In with the new.

newyear

I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions.  But my business fiscal year ends in December, so it is a great time to evaluate the past 12 months and see where I can make improvements in the new year.  There is also a dead zone for work in the December 15-January 1 timeframe, so I spent time updating my portfolio and website, and thinking about what “in with the new” means for me and my business.

But let’s start with “out with the old…”

My 2014 Accomplishments and Struggles:

  • It was my first year of running the business full time, without any income from other jobs.  I was 100% Hitchcock Creative and it was GREAT!
  • I said NO.  NO to clients who needed everything yesterday.  NO to projects that weren’t financially viable.  NO to self doubts.
  • I said YES.  YES to projects out of my comfort zone.  YES to professional development.  YES to spending money on equipment upgrades.  YES to focusing on specific work hours so I could spend more time with the family.
  • I struggled with the decision to end a relationship with a pro-bono client.  I loved working with them, but with a toddler at home, my other workload increasing, and some other personal matters, I felt I couldn’t give them the attention they deserved.  It was a tough decision, but a necessary one.
  • I increased my business income by about 40%.  This was a huge leap, but also not an unexpected one since I did go from part-time to full-time (and spent 3 months of 2013 on maternity leave).

My Goals for 2015:

  • To say NO to wasting time on the internet during work hours.  NO to constant breaks during the day to see my daughter downstairs.  NO to distractions.
  • To say YES to being more productive, more creative, and more attentive.  YES to setting a specific work schedule (and sticking to it).  YES to getting my taxes done early.
  • To increase my overall business income by 5-10% by cutting expenses, using my hours more wisely, and pricing my services more consistently (and raising prices a small amount for the first time in 5 years).
  • To answer my emails more quickly.  I can’t explain why this is such a weakness for me, but it is.  I read a message, process it, and promptly forget to reply.  I think my phone is partly to blame – I like reading email on it, but hate responding with my thumbs.

So, we’ll see how I do.  Notice that I didn’t put “Blog more” or “Increase my social media presence” on the 2015 list.  I’ll talk more about this conscience choice in a future post.

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Host a Fabulous Reception without Breaking the Bank

Food, dancing, cake, champagne, music, escort cards, guestbooks – it can get expensive pretty quick.  But with some extra effort and a little DIY, you can make it frugal and fabulous.

DECOR

This is an area you can get really creative in, but can also become really costly.  Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • DO NOTHING:  If you read my post from earlier this week on Finding the Perfect (and perfectly priced) Venue, you’ll recall I suggested taking decor into account when choosing a venue.  If you host your reception in a private home or garden that has spectacular scenery, you may not need to do a thing!

Chris Zarconi Photography (actual photo of my ceremony & reception spot!)

  • CENTERPIECES:  I wanted to have a mixture of different wild flowers in mason jars for our outdoor reception.  The morning of the wedding, my fiancé, his best man, the best man’s wife and I all ran out to the local grocery store and purchased whatever wild flowers looked nice (total of $47).  We placed them in mason jars ($8 for 12) along with some vintage books ($0 – already owned) and voila!  $55 for 8 centerpieces.

Jimmy Klein Photo

  • TWINKLE LIGHTS: Helloooo – just check out the photo below.  Nuf said.  If done correctly, your old Christmas lights (untangled of course) can add a really romantic feel to your space.  String them across rafters or in trees.  Just remember to bring extension cords.

    Jagger Photography


FOOD & ALCOHOL

For our wedding we did almost everything ourselves (and with the help of our friends).  But the food for the reception was not something we wanted to push onto someone else.  If you have a chef for a brother or a cousin who owns a restaurant, then you might as well skip this section, but for the rest of us:

  • BUFFET vs. SEATED DINNER : You know the answer to this already.  A buffet style dinner is going to be less expensive because you aren’t paying for the additional wait staff or more food.  It also gives people more options and the ability to choose the quantity of food they want.  Ask the caterer to pack up the leftover food for you (great for late night munchies with the wedding party!).

Karen Mordechai


  • RESTAURANTS/SMALL CATERING CO: We saved a bundle by picking a local restaurant to cater the event instead of a traditional catering company.  They provided just the food and serving equipment plus 2 staff members to set up, refill the buffet, and clean up.  Small or independent catering companies are a great way to go as well.  An up-and-coming or new business might give you a good deal to get their foot in the door with wedding planners and venues.

Source

  • BEVERAGES:  Where you get your alcohol could depend greatly on your venue and caterer, so be sure to ask them first.  Our venue let us bring in our wine and beer.  We made a trip to our local discount liquor store and brought in cases of wine, beer, sangria and champagne for our guests.  It was a great way to save some money and no feel like we had to ration the drinks.  We purchased $20 drink dispensers from CB2 and kept them full of lemonade, iced tea and sangria throughout the day as well.

Pottery Barn

RENTALS

  • GLASSWARE: Believe it or not, we found that purchasing wine glasses, champagne flutes and bar glasses from IKEA was cheaper than renting or purchasing plastic.  After the wedding we sold the extra glassware on Craigslist or gave it to friends who were interested.

John Perrin Photography

  • TABLES/CHAIRS/LINENS: We rented tables, chairs and linens from a local party rental company.  I looked into other options, but the easy of having someone drop off and pick them up was worth it.  We did save money by setting them up ourselves (I’ll admit it, I’m OCD and got up the morning of the wedding and did a lot of it myself).  Cut down on costs by asking family to lend you vintage tablecloths (for a mixed-matched feel) or use the venue’s plain white/cream but dress up the centerpieces to compensate.

Table 4 Photography

MUSIC

This falls into the category of you-get-what-you-pay-for.  If your perfect wedding has a 12 piece band, I have no advice for you.  But since we’re talking about inexpensive weddings here, I’ve got some advice:

  • MP3 YOUR HEAR OUT:  Make a CD, iPod playlist, cassette tape, 8 track, whatever.  Make it at home with music you love and you’ll love it.  You know what you’ll also love?  Making the music list together and listening to songs that remind you of times in your relationship or songs you danced to in high school.  It’s a fun project!
  • STUDENTS:  Hire a music, opera, or theater student from a local college.  They’ll be cheap, eager for the cash and will do a wonderful job!

The last post in our series will go up on Friday!  Don’t miss: Photography, Favors & Accessories on a Budget

Wedding Parties, Guest Lists & How to Say No to your Mother

This post is all about how to deal with the non-material side of your wedding planning.  Afterall, the more people you have in your wedding party and the more people you invite – the more expensive it will be.

sohomode

WEDDING PARTIES

If you plan it right, adding multiple bridesmaids and groomsmen may not increase your costs on paper.  But consider how much your time is worth and how much extra work is added for flower girls, ring bearers and 12 maids and groomsmen.  I am NOT saying your friends and family aren’t worth it.  I’m just saying you need to be practical about how much you’re spending on phone calls, wardrobe coordination, rehearsal, etc, etc.  Now, if you come from a large family or really do have 12 best friends, then of course, it’s appropriate to include them all if that’s what you want.  I’m not here to tell you to cut your sister from the team because you’re afraid of raising costs.  Just think about who is truly important in your life and choose accordingly.

Marianne Taylor Photography

THE GUEST LIST

My husband and I were working at the same company when we became engaged.  A large company.  Which he had been working at for 15+ years.  So when we started thinking about what kind of wedding we wanted, the subject of who to invite from work was a big one.  We start two lists:

  • A List:  Immediate family, very close friends (40-50 people)
  • B List:  Work friends/colleagues (90+ people)

The choice became very clear when we thought about venue costs and catering (the largest items that are affected by your guest count).  If we just invited the A List, catering would be $2,000.  If we added on the B List, it would jump to $5,800.  Since we were trying to stay under a $10,000 budget, the choice became very clear.  A small wedding it was.  And we don’t regret our choice at all.  We were actually able to say hello and spend time with every single person who attended.

If you really want that List B to celebrate with you, opt for a low-key gathering at your house after the fact.  Have a “celebrate our 1 week anniversary with us!” party or a “we’ve been married 1 month, hooray!” shindig.  It’s a nice way to include friends who couldn’t make the actual ceremony.

SkyeArt by Amy Giacomelli

HOW TO SAY NO TO YOUR MOTHER

First off, you can insert anyone into the “mother” category here.  But in my experience as an invitation designer,  it tends to be dear-ole-mom who is most excited and therefore most involved.  My mom was truly amazing – lent a hand when asked, but didn’t try to tell me how to do everything.  But since you all can’t have my mom (she’s mine – back off), here are some helpful hints:

  • LISTEN & BE PATIENT.  Your mom may want input and wether you want it or not, give her a chance and hear her out.  If you hate her ideas, try phrases like “Thanks mom, that’s so cool that you want to be involved – I’ll definitely let you know when I need some help” or “I agree, summer is a great time for a wedding – but I was thinking autumn might be more of our style.”
  • REMEMBER SHE’S EXCITED TOO.  OMG, her little girl is getting marrrrrrried!!!!  Remember that your mom (hopefully) is really excited too.  She’s probably been waiting to plan this event since you were six.  Again, but nice and hear her out.  But don’t feel like you have to give in to every idea or suggestion.
  • GET MOM INVOLVED.  You know how to get her off of the “I can’t believe your not getting married in white!?!” rant?  Give her something else to focus on.  Perhaps get a little sneaky and give her something you yourself don’t want to do (taking RSVP’s is a good one or following up with family who haven’t replied yet).
  • ASK HER OPINION.  Even if you don’t end up taking it, it’s such an easy way to get her involved and make her feel like part of the process.
  • JUST BECAUSE SHE’S PAYING…  Don’t let her hold that over you.  I hear countless brides tell me they really want one thing, but mother is paying so we have to do what she wants.  It always breaks my heart a little.  Compromise is a great word.  So is telling your mom the truth about what is going to make you happy on your wedding day.

STAY TUNED TOMORROW :: How to Host a Fabulous Reception without Breaking the Bank

Finding the perfect (and perfectly priced) Wedding Venue

Finding a venue and picking a date are probably the first things on your woohoo-i’m-newly-engaged list.  Of course, finding a venue and picking a date can also be the hardest part of the planning, with so many options to choose from.  Here are some things to help you start:

Boyds, MD Presbyterian Church :: Photo by  Rebekah J Murry

CHURCHES & TEMPLES

If you’re planning to be married in the church or temple you or your fiance attend already – congratulations, you’re halfway there!  Check early to make sure there is an available date that works for you.  Many religious venues also have rectories or receptions spaces onsite that you can rent for the reception.  The prices will tend to be lower (or sometimes free) since you aren’t renting a space that is owned by a corporation or for-profit company.

Woodlawn Manor, Sandy Spring MD :: Photo by Merkle Photography

 NATIONAL, STATE & CITY PARKS

If you’re looking for a no fuss outdoor venue with a beautiful natural backdrop, start looking at your local parks.  You may need to do a little more on your end in terms of permits, but the price will definitely make up for it.  Some locations charge “event fees” whiles others will just require you to get a permit.  Parks don’t always have to mean outdoors-in-a-giant-field-with-no-plumbing either (check out the beautiful Woodlawn Manor in MD above).  Historically preserved mansion houses are frequently owned by the state and rented out for reasonable rates for weddings.

CITY VS. COUNTRY

Obviously if you’re looking for a reception in a metropolitan area, you’re going to find a lot of places with higher prices.  Museums, Hotels and other locations inside a city will likely have a higher price tag for a shorter available amount of time. Move out of your comfort zone and look at some places a little further out.  Not all country locations have hay bales and barrels for decor.  Check out vineyards which may have a gorgeous setting but a modern/sophisticated ambiance.

PRIVATE RESIDENCES

Did you have a relative or close friend with a home that may be perfect for your wedding?  Don’t be afraid to ask, but also be courteous and be prepared for a “no.”  While you may think everyone should put their lives on hold for your wedding, it could be a big undertaking for the owners.  Think about how long the preparations will take (decor, catering, set up, clean up) and if that person is up for it.  Your 90-year-old grandmother might jump at the chance, but make sure you’re offering to pay for professionally cleaning afterwards and to have someone there to deal with ALL deliveries, set up’s and break down’s.

Matthew Morgan Photography

THINK ABOUT YOUR DECOR!

When we booked our wedding location, I loved that the outdoor garden (as well as our indoor rain back up location) were both so beautiful that we didn’t need any extra decor for the ceremony.  It’s ok to pick a place that isn’t quite as ready, but be sure to think about how much you’ll be spending on decor and make sure it evens out.  If you don’t choose the $2000 venue you love because the $1500 venue is cheaper, but then spend $1000 on decor to make up for it – you’ve already lost $500.

CHECK BACK tomorrow for “Wedding Dresses under $250!”

Planning an Inexpensive Wedding

Everyone told me that no matter how practical, logical, and frugal I was in everyday life, it would all go away when I started planning my wedding.  That something inside of me would click and I would suddenly be overwhelmed by the love of $6,000 strapless ball gowns and pearl trimmed invitations.  Well, it didn’t happen.  My husband and I had our perfect wedding for under $10,000 and over the next week I plan to share with you just how we did it.  Here is a sneak peak of what you’ll see:

  • Finding the perfect (and perfectly priced) Venue
  • Wedding Dresses for under $250
  • Wedding Parties, Guest Lists & How to Say No to your Mother
  • Host a Fabulous Reception without Breaking the Bank
  • Photography, Favors & Accessories on a Budget

Cottage Decor Sign by OldNewAgain