Cynthia Viola Photography

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Ideal Wedding Planning Timeline

Wedding Photography, VendorsCynthia ViolaComment
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou
What to do before the wedding day

I will be shooting the weddings of five close friends and family members this year and as such, I've been a bit more involved in the planning of their big days. Along with that, I've found the same question keeps presenting itself in different ways:

"If I send my save the dates now, how long do I wait to send my official invites?"

"When should I expect people to RSVP by?"

"How early do I need to order..."

"When is the best time to..."

"At what point do I need to...."

"Is it too late to...."

Now, I'm certainly no expert here, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND hiring a wedding coordinator to help you with these questions, but hopefully this will give you some ideas for what might work for you. Particularly as it relates to your photography. :)

Please do not feel like you need to follow this exaclty...or at all, but if you're just looking for a place to start, hopefully you'll find this helpful. I am basing it off of a 12 month timeline. If your big day is in 6 months, cut the times in half, 18 months, you have a little leeway etc...

what to do 12 months before wedding

12-18 Months:

  • Start a binder to keep everything together (vendor info, price comparisons, receipts)  
  • Sit down with with your future spouse and any parents who might be helping with the cost and determine not only an overall budget but how much of it you'd like to designate to each area. 
  • Start a guest list, it will need to be adjusted as you go along (most likely cut due to costs) but go ahead and get a ballpark idea of how many you'd have there if everyone you loved came, this will help you choose your venue as some only hold a certain amount. 
  • Hire a planner.  (In St. Augustine, I love Heidi) This will save you SOOOO much stress. They are naturally good at details (that's why they're planners) and they know a ton about the industry and what vendors and details will suit you best.
  • Choose a season you'd like to be married in, and even a month, just don't set your heart on a specific date until you know your venue and other main vendors are available. 
  • Choose your Venue(s). Popular ceremony and reception venues book up sometimes two years in advance. Once you know your venue is available for the date you want, you'll be able to choose your other vendors accordingly and send out save the dates. Check to make sure they don't host multiple weddings in one day, that can make it stressful if you're trying to get in and out at very specific times.
  • If you like, Throw an Engagement Party! We will always take ANY reason to celebrate with the people we love. Just don't feel like you have to... especially if you'd rather save your budget for better options on the wedding day.
what to do 9 months before your wedding

9-11 Months:

  • Determine which vendors are most important to you and secure them for the date asap in order of importance. This will also deplete the budget the fastest, so if you know you can't live without a specific DJ, book them first and you can get a second choice caterer if the budget gets tight.  I personally think photography is most important because it's the only thing you get to keep after the big day besides your spouse, but definitely figure out what is most important to you and your future spouse.  
  • Register for gifts at various stores, most you can do online these days, Wedding Wire also helps streamline this process.  
  • Say yes to a dress. (or two for two brides both wearing dresses, double the fun!) It's fine if you're borrowing it, just know where it's coming from and whether or not it will need to be altered. This tends to take a couple months. 
  • Reserve a block of hotel rooms for out of town guests at 2-3 different hotels at different price points near the venue. 
  • Schedule your engagement session with your photographer. If you plan to use these photos for save the dates, you'll need to be closer to 11 months out, if not, I've shot them as late as the day before the wedding. :)
  • Launch a wedding website if you'd like, through a free service such as Weddingwire.com. This will be helpful for guests needing info leading up to the big day. (It's also fun to put it together, and you can show off photos from your engagement session if you choose to have one) 
what to do 7 months before wedding

7-8 Months:

  • Choose your wedding party. If you know for sure that, say, siblings will be in the party, feel free to let them know asap. But we chose ours while still in college a year and a half before the big day with friends changing constantly and by the time our day rolled around we weren't even sure a couple of them would show up! ALSO, don't feel like it has to be all women or all men based on your gender. If you want your brother AND sister standing by your side, do it. 
  • If you're choosing specific dresses for any ladies in your party to wear, get them ordered now, it often takes as much as six months for them to arrive, then you need to consider alterations. It's also common practice today to just choose a color and length and allow the girls to choose their dress, this way price point and body type for each one can be considered. 
  • Start planning your honeymoon. Do you need passports or shots?
  • Choose wedding shoes and begin your alterations, make sure to bring the shoes with you to each fitting. (It usually takes about 3 fittings) 
what to do 6 months before wedding

5-6 Months:

  • Meet with your officiant and decide if you'll want to do pre-marital counseling. I HIGHLY recommend this, regardless of your religious affiliation. Having a couple sessions to talk through some of the big things you can expect in your marriage will help you get through those tuff times so much better. 
  • Reserve your structural necessities. If an outdoor wedding, you might need a tent, portable toilets, extra chairs etc, it will depend on your venue, just make sure you check in with them. 
  • Florists can come a little later due to the fact that they can usually book multiple weddings in one day, but if you have your heart set on one, make sure you lean closer to 6 months. 
  • Arrange any transportation you might need for yourselves, your wedding party or the entire guest list if there will be heavy drinking at the reception. Consider trolleys, limos, busses and pre-paid uber passes. 
  • Finalize your menu with the caterer. 
  • Choose your cake or other desserts if your caterer does not provide them. Doughnuts, cupcakes, truffles and ice cream bars are all popular options as well. 
what to do 3 months before wedding

3-4 Months:

  • Schedule hair and/or make up artists and decide if you'll also be providing them for your girls/moms/sisters etc... It's a great idea to have them do your trial run the day of your engagement or bridal session so you'll know what to expect on the big day and whether or not you like the way you look in photos. 
  • Order favors for guests if you so desire, or welcome baskets for out of town guests. You can also plan gifts for those who helped out, like parents and wedding party etc. 
  • Purchase the wedding bands now in case you need any resizing.  
  • Nail down your guest list and send invitations. Feel free to get fancy with a calligrapher or keep it super simple with social media, either way, make sure everyone you want to be there has it in their calendar. RSVP cutoff is usually about 2-3 weeks prior to the wedding so you can inform your caterer of exact food amounts. 
  • If you're choosing to have a bridal session, now is the time to get it done if you'd like to have any images printed to canvas and displayed at the reception. Keep in mind you will also need to bump up the time your wedding gown is completed. (If you don't plan to have prints at the reception you can just make sure to set aside enough time for your photographer to take bridal portraits on the morning of the big day)
  • Rent or buy the attire for the groom (or grooms) as well as any men in the wedding party (or ladies wearing suits).
what to do 2 months before wedding

 1-2 Months:

  • Create a day-of timeline. This is best done WITH your coordinator and photographer to make sure you're on the same page with how long certain pieces take. They have experienced hundreds of weddings and can guide you. It is also good to send this to your other vendors to make sure they don't see any red flags. (If you accidentally only planned 5 minutes to hand deliver 300 plated meals, your caterer will catch that)
  • Book rehearsal dinner, day after brunch and any other venues for special meals before and after the big day for out of town and special guests. 
  • Make sure your DJ or band know what music you want played and more importantly, what you don't. Guests will inevitably make requests, if there's something specific you don't want to hear on your happy day, make sure they know to kindly tell your guests, "no."
  • Make sure you inform those you'd like to make a toast well in advance so they have time to prepare. Some will still "shoot from the hip" on the day of, but others appreciate having lots of time to write the perfect speech. 
  • Sometimes it's easier on planning to hold bachelor and bachelorette parties a month or two in advance, especially if you plan to travel somewhere like Vegas, but if all your friends are from out of town, it can be easiest to schedule it the night BEFORE the rehearsal so you have time to recover. :)
what to do 1 month before wedding

Month of:

  • Finalize the ceremony timeline as well as any readings, songs, or special moments. Make sure you are on the same page with the officiant and anyone else you'd like to participate.  Marriage licenses take about a week, so give yourselves some leeway. 
  • Confirm arrival times for all vendors and make sure you've exchanged answers to any final questions. 
  • Send out as many final vendor payments as you can so you do not have to worry about it at the reception while you're trying to dance. 
  • If any guests have not RSVPd by the cut off, it's a good idea to call them or check in via social media one last time to make sure. 
  • If you will be assigning seating for the reception, do this after your final RSVP date so you know exactly what you're working with. It can also be a good idea to plan a "did not rsvp" table if your caterer allows the flexibility. It's also wise to consider your vendors here, do you want your photographer,  officiant or band sitting with the guests and a plated meal, or will you ask the caterer to provide a vendor meal in the back. 
  • Write your vows if necessary, or letters to exchange with each other on the morning of. 
what to do 1 week before wedding

Week of:

  • Delegate small tasks like bustling the dress, paying and tipping vendors, giving out party gifts, bringing snacks to the getting ready suites, creating a getting ready playlist or anything else you don't want to have to fret about on the morning of. 
  • Send a timeline to the wedding party and answer any questions. 
  • Pick up your dress(es) and tux(es)
  • If you're doing a mani or pedi make sure it's booked for the morning of the rehearsal, or even the day before. A stress-relieving couple's massage is always a good idea as well. It will help you both destress. 
  • Pack for the honeymoon. 

Night Before:

  • At rehearsal confirm any readings, answer any questions for the family and wedding party and make sure everyone know where they need to be and when. (It's a good idea to tell them 30-60 minutes earlier than necessary if they tend to run late)
  • Pass out any gifts for the party or parents (especially if you expect them to wear them the next day). 
  • Bring anything to the ceremony site that you're allowed to leave (candles, programs etc)
  • Give marriage license to the officiant
what to do the day of your wedding

Day of:

  • Have all items you want photographed delivered to one of your getting ready suites so that your photographer can capture it all together (before you give the rings to the best man etc...)
  • Just take it all in. It will go by SO fast. Things are not going to go quite as planned and that is JUST FINE. As long as you both say, "I do" all the other details will work themselves out. Relax and enjoy watching all your hard work play out before your eyes. You're almost MARRIED!

Please do NOT feel like this is comprehensive or that you need to follow all or any of it. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to not stress about the big day but enjoy the process and love each other through all the decisions. 

No matter what decisions you make, who's opinions you heed to or kindly turn down - the way you treat your future spouse and all those trying to help you make good decisions will FAR outweigh what final decisions were actually made. No one will care that you had the most beautiful flowers if you yelled at them for not holding them the right way, they won't care how good you looked in your gown if you yelled at them for stepping on the train, they won't remember that your food was amazing if you told them their ideas for food were terrible.

Treat your people with kindness above all and everyone will remember what an incredible couple you both are and how you had the most beautiful wedding they've ever seen. 

 

Guest Post! A History of the Wedding Dress by Heidi Stouder

Vendors, Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Heidi Stouder at Endless Possibilities

You guys! I have been having TOO much fun these past couple weeks getting acquainted with St. Augustine and all it's beautiful people. I've been meeting lots of kind people, like sweet Mrs. Smith at the coffee shop who let me go first in line because she could tell I was there for a meeting and she "didn't have anywhere important to be." How sweet is that?!? I feel like I'm back in Boone all over again!

Well, one of my favorite new people, Heidi, was gracious enough to give me the run down of the wedding industry down here and we had a blast this afternoon as I took a few quick head shots for her in the parking lot of her new office space at Endless Possibilities!

When I was checking out her website the other day I discovered this blog she wrote recently and knew immediately I HAD to have it! I realized immediately I didn't know the answer to the question of why we wear white wedding dresses and her discovery fascinated me. It's not been around for thousands of years like I'd supposed, the answer might surprise you too! Check it out below!

History of the white wedding dress

I just had the opportunity to experience the grand adventure of trying on wedding gowns.

It sparked my curiosity on "when did the wedding dress fad even start?" "Have brides always wanted to wear white, or was that even an option for most?"

So I brewed some coffee and stat down to read any information I could find on the subject.

I wasn't surprised to read that there is little to no information on the subject. What you can find out, is wedding dress colors and styles pertaining to what culture you were raised in.

Like how most Eastern cultures wore red, a symbol of favored fortune.

Wedding dresses have changed drastically throughout history, but the earliest information on Western culture, dates back to the Middle ages. Brides were expected to dress in the manner that befitted their social status.

Wealthy families wore rich colors, exclusive fabrics, furs, velvet and silks. The poorest brides wore their best church dress they had.  But when did the white wedding dress become the fashion?

The first documented white wedding gown was worn by Philippa of England, in 1406.  She sported a white silk tunic with a cloak trimmed in grey squirrel fur.  Defiantly not PETA approved.

History of the white wedding dress

Then the next bride we find out about is Mary Queen of Scots.  She wore white in 1559, at the time the French style, was to wear white if you were in mourning. It just so happened that Mary Queen of Scots was marrying Francis II of France.  Kinda makes you think is was a subtle way of stating how she felt about the union.

The white wedding gown didn't come into fashion till the Victorian era when Queen Victoria wore white in 1840.   Wearing white had a rough start.  White was a very hard color to come by and to keep clean.  White was a sign of social status and still only used by the wealthy from 1840's through the 1920's.  Due to the depression, WWI and WWII, wedding dresses again became what the bride had on hand, such as church clothes or borrowed dresses from a family member or friend.  After WWII the white wedding gown's, like we see today, made its smashing hit and come back with Grace Kelly in 1956.

History of the white wedding dress

Wedding dresses truly reflect a bride's personality as well as the theme of the wedding.  More and more you will see brides are incorporating color back into the wedding dress. However, I feel that the white/Ivory gown will stand the test of time and remain the most sought after gown color for years to come.

History of the white wedding dress
History of the white wedding dress

Thank you so much Heidi for sharing your findings!! Cannot wait to work with you on our first wedding this spring!! 


If you liked this post, you will probably also like: The Vendor Series or How to Choose Bridesmaids Dresses

Community Series - Samantha Gratton - Project Manager

Vendors, Wedding PhotographyCynthia Viola2 Comments
A goal without a plan is just a wish
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Duke Gardens Wedding

Since I'm not an especially "planned" person (I'm an ENFP, not an ENFJ after all) I tend to attract the same type of couples when it comes to their wedding photography. Adventurous, laid back, go with the flow couples love the fact that I'm willing to travel anywhere and climb any tree to get the shot, not to mention being able to work with the scheduled being changed at the last second. 

That said, like me, many of my couples don't do well with making and sticking to plans. This is where it's super helpful to have a wedding coordinator like Monica at Nouveau Events here in Raleigh or Meris at The Whole Shebang in the mountains. 

Being organized isn't only important on your wedding day though. There are many job, home and event related things that could use a little extra management from someone who understands details well and can make connections quickly. 

Whether you hire a wedding planner or not, there are so many decisions and details that you'll have before your wedding. So, I asked my favorite project manager to share her tips and tricks to help new couples think through what is most important for planning their big day. 

Samantha Gratton Project Manager

Samantha Gratton is a great project manager and has worked with a number of small businesses, everyone from life coaches and public speakers to occasionally freelancers and tech companies. She helped me get my workflow together two years ago when I rebranded and went full-time. She was vital when it came to dealing with things like creating my list of tasks and researching and preparing everything I needed to make it happen. She helped keep it organized and kept my goals on schedule. I loved working with her then and highly recommend her now for other freelancers and small businesses. 

I asked her to write a guest blog post to new couples helping them think through what is most important for planning their big day. Here's what she had to say:

Project Management Tips for the Newly Engaged Couple

The wedding day is a BIG day. A ton of details and people and plans go into that big day, regardless of the size of your event. Pulling from my experience as a project manager, I wanted to share a few key tips for making your wedding day (and the planning process) a success.

Pick your priorities

There seems to be a moment of realization when a couple goes from dreaming of their ideal wedding to planning their actual wedding. Just like any project--time, money, and availability create some limitations for you.

Instead of stretching yourself and your budget thin, pick your favorites. Do you love music and want to have a live band? Are you a foodie with a particular palate for what is served for dinner? Do you have an eye for design and love the opportunity to throw yourself into the invitations or decor? Have you always dreamed of the dress and this to be a high fashion event? You’ll probably have elements of each of these categories but figuring out where you want to go big and where you can save some time and money helps a lot.

Tip: You’ll want the photographer (hello, Cynthia!) to be one of the main priorities when wedding planning. They are with you all day long and interacting with your bridal party and all of the other vendors making a big impact on the day. Plus, the photos are one of the few things you keep after the wedding is over.

Aspen Wedding

DIY: Delegate It Y’all

Let’s change the name of the game when it comes to DIY. Instead of “do-it-yourself” for your wedding day, think: “Delegate It, Y’all!”  

Sure, you can make all of your centerpieces or have a Pinterest-perfect day, but as crafty as you may be, you can’t actually do it all yourself, especially on the wedding day itself. Release yourself from that burden because people often would love to help!  

Make a list of all of the things you have to do, everything from the list of decisions to the list of the details. Not only will you feel better knowing it isn’t all just floating up there in your head anymore, but you can look at it a bit more objectively.

What are you looking forward to doing on that list? What can easily go to someone else? And what items are you willing to let go of control a bit and trust someone else with?  

Think through all of the categories this could apply to: hair/makeup, decorations, music, photography, organization, wedding planning, floral arrangements, invitations--you name it and there’s probably someone who can help you out with it. In some cases, it means hiring a professional and in other cases it’s asking a friend or relative for help.

High Grove Estate Wedding

Know the goal

In the midst of wedding planning it’s easy to get caught up the in details. It’s always important to step back and look at the big picture. Throughout the process, remind yourself what you’re really working towards.

At the end of the day, you’re marrying your best friend. Then, you’re throwing a party to celebrate alongside friends and family.

That’s it really. So before you get too overwhelmed or stressed out when something doesn’t go quite right or someone else is upset, remind yourself of the primary goal. Keeping focused on the big picture instead of being too bogged down by the little things will make the entire process go so much more smoothly.

Grandfather Mountain Bridal Session

Samantha Gratton is a writer and project manager in Raleigh, NC. She loves hearing life stories and helping people achieve their goals. Lover of lists, Samantha has been known to make multiple spreadsheets just for vacation plans! She knows not everyone works that way, so her goal is to meet people where they're at and find the system and process that fits best for them. If you ever need help getting your workflow organized or a kickstart to your next project, find her at samanthagratton.com 

Vendor Series - The Whole Shebang Events

Vendors, Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Eseeola Lodge Wedding

Meris and I have quite a long history. She and Paul were the third wedding AJ and I ever shot in our first year - a decade ago. Both so young at the time we had no idea what the wedding world had in store for us. She has since become an incredible wedding coordinator with an excellent team and I adore working with her! 

All of the vendors I've highlighted in this series so far have been in the Raleigh area, but since I shoot so many weddings in the High Country as well, I thought it'd be fun to highlight a few favorites up there as well. 

I asked Meris to talk about a few of the pitfalls new couples come across as they are planning for their big day and how she can help:

Why is it important for a couple to work with a planner for their wedding?

First and foremost, a wedding planner can introduce you to the right team of vendors for the your style, personality and budget and tell you the ones to steer clear of. 

Second, if it's in the budget to have more than just a "month of" coordinator, the planner will shoulder some stress during the planning process and help keep the team on the same page, minimizing the constant back and fourth... which can be exhausting.

As far as the wedding day itself goes, even if your wedding day is planned to perfection, there are still 100 different things that you never thought of that will happen on the wedding day. It's important to have someone that knows you well enough to be the point person for all of those situations that come up so that you can breathe easy knowing that everything is being handled according to your wishes.

The Whole Shebang Events

What are some of the biggest hurdles couples come across when planning their big day?

Balancing the guest list can be a really emotional thing for everyone involved. I think also just managing the general stress the month of the wedding is a lot. It's impossible to not feel pulled in a million directions and overwhelmed even if you have a perfect team of vendors and a Full Service planner.

How do you manage to keep up with so many unique details at a wedding? Especially when you have multiple events in the same month? 

I could geek out on this subject forever but basically we have systems in place that I've put together over the years from how we organize emails and online folders t spreadsheets and forms that we've built. I'd say it's pretty bulletproof at this point through constant trial and error. I've tried different wedding software but none of it seems to fit exactly how I want things laid out. 

How do you work with bad weather?

Weather is a biggie and it's unavoidable. There's just so many big "game day decisions" to be made any time you have to enact a plan B or plan C. It can be really stressful for the couple to make the decision by themselves. Weather can also bring up thousands of dollars in unexpected expenses whether you're having to rent extra indoor space or tent sidewalls and gutters, heaters and flooring. It can also be hard to know when to pull the trigger on these decisions. We do the best we can to go with the couple's wishes while still maintaining a realistic plan regarding all the moving parts. 

What parts of the planning and/or day of to-dos do you do yourself and what do you delegate to your team?

The main thing is making sure that I bring along enough staff so that I can stay focused on the big picture. Typically there are 3 or 4 of us working on a wedding day. I really don't have hard fast rules for what I do vs what my staff does. Some days I'm setting up chairs and covering tables along with everyone else but I do tend to spend more time with the wedding party and leave a lot of the "set up" to everyone else so that I can make sure that things are flowing well.

What is the difference between a day of coordinator and a full-service wedding planner? 

We hear this question quite a bit. We offer Month of, Partial and Full Service packages. The Month of is exactly like the Partial, you just have access to us from the time you book up until the wedding where as with the Month of we step in at 30 days out and pull everything together.

The difference between the Full Service and these two is that the responsibility is on u to make sure everything is done start to finish where with the other two packages, you're driving the car and we're the navigator. The Full Service Package also looks different for different couples. We do our best to work within the expectations of each different client. Some of our Full Service couples want to be involved in all steps of the process and just want us to be there too. Other couples let us know their overall preferences and then give us free reign to choose the vendors and details that we think are best for them. Things that are helpful to some people aren't always helpful to others so it's important to really get to know your clients in the beginning and figure out how to best serve them. 

What is your favorite part of planning a wedding for a couple?

I love love love the early stages of the planning process. Getting to know the couple and their families and then matching them up with the perfect team of vendors is one of my very favorite things. I enjoy joining together all of the intricate details into one seamless event.

Of course there are favorite moments on the wedding day as well. One of my favorites the sweet moment that the bride and her father share right before they walk down the aisle. I tear up every time! I also can't get enough of the stories that the family and friends tell you about loved ones past and present. 

It's an honor just to be a part of the biggest day of someone's life. Other than that, I really just love people and people working together towards a common goal and seeing something beautiful come to life from start to finish. Having a job where the end result of every work day is a lifelong memory is pretty great.

 

Maggie and Richard's wedding is one of mine and A.J.'s favorites to date. It was very large and full of incredible details as well different buildings across Eseeola's huge grounds. It could NOT have been accomplished without Meris' incredible team at The Whole Shebang. So grateful for any chance I get to work with them. If you don't have a coordinator yet, you must give her a call!

Vendor Series - Hair and Makeup - WINK

Vendors, Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
WINK Hair and Makeup

I've been having so much fun highlighting the wedding vendors and members of the community that I love to work with and think will be helpful for our couples and families. When you work in an industry filled with artists, you tend to work with a lot of people who truly enjoy their careers who barely feel like they're working half the time. It's so fulfilling and I love seeing others love what they do.

The lovelies at WINK Hair and Makeup are no different. I worked with Kristi at Alaria and Drew's wedding this past October and loved Kristi right from the start. She was very easy to work with and more than willing to do the "dance" as I captured photos of Alaria getting ready. (Not all stylists and artists are willing to move around to make the shot better).

I was further blown away when I got to meet (almost) all the girls when we shot team portraits. They are all SO friendly and knowledgable. I was asking all the questions especially to Janna and Jeanette who happened to arrive first. They are both makeup artists for WINK and lash extension techs so I had a ton of mascara questions lol. Afterwards they all took me out for a drink and we had the BEST time. You will seriously love working with any of them whether for your big day or your engagements or family portraits. Below are a few of the questions we discussed. :)

Krystal with WINK Hair and Makeup
Jeanette at WINK Hair and Makeup

Why is it important for a bride to hire a professional for her hair and makeup the day of the wedding? What are common regrets when they don't? Hiring a professional to do you and your bridal party's hair and makeup for your wedding is definitely a luxury purchase, but when hiring a professional hair and makeup team, you ensure that you will have years of training and expertise. We know what products photograph well and stay on the best. We use high-quality products and know how to tame the most unruly of hair. We create timelines that keep everyone on track and on time and we are well equipped to solve any problem thrown our way. When hiring experienced and educated beauty professionals, you get the peace of mind that Aunt Gertrude won't be wearing that hideous fuchsia eyeshadow with her spider lash mascara and cousin Tina's contour will be more natural rather than drag queen.

The biggest regret we have come across from women that decide to either do their own hair and makeup or have a friend do it is that hair and makeup didn't look as they imagined it should be and that it added more stress to their day.

Are there any skin conditioning regimens you suggest in the weeks leading up to the big day? If you have any concerns when if comes to your skin, take the time to visit a dermatologist. Otherwise, skin regimens are going to be based on your skin type and it is extremely important to have a routine for day and night.  Making sure that you are consistent with your skincare regimen months before the wedding will only help to ensure that your makeup goes on smoother and looks its best.  Exfoliate 1-2 times a week and get an amazing moisturizer for your face, neck, and lips. We love Sonia Roselli skincare and keep it in our kits! Get plenty of rest and water. Drink lots and lots of water. 

Do not get waxed the week of your wedding (makeup won't adhere to the areas that you got waxed the same as the rest of your face), also, do not get spray tanned less than 2 days before the wedding day.

Do you suggest anything specific with makeup knowing that they will be having multiple photos taken? Make sure that there is no more than an SPF 15 in your makeup or moisturizers, use primers and setting sprays, don't use too much shimmer. Faux lashes always photograph beautifully. They just add a little more polish to your look and you can get them as natural or as dramatic as you are comfortable with. If you aren't planning on hiring your artist to stay for touch-ups after the ceremony and before pictures are taken, we would suggest putting together a little touch-up kit that includes a pressed blotting powder, lipstick (ALWAYS make sure your lipstick looks good before photos!), blotting papers, a moisturizing and setting spray and a little lash glue. Also, remember to cry pretty and try to catch your tears (pat dry don't rub/wipe away tears).

With an updo, what precautions do you take to make sure it hasn't fallen by the time of the ceremony? For updos, we ensure that it is secured by using a ton of bobby pins and crisscrossing them if hair is thick. Finish with firm hold hair spray and wiggling or lightly shaking the client's head to make sure everything feels secure. We also always do touch ups before we leave to make sure nothing has fallen. 

WINK Hair and Makeup

Is a trial session really needed or is the day of enough? Our contract actually requires a hair and makeup trial before the wedding day. The trial is our chance to get to know each other, play with different looks to discover your wedding day style. We always suggest scheduling your trial on a day that you will be taking pictures (i.e. engagement pictures or bridal portraits) so you can see how beautifully the hair and makeup look with your wedding dress, how well it photographs, and how well your hair and makeup last throughout humidity or smooches ;)

Why do you love doing hair and makeup, what brings you back to it week after week? As far as bridal hair and makeup go, we absolutely love bringing out a woman's beauty and seeing her face when everything is put together. You can see a woman's demeanor change immediately when she feels beautiful. She poses in the mirror, she smiles bigger and laughs louder. We adore being a part of that. 

Kristi and Krystal WINK Hair and Makeup

Krystal and Kristi are incredible business owners who love what they do, love their team and love making women of all shapes and sizes feel and look their best. Their passion is refreshing and will ensure that you are in the very best hands. I recommend them to all by brides and families! 

Vendor Series: The Wedding Planner - Nouveau Events

Vendors, Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.
— Paulo Coelho

As a way to better serve our couples, over the next few months I will be highlighting and interviewing a few of our favorite wedding vendors as well as others in the community who directly impact the new life of the young couple. I want to ask them why they love what they do, some tips for couples navigating this new territory and pitfalls that can be avoided. 

The next lovely in this series is none other than Monica Noa from Nouveau Events. I met Monica and her team when we were still in the planning phase of Caity and Al's big day and she has blown me away from the start. She had every detail in place, the timeline set, and specific instructions to every member of the bridal party and every vendor on when and where to be. 

When the day arrived it went off without one hitch that I could see (and I'm usually well aware of anything that goes wrong because it affects my timeline). The timeline was so perfect, in fact, I have since started using it as my example timeline for all future weddings. Additionally she made sure either I or A.J. were ready and available before any major event happened so Caity and Al could have everything properly documented. Perfection. 

Vendors working together as a team to make sure the couple is taken care of makes me SO happy. (You'd be surprised how often it's not the case) All of these ladies are so professional and great at what they do, it makes the whole day better for everyone...especially the lucky couple. Here are a few of the questions I asked Monica to help you decide whether Nouveau is right fit for you:

Q: How many weddings/events would you say you've planned since you started?

A: Since we started in 2011, we have done well over 100 weddings and are looking forward to the weddings we have scheduled for the 2017 season.

Q: How do you manage to keep up with so many unique details at a wedding? Especially when you have multiple events in the same month? 

A: I pride myself on organization and proper planning. We work with each couple leading up to the day and for many of our couples we are a part of their entire planning process. We treat each wedding as if it is our only one for the month and work hard to make sure it is logistically sound and the details are clear. 

Monica Noa Nouveau Events
Monica Noa Nouveau Events

Q: What parts of the planning do you delegate to your team and what do you do yourself?

A: Day of Coordination and event management on the day is delegated to my team. My lead coordinators have their own schedule of events. They are responsible for coordination in addition to the Full-Service events we do each year.  I am the Principal Planner and coordinator at Nouveau Events so I personally plan all Full-Service events and oversee any additional ones. 

Q: What is the difference between a day of coordinator and a full-service wedding planner?

A: A full-Service wedding planner works with the couple during their entire planning process. We guide, plan, design and coordinate the day. Day of Coordination is for couples who have planned their entire wedding but need to hand it over to a professional to coordinate vendors, timeline, logistics and event management. This ensures that their wedding day runs according to plan. 

Q: Why is it important for a couple to have a planner for the wedding when they can do a lot themselves and have family help with the rest?

A: You Shouldn’t be the Ref

 Your wedding will be one of the best days of your life, but the time leading up to it can be very stressful! A wedding brings two families together and that can get complicated. Everyone has different ideas, and it can get confusing. That’s where we come in. You might need a buffer, someone to present ideas as an unbiased and well-intended third party. Often that is exactly what you need to prevent an argument. When I am present, both through the planning process and on the wedding day, responsibilities/ burdens are lifted from your family. That means they can simply be guests and enjoy the moment.

Or the Point of Contact

On average, a single wedding has over 22 different vendors. Add in your wedding party and all the guests, and you’ll have countless people to coordinate, instruct, and answer questions for. I will act as your sole “go-to” girl, relieving you of policing pressures. From the very beginning or on your special day, you’ll be left to bask in the moment, while I handle the fuss and chaos.

You Can’t Control Chaos

Speaking of chaos – you can’t control it. But I can! I can take control when something goes wrong (and something always goes wrong) and get it taken care of before you even hear about it. Instead of dealing with the headache of a late floral delivery or a rogue aunt, you should be focusing on your new life as a Mrs. I’ll handle the chaos.

You are the Boss

You and your fiancé, that is. Not the caterer, the venue, or the floral designer. I make sure it stays that way. I will know your dreams and vision, using it as a guide for all elements coming together. I will know what you mean when you say vintage. Some brides mean shabby chic, some mean rustic – I’ll know exactly what you mean, and make sure your vendors know too. Your vision is what matters, and it is what we will focus on.

Downtown Raleigh Wedding

Q: On average, how many phone calls/emails/meetings to you have to set up/organize for one wedding?

A: I respond to probably 150-200 emails a week and let's not think about how many during wedding season!

Q: Why do couples need a coordinator on their actual wedding day?

A: Speak with any past bride, who gave herself the gift of a wedding planner and you’ll hear a resounding theme: they were able to fully relax on their day, enjoy the moment and maximize their fun. Whether you need a planner to help you every step of the way or simply the weekend of your wedding, you do need someone to be there for you. Having a planner allows you to be present at your own affair, acting as a guest, rather than a host. And in my humble opinion, this is the single greatest blessing in disguise!

Q: What brings you the most joy at a wedding and brings you back for more week after week?

A: What brings me the most joy is the satisfaction of know that my couples have the luxury of enjoying their wedding, seeing their vision met or exceeded and being able to be present in the moment. The day goes by SO FAST and you want to be able to take it all in! 

Monica Noa Nouveau Events

As you can see, Monica and her team are invaluable when it comes to your big day. We had a planner for our wedding 11 years ago and I absolutely could not have done it without her. I do not see how anyone is able to enjoy their day when they're busy dealing with last minute details themselves. Trust me, you won't regret hiring Nouveau Events to make your day happen exactly as you envision it. 

Vendor Series - The Venue - The Oaks at Salem

Wedding Photography, VendorsCynthia ViolaComment
Too much of a good thing can be wonderful
— Mae West
The Oaks at Salem

As a way to better serve our couples, over the next few months I will be highlighting and interviewing a few of our favorite wedding vendors as well as others in the community who directly impact the new life of the young couple. I want to ask them why they love what they do, some tips for couples navigating this new territory and pitfalls that can be avoided. 

This week I'd like to highlight The Oaks at Salem in Apex. Oh my goodness. I have worked with so many venues in the area, and I am telling you, no one has it all together quite like The Oaks. We are talking a GORGEOUS white house, beautiful lake, dreamy barn complete with giant oak trees and a plethora of other hidden gems on their 11 acre estate. Additionally they provide both the ceremony and reception space so your guests don't have to drive around, indoor and outdoor options depending on the weather, valet parking so guests don't have to hike up to their car in the field, full on-site coordination (which I'll get into in a second), and the most perfect getting ready spaces you've ever seen.

The Oaks at Salem

Now, I've seen other beautiful venues, but April has intentionally laid everything out with your memories in mind. Not just the beautiful backdrops, but very intentional natural window light in the bridal suite, neutral walls, and private areas both indoor and out for the first look and bridal party photos. These details make such a big difference in your final images, as well as the flow of photography on the big day.  

The Oaks at Salem Apex

If the grounds themselves weren't enough, they have THE BEST on-site coordinators around. Veni, Joslin, Tina and Katie go out of their way to make sure the day is flawless. They even hold vendor meetings with the couple and/or parents a month before the wedding to ensure everyone is on the same page and working as a team to make the couples' dreams a reality. They are so good at what they do. Vendors working together as a team to make sure the couple is taken care of makes me SO happy. (You'd be surprised how often it's not the case)

The Oaks at Salem Coordinators
The Oaks at Salem Coordinators

Here's a few questions we discussed to help you navigate the venue world:

How many weddings have been hosted at the Oaks? 

We have hosted over 300 successful weddings. 

Why is it important for a couple to choose a venue with everything in one location? 

Our venue provides a seamless experience for couples looking to host both ceremony and reception with us, or for couples looking to have their ceremony off-site.  Our Oaks Coordinators create comprehensive timelines that cover all the moving parts!

What are some of the biggest hurdles couples face when choosing a venue? 

Couples face hurdles deciding between their top choice venues, and often focus only on aesthetics. In choosing a venue, couples should compare the venues apples to apples. This includes factoring in their inclusions, weather contingency plans, organization, and the overall flow of the space. We strive to educate potential couples and provide them with all the information they need to make a well informed decision.

How does your team manage to keep up with so many unique details at each wedding, especially when you have multiple events in the same month? 

Our team has a very organized system in place so that we can keep up with all the details! Upon booking, clients are assigned a lead coordinator that they correspond with via email.  Using email for communication is very convenient for the client, generates a fast response from us, and helps us keep all of the planning details documented in one place. The lead coordinator organizes an on-site meeting with the client and their vendors before the wedding to create a timeline and layout for the big day.  Every wedding is unique and these meetings allow us to discuss and account for all of those fine details. In addition to an on-site lead coordinator, every couple is also assigned an assistant coordinator for the day of the wedding.  The timeline and layout are a life source for us and all of the vendors on the day of the wedding, they include reminders and detailed notes down to the minute! 

What brings your team the most joy at a wedding and makes you want to host them week after week? 

We love to see the life-long memories being made and the abundance of love and happiness. It is a pleasure to be a part of these momentous occasions!

As you can see, The Oaks at Salem is a premier wedding venue that is capable of covering everything you could need. Trust me, you won't regret choosing them to make your day happen exactly as you envision it! To see my most recent wedding there, check out Alaria and Drew's blog post. 

The Oaks at Salem
The Oaks at Salem Apex

Vendor Series - The DJ & Videographer - Damien Maass

Wedding Photography, VendorsCynthia Viola2 Comments
What I love most about this crazy life is the adventure of it.
— Juliette Binoche

As a way to better serve our couples, over the next few months I will be highlighting and interviewing a few of our favorite wedding vendors as well as others in the community who directly impact the new life of the young couple. I want to ask them why they love what they do, some tips for couples navigating this new territory and pitfalls that can be avoided. 

Damien Maass Videographer

This week I want to highlight one of my favorite humans on the planet. Damien and I met at a Bat Mitzvah two years ago and it's been quite the adventure ever since. He is one of the most genuine, kind, and cheerful people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. He never has a harsh word for another vendor or a client, he's easy to work with; if I want to try something a little crazy he's totally down whether he's DJing or holding the camera. He has the same mission I do...to work well together so we can serve the clients better. 

Patrick and Madi are part of his video team and are equally amazing to work with. Professional, lighthearted and so very talented. 

Damien Maass and Team

Once, we were doing a Bar Mitzvah together and one of my off camera flash batteries died right as Damien was getting ready to start the Hora dance... he and I locked eyes and he saw the panic in mine. Without a second's hesitation he backtracked and announced it would actually start in just a second then asked me what I needed. He gave me time to swap the batteries out and get back in place so they were able to get the best photos. Being a videographer too he is so knowledgable about everything the photographer needs and goes out of his way to accommodate, which only helps to serve our clients better. I would have him at every wedding I shoot if I could. 

Bar Mitzvah Hora

Here are just a few of the questions I asked about how he works and what couples need to know, he is always ready and willing to answer any and every question you may have though, just contact him on his website here. 

Q: How do you manage to DJ and Video at the same time at a wedding? What do you delegate to your team and what do you do yourself?

A: A lot of planning goes into a wedding as you know and when we are providing both DJ & Video services great teamwork is essential alongside all the planning. There are three main parts to the wedding day when we provide both services; Bridal Party prep, Ceremony and the Reception. I will shoot for the first part of the day before transitioning into a DJ and my two other videographers will take over full time from that point. It is very seamless and I am lucky to have an amazing team in place. Two of our team members are also FAA licensed drone pilots for our aerial videography. We work at our craft constantly to ensure things happen, as they should on the wedding day.

DJ Damien Maass

Q: Why is it important for a couple to have a cinematographer capture their wedding when they already have a photographer?

A: It’s funny but I hear it all the time from married couples who chose not to have one that they regret not having a wedding video. There is so much the couple will miss during the day. Photos & video tell the same story but in a different way and both if are done well, they are amazing keepsakes. A great video becomes something that you’ll watch over and over initially and then every anniversary you’ll get to revisit that incredible day in a special way. This isn’t your parent’s wedding video anymore either. We specialize in short-form wedding films, which means we focus on making amazing cinema style productions that you’ll want to watch over and over again. We use only the best possible cameras & lenses along with real storytelling techniques in our editing to make our films unique to whatever event we are filming.

Q: What do you think a couple will regret the most by not having a cinematographer?

A: So much of the wedding day will be a blur especially with everything that is going on so fast and a great wedding video can bring that amazing day back to life. To me there is nothing like capturing the emotion of day with not only video but with the actual audio. To hear the vows, people laughing, to see all the places you couldn’t be, it just brings the entire day to life in a fun, emotional and entertaining way.

Q: What are some of the biggest hurdles couples face when choosing a DJ that fits their unique style?

A: First and foremost: is this someone I want to work with on one of the most important days of my life! Will they listen to my detailed requests, can I choose my own music, do they work well with other vendors, are they professional sounding, do they use top sound equipment, etc. Every couple and wedding day is different and a big part of my job to be really good at listening to what couples want or don’t want. We take into account their venue, guest list, music tastes and what kind of party flow they want. We want to make sure that the reception is a blast with the music they want to hear and done in a style that fits in, without being over the top.

Damien Maass DJ

Q: What do you do to ensure that you play music the couple will love as well as the mixed crowd of guests attending?

A: One thing that experience does is give you the ability to read a crowd quickly, use the couple’s requests along with what you know will work to keep the dance floor popping! We have two very helpful online wedding planners that couples can use before the wedding to select music and plan the reception details. We try to stay as organized as we can so things come off as they should. These are things we go over with couple’s beforehand so they are comfortable and can look forward to having a great time. Guests requests are also important; and as long as those songs go with the energy on the floor I am all for it.

Q: What do you do if you get a crowd that just doesn't seem to want to dance? 

A: Great question and again this is an area where experience and honing your craft make a big difference. Whether it’s by playing a really familiar fun song, one of the many interactive fun dances, bridal party requests or even a great slow song to get the floor packed. Once you got people up build on it and keep it going!

The Oaks at Salem Wedding Reception

Q: What brings you the most joy at a wedding and brings you back for more week after week?

A: Its kind of cliché but this is a real passion for me. I hosted a morning show on radio for several years as well as acting, doing voiceovers but there nothing like a live event. And what’s better than being a part of a celebration? Seeing how happy these couples are and how much fun they are having during their wedding day is incredible and I feel so lucky to be doing this for a living. We started providing the wedding video part of the business about 5 years ago and that just opened up a whole new level of excitement and fun. I truly look at each event we do as unique and different. It’s a major reason why I decided to keep the business small so we can give each wedding the attention that it deserves. I love it!

I hope you find this helpful and you see why I give Damien all the stars! He, Madi and Patrick are so great to work with and I know they won't disappoint. I also wanted to include one of his highlights from the most recent wedding we all did together, enjoy!