To Invite, Or Not To Invite {The Guest List}

Yep. I'm going to talk about it. And by "it" I mean the one thing that often causes tension and drama between families when planning a wedding. The guest list. Who makes the cut and who doesn't? If you haven't argued about this, then good for you... and please share your tips. If you have had arguments about this, or at least a tense convo with your mom about who is on her "must have" list of friends and co-workers, then let's talk about solutions.

At first I hesitated about writing about this topic. But thanks to the encouragement of my friend, Mrs. Jessica Haro, I felt compelled to write. After all, there could be many of you out there dealing with this right now! Originally, it felt a little taboo to speak about such a topic on such a light and happy blog. However, this is the reality of the situation: There are some people in your family and friend groups that just wont make the cut. Period. Not to mention inviting children and offering a +1 to your single guests. There many reasons why not all of the people you want to be at your wedding can be there. The main reason for me (and most) is the cost. We have a very conservative budget, and every person means more food, drinks, tables, table cloths, silverware, chairs, etc. etc. etc. And on the "plus 1" topic, I think it's great if one of my single friends is all of a sudden dating someone super special, and in that case they should bring a date. But if they're not seriously dating someone, then I am not offering a plus one. What are your thoughts on this?

Back in September when Vinnie first proposed, we joked about how big our wedding would be because he is Italian and I'm Greek/Irish. You've seen my Big Fat Greek Wedding right? Well there's a scene where the parents of the bride say, "we're just having the family over for dinner." Then over 100 people show up! Well, at our engagement party we had 50 friends and family over for a casual bbq/brunch. We joked about how if that was any hint as to what the head count for our wedding we may be, then we're in trouble.

Well, the time has come to confirm the final list (we are 10 months out) and I'm happy to say it hasn't been as bad as I anticipated. Both of our parents have been very cooperative. And thanks to some fantastic resources online, and friends' advice the process has been fight-free (knock on wood). Here are some guidelines that helped me from

Simple Wedding Guest List Steps Recapped:

  • Determine how large or small you want your wedding to be

  • Determine how many wedding guests you really can afford by estimating the wedding costs and the "per guest" expenses like catering

  • Determine how many guests your wedding ceremony and reception locations can hold

  • Compile the "Big" list of all of the guests that you would like to invite to your wedding

  • Edit the "Big" wedding guest list down to meet the established budget and capacity limits - This will be List "A"

  • Create a "B' list  of wedding guests that you would like to invite but could not

  • Send wedding invitations to the "A" list of wedding guests

  • As "A"  list RSVPs come in you will be able to determine how many guests from the "B" list you can invite

Or you can follow this formula :)

What I also have to be prepared for are guests who RSVP with a plus one when it's not offered. If that ends up happening I plan on just being upfront and honest about our headcount. These are our friends and family and I expect that they'll understand. I have heard funny and uncomfortable stories from brides that had guests bring a date and multiple children without asking! Does anyone have a story they'd like to share and how they handled the situation?

Now let's talk about something a little more light :)  Because this fabulous blog is photo inspired, I will leave you with some place card inspiration! If you haven't noticed yet, I'm a little non-traditional; I love finding unique personal touches.

photo credit Style Me Pretty
Photo Credit Style Me Pretty

The inspiration below reminds me of the color palette of my venue, The Hotel Maya. I'm loving the mosaic tiles with guests' names. And the clementines would be a super easy and cute DIY project!

Photo Credit Style Me Pretty

And of course, I had to throw in some succulent inspiration. Notice how the grey and yellow keeps popping up.... I think I may have found my favorite color inspiration.

 Thanks for reading! If you have a funny story about your guest list experience, please share by leaving a comment! See you next Tuesday!

Old Hollywood Vibe, but Where?

For me, finding a dress was easy,  but finding the venue has been hard. You have to identify your collective personality through decor, theme, colors, vibe, and ultimately the location! I have found this experience time consuming and overwhelming. This is a very important day, after-all. I think I'm not alone when I say, I went from first feeling like I could get married anywhere and it wouldn't matter, to all of a sudden getting sucked into wedding planning madness and feeling pressure that it has to be perfect. I feel pressure to find a beautiful venue that feels like us, is how I envision it and fits into our small budget. (Small on average standards.) Did you know the average American wedding costs over $25,0000?????? That's craziness!

We are so grateful that we already own our beautiful home. With $25K I could use that money on MANY different things around here, but when it comes down to it I do want our wedding day to be special. I want to find a wedding venue that I love, but doesn't feel like I'm settling. We will cut corners where we can and save money throughout the year. And we are counting our lucky stars that our families are generous enough to pitch in. We all know that no matter where we get hitched it will be unforgettable. Here's the game-plan: Do not get caught up in unnecessary details. Be creative and have fun.

Ok, back to the venue. I want it to be amazing, but modest, and most of all I want it to be personal and feel like "us." When Vinnie and I first started discussing where our dream wedding (which was the night he proposed),  we didn't give ourselves any boundaries, or budgets for that matter. We let our imaginations run wild, and dreamed of our ideal location. The location that first popped into my mind was Palm Springs. Why you might ask? Well, a number of reasons. We love to take little get-away vacations there. It's only 2 1/2 hours away from LA. I fell in love with the desert when I hosted a travel show there a few years ago. The weather is warm year round, and you truly feel like you've escaped LA. Another reason we love it there is because of its history. Back when the Rat Pack was around they used to take trips to the desert to relax and play. The charm of Old Hollywood is still there in its simplistic beauty.


On that note, we LOVE music from that era! Whenever we cook dinner together its become instinctual to cue our Pandora Radio to the Dean Martin station. Vinnie is Italian, and hearing Dino sing "Return To Me," as Vinnie lip syncs along, while we prepare a delicious meal is just about the most romantic thing ever. OK, back to our "vibe." We are old souls. I love mid-century design and fashion, and music of the 1950s and 60s, so when it came to our wedding venue search I was immediately drawn to venues that transported you to another time and place. Here are a few that we previewed in Palm Springs.

After a long day of searching over 6 venues, we fell in LOVE with the Colony Palms. The hotel recently had a $10 million dollar renovation. It was originally built back in the 1920s. It was owned by an alleged mobster who used it as a speakeasy, gambling house and brothel. It  was later owned by the owners of the famous racing horse, Sea Biscuit, who used it as a boutique hotel. Today it has the old charm and character of both worlds, but it's brand new! The Spanish Revival-style structure, and cool bar with olive leather couches and purple lamp shades brings you back to a different era. (Think Boardwalk Empire!) What made it even cooler is that Vinnie's family used to own the property behind the hotel. His family used to vacation there every year over 50 years ago!

Where does the bummer come in? Oh, you guessed it. The price. They require that you book out 100% of the rooms (there are approx 56), which can be extremely pricey. In addition to that, there is a $26,000 food/beverage minimum. For someone like me on a tight budget, this was just not realistic. Even if we had the money to do the wedding there, I would feel awful asking our guests to pay the room premiums when there are plenty of other nice hotels around for a much cheaper price. Anyway, this is where we can do our vow renewal 10 years from now. (sigh) I feel better now. Feast your eyes on the coolness of the colony palms above and below.

The one thing I learned from this day trip out to Palm Springs is that not only do I love old Hollywood Charm, but I also love Spanish Revival Architecture. I love an outdoor venue that has history and character. I want something different and unique. The question remains, is it possible find these special nuances at another venue? Does my dream venue exisit outside of Palm Springs? Perhaps it's not about the location. Maybe it's about discovering your own unique style, then searching for a city that has it all and is more convenient and affordable. What are your thoughts?

By the way, I'd like to thank my friend Mrs. Jessica Haro who inspired me to keep searching for the perfect venue and not give up hopes on a desert wedding. Jessica quit her job as a successful PR consultant to become a wedding planner. (BTW her Sonoma wedding was off the hook and I'm not surprised that she found her destiny.) Thanks again to her for getting me involved with this blog. I'm having a blast and I'm so grateful you are all following me along on this creative journey.

I leave you with photos of two of my favorite Hollywood ladies of the 1950s who inspire me :)

SURPRISE! Dress success in Lala Land!

Okay, so, I'm going to admit it. I am a bride-to-be that has never, and I mean never, watched one reality show about getting married or planning a wedding. "Whoa! No way, she must be kidding! Not even two minutes of 'Say Yes to the Dress???'" Nope. Never. And to be honest, I was never one of those girls growing up who put a Kleenex in their headband and daydreamed about their future wedding. (I was more into SheRa and Rainbowbrite.) But, I will say that ever since Vinnie proposed to me in our dining room on September 12, 2011 I have not been able to stop daydreaming and imagining our wedding day. This whole experience has been magical (minus the venue hunt.... future blog post about that coming soon). When it comes to "The Dress," I started my search innocently on Pinterest, and by googling "wedding dresses." I browsed the internet searching for inspiration, as I had no freak'n clue what style I liked, what would look good on me, and what any of the styles meant. After all that, I kept coming back to lace! When I saw photos like the ones I have posted below, I got swept away into a daydream of becoming some Old Hollywood starlet, with some swooning Dean Martin song playing in the background, like "Aint that a kick in the head."

A little fact about me: I worked retail for a long time, and from those years at Nordstrom, I developed an eye for fashion... and the common sense to NOT pay retail. So, when it came to finding the most important dress of my life, I promised myself that I would find something either couture-looking and a knock-off, or a couture gown on sale.

Well, here's what went down... My mom flew down from SF to LA to spend the weekend with me. We planned on casually looking at wedding dresses and attending the bridal expo (which was AWFUL! Great people watching, but CHEESEY! future post coming soon). We started our day with the idea of "no pressure! We don't have to find THE dress. Let's just have fun. We have plenty of time." We just wanted to have that mother-daughter experience.

Anywho, I asked my friends on facebook where to shop for a gown that was chic and cheap. Numerous replies came back saying, 'go to GLAMOUR CLOSET.' Word to the wise: they do not take appointments! I recommend going 15 minutes before they open. There are only 2 fitting rooms, and often times there's a wait. But it's totally worth it! Here are some photos of my experience. NOTE: these are photos of the dresses I did not get.... obviously ;-) and that dress with me making an 'oh' face? it's a $10K Monique Lhuilliere over 50% off!

After trying on a number of couture gowns, I ended up falling in love with the FIRST dress I tried on. CRAZY, right? Well, I may be a decisive lady, but I couldn't just buy it right then and there. Later that afternoon we went to Judy Lee Bridal in Beverly Hills. Had a great experience there and I highly recommend considering her, but I just didn't get the mushy 'this is it' feeling when I tried on her dresses. After that I went to Winnie Couture in Beverly Hills... I didn't find anything. That evening I called Glamour Closet to see if my dress was still there.... it was! I asked the woman to put it aside and that I'd be in first thing in the morning to make my final decision. The following morning my mother, maid of honor and I went back. I tried on 4 more dresses, then "my dress." At that moment it was a no-brainer; I had found my wedding dress.

From this experience I have learned that you don't have to live by anyone's rules. Who cares if you find your wedding dress before you lock down your venue and date ;-) There's no right way of planning your wedding day. Everyone carves their own path, and there's no manual that's going to guarantee happiness. Follow your gut, be confident, and go for it! I did, and I'm ecstatic!

TO DO: Buy Wedding Dress..... CHECK!!!!!....... and by the way, it was an Elizabeth Fillmore for over 75% off retail. BOOM!