Ask the Expert: Danielle Vogelheim

Photo by Weber Photography

In this week's Ask the Expert, we've turned to Danielle Vogelheim, previous owner of N|M Event Designs and a current account executive at Nüage Designs.  We asked Danielle about planning a destination wedding because she happens to also be a bride planning for her own wedding in the Bahamas!   With her years of experience planning destination weddings for couples coming to Northern Michigan, she's the perfect person to pass along advice to anyone planning their own.

What are the things you look at when picking a venue, especially when you don't know the area and it's new to you?

It's important to look for things that represent you and your 'soon to be'. Whether that be a beach, a country setting or a romantic vineyard, first find where your dream location exists then see what's around that area.   If you can picture yourself standing there in the photo that's a good start. However, it's also important to make sure it's logistically possible for you and your guests, from flights to accommodations.   If you are able, schedule a site visit and pick three solid contenders, many venue pictures look glamourous online but don't depict the full picture of the whereabouts.

How do you find vendors that you know are going to do a good job?

You really need to rely on those who have planned events there in the past. Local Wedding Planners or Event Coordinators for the hotel have seen first-hand the vendors in the area. They want the event to be just as grand as you do and their preferred list is compiled with people who have worked well for them in the past. They would not recommend someone that has a record of showing up late or not meeting their clients' expectations. Don't be afraid to ask your coordinator exactly what you are looking for and they will recommend the best fit.

How do you handle guest accommodations?  Do you assume they'll handle it on their own?  Do you plan to cover part of their expenses, and if so how do you select what you cover?  Do you make sure to include shuttles? Or choose a venue that has everything included?

If your budget allows for it then yes, by all means a paid vacation for all your family members and closest friends is a real treat! You don't need to pay everyone's way but you do need to provide them all the necessary information. Let them know where there are accommodations, suggestions on rental cars or transportation providers as well as things to do around the area. If you have a destination wedding and the ceremony and/or reception is held offsite from the hotel it's best to get a shuttle so they don't have to worry about finding their way around on their own in a foreign town. If you are asking your guests to travel hundreds of miles help them figure out how to get there with ease!

How do you take care of the guests?

Welcome them! After a long trip it's always great to see a friendly face greeting you! Make sure you arrive to the destination before most of your guests do so you can spend time with them as they arrive. If the budget allows it's always nice to have an informal "welcome reception" as a gesture of appreciation for them coming all the way to see you both;  serving refreshments and light appetizers allows people to mingle and come and go at their leisure. This also does a bit of double duty as it allows guests to get to know one another if they don't already. When the wedding night comes along everyone is really able to let loose and have a good time as they feel like they are all amongst friends.

Any additional advice for couples planning a destination wedding?

Find a spot that you both would love to return to. It will be your "special place" and a great excuse to make future vacation plans. Also, there is only so much you can do from so far away so rely on your planner or coordinator as they do this for a living. When you get there... relax and enjoy your vacation!

Thank you so much Danielle!

Ask the Expert: Dawn McDuffie | Solace Spa at Boyne Mountain

We spoke with Dawn McDuffie from the Solace Spa at Boyne Mountain about brides, grooms, and wedding parties that visit the spa in preparation for their big day.  She gave us helpful feedback on everything from hair and makeup prep to treating you and your wedding party to a day of relaxation. You'll be craving a day at the spa for yourself after reading this!

When approached by brides, what are some of the things you recommend that they keep in mind?

As far as preparing for the actual wedding day, the day before is good for relaxation and any treatments that take longer like nail shellac application.  On the day of the wedding I recommend that they have hair done first and then makeup, mainly so that the hair is out of their face.  Trial hair and makeup appointments for the bride are often made anywhere from 6 months in advance to a couple of weeks before the wedding, and it's okay to have more than one trial.

Are there any things that Brides and Grooms don't consider, or services they should ask about when planning their spa visit?

Most brides know what they want before coming to the spa, but it's helpful to be aware of all of the options that are available so don't be afraid to ask! The spa also works with you to help make the day run smoothly by organizing when each member of the wedding party will have their appointments throughout the day.

The spa seems like a great place to take your bridesmaids before the wedding, do you have many bridal parties come in for that reason?

I'm working with a wedding party right now that has an amazing spa experience planned.  They've rented out a group room where they'll be able to rest and relax between treatments.  Throughout the day, they will be treated with sparkling wine, chocolate covered strawberries, and a catered lunch.  They each have manicures and pedicures scheduled, and some have planned facials.  The Spa also has a wet room that offers the European Spa bathing experience.  A hot tub, sauna, and steam room are available with recommended cool showers between each. It's all about having a pampered day for you and your wedding party and plenty of relaxation!

What are treatments that the Groom and his groomsmen usually enjoy?

The full menu is offered but most men opt for a massage before the wedding.  Little do they know if they tried a pedicure once, they'd be hooked!

Thank you so much Dawn for answering our questions!

 

How do you plan to relax before your big day?

Ask the Expert: Carrie Cutler-Farley | Cutler's of Petoskey

 

We're focusing on the iconic yellow storefront of Cutler's of Petoskey and the advice of Carrie Cutler-Farley in this week's Ask the Expert.  Carrie kindly answered our questions about the wedding gift registry and her advice for brides and grooms planning their own registries.

What advice do you give couples creating a gift registry?

We always tell couples to think not just where they are today, but look to the future.  Are they planning to have a family?  What is their lifestyle?  Do they like to entertain?  What will they plan to do for the holidays?  In most cases, brides will want to register for more than four place settings and we always advise that it's better to have more than not enough especially for those entertaining and holiday occasions.

Do you have any specific advice for brides? What about for grooms?

We advise brides to choose a variety of price points, including more expensive items. They shouldn't be afraid to register for something they LOVE even if it's more expensive than anything they'd buy for themselves.  Many guests go-in together on wedding gifts and make those dream items a reality.

We think the more the grooms participate, the better!  More and more men are taking part in the kitchen and there are lots of gifts that can make cooking more convenient and fun.  Keep all those in mind and consider the same advice given to the brides for their dream items.

What should couples keep in mind when approaching their registry: time frames? number of items?

Since many guests who attend the bridal shower buy their wedding gift at the same time, we recommend to register for your gifts not just well before the wedding but before the wedding shower invitations are mailed.  Most shower invitations go out about 2 weeks before the shower, so register before then.

We also recommend a good variety of items and register for more than you think you'll get.  Always err on the side of too much and include both your needs and wants.

Is there anything that consistently surprises couples throughout the process of registering for gifts?

We usually don't encounter too many surprises on our end of the gift registry, but newlyweds tend to be surprised by how much people actually do buy from their registries.  Your guests respect the registry you've created and want to buy you a gift to support your new life together!

Thank you so much Carrie for offering your perspective and advice! Cutler's is in downtown Petoskey and specializes in gifts for the home and kitchen.

Ask the Expert: Angie Whitener | Stafford's Hospitality

Ask the Expert | Stafford's Hospitality

Stafford's Bay View Inn | Petoskey Michigan

Many weddings in Northern Michigan are destination weddings, with guests traveling from near and far to celebrate the big day with you.  For those of you planning for guests new to the area, this interview with Angie Whitener of Stafford's Hospitality in Petoskey and Bay View will help you welcome them!  Angie has over a decade of experience advising couples who are welcoming their friends and family members to Northern Michigan so we asked her for some of her best advice.

Stafford's is excellent at hospitality!   What advice do you give couples who are welcoming friends and family that are traveling from out of town?

The more information the better and provide it to them early!  I always recommend sending out a Save the Date notice to guests well in advance (6-9 mos of the wedding date), there are so many cute and fun ways to do this from postcards to magnets to passports, it is amazing how creative you can be.  You’ll want to include information in regards to the wedding location and climate, travel accommodations – hotel blocks (rates and cut-off dates), condo rentals, air travel, rental car information, etc…  It is also a good idea to create a wedding website where you can host all of the pertinent information your guests need to know when making plans to attend your big day (or weekend).  Have the website created prior to sending out the save dates and include the web address on the Save the Date – I’m sure that pretty soon we’ll start to see those little QR Codes for Mobile Wedding Websites, that would be a fun addition!

Do you advise couples on possible welcome gifts?

Guests who have traveled a long way to get to your wedding destination deserve a warm welcome!  Creating a goodie basket or bag for them is a great idea and a nice thank you; typically these are delivered by the hotel bell staff directly to your guests’ lodging room – waiting for them when they check in.  The best welcome gifts that I have seen are the ones that are themed to the area – here in Michigan and Northern Michigan specifically we have so many wonderful locally made goodies that you can welcome your guests with.  Savory or sweet snacks, wine or beer, bottled water, maybe even some essentials they may need throughout the weekend – mints, antacids, headache relief, etc… It is also helpful to include a list of fun things to do in the area, an itinerary and directions for your wedding weekend of events and of course a nice thank you note signed by the bride and groom is the finishing touch!

What about maps to the area?

I think that it is helpful to provide a map of how to get from the ceremony location to the reception site and maybe driving directions to the location from a few points of where most of your guests will be traveling from by car.  Honestly most people have a GPS now either in their car or on their phone so the most important thing to do is have the Correct addresses provided for each of the locations your guests will need to travel to.  Double check directly with someone on staff at the hotel, restaurant, church, ceremony site, etc.. for the proper address, don’t trust what comes up on your “google search”!

What are the most important things to keep in mind (big or small) when attempting to pull off a seamless event?

Being organized from the beginning seems to be the key to success for all couples planning a wedding.  When planning a year in advance you have time to create check-lists and to-dos, start on those tasks early and don’t leave it all for the last three months before the wedding.  Those months will be filled with other obligations – showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, dress fittings, etc...

Hiring the right team is essential – professional wedding vendors, event planners, selecting a reception and ceremony site that provides full service amenities in terms of catering, rentals and coordination – will ease the stress that all weddings seem to create!

It is also important to keep in mind what getting married is all about – sure you become involved in creating this entire wedding weekend worthy of it’s own reality TV show feature, but don’t let all of that distract you from the joy of starting a life together with the partner of your dreams – that is what getting married is all about.  It is supposed to be blissful, memorable and happy.  Leave the stress of planning up to the professionals and your event will be seamless!

I also find it very helpful to have a final meeting face to face or via conference call with all of your vendors – this is that last contact before the big day to make sure that everyone is on the same page and up to date with details.  Over the course of a year, plans change – sometimes A LOT – and you want to make sure that you’ve communicated your final “image” of the day to everyone involved.  That way you can go into the weekend feeling calm and excited for the happiest day of your life!

Thank you for your insight Angie!  I'm sure every person planning a wedding will benefit from these awesome pointers!

Ask the Expert: Carrie Cutler-Farley | Cutler's of Petoskey

 

This looks like an engagement session photo, and it definitely is, but we're looking to the background and the iconic yellow storefront of Cutler's in this week's Ask the Expert.  Carrie Cutler-Farley kindly answered our questions about the wedding gift registry and her advice for brides and grooms planning their own registries.

What advice do you give couples creating a gift registry?

We always tell couples to think not just where they are today, but look to the future.  Are they planning to have a family?  What is their lifestyle?  Do they like to entertain?  What will they plan to do for the holidays?  In most cases, brides will want to register for more than four place settings and we always advise that it's better to have more than not enough especially for those entertaining and holiday occasions.

Do you have any specific advice for brides? What about for grooms?

We advise brides to choose a variety of price points, including more expensive items. They shouldn't be afraid to register for something they LOVE even if it's more expensive than anything they'd buy for themselves.  Many guests go-in together on wedding gifts and make those dream items a reality.

We think the more the grooms participate, the better!  More and more men are taking part in the kitchen and there are lots of gifts that can make cooking more convenient and fun.  Keep all those in mind and consider the same advice given to the brides for their dream items.

What should couples keep in mind when approaching their registry: time frames? number of items?

Since many guests who attend the bridal shower buy their wedding gift at the same time, we recommend to register for your gifts not just well before the wedding but before the wedding shower invitations are mailed.  Most shower invitations go out about 2 weeks before the shower, so register before then.

We also recommend a good variety of items and register for more than you think you'll get.  Always err on the side of too much and include both your needs and wants.

Is there anything that consistently surprises couples throughout the process of registering for gifts?

We usually don't encounter too many surprises on our end of the gift registry, but newlyweds tend to be surprised by how much people actually do buy from their registries.  Your guests respect the registry you've created and want to buy you a gift to support your new life together!

Thank you so much Carrie for offering your perspective and advice! Cutler's is in downtown Petoskey and specializes in gifts for the home and kitchen.

Ask the Expert: Angie Whitener | Stafford's Hospitality

Ask the Expert | Stafford's Hospitality

Stafford's Bay View Inn | Petoskey Michigan

Angie Whitener is the Sales Manager at Stafford's Hospitality of Petoskey and Bay View.  She has over a decade of experience advising couples who are welcoming their friends and family members to Northern Michigan so we asked her for some of her best advice.

Many weddings in Northern Michigan are destination weddings and Stafford's is excellent at hospitality!   What advice do you give couples who are welcoming friends and family that are traveling from out of town?

The more information the better and provide it to them early!  I always recommend sending out a Save the Date notice to guests well in advance (6-9 mos of the wedding date), there are so many cute and fun ways to do this from postcards to magnets to passports, it is amazing how creative you can be.  You’ll want to include information in regards to the wedding location and climate, travel accommodations – hotel blocks (rates and cut-off dates), condo rentals, air travel, rental car information, etc…  It is also a good idea to create a wedding website where you can host all of the pertinent information your guests need to know when making plans to attend your big day (or weekend).  Have the website created prior to sending out the save dates and include the web address on the Save the Date – I’m sure that pretty soon we’ll start to see those little QR Codes for Mobile Wedding Websites, that would be a fun addition!

Do you advise couples on possible welcome gifts?

Guests who have traveled a long way to get to your wedding destination deserve a warm welcome!  Creating a goodie basket or bag for them is a great idea and a nice thank you; typically these are delivered by the hotel bell staff directly to your guests’ lodging room – waiting for them when they check in.  The best welcome gifts that I have seen are the ones that are themed to the area – here in Michigan and Northern Michigan specifically we have so many wonderful locally made goodies that you can welcome your guests with.  Savory or sweet snacks, wine or beer, bottled water, maybe even some essentials they may need throughout the weekend – mints, antacids, headache relief, etc… It is also helpful to include a list of fun things to do in the area, an itinerary and directions for your wedding weekend of events and of course a nice thank you note signed by the bride and groom is the finishing touch!

What about maps to the area?

I think that it is helpful to provide a map of how to get from the ceremony location to the reception site and maybe driving directions to the location from a few points of where most of your guests will be traveling from by car.  Honestly most people have a GPS now either in their car or on their phone so the most important thing to do is have the Correct addresses provided for each of the locations your guests will need to travel to.  Double check directly with someone on staff at the hotel, restaurant, church, ceremony site, etc.. for the proper address, don’t trust what comes up on your “google search”!

What are the most important things to keep in mind (big or small) when attempting to pull off a seamless event?

Being organized from the beginning seems to be the key to success for all couples planning a wedding.  When planning a year in advance you have time to create check-lists and to-dos, start on those tasks early and don’t leave it all for the last three months before the wedding.  Those months will be filled with other obligations – showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, dress fittings, etc...

Hiring the right team is essential – professional wedding vendors, event planners, selecting a reception and ceremony site that provides full service amenities in terms of catering, rentals and coordination – will ease the stress that all weddings seem to create!

It is also important to keep in mind what getting married is all about – sure you become involved in creating this entire wedding weekend worthy of it’s own reality TV show feature, but don’t let all of that distract you from the joy of starting a life together with the partner of your dreams – that is what getting married is all about.  It is supposed to be blissful, memorable and happy.  Leave the stress of planning up to the professionals and your event will be seamless!

I also find it very helpful to have a final meeting face to face or via conference call with all of your vendors – this is that last contact before the big day to make sure that everyone is on the same page and up to date with details.  Over the course of a year, plans change – sometimes A LOT – and you want to make sure that you’ve communicated your final “image” of the day to everyone involved.  That way you can go into the weekend feeling calm and excited for the happiest day of your life!

Thank you for your insight Angie!  I'm sure every person planning a wedding will benefit from these awesome pointers!

Ask the Expert: Megan Nickerson | Bay Harbor Village Hotel

Bay Harbor Michigan Village Hotel

In this week's "Ask the Expert" we asked for and received some great advice from Megan Nickerson, Sales Manager of the Bay Harbor Village Hotel & Conference Center.  She filled us in on the importance of booking rooms early and what steps to take when booking those rooms.

What are some of the main questions/concerns you get from Brides?  What advice do you give them?

Working for a 90-unit destination resort, where the majority of our weddings are destination, one of the main concerns I hear from Brides is they are afraid their guests will not find lodging in the area or if there will be enough.  This is a valid concern.  Depending on the time of year and the location of the event, lodging options could be limited.  Area events, other weddings and group functions, as well as transient guests, could all play a factor in the number of hotel rooms available to wedding guests.

I encourage them to set up a block through our hotel (most guests prefer to stay on property or as close as possible to limit the amount of driving) and recommend other area hotels to secure blocks as soon as possible, should they have many out of town guests.  I also encourage them to keep their guests updated with options and contact information when they are ready to book.  It should be seamless and easy for all parties involved.  Some wedding guests will want to book up to one year in advance to ensure they will have lodging in their preferred hotel.

 

What is the importance of booking hotel rooms early?

Securing your hotel rooms early is extremely important; the earlier the better!  Especially if you're planning your event in northern Michigan during the summer season when we have the most visitors to our area.  Not only are your wedding guests competing with other visitors to the area, they are also competing with other wedding groups.  Along with many other area wedding locations, the Bay Harbor Village Hotel has the ability to have multiple weddings a day.  With the majority of our weddings being a destination and with guests traveling from all over, almost every guest will be searching for accommodations.

Regardless of the time of year or wedding location, reserve your blocks as early as you are able and give your guests plenty of notice to reserve by posting lodging options on your wedding website, Save the Dates, invitations, etc. giving them time to research and plan.

 

What steps do you need to take when booking / blocking rooms off for guests?

After you set a date and location, speak with that property’s Sales Manager or Event Coordinator for suggestions on area hotels.  They will have ideas for the the most convenient and accommodating options.

Each hotel will have their own policies when it comes to reserving a block of rooms.  Be sure to ask about the following:

1.       Attrition policy

2.       Reservation cut-off/release dates

3.       Rates and whether or not they offer any discounts for group blocks

4.       Minimum night policy

5.       Accommodation options and discounts for the bride and groom’s lodging

6.       Deposit required

7.       Cancellation policy

8.       Minimum reservation policy

9.       Information on how guests should book (telephone, internet, group name/code, etc.)

 

What's the best advice you have for brides and grooms that are working on hotel accommodations for their guests?

- Do not try to guess what rooming types that guests will opt to reserve.  This only leads to feeling stressed and should the hotel have a strict attrition policy, may leave you with a hefty bill should the rooms remain unreserved.  If possible, block a small variety of styles giving guests with families of differing sizes and budgets options that best  fit their needs.  There is also nothing wrong with holding a block of standard-style rooms to start.  Guests always have the freedom to upgrade if they so choose.

- Give your guests a variety of lodging options.  If your wedding is hosted at a resort, be sure to secure a block at that property, but also list 1 or 2 other nearby hotels in the event the original block sells out.  Wedding guests are usually savvy travelers and will often research the area to find the hotel that best suits their needs and budgets, but giving them options to begin their search can only help if they are unfamiliar with the area.

- Encourage guests to book as soon as they are able to avoid hotels selling out.

- If you do have to book hotels located farther than walking distance, consider hiring a shuttle of some sort for the evening of your party if the hotel does not offer this service.  This way guests do not have to worry about driving after celebrating at the reception.

Although it might not be as fun to plan as the ceremony and party, this information helps so much in making THE BIG DAY possible!  Thank you Megan for your expertise in this area!

 

Ask the Expert: Cory Weber

Lindsey & Jeff First Look

I loved that Emily brought up her feelings on "The First Look" in her blog post last week!   Thank you to the readers for continuing the conversation and requesting the photographer's perspective!  Although it's ultimately the couple's decision, I'm always happy give my two cents on the subject if it helps them arrive at the best option for the two of them.

Option #1: The First Look Like Emily and our readers mentioned, you can see each other before the wedding.  This is more relaxed with more time to get the types of photos you want. For this we usually make sure to set up a private special location for just the bride and groom and then will move on with the rest of the bride and groom photos. This also makes it possible to do any additional formal photos prior to the wedding.  As I see it, the main objective of the "First Look" is to allow the couple to virtually go right from the Ceremony into mingling with all their favorite people that have traveled so far to be a part of this special day.  I couldn't have put it any better than Chelsea when she said, "The more pictures you get out of the way before the wedding, the quicker you'll be able to get to your party!"

Option #2: Traditional First Look at the Ceremony With this option, the first time you see each other is at the ceremony.  This can be a VERY powerful experience filled with so much raw emotion.  I never know what to expect when a Bride and Groom see each other for the first time walking down the aisle.  The scenario means we have to take the couple photos and Wedding Party photos after the family group shots.  This time can feel a little rushed as brides sometimes feel anxious about their waiting guests, but you'll remember the emotions of that moment at the beginning of your ceremony for the rest of your life.

Option #3: The Day After Although this seems counter-intuitive, there also is always the option of a post or “Day After” wedding session for the Bride and Groom who don't want to see each other before the ceremony and also don't want to be away from their guests for too long.  These sessions are relaxed and we have plenty of time to get the photos you are looking for without any constraints or worries.  It's not the first look, but it's a session devoted to the two of you and the emotions are still sky-high!

There is no right or wrong approach to the First Look.  Our job is to help you find the perfect decision for you!  When it comes to that final decision ask yourself, "What am I most looking forward to at the wedding?  The celebration with friends and family afterwards? Being relaxed? Keeping with traditions?"

I know you'll make the right decision!