Sealed with a kiss!

Sealed with a kiss!
Laura & Chris' Wedding at JCRaulston Arboretum

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why Hire a Wedding Planner?

Megan is sneaking the bride down the back steps so the groom cannot see her!

Back in May of 2010, I officiated the wedding of Megan and Jason Gillikin. At the time, Megan was the Catering Manager at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel in North Hills. She and I had worked several weddings together at that venue and I was honored to officiate for her and Jason. Shortly after getting married, Megan stepped out on her own and acquired A Southern Soiree, a wedding planning company, and her expertise, hard work and the wonderful staff she put together have made A Southern Soiree one of the most desirable and popular wedding planning companies in North Carolina today.  Go here to see some of the weddings on this blog that Megan and I have worked together on. Since she has seen both the venue side of wedding coordination and the independent wedding planner perspective and because she planned her own wedding, I asked her to write an article to share on my blog. I also asked her to explain the difference between a venue wedding coordinator and an independent wedding planner. So here it is! Thank you, Megan! 
Guess who thought to bring scissors!

Have you ever had a married friend tell you, “The wedding day was a blur and it was so difficult to take it all in?”  Well, let me tell you that your friend is absolutely right! The wedding day, the ceremony, and the reception will be over in the blink of an eye.  Before you know it, you’ve opened a few gifts and you’re off on your honeymoon. Hiring a planner won’t slow that time down, however by hiring an experienced wedding planner, you’ll be able to let go and enjoy your day – your unforgettable special moment – and the entire planning process!

Even though all brides truly want to let go and enjoy, some believe that hiring a wedding planner is a frivolous expense.   The reality is that a good coordinator can keep you on budget and make sure you spend your money wisely.
Wedding planners pin on boutonnieres. 

Most brides don’t understand the difference between a venue coordinator/catering manager and an independent event planner.  I spent four and a half years working for Marriott in various catering coordinator roles before A Southern Soiree, so having done both jobs I’ve done my best to explain some of the main differences below: 

An independent event/wedding planner has worked at multiple venues in the area, knows the ins and outs and rules of various venues, and is experienced in negotiating contracts with your florist, photographer, DJ, etc. So what might seem like a “frivolous” expense can actually save you money – and is guaranteed to save you time!  There are a few (really just a few!) venues here in the area which offer complete coordination of all details and in these cases, it is not always necessary to hire an outside planner. 

If you have a “wedding coordinator” from your reception venue, in most cases it is not the same as hiring an event planner. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing coordinators at the local venues in the area, but that individual’s job is to make sure that everything relating to the facility (set-up, food, staffing) runs properly. A planner will be a second set of eyes at the event and will make sure every detail is covered – even the little things like making sure the champagne is poured before the toasts start or loading your gifts into your family’s car at the end of the night. 
Gina was "day of" wedding coordinator for this small wedding. 

Some other things to consider:

·      Many venues do not offer ceremony coordination as a part of the package.  Many local officiants also request that you have a dedicated person to handle the ceremony logistics.  This is where it’s key to consider hiring an outside coordinator.   We will work with you (and your officiant) closely on all of the ceremony details including the processional, recessional, special reserved seating, dealing with unique family dynamics and current ceremony etiquette.
·       The planner is the “go to” person for the event (so that you or your close friends and family do not have to be this point person). Many times weddings can have 20+ vendors involved in pulling off an event. When you factor that number in with your entire wedding party, your family, and your guests, you have lots of people with questions and concerns! As your planner, we can provide answers to all those people and ensure that you only have to think about the love and joy of the day, not the details!
·       What if the cake doesn’t arrive on time or your getaway car at the end of the night doesn’t show up? Whether you like to admit it or not, most big events involve some type of crisis – and this is not typically the responsibility of the venue coordinator. Our experience gained from working in the industry allows us to anticipate challenges that our clients may not see coming.

Kailey is getting the wedding party at The Carolina Inn all lined up to process in.
      Special guests at this wedding were the Clef Hangers who made a surprise appearance at the end of this ceremony. Kailey is watching to see when to cue them to enter. 
·      A planner will attend all of your initial consultations with you and will help you select your vendors. We will review and negotiate contracts for you and will remind you of upcoming payments due to all your vendors as well.  Although a venue coordinator is often happy to provide you with vendor recommendations, they will typically not get involved in the contract or payment process.

   Even for couples who don’t mind the long hours or really enjoy being hands on, having a planner can still be beneficial to you. A planner is not hired to take over and make decisions for you, but instead to guide and assist you in making informed decisions. The event is supposed to be about you and making your dreams into reality.  The MOST important reason for you to hire a planner is to avoid all of the stress! A lot of people who plan a wedding without a professional planner become so stressed that they cannot wait until the event is over. We want you to enjoy the process of planning, then relax, be at your best, and take it all in on your big day!
If you need a wedding planner, please check out our website at and contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ten Year Anniversary Renewal of Vows for Leesa and Gary!

On January 4, 2003, at the Carolina Inn, I joined Leesa and Gary in marriage. Leesa's daughter as well as their parents were with us too. It was a sweet and simple ceremony that reflected exactly what they wanted. Here is one reading they chose for their ceremony (the author is unknown):

“Marriage is a commitment to take that joy deep, deeper than happiness, deep into the discovery of who you most truly are.  It is a commitment to a spiritual journey, to a life of becoming in which joy can comprehend despair, running through rivers of pain into joy again.  Thus, marriage is even deeper than commitment.  It is a covenant, a covenant that says:  ‘I love you – I trust you – I will be here for you when you are hurting, and when I am hurting, I will not leave.’ It is a covenant intended not to provide haven from pain or anger or sorrow.  Life offers no such haven.  Instead, marriage is intended to provide a sanctuary safe enough to risk loving, to risk living and sharing from the center of oneself.  This is worth everything.”

They also had their mothers present readings as well--The Key to Love and An Old Wedding Blessing. They wrote their own personal vows and read them to each other. It was a beautiful wedding and a very happy day. Unfortunately, for some reason, I don't have a photo of Leesa and Gary on that special day.

So, for almost ten years I had no inkling of how they were doing and what had happened in their lives. Then on August 20, 2012 I got an email from Leesa telling me that they wanted to do a renewal of vows ceremony exactly ten years from their wedding date at the Carolina Inn in the same room--the South Parlor. I was delighted to hear from them and that I was available and that I would be honored to preside over their ceremony. She firmed up the plans with the Carolina Inn. I sent her some sample renewal of vows ceremonies as well as their original ceremony and told her and Gary to put their heads together and come up with what they wanted for their renewal of vows ceremony. And they did. With a little editing back and forth we had a very beautiful and heart touching ceremony which also highlighted their adventures for the past ten years and a blessing for their three children too. They decided to keep their vows secret from each other and they each worked with me separately to get them just right. They kept the same ring vows they said to each other in their wedding.

On that Friday afternoon at 4:00 we all gathered in the South Parlor with Gary's father as their only guest and I met their two sons ages 7 and 9. Their daughter is now a lovely teenager who presented a reading during the ceremony. And Gary and Leesa look exactly the same as they did on their wedding day! I did not know if I would recognize them but no problem once I saw them. It was so sweet and very private. They did not want any photographs of their children but I got one of the three of us with my cell phone and their permission to post on this blog!
Leesa and Gary, congratulations again! See you again in ten years but if you want renew your vows again sooner, just email me!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Year's Eve Wedding for Lisa and Jason!

Lisa's friend, Jennifer, emailed me a few days before Christmas to see if I was available for and would be willing to do a wedding at midnight on New Year's Eve. Having done this in years past, I told her I was available and would be honored to. She then told Lisa and we began communicating about the wedding. Lisa told me that she and Jason originally planned to be married next October but they were blessed with expecting a little bundle of joy due this coming spring. They thought about just eloping but then came up with the fun idea of being pronounced married at midnight New Year's Eve because they wanted to bring in the new year with lots of love starting a whole new chapter in their lives with their unborn daughter, Brielle. She said that it was their way of being thankful and blessed for what they had been given.  I asked her if she wanted her wedding date to be 12/31/12 or 1/1/13. She chose the latter so it was decided that I would make the pronouncement of marriage one minute after midnight.
If you recall, New Year's Eve was a beautiful night, a bit chilly but not really cold. When I arrived at the house of their friend for the wedding, they had decorated the deck in the back of the house with a pretty trellis and white lights--plenty to read my book from! There were about 5 or 6 good friends gathered including Lisa's brother for the wedding.
Not having remembered to put my watch on, I borrowed Jason's so we could time the pronouncement and you can see it in my hand. I came to the wedding alone but brought my camera with me and Lisa's brother got some great shots of the wedding for me!
We included a blessing for their unborn baby. I asked them to place their hands over the baby then we blessed the precious little girl to be born to them.
After they made their vows to each other, they exchanged rings. Lisa's ring is really special because it belonged to her great great grandmother and some day she will pass it along to her daughter!
Then came the Family Unity Sand Ceremony. They poured in their sand in layers then the baby's sand and covered it with the remainder of their sand. You see the cell phone there? I am not sure but I think Lisa's parents were listening to the ceremony.
We could hear some fireworks going off in the background. I looked at Jason's watch and it was not yet midnight, or so I thought. So we waited a bit then I looked again and discovered that his watch had stopped!
 So, I made the pronouncement of marriage! 
And they are married! Happy New Year and Happy 2013 for Lisa and Jason. They had some sparkling juice we all toasted with to celebrate this very happy occasion. Lisa and Jason, keep in touch and send me a photo of Brielle when she makes her entrance into your happy family!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sunny December Wedding for Jill and Phil at Highgrove!

Jill and Phil met in 2010. Like many good love stories they met in a bar--Edwards Mill Bar and Grill to be specific. They quickly discovered they had a mutual love of British comedy and were movie aficionados although their taste in movies differs. In fact, Jill believes that Phil drags her to some movies just to see her reaction! And so the story goes.....  I met with Jill and Phil in August to plan their wedding ceremony scheduled for December 30, 2012 at the lovely Highgrove Estate in Fuquay-Varina. 
So, when my assistant, Marty, her twin sister Mary who was visiting from Florida, and I arrived that day, it was quite sunny but temps were in the 40s. 
They were hoping the weather would be nice enough to have their wedding outside in the portico where we usually have the ceremony at Highgrove but, as Jill put it, Mother Nature did not cooperate.
So the ceremony was inside the dining room from which we normally process out to the portico. Ann Eberle with Highgrove was in charge and they moved the very long table out and put in about 70 chairs. It was tight but cozy. When Ann is in charge, I know everything will be handled efficiently.
Meanwhile the garden ballroom was all decked out for the reception. Their colors were dark gray, cranberry and lime. Jill's family is from New York and so several of the vendors were from there as well. The florist was Linda McKinney and the photographers were Ellen and Mark Dunbar with Auntie El's Video and Photography in Canastota NY. Each table represented a special date in the couple's relationship. They had their own labels for their wine--Jill is such a wonderful detail person and her wedding was a wonderful opportunity to incorporate her special touches and I know she loved every minute of planning!
Sweet Memories did their cake. Importing a wedding cake from New York would be quite a challenge so they went local for this vendor! This simple yet elegant cake reflects Jill's good taste. See Phil's little airplane cake topper that was yet to be placed on top when this photo was taken. Phil is into airplanes and I saw some wedding favors in the shapes of airplanes too.
And so it was time to begin. The groom, best man, maid of honor, flower girl and I processed in after the mothers were seated, then it was time for Jill and her father to come down the aisle which was a bit of a squeeze as you can see! Jill loves to sew and so of course she made her own elegant wedding gown which had a short jacket I am sure she intended to keep her toasty if we had been able to be outdoors.
Christopher Anderson Reed of Blue Jeans Music provided the lovely music for the ceremony. He plays beautifully and accompanied the two soloists as well.
Jill's father transferred her hand into Phil's hand and we began. You can see that the sunlight is streaming in from the side, so much so that when Jill faced Phil, it was right in her eyes but it soon sank lower as you can see in subsequent photos.
Jill's niece, Grace Ann, sang Simple Gifts. She has the sweetest voice!
After the solo, I launched into their story. The guests were very attentive and loved hearing how the couple met, fell in love and what they adore about each other. I had fun telling them too!
Of course it was filled with lots of humor!
They read their vows to each other from my book then exchanged rings.
This photo above courtesy of their photographers who were so kind to send this to me. 
Jill's brother-in-law, Howard, graced us with an operatic serenade, Winmung by  Schumann. His incredible voice literally filled the room and was exquisite!
Jill's niece, Chloe, follows the bride and groom out. She was moving quickly so the photo is a blur!
The guests were invited to go to the ballroom and enjoy refreshments and then I joined the wedding party in the parlor. They were all commenting on how much they enjoyed the ceremony and how personal it was, and wanting to know how the couple found me (Highgrove referred them to me). Father of the bride, Jack, told me he really liked the ceremony. Chloe is showing me her cute red shoes! Jill's sister, Ann, was her matron of honor. Phil's brother, Stephen, was the best man. 
Jill promptly sent me a thank you note two days after the wedding: "Thank you for the beautiful ceremony you performed for our December 30th wedding. Our family and friends were surprised by the uniqueness of our ceremony. Phil and I will treasure the memories of our ceremony for years to come. I would also like to thank you for "poufing out" the pocket squares on Phil and Stephen's tuxedos. The pocket squares threw them for a curve." (It is not uncommon for the men in the wedding party to not know what to do with the handkerchiefs that come with their tuxes. Just like pinning on the boutonnieres, I have learned how to arrange the handkerchiefs into a point that shows above the pocket and frequently need to do this before the ceremony!)

Jill and Phil, I loved your wedding and had so much fun delivering the words we put together for your ceremony. I especially loved that your guests were so responsive to the humor and were not too shy to laugh. (From time to time I will do a wedding and the guests are afraid to laugh and I will remind them that this wedding is a celebration service, not a church worship service!) Thank you for sharing your lives with me and giving me such good material to work with for your story and secret paragraphs.  I wish you all the best in life and do call on me if you need me in the future!!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Catherine and David Get Married--Again!

Catherine and David married some years ago in Louisiana and brought their sons, Caleb and Seth, into the world. Somewhere along the way their marriage hit a snag and they divorced. After a while they came to the conclusion that splitting up had been a mistake and that they really belonged together. So, Catherine contacted me to officiate their ceremony. They live in Louisburg and wanted to get married on the Thursday evening after Christmas, December 27th.
They decided to make their wedding a celebratory trip to Raleigh so they came to my house and we had the ceremony my living room with Caleb and Seth as witnesses (and Caleb wielding his Dad's camera to document the occasion).
We gathered in front of my ficus tree which I have drafted into being my Christmas tree for the past few years.
When the wedding party arrived, my dogs, Heidi and Cybelle (schnauzer mixes), greeted them and David greeted them with great affection. Catherine explained to me that David is a veterinarian and of course is quite fond of dogs! My husband, Dave, took these pictures for the blog.
Usually I put the pups in another room during a wedding or inside the house if the wedding is outside in my garden. This time they were allowed to stay for the ceremony and gathered at our feet and were amazingly still and quiet. What a magic spell David cast!
 "I now pronounce that you are husband and wife, once again!"
Catherine and David, I think you were meant for each other and I wish you all the best this second time around!! Thank you for letting me be part of your wonderful day of reuniting!