Wedding Wisdom

Preemptively Meeting Client Expectations

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By Fabrice Orlando, Cocoon Events Management Group

 

A client’s happiness is paramount to any event professional’s business. From good reviews on third party sites to word-of-mouth referrals, without the client, we’d be out of business. So it’s important to always remember to anticipate what their expectations are and how to meet them before they ever even ask. With that, here are some of my best tips and tricks for helping you not only meet expectations, but exceed them.

Make Yourself Available

It is a well-known fact that many couples book vendors based on how quickly they get back to them. So you’ll want to make sure that you have systems in place where you are responding to potential clients quickly. Setting a precedent right away that there will be an open channel between you could be the thing that gets you the job.

When you’ve booked the client, it’s also a good idea to ask what their communication style is. While you may prefer e-mail, they may be more likely to answer you via text message or phone call. Get on the same page as soon as they sign on the dotted line to avoid any confusion, and so that you can always be available to them.

Offer Your Insight

Any kind of large scale event requires a team of vendors, and by going out of your way to help your client create their dream team will go a long way. As an event pro, you likely know all of the best people in town, so share your own vendor list with them before they even ask, and you will have one happy client. Your referral will certainly weigh heavy when it comes to deciding who they want to hire.

Surprise and Delight

It’s time to stop investing in the same old swag for clients, and start thinking outside of the box. Recently, the method of surprise and delight has become a popular way to thank clients in a more personal way. One great way we’ve seen this used is by asking fun questions about their personality on the initial questionnaire they fill out when they first book you. Do you prefer tea or coffee? What’s your favorite Disney movie? Then buy them something that relates back to that- they will love that you remembered!

Knowing what the client wants before they have to ask is going to help elevate your reputation with stellar reviews and lots of referrals!

 

Fabrice Orlando is the CEO of Cocoon Events Management Group, a luxury event planning company based in Marrakech, Morocco that specializes in high-end weddings and special events worldwide.

Wedding Wisdom

How to Work PR into your Busy Workflow This Wedding Season

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By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

As small business owners, we know better than most the importance of each hour of every day. Client meetings and paperwork take up most of our time and the addition of public relations can get easily pushed to the side. The good news, with some organization and the use of clever tools, you can incorporate PR into your workflow without too much trouble.

With that, let’s take a look at some of my best tips for adding a little PR to your business:

Block Scheduling

Workdays can feel like they start and end in the blink of an eye, so blocking off certain times in the day for particular tasks is a simple and effective way to make sure certain things get done. Instead of just putting PR on a checklist, set an appointment with yourself like you’re meeting with a client to make sure you turn off all other distractions. Use that time to focus on the objectives you’ve set for yourself for that day, and you’ll have no problem getting those pitches out and your submissions in.

Use Apps and Tools

There are countless apps and resources that can be used to help streamline public relations and make your life as a business owner easier. Some of my favorites include:

  • Talkwalker Alerts: If you know you’ve got a feature coming out and no time to keep checking the website over and over again, Talkwalker Alerts will let you know when it has gone live and send you an email. That way, you can promote it ASAP!
  • Wufoo: Having feedback from your clients that you can use in your company PR plan is essential. Wufoo is a simple questionnaire builder that can be sent to clients as a link. It’s super easy for them, and will give you invaluable information.
  • HARO: This free tool is not just a time saver for you, but will quickly become a lifesaver. Most business owners would agree that there is not time to be constantly scouring the internet for press leads and opportunities. HARO will send you an email three times a day, full of reporters and editors looking for expert commentary on a plethora of topics. Find the one that fits you best and simply shoot them an email with your insight.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

No matter how hard we try, sometimes we just don’t have enough time to get everything done. Instead of letting your business’ PR plan get put on the back burner, get other team members in on it. Take note of your team members’ talents and use it to your business’ advantage. From graphic design to article writing, their help can absolutely save you both time and sanity.

By taking these tips and tricks and applying them to your daily business, you’ll have a strong and sustainable PR program before you know it.

 

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 

Wedding Wisdom

Top Educational Events to Attend

By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

Wedding education. Ten years ago, I would have contended that the opportunities were limited. In fact, I remember my employers investing in general hospitality sales training for me since we couldn’t find opportunities that truly fit, despite out best efforts.

But these days, we’re swimming in opportunities- from national conferences to intimate workshops. With that in mind, the question may be asked- what’s the best fit for me? Since every wedding pro has their own path, they really need to decide what would be the best fit for themselves. Luckily, I have the pleasure of attending a wealth of great events and am happy to get you started with what’s on my radar for 2017 and beyond:

 

WeddingWire World

This is a great spot for those looking for up-to- date information on a broad range of topics for a reasonable price. I’m thrilled that they are now hosting it in two cities (Los Angeles and Washington DC), making it even more accessible. Expect a mix of keynotes, breakout sessions, panels and, my favorite, the latest trend and tech news from Sonny Ganguly. There will be lots of content from many of the WeddingWire education experts you see regularly on their EDU blog as well as fresh faces.

 

Wedding MBA

This is another national conference that offers a wealth of education for a great value (especially if you get in on any of their early bird ticket deals). What’s nice about this conference is that their team continues to allow the education to evolve. You’re going to have breakout options in your own specific industries, robust Q&As and keynotes. You’ll see top tier national speakers mixed in with some really engaging wedding veterans who are also in the trenches with you.

 

NACE Experience

If you are an active member (or a wannabe active member of NACE!) then this is a must- especially if catering based education is a priority. It’s a heavy hitter with a more intimate feel. The breakouts are plentiful and carefully selected by a team of event pros throughout the industry. NACE Experience is ideal for those who work within the wedding, corporate and social realms- and expect ample time to network with members across all chapters. I’m especially excited to see it hosted this year in Houston, home to one of the largest (and most fun!) chapters in the US.

Engage

I went for the first time this past June and can see why this is on so many people’s conference bucket list. While a larger investment than some of the other conferences, you really get to dive into the world of luxury weddings. I’ve always contended that in order to sell to this market, you need to understand it from the inside/out and this conference fast tracks you there. Expect high profile speakers, networking with a mix of highly respected veterans AND up-and- comers, not to mention plenty of inspiration that you can apply to your own services. And yes- their famous “swag” exceeds expectations.

 

The Special Event

This was my first national conference and always holds a special spot in my education-loving heart. What I love about TSE- education is a mix of corporate, social and weddings (with an actual wedding track). This has more breakout options than any other conference I attend in the year and many of the evening events are a la carte so I can customize my experience. Plus, I love that it takes place early in the year-talk about a great way to a light a fire under you for the year ahead!

Be Sage Conference

I’m attending for the first time this year and am thrilled there is an event that speaks to the challenges of master level wedding pros. Let’s face it- there are a whole wealth of new scenarios that come with company growth and I love that Michelle Loretta (founder of the conference) is filling this much needed gap in industry education. You’ll see some familiar faces in the speaker lineup BUT what’s great is that Michelle hand selects fantastic speakers outside of the industry who can offer new perspective. If traveling just isn’t in the cards right now, remember that there are some great wedding/event industry related podcasts and webinars readily available to you. Additionally, don’t discount local opportunities either- there are some great regional chapters of associations (NACE, WIPA, ILEA, etc) that regularly host speakers, so make sure you’re looking in your own backyard.

Meghan Ely is the owner of OFD Consulting, an award-winning wedding PR and marketing firm. She is the national Vice President for WIPA and the 2017 NACE Experience education chair.

Wedding Wisdom

Managing Personalities Throughout an Event

By Kim Sayatovic, Belladeux Event Design

When you think about planning an event, you probably think about timelines, vendor communication and all of the nitty gritty details that go into the final product. However, if you think back to all of the events you’ve worked on, there’s surely one other task you’ve performed: managing all of the various personalities you encounter along the way.

From couples to vendors to parents, it always seems as if everyone has a say one way or another. With that in mind, it’s essential for all event professionals to become experts at managing personalities – this will make the process much smoother and will ensure that you maintain control of the event.

Friends and family

Many of the personality conflicts that come up throughout planning can be attributed to a couples’ loved ones who want their opinions to be considered above the clients themselves. This can be tricky, as some events involve divorced parents, which generally is a sensitive situation as is. When this happens, it’s important to remember that your clients are your priority – keep them in mind when you make all decisions.

If a friend or family member continues to cross the line, I make a point to talk to them on the side and explain how important the wedding day is to the couple. If they are stubborn and refuse to appease the couple, then I let them know it’s their choice if they want to sit it out.

You were hired by the couple so it’s your responsibility to meet their preferences.

Vendors

In some cases, you’ll find that it’s other vendors that can cause difficulties. The way you handle this situation will depend on where you are in the planning timeline. If you’re still early on and you find a vendor is causing issues, then your best bet is to give them a call and discuss their participation in the event. If they don’t step it up, then it may be time to talk to the couple about replacing them.

If an issue comes up later in the planning process and there’s no time to replace a vendor, then it’s up to you to settle the differences – at least until the end of the event. Call a face-to- face meeting with anyone involved and get to the bottom of the problem as early as possible.

Remind them what matters in the moment – the couple and their event.

Clients

We’ve all faced clients with unrealistic expectations or those who come with a bit of an attitude. It’s never an easy situation, but don’t let them get the best of you – be respectful no matter what and always, always be honest and professional. The only thing you can do is to be open and explain your side of things. If they are unmanageable and refuse to change their ways, then it may come to the unfortunate task of letting a client go. Make sure that your contract includes a clause that nullifies the agreement if the client crosses any lines, but ensure that your retainer is still guaranteed for the work that you’ve done. Remember: your mental health is not worth the invoice from a stressful client.

For most events, you probably won’t need to worry too much about the people you’re working with – weddings are a happy business and tend to attract like-minded people. However, when an issue does creep up on you, it’s always best to be prepared to find the solution.

Kim Sayatovic is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Belladeux Event Design, a full service wedding and event design firm based in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Wedding Wisdom

Company Culture: What it’s all about

By Kevin Dennis, Fantasy Sound Event Services

No matter what type of work you do, we all share the need for one thing: a strong company culture. Company culture forms the foundation of your brand and affects every aspect of business, especially when it comes to the job performance and commitment of its employees.

As we all know, happy and committed employees correlate with increased productivity and overall life satisfaction. If you have a great, innovative product with a team that doesn’t thrive in the environment, chances are your product won’t do as well as it could.

So, how do I start?

First and foremost, look at the values that you hold near and dear – both personal and professional. Remember: a company’s culture is only as strong as its leadership, so it’s essential for you to determine what you really want your office environment to be like. Do you prefer things casual or are you more into a professional feel? Are you interested in cultivating teamwork or would you prefer your staff members work on individual skills? How would you like your company to be identified? Whatever your preferences may be, you’ll need to settle on it before instilling it in your office.

We like to operate under a ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality, so as much as we are diligent workers, we also want to have fun and enjoy our workplace. Every company will have a different culture, so it’s up to you to decide on what works best for your team.

Once you have a vision of your ideal atmosphere, it’s time to bring the team into it. Schedule a meeting that includes all employees and begin by discussing what they would like to see in the company. Share your vision and ask for feedback – the only way for a company culture to work is for everyone to be on board with it. Some questions that help us guide our company include:

  • Where are we right now?
  • How did we get here?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How can we get there?

The more your company culture forms into what you imagined, the more your team will get along. You may also notice that your brand attracts more like-minded clients that are attracted to the way you work – all the benefits of having a great environment!

Lastly, keep in mind that you’re never quite ‘done’ with developing your company’s culture. It’s an ongoing process and will change over time, so it’s important to be flexible and understanding. People come and go, but your culture is here to stay!

Kevin Dennis is the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and the immediate past national president for WIPA.

Wedding Wisdom

2017 Wedding Trend Forecast

By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

With the 2016 wedding season in the books, it’s time to start thinking about what trends are ahead for 2017. As the great Heidi Klum says, “One day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.” With that, let’s take a look at what we can expect for the upcoming year.

Guest Experience

More and more, couples are striving to give their guests an experience that’s unique and will be unforgettable. “Today’s couples are exploring more ways to engage their guests,” shares Fabrice Orlando, owner of Cocoon Events Management Group. “We’re seeing interactive food stations and on site ice breakers gain in popularity.”

[courtesy of weddingsonline]

New Technologies

With millennials making up approximately 90 percent of engaged couples, it’s easy to guess that many are using technology to elevate the guest experience as well. It not only gives guests instant satisfaction to see their posts and pictures online instantly, but is also making things like hotel reservations, transportation, etc. a lot easier- especially, for destination weddings. Megan Velez of Destination Weddings Travel Group explains, “We’re seeing a marked increased in the number of couples integrating technology into their wedding day-from customized Snapchat geofilters and 3D printed elements to livestreaming the event itself.”

[courtesy of pinterest]

The New Traditional

We will continue to see customized weddings that reflect the to-be-weds’ personalities and relationship reign supreme over the more traditional cookie-cutter style. Every couple has their own set of traditions and favorite things they want to celebrate, from unique ceremonies performed by a friend rather than a traditional officiant to quirky DIY paper flower bouquets instead of real blooms – the possibilities are endless! Kim Sayatovic of Belladeux Event Design says, “Getting married in a non-traditional venue is very popular right now. People want to be unique and tie the knot at properties not typically known for weddings.

[courtesy of interiorator]

Food Centric

The evolution of food at weddings is astonishing when thinking about where the industry was 10 or 15 years ago. Guests now attend weddings expecting to be blown away by the food, and couples are definitely delivering. This trend ties into both guest experience and the new traditional, with funky fusion menus that capture the couple’s favorite cuisines and interactive food stations that engage couples in the food experience. “Late night snacks have gone from a fun surprise to a ‘can’t live without’ that guests expect, while additional courses that elevate a menu beyond a simple soup or salad are also becoming the norm,” shares Kevin Dennis, owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services.

[courtesy of carats & cake]
Elevated Decor

Engaged couples are taking note from luxury events and elevating their own design to enhance not only their vision, but also the guests’ experience. New trends are popping up all over the place so much so that no two weddings look alike anymore, which is something couples are loving. From metallics like silver to inspiration from the far East, 2017 is bidding farewell to blush tones and saying hello to bold choices. “Color is finally back,” explains Nahid Farhoud, owner of Nahid’s Global Events. “This is in contrast to the last few seasons where all-white weddings were more prevalent. We’re also seeing more hanging botanicals as well as lighting patterns.”

[courtesy of rebeccalouiselaw.com]
Gearing up for the next wedding season is always an exciting time, and we can’t wait to see what else 2017 will bring.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

Wedding Wisdom

Top Tech Apps to Streamline Your Creative Business

By Kevin Dennis, Fantasy Sound Event Services

If you operate your own creative business, you surely understand and agree with the age-old adage – “time is money.” We’re always looking for that 25th hour in the day, when we should be looking for ways to carve out extra time in our day-to- day processes.

If you haven’t started incorporating tech apps into your daily business, you’re missing out on some great timesaving techniques. Here are my favorites:

1. Dropbox

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If you take only one piece of advice from this, let it be this – use Dropbox! Not only does it allow you to easily share files with team members and clients, but its cloud-based service also provides you with access to everything you have on file while on the go. It comes in handy when you need to send a file that is larger than your email’s pesky file restriction too.

2. Doodle

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How many times have you been caught in the back-and- forth of trying to narrow down an appointment time that works for everyone? A simple app like Doodle can save you from that headache by streamlining the process. Clients are able to look at your availability and pick a time that works for them and voila – your appointment will show up on your calendar! It really doesn’t get any easier than that.

3. Adobe Sign Services

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Getting contracts signed and returned can be a pain, right? Not everyone has a scanner and waiting for a signature can hold up the process. With an e-sign service like Adobe’s, you can easily sign and send contracts from your computer or your smartphone. Encourage your clients to jump on the bandwagon to simplify the process – you’ll be surprised at how efficient the contracting process can be.

4. Schedugram

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Schedugram allows you to preschedule all of your Instagram posts in advance and will notify you when it’s time to go live. Rather than finding time each day to be active on Instagram, all you need to do is set aside a bit of time at the end of each month to map out your social media plan for the month ahead. Then, you can take a step back and let the app handle it for you!

It’s safe to say that everyone could use a little extra time in the day, whether it’s spent on business or personal matters. Take note of these apps and try others as well – everyone has different preferences, so keep testing apps until you find the ones that work for your business model.

Kevin Dennis is the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and the immediate past national president for WIPA.

Wedding Wisdom

Why (and How!) to Build Referral Business

By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

While booking prospects who may have found you online or through advertising is certainly cause for celebration, referrals are a fantastic way to boost your business with leads that are more or less pre-qualified by someone who is familiar with your work.

Typically in this industry, we find that there are two types of referrals: those from industry peers and those from past and current clients. Both are useful for booking clients that are a sure fit with your brand, as those who have worked with you prior will have a good feel for your events and refer you to prospects who have a similar vision.

The question is: How do you build these referrals so you’re booking the clients that you want?

Startup Stock Photos

CLIENT REFERRALS

It’s not a secret that today’s couples are highly influenced by their friends and family who have already gotten married. They are more likely to listen to suggestions from a trusted friend than those from online reviews, so it’s important to make an impression on current clients so it can turn into future bookings.

Client experience is a major consideration – it’s not just about providing couples with their dream wedding, but also making the journey there as simple and enjoyable as possible.

In addition to providing quality service, it’s important to be friendly and personable. One thing that I always encourage event pros to do is to stay in touch with their couples even after the wedding ends. An easy way to do this is to send out anniversary cards, at least for the first year. Not only will it give your clients another opportunity to swoon over their wedding (and your services!), but it’ll also show them that you didn’t forget about them. Social media is another fantastic way to stay in touch, so connect with your clients while you’re working with them and stay up-to- date on their big moments.

VENDOR REFERRALS

In addition to friends and family, couples tend to weigh referrals from other vendors heavily. This is why being on a preferred vendors list can be all the difference in your business – when you come recommended by a vendor that a couple has already placed their trust in, the cards are definitely in your favor. In order to get to that point, you need to get some face time with industry pros in your local market.

Of course, the best way to build positive relationships with other event pros is simply to excel at your work and be an easy person to collaborate with in all of your events. However, it’s important to begin networking if you haven’t already – that way, you can bring a personal feel to your relationships beyond day-of communication. Attend networking events and offer your services to sponsor an event. This way, you can participate in your local market while also showing off your services to those in a place to refer your business.

When it all boils down, it really comes to two things: be professional and be active. By being your very best, your clients and industry peers will be eager to tell newly engaged couples all about your work.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

Wedding Wisdom

Olive & Belle on Styled Shoots

Happy Monday Timeline Geniuses!

Whether referred to as Inspiration Shoots or Styled Shoots, you’ve seen them on every popular wedding blog. The vendors involved are usually not getting paid for this work, but do it to display their creativity and inspire their community. If you’ve never put together a styled shoot but are considering it, here are the gals from Olive & Belle Events, sharing some insight from the set of one of their beautiful shoots.
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TG: Styled shoots look like a lot of work! What are some things that make it all worthwhile?

Styled Shoots are a great opportunity to connect with vendors and showcase your style. By showcasing your style, you better attract the type of brides and clients that resonate with your style and will be overall more satisfied with your work for them. Creative Vendors are appreciative of a professional planner organizing a Styled Shoot and pulling together a cohesive vision because it makes it more successful for all parties involved. Building those symbiotic vendor relationships are the cornerstone to a healthy wedding planning business.  
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TG: What are some of the biggest challenges in putting together a Styled Shoot?

One of the most difficult parts, and the most common pitfall, of a Styled Shoot is thinking through an end-to-end marketing and submission plan. You can have the most beautiful images, but if you don’t have a locked-in publication and thought-out marketing plan, the images will be lost in the wedding industry clutter. Creating a marketing plan is difficult and time consuming, but worth it to get the best return on your time and money (a lot of both are put into a Styled Shoot). Plus, your contributing vendors will be that much more thankful and eager to work with you again.
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TG: How do you start the process of planning something like this?

 
This varies shoot-to-shoot, but usually it starts with an inspiration or a concept. For example, this Styled Shoot was inspired by Eliana Bernard’s Marbled Collection plates. The rest of the shoot came to life around her artistic vision. It is also a good idea to consider Seasonality. If you are shooting a summer Inspiration shoot in August, you may have less likelihood to be featured because most blogs are preparing for the Fall Season. Timing is everything. 
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TG: What was the concept behind this shoot?

 
The concept behind this shoot was Contemporary Italian Romance. The initial idea for this shoot started with the venue. I mean, what is not to be inspired by at The Contemporary at Laguna Gloria?! The whole property is piece of old history romance tucked away in the middle of central Austin, Texas. In my own styling, I like mixing bold colors with neutral space, and southern charm with a dash of modern minimalism. We played with the gold, grey, and navy palette. Like anything “styled”, a vision can easily change with each new piece you find. And that was definitely the case when we stumbled across Eliana Bernard’s beautiful Marbled Plates Collection on Instagram. She is a local artist, and an insanely talented one at that. When we came across her collection, we knew we had to incorporate it into the shoot. It was just too perfect. Her bold navy marbled plates slightly changed the direction of flowers, so we chose a more neutral palette for floral with those pops of giant golden roses. I am convinced the Gypsy Floral team are magicians because the flowers looked painted, they were so perfect. Anyway, when all is said and done, inspiration evolves and couldn’t have come to life without each of the contributing vendors showcasing their amazing talents.
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TG: What are your favorite elements about this shoot?

Impossible to choose. We are obsessed with the whole vendor team in this shoot. The vintage rentals, the stunning venue, the marbled plates, the floral artistry, the film photography…missing any one of these pieces, the shoot would not have been nearly as gorgeous.
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TG: What advice do you have for planners who might be intimidated by taking on a Styled Shoot?

Practice makes perfect. Even this Styled Shoot, we learned things we want to do differently next time. Just jump in and enjoy the opportunity to let your creativity flow. 
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We think the whole team knocked it out of the park with this shoot, and with their answers! We hope you’ve picked up some useful tips for your next styled shoot – in the meantime, here are more images from Olive and Belle’s shoot to feast your eyes on:

 

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Venue:  The Contemporary at Laguna Gloria   @contemporaryatx
Design/Planning: Olive & Belle Events @oliveandbelle
Photography: Jenna McElroy  @jennabmcelroy
Florals: Gypsy Floral  @gypsyfloral
Videography: Sharpshooters Video
MUAH: Lola Beauty @lolabeautyatx
Wedding Dress: Saint Isabel Bridal @saintisabelbridal
Rentals: Bee Lavish @beelavishvintage
Plates: Eliana Bernard @elianabernard
Cake: Sweet Treets Bakery @sweettreetsbakery
Vow Booklets: Reed Written @reedwritten
Invitations: Wondrous Whimsy @wondrous_whimsy
Scans: Photovision  @photovisionprints
Model: Kierstan Lynn @kierstanechhade