Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Before we get too far into this, please understand that being a wedding planner is not for the faint of heart!  It requires stamina, good health, high energy, and the ability to multi-task, all the while wearing pretty clothes and uncomfortable shoes!

In 2008 Wonderful Weddings launched its Apprentice Program called “Suddenly I See.”  Since that time many candidates have entered the program and one of them is now a permanent member of our staff.  We are proud of the program and want others to know more about it!

The program is bundled into three parts:

1.  Learning through hands-on experience that you gain from working all the aspects of the two weddings from our schedule that you select.  You will of course work at the rehearsal, ceremony and reception; but you will also attend various meetings related to the weddings prior to the wedding day; and you will work in the office the week of the wedding to assist our office manager in creating the important documents that will be distributed at the rehearsal.  You will also sit in on prospective client appointments so you can experience what it is like to sell yourself and close the sale.

2.  You will receive an Apprentice Manual written by Wonderful Weddings’ founder Susie Weiss.  This manual outlines in detail the steps to take to launch your own wedding planning company.

3. You will be provided many of the back-of-the-house, in-house and public forms that are utilized in our work for weddings as part of the program and you will be given the opportunity to purchase others.

For more information about this program, visit and click on Apprentice Program.  There you will find more detailed information and a short video that shows us hard at work!

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Different Kind of Wedding Etiquette (extending courtesy to vendors!)

Today’s bride is very lucky indeed when it comes to the multitude of resources she has from which to select when shopping for her ceremony and/or reception venue and all her service providers.  Not only are there various web sites and magazines, there are also preferred provider lists compiled by almost every venue in a bride’s particular geographic area.  Venues and vendors work very hard to create just the right ad, put together the best web site to portray their offerings and continue their good service to clients so that they remain on the various lists referenced above.  The people you contact are in this business as a full-time endeavor and strive to respond to your inquiries quickly, efficiently and comprehensively.  To that end, there are some common courtesies that you should extend when you begin the process of shopping for your venue and service providers.
At the very beginning, it would be wise to create a budget on paper for yourself.  This enables you to be realistic about what you can spend and prevents you from wasting your time or the venue’s or vendor’s. 
Take good notes during inquiry phone calls and print out email responses from venues and vendors.  Review this information in a timely manner to determine if there is further interest.  If you know right away that this vendor or venue is not what you are seeking, make contact quickly so that a possible hold on your date can be released.  Most venues and vendors will wait a respectable amount of time to follow up after sending the information you requested; if they contact you before you have made a decision, give them a reasonable time window when you will get back to them if there is further interest.  Venues and vendors know that these are big decisions you are making and will understand if more time is needed.
Once you have decided that a particular venue or service provider is not for you, contact them to let them know.  And if you feel comfortable with it, it is always helpful if you provide the reason for not considering them or moving on to a personal meeting.  This is particularly helpful to the venue or vendor if your reason is more customer service- or offering-related rather than budget.
When you are ready to take the next step to a personal meeting, be mindful of the following:
  1. If you are given directions by the venue or vendor, use them instead of a GPS; often what they provide is more expedient and may contain helpful way-finding landmarks.
  2. Try your best to be on time; if you are running late, give them a call.
  3. If you are conducting several appointments to cover a full day, allow time for traffic and schedule yourself a lunch break–nothing more distracting than a growling stomach!
  4. Limit the number of people who attend the appointments with you–when the group is too large or there are too many opinions, it can be distracting for both you and the vendor.
  5. Take good notes and don’t be afraid to ask questions if something was not mentioned in the presentation.
  6. If you find you can’t make the appointment, be sure to cancel–don’t be a no-show!
  7. Limit any snacks you bring to an appointment to bottled water–there is always the possibility of a mess or spill with a soda, a latte or a hamburger!
One of the more comprehensive appointments you will conduct is with a floral and décor company.  Plan at least 1.5 hours for this first meeting–the vendor will need to spend a lot of time determining your likes and dislikes and throwing out ideas.  If you are provided a written proposal after your meeting, keep this information proprietary.
After your appointments are complete and you have made your various decisions, contact the venues and vendors promptly.  Be sure to thank them for their time and efforts and let them know your specific reason for not selecting them.  This will be helpful to them.  While an email rejection is acceptable, a personal phone call is more meaningful.  Avoid the use of the phrase “I’ll be sure to tell all my friends about you”!
If you have any questions after your appointments, by all means contact the venue or vendor–sometimes a simple clarification can make a difference in your ultimate choice.
Once you have contacted the venue and vendors to let them know you would like to proceed, request a contract and determine the deposit amount required.  When you receive the contract, execute it quickly and send off the deposit in a timely manner.  The verbal request for a contract means you are making a commitment to the particular venue or vendor and they are holding the date for you and turning away others.  If changes need to be made to the contract, request a revision rather than handwriting items in or crossing things out.  Make note if other payments are due prior to the final balance and be timely with these payments.
Should a situation arise after contracting a venue or vendor that is giving you cause to end your relationship (for whatever reason), review your contract carefully before taking this step–there may be severe penalties such as loss of deposit or commitment to subsequent payments if you choose to end your relationship.  If the situation is salvageable in your mind, contact the venue or vendor immediately to see if something could be done to work things out.
Common courtesy is something we should all subscribe to in our daily lives … and extending this to your wedding industry vendors is no exception!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel - A Great Spot for a Destination Wedding

I grew up in the southern part of Michigan; but my parents weren’t “vacationers” so I never visited the area of the state called Mackinac Island. Over the years I had heard and read much about the location and discovered that the 1979 film “Somewhere in Time” (starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour) was filmed there. After doing research for a bride who was seeking a destination where it could be cool in the summer and near water, I delved into learning more about this location that has literally stopped “somewhere in time.” It intrigued me so much that my husband and I chose to visit the island and the Grand Hotel for our vacation in August. We flew from Detroit to Pelston, Michigan where the airport there has only one gate! Then we took a taxi via the Wolverine Stage Coach Company (it wasn’t really a stage coach!) to Mackinac City to the ferry dock. Then we took the Arnold Ferry from the ferry dock to the dock on Mackinac Island and then a horse and carriage to the hotel! The Grand Hotel was built in 1887 in only 93 days! Can you imagine that all the building materials had to be brought over on the ferry and then transported to the building site by horse and carriage. There are no motorized vehicles on the island except ambulances and fire trucks, neither of which did we see or hear while there. It was refreshing to not see any cars for several days. Everyone either walks, rides a bike or takes a horse and carriage. All produce and supplies come by ferry to the island. Because of the severe weather in the winter and the island’s location between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, the hotels close in October and re-open in May. All the flowers are replanted each year! Here are some photos of our time there. And while we stayed at the hotel, we saw the movie! We had to dress formally for dinner each night. We rented bikes one day and rode the circumference of the island (only 8 miles!) and the best part was that the temperature never broke 70 during our entire visit! You’ll note in the photos that we have long sleeves and are often wearing jackets! How lovely it was to have that break from our sweltering Florida heat!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

An Event Somewhat Different for Wonderful Weddings at Orlando Marriott at Lake Mary!

Last fall I received a call from Kathy Brown whose wedding we did in April of 2002. Her wedding took place at Winter Park Presbyterian Church and the Country Club of Orlando. Kathy shared with me that she would be turning 50 in September of 2009. Her husband Gary said he wanted to throw her a party but he knew that she could put it together much better herself! She called upon Wonderful Weddings to create her “dream team!” Kathy chose a ‘70’s theme for her party. So on Saturday, September 19, 2009 we went back in time at the Orlando Marriott at Lake Mary!

Kathy wanted go-go dancers, disco balls, lava lamps, guests dressed in clothes from that era, 70’s music and her biggest request was a life-size ice sculpture of John Travolta in his famous Saturday Night Fever pose! And what Kathy wanted, Kathy got! The magic makers from Flourish, Brian Joyce and Richard Streitler, converted the hotel ballroom into Studio 50! Gary Stephens, one of the guys from Wings of Sound, the band that performed for Kathy’s party (and who also played at her wedding), acted the part of the bouncer—you see he did that very well! And you can also see that the guests were really into the appropriate clothing. The vintage stores in town—Dechoes and Orlando Vintage—saw a brisk business during the weeks leading up to Kathy’s party! The Orlando Marriott provided fabulous food and beverages for the guests, Sky Osborne from Perfect Sky Productions acted the part of “Stan Danger” and interviewed all the guests during the cocktail hour and then edited everything together to show towards the end of the evening. Fun photos were snapped by guests in Dane Koller’s Photo Magic photo booth; professional photos (those you see here) were shot by Ricardo deVengoechea. We all received a glowing email from Kathy thanking us for the event: “Hello, to my Dream Team! I have received so many emails, pictures and thank-you’s from all that attended. It was so great to see everyone get into the mood and boogie down. This could not have happened without all of you coming together and working as a group to see my vision come together. Turning 50 has been so awesome because of you! Thanks for all your hard work!” And onto the next event in this family—Kathy’s daughter’s wedding on October 17th at her home! Will blog about that next month.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wonderful Weddings and Casa Feliz Launch the Golden Ticket - A Perfect Marriage!

In an effort to streamline the weddings at Casa Feliz, Wonderful Weddings created a special ensemble package for brides that offers them the opportunity to save hundreds of dollars on their weddings while at the same time having access to some of Central Florida’s finest wedding vendors!

The rules are simple: The bride selects from a list of required providers (the required categories are caterer, coordinator, florist, photographer and DJ). She may also select from a list of preferred providers (the preferred categories are invitations and other printing, celebrants, ceremony musicians, videographer and wedding cake). The bride will receive a 10 percent discount on whatever package or level of service or total costing she chooses with the individual vendors. And she will also receive a 10 percent discount on the rental of Casa Feliz! Once the bride has agreed to the rules, she will be provided her “Golden Ticket” which she will present to each vendor to receive the discounts.

The following vendors are participating in the Golden Ticket ensemble. Required providers are: Wonderful Weddings, Fairbanks Florist, Flourish Floral Productions, Lee Forrest Design, Fun Factory DJ, Celebration Expert, Weddings Only DJ, Brian Adams Photographics, Cristy Nielsen Photography, Pilster Photography, Sterling International, Sunshine Photographics, and Works of Art Photography. Preferred providers are: Maureen H. Hall Stationery, Pearl Beach Paperie, The Paper Shop, Chaplain George Geans, Reverend Kevin Knox, Beautiful Music, Don Soledad Music, Raintree Chamber Players, Perfect Sky Productions, Pro One Video, Bake Me A Cake, Frosting on the Cake, and Party Flavors.

Brides who are interested can either contact Melissa Burtram at Casa Feliz, or Wonderful Weddings at

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Two Anniversaries Celebrated at Norman's - Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes

While attending another event in June at Norman’s Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, I learned about a special dinner party that would be held on August 8, 2009 to celebrate the restaurant’s six years in business at the hotel. The theme of the event was A Night in Havana. Coincidentally, August 8th is also my wedding anniversary so we decided to attend the event to celebrate. The theme of the event was carried through with cigar rollers (which my husband loved!), mojitos, Latin-inspired cuisine and music from the Margarita Men. There was also a silent auction taking place to raise funds for The Wounded Warriors. Here are some photos of the event; take note that Chef Norman Von Aiken has talents that are carried beyond the kitchen!

The following day we attended the Gospel Brunch at House of Blues at Downtown Disney. Here’s a photo of me outside the venue; unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs inside. The food was very good and plentiful and the gospel singers shook the roof!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Orlando Chapter of ISES 2009 WOW Awards

My industry friends Brian Joyce and Richard Streitler of Flourish Floral Productions earlier this year urged me to join ISES, the International Society of Event Specialists. They said it would be an opportunity for me to meet some vendors on the corporate side of the event industry. Richard was Historian and also chairman of the WOW Awards Committee. The WOW Awards had taken place once before several years ago and the chapter decided it was time to reprise them.

We worked fast and diligently beginning in late spring with Friday, July 17th chosen as the night of the gala at which the awards would be given and celebrated. Brian and Richard urged me to enter two of my events which I did: one was submitted for Best Event Planner and the other was for Best Team Effort. Organizing all the paperwork for submission was a monumental job—there were specific questions that needed to be answered about challenges surrounding the event, etc. And the submission needed to be succinct yet carry the ability to grab the attention of the judges.

I learned in June that I was nominated for both submissions; it was great to have made it this far but of course everyone wants to win! The event was held at the Orlando Marriott World Center with many vendor sponsors to include those for décor, lighting, production, floral, entertainment, etc. It included lots of entertainment—The String Angels and a man who created sand designs projected onto a screen. There was a lovely four-course dinner followed with the conclusion of the evening wrapping up with an after-party. But the best part was the awards!

I am happy to report that Wonderful Weddings did win Best Team Effort! My co-entrants were Arthur’s Catering and Flourish Floral Productions. The submission was “The Wedding as Art”—the wedding of Tara Cockman and Bo Clayton who were married in June of 2008 at St. Luke’s Cathedral followed by a reception at Orlando Museum of Art. The bride’s Mom is an artist and the bride was studying art so art was the theme of the event. It was such a great feeling to hear our names called and go up on stage to accept the award. We were asked to prepare speeches and so I did so—it was short and sweet and I was happy to share this with my industry friends. All I can say is WOW!

Photos: Christie's Photographic Studios