The Wedding(s) that started it all...

On May 3, 2015 I married my best friend, my middle school sweetheart. Doesn't that just sound barfy? We officially got hitched in one of our favorite places on the planet, the Central Coast of California, in the mountains outside a little magical town called Cambria just south of Big Sur. 

The absolute most amazing part was the feeling of pure joy I kept feeling throughout the weekend by having all of our friends and family gather in one place over a four day period of time. The best highlights included our wedding hike through the forest to a little Treehouse in the woods, our musician friends serenading us both during the ceremony and then again by candlelight at night, and all the love and care and good energy contributed by our friends and family(including baking us cupcakes! Go #TeamJen!).

So many times you just see the pretty photos on a wedding blog, and not the reasons behind them. I'm going to start letting y'all in and take some behind the scenes sneak peaks, sound good?!?

Photos below by the super talented Michael Stephens.

We had an amazing team of vendors who worked with us to bring our dream wedding to life! Here's a little bit of info on these great folks ,not only WHO they were (including links to their websites) but why we chose them!

Vendors

Planning/Design/Florals/Styling: Burlap & Rose Weddings! Yup, I hatched this baby myself! But see below, I did have the foresight to hire a Coordinator for the day. Like many of you, I did tons of reading and planning online, and wanted to DIY and plan out many of the aspects of my day. The planning and design for me included making chalkboard signs instead of having paper goods, picking wildflowers (a perk of a spring wedding) and incorporating them into my bouquet, and creating many of the little details that made the day what it was. 

Photography: Michael Stephens Photography. I met Mike at the one and only Bridal Expo I attended as a bride, at the majestic Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. When I met Mike at this expo, we instantly clicked. Compared to many of the other folks there, he just felt like the right down to earth vibe. He was offering a special of 15% off if we signed on the spot, and while that can feel like a risky move for some things, it felt right to sign with him then. It ended up being a great choice because we got a great deal, and love our photos. If you find yourself at a Bridal Expo or are otherwise offered a similar discount, my advice to you is to ask to see as much of a vendor's work as possible and see if it is a good fit. Most importantly, you have to decide what your budget priorities are and where you are willing to make trade-offs or take a potential risk. While we really wanted (and got!!) great photos, we knew we only had a certain amount of $ we could spend on this, so our trade-off was only booking 5 hours of wedding coverage. That meant we didn't get those getting ready shots(which weren't important to us, but are to many people!) or any night time dancing shots, which could have been cool, but again #priorities. 

Venue: Red Mountain Retreat VRBO. Ah, our venue!!! It took us forever to find it but once we did... it was a match made in heaven. This is what we spend the most time trying to figure out! Unlike with our photographer(which was literally a 15 min convo and decision made on the spot!) depending on how ya look at it,  it took us either five months... or two years, trying to find the right venue! For the first few years of our engagement we were considering getting hitched in our home state of Florida, including some rad places like the Keys. We did end up having our Wedding Part 1 in my family's back yard(more on that later) but after we relocated to California in the summer of 2014,  we wanted to get married here too!

After checking out many cool places up there, including a kick ass summer camp right on the ocean, and a sweet, tiny family run winery,  my mama stumbled upon this listing on VRBO. They had only done one small family wedding there before, but with 160 acres, including lemon groves, a hiking trail and secret hidden treehouse, we knew it would be amazing.

But, let me get real with you, while it was PERFECT, it wasn't perfect, if ya catch my drift? There are tons of amazing ways to make a non-traditional wedding space work for you, but it can be more work than you anticipate, and the costs really can add up if you have to bring everything in. Plus, there were a few surprises when we got there, so you have to be willing to roll with that, and we also literally had to roll up our sleeves and do some last min yard maintenance that hadn't been finished! But all things considered, I am so glad we took the time to find the right place. And honestly traveling around to gorgeous places was my favorite part of wedding planning... and ultimately a big part of why I wanted to become a wedding planner myself!

Catering/Bartending: Haute Skillet Doing Catering Tastings is another of the truly best parts of wedding planning, because, Food! Every catering company handles tastings differently. Some don't charge a fee at all, some will but apply it to your total bill, etc. We tried a few really yummy places, but Anna with Haute Skillet won us over with her locally sourced, delish comfort food. We had really wanted a food truck wedding, but the steep mountain roads leading up to our venue didn't quite work for the truck, so instead we got an even better meal with "drop-off catering" and hired some of the folks who work with Anna to set up a buffet and bus. This is one of the best budget ways to cater your wedding, but do note: you must have at least some service staff! Even if you don't want a full fledged catered meal, you do have to have some extra hands on board to manage/serve/prep/clear. I've been (mostly) vegetarian for most of my life, but my hubby isn't so we found a great compromise with delish veggie and meat options.

Dessert: Linn's Pies (Local Berry Pies)/The French Corner Bakery(Cake)/ Friends(#TeamJen Cupcakes!)

Y'all! I'll be honest. I know its a big trend now, but. I. Just. Do. Not. understand the fake wedding cake trend! To be honest, I was never a big fan of wedding cakes in general(and to all my fabulous baker friends, I am not disparaging you-- I LOVE sweets!) I just never saw the appeal of the over the top tiered cake, and TBH I'm kinda glad that trend is no longer everywhere. I love me a good dessert bar with lots of options, so that's what we had! We had a delightful small cutting cake from the local French Bakery, then we also got local berry pies from the local pie baker, then we also had home made cupcakes prepared by friends. And then, because obviously that is NOT enough sweets for one wedding, we also had a DONUT TRUCK for our morning after brunch because donuts!!!.

Morning After Doughnut Truck: Sugar Lips Mini Donuts Did I mention donuts? Doughnuts? Should I mention these again? Yes, donuts!

Hair & Makeup: Danielle Roberts. I found Dani online, and absolutely loved her sweet energy and kind aura. She helped whipped me and my gals into purdy shape. There was a time when I considered DIYing my hair and make up and I am SO glad I went profesh for this instead.

Coordination: Eventful Wedding Planning. Here's where I confess, again, that at first I thought I wouldn't need a Wedding Coordinator. Yep, this is now what I do (?!?!) but for a while I was very committed to sticking to a really tight DIY budget and I couldn't fathom how a Coordinator could fit that. I asked a family member if they would coordinate, and she politely turned me down, because: your friends and family want to have FUN at your wedding! For the most part, they do NOT want to work! There are exceptions to every wedding rule, and many friends won't mind contributing something your wedding, especially if it is a short time commitment(Ex: we asked our musician friends to play 1-3 songs each, not play an entire music set).  Coordinating a wedding is an ALL DAY affair, and ain't nobody got time for that when they are also trying to boogie with you on the dance floor! I found Colleen from Eventful Wedding Planning online, and we clicked in the planning process. I asked her for a discount, like many of you ask me-- and here is the deal: I knew that in order to get a discount, I would have to offer up some things in return. For example, I offered to lead my own rehearsal the day before, and create my own timeline with minimal input, AND handle all vendor communications, in exchange for a mild $200 off her rate. That was reasonable for both of us. I'll write more about asking vendors for discounts in another blog, but it's always a good rule of thumb in life, you have to be willing to let something go in exchange for something else, right?

Transportation: Ride On Shuttle. I really truly believe that you should give an open bar, and you should encourage people to have a great time, and you should really really make it easy for people to get home safe. Drinking and driving straight up stinks y'all. Offering shuttles can seem expensive, and depending on the venue and where folks are staying it isn't always an option. Thankfully for us it was, and I HIGHLY encourage all my clients to think about safety, and put money towards this as a top priority.

Rentals: Taylor Rentals This is a great rental company for Central Cali. Affordable and reliable!

Friendors

While we love and appreciate all the pros who worked with us on our wedding, it was incredible to have the love and support and time and talents of our friends as well.

Musicians

Processional: Kate + Jenna serenaded us on the violin and flute. These gals, friends from DC, were effin amazing. They played The Swan, and yep-- The Bridal March! I wanted so many non-traditional elements, but I also thought throwing in some hella traditional aspects could also be fun, and they nailed it.

Recessional: Aimee + Michael played a friend edited version of Home by Edward Sharpe as our Recessional. It was pretty friggin perfect. We walked down the aisle as a married couple with our best friends singing their hearts out while we were surrounded by bubbles. Yasssssss.

"First Dance=Last Dance": Instead of having a traditional First Dance, we had something more like a Last Dance towards the end of our reception.

Vasu is another dear soul from the DC area who I got to collaborate with on a Flash Mob for Voting Rights on the Steps of the Supreme Court to call attention to Voting Rights. (Yup, that was my work before I got into weddings). Vasu's voice is just down right amazing and instead of having a "first dance" which just did not fit us, we instead had tons of dancing with everyone to kick off the reception, and once it got dark, we handed out candles, and had our friends surround us with light and love while Vasu played Stay With Me by Sam Smith, and then led into an acoustic medley. It was truly magical. So this is what the end of our wedding looked like!

Art: Our dear friend Alex created this graffiti piece for our wedding, along with the design of our Save the Dates for our CA and FL Wedding Celebrations. Pretty amazing, no?

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The Whole Wedding Weekend Baby!!

While our actual wedding day was magic, it was having the whole weekend together that made the experience a true ritual/journey/community celebration. 

Joey + Jennifer: Wedding Part 1: East Coast Version!

Before my hubby Joey and I actually got married, we had a pretty kick ass test run shindig a few months early. We were engaged for about three years before we actually tied the knot, and didn't do the whole engagement party/bridal showers shebang. 

So instead, we had a two part- party! We knew that for many of our family and friends, it would be most convenient to throw a party around the Holidays when many people would be back "home" in Miami, where we are both from. We also knew that some of our family and friends would find it easier to travel to California, so we ended up having two weddings. Because, hey, getting married is fun! 

We weren't sure exactly how to go about having two sorta kinda weddings, and many of my clients have asked for suggestions on how or whether to attempt something similar. 

Pros: We were able to accommodate more people by letting them choose where and when they could celebrate with us!

Cons: It was obviously a little more money to have two parties instead of one, but we had lots of DIY elements at both to make it work!

One. Ten. Five.

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ONE: It’s the one year anniversary of my business, and as I mark this milestone, I’m taking some time to reflect on the wonderful whirlwind this past year has been.

Just a few weeks after my own wedding last year, my husband and I did a weekend get-away in Ojai. It was so beautiful and truly inspiring, especially after I had been feeling some post-wedding blues. We had a wonderful wedding weekend with friends and family from all over the country flying into to California for a four day affair. And then just as suddenly as they surrounded us with love in our new home state, they flew home and it was back to reality.

I was left to confront the feelings I’d been having that it was time for a career change. For months, I had no idea what that career change could or should be. I went to graduate school for non-profit management, and had given my heart and soul to that world for about 12 years. But I could feel it was time for something new, and for quite awhile I didn't know what that next step was going to be.

And then, suddenly, like the proverbial light bulb going off, it hit me while we were in Ojai: I wanted to work in the magical world of weddings.

I had never expected this, and to be honest, it still feels a bit foreign to call myself a wedding planner. As I planned my own wedding, I felt really strongly that I wasn’t interested in most of the crap that is the Wedding Industrial Complex. But, what really did speak to me were all these non-traditional, rule-breaking weddings I saw friends create and I was reading about on blogs. I realized that just as there are people out there who want to have non-cookie cutter weddings, there is also a need for wedding professionals who have a vision and set of ethics built on something different than what glossy bridal magazines have to sell (And don't get me wrong, sometimes I love those mags and pour through them too... but it's like sugar and only good in small doses!).

This new career path was being built as I planned my wedding, only I didn’t realize it at the time. Once that lightbulb went off, it came together quickly. Within a week, I came up with a name for my business, inspired by design elements of our wedding, along with a website. I went to my first bridal expo as a vendor a few weeks later with shiny new business cards, and in just those first few weeks, met some truly wonderful wedding vendors who believe in community and collaboration over competition.

TEN: I cold called and emailed several wedding planners to see if I could shadow them for free and learn the business from the inside out. After getting radio silence from some, I was able to team up with two incredible wedding planners who took a chance on me. I started shadowing with them right away, and in just a few months collaboarted on ten weddings and felt ready to start looking for my own clients.

I am eternally grateful to those first few clients who signed on with me, when I had very little to show that early on. I am equally grateful to those wedding vendors who suggested me to venues and to their clients, as all this early work built a solid foundation that I've been lucky to grow from. Along with those ten weddings I worked with other wedding planners, as of this writing, I’ve also just successfully completed my tenth wedding of my own in this first year! I know that every new business has both growth spurts and stalls, so my approach has been first to count all my damn blessings, and also look for as many ways to pay it forward as possible. A huge part of that for me has meant bringing on some amazing women to join my team, all incredibly talented and inspiring gals who I couldn’t do this work without! Read more about our growing team here.

FIVE: When I first started this company a year ago, I never considered the possibility of also incorporating floral designs. And then a bride saw my florals at a Bridal Show booth I had created just for decoration, and she said: I want you to do the florals for my wedding! I tried to explain that wasn’t a service I offered, but she was convinced I could and should create the florals for her wedding, and her enthusiasm convinced me that maybe I could(and so I did!) I’ve now gotten to work with five couples to not only coordinate their weddings but also create simple floral designs that worked with their budgets. A year ago I never would have considered myself artistic or creative, but these days it’s been fun to try new experiments.

It’s been an exhilarating year, and I’m excited to see what the year ahead holds! We've got some fantastic love stories to share, in some beautiful locations, like Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, and even Ojai!

#ForeverGrateful #OneYearinBiz #Thanksbabesforbelievinginme!

LEARN MORE ABOUT US AND HOW WE CAN HELP YOU!

How Can We Help You?

-Do you want a stress free wedding day?

-Do you want to work with people you can trust to make your wedding day special?

-Do you want to take the guesswork out of all the wedding planning and have a fun, friendly professional guide you through the whole process?

One of the most important tasks in planning your wedding is finding professionals you click with who will help ring your wedding vision to life. Let’s find out if we might be a good fit! Read more below, and let’s set up an in-person consultation, which is always complimentary!

ABOUT US:

Burlap & Rose Weddings was founded in early 2015 by Jennifer Toth Clary. While planning her own wedding, Jen realized there is a need for high quality professionals who can help brides who want something other than a cookie cutter wedding!  

ABOUT YOU:

The majority of our clients are looking for more than Day-Of(or even Month-Of!) Coordination, and most don’t want or need Full Service Planning. Most of our clients are looking for that sweet in- between, what some call partial planning, and what we like to refer to as our Collaborative Package. As we build our roster of satisfied clients, we are finding that many people want advice and consultation from the day they book us, be that one month, or one year before their wedding. Most of our bridal couples want a wedding that has some traditional elements, but also some alternative aspects that reflect their lives and personalities and are anything but cookie cutter. While we work with all kinds of weddings, from 50 folks to 200+, we find most of our weddings tend to be in the 75-150 range.

READ MORE ABOUT OUR WEDDING PHILOSOPHY:

DIY/Budget-Friendly Weddings: One of the biggest myths in the wedding world is that you have to break your bank to have an amazing one-of-a-kind day. Many wedding vendors will add premiums to things you don’t really need, will try to upsell you at every turn, and will turn their noses up at the word budget. Not me! I was a Budget Bride myself, and learned many awesome budget wedding tips I am eager to pass along to you!

Commitment to Diversity and Multicultural Inclusion: Our staff is made up of approx 505 Women of Color, and our clients are from all over the U.S. and include several international folks too! We have worked with people from all religious and cultural backgrounds, and we love helping with both religious and secular ceremonies, and everything in between!

LGBTQ Weddings: I worked for several years on same-sex marriage campaigns. When the Supreme Court finally confirmed that all people should have the right to marry who they love in June 2015, I cried tears of joy knowing that finally (finally!!) marriage equality for all is here! I am happy to plan LGBTQ-friendly weddings and would be very invested in making your day as special and amazing as you!

Eco-Friendly/Green/Sustainable Weddings: An environmentalist since a young age, I am happy to find ways to “green” your wedding, from eliminating unnecessary waste, to reducing your overall wedding carbon footprint, to incorporating vintage and sustainable products into your special day.

A Celebration of SAME-SEX Love: Valentine's Shoot 2016

A  Celebration of SAME-SEX Love: Valentine's Shoot 2016

It’s hard to believe it has been less than a year since the U.S. Supreme Court (FINALLY!) ruled in favor of same sex marriage. Before I started my wedding planning business, I worked for many years in the advocacy/non-profit work, and one of my big issues areas was Marriage Equality and LGTBQ Rights. So when it came time to plan my first ever styled shoot, I knew we had to feature same-sex couples.

Seven Questions to Ask Your Wedding Planner & Other Wedding Professionals!

There are tons of great wedding blogs out there that give you ideas on what you should ask wedding pros before you book them. Here are some of the most common and important questions you should ask, along with my responses. Feel free to ask for more detail on these or any other questions you have.

1. How much do you cost?

Many wedding vendors don't list their prices online, or make you go through several rounds of communications before giving you a quote. When I was a bride, I found that really frustrating, so I like to be upfront about my pricing and packages and what you can expect. I can help you to evaluate what other vendor's pricing and contracts include, because every vendorʼs package includes different items and services. And price can be relative when you factor in experience, expertise, and reputation. So many people in the wedding industry run their own small business and prices really vary widely! If you take a look around, not everyone is transparent about their pricing and many in this industry will not work with you at all to negotiate their rates. I am committed to offering fair and transparent services and pricing my work at rates that most brides can afford, especially those who don’t have huge budgets! Many wedding vendors shy away from the word budget. I myself didn’t have a huge wedding budget, and I learned so much ways to save during your wedding planning that I want to pass along great cost saving ideas to my clients!

 2. How much is the deposit? When is the balance due?

This one should be pretty self-explanatory. The deposit to work with me is usually half the total rate, and is due upon signing the contract. The balance will be due thirty days prior to your wedding.

3. What specifically is included in the cost?

The lowest cost isnʼt necessarily the best deal, because packages will vary from vendor to vendor. Some higher quotes will include services that you have to pay for in other vendorsʼ packages. I outline everything in my contract so that you understand all that is included. I am also happy to adjust services in advance to suit all of your needs, as long as we discuss it before-hand so we both know what to expect on your wedding day! In addition, I will work with you so that you can ask all of your vendors the right questions to ensure they provide the right services for you, and you don't get any surprise costs for other vendors.

 4. Is my deposit refundable? What happens if I cancel?

It's a good idea to clearly understand with all vendors you book if the deposit is refundable and what happens if you need to cancel your wedding. Most deposits will be non-refundable, so be prepared for that if you suddenly decide to chuck it all up and elope. Generally, they are turning away other business to take yours, and the deposit covers some (not all) of that risk. For the most part, my deposit is non-refundable, and that is outlined clearly in my contract. However, if you have an emergency that comes up, I will ALWAYS try to find a way to work with you. My job is to keep you happy so together we can find a solution!

5. What happen if something happens to the Wedding Coordinator or another vendor?

With all vendors you work with, you want to know if they have a backup plan in case something happens to them. You want to know that they will they attempt to find someone within their network of professionals who can help them out in an emergency. In the unlikely case that I have an emergency comes up with anyone on the Burlap & Rose Weddings team, we always have a back-up plan! This includes a network of other trusted professionals and assistants who can help. You will never leave be stranded!

6. Do you use a contract?

You are looking for a very simple answer here: YES! If the answer is no, run away and do not give this person your money! A contract is designed to protect both you and the wedding professional. Verbal agreements will not hold up in court, so get something on paper! 

Of course, both clients and vendors should ALWAYS want to have clear expectations outlined in writing.

7. Are there any additional fees?

You want to ask every vendor you work with about taxes, travel fees, service charges, delivery fees, etc. Make sure you understand exactly what is included. This should be clearly defined in your contract. Keep in mind that reputable businesses pay taxes, so you should expect to pay state and local sales tax (if applicable) on any items or services you purchase.I will always state my rate upfront when you sign your contract. Unless you choose to add additional services, I will never tack on additional charges.