Washington Island, WI
How can it have been almost two years since I’ve been married and even longer since I’ve written a blog?
It seems as though in the world of social media and influencers there’s a certain type of pressure on us entrepreneurs, and it's especially clear in the wedding industry. We should blog, be extremely social, know how to do our hair (I just can’t), have our Instagram grid be perfection and also work work work work work. The pressure made me stop in my tracks and dread my beautiful new office chair.
This week, I was able to finally find time and space to think about these frustrations and roadblocks and get over the brick wall I created around myself.
I have had this blog on my to-do list for too long and just decided that I am not going to put pressure on myself to write a perfect blog, because I am not a writer (plus my mom is the only one reading this)! So this blog is going to change and morph into whatever I want it to be, I apologize ahead of time if that’s not what you came here for.
What I do know is that I love weddings and I love being a part of something so intimate and special. I love seeing it from a completely different perspective then the family or friends that are involved. I get to see the behind the scenes chats between grandmas, the toddlers under tables eating extra pieces of cake, the little moments where the couples catch each others eyes and check-in on their love. It’s just wonderful, and I would like to share that glimpse with whoever cares to read it.
So after all of that I thought the best place to start is to share my own wedding. Technically, it’s impossible to coordinate your own wedding. But it will give you a glimpse of who I am and maybe inspire you to DO YOU for your wedding.
My Husband and I knew that a traditional wedding just didn’t feel like us. We also knew that it had to be STRESS FREE! Stress free is different to everyone. What one person might think is stressful; someone else might not think is a big deal. The top five things that stressed us out about planning our wedding were; money, making sure our immediate family members were there, being the center of attention for too long, and photographs.
Money is a constant stressor for every wedding. I know a lot of people say to “set a budget and stick with it.” But our approach was really to pick out a few things that we knew were important to us and putting our funds towards that. Obviously we also had to realize that we were not by any means wealthy so we could only really pick 3 things that we were willing to spend some buckaroos on and those were family, party and photographs to prove to our future children we were not always so old and ugly.
Like I said above the most important thing to us was for both of our immediate families to be there. Now this seems easy peasy for some, however we were both from two different states, so either way people were going to have to travel and we didn’t want them to have to spend a lot of money. This is why we chose Washington Island, WI. Kurt’s Family ventures up there every year and my family loves to travel and had never been to Washington Island, so I knew I could tap into their adventurous spirits and get them up there. They were also able to inexpensively rent a large house because Washington Island is a hidden GEM of a place.
We did have to sacrifice a few things when we made this decision (I have a huge extended family that were super important to me back in Ohio, so to compromise, we threw a large low key party back home as well). We decided to only invite our immediate families to save us and them the stress of trying to find rentals on a small island and having to coordinate planes, trains and ferry's for all. So we ended up with 25 people and 7 dogs (only ours pictured below).
The second most important thing to us was that everyone had a good time, so we bought alcohol, and lots of it. Costco was my friend and I choose a few different varieties of beer and wine, bought them in bulk and left it at that (we also had bourbon available for old fashions but didn’t buy more than 2 bottles).
The third most important thing to us was having a lasting memory of that day. Now as you recall, being on camera was one of our major stressors so I decided that I was willing to pay $$$ for a photographer that could capture our day and make me forget my weird smile or awkward poses. I contacted a photographer friend who is the salt of the earth and makes anyone she meets feel lovely and wonderful. – Bahareh Ritter of Ritter Collective is an ANGEL!! She lived out in TX at the time so I begged her to travel to the middle of nowhere on Lake Michigan for an entire weekend and take photos of 32 people for two days. She said yes! To see her amazing talent see the gallery below.
So recap! We spent money on Travel/bringing our family together, booze and photographer. You say, how about your dress? How about food? How about decorations?! Well, those just weren’t on my list of super important things to me. If they are to you, then put them on that list!
For those of you who don’t believe me here is our budget listed out from most expensive to least expensive:
Travel for family - $5000 (now our family helped pay for this and this brought 12 people up to an island in WI for a week…pretty great deal!)
Photographer (package) - $3500
Food - $350 (including tip!)
Booze - $300 (we bought this over a period of 6 months and got a deal when we bought in bulk. It also lasted us for an entire week and long after).
Facility Rental - $250 (honestly, we can’t believe it either!)
His outfit - $100 (not a suit)
Dress - $100 (on sale, and not a typical wedding dress)
Flowers - $80 (from Whole foods and then hand picked from a farm where we were staying, with permission of course).
Décor - $50 (thrift store finds, birch wood from the woods and fabric that I already had which I made into runners).
Total for a week long rental of a farmhouse on Washington Island, WI, rental of wedding venue, food, booze that lasted us not only for the wedding but all week long, dress, photographer that we flew in, put up and got AMAZING photos from and a built in honeymoon with both of our families that we love = $9500. Worth every penny and honestly it was not stressful at all.
I guess my advice for a non-stressful wedding is to pick your top three and focus on the task at hand….being married to your best friend. If your top wish is to have everyone you love be at your wedding, but you don’t have the budget for that, maybe have a small ceremony and a large BBQ somewhere. If one of your top three is to do a destination wedding but you don’t want to ask your family to travel all that way, get married with your family surrounding you and then take an extra honeymoon. If you want an all inclusive wedding, full meal and party for 250—DO IT….but obviously hire me to coordinate it :-)
All photos in this post were taken by Ritter Collective - Check them out at rittercollective.com !!
The Darby House - Columbus, Ohio
First of all, it’s embarrassing that it has taken me so long to write this blog! However, I have had some big life changes in the past year and a half and can’t wait to tell you more about them in the next couple weeks. But onto Ally and Vince and their wonderful wedding…..
Looking back at this wedding, I couldn’t have asked for a more loving couple, a more gracious family or more talented vendors. If y’all are reading this THANK YOU (speaking to you @derksworks)!
When the Mother of the Bride contacted me I was elated to be chosen for such an honor. The town where I grew up is a small community and it’s a blessing to have people that have known you throughout different stages of your life (most importantly the awkward 8th grade years) and still want you to be a part of a big day in their lives. I grew up down the street from Ally’s parents and went to high school with both Ally and Vince, so it was important to me that their wedding was everything they hoped it would be.
Renee and Ally (the MOB and Bride) are creative geniuses and are highly skilled at event planning and event décor so they did all of the crafting, planning, mapping out of the wedding details – basically all of the hard stuff. They did ask my opinion on layout, timeline, décor details but they hired me to be the day-of coordinator so that they could relax – which is exactly what I do!
It helps a lot when you’re the coordinator for a wedding to understand the ambience your couple wants to portray: do they want a laid back feel? Do they want their guests to walk in and say “WOW!”? Or do they want it to feel intimate and casual? Ally and Vince wanted it all; They wanted people to have fun and enjoy a fantastic feast and bubbly drinks while “oooing” and “ahhing” at the venue and décor.
Tips for having it all:
Don’t go it alone! Hire professionals – unless you are design savvy like Renee was, it might be a good idea to hire a Wedding Designer/Planner. They can translate your vision and personal aesthetic into an amazing party and give you unique trend setting ideas that you might not have though of. Think it’s weird that I suggest hiring someone else to plan your wedding?! Well, you see my job has to do with logistics and not design. Even though I love the creative journey wedding planning allows, I focus on the organization and execution of the day-of set-up and tear down. Often wedding planners and coordinators work side by side and can make a dream team of support for your big day.
Last piece of advice would be to pick a venue that has a majority of the tasks included. For instance, Ally and Vince chose the Darby House, which is managed and operated by Cameron Mitchell Premier Events and comes with tables, chairs and linens for up to 250 people. So right there in one blink you have checked off the venue, caterer, tables, chairs and linens from your to-do list. Last but not least, use the vendors your venue suggests, they typically have proven themselves over and over again and can be trusted to know the ins and outs of the venue.
Griggs Reservoir Boathouse, Columbus Ohio
As I sit here in my long johns, fleece pajama pants and wool ski socks (yes that is three layers) I dream of warmer days and fall colors. Fall is one of my favorite times of the year for weddings. In Ohio it's pretty much the only time of year where the rain forecast is fairly accurate.
All these things are wonderful and lovely, but Lizzie and Steven have that beat! They are so genuinely in love that it gives me chills! I mean look at that photo above! Chills. Another thing that gives me chills is DIY Catering. When L+S said they were picking up food from a food truck (incognito) and then having a rented serving staff serve it to their guests, I had my doubts, but I was surely mistaken! There is a way to do DIY catering without compromising the service, taste and happiness of your guests! It all starts with a extremely organized couple, a laid back attitude, an amazing serving staff and (sound of a tooting horn) a wedding coordinator.
Griggs Reservoir Boathouse is a very charming place to tie the knot. The capacity isn't very liberal but it's perfect for an intimate ceremony and reception filled with cherished friends and family. The large windows open up to the Scioto River and the wood accents inside mimic the serene setting.
The kitchen is a closet - a small closet - and the back of house area in general left something to be desired, but that did not stop the servers from 5 Star Staffing! They are not only professional and efficient, but they have fun while they're working. There's a real sense of camaraderie when you work with them and I can't thank them enough for letting me be their leader for the night.
One of my favorite parts of L+S wedding was their centerpieces! They ordered a different flavor of cake for each table and that acted as the main centerpiece. It was a fun way of including your guests in the ceremonial cake cutting plus it gets them interacting with each other. Some people were going one step further and going to other tables to check out what flavors they had. It's amazing how cake can pull people together.
From the beginning of the ceremony to the end of the night Lizzie and Steven's wedding radiated their commitment to each other....and their love of doughnuts. Love and best wishes from Lu + Birch!
Tips for DIY Catering
Lizzie and Steven are both part of the hospitality/event industry and did most everything DIY, which is not for everyone, but added to the magic of the evening. It was important to them to have great food while also sticking to their budget. Their option was to do the food themselves, or more specifically pick up some of their favorite food truck grub!
The logistics might seem like a nightmare, but it actually worked out really well. You first need to decide the type of service you want to have. For example, there are: Buffet, Plated, Family Style, and Stations. For DIY catering I would stick with either Buffet or Family Style as the other two could be much more labor intensive.
Lizzie and Steven chose family style because it fit with their laid-back feel and style of food. The next step is renting the appropriate plates and serving utensils. This can be a little overwhelming if you have never done something like this before, but it's fairly simple and can be easily solved with an appointment at your local rental company. Lasting Impressions did the rentals for L+S and it's very easy to give them a call to set up an appointment. If you give them enough notice, they will even set-out the plates on a staging table, so you can see exactly how it will look!
The next ingredient to making DIY catering work is an excellent serving staff, which I mentioned above. You need a staff that is "serve-safe certified" ( or the equivalent in your state) and that are comfortable with your style of service. The staffing company also needs to be fully insured and it's best to ask for a copy of their insurance before your event. 5 Star Staffing is all of the above, so maybe you should just call them and skip the research!
Blacklick Woods Golf Course, Reynoldsburg, Ohio
When you grow up in a small town and then move back to it later in life, it’s inevitable that you will see some of your high school classmates, or even middle school classmates, but how rare is it that one of them is someone you’ve known since pre-school?
Mike Farrenkopf and I have known each other since pre-school and I’ve known his fiancé, Alicia since high school - so when Alicia and her mother reached out to me to help out on the day-of, I was thrilled to be a part of another chapter in their lives.
Alicia and Mike are the quintessential cute couple. They didn’t need anything fancy, they just wanted to be married and have a great evening with their friends and family. What was important to them was making sure they didn’t have to worry about managing the event on the evening of – that’s where Lu and Birch came in!
The Blacklick Woods Golf Course and Banquet Room provided the perfect backdrop for their fall wedding and the prices couldn’t be more reasonable. Being a part of the metro park system means that it does take some extra effort to get detailed answers out of the staff. There aren’t any event professionals there, so it’s definitely a good idea to hire a wedding coordinator (you’re already reading this, so I must be your gal).
The greatest thing I think about the venue is the ability to take photos on some of the surrounding grounds. I mean just look at these photos!
Tips for a Laid-Back Wedding:
The term “laid back” gets me every time in the event world, because the planning is not typically laid back at all. In order to create that feeling for your guests you need to make sure that you (or your coordinator) think of all the bumps in the road before they happen. Alicia and her mom knew that it was going to take some extra work and between the 3 of us we got a plan together.
For instance, a self-service bar station sounds great and easy to set-up, but what happens when the cups run out? Guests chugging out of wine bottles? Sounds good to me….but might not be what you want on your wedding night. When Alicia and her mom brought up the idea of a self service station we sat down and went through every detail – How many cups do we need? How much ice do we need? Who will re-stock the beer? Who will monitor the alcohol consumption? Even if you want a self-serve station, most places will require you to have a serve-safe certified bartender there to monitor the alcohol service. I recommend this solution as well.
All in all – the very detailed, non-laid-back planning helps when planning a laid back event. It also helps to hire a day-of event coordinator and let her do all of the work (nudge nudge).
Below are some informational links to DIY bars and laid-back wedding ideas:
A Practical Wedding
Perfect Party Planning
Hello from Lu and Birch!
I wanted to introduce myself before I dive right into the wonderful world of weddings. You can read a little about me on my About page, however I wanted to kick off the blog with some more of my background. These blogs are most likely littered with grammatical errors that would make my mom get out her red pen, but I'm choosing the free-flow method of writing:-)
My name is Laura, or Lolo to my family and my dad used to knock on the door with his knuckles to wake me up saying "Lolo-Lu, it's time to get up!" (I have to figure out how to do sound clips because the tune is the best part). Because I was a self-proclaimed professional sleeper (I could sleep for days), that noise always used to make me cringe, roll over and yell "I'm up! I'm up!" -- but these days I look back on those mornings of having a loving alarm clock and smile. Hence the reason why the first part of my name is "lu." The "birch" is a story for another time....you might be able to get it out of me if you buy me a Butterbeer.
I started in the Hospitality Industry by accident really - being a college student at Ohio State, I was looking for a flexible job that could work around my class schedule. I was also looking for a family business, being as my family owned a greenhouse growing up and I felt more comfortable working for small businesses rather than large corporations. SIDE- TRACK: If you're in the market for any bedding plants, nursery stock or veggies, go visit Fishers Gardens in Reynoldsburg!
I started as a Guest Services Manager for The German Village Guest House (which is an amazing B&B in German Village that is just steps away from Barcelona and is one of my top recommendations for out of town guests). We did some small weddings and other great parties in the quaint garden behind the guest house. It was mainly a 3 person operation, which made me learn quickly about the behind-the-scenes work of party planning. It quickly became more and more enjoyable and I realized that I had found a hidden passion of mine!
Following graduation, I spread my wings and moved to Denver, CO. After trying my hand at being an Innkeeper, elopement coordinator and baker extraordinaire I decided that it was something I should pursue further. I moved back to Columbus OH and got a job with Cameron Mitchell Premier Events. That job was by far the hardest and most rewarding job I have ever had. Catering still to this day blows my mind. Making that amount of food in short periods of time and then making it taste excellent had me boggled (probably also because my idea of cooking is spiral Mac N' Cheese). The chefs at Cameron Mitchell are creative geniuses who work only under pressure and can whip up a kids meal out of nothing in 2 minutes. I know I'm biased but even after leaving the company I recommend them to many of my couples looking for excellent service and food.
Since then I have also dabbled in floral decor, venue management and finally Day-of Event Coordination. Which is where I'm going to end this lovely blog.
Stay tuned to see the weddings I have coordinated and learn some tips and tricks on all things wedding related. I will also be featuring some of my favorite vendors, wedding items and worthwhile Pinterest crafts.
The Westin, Columbus OH
Stephanie and Mike came to me with one goal in mind: to make sure their guests had a great afternoon. With a mimosa in your hand the moment after the ceremony, how can you not have fun? My goal for every wedding I do, is for the couple to have just as much fun as the guests, I think it was a success!
"All we had to do was relax- every detail was handled, and not one thing went unattended. Lu + Birch was an absolute necessity to us" - Stephanie
This brunch wedding was held at the beautiful and historic Westin Hotel in downtown Columbus. The classic beauty of the venue fit Mike and Stephanie's vision perfectly and made it super convenient for their out of town guests.
The ballroom is absolutely stunning by itself but I think Stephanie and Mike's decor emphasized the grander of the room and put a fun twist on it. The balloons were a big hit and drew your eyes upwards towards the tall ceilings. This along with the morning light that bounced off the huge mirrors, just filled the room with a bright and cheery ambience - perfect for a morning wedding!
If you think that there can't be dance parties at morning weddings, you are surely misled. These guests were there to celebrate and had their dancing shoes on. The conga line was the longest I've seen yet!
The end of the day, ended up not being the end at all - After a quick rest and a costume change, the couple met their guests outside to enjoy Tortillas Street Food Truck and some drinks in the Thurber Bar.
Tips for a Brunch Wedding
Brunch weddings are by far my favorite (and are a close second to Friday night weddings). I would suggest getting really creative with the food options and do something people don't get to see too often. Stephanie and Mike did this with their cake - instead of a traditional wedding cake they had a stacked coffee cake that was so charming and fitting for the occasion. With morning weddings you also get the added bonus of having the entire day to celebrate with your friends and family - just remember to pace yourself!
All photos by DK Photographic
Edson Keith Mansion, Sarasota, FL.
Being my first official Lu and Birch Wedding - this one sits very close to my heart. Summer and Mike had planned the most intimate wedding at the most romantic venue and I was gosh darn lucky to be a part of it!
Edson Keith Mansion sits right on the edge of the Phillipi Creek and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The grounds are lined with Palm Trees and Fig Trees with spanish moss hanging down as if it was out of a story book. The Mansion itself is utterly majestic with a pale blue painted dining room, a drool-worthy library and large windows overlooking the gardens.
Oh the Gardens! Upon arrival the guests were led into the rose garden to grab a glass of lemonade as they made their way to the ceremony site, which was overlooking Philiipi Creek. Both Summer and Mike had written their own vows and read them to each other as the sun went down.
Tips for a Destination Wedding
Since this was technically a destination wedding (they do live in Florida, but it was not close to where they lived), I could not see the venue until the day before the wedding. This would normally give a planner or coordinator a heart attack, but both Summer and the venue contact were very organized, which made my job a lot easier!
Summer kept her decor simple and did things like hiring a lighting company that strung lights on the patio, which made a huge impact but didn't take any extra manpower. She also chose a Full-Service Caterer (Mattisons Restaurant and Catering - They were amazing and extremely professional) that did all of the table settings and bar set-up which is always my recommendation no matter if it's a destination wedding or one in your own home. It might be a little extra money, but well worth it.
All Photos by Brian Blanco . Brianblanco.com