Blog : Wedding Advice

All About Wedding Dresses

Have you ever wondered what truly goes into buying your dream wedding dress?  It is much more than just the dress itself which I will talk more about.  I was recently married and experienced the shopping and all the wonderful things that came with the wedding dress first hand!  I want to share more on this topic with current brides because I know not everyone is aware of the extras involved!  According to, the top 10 wedding gowns for fall 2012 are from famous designers: Vera Wang, Angel Sanchez, Carolina Herrera, Hayley Paige, Jenny Packham, Reem Acra, Peter Langer, Ines Di Santo, Manuel Mota for Pronovias, and Marchesa.  And many celebrities have been seen wearing wedding dresses from these select designers.  Kim Kardashian, Ivanka Trump, and Hilary Duff, just to name a few, have worn gowns by Vera Wang.  Molly Sims wore Marchesa’s “Isadora” wedding gown.  Jenna Bush wore a custom Oscar de la Renta wedding gown. And probably the most talked about bride recently was Kate Middleton, who wore a dress designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQeen.
In 2012, the average cost of a wedding dress is between $900-$1,280.  On the low end, a wedding dress can cost a couple hundred dollars for an off the rack synthetic fabric dress, which can typically be found at department stores or chain bridal retailers.  Mid-range dresses can cost from several hundred to a thousand dollars for an off the rack or custom-made dress, that have minimal to medium detailing (beading, lace), and can be found at a chain bridal retailer or bridal boutique.  On the high end, one can expect to pay several thousands of dollars for a custom-made designer dress.  Of course, the more embellishment or detailing on a dress, the more one can expect to pay.  Brides should know that the overall cost of a wedding dress includes much more than just the cost of the gown itself.  There are many “hidden” costs a bride needs to consider when dress shopping.  These extra costs can come from alterations/fittings, a headpiece/veil, jewelry, shoes/gloves/stockings, undergarments, rush charge (if applicable), pressing of the dress, a gown bag and storage of the dress (at the bridal shop), the delivery of the dress (to the venue), and cleaning/preservation/heirlooming of the dress.  These extras can add between several hundred to a thousand dollars more to the cost of the dress.  I was surprised that one alteration shop was quoting me more to alter the dress than the cost of the dress itself.  I did go to another shop highly recommended who charged a few hundred included adding embellishment and a bustle.  A bustle normally is not included on the dress when purchased but it an extra cost added during alterations.  Adding a bustle averages about $70.  I also had the dress pressed at the hotel I was staying at because I had a destination wedding in Hawaii and obviously did not have it pressed here in San Diego!  Pressing the dress ran me $70.  After the wedding, I had to have the dressed cleaned, pressed and preserved!  Brides should ask the bridal shop if any of these costs are included in the cost of the wedding gown, and should get a written contract stating what is included in the cost of the wedding dress, as well as estimated costs of alterations, storage, and delivery of the dress.  Many shops offer packages for brides which group alterations, pressing and cleaning together for the bride.  We know that the wedding dress is one of the most important items for brides and hope this article helps prepare you to keep in mind everything involved with the wedding gown!

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Backyard or Outdoor Wedding Reception

Are you thinking of having an outdoor wedding reception? Planning a wedding is very exciting so we’d love to offer you some tips to assist if you are considering an outdoor reception.  There are very important factors to keep in mind while planning to ensure nothing is overlooked.   Having an outdoor reception can save on costs and can be just as great as going with a full service venue.  With the right amount of planning, it can be a success and a fun filled event!  Many spots serve as great outdoor reception venues including backyards, estates, private home rentals and park like settings.  I want to discuss a few key points to consider when planning an outdoor reception.  Those items include rentals, service, food and beverage, and music.  These are not all the items that one would need to consider when planning an outdoor reception, however they are those that are most important because of the factors involved.  For all items to take into consideration, hiring a wedding coordinator is highly recommended.

The first decision in wedding planning should always be the budget and the guest count.  The budget will determine what amount can be allocated towards food, alcohol, rentals, décor, vendors and so forth. A wedding coordinator can offer assistance on how to allocate for each area.  After deciding on a budget and guest count, meeting with several full service caterers who specialize in weddings as well as providing rentals would be priority.  If a full service caterer is not hired, then reviewing all areas and logistics for the rentals with your wedding coordinator’s assistance is crucial.  An experienced rental company will be able to make recommendations and provide a walk through at the home or venue to ensure there is sufficient space for the rentals as well as the activities.  After reserving the rentals, a layout should be created for the ceremony and the reception items as well as noting locations of power outlets. This is important for the DJ, the bar, lighting and any other activities requiring power such as a photo booth.  For events running into the evening, consider bringing in extra lighting.  If there is only one restroom and over 40 guests, consider renting a portable restroom or two.  There are nice portable restroom rental companies out there.  These restrooms can be dolled up by placing flowers and toiletry gifts inside.  An experienced wedding coordinator can offer excellent referrals on companies that offer quality, high end portable restrooms.

After creating your layout, the overall design scheme should be determined.  Color, decor and lighting brought in should also compliment the area and the time of day the wedding reception will be held.  Natural lighting is important to consider when deciding on the linen colors and additional lighting on the tables, such as pin lights and accenting as well as sufficient lighting to see after sunset.  Consider the table as a whole and not just the decor that will be placed on the table, but it’s own unique layout including linens and place settings.

As you plan the wedding, the vendors that should be booked first are vendors that only work one wedding per day (such as the photographer).  These key players for the wedding day should be booked as soon as you are able to.  These include the photographer, DJ, videographer and any other wedding vendors who will work the entire event.  The caterer or restaurant plays a big role during the wedding reception. The menu should be decided with your contact for catering.  For the cocktail hour, appetizers or hors doeuvres are great to provide for the guests along with beverages as they mingle after the ceremony concludes while the bridal party and the couple take photos.  The bar should have one bartender for every 40 guests plus a bar back.  An experienced, licensed bartender will provide everything needed for the bar and make recommendations on the amount of beverages for the amount of guests.  Many bartenders allow the client to bring in their own alcohol and will charge for hours only.  If an hourly bartender is hired, it is important to make a list with the bartender on the items that need to be purchased and provided for them.  Your wedding coordinator can assist with ensuring all items are covered.  Another item to consider as related to alcohol is the champagne pouring.  If there will be toasting to champagne, it is important to have the bartender or caterers include the pouring of the champagne into their cost.  Champagne is poured about 15-30 before actual toasts depending on how many guests will be served champagne.   Decide on the menu with your caterer when you have an idea of the meal or meals you would like to provide to the guests.  If it is a lunch time reception, the menu for the meal will be lighter than an evening reception.  If a caterer or restaurant prepares the food without providing servers, bussers or a cleanup crew, it is important to contract a staffing agency that can provide these and I would recommend 1 server for every 25 guests.  Some would recommend per 40 guests, however it is better to have enough servers and service than not enough.  The staffing agency should also designate one of the staff members as the banquet captain to lead the service to ensure the serving, the bussing, the trash and final clean up are smooth.    Dinner ware is something to consider going disposable on if you opt not going with a full service caterer (who can provide china) because if these items are rented or purchased, the cleanup of these items is a big task.  Also, in renting, if every item is not accounted for there are additional charges added onto the final bill.

If a full service caterer is contracted and they include the wedding cake in their pricing, the cake cutting is something normally included.  If the wedding cake is ordered separately and the caterer is not full service, then hiring servers through a staffing agency who specialize in cake cutting is extremely important.  It takes an experienced person to dissemble a cake, cut it and serve it.  Also remember to get cakes, forks, napkins and the cake items for the cake table.

The last items I would like to discuss are the music and clean up.  The DJ or band should let you know their specifications on space as well as power.  The DJ should be aware of the power in the area for set up and the layout of the event.  If there are activities in more than one area (for example cocktail hour in front of house and dinner in the back) then a DJ would probably want two sound systems to cover the event.  Renting a dance floor for dancing is important and if it is an evening event, have sufficient lighting for your guests.  Your wedding coordinator can work with the rental company on square footage and the layout.  A cleanup crew at the end as well as bussers through the end is important as well.  Your wedding coordinator can direct your crew as where the linens, trash, rentals, gifts, cake top and personal items go to avoid any confusion.  Rentals normally will be picked up the Monday following the event.

An outdoor wedding reception can save a lot of money and be such a success!  As long as all areas are covered, you can be sure to have it run smoothly and having very happy wedding guests!

For a free consultation, please call At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) at 619-322-7084 to discuss your special day!  Diana Romero, owner of At Your Side Planning has been planning events for over ten years in San Diego, California.  She founded At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) in 2004 and is highly experienced and professional.  At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) recently was awarded “Best Wedding Planner” on the San Diego 10 News A list.  At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) is a member of the Professional Women’s Organization as well as Small Business certified through the state of California.

All photos by Miguel Pola Photographers

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How to choose your wedding photographer

Ok, so now that your engaged, Now what?  Where do I start…  After the dust settles from the excitement of your engagement. Most couples try to figure out where to start with their planning endeavors. The majority of the time the first thing that is thought about is “Where should we get married?” Once that is taken care of, usually the next step is to start shopping for your photographer.  Lately, with the increase of quality that digital cameras have to offer, you are finding more and more people calling themselves “Professional Photographers”.  We would like to give you a few tips on what to look for when you are soliciting Wedding Photographers.

  1. The Photographer’s Visual Perspective: It is sometimes referred to as the photographer’s eye.  Here is where you need to take notice to what the photographer sees during the day of events. How do these images make you feel? Are they unique or do they look like every other photographer’s work you’ve looked at. Do they look extremely staged? Does the bride and groom look uncomfortable? Does they look like they are having fun?  Are they romantic enough for you?  Are they too riske for you? Do they tell a story?  Finally, which photographer’s work puts a smile on your face and do you feel connected to.
  2. The Photographer’s Experience: In my opinion, experience is a big factor.  It’s important that the photographer that you are gravitating to has experience dealing with the day’s hectic people and schedule. Don’t base your choices on costs.  Wedding days consist of lots of emotions, personalities, and sometimes egos.  The question you should ask yourself is “Does this photographer have what it takes to deal with my families diverse dynamics?”  It’s important for a wedding photographer to be “Chameleon Like” to fit in with the mother of the groom that can’t stand the new wife…   Or the overly eager wedding coordinator that has her job to do. Even your crazy uncle Leo who decides that the line at the appetizer bar is more important than the family photos that he’s supposed to be in. With experience comes patients and an understanding of what a client’s needs are. We are contacted 6-8 times a year to create an album for clients who’s photographer has either gone out of business or just handed them a disc of images. This is a dis-service. It is important that your photographer has the ability to create these memories for you to enjoy with your family.
  3. The ole’ Switch-e-roo.  Now that you’ve decided on what studio will be photographing your wedding. Be sure to get in writing that the photographer you chose (hired) will be the photographer that will show up to your wedding.  Some companies offer multiple shooters to choose from. Others offer services and often double, and even triple book weddings on any given day. Sending any photographer to cover your event. Make sure that the photographer that you interviewed and who’s work you fell in love with, will be the same photographer that will photograph your wedding.

Finally, A photographer with an easy going personality with experience that is flexible enough to fulfill your needs would be your best choice. Ultimately, you should love their photography and there products that they have to offer. Great photography + great personality+ great products  + awesome experience = Happy Clients (Bride & Groom)

These are just a few tips to help you choose the right wedding photographer f0r you. We hope that this article was helpful for you while you are planning your beautiful wedding.  I wrote this article to share an insider’s point of view.  It’s through experience and having had the privilege of photographing hundreds of weddings  that I consider myself both an expert on wedding photography and an expert wedding photographer.  I really hope that you’ve found this article useful in your search to get the best wedding images from your wedding photographer.

If you have any questions about our wedding photography, Please contact us at the links below. Feel free to share this post on your facebook page by clicking the share button below.

Written By Miguel Pola

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Cost Saving Wedding Planning Tips!

Cost Saving Wedding Planning Tips

  • The most important thing to do in the beginning is to create the budget and guest list so you know what you can allocate to each area.
  • When you are hiring vendors and buying wedding items stay within your financial parameters.
  • Acquire vendor referrals that are within your budget from your wedding coordinator.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to decide on who you hire and what you buy.  Any rush decisions at times leaves you spending more than you are prepared for.
  • Get married during an off-peak time such as Fall, Winter and early Spring.
  • Have your wedding during a time that’s not in high demand, such as a Sunday or Friday.
  • Have a smaller guest list and do not include coworkers you do not associate with outside of work, children and those haven’t seen in five years or more.
  • Buy flowers that are in season and simplify the number of flowers in bouquets and centerpieces (I have seen bridesmaids carry one cal lily or one rose).
  • When buying flowers, avoid peak-times such as Valentines, Mother’s Day and Easter.
  • If you have a church ceremony, make your own pew decorations or do not have pew decorations.
  • Hire a DJ that will cover both the ceremony and the reception to save on ceremony music costs.
  • Ask a friend to sing during your ceremony.
  • Have a smaller bridal party – this saves on money for flowers, transportation etc.
  • Attend bridal fairs where you are able to talk to multiple vendors and take advantage of bridal fair discounts and promotions.
  • If you want to have a second photographer, do so only at the wedding ceremony.
  • Instead of a plated dinner reception, have a breakfast, brunch, lunch, cocktail, or h’orderves reception.
  • Know your guests – not everyone eats desert so only order wedding cake for the amount of guests who will have cake and keep in mind some guests will leave before the cake cutting.
  • Have a smaller decorative wedding cake and have sheet cake served to the guests.
  • Place one favor for every two chairs rather than every chair.
  • Use place cards or centerpieces that double as favors.
  • Purchase less expensive cake cutting items and toasting goblets or use the ones provided by the venue
  • Order less programs – for example if you have 100 guests, order 40-50 because not everyone will pick up a program
  • Create your own save the dates.
  • Stick with smaller wedding invitations which are less expensive and will require less postage.
  • Wear a less formal gown or a white bridesmaid dress.
  • Hire a wedding planner. They usually have access to industry discounts that you don’t.   (They also have cost saving tips and can keep you on track on referring vendors within your budget.  A wedding planner saves you money in more than one way! )

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All photos provided by Miguel Pola Photography.

Diana Romero – Owner/Principal Coordinator

At Your Side Planning Main Website

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Nature Inspired Wedding Trend continues into 2012

We have been seeing nature inspired weddings as a trend for the past few years all across the board in events and weddings. These trends are continuing into 2012 and we are looking forward to planning more of these great weddings!  Outdoor locations to consider having thewedding ceremony and reception at would include backyards, Victorian homes, parks, gardens, campgrounds, the woods and outdoor areas such as Lake Tahoe or Sedona in Arizona.  All of these choices are great places!  There is a lot of to consider when deciding to go with an outdoor venue that you coordinator will be able to assist you with (such as electricity, lighting, restrooms, parking, trash and so forth.)  For inspiration, think on picnics, barns, pies, lemonade and natural floral which are loose arrangements and not tight arrangements that are all the same.  Floral that is popular are wild flower and daisies with a hand-picked look. Going with the nature theme throughout your planning is the goal.  Attire can include vintage dresses or certified organic cotton.   In San Diego popular sites are the parks in Coronado and central San Diego such as Presidio Park, the beaches in La Jolla and the gardens in Carlsbad.  Favors can be items such as seeds, plants or donations.  Donations many couples choose are to local charities or their favorite charity.  Another popular trend is having a “honeymoon” fund where guests can pay for items for the wedding honeymoon online such as plane tickets, train tickets, taxi fare, meals, spas etc.  The food menu can be organic and vegetarian centered or picnic inspired.  Invitations can be from recycled material or electronic.  Eco friendliness is an important factor to over 1/3 of engaged couples.  Eco friendliness goes hand in hand with nature inspired weddings.  Include natural aspects of everyone .. more so with elements of the outdoors.  There is so much inspiration for nature inspired weddings.  Thinking on the outdoors…picnics, red rock, the forest, lakes, beached, mountains, barns, parks and gardens.  Our most recent wedding which was nature inspired was in Julian, California at the Pine Hills Lodge and it was adorable! The menu was vegan, floral were loosely arranged, a tree stump for the cake and the area surrounded by beautiful lush greenery!  All photos provided by Brandon Tridle.

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