Southern Hospitality

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

southern weddings


southern weddings hospitality


In addition to styling Janie Medley’s lovely feature in the latest Southern Weddings Magazine, the SW girls were kind enough to ask me to contribute to a story called “35 tips for a wedding full of southern hospitality.” Naturally, I wrote about something that’s near and dear to my heart — timing. No matter how beautiful the details, how sumptuous the linens, how striking the flowers, a thoughtfully crafted event day agenda is the foundation of your event; anticipating how your guests will experience each moment of your wedding day and crafting an experience with them in mind is one of the most generous expressions of hospitality!


Writing a wedding brief, or how to start planning your wedding

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

merriment events richmond wedding planner

In a former life, I worked in advertising as a strategic planner. Planners are responsible for articulating the client/brand goals in a way that is compelling to the creative team (who will ultimately create the creative product) and in a way that is compelling to the audience (the people who will ultimately consume the work/the people who you want to communicate with). I think a lot about the creative briefs I used to write and how the format can be adapted to be a really useful tool for couples planning weddings. With SO much inspiration and so many ideas floating around, it’s good to focus, focus, focus. Hopefully asking yourself these questions and committing your answers to paper will help you focus your efforts and energy during your planning.

What’s the one thing we want to remember?

What’s the one thing we want our guests to remember?

We’re standing at the altar and we turn around to look at the congregation, these are the people we hope to see…

Three words that describe us as a couple…

If we imagine the look and feeling of our wedding, we’d use these three words to describe it….

These are the things we can’t live without. They’re mandatory….

Our budget is…

Now, go pick three images that match up with your vision for your wedding. Not 300. 3. They can be of anything…interiors, food, clothing. Use those three to remind yourself of where you’re going when you’re in inspiration overload.

photo of Katie and Max’s wedding by Jodi Miller Photography

word of the week: first look

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Classic Richmond Wedding The Jefferson

First look photographs happen before the ceremony. They’re called “first look” because it is the first time you will see each other as bride and groom in your gown and suit. First look photographs are wonderful if you’re tight on time following the ceremony, or if you’d rather spend your time cocktailing rather than photographing. But, they’re nearly crucial during fall or winter months when the sun sets earlier. First look photos allow you to take advantage of natural light outdoors, rather than having to rely on artificial lighting to light your portraits indoors.

above: Ashley and Paul seeing each other for the first time at The Jefferson before their ceremony at University of Richmond. Photography by Don Mears.

Three things that will make your party a success (and they have nothing to do with pretty details, although I’m a fan of those too)

Monday, March 21st, 2011

merriment events

1. Your guests and their experience are paramount. Keep your guests in the forefront of your mind as you plan. That means keeping cocktail hour to an hour; starting the ceremony on time; anticipating your guests’ needs — if it’s going to be hot during your outdoor ceremony, have cool drinks waiting for your guests.

2. Edit, edit, edit. Style does not come from adding on. It comes from editing and being true to your vision.

3. Don’t establish a vision for your event and a guest list before you know what things cost in your area. Do educate yourself on what things cost in your market and establish a budget and a guest list based on that information.

photo: Leo Patrone with styling by Merriment and flowers by JM Flora

Table cards and place cards

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

When you host a seated dinner there are two types of cards to consider: table cards and place cards.

Table cards are a must if you’re hosting a large seated dinner {i.e. more than one table}. They go on display in a place that is easily accessible to guests during cocktail hour. They communicate one crucial piece of info: what table your guests are to sit at during dinner. If you’re doing a traditional tented card, the name goes on the outside and the table number goes on the inside {see the first image}. There are lots of variations on table card design but be sure to include the guest’s name and the table number. To complicate things just a tad: table cards can also deliver another key piece of info…what meal your guests will be having for dinner. On the outside of the card, you can communicate the guest’s meal choice to the server with a symbol/ribbon/color of ink. Or you could use a stamp set like this one from paper source.

What is a place card?

Place cards go on place settings. They tell guests where to sit once they’ve found their table. How did they find their table? With a table card. Unless you’re having a small dinner party {one table}, you can not do place cards alone. If you do use place cards and people at the table are meeting each other for the first time, it’s nice to put the guest’s name on both the front and the back of the card.

Moral of the story: table cards are a must. They get people to their destination. Place cards are optional unless you want to structure seating at each table.

{apple table cards by Michelle Rago via InStyle; fabric table cards via Elizabeth Anne Designs; lemon place card via Country Living; votive place card via Country Living}

sperry tents

Monday, July 12th, 2010

sperry tent

Last week I featured Boutique Tents, and you all fell in love! But, let me tell you about another tent I’m obsessing over…the Sperry Tent. Made of sailcloth and pine poles, the Sperry Tent is characterized by its high peaks, waving pennant flags and rounded corners. Our clients are just as in love with these little beauties as we are. Locally we work with Skyline Tent Company, who provided the images for this post.


"sperry tent" "skyline tent rental"

"sperry tent"

{images courtesy Skyline Tent Company}

cocktail and buffet receptions

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

It might surprise you to know that the most common dinner formats in the South are the buffet dinner or the cocktail reception. For whatever reason, we don’t see as many seated dinners here.

Deciding on your menu and the service format can be one of the most stressful parts of the planning process (and the one that has the biggest impact on your budget). Once you’ve chosen a venue, have determined the number of guests you’re inviting and the time of day for your event, the next thing to do is to decide what kind of meal you’d like to serve to your guests.

At a buffet dinner, all of your guests are seated. Unlike a seated dinner though, where the waiter presents the guest with the salad, entree and dessert, guests will make their way to the buffet and serve themselves. {I know it sounds rudimentary, but I always get questions about how a buffet is served!} Buffet dinners are good for casual events (think a farm wedding), although around here, we see buffets served at even the most formal of venues.

At a cocktail style reception, guests will mingle throughout the evening, enjoying “small plates.” In this format, you typically offer seating for about 40% of your guest list (you shouldn’t offer any more seating than that because it will send the wrong signal to guests about the food service format). I often explain to my clients that a good way to think of a cocktail style reception is to think of the parties you attend at Christmastime, where the hostess has set out a table of heavy appetizers for guests to graze on throughout the evening — cocktail receptions are much like that. Guests are meant to mingle, dance and enjoy conversation, grabbing a bite to eat here and there throughout the evening.

{first photo via Country Living; second photo by Carlos Andres Varela and Shane Carpenter for Elan Artists}

“Day-of” planning is a misnomer

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

If you’re considering hiring a planner to help you in the weeks leading up to your event, please interview planners knowing that “day-of” planning/coordination involves much, much more than the planner and her assistant simply arriving on site the day of your event.

The term “day-of” planning (or “day-of coordination”) gives a false perception of what it requires to professionally execute an event. Planners typically work more than thirty hours to execute “day-of.” At Merriment, we believe it’s not only our job to make sure that the day flows smoothly, but we also believe that it’s our responsibility (in that capacity) to confirm all of the arrangements you have made leading up to the event; to confirm your set-up plans with your vendors and venue; to help you with last minute arrangements that have fallen by the wayside (inevitably, transportation); to produce an agenda for the weekend that best serves you and your vendors; to have plan B’s for plan A’s; and to bring the expertise we’ve earned to your event – troubleshooting, managing and coordinating.

For that reason, many planners will require clients work with them for a minimum of hours or during a minimum time period leading up to the event – for us six weeks out from the date.

{image by Worthington Photography from Jolene’s wedding}

wedding packages at venues

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

If you’re considering a venue that offers an inclusive “wedding package,” be sure you do your homework and ask questions, so you know exactly what you’re being charged for and why. For example, if the venue offers you “x” vendor as a part of the package price (i.e. “xyz” florist comes with this venue), ask if there is a fee to go “off” of the package in order to book a vendor you might prefer. If there are parts of the package that you will not be taking advantage of, a champagne toast maybe, ask if the venue will issue credits. Be sure to ask how the bar package will work and if you can negotiate for guests who will not be drinking (underage guests). If the venue offers to handle rentals for you (let’s say you want to switch out their chairs for an upgrade to chiavari), ask if there will be a “handling” fee for the venue to coordinate rentals.

All fees should be transparent, no matter the vendor or venue. Some venues are more flexible than others; if you love the venue but you don’t love the package so much, ask if the venue can create a custom proposal for you based on your needs.

Related to this topic…Holly Chapple wrote a really brilliant post about preferred vendor lists on her blog, The Full Bouquet. Check it out here.

{a pretty package wrapped by yours truly + photographed by Katie Stoops}

Harmony with your venue

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

When you’re choosing the design for your wedding (or any event, for that matter), it’s always best to let the design flow from the vibe your venue. In other words, don’t fight what makes your venue unique by designing something that’s in conflict with the tone and feeling of the space. For example, our client Natalie is hosting her wedding reception at Crittenden Studio. The image below is the introduction to the design deck we put together for her. The color palette and the art direction of the event plays off the color palette of the space and the venue’s sensibility.

Merriment Events Richmond, Virginia Wedding Planner