Thursday, June 5, 2014

New site for the Proper Planner

Thank you all for sticking with me even though I haven't posted for so long.  Please visit my new and improved Proper Planner Blog Site at:

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you will start following the new blog site as this one will no longer be updated!

Happy Planning!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Wedding Drunk

     Drinking at a New Orleans wedding is not uncommon; as a matter of fact, I’ve never actually been a part of a “dry” reception (and I am definitely okay with that).  Because I know emotions are high, I always keep an eye on the bride throughout the night to make sure that she’s having fun, but not having so much fun that she does not remember what happened at the reception!  I’ve been known to water down a drink or two, but honestly, I have not had a problem with the bride or groom getting too drunk or too out of control.  The issues that I’ve seen with drinking come from the guests attending the weddings. 

     A few weeks ago, the band had an iPOD playing during one of their breaks.  The bride decided, very last minute, that she would like to throw the bouquet right then and there while the band was breaking, that way she wouldn’t have to break into their play time upon their return.  Of course, we turned off the iPOD and asked all the single ladies to come to the dance floor.  One of the bridesmaids was upset that we turned off the iPOD, which happened to be playing what was apparently her “favorite song”.  She almost ripped the microphone from the singer’s hand and started screaming profanities because she wanted to hear the rest of her “favorite song”. She eventually got pulled off the dance floor by one of her friends, but spent the rest of the night brooding and giving “evil eyes” to the band and I. 

     Then, there was a bride’s sister who threw a fit at the end of the reception because she wanted the band to play longer, but the reception was over.  The parents were not willing to pay the band extra to stay nor would they pay the venue for the extra time, so we ended as scheduled.  This concept was so hard for this bride’s sister to comprehend that she pretty much lost it on the dance floor.  She was screaming profanities because we “closed the reception” and her parents supposedly “paid enough money to get whatever they want”.  I would have expected the bride’s parents to step in, but I’m afraid they were not in much better shape than their intoxicated daughter, so the vendors just listened to her bash us as we broke down the reception and got out of there.
     I have seen guests go head-to-head with the band, the DJ, the photographer and even the rental company picking up chairs at the end of the night.  When attending a wedding, please know that you are a guest; I repeat, a guest.  That means that you have not paid any money to attend this fabulous party.  This in turn means that you have no idea what the plan is in terms of timeline, music choices, events for the night or even who should be where at what time.  Just because you are the sister of the bride doesn’t mean you know what time the photographer is scheduled to leave the reception.  And even though you are the groom’s mother, you might not be aware that your son specifically requested not to have “We Are Family” played at his reception – UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE.
     As a wedding guest, when you find yourself in a confrontation, especially with a vendor, please think back to this blog and remember these things:

1.       We have not been drinking all night (well, most of us haven’t), but you have been drinking since you were getting dressed 7 hours ago. So who do you think has a clearer grasp on the situation?
2.       We are trying to get a job done, a job that has been in the works for, on average, a year and you know nothing about the details.
3.       Even though every situation is different, I feel pretty secure saying that you are definitely embarrassing yourself and making a scene which will only have people talking about you, not us.
4.       Whatever you are upset about is bigger in your mind than it is in reality, so let it go!

     Also know that while most of the time, in my experience, the angry drunk is female, there’s also the aggressive drunk, who is male.  Let me speak for all female vendors when I say that we do not want to dance with you, we do not need you to “buy” us a free drink, we do not need you to be our date for the night and we certainly do not need you to take us out after the wedding.  Again, I am sober, so you slobbering all over me is not attractive.  And I must repeat one more time that I am working and here to do a job, not to get a date (well, that last one pertains to most vendors, but not all of them, so it might be worth a shot!).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The most successful demise of a wedding is divorce

Throughout the last few months, I have dealt with more parental problems, both personally and professionally, than I care to discuss.  But guess what – I’m going to discuss it anyway.  Some weeks I don’t blog because I don’t have a topic that anyone’s asked about, or there’s nothing that I’m fired up about at the time, or (and the most popular reason) I do not have the time due to a busy wedding season (Thank GOD!!)  At any rate, I am fired up and truly saddened by the parental display that has been my life since I entered this industry, but also adulthood.

If you are blessed enough to have children, be ready to be a parent for your child’s whole life, not just until they reach the legal age of adulthood.  Over the past few years, I have witnessed parents refusing to walk down the aisle if their ex is in the procession (even though their ex is the parent of the bride/groom,) parents refusing to walk down the aisle if a step parent is in the procession (most common issue,) and then there are the parents who just plain do not show up to the wedding due to some lame excuse that should really just be called what it is: selfishness.  Of course, these particular parental issues are only brought to us by our divorced parents, and God knows we have enough of them. 
As little girls, most of us start day dreaming at a very early age about the wedding we will one day have.  We dream about the man that will sweep us off of our feet, about the beautiful flowers and what the wedding will look like, and we also dream about the family that will share this day with us.  In most of our dreams, little girls see our parents together holding hands as we kiss our husband at the altar and in that dream, our parents share their own kiss and some tears of joy as we happily leave the church and enter our new life together.  Does this sound like a scenario you girls are familiar with, or does this sound like an unrealistic idea of what life used to be?

How about the more common “broken home” scenario?  It includes my favorite parental issue.  It’s the one where we spend a year planning that little girl’s wedding, the whole time having the parents fight tooth and nail every time the other parent’s name comes up causing them to list the number of reasons for the divorce and why they feel the ex should have no rights to the wedding (although cashing the checks to help pay for the wedding is never an issue.)  Hearing about that mom had an affair or that dad worked too much was never in the day dream that little girls have and no matter how old we are. We are not here to take sides and to throw loved ones out of our future because you can’t overcome your past.
Overcoming divorce is hard enough at any age, but when we get brought into the “picking sides” game, it becomes almost impossible to get through and as adults, the children are all of a sudden the friends of the parents rather than what we are – the children, no matter how old we are.  I have seen it time and time again at many of the weddings I’ve helped plan where the parents are divorced.  No matter how much time has gone by, the bride’s mother is always chirping in the bride’s ear talking about the women with the bride’s father or the bride’s father talking about the bride’s crazy mother.  Why is it that for one day, for one major event in your child’s life, two grown adults cannot put their issues aside and act as such?

Whether you’re a parent that is divorced, married, single, or dating, as children, all we care about is who you are as a parent - who you were when we were children and who you are now that we are adults.  The rest is just nonsense.  Are you there for us when we need you?  Do you put aside your feelings for everyone else in the room and show up because your feelings for us are more important than anything or anyone else?  Do you support our decisions because you trust that we know what’s best for us?  Can you stop thinking of your failed marriage long enough to give our marriage a chance to succeed and pray that ours has a better outcome than yours? 
There’s more to being a good parent than paying for the wedding, and your drama around our special day affects us more than you’ll ever realize.  This is just something I thought that parents out there would want to know.  And if you truly have fresh wounds that cannot be closed temporarily to get through the wedding, my suggestion is to hire me and call me every day if you’d like to (I love to offer an ear and diffuse any situation), but please don’t talk to your child about it!

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Orleans has a few wedding traditions that are specific to us (or our Southern region), although some New Orleans natives do not realize that things like our over the top groom’s cakes and police escorts to and from the ceremony are not a part of weddings everywhere. My New Orleans brides have always enjoyed keeping things traditional no matter what age they get married, which is why they have changed some of the traditions to adjust to their specific style, guests and desires.  One of the newest changes is the twist they have put on the tradition of Cake Pulls.   

Cake pulls, for my destination brides reading this blog, originally consisted of the bride buying silver charms tied to the end of thin satin ribbons which would be placed into the cake and pulled by the six to eight single girls at the wedding, chosen by the bride.  The girls might consist of single bridesmaids and close family or friends, but all girls involved in the pull had to be single.  Typically, the charms were made up of such things as a clover (symbolizing luck in your life), an anchor (symbolizing hope on the horizon), a heart (symbolizing love or romance), and of course, the coveted ring, which would indicate you are the next to get married.  I’m sorry to say that there’s even an old maid button which symbolizes your eternal single status.

Now, brides want to have their bridesmaids involved in the pulls, which means married women get the chance at the cake pulls.  New charms have been added to the list, such as a baby carriage indicating who will be the next to get pregnant.   Then there are charms that are all together different such as the New Orleans charms.  These consist of charms that are universal such as a mardi gras mask (life will be a party), St. Louis Cathedral (your marriage will be filled with peace and joy), a horse and carriage (life filled with romance), etc.  The lists of charms that are out on the market today are endless.  And places to buy the charms are a bit easier to come by these days as well.  Your bakery may sell them or you can find them online. 

The cost will vary, depending on the quality of the charm you are looking for.  Typically, the charms were cheap and tied to a simple satin string.  More and more, brides are choosing to get more expensive charms and attach them to pearl or sterling silver bracelets.  At a place like Mignot Fagot, you can spend up to $600 on a set of 8 cake pulls, but let’s discuss the realism of putting a piece of nice jewelry into a cake.  It’s like the guy that thinks putting a $20K engagement ring into a baked potato is a good idea.  It’s not! 

If you’d like to participate in this tradition and make the charms something that your girls would want to keep and actually wear as jewelry, I have two options for you.  First, you need to buy something worth wearing.  You will need to buy the charms at a jewelry store, more than likely, in order to make them worth keeping.  If you decide to do that, my suggestion is to have the charms wrapped in a small plastic jewelry bag to protect the charm from the cake.  No matter how many times you wash the charm and how much you spent on it, there’s always going to be cake somewhere in the details of your $100 charm.  An even better idea for those who really want the charms to be a gift to their bridesmaids is to pick an individual charm for each of your girls and have them wrapped in jewelry boxes.  Place them in front of the cake where the pulls would be and have each girl open the box instead of pull from the cake.  This way, they still have the fun of not knowing what charm they will get, but they will get to wear the charm on a necklace or bracelet of their choice truly enjoying the gift you spent money on.
Nine times out of ten, the cake pulls will just be a fun, girlie tradition that’s consistently practiced intending nothing more than bragging rights for the ring puller and heckling for the “old maid.”  But I am finding more and more brides who want to use these traditions as something special for their best girlfriends and if that is the case, be different and pick your own charms.  Spend a little more money on them and give them something that’s significant to them and your friendship.  And for God’s sake, do not make them stoop to the level of licking cake of off their fine jewelry – for a trinket it is part of the fun, but not for real jewelry!

photo by Photography by Louis

Friday, March 8, 2013

Independent Venues and the Questions to Ask

Every destination bride has her own reasons for choosing New Orleans as her wedding location. For some, it may be the place where she met the groom. For others, this may have been the first place she and her groom vacationed. Then there are the couples who have never even been here, yet they have always loved us from afar and decided to make their wedding the get-a-way they've always dreamed of. No matter what brought them here, nine times out of ten, they all want the same thing; a venue that you won't find anywhere else.

What that means is that, if they can help it, hotel ballrooms are not an option. They want unique, independent venues that offer outdoor spaces or exposed brick.  They want the character that this city is known for.  But they aren’t always aware of what that character costs.
Independent venues such as The Board of Trade, the plantations on Esplanade, the Chicory, the Wax Museum – basically, anything not within the walls of a hotel – will offer the charm and “New Orleans appeal” most destination brides are looking for.  And for some reason, brides have an untrue notion that these venues are more reasonably priced than downtown hotels.  Perhaps it’s because, when glancing at price lists, the hotels list a food and beverage minimum, but the independent venues just give you a rental cost.  Seeing that a venue only costs $2500 seems like a great deal when you compare it to a $15K minimum at a hotel, but when you consider bar packages, catering prices, linens, chairs, tables, ceremony space, etc, the price can become a lot more than that $15K you were thinking you could beat..
When you price out these independent venues, you will be given their rental fee and then, either a fixed menu with a price per head that you can add to if possible, or a list of caterers they approve you to use.  Bar packages and catering menus are definite things to pay attention to, but what you really need to find out is what’s included in the rental fee.  Does the venue provide linens or tables and chairs of any kind?  Sometimes, the answer is “no,” and you need to find that out up front so you can price out what it’s going to take to “build” the reception or ceremony you are dreaming of. 
For instance, if you are using the space for your ceremony as well, you need to find out the ceremony fee.  And, if chairs are not included, you will have to rent those for the ceremony, at least.  To give you an example, even for white wooden chairs (the cheapest), you’re looking at about $2 a chair.  For 100 guests, we have an additional $200 plus deliverer and tax from the rental company.  With the rental fee that can sometimes be at least $500, you just added $800 to the $2500 rental fee.  If that hasn’t broken your budget, tables can range from $5 to $7 a piece plus linens to cover those tables can be $20 a piece, minimum. 

Here’s a low estimate of a floor plan with limited seating:
Eight tables (48 inch rounds), seating for 8 at each table plus linens for each of the eight tables – $5 x 8 tables = $40 plus $20 x 8 linens for the those tables = $160 plus $5 x 64 chairs (everyone wants chiavari chairs for their reception and those are at least $5/chair) = $320.  So for seating for only 64 guests, we’re looking at an additional $520 not including tax, set up charge, delivery and pick up – which can be an additional $300 depending on set up times, etc.

I’ve just listed two minor scenarios that added almost $1000 each for rentals of things that may not be included when glancing at the venue’s rental price.  My point in all of this is that asking the right questions is crucial when trying to stay on budget.  Contracts are not hard to read, but sometimes it’s what’s not written in that contract that we don’t think about prior to booking which sticks us with the unexpected costs in the end.  Courtyards need rain plans and potential tenting and outdoor spaces also need heat in the winter so make sure you think of all details before signing a contract based solely on a low rental rate and a cool outdoor ceremony option.  Keeping in mind that New Orleans is known for 3 hour receptions should also give you a heads up to ask if the rental fee includes three hours of rental for the space or four.  That fourth hour can be the budget breaker!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New Orleans hospitality - Mardi Gras 101

     Coming off of hosting the Super Bowl, the feedback about our great city has been exactly what I would expect (except for that pesky black out which, let’s be honest, definitely spiced up what might have been the most boring Super Bowl thus far).  Of course, it’s been said that we corner the market in terms of our food, music, and general party atmosphere, but it finally leaked to the media that our real hospitality comes from our people. 

     We were said to have some of the friendliest locals, which I’m sure could be confusing to the average American watching our climbing murder rate, old footage of looters from Katrina that will forever follow us, reality shows about swamp people (that for some reason gets associated with the actual city of New Orleans), and drunk people showing their boobs in order to get plastic beads!  The media really does a great job of showing who we really are (please sense the sarcasm in my voice).

     The reality is that, for the most part, we are a city filled with tight-knit families that extend well beyond genetics.  We are a loyal group whether it is loyalty to a city that was once under water and could very well be there again with each hurricane season or loyalty to a football team that gave us nothing but heartache until “the Brees” blew in.  No one loves talking about New Orleans more than a New Orleanian, giving tourists the inside scoop on local hot spots, little known “holes in the walls,” the truth about Katrina, or any topic related to “ya mama and dem.”

     I am hopeful that the good press of our city will continue through this week with so many tourists staying, and coming to join, in order to experience what we are known for - Mardi Gras!  Once again, when using the media as a source of reference, you might be misled in terms of what to expect.  I’d like to squash a few stereotypes and put some local rules to the Mardi Gras season so you can make the most out of this week and fit in with the locals!

1.       Mardi Gras actually does not happen on Bourbon Street.  It is true that many people party there after the parades, although most of the people on Bourbon are tourists since most of the locals are on the balconies above!  Regardless, the reality is that New Orleans has a lot to offer off of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras has everything to offer nowhere near it.

2.       DO not flash, especially for beads.  This is definitely something that someone from out of town started and everyone who ever visited followed suit. Locals do not do this.

3.       Do not show up five minutes before a parade and stand in front of the crowds of people who slept on the route the night before in order to conserve their spot – you will get your ass kicked and if you don’t, you should.  Save your own spot or stand in the back.

4.       Do not throw beads at the floats as they pass.  The idea is for the riders to throw to us and because of that they are not expecting to have something throw at them.  You will not look cool or funny, but you will look like an idiot who does not get out much.

5.       Do not follow the float down the street, unless you know someone riding on that float.  There will be another float right behind the one that just passed.  Wait patiently and get out of the street.

6.       Do not fight a child for a pair of beads; actually, do not fight anyone.  Beads cost nickels and dimes and are essentially worth nothing.

7.       Pace yourself with the drinking.  On Mardi Gras day and the weekend before, most people are out on the route for hours before the parade even starts.  In order to make it through the whole day (and the whole season,) pace yourself.  Do drink water and eat when you can!

8.       Do not wear flip flops if you are planning to go to Bourbon Street (that is just a rule no matter when you are here) and, for God’s sake, do not walk around bare foot.

Now, for your survival kit – pack a backpack and include the following:
1.       A roll of toilet paper
2.       Antibacterial hand sanitizer
3.       Aspirin or Excedrin Migraine – headaches are the worst
4.       Crackers, a sandwich or some kind of snack if you are not packing a full lunch
5.       A koozie in case you switch to beer
6.       A few plastic cups in case you, or a friend, need to make a drink on the route
7.       A bottle or two of water – stay hydrated
8.       Depending on the weather, pack accordingly – a sweatshirt if it’s cooler weather – as the sun goes down, it will get colder; an umbrella if rain is predicted at all.  Pack for the entire day into the night… not just the day time.
9.       Extra of whatever alcohol or beer you are drinking.  Tip: if you do not want to drag a cooler around all day, wrap your beer can in foil and then put it in a zip lock bag with some ice.  This will keep your beer cold if you do not want to drag an ice chest around all day!  Also, to conserve space, put your alcohol in empty water bottles.

     No matter what, when you come to New Orleans, you will have a blast and if you stick with some of the local traditions, it will be even better!  The Saturday before Mardi Gras, go to Orleans Avenue and spend the day people watching and cooking out before Endymion.  On that Sunday, watch Thoth on Magazine Street and then walk up to St. Charles Avenue to catch Bacchus.  If live music is your thing, go hear some of the best cover bands New Orleans has to offer downtown at Bacchus Bash before watching Bacchus, which rolls right down the street.  Head to Spanish Plaza on Lundi Gras for an outdoor concert and to see Rex arrive and enjoy a huge crowd of locals and the beautiful city setting.  Even in Metairie, parades are rolling every night, so if a more family atmosphere and smaller crowds are more your speed, that’s the place for you.

     Take advantage of the locals – we love to make new friends.  Enjoy everything Mardi Gras has to offer and then you can head to Bourbon Street!

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Dynamic Duo To Trump Your Wedding

     This year, our great city of New Orleans will host the most important NFL game of the year – The Super Bowl. And following this “National Holiday,”we’ll host the most important “New Orleans Holiday;” Mardi Gras.

     What does this mean for our city? It means three months of last minute construction in order to get the city looking nice and shiny; week-long events celebrating the big game; then, parades for a week to follow. The city will welcome swarms of tourists, celebrities and camera crews invading our streets to broadcast and experience the entire celebration of the big events. As a result, we will not be able to do anything unrelated to the Super Bowl or Mardi Gras from the time the parties commence until Ash Wednesday.

     What does this mean for your wedding vendors? It means working non-stop for the weeks leading up to the major celebrations - providing venues, catering, d├ęcor, itineraries, transportation and anything/everything to meet the expectations of what our clients, tourists and devoted locals are expecting – the parties of the year!

     What is my point? My point is that for the last week, I have been fielding phone calls from some of my clients that are getting married no sooner than the summer months, and my vendors have been fielding phone calls from clients getting married as late as Spring 2014. Even though we have explained that our response times are a bit slower right now due to the craziness going on in the city, the clients insist that these are emergency issues that need to be taken care of on the spot - “emergency issues” that include everything from room blocks to catering menus all for weddings that are more than four months away.

     I am the first person to push a vendor for a quicker response as I know New Orleans runs on its on schedule. I am always someone who answers emails right away, even if I’m on vacation. I take phone calls on Sunday nights, and while celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, I’ve been known to excuse myself to answer a client’s call. The invasion of holidays, weekends and night time hours are a problem in and of itself, but expecting every vendor to have the ability to operate accordingly during what will be two of the biggest events New Orleans will see this year, is more than demanding - it’s impossible.

     When you choose New Orleans as your destination city for your wedding, you chose it because we throw a party like no other, because we always have something going on and because we have the best of everything there is to offer- from music to restaurants. With that being said, please do your research and know when key events are in the city in which you will wed. Know when the festivals are taking place, as they will drive up the prices of hotel rooms. Know the city-wide convention dates that will make it impossible for you to get a hotel room at all. Know when our high wedding seasons occur so you don’t expect a weekend tasting. But most importantly, know when our party of the year takes place; for when Mardi Gras rolls in, all bets are off and we’re shut down for at least the week! Finally, when the apocalypse of parties happen - Super Bowl and Mardi Gras fall within a week of each other - either come on down and enjoy the party, or relax until Ash Wednesday.

     Unless your wedding will take place within a month of the festivities, concentrate on the things that do not involve your vendors. Know enough about what’s going on here to know that this is not like being in the middle of wedding season, or the weekend of French Quarter Fest where one or two vendors are affected. This is all of those festivities happening at the same time “x's 10” and there’s nothing we can do about it, so we sure as hell will embrace it!