Last week, I blogged a fabulous wedding coordinated by our amazing Associate Planner, Jessica. Well, what was I doing while she was managing an oceanfront ceremony in Santa Barbara? I was frolicking through vineyards in Paso Robles...well, maybe not "frolicking"...I think it was about 110 that day, but you get the idea.

Yes, it gets that hot in Paso, but you would NEVER know it by these beautiful shots from Anna Delores Photography of Lauren and Seth looking as cool as cucumbers. Lauren even told me she was just too excited and too happy to be hot. What a fabulous attitude, amiright?!?!?! 

Before heading to Pear Valley Vineyards for the wedding, Lauren and Seth both got ready at Hotel Cheval in downtown Paso Robles. That place is such a dream... if anyone is looking for a quaint and sophisticated getaway (or want to gift their wedding planner...), I highly suggest it! The light is fabulous for pretty detail shots and portraits in the courtyard, even on a balmy June day. 

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And Seth's masculine details were so on point. Whiskey, even early in the day, is always a good idea in my book!

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About the chickens...

Lauren & Seth love chickens. They have a coop in their backyard and make a hobby of spending time together collecting eggs and tending to their pets. Seth even proposed in the coop! So in our first meeting, they told me that chickens needed to be a running theme... but with a classic and feminine blush & gold color palette and overall sophisticated vibe. I loved this design challenge and think we did their chickens proud!

One of my favorite details was an escort card display I came up with to use wooden eggs to give guests their table number. Lauren painted each wooden egg, then hand-embossed the eggs according to her seating chart. Eggs were displayed on ceramic egg crates and rose gold baskets with a laser cut sign above that read "Find Your Coop." 

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Why did the chicken cross the road?

To get to the Party in Paso! Custom wine glasses, complete with kissing chickens, greeted guests for cocktail hour inside the winery's tasting room. 


Design & Planning: Vanessa Noel Events

Photography: Anna Delores Photography

Floral Design: Flowers by Kim

Catering: Trumpet Vine Catering

Venue: Pear Valley Vineyards

Getting Ready Location: Hotel Cheval

Hair & Makeup: TEAM Hair & Makeup

DJ & Photo Booth: Kramer Events


Today's a special day! It's our very own Jessica's birthday and in honor of the day this awesome gal was born, I'm blogging one of her most amazing weddings from last year (again with this running theme of being far behind). Dos Pueblos Ranch is such a stunning venue, but is not for the faint of heart (planner), my friends. This is the kind of magical blank canvas that I love so much. The kind of venue that allows you to dream up a space and then build it. Design dream... logistically, a little different :) 

But that's why Jessica is so incredible and why I've chosen her as an associate planner! Ceremony on a cliff, multiple buses for guest transportation, kitchen build out, generator, bathrooms, golf carts... not. a. problem. Jessica had this one on lock as she always does. And look how beautiful and effortless it all was?! 

All Vanessa Noel Events weddings are important, but this one was extra special to me. A lifetime ago, I met Alex (the stunning bride) on a ferry in Costa Rica. She was on an epic trip with her bestie and so was I. We bonded over gallo pinto, rainbow sandals, hitchhiking from a waterfall to a village, and playing cards on a teakwood balcony in the middle of a tropical rainforest. We kept in touch via Facebook (see, it is good for something) and I was so incredibly honored when she and Sandy entrusted VNE to bring their vision to life and create their perfect day. 

This first look is a favorite of mine. Just look at Sandy's response to seeing his beautiful Alex!

Don't these cheerful and citrus-inspired bouquets by our fave Stella Bloom Designs just make you happy??

sweetest ceremony moment

Alex and Sandy had friends perform during their ceremony and Josh captured this shot as they listened. 

Alex & Sandy are the quintessential California couple, the kind that's effortlessly stylish, intelligent but not pretentious, lovingly meaningful yet knows how to party and their big day was a genuine reflection of that! After the sweetest and most personal ceremony, guests were invited to a picnic style, ocean front cocktail hour filled with latin flavor and flowing margaritas (yes, please!) 


We know our team has nothing to do with chic guests, but how adorable is this duo?! Bonus points for matching the color palette.

And after the most "California cool" cocktail hour, guests made their way through the magical scenery to Dos Pueblos Ranch's iconic barn for even more celebration!


Keep it spicy

Homemade hot sauce made for adorable and oh-so-appropriate favors for the day.

A cigar and whiskey bar kept guests celebrating through the evening. Sandy's last name McKinnon was even honored with a barrel of whiskey by the same name!

Design & Planning: Vanessa Noel Events; Coordinator Jessica

Photography: Josh Elliott Photography

Venue: Dos Pueblos Ranch

Floral Design: Stella Bloom Designs

Catering: Haute Catering

Live Music: Luxury Entertainment Group

Hair and Makeup: Blushing Beauty

Bridal Gown: Sarah Seven 




Did everyone have an awesome 4th of July? I did and I'm still suffering from PPD as a result (that's a cool-kid acronym for "post-party depression" and my friends, I am the QUEEN of that struggle). We had an incredible double-header weekend of weddings here at TeamVNE (just you WAIT to see those photos) and then I did a lot of cocktail-ing and pool-ing with family and friends. Perrrrrrfection. 

Anyway, back to the pretty pictures already! Andria and Kevin recently celebrated their one year anniversary (hopefully by now you guys know I'm terrible at blogging these gorgeous weddings.) but I LOVED their wedding so so much. I loved it for a lot of reasons, the most notable being that Andria is one of my best friends and I got to see her marry a man who is so undoubtedly perfect for her and so unabashedly in love with her that it's like watching a Nicholas Sparks movie, but waaayyyyyy more hipster. Seriously, just look at this girl's instagram. Also, this.  

But I digress... these two favorites of mine got hitched on Kevin's family's property up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Andria and Kevin are both bay-area natives and mother-earth lovers so there couldn't have been a more perfect location or vibe than a rainy (again with that May rain in CA!) mountain-dwelling, handmade, BBQ-filled celebration. The best part? As an aerospace engineer, Andria is incredibly inspired by all things celestial (I have crazy smart friends, btw). She and Kevin picked May 21 because it was a "seasonal blue moon" (Ya, I had to look that up too). Of course, for the genius/artist that she is, she was inspired by the blue moon for the color palette and overall spirit of the wedding day. I mean, we're talking eloquent personal vows, a hand-tying ceremony, sage smudging ritual, and a butterfly release--and that was just at the Ceremony!! 

Andria has also always loved a deep oxblood color and wanted to combine that with the grey/blue tone of the moon. Ironically, I suppose this is a perfect example of how to combine blue and red in a completely NON July 4th kind of way.  I'll just let the pretty speak for itself... If you'd like to read/see more, head over to Green Wedding Shoes where the wedding was featured!

Photography: Anna Delores Photography

Venue: Hagedorn Mountain, Private Estate

Floral Design & Coordination: Vanessa Noel Events

Stationery & Signage: Fauna Astralis (the bride)

Dress: Watters via BHLDN


I really love my job, but sometimes, I get clients who make me love it exponentially more. Like wake up in the middle of the night bursting with ideas and excitement kind of love for my job. They're those clients with a clear sense of style, but the utmost trust in me; those with so much love for each other it feels like a sappy Nicholas Sparks book when you're around them; those with such incredible senses of humor that they make you forget you're working when you have meetings. Those are the clients whose weddings I'm so excited for and yet want to postpone because I don't want the planning to be over. 

This was Melissa & Will. I can't believe their GORGEOUS Hammersky Vineyards wedding was a year ago (and that they now have a baby on the way!!). We're celebrating their one year anniversary today with a blog post with this sweet couple and their fabulous style. Settle in for a serious dose of pretty captured by Joielala!

One of my favorite design details was the way we mixed tables sizes, shapes, and linens. We combined sequins, floral print, and kraft paper details for the perfect balance of casual, glam, and femininity. The ceremony space was flipped as guests mingled to live blue grass music at cocktail hour. We created a dining area where the ceremony had been and repurposed the ceremony arch as a backdrop for the sweetheart table. Vintage glassware, gold flatware, and a hand-tied velvet ribbon on each napkin added additional layers to each place setting. 

Design & Planning: Vanessa Noel Events

Venue: Hammersky Vineyards

Photography: Joielala/Taryn Kent

Floral Design: Sprigs

Catering: Haute Catering

Rentals: All About Events

Linens: La Tavola Linen

Specialty Rentals: Botanica Events

Dress: Hayley Paige

Hair & Makeup: The Queen's Bees

Photo Booth: Little Gem Photo Booth


I love when a venue is a blank canvas--there's so much opportunity; so many options and ways to be creative and reimagine the space. Panoche Creek River Ranch is one of the best in the "blank canvas" department. Situated on the San Joaquin River, amongst sycamore and fruit trees, Panoche Creek is serene, beautifully manicured and primed for an epic wedding! 

Nikki and Arif live in San Francisco, but when they began to plan their wedding, they realized how much farther their money would go in the Central Valley where Nikki grew up (and I think they're pretty darn smart for going in that direction!) They envisioned an organic and modern reception following their church ceremony and Panoche Creek was the perfect spot. We incorporated earthy materials like stone and wood in custom signage (check out those table names with a nod to their favorite TV shows) and just the right amount of romance with a cascading backdrop of flowers behind their seats at dinner! We took full advantage of the gorgeous property and dreamed up a sophisticated, fun, and charming design that was a little piece of SF in the valley.

Design & Planning: Vanessa Noel Events

Photography: Christina Richards Photography

Venue: Panoche Creek River Ranch

Floral Design: House of Flowers

Rentals: Walker Lewis Rents

Linens: La Tavola Linen

Music: DJ Sal



I hear this a lot: "I don't need design help because I know what I want my wedding to look like." And my response is always the same, "That's awesome! Do you know how to go from ideas to execution?"

Liz was my favorite kind of bride--clear vision, conviction in her decisions, and an impeccable taste level. Liz also knew that she needed someone to help turn all that goodness floating around in her head into a real-life, logistically functioning, on-budget, attainable wedding day. We went to work together and created one of my all time favorite designs!

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I mean, with a backdrop like Casa Romantica, you can't really go wrong. It was the perfect setting for Liz's vision of a wedding that was romantic yet vibrant, a little Mediterranean, a lot California chic, with a dash of Palm Beach. I think we nailed it. 

It's so difficult to choose a favorite detail from this CRAZY gorgeous day, but the escort card display was definitely high on the list. We draped countless ribbons from Casa Romantica's iron structure, then attached beautiful escort cards from Goodhearted Design to each ribbon. To top it off, floral accents from The Little Branch added softness and even more over-the-top goodness! I loved the way the ribbons became a backdrop for Liz and Andrew's seat at their head table. 

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Planning & Design: Vanessa Noel Events

Photography: Rhianna of Anna Delores Photography

Floral Design: The Little Branch

Venue: Casa Romantica

Stationery: Goodheart Design

Catering: Carbonara 

Linens: La Tavola

Rentals: Signature Party Rentals

Hair & Makeup: Ashley Fierro, My Girls on Film Studios

Featured on 100 Layer Cake


Mismatching your maids is all the rage these days (did I just write a poem??) But I get a lot of questions about specifically HOW to do it. So here's a little tidbit to help you as you curate the perfect look for your ladies.

1) Determine the length--long, short, or "free to be me" status?

2) Determine the color/pattern--shades of blue from dark to pale or more similar? Is pattern ok?

3) Determine the texture--bonus points for sequins and lace or should they stick to less texture?

4) Create a Pinterest board (secret, obvi) and load the page with looks you love. After you have quite a few options curated, invite your ladies to collaborate. Let them know they can choose any of the specific styles you've chosen or use those as inspiration in their own searches. This allows you flexibility in adding and deleting looks as your vision evolves and also gives you a great visual tool for seeing all the dresses together. 

Anna Delores Photography

Anna Delores Photography


I love a good alliteration; don't you? I did Freebie Friday" there for a while, but in the spirit of quick and to-the-post advice, I'm replacing that with Tidbit Tuesday. Cute, right?

I'll take a brief moment to give you a helpful nugget of wedding planning knowledge and hopefully save you little headache along the way. Today, we're talking RSVP cards. 


1) Even if you're treating your guests to a buffet or family style meal, don't forget to have a line for guests to mention dietary restrictions. Trust us, your caterer will ask!

2) If you're doing a plated meal with multiple entree choices, don't forget to ask who's having what! When a family of four puts a "3" next to steak and a "1" next to fish, it makes a lot of extra work for you to figure out which three are steak and who's the one fish eater. 

Anna Delores Photography, Prim & Pixie Stationery

Anna Delores Photography, Prim & Pixie Stationery


Today is a suuuuuper special day. There's the obvious--it's July 11 so 7-11 is handing out free slurpees (duh.) but more importantly, it's Lyndsay and Jake's one year anniversary! [This shows you how terrible I am at blogging... I've waited an entire year to dish about this gorgeous couple]

Lyndsay and Jake were, and will forever be, some of my favorite clients. They sort of taught me what a "unicorn" is and I'm eternally grateful for their sweet nature, rad sense of style, joy and humor, and their incredible trust in me to execute their vision. [For those of you wondering, a "unicorn" is the elusive perfect client... trusting, enthusiastic, flexible, fun, totally in love, and just generally awesome] There were just too many special details and incredible moments about this day to mention. 

Non-negotiables for their incredible day included an amazing live band (when the mother of the bride is personal friends with EVERYONE in the country music industry, there are BIG shoes to fill!); a burger bar inspired by the bride and groom's first date at 25 Degrees (no 4 course meal here--messy fingers and more time to dance was the way to go); frozen bananas because they're Jake's fav; a meaningful juxtaposition of her Baptist roots and his Jewish heritage, customized cocktails (with take home recipes!) by their dear friend and lifestyle expert, a first dance song performed by his brother and her sister, and lots and lots of laughter.

Pretty epic right? Just like their first look in Public Kitchen, the very place where their officiant Jim J Bullock ruined his knees doing standup three decades ago. 

With a backdrop like the Hollywood Roosevelt, you really can't go wrong. We embraced the old Hollywood glam vibe, but peppered that with some bohemian style and modern elements for a vibe that was more relaxed and less theme-y. I worked with Lyndsay to put together my most favorite bridal party look to date--half her ladies in Holywood-esque dresses, half in more boho styles with flower crowns. Sounds "all over the place;" looks like perfection. And the guys were pretty much the epitome of dapper in their The Black Tux suits. 

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When it came to design, Lyndsay and Jake couldn't have been more trusting. They were so enthusiastic when I proposed a mix of metallic gold, geometric lines (this was back in 2014 so I totally get points or originality ;), mixed table shapes and linens, enough candlelight to set the grapevine on fire, and customized wood block risers as centerpieces. We created a color palette and design concept that felt true to the iconic venue and yet modern and casual. 

The ceremony in the historic lobby was romantic and moody with candles, and greenery draping from a beautiful chuppah and tallat above. Simple, yet dramatic.

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Happy Anniversary favorites! and thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for allowing me to be a part of your incredible day of devotion to one another <3

Planning, Design, Coordination: Vanessa Noel Events

Photography: Anna Delores Photography

Videography: Reign Films 

Venue: Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Band: Scott Cummings Music

Floral Design: Primary Petals

Linens: ModMix Studio

Rentals: Town and Country Rentals

Specialty Rentals: Pretty Vintage Rentals

Day-of Stationary: Prim & Pixie

Invitations: Rifle Paper Co. 

Hair and Makeup: 10.11 Makeup

Cake & Desserts: MJB Cakes


Probably my most emphasized piece of design advice is to take a cue from your venue. This doesn't mean that you have to go all out theme-party, but whatever your surroundings are giving you, don't fight it! 

Sara and Chris listened to their venue and listened well. Their fiesta-filled celebration was brimming with color and details that tied in with The Casitas Estate's gorgeous Hacienda style architecture! We worked together to incorporate cheery color and clever details (hello Burro piñata card holder!) while still maintaining softness and romance. Keeping a vibrant color palette from looking like a child's birthday party can be challenging for some, but success comes with one word--texture! Flowers by Kim did a beautiful job varying the textures and scale of the floral design in a way that read sophisticated and interesting. Settle in to some serious fun color and gorgeous images by Jen Rodriguez Photography below. 


Design & Planning: Vanessa Noel Events

Venue: The Casitas Estate

Floral Design: Flowers by Kim

Photography: Jen Rodriguez Photography

Cake: Splash Cafe

Linens: La Tavola

Cecily + Sebastien :: Private Estate Wedding in Santa Ynez

What do you get when a dapper French Canadian and a firecracker TV producer tie the knot? A romantic, elegantly rustic, sophisticated celebration with juuuust the right amount of nutty thrown in. 

Cecily and Sebastien were so easy-going as we planned and designed their big day together. They routinely asked, "what will our guests love?"

Friends, that is an attitude I can get behind! Want to a wedding that feels easy and perfectly momentous? Take it from Cecily and Sebastien and focus on two things: your love for each other, and your love for those who are flying, driving, sailing and railing to get to you. The rest is just gravy... really pretty gravy, but gravy nonetheless. 

I will forever and always be a sucker for a ceremony under a tree. Make it an expansive oak tree in wine country and you have my heart. 

To keep the focus on conversation and good company, the couple decided on a family style feast catered by Catering Connection.  We kept the tables simple with eucalyptus and bud vases dotted down the center to leave plenty of room for the food to come. To dress things up a bit, we opted for vintage and gold-rimmed glassware to give the tables a little "jewelry."  One of my personal favorite touches was the rustic bread placed at each setting just before guests were seated. How intimate is that? The reception felt very much like a dinner party with friends passing dishes, dipping bread in oil and vinegar and sharing memories as the sun set. 

Claire + Brad :: Oceanview Wedding at Montecito Country Club

Clearly, blogging with any semblance of regularity is not my forte. You guys, it’s been almost a year since my last post! I’m not going to make some lofty commitment with an empty declaration to blog twice weekly or anything—let’s not set ourselves up for failure—but I will tell you that I have waaaayyy too much good stuff in my arsenal to not post more often. I mean, it’s tragic that my recent weddings haven’t been blogged because wowza they’ve been pretty.

Take Claire and Brad for example… they were my super smarty pants couple. I mean, I have a lot of incredibly intelligent and professionally accomplished couples, but an Urologist (following in the footsteps of her Urologist mother—girl power!) marrying a Forbes 30 under 30 stud turned UCLA law grad brings “power couple” to a new level.  You’d think with those resumes, they’d be super stuffy, right? Well, you’d be wrong.

Well spoken, intelligent (obvi), and charming, yes, but also so down to earth, hilarious (Brad’s witty email responses to my planning questions were a personal favorite!), even keeled, and incredibly sweet and in love with each other. Their first look and portraits are some of my favorites.

Dreamy right?

The setting at Montecito Country Club couldn’t be more quintessentially upscale California or more breathtaking with it’s sweeping views, manicured gardens, and ceilings that make you reconsider everything you’ve ever heard about a country club ballroom. Stella Bloom Design’s magic touch took the pretty canvas to new-level gorgeous. 

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Claire, her bridesmaids and I put a lot of time and thought into their overall look and I think it was a beautiful success of shades, tones, and texture that paired perfectly with those creamy bouquets. 

And can we just talk about the incredible greenery on that chandelier?!

One little tip I always give to my couples is to take a moment at the back of the aisle after you've been pronounced. Stop and enjoy your second kiss as a married couple and take your time. I love when they take my advice and we get a gorgeous image like this...

Design, Planning, and Coordination: Vanessa Noel Events

Venue: Montecito Country Club

Floral Design: Stella Bloom Designs

Photography: Anna Delores Photography

Videography: Wildhagen Photograhy

Hair and Makeup: Blushing Beauty

Rentals: Town and Country SB, Chiavari Chair Rentals

Linens: ModMix Studio

DJ: Gavin Roy Presents

Mika + Danny :: Adamson House

It' so fun when a bride becomes a friend. It's even more fun when a bride becomes your ASSISTANT. I recently added to the Vanessa Noel Events team with a few fantastic ladies who are making my life so much easier. One of them happens to be the beautiful bride from last year's Adamson House wedding.  In honor of Miss Mika knocking it out of the park as a new assistant, I thought it high time I posted her sweet, romantic, ocean-front wedding at the Adamson House in Malibu. 

That tree at the Adamson House might be my most favorite tree ever! Mika's flowers were DIY and were truly a labor of love. I don't normally advocate for that... like ever, but this was the exception. Her bridesmaid and bestie has some serious talent, amiright?!? We strung large blooms on fishing line and mixed in having crystals for a little element of glamour amidst the colorful, casual California style. 

Everywhere you looked there were details--from the custom corn hole game to the adorable chalkboard signage and their marquee lights. To start the party, the bride's father led the group in a toast with shots of their family's secret recipe "redeye." I got a whiff of the stuff and let's just say that's one tradition that was sure to get people on the dance floor! 

Photography: Serfoss Productions

Coordination and Styling: Vanessa Noel Events

Venue: Adamson House

Flowers and Signage: DIY Bride's Bridesmaid

Catering: Truly Yours


Melissa + Ryan :: Flying Caballos Ranch

It's been a while since I featured a real wedding and let some seriously pretty pictures speak for themselves. Here ya go--a beautiful, colorful, sweet wedding jam packed with personal details and a whole lot of family love. 

Melissa really embraced the relaxed and colorful backdrop that is Flying Caballos Ranch. From her bridesmaids' dresses, to her flowers and china, every detail just screamed summertime happiness!

When I say this wedding was packed with family love, I mean it... no detail went untouched by Melissa, Ryan, and their families. Melissa's mother made each napkin by hand, details throughout the wedding were sourced from family homes, wood rounds were cut by hand for the dessert table, and Melissa and Ryan made the fantastic seating display together--a world map made of butterflies (an homage to Melissa's childhood) featuring the places they've traveled together and table names to match.  

Coordination and Styling: Vanessa Noel Events

Venue: Flying Caballos Ranch

Photography: Chloe Murdoch

Videography: Ellen Wildhagen

Flowers: Lori Boe Floral Design

Catering: Two Cooks Catering

Cake and Pies: Avila Valley Barn

Rentals: Got you Cover'd

Head Table China: Anthropologie

Bride's Dress: Sarah Seven via Lovely Bride

Shoes: Seychelles

It's my party...

Why not share a little embarrassment on my birthday?!? 

Why not share a little embarrassment on my birthday?!? 

Today's my birthday. And not just any ol' bday, it's a game changer milestone. I'm 30. Leading up to today, I've gotten a lot "oh honey please" or "just wait until you're _______." But it's not that I feel "old" and it's not about the slow introduction of crow's feet (though I swear I saw some new ones just last night) it's that 30 is downright scary.   

People in their 20's are the perfect combination of youth and access. In your 20's, you're of legal age for all the (legal) vices and hell, you can even rent a car. But when it comes down to it, people still give you a pass for inexperience, ignorance, playfulness, inappropriateness, and even poor fashion choices. Twenty-somethings are children dressed in adult clothing and it's a widely accepted growing pain of the decade when you're still "figuring it out." Then enter 30. 

From career to domestic life, finances, long term goals... you should probably have that together. Twenties are for figuring out who you are and where you fit, thirties are for, well, fitting and doing. That's the scary part--fitting where I've nestled myself personally and professionally. 

I read somewhere that studies show we (meaning we humans) have a persistent optimism on the subject of our lives. We routinely think our lives in the future will be better than they are, even when history has predicted otherwise. I am toooootally guilty of this bizarre human behavior. Which brings me to.... drum roll... THE LIST. That 30 before 30 thing that I (*ahem* regrettably) created last year. Well, it's only fair to see how I stacked up... Spoiler alert: I didn't reupholster my chair ;)

1. Take a floral design class.  While I didn't take a floral design class, I actually did a lot of arranging over the past year. I've added to my mental library of flowers and created some pretty special pieces in the last 12 months. 

2. Plant, maintain and eat from my own garden. I'm not the best gardener and while I've gotten into it more, I'd just rather plant flowers and enjoy their beauty if there's a chance they won't live longer than a couple weeks. When my gardening improves, I'll get to tomatoes. 

3. Run a 12k. On "3" let's all burst into laughter. Ready? 1, 2, 3... 

4. Go to Europe with Daniel. This didn't happen...yet. But listen here 29 year old me, you were/are building a business which takes time, money, and a huge amount of energy. Unfortunately, galavanting around Europe depletes the same resources. Tentative plans in motion for 2016. 

5. Open an IRA. Yay adulthood! Completed. 

6. Contribute regularly to said IRA. If I could just delete that "regularly," I'd have another satisfied task under my belt. 

7. Attend a wedding/event industry convention. Done and done! Thanks to Angel Swanson and her Love and Splendor Workshop. I wouldn't call it a "convention," (it was better and more personal) but the core of this goal was continuing education and that was certainly satisfied. 

8. Start something really big. This was in reference to a dream I've had for several years of turning my grandparents' beautiful home and land into a wedding venue. While this didn't happen (or hasn't yet...?) I'm not disappointed because I really gave it everything I had. I was creative, smart, and professional in my attempts. Sometimes, it's just about letting it go. I haven't entirely given up, but have peacefully tabled this for now. 

9. Buy a house. We're just not there yet. And you know what "expectations of a 30 year old?" I'm ok with it and you should be too. 

10. Create new branding for Vanessa Noel Events. Wooohoooo! Done and done and don't you think Rebecca did the most gorgeous job with that floral logo?? 

11. Make really awesome homemade ice cream that isn't vanilla or chocolate. I'd like to request an extension! Give me until August and I promise I'll complete, eat, and report. 

12. Clean out my storage unit. Ooooooh ya. It wasn't pretty, but I did it. Now... how to organize and store every. single. item. from our wedding...

13. Learn not to pout so much when something upsets me. Funny you should bring this up, former me. I've recently talked about and put into practice "speaking my truth." For me, the pouting when I didn't get what I wanted or when I was disappointed really comes from self-imposed martyrdom or from having unrealistic expectations that people would read my mind and know that what I'm really needing or wanting is not what I've expressed. Stupid. I know. I've been working on this and thus, curbed my pouting. If I know something will upset me, I don't just let it happen. I'm learning to speak my truth and be honest about my feelings and intentions. 

14. Become a decent tennis player. I'd like to make an exchange--returning the tennis and taking a racquetball instead! My dad and I used to play racquetball every Sunday when I was in high school. When I left for college, that routine stopped, but we're back and it's awesome. It's the best combination of exercise and father daughter time... though I know he uses topics like The Bachelor to try to take my breaks between play. I'm on to you. 

15. Visit my grandma once a week. And just like that I have tears in my eyes. While I'm going to forgive myself for not checking off all of these goals because sometimes "life gets in the way," this is a perfect counter to that argument. Don't let life get in the way because sometimes, there isn't much life left. My sweet sweet grandma went to be with Jesus in September. No, I didn't visit her weekly before that, but I did spend really good time with her in her last days and for that, I am eternally grateful. As a tribute to her, my mom and I created a sprawling casket spray, and set up displays of my grandmother's beautiful art at her service. We cried a lot together, but had a really great time. There was a lot of that painful happiness; so much smiling through tears and relishing in the precious family I'm blessed with.  

16. Buy and learn to use Photoshop. Maybe eventually, but for now, I'd rather keep that $$$ in my pocket and just use good ol' powerpoint... oh ya, you'd be impressed. 

7. Reupholster my lovable, but haggard office chair. Planning to do this in April with some old fabric that belonged to my grandmother! 

18. Decorate a fancy, homemade fondant cake. I'm thinking that might be part of my weekend plan

9. Go paddle boarding. Another exchange. Keep the paddle boarding; I'll take kayaking in Kailua instead 

20. Get back into "those" jeans. Pffffffffffff

21. Go on a hot air balloon ride. I mean... I honestly thought I'd do all of this in ONE YEAR?? 

22. Go on a vacation with my mom. My poor mom. She's my wedding slave. Seriously. She assists me on weddings and works so damn hard for me. Unfortunately, that means that the majority of the time we're going somewhere together, it's for a wedding--working! But, the good news is that we always have a fabulous time. <3

23. Play in a softball game worthy of a Band of Horses music videoYou have to have a large group of friends who are all free on the same night... again, last year me, this is unrealistic. 

24. Become a yogi again. Not happy with myself for not achieving this one, but as my previous yoga instructors would say, "you must forgive yourself for infractions and mistakes if you want to achieve a better version of you." 

25. Book and complete 15 weddings between now and then. Pretty proud of this one. 2014 was a year of fantastic growth and 2015 is shaping up to be the kind of busy that makes the inside of my brain look like something out of Willy Wonka. Thank you for all the support!

26. Have great "about me/headshots" taken. Emily and I have been talking about this and it's on the to-do list! I've been putting it off... see #20...

27. Have personalized stationary and write sweet notes with it. Not yet, but I have been sending more little notes.

28. Sing more karaoke. In Hawaii as a matter of fact...

29. Develop more industry contacts. There have been quite a few events throughout the year that have helped with this, and our Indigo House Launch Party was one. I'm so grateful for the network of wonderful colleagues I have and love adding to it by meeting new people. The wedding industry really does have the coolest people. 

30. Go camping with Daniel. This is a definite plan in 2015! 

So I didn't check everything off the list... not even close. But I did add to my list of wedding blog features, become a party of a studio of talented women, watch my best friend graduate from nursing school, go on a mini vacay with my handsome husband, get my hands dirty with calligraphy ink, fabric dye, and spray paint, book some "game changer" weddings, have my first multi-cultural wedding, go on an impromptu girls trip in the desert, have some great morning coffee chats with Uncle Jimmy, celebrate my own wedding featured on Style Me Pretty, watch one of my best friends walk down the aisle, squeal with excitement when 2 more dear friends got engaged, and spend great quality time with my nieces

Looking back at this list, I definitely feel a little bummed, but mostly because I'm competitive and I want to complete what I said I would. But plans change. Priorities change. My focus is on living intentionally and mindfully; not checking things off a list that I once thought were important. I still want to do all the items above, but my true goal is to not allow day to day tasks to become so overwhelming that they cloud my priorities. There's a zombie-like way we move through our days when life becomes overwhelming or too "task-mastery." Mindfulness is what I want to achieve. I want to be mindful of the way my actions effect others, of how my decisions impact my goals, and how the sound and feeling of my own breathe entering and exiting my lungs can be enough for a mini-vacation.  

I'm off to have a wonderful day with some truly special people. Thanks for reading my rant xoxo 

Freebie Friday :: Tipping Vendors

Ask and you shall receive! Lindsay commented on a previous Freebie Friday post with a question and bingo! She's getting an answer. Pretty cool right?? 

So here's what Lindsay asked:

I have a HUGE question for your mind! TIPPING TIPPING TIPPING

I'm planning a wedding for May and have been organizing vendors on my own. It's a backyard wedding so we're hiring people for lighting, bathrooms, furniture rentals, everything. Some of them have included tip, some have not. So my question is: WHO DO I TIP? Do I only tip vendors who are working at the wedding (i.e. caterers, bartenders), do I tip every single vendor whose provided a service for the wedding, or do I tip only the ones who have included a tip?

On top of that, I have been very blessed and lucky to have family and friends who are MAKING items for my wedding. Items as large as furniture to the actual wedding gifts I'll be giving people. Do I tip them? Or do I gift them? Or do I graciously say thank you and hug them extra long on that day?

And with all this tipping and gifting, what is appropriate if it should be done? Gift baskets, thoughtful sentimental gifts, or cold hard cash? 

Thank you so much for all the information you provide!!! Can't wait to hear what you have to say!

Image by Serfoss Productions

Image by Serfoss Productions

This is a fantastic question and one that a lot of my clients ask me. There is no short or clear cut answer to this because it all comes back to--every wedding is different. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is to tip those who are working for someone else, but I think there is nuance to each situation and don't always entirely agree with that... *cough cough* your wedding planner who you called in the middle of the night because you had a great idea and needed to discuss it in the moment... we'll get to that. 

Let's start with the most likely tipping candidate--catering staff. Most caterers/food trucks/hotel or club catering departments will asses a service charge anywhere between 18-25% (also, keep in mind this is a taxable charge... eeeeesh, I know.) It's important to understand what that service charge pays for, because it doesn't always make it into the pockets of the guy taking care of table 12. Some caterers use the service charge for things like "administrative fees" or other line items. Be sure to ask your catering manager what exactly the service charge pays for. If that money doesn't make it into servers' pockets, then plan to add an additional 15-20% for the worker bees. 

Bartenders are often viewed a bit differently and sometimes don't assess a service charge. If that's the case, have a discussion with the catering manager or bartender (if a separate service) to discuss whether your guests will cover the tips or if you'd prefer a service charge be assessed to your bill. This is an important piece of information to mention to your coordinator because many bartenders will put out a tip jar as a habit. However, if you've arranged to handle the tip yourself, a jar should not be present. 

If you're getting married at a hotel or country club, you may be paying for additional services like valet and coat check. Keep these items in mind as you review your invoice from the property. If a valet charge is on your bill and that charge is assessed a service charge, then your tipping is covered. If these items are not assessed a service charge, then you'll need to chat with your catering sales manager to add a tip for those individuals or make the decision to leave that to your guests. 

The hair and makeup artists who get you all dolled up for your big day are often working for a salon or a business owner who is likely paying them for their time with. For this reason, they should be tipped a standard 15-20%. The same goes for a limo or shuttle driver who you've contracted for the day or a portion thereof (but check your contract as this might already be included). 

A large part of your wedding budget (especially for someone like Lindsay who's celebrating in a backyard) will be allotted to rentals. Rental companies don't expect tips and it certainly isn't necessary for you to tip everyone at a large rental powerhouse. That said, it's nice to hand a $5 or $10 to the guys delivering and setting up 24 tables and 200 chairs in the midday sun. No, it's not a lot, but these guys fall into the category of working for a wage under a larger business umbrella. They're still a huge part of making sure your wedding is a success and hey, they deserve to grab some Starbucks when they head back to the warehouse. 

Now, we'll get into the grey area, starting with officiants. This has so much to do with where and how you're getting married. If inside a church or other house of worship, or if your officiant is your personal clergyman, then a tip on top of the donation to the church should be made as a gesture. The same goes for a judge who might be officiating; there should be a small tip above that of the fee. If you've chosen a courthouse or civil ceremony, refrain from waving your cash around; a tip isn't necessary in that scenario. If your officiant is a friend... well, we'll get into that. 

The greyest of areas falls on those vendors who are working for you on the day of the wedding, but that you haven't really seen in action until that point: your photographer, videographer, florist, band/DJ. Many of these vendors will fall into the category of owning and operating their own businesses and thus, would be considered in the category not requiring a tip, (except for bands, DJ's, musicians; many of them will be associated with an agency that pays them for your event. Those guys should be tipped... and yes, sometimes that means there's 12 of them). As many other wedding experts will say, those vendors who own their own businesses have negotiated a rate and don't expect anything beyond that. While I understand that and agree that we business owners don't "expect" anything beyond our negotiated rate, we're often the ones who work hardest for the client. I can't speak for every vendor business owner out there, but in my network of wedding industry folks, we're die hard, pick up our phones at any time, under charge and over deliver, do anything to make our clients happy fanatics. 

Now, as I said, you might not know this until after the wedding day when you realize that your florist SOMEHOW got you peonies in August, or that your photographer stayed an hour longer than contracted, or later you notice some extra special details in your wedding video. These are the cases of "above and beyond" and they deserve to be tipped. I can't stress this enough--tips don't have to come on wedding day; A TIP AFTER THE WEDDING IS AWESOME! Write your florist a note and a check (or a gift card to a restaurant she loves, or personalized stationary, etc) to say your bouquet exceeded your expectations, or how you noticed all the styling your photographer did when she shot your invitations (*cough cough* any bride who's received images from Anna Delores Photography). The same goes for planners and coordinators. We're the ones who work with you the most to ensure everything runs smoothly. If you feel like your planner/coordinator went above and beyond leading up to or on the day of the wedding, then that deserves a tip. It's true we business owners don't expect to be given a tip, but you might not have expected such incredible service.

This part is simple, when one party exceeds expectation, so should the other. 

Speaking of exceeding expectations, let's talk about "friendors." This is specific to Lindsay's question, but applies to so many brides in this day and age of endless DIYs. This part is simple... if a friend is doing something for you that you would have otherwise had to pay for, THEY SHOULD BE PAID. No, it doesn't have to be the same amount you would have paid a stranger; no, it doesn't even have to be cold hard cash. But you should give something of value to that friend who helped you out. Personally, I think that gifts are most appropriate in this case. If the whole point of having a friend help you out was to save money, then show that what you're lacking in a bank account, you make up for in thoughtfulness. After all, these are your FRIENDS. What's his favorite restaurant? Does she absolutely love flowers? Maybe she won't stop pinning items from a certain online shop. Anything is better than nothing and communicates, "I know you took time out of your day/week/month/year to help me make this day incredibly special and for that, I thank you." 

I know the months leading up to a wedding can be incredibly stressful and little things (like finding the perfect gift for a "friendor") can slip through the cracks, but again, a tip and thank you note after the wedding or honeymoon is perfectly fine, especially because you can speak to the impact that person's involvement had on the overall success of your day. 

Lindsay, I hope this help! If you have a question you'd like me to address during a Freebie Friday, comment below and I'll tackle it next time!

Julie + Jordan :: Hot Hot Heat

Having been born and raised in California's central valley, I know a thing or two about intense heat. You hear about how people have to account for extra time in their schedules to remove ice from their cars in the winter? Well here in the valley, we have to account for the time it takes to be able to touch the steering wheel without scorching your skin in the summer. Yes, it gets that hot! I kind of love it though. I'm a fan of the kind of heat that takes your breath away, which isn't surprising considering I lock myself in my office with a space heater cranked up and the door closed.

Sitting here chilled to the bone, (come on, it's like 50 degrees outside!) I'm thinking about toasty temps and likely the hottest wedding to date. Twentynine Palms in May can get a bit sun-drenched to say the least (easily 100 degrees), but that didn't stop Julie and Jordan from having one of the most personal, sweet, and memorable weddings I've ever seen.  And thanks to Heather Saunders Photography, it's still pretty breathtaking every time I look back. 

Ya, it was hot, but these two were even hotter. I mean, serious babe alert.

Julie and Jordan are artists in several ways (check out her art here and their art together here), so it was a given that they would have some pretty rad details. A custom wedding logo, wooden button favors and signage, a personally curated collection of lounge furniture, all the dreamy stationary you can imagine... my little detail-loving heart was all a flutter. 

These two, in one word--FUN! I mean sure, they're creative as can be, smart, and crazy beautiful, but they wanted their guests to walk away with memories of having a really great time. They put together a "get festive" table where guests could don temporary tattoos, flower crowns and sunglasses, paint their faces, and grab glow sticks for the dance floor. And just as the sun went down and the dance floor filled up, they switched on the snow machine. Yes, a SNOW MACHINE in the desert. Kind of awesome, right? 

To read more planning details from Julie herself, get all the vendor credit goodies, and to see even more gorgeous photos, head to her blog. 

Freebie Friday :: Budget Cart Before the Horse

Is it Friday already??? You know that means--another edition of Freebie Friday! 

How cute are these lovebirds?? So excited for their wedding with Anna Delores Photography and Stella Bloom Designs. Image by Anna Delores Photography

How cute are these lovebirds?? So excited for their wedding with Anna Delores Photography and Stella Bloom Designs. Image by Anna Delores Photography

Today, I'm hoping this advice is delivered at the appropriate time in the planning process. November through March is what we call "booking season" because all you lovely guys and gals put a ring on it when you're carving a turkey, sitting by a fire opening presents or lighting the Menorah, when you're poppin' bottles with the countdown or buying 2 dozen roses for that "other" holiday. There are so many occasions and so much love this time of year, that he can't help but get on bended knee... and then the booking of vendors begins. 

If you're sporting a new shiny rock and are getting ready to embark on the most exciting planning process of your life, first of all congratulations! And second--STOP! Put down the checkbook and back away from the contracts... we need to talk.

No matter who you are or how much money you have, the budget is the least romantic part of the wedding planning process, but--dare I say it--the most important part. All too often, I see brides go through what I call "the dreaming phase" and then straight into booking. There's nothing wrong with the dreaming phase, in fact, I encourage it. Flip through magazines, scroll through Pinterest (sparingly...) and see what you love and what you hate. Let your mind wander and dream, but after that, you HAVE to evaluate your budget. You cannot go from dreaming to booking, you have to take moment (or 100) and breakdown your budget. 

I know you've heard it before, but I'm going to go ahead and beat that dead horse, and here's why... I get a lot of potential clients who emphasize their budget to me and the importance of sticking to that, "We can NOT, under any circumstances, go over this number."

Ok, perfect! I'm so glad you have a budget! Then I ask what vendors they've already booked... and I find that they fell in love with a venue with a site fee that accounts for 20% of their budget and a photographer who they just had to have who accounts for another 15%. Well, great. The budget that we have to work with, the amount that we'll use to secure tables, chairs, linens, napkins, flatware, glassware, china, chargers, a dance floor, DJ, ceremony musicians, apps and a 3 course meal, cocktails, beer, wine, flowers, lighting, officiant, guest transportation, hair and makeup services, a dress... that amount is actually only 65% of the total number in their head because 35% was gone before they broke down the rest of the expenses.

I hear it all the time: "we fell in love with (enter out-of-budget but incredibly beautiful/talented vendor here)." And trust me, I toooooooootally get it; I really really do. But what I also get is how heart broken you're going to be when you realize that you just can't afford that peony bouquet you really wanted, that amazing live band, or that gorgeous draping because you fell in love early on and put the budget cart before the horse. So what's the right approach?

1) Get an overall budget number... talk to parents, contributing family, your fiancé (yes, it can be awkward/uncomfortable) and determine how much money you have to work with.  

2) Determine if there's anything that's going to be paid for outside of the budget. Maybe you're going to pay for your dress on your own, but your parents are footing the bill for the overall wedding. 

3) Break your budget up into categories and assign an amount to each category. Using percentages of your overall budget is a great way to do this. Just be sure you understand everything you're responsible for. An incomplete budget is almost as worthless as not having one at all. 

4) With budget in-hand, begin to request quotes and proposals from vendors that you like, starting with venues.

5) Here comes the big one, and I say it with love... Manage your expectations.

Take those quotes and proposals you've received and compare them with your outlined budget. Did you hit the nail on the head? Did you budget $3,500 for a photographer and that's exactly how much your dream photog quoted you?? Awesome! If you didn't quite nail it, this is where your priorities come in. If that photographer is a non-negotiable, but you only budgeted $2,500, then look for $1,000 in other areas. This doesn't mean arbitrarily changing the numbers on your spreadsheet to get the total number you want to see; it means holding off until you research the cost of some other items and see if you'd be satisfied with the product of a lower budget amount in those other categories. ****Hint hint, this is where a wedding planner really comes in handy because we have a pretty good idea how much these things cost off the tops of our heads. Maybe you budgeted for fruitwood chiavari chairs at $8 each x 150 guests, but you think, "that photographer is so much more important than chiavari chairs."

Since your wedding is outside at a private estate and not in a ballroom anyway, you look into dark wood folding chairs instead at $3 each x 150. You just went from $1,200 for chairs to $450 and the photographer of your dreams is now within reach. But the key is that you had to do the research to find what the chairs cost before you made your decision. The brides who write the checks and ask questions later are those who end up in a sticky budget situation at the end. 

Go ahead, dream away! Get excited about your fantasy wedding and relish in the bliss of that new bling on your finger. Just remember to stop, take a breath and do some math before you start makin' it rain, wedding style. 

Have a topic you want me to talk about for next Freebie Friday??? Ask a question in the comments below! 


Freebie Friday :: Hotel Room Blocks

Don't ya just love the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo?? Image by Anna Delores Photography

Don't ya just love the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo?? Image by Anna Delores Photography

Sure, my blog is my own little corner of bragger town where I showcase my recent (and not so recent) work, but I'd also like it to be a super helpful resource for my clients and others who happen upon it in search of wedding guidance. In the spirit of adding more helpful nuggets to the blog, I'm implementing "Freebie Friday," when I'll give free advice on a particular wedding planning topic. If there's a specific topic you'd like me to talk about, leave a comment below with your questions and I'll post on it next week!

This week, I'm talking about guest hotel room blocks. These can be daunting and confusing (sometimes even for me), but the trick is to do your homework, be diligent, and read the fine print. Ask your venue or planner what hotels they recommend in the area, but if that isn't fruitful, do a good old fashion google maps search to find accommodation near your venue. If you're providing wedding-day transportation for your guests, you can also consider properties in a fun area nearby where guests might enjoy walking around, shops, and restaurants. The goal is to find accommodation options at 2 or more price points; think Best Western, Hyatt, and Four Seasons. This gives your guests an option to stay on a budget or to splurge for the weekend.

So what's the point of a room block? Room blocks ensure that your out-of-town guests have accommodations reserved for them when they move forward with reservations for your wedding. Let's say you're getting married over 4th of July weekend in Laguna Beach, California. Your guests will be in biiiig trouble if they decide to make reservations in June when they send in their RSVP card, but with a block, there will be rooms set aside for the busy weekend. 

There are different kinds of blocks and different properties have different policies... this is where the confusing part comes in. First, we'll discuss the courtesy block. A courtesy block is just that, a courtesy to you from the hotel and is offered at no charge. As a courtesy, they'll set aside a block of rooms (usually no more than 10) under your event name ("bride's last name-groom's last name"). Your guests will call the hotel directly to reserve and pay for a room under the event name until all 10 rooms are booked. When your 10 rooms are booked, most hotels are willing to add another 10, based on availability, and so on.  

The catch with a courtesy block is the "based on availability" part and the cutoff date. Because this kind of block is offered at no charge to you, the hotel has to be sure that they haven't reserved rooms that won't be paid for. To avoid this, the hotel will release your block of rooms back into their general inventory, meaning, your block is no longer reserved. Depending on the property, this usually happens 4-8 weeks prior to your event date. So, if you're getting married on 4th of July weekend and have a courtesy block at a local hotel, your guests will need to make their reservations by May/June in order to take advantage of those you've set aside. 

What if you want guests to be able to book their rooms up until the last minute or you want to ensure your group has access to more rooms all at once? Well, then you might incur some financial responsibility, but you'll also likely score a better room rate for your guests as well. Instead of a courtesy block, you can ask about a contracted room block, which is often for more rooms (usually a minimum of 20 rooms or 40 room nights. Hotels like to talk in "room nights" which to the rest of us would be 20 rooms for 2 nights). You'll sign a contract for those rooms stating that if guests don't book them, you'll be financially responsible. Now, I know that sounds scary, but ask/read about the hotel's attrition rate... (I never said this would be simple.) 

In hotel block speak, the attrition rate is basically the percentage of room nights that you're actually responsible for. Let's say you sign a contract for 40 room nights and the attrition rate is 50%. If you have 10 guests make reservations for 2 nights, your block has booked 20 room nights and therefore has satisfied your financial responsibility. Way to go wedding guests!  

However, if the attrition rate is 80% and you've blocked 20 rooms for 2 nights (or 40 room nights) and you have 10 guests that stay 2 nights (or 20 room nights), that means that you're stuck picking up the tab for 12 room nights (80% of 40 is 32. 32 - 20 = 12... wedding planner and mathematician!)  In this case, let's hope you're not getting married 4th go July weekend in Laguna Beach or those 12 rooms are going to seriously cut into your budget. Yikes. 

Both block options have pros and cons so it's important to think about your guest list, how many people will be traveling to your wedding and what you're comfortable with in terms of financial responsibility. As I mentioned, every hotel property is different so keep that in mind if you speak with a hotel property that does things a little differently that I've described. Here are a few things to ask when inquiring about/setting up a room block for your guests:

1) Will I be financially responsible for any of these rooms if they go unbooked?

2) If so, what exactly am I responsible for? What is the attrition rate?

2) When is the cut off date for my guests to book?

4) What discount will my guests receive with this block?

5) Can my guests book their rooms online with a code or only by calling the reservation line?

You should aim to have your room blocks set before you send out save-the-dates so that you can include the accommodation information on your save-the-date (or on your website that's listed on your save-the-date!) So for all you newly engaged fiancés and fiancees, now's the perfect time to get started!

I hope that clears things up a little on the hotel room block front. Have a wedding planning question that you'd like me to answer/discuss??? Leave a comment below and I'll chat about it next Freebie Friday!