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

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!