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St. Simons Wedding Planner :: Island Destination Weddings | wedding
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Operation: Recessionista Series {$5,000 Wedding Bailout} :: Ceremony and Reception Venue

So, you have only $5000 for your entire wedding budget.  Can you still have everything you want?  Everything you need to have to pull off a beautiful event?  With Operation: Recessionista, we’ll show you how to approach your planning, budget and overall event vision, without compromising your special day or having to rely on family and friends to get things done.  Instead, we will rely on ingenuity, DIY, With each Operation: Recessionistasegment, we will form a budget with you, break it down and give you suggested resources to make it fabulous. 
This week, we will talk about your venues.






Budget: $250


Look for places that will require minimum expense.  While you want to preserve the solmenity of the ceremony itslef, also recognize that this is where a maximum of 45 minutes will be spent of the entire day.  Of course talk to your pastor or administrator at your place of worship. They may be able to give you a deal that is within your budget.  Research places owned by your county, city or state.  Depending on your area, you can get a very nice site without breaking the bank.  As your officiant’s fee also has to come out of this section, you may be best suited in finding free locations.  Think of public parks with scenic fountains or nooks; you could also try for beaches or municipal buildings.  Consider cutting the time of your prelude—you won’t be having that many guests (remember, we agreed on a small number) and it will help cut down on the time of your rental.

Whatever you do, don’t think you’re going to go to any location and accidentally on purpose get married.  It does happen, and those couples do get kicked out. Don’t think you can just show up at a private location (hotel lobby, for example) and get married with your guests in tow.  Some locations require a permit, so be sure to take this into account when budgeting. If you decide to use a justice of the peace, they too, can offer suggestions in your area for low-cost, but meaningful locations.



 Budget:  $2250


For your reception, look for a private room at an exclusive restaurant.  The ambiance is already there, it may need just a little extra—like candles, linens or flowers.  Depending on whom you choose, some of these may be made available to you.  You will find the service personalized and the setting extremely private and intimate.  Most will have a minimum of $2000 in order to take your event, but with your current budget, it is doable.  Since we are looking to accommodate a max of 50 people, we will be able to do more for them than 100+ family and friends at the VFW.

Look to negotiate your hours; with minimal people in your party, try to roll in the pricing for alcohol.  Pay by the drink if you do not have heavy drinkers, otherwise, negotiate one drink per person that is served with dinner (if they ask for additional libation, instruct your servers to announce that “Unfortunately, the bar is closed”).  Another option to handling the alcohol issue is to print up menus (the cost of these can be rolled into your dinner or into your miscellaneous budget).  Some restaurants are happy to do this gratis, so be sure to ask.  Of course, you can save even more by eliminating alcohol altogether.  To avoid any confusion with food choices or extra expenditures, your menu should list the items you have chosen for the meal.  Consider if you would like to offer a dessert after your dinner or just use your cake instead. 


Let’s total it out for a dinner offering no dessert or alcohol(note these are prices averaged from different establishments that offer private dining):

Soup or Salad– $4.95
Entree– $23.95

Total(including a tax rate of 6% and gratuity of 30%) :  $40.32 per person


$40.32 per guest @ 50 guests:  $2015.88


You still have some money to play with (almost $5 per person) to upgrade something on your menu. 


Next week, we’ll talk flowers!

Could You…Would You… With a Mouse?



I sooooo would. Every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And when I say “a mouse”, I mean “THE MOUSE”.

I, personally, tried to talk my sister in to having her wedding at Walt Disney World, but my new brother-in-law said that was a no go.  I think there is a major misconception about what a Disney Wedding would look like.  Even some brides have been less than enamored with the Disney Wedding Couture line that debuted recently.  I’m not quite sure as to why, as the collection is really well thought out and beautiful. They have even recently expanded in to bridesmaids and special occasion dresses as well as gorgeous accessories.   Some die-hard Disney fans said that the dresses looked nothing like the characters that were said to inspire the pieces, while other brides had a lackluster reception to them, professing “I would never tell anyone I wore a Disney dress”.  But overall, it was met with great excitement and positive feedback.


Quell your fears, luxelings. I don’t believe Disney is seeking to disfranchise your wedding or add it to its conglomerate.  I was really surprised (in a “Wow that is awesome!” thought versus the “Wow I can’t believe they came up with something this good” thought) at all of the offerings they make available to their clients.  The packages are really well thought out and designed with the each individual client in mind.  For example, let’s say you want something intimate and elegant– you can choose the Escape Collection and host the party of a lifetime for up to 18 people for an all inclusive price. If  you would like something larger and on a grander scale, the Couture Collection is for you.  I’ve heard a lot of brides and grooms say with a bit of snark, “I don’t want Mickey Mouse at my wedding” Come on! Do you think that Disney would sell out like that?  This isn’t Chuck E. Cheese….it’s Disney.  Remember these are the people that taught you about romance and made you want to get married. Granted, you were only five, but you get my point.  To further debunk this mode of thought, Disney has teamed up with David Tutera.  The magic doesn’t stop there either; you can do this on the Disney Cruise or even do a vow renewal there (Captain America is somewhere cringing at the thought tat I might ask, I am quite sure).   So in the event that I have opened your mind up a bit more, you can check out all of the different options and let me live vicariously through you.  At any rate there are many Disney fan sites where you can get first hand knowledge from other brides and grooms who decided to take the leap.  In addition to your research, be sure to visit those as well. 

Why is Your Groomsman Wearing an Extra Medium?

image This happens more often than you think.  One of your groomsmen, or Heaven forbid, your groom, has an athletic build and cannot find a proper fit for his clothing, let alone his tuxedo.  When this happens, you have full, irrevocable veto power on anything they choose that makes them look like stuffed sausage.  So what’s a girl to do?

Well, don’t worry– I feel your pain. Captain America is 5’10, 200 lbs and has 4% body fat.  That alone makes me want to throw up.  Typical conversations in our house go like this…

Him: “I’m going to work out. Are you coming?”

Me:  “I am going to work out…just later.”

Him: “Later?  You’re watching a Law & Order marathon…again.”

Me: “Ok. Well, watch me work this spoon out of this ice cream container and into my mouth.”

That is typically followed by some snarky comment on his end about me working twice as hard on the bag when I do work out, which is then succeeded by me rolling my eyes and having a carbfest.

Wow, I’ve digressed again, haven’t I?

The point I’m trying to make is that if your man works hard on his body, he should be proud of it (as should you, which I know you are).  However, men can have fashion faux pas as well, and one of the most deadly ones is what the Captain and I call “The Smedium”.

Main Entry: 1sme·di·um
Pronunciation: ?sm?-d?-?m
Function: adjective
Inflected Form(s): plural smediums
Etymology: Fabuluxe, from neuter of medius middle — and Middle English smal
Date: 2007
1 a a combination of small and medium, used to describe an item of clothing that is extremely ill-fitting for the wearer, which the  wearer believes accentuates his or her features but really makes them look like they are wearing something that should be worn by a fetus. Also known as “extra medium”.
Now that you understand our terminology, don’t let your groomsmen fall victim.  It’s sad though, because as hard as these guys work on their bodies, they are the most overlooked when it comes to formal wear. And if they aren’t overlooked (too badly), they have limited selections and/or can expect to pay for their physique.

The problem lies in that most men with these builds have the triangular shape– broad shoulders and slim waist.  For this, an athletic fit (also known as a European cut, seen above on former Light Heavyweight UFC Champ Liddell above) is needed– a larger, tapered jacket and regular sized pants.  Most gents, rather than to risk wearing a suit that is too big or too small, will buy their own tuxedos, so that they can get them altered to their sizes.

Just some pointers…because I would really hate for you to go ballistic when one of the groomsmen looks like someone airbrushed his tux on, so let’s just spare everyone the pain…

  • Make sure there is a 7″ or more drop; in other words, the chest area needs to be 7″ or more than the waist.
  • Different designers make different cuts, so trying on several is key– all are not created equal or the same. Avoid anything that brings too much attention to an already broad/protruding chest.
  • Comfort and movement is key– he should be able to move fluidly and raise his arms above his head comfortably
  • Size MATTERS. Nothing screams cheap tuxedo than a jacket that does not lay flush with the shirt. It is far easier to take in the waist of a jacket than to increase the shoulder or chest size.
  • Go with quality designers, like DKNY, Jones NY, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss Red Label.

For other great tips in dressing your groomsmen of all sizes, check out this post from Haute Concept.  And death to the Smedium!

We Were Here.

We had a fantabulous time at the wedding show, yesterday at the Jekyll Island Convention Center. Half the fun was had in the set up and break down of the booth. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun on a Sunday– but my girlfriends are awesome!

Abby, Lindsay and Streater– Thank YOU for a fantastic show, your hard work and fabulousness. You are exactly what fabuluxe is 🙂

Getting ready for show time

This is Lindsay ALL day long. She is just hilarious. We forbade her from making ANY predictions for the show. Linds has the ability to say “What if…” or “Wouldn’t it be funny if…” at the rehearsal or setup during the day of the wedding…and it actually happens. Lindsay is uber creative. Just ask her about the bucket of flowers she got during a wedding we had.

Abby Setting Up the Cocktail Tables

Abby is also hilarious. I can’t publicly post what she said on Sunday that made me fall out on the floor laughing…but she is awesome. I can explain an idea to Abby and she makes it happen.

Streater Setting Up the Main Table

This is our new intern, Streater. Cutest name ever. I think we’ve officially found our “sweet one” (because Lord knows it wasn’t me). Streater was great at the show and was able to keep up with us. Prayerfully, we haven’t scared the poor girl.

Fabuluxe Bridal Show Setup

Here we are….all done and ready for show time!

Fabuluxe Bridal Show Setup

Another view of our booth. You couldn’t miss us– as soon as you walked in the convention center, you had our wedding sexy in your face colors right before your eyes. It was great because so many brides said, “We just KNEW it was you because your booth looked just like your ad!”

Our Cocktail Table

One of our cocktail tables, beautiful matching guestbook (a gift from my most special girlfriend, Precious. I owe Precious everything. She listened to me pine and moan over this setup!)

Fabuluxe Setup

Our main table… That candelabra is another sweetie from Precious. It rocks to have friends with awesome taste! Our brochures sat in a tray of crystals 🙂

Fabuluxe Setup

Another view of our main table.

Straton Hall's Booth

This is Straton Hall‘s setup. UBER gorgeous. The food was actually presented BEAUTIFULLY– suspended from their booth. So weddingsexy 🙂

Another view of Straton Hall

Another view of Straton Hall‘s set up.

Straton's Fabulous Food

Here is one of the suspended areas of their booth– this was the best pecan chicken salad ever. How cute are the little bowls?

Jay, Stacy and Terrica

This is me with Jay and Stacy, owners of Straton Hall. Angel of The Beachview Club caught us midlaugh because Stacy was talking MUCH trash.

Stacey and Terrica

My super girlfriend, Stacey, of the Jekyll Island Authority. They handle the rentals for weddings at Faith Chapel, Villa Mariana, The Convention Center, Morgans, and the Beach Deck.

Streater, Fabuluxe Intern

Streater picking the winner of our Fabuluxe Wedding Giveaway.

Lindsay, Assistant Event Coordinator with Fabuluxe

Lindsay doing the “OMG I won!” look.

The Fab Ones

My fabbies. How cute are they!?

James and me

Me with the fabulous James Grella of Image Artisans, Inc. You have heard me talk about how wonderful James is. But here is the sad but true part…James didn’t even recognize me when I was all dressed up. He’s so used to seeing me in “prep mode” for weddings, that he doesn’t see the rockstar come show time.

The Fab Ones

Us playing with the camera.


This picture did not come out the way I wanted it to, but still had to post it for sentimental reasons…it’s our “Destination Wedding” picture, right, Lindsay?

Wendy B and Terrica

Me with Wendy of Sea Palms Resort. She is an absolute sweetheart and knows my affinity for good cake.

The Fab Ones

And here we are– the Fabuluxe Family 🙂

Why You Won’t Hire US

I recently outlined several reasons why I would not hire someone– and I thought, well what about vendors? Why wouldn’t a bride hire a certain wedding vendor? Then it came to me….

You won’t hire us because:

1.) We talk too much Brides love talking with people about their weddings. Key word: their. Be respectful of her time– keep your pitch to a minimum and answer her questions concisely. As a professional who has to work with vendors on a daily basis, I meet a lot of vendors who are considerate and some who just won’t shut up. I drink shots of bleach before I have to call them.

2.) We play games. Don’t doubletalk and don’t avoid her questions about pricing. You dodging the “How much is” question will only build mistrust and lack of respect. Give her what she’s asking for, but also clarify your benefits. Don’t quote her a price one day and then something different the next day. Your trust factor just went out the window.

3.) We are indifferent I had one client tell me she did not want to work with a particular vendor because they were not “excited enough” about her wedding. Professionally, it can be hard to exude and gush excitement with every phone call, email and meeting. We’re people too– we have lives, problems, and pains too. But, from a bride’s point of view, this is the most important day in her life. She wants someone that she feels cares about her wedding. So while you can’t be Mary Sunshine with every communication, with the money she’s paying you, you’d better put forth a good effort.

4.) We have no idea what we are talking about This can come from overselling our services to a point that we get into a situation where we underdeliver. This can also come from inexperience and lack of education.

5.) Our presentation is just God awful It’s clear and simple: the eye buys. If our websites, brochures, and emails are of poor quality– literally, no one is buyin’ what we’re sellin’.

6.) We think our stuff doesn’t stink, but the flies are giving us away It doesn’t matter what TV show we’ve been on, how many magazines we’ve been in, or what superstar venue we work for; if we allow our egos to get in the way of providing stellar, non-judgmental service, we’re worthless.

7.) We have no connections We need someone who can vouch for us– who says, “YES! I’ve worked with them before and they are great at what they do”. This adds validity and security to the client, as she can see we’re constantly building our business contacts.

8.)  The only wedding we’ve planned is our own  And that’s all I’ll say about that….before I have the knottie planners burning me in effigy.

9.)  We get caught in a lie, half-truth or controversy  Brides do their research as much as we research them (yes, we research our clients 🙂 ).  It is far better to be honest and communicate effectively any misunderstandings or controversy.

10.)  We are way too aggressive in getting the client  Brides don’t want to bombarded with emails, postal mail and telephone calls everyday.  She’s a big girl. If she wants to hire you– she will.  Don’t shove the concept down her throat.

Hopefully, these are some things that will help brides differentiate the fabulous vendors from the desperate or inexperienced ones.

Happy Planning!

This Year’s Top First Dance Songs?

  It’s no secret that I have kidlets. That being said, my recent movie theatre experiences are limited to Disney, Dreamworks and anything else animated. A few weeks ago, we took the minis to see Enchanted, and I was struck by this song.  I was immediately on my phone taking notes of the title and artist’s name.

The song is absolutely beautiful– It is So Close by Jon McLaughlin.

What are your favorite first dance songs? What do you think will be a great song this year?

5 Venue Assets that Will Fabuluxe Your Wedding

zaza I know what the mags tell you– they tell you to ask these incessant (and sometimes unnecessary) questions when looking for your venue space.  You may have an idea as to what you are looking at or looking for in a venue– but do you know how to capitalize on what is there to make your event the envy of your friends?


You want your venue to have:


1.)  Personality–  Boring events start with boring venues.  If a site jumps out at you, it will also jump out at your guests.  And of course, boring is all relative.  Nevertheless, you still want a venue that reflects your personality and adds panache to your event overall. It should jump out at you and say "I’M THE ONE!" as soon as you walk in the door.  Is it an old mansion?  A trendy art and history museum?  A chartered boat?  You want something that looks like it is well-kept and up-to-date.  When you go into look at the place, look at the fixtures, the floors, windows, etc.  What are some things that you could incorporate into your design scheme?  Art work on the walls?  Winding staircases?  What are some things you can live without?  You want something that complements your fete, not take it over.

2.)  Great Staff–The same personality that you love in your venue should roll over into its staff.  The staff should be engaging, dynamic and professional.  It has always been my position that regardless of how much you spend, be it one dollar or one hundred thousand, you are always the rockstar.  Period.  There are some venues who allow their status to go to their heads, which results in a poor showing to clients.  I can’t remember the last time someone paid me tens of thousands of dollars to mistreat them or give substandard service.  That’s because they haven’t.  You want a staff that provides stellar service– not over the top, but plenty attentive and always with a smile.

3.)  Great Lighting– I can remember many many many moons ago, there was a song by a group called Black Sheep entitled "Strobelight Honey".  A strobelight honey is a person who only looks good under the strobelight.  That being said, lighting does wonders.  It can complement textures and architecture as well as create shadows and depth in your venue.  Lighting adds dimension and character to an event– even on a natural level.  You don’t want your event to look warehoused or completely dark without some sort of complementary lighting.  Lighting can come from strategically placed windows, skylights, open doors and even fireplaces.  To enhance  lighting that is already there naturally, you can add special effect lighting in the form of spotlighting or pinlighting.  This is perfect for showcasing a cake table, sweetheart table or centerpieces.

4.)  Flexibility and Space–  Some of my favorite venues have space upon space that is at the clients’ disposal during their event. This could include a lawn outside of the venue, a covered veranda or a courtyard.  This works in your favor when you are creating that luxury event experience for your guests.  You can have separate, yet spacious, areas for your cocktail hour, dinner, dancing, etc.  This allows you to design your space according your event’s theme or vision.  That could include creating an elegant pre-reception area for meet and greets to a swanky lounge area for guests to relax in during the festivities.  When you aren’t boxed into one particular room, your possibilities are endless.  If you do find yourself with minimum space, you want to make sure that your design scheme will not be too cumbersome for the staff to turnover in as little time as possible to avoid those gaps between scheduled events.

5.) An Extensive PVL (Preferred Vendors List)Some venues don’t call it a PVL, but may give you a list of vendors that they work with frequently.   If you run into a situation where your venue is also your exclusive caterer and baker, that of course, leaves you with other vendors that you must hire.  There is no better place to start than a list of vendors that the venue has done business with before. In this case, you are sure to build an event team that is familiar with your venue and can help you troubleshoot and design through your current vision.  Of course, you want to fact check both ways:  Ask the venue about vendors you are interested in prior to booking them, and vice versa.  You want a team that can work together seamlessly without playing a game of "Quien es mas macho" (who is more macho).

A few other tips on choosing that perfect venue:

  • Never look at more than five venues for your event.  After a while, they all start to look the same.  Do preliminary searches via the internet, ask exploratory questions of vendors and the venue’s staff to narrow down which ones will work for you and what you have planned.
  • I would encourage you to go back a second time to look at a venue. Even if your site is away from home– try to visit it twice during your initial stay. You will find that you will see things that you did not see the first time around. 
  • Take great notes so you can compare after you visit your sites.  Before you visit any, write down key words you want to describe your event, and then revisit those notes to see which venues come close.


{Photo: Hotel ZaZa}

Welcome to FABULUXE!

375528reg.jpgWhy, hello there!

Welcome to our new home! And this, my friends, was my great surprise!

Once Upon Your Wedding is now Fabuluxe Events, Inc., a full service event planning firm. Additionally, we have extended our service area to Savannah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida. Of course, we will still service our fabulous home town of the Golden Isles– St. Simons, Jekyll Island and Sea Island. Now, we can offer more as we expand in to other social and corporate events.

So there it is!

Ta da!

Everything is where you left it! Same categories, posts, etc.

Welcome home!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Moodboard by Once Upon Your Wedding

 Moodboard by Once Upon Your Wedding // Click for larger picture

Winter is coming!  Here is a modest moodboard that was part of a picture challenge over at iWED .  The challenge was to use the middle picture to inspire the rest of the board.  I liked the idea of two things for this winter board:  varying shades of blue and ice.  I chose the concept of going cool and warm for the cocktail  hour (you can see the signature drink and hors d’oeuvres by the cake…), by choosing a “not-so-hot chocolate”– cool mocha enhanced by Kahlua and warmed by cinnamon sugar garnish, and a pumpkin soup shooter.  At a glance, the cake looks rather simple, however, it’s frosting is an iridescent color and ornamented with snowflakes.  The crystal tree brings the reminiscence of walking through an icy forest with icicles falling from its branches.  To take the ice concept a bit further, the champagne chiller is exactly that: made of ice.  The centerpieces again, use crystals to mimic ice reflective of the theme.  I always love candlelight at winter weddings, but it plays so well with this theme because the light bounces of the crystals, subsequently doubling the effect.

Now playing: Si*Se – More Shine
via FoxyTunes

Three Ways to Cut Cake Costs

saint simons wedding cakeThe wedding cake you’ve fantasized about can also be the one your wallet says “yes” to. Here are some great ideas for a more affordable – but still gorgeous – wedding cake.

  • Get a smaller cake. Show off the beautiful wedding cake for everyone to see, then have a sheet cake of the same flavor cut in the back.
  • Make mini cakes. Instead of one large cake, split up the cost and ask your baker to make every guest a cupcake of your favorite flavor instead. Top each with something pretty, and build a ‘wedding cake’ tower of your fabulous cupcakes.
  • Offer a dessert bar. Another great way to offer dessert while having a smaller cake: set up a dessert bar with mini pastries and coffee to offset a piece of wedding cake.