Guest Blogs

Tips for Stocking the Bar at Your Wedding


Photo Credit:

Addison Jones Photography

Among the many decisions that couples need to make for their wedding day, one of the fun ones is deciding how they'll stock the bar. There are a few standard options, and also some unique touches that a couple can choose to make the bar just as personal as every other wedding detail for their day.

To help shed some light on the bar options, we chatted with Krissy at

Sweet Water Caravan


What are the typical bar options for a wedding?

A typical wedding bar consists of a signature cocktail (or two!) along with a full bar. A full bar is usually vodka, whiskey, rum, gin, beer, and wine. We recommend always serving at least one signature drink because it's usually something fresh and seasonal, and it lets the couple add a personal touch to the bar. They can choose a drink concoction that they personally love and add a fun name! Also, for the bartender, a signature drink makes it easy for a guest to choose when it's their turn at the bar which makes the line move along faster!

What are the differences between a more traditional bar option and a mobile bar option like Sweet Water Caravan?

A more traditional bar option is a basic table with a linen. The benefit of this bar is that can go pretty much anywhere in the venue space. With the mobile bar option, the setup is much larger so we have to be able to fit into the location and also have sufficient power since we run lights inside of the bar car. But the mobile bar is super unique and adds a visual element that you won't get with a traditional bar.


Photo Credit:

Addison Jones Photography

With each option, what does the couple need to plan for or be prepared for?

In terms of planning, the traditional bar doesn't require much planning - the couple just needs to dedicate a space for it. With the Caravan, we plan, meet and go over everything logistically together. Since having a mobile bar is really providing an experience for your guests, you really want it to stand out. It becomes a focal point of the evening, so making sure it's somewhere close to the dance floor is a must! You don't want the floor empty because everyone is hanging out by the bar.

What do you recommend that a bar is stocked with at a wedding?

I recommend a bar always be stocked with plenty of vodka, good wine, and no more then 3 types of beers (a light, a dark, and something you both love or something that is local).

Tell us a bit about Sweet Water Caravan! How can we find you and work with you?

Sweet Water Caravan is a vintage camper mobile bar for hire. We serve all of northeast Ohio with professional bar service like no other. We pride ourselves in making every event as memorable as possible. We come with plenty of extras like yard games, glassware, copper mugs, and our newest addition - a vintage camper photo booth!


Instagram: @sweetwatercaravan





The Top 5 Menswear Trends to Style Your Groom


Your wedding is a day to share your love and commitment with your closest friends and family. It's your introduction to the world as a married couple! It's also a time to showcase and celebrate your personal style. As a bride, you put a great deal of care and attention into choosing the perfect wedding dress... something that suits your style, something you can twirl and move around in, something that makes you feel beautiful.

The dress, the venue, the decor, the food, etc. all play a role in showing your taste and preferences, so why not apply that same level of personalization to the menswear for that big day?

There are so many ways to make sure your groom's style is represented, so we chatted with Brandon at Self-Made Custom Menswear to get the scoop. Below are five trends he shared with us to ensure the suit garments are as full of personality and uniqueness as the special man wearing them.

#1: Pattern Blazers

The traditional black tux has been replaced with beautiful, elegant pattern fabrics that are for the most stylish of grooms. Stick to dark tones with bold accents or go with a lighter base and dark accents. You can even mix different textures on the blazer like satin and velvet for a truly unique garment.


#2: Accent Buttonhole Stitching

Nothing says “custom” like a hint of hand-stitched color on your sleeve and lapel buttonholes. The first buttonhole on your sleeve could be all the accent your outfit needs, or you can get super creative and add color to each buttonhole. These tiny details make a huge impact and show your guests how no detail went overlooked.


#3: Bold Linings

Who said the inside of the blazer needed to match the outside? Get funky with a contrasting inner fabric or match the outside swag with equally fabulous fabric on the inside. You can even stitch details (like your wedding date or lyrics from your first dance song) into your garment for a subtle, yet special, touch of flair.


#4: Unexpected Socks

One of the items that can be most easily forgotten on the “Wedding To-Do List” is the socks! Forget the ancient notion that your socks have to match your dress pants, and instead shake things up a bit. Let your groom and groomsmen pick the socks that show their personalities best. The subtle splash of color will leave their ensembles looking perfectly inspired.


#5: Bold Neckwear & Brilliant Boutonnieres

Flowers aren't just for the bride! The simplest way to add personality to your suit is with a coordinating boutonniere, an elegant bow tie, or a fun pocket square.


About Self-Made Custom Menswear

If you're in Cleveland, Ohio or Edmonton, Alberta, schedule an in-person appointment with their expert stylist to go over the customization options, fabrics, and measurements for your garment. Not in either of those cities? Visit their website to design your custom garment easily online.

If you'd like to connect with Brandon and the Self-Made Custom Menswear team, find them below on Instagram or Facebook.





Traditional vs. Airbrushed Makeup for Your Wedding

As planners, we want to provide our couples with information to help them plan and prepare for their wedding days. As a bride, we know a big part of that preparation is looking and feeling your best. We always recommend that brides consider having their makeup professionally done - and with that comes a decision. Will you choose traditional or airbrushed makeup for your big day? To help you make that choice, we interviewed Karin at Cleveland Makeup Artistry to help spell out the pros, cons, and key considerations that apply to each makeup option.

What is considered a "traditional" makeup application and how is that different from an "airbrushed" makeup application?

There are a lot of misconceptions about traditional makeup versus airbrushed makeup, so I'm happy to break that down for you. A traditional makeup application includes liquid, cream, and powder face products applied with brushes. An airbrushed makeup application uses special formulas of liquid makeup that are applied using an airbrush gun. The formulas are very thin in density and can be run through an airbrush system to deliver the evenest distribution of product possible. Think about how other things are painted when airbrushed - such as cars, walls in a house, or artwork. The airbrush delivery system is the best tool to give the effect of a flawless and evenly painted surface.

Within the realm of airbrushed makeup, there are several different formulas that can be used, including water-based, silicone-based, and alcohol-based products. Depending on the type of airbrush foundation used, a different coverage, finish, and wear time can be achieved.


This bride never wore foundation and really wanted to look and feel like herself on her wedding day. We airbrushed with a water-based formula to give the most natural look possible. We used a minimal amount of concealer on the skin and under eyes before airbrushing. You can still see her skin, and every freckle possible, but she photographs beautifully.

A professional airbrush makeup artist should offer different formulas of airbrush makeup to customize looks for their clients. The skin should be prepped properly before the airbrush makeup is applied to achieve the best look for each individual's skin type and situation. I personally believe that the airbrush makeup should not be touched with powder, blush, or any other makeup product once it’s completed because it compromises the airbrush effect.  Not only foundation, but also blush, bronzer, highlight, and contour can all be achieved with an airbrush. There are mattefying sprays and setting sprays that can help set makeup and keep it looking fabulous all day.


This bride wanted full-on glam for her makeup look, so we layered different cream products under the airbrush formula to give a dense look that really pops on camera. 

Most people think that the advantage of airbrushed makeup is that it is extremely longwearing. While there are longwearing formulas, they might not be right for everyone. It’s important to work with your makeup artist to choose the right application technique and formula of makeup that will work best for your personal style and skin type.

What are the benefits of traditional makeup? Are there any negative considerations of this makeup application?

The biggest benefit of traditional makeup is that there is so much variety in formula and colors available on the market, so you can really customize a formula, color, and style that is right for you. Another great benefit is that it can be easily mixed on a palette with skincare or other products to create new customized options. Many makeup artists will carry one or two formulas of foundations and concealers, along with different pigments, color correctors, and mixing mediums in order to achieve the ideal skin look for each individual they touch.

A challenge for makeup artists regarding traditional makeup is keeping up to date on all of the products available. The beauty industry is always growing and changing. New technologies for different formulas are always being updated. It can be tough for us as makeup artists, as well as for the average consumer, to know where to start when looking for the perfect foundation.  We could spend hours in a department store, Sephora, or drugstore looking through the different options. For that reason, many of us tend to stick with what we know works best, versus choosing the new product or gimmick that's available on the market.

What are the benefits of airbrushed makeup? Are there any negative considerations of this makeup application?

Airbrushed makeup is simply the most flawless way that any product can be applied to a surface. With that being said, it may not be right for everyone. In order to get the smoothest look, the surface being worked on has to be smooth as well. If an uneven surface is airbrushed, the product can’t have the even distribution that the tool is intended for. For that reason, skin should be prepped and primed properly before beginning. It’s important that skin is exfoliated so that all dead skin cells are removed. I also recommend removing vellus hair (also known as peach fuzz), as airbrushed makeup can sit on top of this. For skin with severe texture or fine lines, airbrush might not be the best option.

Does airbrushed makeup feel different when it's applied than traditional makeup?

As it's being applied, airbrush makeup feels luxurious and relaxing. Once the application is finished, many clients point out that they can’t feel it on the skin at all. There’s an element of skill and control that the makeup artist employs, using minimal product stretched as far as possible to give this effect.

When is traditional makeup the best option for a bride? When is airbrushed makeup a better option?

Traditional makeup may be best for a bride with severe fine lines or texture on the skin. Otherwise, regardless of the type of coverage, finish, and wearability a bride is going for, airbrushed makeup provides the most event application of product to the skin. I believe that a bride deserves the best on her wedding day, and that there is really no better option for a flawless look than airbrushed makeup.


This client was the Grandmother of the Groom. She had never had her makeup professionally done before and wanted to go all out for her grandson’s wedding. We used a traditional foundation applied with brushes to give her skin the most youthful, radiant look. 

Does Cleveland Makeup Artistry offer both traditional and airbrushed makeup options?

Yes, we offer not only a tradition and airbrushed options, but a third service called Express Makeup. The Express Makeup Application is 20 minutes long (half the time of the traditional or airbrushed application), and uses a minimal amount of products and techniques. This service is great for brides who don’t usually wear makeup day to day, but who want to look and feel their best for their wedding day. It also works well for junior bridesmaids, large bridal parties who don’t have a lot of time for getting ready before an early ceremony, and those on a budget.

Where can people find you online?

Our website is We are also on Facebook and Instagram as Cleveland Makeup Artistry.

Eco-Friendly Wedding Stationery Tips

We are so excited to announce that Amanda Cursaro of Baci Designer will be taking over the blog this week! She will be sharing eco-friendly tips for couples who are looking to reduce their impact on the environment with their wedding stationery.

Amanda is the owner of Baci Designer, a boutique wedding stationery company founded in 2008. Baci's mission is to create timeless wedding invitations and coordinated details through original and intentional designs for engaged couples seeking an editorial look that is reflective of their style.

Often people assume stationery isn't one of the areas of their wedding where they can truly be eco-friendly. After all, it is mostly paper and I've often heard, "It will just get thrown away." However, that isn't necessarily the case if you put original and intentional thought into creating an heirloom-quality design people will want to share with others and treasure as a keepsake for years to come.

Aside from the thoughts of a mushy custom stationer on why wedding paper isn't wasteful, there are tons of practical options to reduce your environmental impact when choosing your stationery.

Recycled and Tree-Free Stock Options

The obvious start is with 100% recycled stock. This can come in most any form, but our favorites come from the Neenah Paper Mill in fabulous tones like Concrete, Grocer's Kraft, Honeycomb and Wrought Iron. Gone are the days of drab, dirty looking recycled stock. Neenah's Environmental Line is not only created using sustainable practices, but 100% renewable electricity as well.

The majority of the wedding stationery we create here at Baci Designer is printed on Savoy's 100% Pure Cotton Stock - it not only offers the most luxurious fabric-like texture, but it is tree-free, acid-free, recyclable, biodegradable and elemental chlorine-free.

A fun and unique option is Seeded Stock made with post-consumer materials (often paper and fabric) and embedded with seeds that can be planted after use. Each sheet is completely different from the next, adding a fabulous element of texture and thickness. Seeded Stock comes with seed options to plant everything from flowers to herbs and vegetables.

Hiring a professional stationer will provide you with the most resources and knowledge in order to ensure you're getting the best eco-friendly wedding suite options. They'll also be able to ensure you are ordering correct quantities to cut down on waste and brainstorm some of the best options to help reduce your impact.

Useful Homemade or Local Flowers



Photo Credit: Doug Treiber Photography

When choosing favors to gift your guests at the end of the night, stop and think about how useful they are before purchasing. Consumable items are often the best option here - think a trio of macarons from your local bakery, homemade jam using an old family recipe or your favorite childhood treat packaged in a reusable container. A simple tag printed on one of the recycled and tree-free stock options above can accompany all of these pieces.

Reusable and Repurposed Decor and Signage



Photo Credit: Suzuran Photography

Day-of stationery pieces are some of our favorite things to create, but they require a bit more thought ensuring they aren't wasteful. We love to see pieces in your home as decoration (welcome signs and picture frames used for table numbers are perfect for this!) or as an heirloom piece you put away for your own children (a framed program or laser-cut cake topper).

Repurposing items from the ceremony to the reception is also a great way to minimize your impact. Your planner will happily move your welcome sign from the ceremony entrance to greet guests as they enter the reception as well. We also create two-sided signs for this purpose, too.

Renting or Selling Items Post-Wedding

Don't see a need for 25 acrylic table numbers after your wedding? Try renting first. Sometimes things are created specifically for you and your event, so renting isn't an option, but it is worth inquiring. If you can't find exactly what you're looking for as a rental and you do need to purchase pieces, after your wedding sign up for a resale event (like Recycled Wedding Boutique) or post on a sale site for the next lovely bride to snag for her big day!

Thanks again, Amanda, for sharing such insightful information!

Tips for Selecting a Venue

This week we're thrilled to turn the keyboard over to Katie Marotta with the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park! She will be sharing some valuable tips for couples who are in the venue selection stage of planning, and also provide a list of helpful questions to ask venues of interest.

Katie has worked with the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park for 4.5 years. The Conservancy is an organization that supports and encourages those to connect to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and by hosting weddings here, they are able to preserve the park for future generations. She started as an event host in 2012 and was promoted to Sales & Guest Services Manager in 2015. Currently, Katie manages both the Hines Hill Campus for special events as well as Stanford House for overnight use. She loves working in such a beautiful park, and especially loves working with brides to help make their dream weddings happen! She says the best part of her job is greeting guests and seeing their faces light up as they enter the completed wedding day setup.

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Photo Credit: Janelle Putrich Photography

Always schedule a site visit

Scheduling a site visit with the facility manager gives you a chance to walk through each part of the wedding day and gain inspiration from the manager's past experiences at that particular venue.

Be flexible

Know that every venue's available dates are constantly changing, so it helps to be open to what's available.

Disclose important details

Having an estimated guest count and disclosing any other important details are going to help the facility manager give you better options for your wedding needs.

Come prepared

I think it's beneficial for brides to come prepared with an open mind, a tape measure, and a camera.

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Photo Credit: Janelle Putrich Photography

Questions to ask:

What are the rules and regulations particular to the venue and outside property?

What are the out of season dates and deals available?

What is the venue capacity, amenities, and any restrictions?

What furniture and decor items are provided?

What additional furniture will be needed, outside of what the venue provides?

What is the earliest time that setup can begin?

Is there a set time that cleanup needs to begin and is there a cutoff time where guests need to vacate the site?

What is the alcohol policy?

Exclusive vendors and catering options

Who are your recommended vendors? These vendors are ones to take with great consideration and have experience working with the venue.

Does the venue have decoration inspiration or suggestions?

Is there lodging nearby and/or any overnight bridal specials?

Is security required?

How much parking is available to guests?

What outside lighting does the venue provide and what are some additional lighting options, if needed?

Are there any outside noise ordinances?

What is required in order to reserve a date?

What is the cancellation policy?

Bottom line - remember, this is your special day, and when you find the right venue, the rest will be a walk in the park!

We hope these questions and tips will help all the newly engaged couples out there with their venue search! Thank you for the wonderful tips, Katie!

Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

We're thrilled to announce that we have guest bloggers this week - Karin and Rebecca from Something White, A Bridal Boutique! They will be sharing their expert tips on how to make the most of your dress-shopping experience!



Photo Credit: Lane Baldwin Photography

We have been friends since high school, and both ended up moving to Chicago after college to get a taste of the big city. One Saturday morning, while brunching on our favorite Bread Pudding Pancakes, we started talking about opening a shop. This was a theme we'd hit on since our high school days, with ideas ranging from book stores to bakeries. But when opening a bridal shop was put on the table, we knew we'd hit on something special. About a year-and-a-half of research and planning ensued, and ultimately resulted in Something White. The shop and items you will find here reflect our personalities and personal style and we hope you will love it just as much as we do!


Photo Credit: Hunter Photographic

Shopping for a wedding gown should be an exciting and fun-filled experience, but reality TV shows can set unrealistic expectations, and before long, many brides experience wedding gown burn-out. Here are some of our best tips for avoiding tulle-overload and enjoying the process of finding your wedding gown:

Try to not have preconceived notions

A dress you love should not be brushed aside because it is not what you pictured yourself in - you never know how you will look in something until you try it on!

Shop local

There's no need to skip town to find a great selection. Most of the big name bridal brands, as well as popular niche designers, can be found at shops in Northeast Ohio.



Photo Credit: Hunter Photographic

Try comparing and contrasting dresses as you go

When trying on a lot of dresses, they can all start to blur together. Try comparing and contrasting as you go along so that you have only 2-3 gowns in the running. Once you have a few contenders you really love, stop shopping (remember that burnout we mentioned??) and hone in on your favorite. The same goes for online browsing - know when to stop pinning.

Not everyone will have the "this is THE dress" moment

If you find you a dress you love but don't start crying about it, don't take that as a sign that it is not the dress.


Photo Credit: Hunter Photographic

If you are having trouble deciding between a few gowns, here are some other factors to consider:

-Which dress do you feel better suits your style and personality?

-Which dress better fits your venue and wedding theme?

-Which gown do you think your fiancé would like better?

-Which gown better fits your budget?

Above all else, have fun!

Shopping for a gown is one of the most exciting parts of wedding planning, and while we know it can be daunting, the best thing you can do is just relax and enjoy yourself.


Photo Credit: Hunter Photographic

Thanks, Karin and Rebecca for all of the great tips! We hope all of our brides-to-be can take these tips into consideration when shopping for their perfect dress!

The Importance of Choosing Eco-Friendly Jewelry

We have a guest blogger this week - Wanderlust Jewelers! Wanderlust Jewelers specialize in one-of-a-kind designs with an emphasis on custom pieces curated for you by designer Wes Airgood. Using a conventional approach for design, each and every piece is hand fabricated from start to finish. Castings and wax will never enter the Wanderlust studios, meaning your piece will always be created just for you.

In today's blog post, the folks at Wanderlust Jewelers will provide insight into the importance of choosing eco-friendly jewelry, as well as tips on how to go about starting the process of creating your beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece.

Wes at bench

Wes at bench

At Wanderlust Jewelers, we're not just designing grounding, symbolic pieces of jewelry for our clients; we are helping them create a story. Wedding rings are most commonly worn every single day, and as time passes, they take on wear of life. Each impression and mark in the gold holds a story, giving it character to last for generations.

For something that will acquire so much history, we have committed to creating it with materials that already have a history of their own through using recycled metals. With a large portion of Millennials reaching the marriage chapter in their lives, and the ever-growing awareness of the diamond and gold market versus the environment, there is a prominent focus on eco-friendly jewelry. Taking part in this movement was an obvious route, which brings us to starting at the source: the raw materials.

In order to reduce our impact on the earth as much as possible, we seek alternative methods to active mining practices. Mining for precious metals strips the earth of its resources and creates toxic waste. It causes more global mercury pollution than any other source, pollutes rivers with sulfuric acid, and contributes to deforestation. In addition to these environmental issues, it is often done in parts of the world where fair labor practices and worker safety are loosely monitored. Millions of miners earn extremely low wages, while the general working conditions cause illness, injury, and sometimes death.

raw materials

raw materials

An environmental group called Earthworks launched a pledge in 2004 called "No Dirty Gold," which asked large retailers not to carry gold that was produced through environmentally and socially destructive mining. The company estimates that in order to produce enough gold from earth for a single wedding ring, 20 tons of rock and soil are dislodged and discarded. For us, it only made sense that we pair up with Stuller, an SCS Certified supplier who solely works with existing materials.

By not supporting the active mining industry, we not only do our part to stay eco-friendly, but we also genuinely love the idea of recycled metals. Each raw piece of material we receive holds so much history, and from there we are creating something new that will take on a story of its own.



In addition to sourcing eco-friendly metals, we work with companies that are committed to selling ethically sourced diamonds. All the rough and polished diamonds we use are Kimberly Certified, meaning that they are conflict-free, transported between signatory countries in a sealed and tamper-proof container, and come with a statement of certification.

The Kimberly Process started in the late-2000's when Southern African diamond-producing states met to find a way to stop the trade of "conflict diamonds." They wanted to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements, which became even more increasingly aware to consumers with the release of the movie "Blood Diamond."

More and more, savvy shoppers are curious as to where their purchases are coming from. In addition to becoming more eco-friendly with their choices, they want to shop small, and they want to make it unique. Wanderlust Jewelers provides just that to each and every client. We take pride in knowing that we are doing our part to not support destructive and unfair practices, and hope that we can help spread the word and educate on this topic until it is no longer a threat to society and our environment.

heirloom redesign 1-2

heirloom redesign 1-2



One of the safest ways to ensure that you know where your sources are coming from is by recycling old jewelry. A large portion of our wedding ring designs are created from heirloom gold and diamonds that have been passed down through generations. These pieces have timeless characteristics that we can incorporate into your new designs, and usually carry a sentiment that is unmatched.

In the end, this tiny piece of metal is representing the start of something beautiful. The symbolism of a circular piece of jewelry, that has no beginning and end but continues on forever, represents your everlasting commitment to each other. Most jewelers, like Wanderlust, are highly aware of the origin of their sources, so as a customer you can be confident in your wedding ring choices. By getting to know your rings a little more first, you can help ensure that you too are not supporting destructive practices, but celebrating the wide historic value in your most important piece of jewelry.

A huge thank you goes out to Wanderlust Jewelers for providing us with such deep insight about the process of creating eco-friendly jewelry, as well as the importance of doing so to reduce our impact on the environment!

Finding the Right Wedding Officiant

We're excited to have Shari Caruso of Celebrations by Shari as our guest blogger this week! Shari is a non-denominational wedding minister/officiant residing in Avon, Ohio. She is a mobile officiant, meaning that she comes to you and your venue. For this week's blog post, Shari has shared her thoughts on how to go about finding the officiant that best suits you and your fiancé, as well as the top ten reasons that people hire a wedding officiant/celebrant.


There are so many decisions to make when planning a wedding that it is easy to forget one of the most important details of your wedding - your wedding officiant. The officiant is not just a vendor. The officiant is your master of ceremony - the most important aspect of your wedding. It is important to consider your options carefully before deciding who should pronounce you married. The officiant you select to share your special day with you can truly make or break your day. The relationship between the couple and the officiant should be a partnership based on respect. So how do you go about finding the right officiant that best suits you and your fiancé?

1.   Before you and your fiancé begin contacting any potential officiants, take time to discuss the type of ceremony you want. Will it be traditional or modern? Religious or secular? How long do you want the ceremony to last? Do you want to include any special reading or ceremonies? Making these decisions together before your search actually begins will make it much easier to know when you've found the right person.

2.   Once you've narrowed the list down to officiants that you think will best provide you with the type of services you want, set up a meeting. That could be in person, over the phone, or via video chat. It is important that you actually have a one-on-one conversation with a potential officiant before hiring them. You need to know if you like the sound of their voice and the way they speak. You might even ask if the officiant can provide you with a video sample of a wedding they serviced.

3.   Make sure that the state and county you are being married in recognizes your officiant as someone who is authorized to perform the ceremony. You need an officiant that can sign your marriage license. Every state has different procedures for officiants. In New York City, for example, an officiant must be registered with the City Clerk's Office for at least 24 hours before they can sign the license. If you are considering having a family member or friend perform your ceremony, make sure they have experience or you could be very disappointed. Most professional officiants and ministers have performed hundreds of ceremonies. Their polished presentation skills and experience can bring a real sense of calm and order to your day.


4.   Read reviews of any officiant you are considering. Many officiants will have professional listings on the wedding directories, such as WeddingWire, MyWedding, and Thumbtack. Take some time to read about the experiences other couples have had because that will give you a very good idea of how they will perform at your ceremony. After viewing their website, blog, Facebook page and/or Twitter account, decide if they seem like the kind of person you and your partner would like or want to be friends with. You should like the person you choose to be your officiant.

5.   Get recommendations from other vendors you have booked, plus your wedding planner, friends, and family. Wedding photographers can be very helpful because they go to all types of weddings. Photographers generally know who does a good job when you need recommendations.

6.   It is important that you select an officiant that will be flexible with the ceremony. If you have readings, poems, songs, etc. that are important to the two of you, make sure the officiant will allow you to include them. The officiant should allow the couple to have final approval of the wedding script. Not every officiant works that way, but you should be assured that they will not surprise you with anything you don't want. If you choose to have a secular ceremony, you may be upset to have an officiant who surprises you by adding prayers, scripture and/or unwanted preaching. You want an officiant who respects your beliefs and values.

7.   Weddings are stressful, so find an officiant that will put things into writing. You want an officiant that will provide you with a contract so you know exactly what to expect. Not every officiant works with a contract, but you should ask for one. A contract will protect all of you.

8.   Book an officiant early - 9 months to 1 year in advance. This will better assure you that the officiant you most want is available.

Dana McNeely-2 Photo Credit: George Street Photo & Video

Top Ten Reasons to Hire a Wedding Officiant/Celebrant

1. You want to have a non-denominational ceremony

2. You want an interfaith ceremony

3. You want creative alternatives to the traditional cookie cutter ceremony

4. You are holding your ceremony at a venue other than a church - park, beach, backyard, botanical garden, museum, farm, etc.

5. You want a custom written ceremony

6. You want to write your own vows and design your own ceremony

7. You want someone who will consult with you about your ceremony and not just show up the day of the wedding

8. You want your photographer and videographer providers to be able to stand anywhere they like to get the shots you want

9. You want special elements included in your ceremony - unity candles, sand blending, jumping the broom, rose exchange, wine ceremony, etc.

10. You want a heartfelt ceremony that expresses your personal beliefs

A big thank you goes out to Shari for such wonderful insight, and we hope that this information is helpful to any and all brides-to-be!

Finding the Right Bakery

Today's blog post features Kim Coryea with Hummingbird Bake Shop!

Hummingbird Bake Shop is a small bake shop with no retail storefront that operates from a licensed kitchen in Cleveland Heights. They specialize in custom cakes, cookies, mini pastries, cake toppers, favors, and other hand-crafted details. Hummingbird also works with their clients to style their cake stable, craft cake toppers, make decorations, and creatively present their dessert. They also use quality, responsible ingredients and source locally whenever possible.

For this week's post, Kim shared her insights about new wedding dessert trends, as well as information about ordering, and advice for choosing not only the right bake shop, but also choosing the rest of the vendors for your big day.

Hummingbird Profile Picture Dovetale Photography 2.10.16

Hummingbird Profile Picture Dovetale Photography 2.10.16

Photo Credit: Dovetale Photography

How did you get started?

Unofficially, making wedding cakes started ten years ago, when together a friend and I made another friend’s wedding cake. I have always enjoyed baking, entertaining and being in the kitchen. My family sat down for a home cooked meal every night. As far back as I can remember, I looked forward to holidays like Halloween or Christmas because it meant decorating cookies, which I would spend hours doing.

In 2007, I quit my corporate job in the television industry, attended the French Pastry School and started over doing something that excited me and felt purposeful. It sounds very cliché, but it’s true. I was living in Chicago and was scared out of my mind to start over, but knew I would always regret it if I didn’t try. I had tremendous respect for the craft, so it was important to me to learn to make pastry using classic methods. Chicago had one of the best French pastry schools in the country.

After school, I staged and then worked at a few different bakeries in Chicago. I realized that although I loved the camaraderie in the kitchen, I emotionally connected way too much to everything I was making to be successful at high production work like what was expected at a hotel or restaurant. My goal was to start a small, relationship-driven business specializing in custom cakes, but still keeping my hands in some of the other pastries and candy I enjoyed making.

Starting a new business presents a tremendous amount of financial realities. My husband and I researched (extensively) affordable markets where we could realistically start over. We wanted to move somewhere that made sense for my husband’s job, the type of food business I wanted run and a place where we could both see ourselves living. Once we chose Cleveland and made the decision to move to here, it was over a two-year process getting here: selling our home, continuing to work while trying to find new jobs, finding a community, creating a business plan, and continuing to hone my pastry skills.

I intentionally started gradually in Cleveland in 2010 making cakes and desserts for friends as well as friends of friends. I did events for free to get my name out there and just did a ton of baking. It was important for me to get to know the market and how much volume I could handle. I would do an event and then connect with other like-minded small business vendors who liked what I was making and would refer me. That’s really how it happened. Vendors, friends and past clients refer me and that’s mainly how I continue to get work. Hummingbird became an official business in 2011.

I honestly never anticipated how much weddings would become the core of my business. For the type of custom work I like to do, and knowing my personality, it has been a great fit. Getting to know families at this intimate moment and time in their lives, then using their story to create a cake that uses quality ingredients, tastes great, looks great and is structurally sound is something that is both an exciting challenge and a privilege. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a ton of work and can be very stressful and scary, but it’s also a lot fun. Wedding cakes can have a bad reputation when it comes to the quality and flavor, so I continue to work very hard to make something that I’m proud to serve and clients enjoy both looking at and eating.

As with any small business, there have been great peaks and valleys, growth challenges, and business plan rewrites, it seems, daily, but I’m so incredibly excited and grateful to have the opportunity to do this and proud to see how much this tiny little bake shop grows each year.

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Photo Credit: Janelle Putrich Photography

What wedding trends have you noticed popping up recently?

Cakes are going more classic and simple with more of a focus on seasonal and local ingredients. Couples are definitely doing much more than cake, or finding alternatives to cake (i.e. dessert tables, smaller bites). There is definitely not as much ceremonial tradition and more personalization. I’m all for getting creative, but when it comes to trends, I encourage couples to think about what they really want at their wedding. If it happens to be trendy and you want to do it, that’s great. But if you are reading that dessert tables filled with endless options are the “it” thing, but you want a traditional cake, then have a traditional cake. If you really want donuts, then you should have donuts and go to a baker who specializes in donuts. Listen to your baker and caterer, however, to make sure whatever you choose is within the confines of the venue, weather and season.

Hummingbird BBB Lauren Gabrielle 2.10.16

Hummingbird BBB Lauren Gabrielle 2.10.16

Photo Credit: Lauren Gabrielle Photography

How far in advance should cakes and/or desserts be ordered?

Hummingbird doesn’t take consultations more than 12 months from the day. I think securing your date 8 to 12 months out with a smaller bakery is pretty typical.

The venue can often determine the type of dessert you go with. If you are getting your desserts through your caterer or venue, then you might lock into a contract earlier than 8 to 12 months.

I find that if couples do a cake tasting outside of 12 months from the day, or do too many of them, they can forget what they tasted or second guess their choice by the time the wedding gets close. Over the course of a year, menus change, ingredient prices can fluctuate and circumstances like the weather can affect the crop of some produce, which affects the overall cost of some flavors as well.

I ask that we lock into a guaranteed minimum when you reserve the day and sign the contract, have the flavors finalized within 30 days of the day, and then add on any additional cake or desserts needed at that time.

If people have general questions about cake or desserts more than 12 months from the day, I am happy to email or set up a time to talk on the phone to answer their questions.



Photo Credit: Addison Jones Photography

How do you determine how much cake or dessert to order?

It really depends on the wedding and the type of cake and/or dessert you are having, so I ask a lot of questions. How many guests are you inviting? Are most guests local or out-of-town? If most your guests are local, then the 20 percent decline rule is a good place to start. If most guests are coming from out of town then it may be more like 30 percent declines. For a 200-person invitation list, I start building a dessert plan for 150 guests. I like to start conservatively and add more cake and desserts if needed when the final count is in.

If you are ordering a tiered cake that will be the dessert for each guest, it is appropriate to have a slice for everyone with a few extra servings to give the caterer cutting the cake some leeway and account for those rare “what-if” circumstances. I am happy to go over some of those with clients.  I try to educate clients about the structure of the cake as well. There are dowels and structural supports in a cake that may affect some servings.

Wedding cake servings are typically 1” x 2” and generally that’s how caterers cut them. I prefer to account for a 1.5” x 2” serving, which gives some flexibility and a little larger slice. Obviously cake is not measured with a ruler when it is cut or the caterer would be there all night doing it.  I always have serving charts available for caterers who may want them, but most caterers are really experienced at cutting cake. The cake is food, the person who made the cake is rarely the one who cuts it and your wedding is an important day that can have unforeseen circumstances. To account for these things, bakeries provide a range of cake servings per tier.

In my experience, bakers and pastry chefs do not want you to run out of cake, nor do they want you to pay for a ton of cake that you aren’t going to eat. They really have the best interest of your wedding at heart. If you get the impression that your baker is trying to make you pay for cake that won’t be eaten, then he or she may not be the best person to make your cake. If you do have some extra, I typically bring a box. If the caterer does not have to cut into the smallest tier of your cake, then you can take it home and enjoy it the next day or freeze it for your anniversary.

If you are not doing a cake and just having a dessert table of mini desserts (i.e. cookies, macarons, tartlets) then I tell clients to account for four minis/petit fours per person.

If you are doing a mix of cake and dessert table minis/petit fours, but aren’t serving the cake to each guest, it can become difficult to estimate how much people will eat. Will the desserts be available to guests at the time reception begins? Will they come out later on? Will there be other late night snacks? How many different options do you want on the table?

When having both cake and dessert table options, I suggest that you have a serving of cake per person and then enough minis for three per person. Generally, the more options you have on the dessert table, the more per person you should order. If you are trying to be more economical, but want more choice, then filling in with some smaller cookies or candy bowls may make sense. Other people may do it differently; this is what I suggest from my experience.

While I love a good dessert table, mini dessert options can add up quickly and the overall price can be higher because they can be more labor intensive to make. If you are looking to save money, this is something to keep in mind.

If you are having standard cupcakes, then 1.5 per person is a good estimate. Typically, cupcakes are not served, so people graze and so you should account for more than one per person.



Photo Credit: Addison Jones Photography

Do you have any other advice for newly engaged couples?

Whatever vendor you are seeking or choosing, be honest with them about what you want and what you want to spend. It’s important to be realistic too. If you know a baker’s (or other vendor’s) prices start at a place that’s not within your budget, please do not go to that vendor and expect or demand a deal. You won’t end up being happy and neither will the vendor. Cakes and desserts take a great deal of time to recipe test, design, bake and construct. If dessert isn’t something you care too much about or want to spend your money on, it doesn’t mean the baker or pastry chef will spend any less time or effort making it.

It’s your wedding and you should feel a connection with your baker, your caterer, your florist, your photographer… Do your research and get referrals from people who you trust. This is where hiring a wedding coordinator is really helpful. They work with so many vendors and can make those recommendations and connections for you.

When it comes to bakers specifically, I recommend tasting the cake.  Again, do your research prior and determine what’s important to you. Choose just a few bakeries you want to try based on those you think fit with what you want for your day versus just trying a bunch of cake, to try cake. I think you’ll be much more satisfied with the end product if this is the approach you take.

Be open to your baker’s suggestions and opinions, but be wary of someone who will do anything at any venue at any time of year. While I love to work with clients on custom designs and flavors, not all cakes and desserts are suitable for every venue or situation.

Thank you, Kim, for your thoughtful responses! We hope these answers will help point newly engaged couples in the right direction for choosing the right vendor to fit their wedding dessert needs!