Monthly Archives: January 2013

Julia’s Custom Veil with Heirloom Lace Amulets

Julia's Custom Wedding Veil with Heirloom Lace Amulets


Julia brought us 39 exquisite lace amulets that were made by women in a Guatemalan village in 1946 for her grandmother’s wedding. She wanted them to be an integral part of the design of a custom, elbow-length ivory veil, but also needed them to be easily removable for future generations to incorporate into their own weddings one day.

We decided to use their circular shape to create a scallop edging around the bottom and lower sides of the veil. The veil itself was made from soft and ethereal ivory silk chiffon. We think it turned out pretty well!


I’m sort of at a loss for what else to say about this project. We LOVE period garments, as you know doubt are aware, and working with these little pieces of history was delightful. I am certain they will look as lovely on each woman in Julia’s family who dons them one day as they did on her.

Congratulations Julia and Jon!


All photos were taken by Ashley Therese Photography and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Wedding Planning: How Do We Choose Wedding Vendors?

This post is part of our series ‘Ask Crafty Broads’. If you have a question we can answer or a topic you’d like to hear more about, what are you waiting for? Submit it! You can also view all the posts in this series here.

Ok, so you’ve got your wedding mission statement, and you’ve got your budget, and now you need to figure out who to hire. The only problem is you have no idea how to find those people who will make your wedding awesome, give you great service, and not rip you off. How do you find them?

Ask! If you hired a wedding planner, that is a great place to begin. She or he will be able to give you a general idea of how much things cost in your region as well as suggest some vendors in your price range. If you didn’t hire a wedding planner, start talking to anyone you know who has recently planned a wedding; they will certainly have opinions to share. You can also use our favorite tool – the internet. Search for the kind of vendors you need, check out their reviews (make sure you look at public review sites, not just the hand-picked testimonials on their own websites), and ask around on the various wedding community boards for suggestions.

Once you start contacting vendors, make sure you can afford them before you fall in love with them! If they don’t have at least some general pricing on their websites, send an email or call and ask for an average (be sure to include how many guests you expect, as this can make a big difference in some categories).

Found a few that fit your budget? Awesome! Interview them!! Please don’t skip this step. You should use and trust your gut instincts when you meet with vendors. If they don’t communicate in a timely fashion now, they are unlikely to do so once you book them. If they are awesome and go out of their way to customize a proposal for you or accommodate your budget, they are more likely to be great to work with throughout the process.

Got it narrowed down to one or two? You are almost there! Ask to see a sample contract, review it and make sure you understand everything in it. Find out what their payment schedule is. Ask any question you may have about their services and pricing now, before you sign anything. Still want to hire them? Go for it!

Once you have everything booked, get organized! We’ll talk more about this soon, but go ahead and start a spreadsheet with all you vendor contact information now, and mark payment due dates in your calendar (with reminders!) so you don’t miss them.

That’s it! Now, go relax until the wedding! =)

→ Need more help? We can help you find the right vendors, negotiate contracts, and keep track of payments for you.d

Lisa and Bill’s Family-Centered Wedding at the Morton Arboretum – Lisle, IL

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Lisa found us through the Offbeat Bride Tribe. (Side note: we are becoming an official Offbeat Bride sponsor in February!) We hit it off instantly when we met up at the Morton Arboretum on a very cold day last winter. She told me about her wedding plans: a morning ceremony surrounded by thirty of their nearest and dearest, including a gaggle of kids; photos in the Fragrance Garden afterwards; a brunch of comfort foods and bellinis; and lots of crafty details.

Best Buddies.

Best Buddies. With matching bow ties.

What I loved most about Lisa and Bill’s wedding was the love you could feel between all of their family members and guests. Bill’s son served as the “Best Buddy” and their collection of nieces and nephews made up the wedding party, referred to throughout as The Minions. They are a rambunctious, happy bunch to be around, and their energy made the day both festive and relaxed. It’s pretty damn near impossible to be worried about anything when you’re in the midst of a bubble-blowing fest and skirt-twirling contest!

See? Love! Heaps and heaps of it.

See? Love! Heaps and heaps of it.

Lisa and Bill had a short and sweet ceremony, officiated by a dear friend, and then braved the chilly early-April temperatures to take photos outside. Inside, the room was filled with lots of handmade details – Lisa spent months folding paper flowers for the bouquets and the centerpieces (they look great, don’t they??) as well as making flower corsages for each of their guests. A family member made crocheted headbands for the girl minions; the boys each had a special flower corsage.

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But maybe my most favorite part? After feeding each other the first bite of cake, the kiddos all lined up and each got a turn being fed a bit too!

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To sum it up: this was a super fun and relaxed wedding full of people who genuinely love each other and their families a lot – and that is kinda the best thing ever. I loved being part of this day.

Congratulations Lisa and Bill!

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Venue: The Founders Room at the Morton Arboretum
Officiant: Friend of the couple
Photographer: Timothy Whaley
Catering: Classic Fare (in-house caterer for the Arboretum)
Cake: The Cakery
Flowers: Made by the bride

All photos were taken by Timothy Whaley Photography and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Ask Crafty Broads: The Guest List

This post is part of our series ‘Ask Crafty Broads’. If you have a question we can answer or a topic you’d like to hear more about, what are you waiting for? Submit it! You can also view all the posts in this series here.

So here’s the one thing where you are more or less on your own – the guest list. Figuring out who to invite or not is possibly the most difficult part of planning your wedding. Unfortunately, it’s the part where no one else can really help much, because ultimately it’s up to you to decide who you want to be there.

Here’s the advice I can give:

  • Make your guest list first, before you decide anything else except maybe your budget. The size of your party will guide a lot of your decisions, especially your venue and food selections. Balancing budget and guest list is a giant challenge, I’m not gonna lie, but I truly believe you should decide who you want at your wedding before you decide what your wedding will look like. You may need to make cuts and compromises to other things in order to invite everyone you want to; believe me when I say that you will remember WHO you spent your day with far more than the food, fancy clothes, and flowers.
  • If there are people who you know will not be able to attend, but you would definitely invite them if they could, invite them anyway. They will appreciate it, and undoubtedly celebrate it with you in their own way – and that’s really the point, isn’t it? To celebrate with the people you love most.
  • Be warned: Parents may expect to be able to invite a bunch of their friends too, so discuss this upfront, and make sure you know how many guests they anticipate will come.
  • Don’t forget your wedding mission statement! Was it to have an intimate gathering? Then stick to your guns and only invite those people who you just can’t get married without. Or is your goal a big, fun party? Then maybe you need to forego fancy centerpieces so you can feed them all.
  • Keep track of it! I recommend a spreadsheet with columns for name, mailing address, email address, phone number, meal selection (if applicable), and their RSVP status at minimum. Optionally, you may want to track guests by household, in which case you’ll want to add columns for the number of adults and children as well. This is a good spot to keep track of gifts and note when you’ve sent a thank you card as well.

…And yeah, that’s really all I’ve got for guest list advice. Hopefully knowing that it’s just as hard for everyone else will help you get through it!

→ Need more help? We can create a custom guest list spreadsheet with online access, track RSVPs and meal choices for you, address and mail invitations, and more. Schedule a consultation time here.

Ask Crafty Broads: Do We Need A Wedding Planner?

This post is part of our series ‘Ask Crafty Broads’. If you have a question we can answer or a topic you’d like to hear more about, what are you waiting for? Submit it! You can also view all the posts in this series here.

Today, I am going to talk about what I do, and why you might (or might not) want someone like me to be on your wedding planning team.

First, let me answer the title question: Do you need a wedding planner?
No! You absolutely do not NEED a wedding planner. But there are many reasons why you might want one:

  • If you have never planned a large event before. A wedding planner can help you figure out where to start, how to make the best use of your budget, source vendors, negotiate contracts, make a realistic wedding day timeline, and generally guide you on all the details and decisions that need to be made for a large event.
  • If you are too busy! The average couple spends about 100 hours planning their wedding. Hiring a wedding planner can drastically reduce the amount of time you have to sacrifice to planning. Many of our clients are simply too busy living their lives to find time for all the research and phone calls and emails and site visits that make a wedding happen.
  • If planning a wedding doesn’t interest you. Maybe you think planning a wedding sounds like a terrible way to spend 2-10 hours a week for the better part of a year. Totally understandable. Me? I think planning events is fun. I like researching caterers and reading fine print. (Seriously, I do.) I LOVE brainstorming decor ideas and looking at venues.
  • If you are stuck on a particular aspect of the wedding. A lot of our clients fall into the “partial planning” category – that is, they are doing most of the planning on their own, but need help with something specific, such as finding a caterer that can meet their budget, or visiting venues on their behalf because they live out-of-town.
  • If you want peace of mind. Day-of-Coordination, or wedding stage management as we like to call it, is the most popular thing we are hired for. Many couples enjoy planning their wedding festivities, but don’t want to worry about all the little details on their big day. Hiring a wedding planner to run the day can really ease your stress and ensure that you have a good plan going in, as well as that anything which might go wrong will be swiftly taken care of. This is also a great option for couples who can’t afford full-planning, but still want a bit of professional help.
Wrangling people for photos - definitely part of my job.

Wrangling people for photos – definitely part of my job.


And now, I’d like to answer a couple questions sent in by readers:
When Should You Call a Wedding Planner?
Short answer? Now. Even if you are only planning to hire us for day-of-coordination, we are super helpful to have on board all along. I can’t speak for other planner, but when you hire us, you get access to us via email and phone from the time you put down the deposit. We can offer vendor recommendations and general advice regardless of what specific service we’re providing to you. And perhaps most importantly, booking sooner rather than later makes it much more likely that we’ll be available on your wedding day!

Why Do Some Weddings Require an Assistant for Day-of-Coordination?
The most general answer is that there are some weddings which simply cannot be well-executed without a little more help. In that case, I bring an assistant with me to make sure that everything is set up on time and going as planned. The biggest reasons I usually need an assistant are:

  • Ceremony and Reception in separate locations – I can’t be in two places at once! If there is plenty of time for setup at both venues before the ceremony begins or a big gap of time between them, I may be able to do it on my own, but this is often not the case.
  • One venue, but everything needs to be reset between ceremony and reception – This doesn’t happen too often, but if your venue is small compared to your guest list, someone will have to rearrange chairs, adult tables, place centerpieces, and light candles between your ceremony and reception. Often catering staff will do the bulk of this work, but sometimes that’s my job, and I might need help!
  • Short setup time – Sometimes we don’t have access to the venue(s) early enough for one person to get everything set up before guests arrive.

I will always try to determine whether an assistant is needed at your initial consultation so there are no surprises down the road.

Got more planning questions? Fire away in the comments.

→ Need more help? We offer the full spectrum of wedding planning services, from hourly consultation to day-of-coorditnation to vendor sourcing all the way to full-on, start-to-finish planning. We are based in Chicago, but will happily travel anywhere! Schedule a consultation time here.

The Chopping Block: Joanne’s Wedding Dress Transformation, with Custom Wedding Veil and Silk Tie for the Groom

Joanne came to us with a lovely full-length-with-train lace gown that she’d found at the Brides Against Breast Cancer sale. She definitely needed a hem, as well as to have it taken in a bit, and she thought, perhaps, the style wasn’t quite… her.

The lovely dress before we made any changes.

The lovely dress before we made any changes.

As we were talking, we found out that she didn’t want the train at all, and that she was thinking about maybe shortening the dress. She also didn’t love the generic straps that came on the dress. We thought turning it into a little knee-length number would look fantastic on her. And we also suggested using some of the lace we cut off the bottom to make some nicer straps that would look a little more cohesive with the style of the dress.

The Dress, after all our changes.

The Dress, after all our changes.

And then we talked some more and Joanne showed us the fantastic red shoes she was planning to wear with it. And we suggested that maybe a red silk dupioni sash would look nice.

Fabulous Red Shoes!

Fabulous Red Shoes!

And after that was all done, Joanne was kinda wanting a veil. And since we had that whole lace train we’d mercilessly chopped off… we did that too.

Joanne's dress and veil in action

Joanne’s dress and veil in action.

And then Joanne asked if we could make a tie for her husband-to-be in the same red silk as her sash. Which we did.

The tie!

The tie!

Turns out, silk ties are really, really nice. So nice, in fact, that we kinda wanted to make ties for ourselves, but we’re not really tie-wearing kind of girls… anyway. This was a really fun bundle of projects to work on, as well as a great example of the drastic changes you can make to a dress with a little creative thought.

All photos were taken by Matthew Kuehl Photography and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Ask Crafty Broads: How Do We Make A Wedding Budget?

This post is part of our series ‘Ask Crafty Broads’. If you have a question we can answer or a topic you’d like to hear more about, what are you waiting for? Submit it! You can also view all the posts in this series here.

Why yes, we do keep our rainy day savings in a Kool-Aid man jar from 1987.

Why yes, we do keep our rainy day savings in a Kool-Aid man jar from 1987.

There are two parts of planning a wedding that can reduce even the toughest couple to tears, fighting, and pricing flights to Vegas: the Budget and the Guest List. We’re going to try to tackle that first beast today.

Budgeting can be broken down into two parts:

  1. How much money do we have?
  2. How should we spend it?

STEP ONE: I’d like you to note the absence of “How much does a wedding cost?” above. Because here is the thing – a wedding costs whatever amount you spend on it. YOU. Not everyone else that ever got married in the history of ever. It’s critically important to remember that. You have what you have, and you can have an excellent wedding using whatever dollar amount that is (provided it is at least enough to buy your marriage license.) So the first thing you have to do is figure out what that magic number is. Many of you may be paying for your entire wedding yourselves, and so it’s easy to figure this out, if only because you know exactly how little money you have. Some of you may have enough money available that you want to research costs of venues and caterers and photographers before you settle on a total (you should check out our Real Wedding Budget series). Others will need to (tactfully) find out if parents plan to contribute. About that – get a firm dollar amount from your generous relations. Do not accept “as long as it’s reasonable” or “not too much” because those are totally subjective things that only the person holding the cash can actually decide. Keep in mind that the person who says “I’ll pay for the cake/dress/band/flowers/etc.” may have no idea what those things cost. Also, find out if there are any strings attached. Do they expect to be part of decisions made with that money? To have input on the guest list? If so, you may need to decide whether or not want to accept a gift with limitations on how you spend it.

STEP TWO (the hard one): Armed with your wedding mission statement and a total dollar amount, you can prioritize what are your real must-haves and what you can ruthlessly just say no to in order to stick to your budget. There are all manner of breakdowns on wedding websites telling you to spend x percent of your budget on this and y percent on that; those guidelines can be helpful, but you shouldn’t be afraid to change them! Maybe your priority is a really good meal; your reception might cost 70% of your budget instead of the recommended 50%, and you may cut back on flowers or use an iPod playlist instead of a DJ in order to make it work. When in doubt, go back to that list of priorities you made and ask yourselves: does this fit with our wedding priorities? If not, scale it back, go with the cheapest option, or cut it out completely.

Questions? Fire away in the comments. Next up: wedding planners – do you really need one?

→ Need more help? We offer a 90-minute budget strategy session, where we go through your wedding budget line-by-line with you, and figure out how to make what you want happen with the money you have. After the session, you’ll have online access to an awesome budget spreadsheet we create just for you. We can do it in person in the Chicago area, over the phone, or online. Schedule a consultation time here.

Caitlin and Mike’s University of Chicago Wedding – Bond Chapel and The Quad Club – Chicago, IL

Let’s go way back to April as I attempt to catch up on blogging this year’s weddings and projects…

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Caitlin and Mike found me through APW and hired me to coordinate their wedding at the University of Chicago. Where Mike was finishing up his PhD roughly one week prior to the wedding. After which they were planning a cross-country move for a new job. I am tired just thinking about all that, never mind planning a wedding in the middle of it! However, they took it in stride and planned a lovely April wedding.

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

The Bond Chapel (which you may remember from Liz & James’ wedding) is a gorgeous historical building, and made a beautiful spot for their ceremony. One of the things I loved most was the blessing they included – they asked several friends, each of different cultures, to say a prayer in their language (Irish, Indian, Hebrew, and Greek) for the marriage – I am a foreign language nerd so I really loved this part.

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Cocktail hour featured the Parkwest Strings, who at Caitlin’s request, learned the Downton Abbey theme song. If you love that show as much as I do, you know how thrilled I was to hear that familiar tune.

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

The reception was fantastic, in no small part because they hired the Matt Stedman Band to play for the party. I highly recommend them if you are looking for a wedding band – they had a good mix of musical genres and kept the dance floor full all night. When it came time for cake cutting, they’d chosen a comically large meat cleaver to hack their first married cupcake in half.

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Finally, I have to mention the favors they made – they took square floor tiles and put pictures of each of the four states they’d lived in one them, turning them into unique coasters for each guest to take home.

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Caitlin and Mike – I hope you have settled into your new home and are enjoying married life to the fullest on the west coast! CONGRATULATIONS!

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Photo © Matthew Kuehl

Ceremony Venue: Bond Chapel at the University of Chicago
Reception Venue: Quadrangle Club at the University of Chicago
Photographer: Matthew Kuehl Photography
Florist: A New Leaf
Officiant: Elizabeth Harding, Midwest Ceremonies
Ceremony/Cocktail Hour Musicians: Parkwest Strings
Reception Band: The Matt Stedman Band
Chair Rental: Tablescapes

All photos were taken by Matthew Kuehl Photography and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Ask Crafty Broads: Wedding Planning – Where Do We Start?

New Year, new series, right? Since the holiday season is when so many people get engaged, I though I’d start the year with some posts on the wedding planning process. I’m going to call it ‘Ask Crafty Broads’. If you have a question I can answer or a topic you’d like to hear about, submit it here! I made a nifty form and everything.

Let’s start at the very beginning, shall we? First, I’m going to assume that you recently became engaged and you have never planned a wedding before. CONGRATULATIONS! If you haven’t already, I strongly urge you and your fiancé(e) to take a few weeks to enjoy this new facet of you’re relationship before dive head first into planning. Celebrate, tell everyone you love, and practice saying “Thanks for your advice”, full stop.

Second, before you get caught up in budgets and pretty details and trying to live up to the expectations of everyone you’ve ever met and the entire internet, maybe you want to know the only two ways you can possibly plan your wedding wrong.

Ready to go? The first thing I advise you to do is set aside an evening with your future spouse and really think about what you want your wedding to be. Without talking about specifics, begin the conversation about what your wedding should look and feel like. Very general ideas here, folks – like do you want it to feel formal or casual? Traditional or quirky? Big party or intimate brunch? What are your priorities as far as the overall vibe goes – to make a formal declaration within your community, bring your two families together, or simply have a kickass party? What wedding dreams have each of you formed through the course of your life and what do they have in common? What traditions come to mind when you think of a wedding, and do you love or hate them?

At the end of this conversation, I suggest you write down your top three priorities, whatever they may be. (And feel free to share them in the comments!) Use them as a mission statement of sorts, so that whenever you are unsure if something you’re considering is right for your wedding, you can refer back to it and see if it fits. This will help you with every aspect of your wedding, including our next topic: budget. Stay tuned…

→ Need more help? We offer consultation by the hour or month on any aspect of your wedding that you want an expert opinion about, and we can do it in person, over the phone, or online. Schedule a consultation time here.

Wedding Planning: You’re Doing It Right!

Hi! Did you get engaged over the holidays? Are you already overwhelmed by friends, coworkers, and relatives you didn’t even know you had telling you that your wedding must be done a certain way, cost a certain amount per guest, have a theme and set of colors, look like a magazine, or include whatever tradition that person holds dear, lest it be a terrible wedding or not even a “real” wedding at all?

Let me ask you just two questions, and I promise I will put your mind at ease.

1. Did you pick the right person? This is the most important thing, so don’t f*ck it up.
2. Does your wedding day plan include exchanging vows and signing the appropriate documents with an officiant and witness(es) meeting the legal requirements of your local jurisdiction and, if applicable, the religious institution of your choice?

If you answered “yes” to both questions, then CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT!

Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Checking on the guest list at our wedding. Photo © Timmy Samuel / Starbelly Studios

Checking on the guest list at our wedding.
Photo © Timmy Samuel / Starbelly Studios