Wedding and Events by the Williams

Weddings by the Williams was my florist and day of coordinator. In this post, I will just focus on the floral arrangements provided. Its hard for me not to go on a thousand-word rant. I had some pretty disappointing moments in my wedding and I feel that they pretty much all tie to the Williams’ services. It’s hard for me not to be bitter. But I just try to focus on the overall day and not the specific failures… Except when I am writing reviews.

Jade is the front man and co-owner of the company with her husband Michael. We all spent a significant amount of time talking about the flowers I wanted, specifically I interacted with Jade and discussed my floral arrangements with her. I knew pretty specifically before meeting Jade that I wanted a broach and flower bouquet with pink roses and pink tea roses, and ivies and pearls as accents, and I told her so. Another reason I went with Weddings by the Williams was because I didn’t want a lot of flower arrangements beyond bouquets, and a few special table arrangements. Every other florist was trying to sell me packages with far too many flowers for what I envisioned for my wedding and not enough lead way to customize said packages.  Jade on the other hand, priced each bouquet and arrangement individually so it was a la carte.  Not to mention that Jade gave me a discount because I used two services from the company and my husband is in the military. So I felt like it was a good deal that combined to services, which meant one less contract and one less vendor to deal with. Not to mention the company website and Jade’s portfolio featured gorgeous pictures. I was pretty excited. She told me to trust her with the creative design, but I thought she would use the guidelines we talked about.

We discussed blush and pink flowers with ivies and broaches. What I received were mostly white flowers with a few that were a very light blush. They were browning and wilting around the edge when I received them on the day of the wedding. She said it was because it was a hot day, but I’ve had others in wedding business arena say they looked old and that’s how they looked to me too. My wedding theme was reminiscent of spring day in Paris. Yet, my floral arrangements all had dead and brown sticks and other fillers that would have been more appropriate for a fall wedding. I was glad I found broaches to be added to the bouquet, I think that saved it. That and the fact that I had an awesome photographer. The flowers don’t look drab or dead in her official photos, but in other people’s photos you can tell that the arrangements were dying. It was just one in many disappointing events working with Weddings by the Williams, but I will save that for the day of coordinator post.

These pictures were taken shortly after I received them, before the wedding, before guest even saw my bouquet and they were already wilting.

These pictures were taken shortly after I received them, before the wedding, before guest even saw my bouquet and they were already wilting.

Notice the browning around the edges. This picture was take shortly after I received the flowers and before the wedding.

Notice the browning around the edges. This picture was take shortly after I received the flowers and before the wedding.


Dana of Urban Utopia Photography

I loved my photographer! She is genuinely one of the best, if not THE best, decision of my wedding (besides my husband lol). Dana is amazing and such a fun person. She is so thorough. Of all my vendors, I felt she was the one who really cared about her work and making my day special. During our first conversation we talked nearly two hours. She was keeping notes the whole time and she did this with every conversation. I was so thankful for this. I was a very thorough bride, and I found most vendors seemed to resent the fact that I was fastidious with notes and could recall details they’d promised. Dana loved that quality and was even better at it than I was. I really liked how thorough she was with taking notes. I never had to repeat things that were important to me. In fact, she reminded me of details and picture ideas we’d talked about months earlier. Because of this I never felt like she was trying to take advantage of me or capitalize on an emotional time. She never tried to hard sell me on things I couldn’t afford.

Dana from Urban Utopia Photography with my Matron of Honor.

Dana from Urban Utopia Photography with my Matron of Honor.

She knew all the details about my family, who liked whom, who could stand next to who. She asked questions about details I didn’t even think of. She was fantastic. At the event I had trouble with other vendors not doing their jobs, it was Dana who comforted me and helped out where she could. She has a way of taking amazing intimate and natural pictures, while using her personality to liven people up and getting their best shots. She’s both inconspicuous and interactive at the same time. Even at the reception, sometimes I didn’t even know she was taking pictures she’s so good at blending in. Yet she also gets right in and engages with everyone. At one point I saw her holding a baby, dancing, and snapping shots. LOL! It was hilarious! So many of my guests commented on how much they enjoyed her. But its not just her personality; her photography is amazing. I love her ideas and her photos. She is so creative. You don’t get the stuffy traditional shots, but you don’t miss any of the important pictures (like pics with grandma). I also appreciated the fact that she doesn’t have standard shots. I’ve looked through hundreds of pictures in her gallery and I didn’t feel like my photos were just cookie cutter shots from other weddings.

Dana is worth every penny. I had a budget wedding, but I am glad I invested in her services. Your pictures will really be the only lasting tangible thing from your wedding and I am so glad I hired Dana, I really feel I got the best by hiring her.

Wedding Venue – American Lake Conference Center

When we first started wedding planning, I was still overseas with my fiancé so my wonderful parents did some scouting for me. The two places we narrowed in on were the Thornewood Castle and the American Lake Conference Center. Both formidable options depending on your priority of wants and needs for your wedding.

Thornewood Castle (Runner Up)

I loved the Thornewood Castle instantly. I knew pretty immediately that I wanted a European themed wedding. The Thornewood Castle was designed to emulate a small European castle. It had old world charm and amazing grounds. I could see the photos that would come from this place. However, it was extremely expensive and offered little more than ambiance and a venue for the price. My priority for my wedding was for my fiancé and I to be able to pay for our wedding in cash. I didn’t want the bills from our wedding day to go any further than the actual day. After all we also had a marriage to plan for. It was an extremely difficult decision, but I passed on the Thornewood Castle. Rachel the proprietor was extremely sweet but shrewd business woman. We were originally considering a very short engagement. Even shorter than the six months that we eventually went with. Rachel really wanted to fill the one weekend she had available at the Castle. So she offered us an amazing deal and even a military discount on top of that. However, I would have 8 weeks to plan my wedding. That was probably the main reason I passed. I wanted to consider the Castle for our June date, but it felt like as soon as I passed on the winter date, Rachel was no longer interested. It was hard to get a hold of her. Later I wanted to spend our mini-honeymoon there, because it also serves as a bed and breakfast. However, we could never get a return call again and she was always too busy to answer. I felt pretty disappointed by this because I really liked Rachel and the Castle. However, for one day, nothing included it would have cost me a little more than $6000. I couldn’t justify that on a military bride budget. So we went with option two: the American Lake Conference Center.

Photo Credit:

American Lake Conference Center (Final Choice)

Photo credit: (I’ll put up better images once my professional photography is ready)

I was a little skeptical when my parents suggest the American Lake Conference Center. Military facilities aren’t always as nice as you’d want them. However, this newly remodeled venue was actually a pleasant surprise. The grounds were kept beautifully, its right on the water, right by the security gate, so guest could easily find it. An added bonus was that they had their own baker, caterer, and could help with civilian guest getting on the military base. Plus once you committed to a certain amount of catering about the amount to feed 60 people the building rental fee was waived. I am still pleased with my decision, but we did have some hiccups. I found the hard way, that when working with government workers there is a certain apathy among some people. So before I criticize I will say what went well: Ben the facility manager is a very nice young man. You can tell he really is trying to make his guest happy. However, I don’t know if he has the complete authority over his staff. Sometimes it seems like they just did their own thing. He promised us things, they did what they wanted. Also, the grounds at venue are gorgeous and well-kempt. They lend themselves to amazing pictures. The food was amazing and I am so glad, I made my bridal party fix me a plate to go so I could have seconds! LOL.

First, I called and confirmed that I would be at the venue early to set up and start decorations (I had a day of coordinator, but that’s a different review). The venue only allows you twelve hours to set up, host your event and take down. I couldn’t come the night before because they had another group. They didn’t want to allow me a rehearsal time, which I thought should have been included. It was only until the week of that I could confirm my rehearsal because the conference center staff made it clear they would bump me for another event.

For the wedding day, I confirmed the time twice. However, due to security glitches working with the base, I didn’t arrive until almost an hour and half after my scheduled time. They still were not ready for me to start setting up. There was bird feces all over the gazebo area where I was to hold my ceremony. There were still deflated balloons and decorations from the previous event. In the bridal suite the trash had not even been dumped from the night before and there was a dirty diaper in the garbage. My tables had not been set up yet and I had to give instructions to the custodial staff about what I needed for my self-station and other extras, such as mics and a communion table, we’d previously arranged at our final meeting with Ben. So I had to wait to even begin setting up and I still had to get dressed for my wedding pictures.

At the ceremony we were supposed to have mics provided for the officiate, and one for my husband and I to share and one for the musician. Only one mic was provided for everyone. So unfortunately a lot of people did not hear the ceremony. A podium was also to be provided where we could plug in speakers, again, it was not, but without the mics it didn’t matter.

After the wedding we had a receiving line in the glass covered hallway. The day was hot so it ended up being like a greenhouse in there. I remember asking at an earlier meeting about the room in hot weather. I was told on hot days the overhead shades were pulled to keep the room cool, they were not. It was extremely hot!

At the reception the salad was brought to the table before an announcement of food was made. They also continued to serve while we blessed the food, which I just thought was absolutely rude. We had a lot of people who came without RSVPing so we didn’t have enough salad. That wasn’t the venues fault. However when we asked to quickly have extra tables set up they made a big deal about it. They eventually did it, but not without complaint. Then staff members informed guests that we didn’t have enough food because we as the bridal party didn’t buy enough for the number of people there. I thought that was wholly unprofessional and rude, because they made my guest feel unwelcome.

Finally, the cherry on the cake, was the cake. I’d worked extensively with the previous baker who’d trained in Europe. She was a major reason why I signed with this venue. I love her. She promised me a cake shaped like an Eiffel Tower, I was so excited. The she PCSed. I didn’t even know civilian workers with the military could do that! So military brides beware! You could end up with a completely different staff than the one you started with. I did. The chef, the facility manager, and the baker all were new because my wedding occurred during PCS season. I was nervous when it happened but assured everything would be as promised. I even separately confirmed with the new baker, Nicole about my Eiffel Tower cake. She assured me over and over she could do it. On the day of the wedding, if I wasn’t in the middle of my reception I would have cried. I asked for a cake shaped like an Eiffel Tower, instead I received a rectangle cake with an Eiffel Tower cookie placed on top! I was furious and embarrassed. The worse part was Nicole was completely unapologetic and defensive. She said she’d take 50% off, which I found to be insulting (Ben later compensated the entire cake). I told her, I would have rather had a nice cake that looked completely different than the joke she presented. It was ugly. She didn’t even attempt the color scheme of the wedding, it was grey. Who orders a grey cake! Not only that it was disgusting. The cake was supposed to be a real red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Nope… it was a white cake died red and no cream cheese. It didn’t even taste good and only the top was red velvet, the rest seemed like just a white cake they had left over. I eventually walked away from Nicole with my mouth agape because she was so blatantly rude. They didn’t make enough of the European pastries I wanted because one in particular, the Dutch butter cake, she didn’t have recipe for. She was supposed to increase the number of the scones and macroons and confirm the number. She never called again and I had so much on my plate I forgot to call her. Even for the number we confirmed we didn’t have enough pastries. Nicole’s response at the reception was to shrug her shoulders, stating, quote, “I made my one phone call.” Meaning when she called me back after I reached out to her. She had no desire or care to do her job well. If I hadn’t asked to speak to her she would have never made contact. The first baker I dealt with was very involved and wanted me to have just what I wanted on my day. She offered suggestions and asked questions. She promised to do a trial run on the cake and let me know if things didn’t work out. It looked like Nicole slapped together my cake in a hurry. It was utterly disappointing and insulting. She was so rude and disrespectful that the other staff went out of their way to cater to me. They knew I was devastated and I even had a couple apologize to me after the wedding. They knew it was not my dream day, in part because of so many missteps by the venue.

This is what I was promised, complete with my new surname in the banner and glitter to resemble the Eiffel Tower at night:

Eiffel Tower cake

This is what I was given, complete with Nicole’s bitchy attitude:

Eiffel Tower cake at wedding (I don’t have many pictures of the cake because I thought it was hideous)

I will say, many of their failures could have been corrected had I had a good day of coordinator, who knew what was supposed to be happening, but that is another review… (I have to go cry now, after reminiscing about Nicole’s attitude)

Well after debating for far too long, I decided that no one was supplying what I wanted in invitations for a price that fit my budget. I may have been over thinking things but to me the invitation is the first introduction to your wedding. Based on the invitation people will be able to determine the type of wedding event they are in store for. I wanted an invitation that would reflect the European, spring tea feel that I wanted for my wedding. Eventually after looking at literally hundreds of invitations and nearly ordering about 5 different sets, I decided to make my own invitations. I drew inspiration from this video:

and this video:

I will say with both I just gathered inspiration because my invitation didn’t look anything like them, but mine did have the same concept as far as the envelopes. The inserts for the invitations were original ideas. I decided to write an old fashioned letter as the invitation from my parents (the traditional hosts) to all of our friends and family.

Here’s How I Did My Invitations:

Some things I learned that could have saved me time and money:

1. Don’t Embellish Too Much – Don’t put the cute pearl button on if postage matters. Because of the button alone I paid $.70 per envelope.

2. Keep it Simple with Addresses – Don’t get fancy with the addresses. Even though the typical way of addressing envelopes is abbreviations of real words (i.e. ln = lane, ave = avenue), we are in a technology abundant world. Which means the computers mostly recognize the abbreviations. Unless there are postal workers who actually check the machine’s rejections (like there is supposed to be) then your envelopes can be rejected if you spell out the addresses directions in the old fashioned manner. For example: 123 N. 5th Ave. could get rejected if it is done in the 19th century manner of: 123 North Fifth Avenue. I had nice postal workers who resent my envelopes when that happened but it wasted time and sometimes money.

2b. Double Check Addresses – On that not check the addresses provided by family and friends. You’d think that people would know their own addresses but again because of the computer age, I had envelopes returned because the zip codes were wrong when everything else was right. I spoke to the postal workers at my neighborhood post office and I was told that the old way of doing it was just to look up the zip code if everything else was correct. However, the computer looks up the address by the zip code first. If that is incorrect, the postal workers are instructed to immediately reject the mail. My neighborhood postal workers told me that the veteran workers will still look up the address but the new workers won’t because this is a new way of earning revenue for the post office. This is just what I’ve been told, so don’t take my word for it, but from my experience this seems correct. I had quite a few that were returned because of simple mistakes like zip codes.

3. Don’t Buy Specialty Paper – I did a lot of research on my invitations, right down to the thickness of the paper I should use. It took me forever to find metallic silver paper card stock. When I did, I had to drive an hour out of my way before work to get the paper in time to do a weekend of invitation making.  It was only later that I found out that Office Depot had metallic paper. When I called the local Office Depot said they didn’t have what I needed. Well they had a thinner paper but it would have worked just as well without the hassle. I talked the Kelly Paper store clerk into a military discount so the difference in price wasn’t that different if you don’t count gas (which I do). Plus, I bough too much paper and didn’t feel like making the trek to return it. Thus, I guess I’ll have to try to sell the extra reams online.

4. Don’t Print Directly on Your Envelopes – I bought specialty envelopes along with specialty paper for my invitations. We had a major printing error occur that was discover until one entire, very expensive, package was wasted. In hindsight I should have bought the clear labels and printed the addresses on them. I ended up doing that but it was an expensive lesson as I had to drive the distance for more envelopes.

5. Don’t Personalize the Invitations – Others have said it and I will say again. DO NOT personalize your invitations. I had others helping me. No one is going to take the time with your wedding that you will. After awhile making invitations gets monotonous. So I ended up with people receiving invitations with the wrong names. Also, invitations that were returned and that I never did get a good address for, I couldn’t use anymore. So if there was any major waste with the invitations it was personalizing the invitations. Keep it general. Personalize the Thank You notes.

The total cost of the invitations with doilies, paper, printing, embellishments, envelopes, and stamps was: $2.18/each


The invitation that I liked the best but knew I could not afford was: $5.16/ ea

Lace Laser Cut Wedding Invitations Bridal Shower Invite Floral Customized Printable Design with Grey Ribbon - Pack of 50

If you read my first wedding planning post you know I had a lot on my plate. Well I survived, just barely, but I didn’t really log the journey. Surprise, surprise. Anyway, I did keep maticulous notes along the way. So rather than recreating my wedding planning process, I will add reviews of vendors for each step of the process. I think you can basically gather my sentiments for how the process went from that.

It was a very stressful season of life, but I am married to my love! And I am preparing for our next journey around the world as we speak. So everything worked out in the end!

Make A Plan:

I developed my own wedding timeline because none of the timelines I’ve found online really cater to the short amount of time I’m working with. I will make sure to post that at a later date. Also while making a plan, come up with a theme. A theme will help the planning process stay focused. I knew I wanted my theme to have to do with travel as my fiance and I both love to travel, we decided to get married while traveling, and hopefully we will spend the first few years of marriage (at least) traveling. However, I didn’t want to go overboard and have almost a costume party or something cheesy with passports and luggage all over the place and in the decorations. So I focused our theme on what we’d like to share with our family and friends.

Because our courtship was so short, most of my friends and family don’t know my fiance, nor vice versa. So the wedding seemed like a perfect opportunity to allow them a glimpse into the atmosphere that solidified our love… Europe. We love Europe! He would like to live there permanently, and I don’t know about permanently, but I wouldn’t mind living there. I didn’t want to just focus on Paris, its a little cliche. Plus there are so many other wonderful cities that make Europe an enchanting place. So we decided to feature our favorite European cities in the food and decorations. The wedding itself is fashioned after a Parisian tea party, in style and dress. I love the 1940s so my dress will fit that era.  For me it is important to keep in mind that my theme is just that a theme. Its guiding my plans but my plans don’t all have to fit into the theme, just compliment the theme.

Make An Announcement:

So for me the very first thing I needed to do was make an announcement so people could start planning to save the dates. I have always hated a Facebook engagement announcements but they’re cheap AKA free and they get the word out quickly. Within days I had a ton of addresses I didn’t previously have which is Step 2: Gather address. This is critical, I gave family and friends a deadline, because honestly invitations need to be out like yesterday.

Order Invitation Samples:

While I waited for my addresses to come in I started ordering invitation samples. I always thought that I would make my own invitations, but honestly who has the time for that kind of detail? I’m a perfectionist, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it in that amount of time. Another piece of advice for wedding planning is to set your budget early. This should go along with your plan. After all years of planning meant nothing when my plans didn’t fit my budget. So honestly you should probably budget before you plan.

I knew I was not going to spend the recommended 10% of my budget on the invitations, more like 5% because I wanted to use the money elsewhere. I order samples from the websites: The American Wedding, Ann’s Bridal Bargains, Wedding Paper Divas, B Wedding Invitations, and Exclusively Weddings. I limited myself to 5 websites because you can order samples for a month without making a decision. I made a couple mistakes in this arena. First, I looked at invitations that were outside of my budget, don’t even entertain the thought because after that I kept trying to find a cheaper version of what I really wanted. Second, I looked at invitations that didn’t fit my theme. Be brutal with invitations. If they don’t fit the budget or theme, they don’t get a second glance. If you entertain thoughts of invitations you’ll never have it will throw you off track. This is like a marathon, you have to stay focused. Invitations are too early in the game and too disposable to cheat the plan or the budget. STAY FOCUSED. Here are the invitations I looked at from each website.

I also decided early on that I was not going to have reply cards. This is a big deal for me because I’m old fashioned and I think old-style etiquette is losing in this day and age. However, I took a clue from helping my sister plan her wedding. Very few people used the card to respond even though we supplied stamped envelopes. Many called, and even more had to be called to get their RSVPs. So I said skip the hassle. People are on the internet anyways, why not have them RSVP electronically?

Create a Wedding Website:

Which is the next “to-do” on the list: Create a wedding website. I used because I’ve had an account with them for about 5 years… I kid you not! Yes, I’m THAT girl. *shrug*

The website is time consuming, but it will hopefully save me a lot of time and hassle. All of the information will be available to my guests, many of whom are from out of town. Plus using a platform like the knot is a great way to have all of your information in one spot.  I was excited that they had a wedding app for my iPhone but I have found it is not very helpful. Some of the most important features on the website are not available on the app, like updating my budget. For a budget bride like myself this is crucial because I am literally keeping track of every dollar.

My wedding website is:

{January 18, 2015}   Wedding Planning

I have always been that girl with a wedding binder. I mean I would literally sit for hours and map out a wedding. Yet here I am with six months to my wedding and no clue where to begin! How did this happen?

Well for one (1), when you’re a kid you have an unlimited budget.

(2) Even when you imagined that you might marry a man in the military (what can I say I’m a military brat, I knew it was a possibility), little things like world conflicts, Return No Later dates, commanders, supervisors, leave time, never actually figured in to the plan. Everything just worked out.

(3) You certainly didn’t have a fiance who was halfway around the world and would be until shortly before the wedding (and possible during the planned wedding! But that’s another post and another set of tears).  So even when you went out of your way to marry one of those great guys who is actually willing to help pick invitations and colors, you have to do everything through email, and you have no one to help with the major decisions. 😦

However, if I am nothing, I am a woman who has always risen to the challenge. So even though my wedding planner says I only have 140 days until the wedding. Even though the wedding planner starts 18 months before your wedding, no matter what, and serves as a reminder of how much time you DON’T have. Even though you are working on a small budget because there is little time to save. Even though military plans are dictating your wedding date. I know I can pull this off!

– I graduated law school early

– I ran a campaign team on crutches during the election

– Hell I pledged!

Surely I can do this. Now, all I have to do is lose weight, avoid sleep, prep for trial, plan to move around the world, and plan a wedding. Done, done, and done… (cue tears now).

et cetera