding the right fit for brides and vendors, I take my passion very seriously. Contact me for a list of photographers that I feel provide outstanding performance and will fit your style.


What To Expect at a Same Sex Wedding

As same sex couples are now legally allowed to wed, many straight people are wondering what these weddings will look like, what it will mean for the wedding industry as a whole, and what the proper ettiquette is when attending a same sex wedding. I've compiled a list of questions that people have presented me with and have answered them in the best way I can. 

Q: Who will walk down the aisle? will both (man/man or woman/woman) walk together? And if not, who will be accompaning them if not their father?

A: First off, it is very important to remember that a same sex wedding is not going to be much different than a straight one. In both gay and straight weddings, the couple customizes their wedding to their preferences. They can choose to walk down together, seperately, with both sets of parents, or with one parent.  Whatever is most meaningful to them. 

Q: Will we see less destination weddings? 

A: Often, gay couples aloped because they want to be married and it wasn't legal where they lived.  But I do not feel the recent legalization will affect the number of destination weddings at all. Destination weddings are beautiful and in some cases cheaper than a large wedding at home. For these reasons, more couples are choosing destination weddings than years past. Destination weddings should still be going strong. However, you will certainly be seeing more same sex weddings happening in general, a lot of which will be held in the states because of the legalization. 

Q: Do you think weddings will be more or less traditional?

A: Many couples say they want a "traditional" wedding. But the definition of a traditional wedding has changed many times over the decades. Normally what they mean when they say this, is that they'd like to use the basic "wedding template" that guests are used to seeing, but want to incorporate their own unique and new ideas to it. This wedding template for a ceremony usually consists of Father walking daughter down the aisle, a unity ceremony, vows, pronouncement, and recessional. But then different personalized elements come into play. (The father may not be living and so the bride walks with her mother, instead of lighting of the unity candles they couple chooses to do a sand ceremony, instead of recited vows, they read their own. etc.) So while it can still be consdiered a "Traditional style wedding" it is also very "untraditional". Our society is constantly changing tradition to make new tradition. I feel this will be no different for same sex weddings. They can keep some elements and incorporate their own. They can shape the future of tradition. 

Q:  What first Dances will occur?

A: Same sex couples may choose to dance together or not at all. In regards to Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dances, They can choose to still have them at the same time, or individually, or not at all. Same as straight couples. 

Q: Who takes who's last name? Or do they stay the same?

A: Same sex couples will have the same options as straight couples regarding name change. They can choose to take one or the other's last name, or hyphinate. 

Q: Will they have traditional wedding parties? Like Bridesmaids and Groomsmen?

A: They will chooseweding parties the same way anyone else does. Likely wedding parties will be composed of close family and friends. A difference you may see however, is more of a mixing of the parties at the alter, rather than the seperation of girls and guys. 

Q: Who Pays for the wedding if traditionally the bride's parents would? 

A: Weddings now a days are WAY more expensive than they were in the past. The idea that the bride's parents are solely responsible for the cost of the wedding is no longer a reasonable expectation. In this day of age, a straight couple should be able to rely on the support of BOTH families to share the cost of a wedding, or often the couple foots the bill if the families are not contributing financially. Same sex weddings will be no different. 

Q: If there is a wedding shower, or bachlorette/bachleor party, is it joint? 

A: They absolutely could be! Many straight couples do the same thing. Parties shared with couples are often the most fun!

Q: What are your thoughts when people use the argument that marriage is for one man-one woman

A:  I do not seek to change the way people are or what they believe. That is what makes them, them. My opinion is my own, but since I was asked; I strongly believe that marriage is so much more than a wedding. It is a commitment to another person. To love them, honor them, respect them,  and be loyal to them for the rest of time. If a man gives their heart and life to a woman with the same sincerity, honesty, and love as a man does to another man or a woman to another woman, then the foundation is the same. They will face the same struggles, fears, achievements, joys, and tears as any marriage. They will grow together, and apart, and back together the same as any individual will. I feel it is unfair to deny anyone of that experience or assume I know more of someone's emotions and feelings than they do.

Q: What do you suggest if a couple has a religious background

A: Many same sex couples are indeed religious. Likewise, there are many churches out there that are open to them. One of my favorite places to find support for same sex couples is Inclusive Life Center in Omaha. They have a wonderful chaplian, Daniel Bush, there. There are also many non-denominational officiants who can create a wedding ceremony that fits the religious needs of all people. I have a liscense to perform such ceremonies by Universal Life Church Monastary. Susie Joyce with Beyond Illusion is a wonderful officiant as well. There are many couples who's religious beliefs differ than that of their spouses. For example, A Hindu bride joining together with a Jewish groom. Or a Catholic bride joining to an athiest groom. When the respect is there for the other person and their beliefs, That they will love and honor them despite their differences, that can make a strong relationship even stronger. The goal is to find someone who is the right fit for you and your future. 

Q: I've been invited to attend a gay wedding. What is the proper ettiquette? 

A: As a guest at a gay wedding, you will behave no differently than you would at a straight wedding. You have been asked to attend because you are a dear friend or family member of the couple and they want you to be included in their celebration. Have Fun!

Q: How can you make sure the wedding vendors support gay marriage?

A: LGBTQ friendly businesses will usually have some sort of signage or indications on their business, website, or social media pages that they support all couples. They may look like any of the symbols below.

If you're looking for wedding bands, the best place to purchase your bands from is Equalli. Not only do they provide gorgeous pieces and exceptional quality of fine jewelry for every budget, their belief in 'equality for all' is the foundation of their business.

Another way to know if a business is LGBTQ supportive is to contact a wedding coordinator and they will be able to give recommendations for wonderful vendors that will work with their style and budget. If all else fails, you can always simply ask the vendor you are interviewing.  


So while its anticipated that wedding vendors should be seeing a spike in weddings and therefore business, the overall feel of the wedding is not expected to change much from a straight wedding versus a gay one. Whether you are planning a gay wedding or a straight wedding; HAPPY PLANNING!