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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stacey and David's Wedding - 9-10-11

The Grand Plaza Florida on St. Pete Beach was the perfect setting for the wedding of Stacey and David on 9-10-11. Although their wedding date was a popular one this year, this wedding was full of unique elements to make it a very special day, not only for Stacey and David, but also for their guests, who traveled from across the country to witness their nuptials.

The beach ceremony began at 10am, with guests enjoying the warm breezes of the Gulf of Mexico and harp music provided by Jessica Cardwell. The bride thought of everything, and provided flip-flops for guests to slip into and cold water for them to drink as they entered the beach. The bridal party was appropriately dressed, with the gentlemen attired in linen (including custom made shirts by Ya-Ya’s Little Secret), and ladies wearing sunshine yellow one-shouldered short dresses perfect for the beach.

Following a moving ceremony, guests were escorted to the Presidential Ballroom for light appetizers and drinks, including the bride and groom’s signature drink – frozen Blue Hawaiian. Tables were named after beaches the couple has visited or plans to visit, including Ft. De Soto Beach, Vero Beach, and Clearwater Beach.

The afternoon rain did not dampen the spirits of the newlyweds or their guests. Guests enjoyed their choice of main entrée, followed by wedding cake provided by A Piece of Cake. The groom’s cake highlighted his love for the game of chess. Following a sumptuous meal, guests then danced the afternoon away with entertainment by DJ Ron of Universal Music Entertainment (in fact, there is a pair of shoes that, as of this writing, still has not been claimed by a wedding guest!)

In addition to the partners listed above, many thanks to Streets and Streets Photography and Video Productions, Patrick Burley Photography, Nicole White Photography,  makeup artist Lorretta Taylor, and Jonathan’s Flowers for helping make Stacey and David’s wedding day one they will cherish for a lifetime.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Top Ten Questions to Ask a Travel Agent

As you begin to plan your honeymoon or destination wedding, consider these important questions!

Are you a licensed travel agent?
This is an important question! You want to ensure you are dealing with a professional and someone who is credible. There are too many travel scams out there that are after your money!

Do you specialize in honeymoons?
A honeymoon is more than a vacation...it's a trip that kicks off the beginning of your married life. Seek out someone who has experience in planning honeymoons and has insight into what newly married couples want to do.

Do you have honeymoon packages?
This question is closely related to the one above. Ask about what honeymoon packages may include (champagne upon arrival, breakfast in bed, etc) that can make your trip extra-special!

Do you plan destination weddings?
If you are considering a destination wedding, you want to work with someone who has experienced in this area. They should be able to coordinate room types and rates for your guests, help you plan your ceremony and reception, and guide you regarding the marriage laws of your particular wedding location.

What types of vacations do you handle (cruises, resorts, spas, etc)?
If you are looking for a specific type of venue (cruise ship, all-inclusive resorts), consider working with someone who specializes in them. They can share with you the unique features of each so you can make an informed decision.

Do you have special relationships with particular vacation vendors?
Again, this goes hand-in-hand with the previous question. Many travel agents are certified with particular vacation vendors (Sandals and Royal Caribbean for example), and because of the special relationship they have, may be able to offer you specials. And because of their certifications and special training, they can tell you what ships or resorts best suit what you are looking for.

Have you visited the destinations you are recommending?
There is nothing like first-hand experience, right? Travel agents certified with a particular vendor are required to visit the properties, so they can provide great insight!

Can you assist me in obtaining travel insurance?
I always recommend obtaining travel insurance. If your luggage is lost or your trip is delayed, travel insurance can come in handy. Talk to your travel agent about the specifics of what is covered in a policy.

What forms of payment do you accept?
This question is an obvious, but important one. Ask it before you decide to go with a particular agent.

Are you able to book airline reservations also?
If they are able to do this for you, find out whether or not they can accept any frequent flyers miles or points you may have with a particular airline. Also, do your homework....maybe you can book your own flights at a better rate via travel websites or directly with the airlines.

Your Planning Assignment
When meeting with a travel agent, ask these questions. Compare the answers of a few agents before you make a final decision. Happy Planning!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wedding Budgeting: Six Tips to Avoid Stress and Debt

Money, money, money! Thoughts of finances can cause us to stress out and lose sleep, right? Investing such large amounts of money, as with a wedding, can cause even more distress. But the time leading up to your wedding is supposed to be a fun and exciting, and not stressful, right? Follow these tips so that wedding budgeting is not a chore, but will help you stay focused on your goal….starting your marriage with little or no wedding debt!

Take time and develop a budget before doing any other planning
Before you go dress shopping or honeymoon planning, sit down with your fiancé and determine how much you want to, and are able to, spend. Be honest with yourself…..do you have other debts like student loans you are trying to pay off? Do you want to buy a house after you get married, or will you need a new car soon? All of your financial obligations must be taken into consideration when you plan your wedding budget.

Include all elements of your wedding
Don’t forget to include such smaller things as gifts for your bridal party and extra trips to the hair salon for your trial runs. These items may seem insignificant, but they can add up and possibly blow your budget if you’re not careful.

Determine if family members will contribute to your overall budget
Find out from family members if they are planning to contribute to your wedding budget, as early in the process as you can. If someone is not able to give you a significant amount of money, they may be able to take care of your cake or favors (for example). Every bit can help!

Keep your budget in mind when visiting vendors
Now that you’ve taken the time to develop a budget, use it! As you visit vendors and shop for attire, remember what you agreed to spend on a particular item. If the two of you agree to go over your budget on one item, you should make adjustments with another item, so your bottom-line figure remains about the same. Also, adjusting a budget line item should be a joint decision, not one made by just the bride or just the groom!

Don’t make rash purchases
The local craft store is having a great sale on wedding items….do you rush over and buy everything you see? Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s a wise purchase for you. Again, keep your budget in mind and don’t rush into a purchase. If you don’t do this, you may find yourself with lots of purple ribbon and no use for it!

Use tools to help you
There are many free tools available to assist with budgeting. One I like to suggest is http://costofwedding.com. This is a site that will give you, based on your zip code, average wedding costs in your area. This can help provide a frame of reference for you. Also, a great tool for calculating your individual budget is http://www.weddingplanningonabudget.com/my-wedding-budget.php. Just enter your estimated overall budget, and the spreadsheet will calculate how much you can spend on each category. You can adjust the percentages assigned to each category based on your own preferences.

Your Planning Assignment
Make the time to develop your wedding budget. Block time on your calendars if necessary, but do whatever it takes to get this done. This task is too important to be ignored or rushed through. As always, feel free to comment on this article, 'like' it, and share it with a friend.  Happy Planning!