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Thursday, October 20, 2016

stripes and olive

There is a hidden gem of a strip mall outside of DC that has become my reprieve from city living. It's a dream for this city dweller --free parking, a well stoked Target, and the best TJ Maxx ever (I bought my Kate Spade wedding shoes there for $40!) Well, imagine my disappointment when I went a few weeks ago to indulge in some suburban retail therapy and I couldn't find anything. Sad, dejected, and having a Cher/All by Myself moment, I decided to stop into the Old Navy in the shared lot to find some retail redemption. I wasn't expecting much but have you been in an Old Navy lately? If so, why haven't you told me?!

I remember reading this article a few years ago and thinking, I'll believe it when I see it. Welp, I've seen it. My eyes lit up like the heart eye emoji when I saw this velvet blazer. And this jacquard open front jacket? So good, right?  I picked up this striped dress knowing it would make for a really easy layering piece. It's only $35, super soft, really thick and a work appropriate length. When I bought it, I imagined wearing it with tights, over the knee boots, and a vest when temperatures cool but it's been unseasonably warm here (it was 84 degrees yesterday!) so I welcomed the opportunity to go sans tights. Tights season is the worst season, ammiright? I also picked up this swing dress and have already worn it under a moto jacket out on the weekends and under a pashmina for work. 

If you haven't already, check out Old Navy. I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised with their Fall 2017 lookbook.

PS - Thanks for all your feedback on yesterday's post! I'm glad you're excited about the series, too!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How to find a budget friendly wedding venue

las positas winery

When I was planning our wedding, I found it pretty challenging to find resources that fit my planning needs. Many wedding blog photos were of weddings clearly out of my budget range and the budget wedding resources were pretty unrealistic for me. Suggestions like don’t serve alcohol, or get married on a Friday on a family farm in rural *insert state here* just weren’t options for us. I needed a “how to plan a pretty Saturday wedding on a reasonable budget (without room to go over) for the young professional who has a life outside of planning her wedding”. Turns out, that doesn’t really exist. Or at least, I couldn’t find it. So I’ve decided to write it myself. I’ll share over a few posts advice for planning, saving money, and general advice I gathered along the way. If you have any specific questions -- let me know!

First up: finding your venue.

As many of you know, I’m an event manager professionally so it’s probably not a surprise that I found wedding planning actually really enjoyable. The hardest and most stressful part of wedding planning was securing a venue. In fact, I only cried once throughout the whole planning process and it was while I was trying to find a venue. That being said, once the venue is booked, everything else just falls into place.

To search for and narrow down venues, I used Here Comes the Guide to get a general sense of prices. Hardly any venues list the price on their website so you spend a ton of time sending out requests for info. Here Comes the Guide helped me rule out places out of budget immediately. I also learned the hard way that venues in the Bay Area book up fast. I looked for my venue in late August/early September 2015 and some places were already booking for spring 2017. So my advice is two fold: take some time off to enjoy the newly engaged phase (it is so special!) but be ready to hit the ground running once you’re ready to plan if you’re planning a year out.

las positas winery
las positas winery
las positas winery

Things to consider when deciding on a venue:

Having a day of coordinator is hugely helpful but also an added cost. Our venue came with a day of coordinator and I saw other venues that required one. I even saw a few venues that required a coordinator to have certain certifications which may limit your ability to hire whoever you work best with.

Some places have weddings Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I knew that I wanted to have the complete attention of my venue and I also wanted to be sure I wasn’t competing for time with another wedding. Our venue only has one wedding per weekend which ensured we were able to have our rehearsal on Friday as well as have access to the venue all day on Saturday. We arrived for hair and make up at 9am!

Find out exactly what the fee includes. Some venue fees are only for the space itself; other fees include tables, chairs, linens, staff, etc. If the fee includes table and chairs, find out how many of each size. You will want to factor in the cost of renting and delivering tables/chairs (if needed) into your budget.

Find out how much time is allotted for the actual ceremony and for your reception.You should also find out how much time you have for set up as well as clean up. You may want to have a late night dance party or arrive early to set up yourself. Either way, the number of hours total is important.

Some outdoor venues have restrictions on how loud amplified noise can be played so if you want to dance all night under the stars, make sure the venue will allow your DJ to keep playing.

Bringing your own alcohol is a huge cost saver. Seriously, it is probably the easiest way to save a significant amount of money. We saw a few places that offered packages that included an open bar for a cost per person which seems tempting but it is a lot cheaper to pay based on consumption. A $30 open bar may seem like a steal for you and your friends, but is your grandpa really going to drink $30 worth of booze? That being said, it is only a cost saver if there isn’t a corkage fee so be sure to double check!

While we’re on the subject of alcohol, can the venue serve liquor (if that's important to you)? Not all venues have spirit licenses so if you want to have liquor at your wedding, be sure to ask about the license available. Some venues will allow you to have a signature cocktail rather than a full bar.

This is a big one, guys. Preferred vendors are great because they presumably know the space well and you won’t have to worry about managing them much on the day of. Required vendors are another thing. It wasn’t a deal breaker to me, but you should know if there are any required vendors in case you have your heart set on another vendor. If the venue does have a required vendor (most often this is a catering vendor), be sure to sign an agreement with that vendor before signing with the venue. Once you've signed with the venue, you will lose a lot of leverage in negotiating contracts because you have to use the required vendor. The eternal optimist in me doesn’t think vendors are looking to price gouge you but negotiating contracts (especially catering contracts) is an easy ways to trim costs. So you don’t want to limit your ability to do so because you’ve signed a contract with the venue and therefore must accept the required vendor’s terms.

las positas winery
Do you have any specific questions about finding venues? We loved our venue Las Positas Vineyards but also looked at a ton of other Bay Area venues so if you have any questions -- fire away!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

a casual work environment

Remember last week when I super casually threw in the fact that I started a new job? Leaving my old job was a long time coming (more on that in the future) so I'm really enjoying the challenges that come with starting a new position -- learning processes, identifying areas for opportunity, meeting new people, etc. What is particularly exciting is the dress code for my new office is casual business casual or creative casual! So not quite casual like running errands on the weekend casual but jeans are totally acceptable and pencil skirts are not required. Praise a higher being! Getting dressed in the morning has become so.much.easier. 

Instead of reaching from my classic pumps each morning, I've been reaching for booties like this pair from Johnston & Murphy. The suede and leather are both buttery soft and the heel is just high enough to give my legs length but comfortable enough to wear all day (including my walking commute to the metro each morning). And perhaps most importantly, they go seamlessly from desk to drinks even if you don't work in a casual environment like I do.  Johnston & Murphy has always been committed to reinventing classics so a classic peep toe bootie works for a more traditional office but the grey suede makes gives the shoe a bit of edge for drinks or dinner after work. Win, win right? 

While you're poking around the Johnston & Murphy website, be sure to check out this illustration of their history. Any footwear good enough for the White House is definitely good enough for me.

Thank you Johnston & Murphy for partnering with me on this post. As always you can trust that opinions are only my own.