Archive for March, 2010

Wedding Planning Budget and Your Wedding Planning Checklist

Monday, March 29th, 2010


In my previous post I discussed some of the preliminary steps when planning a wedding reception and thought I would now provide more detail in regards to the wedding planning budget and determining a wedding planning checklist since most often the two are intertwined.

It is always best when determining your wedding planning budget to start with an initial number and decide what elements you want t include at your wedding reception.  For example, I am working with a bride right now who had a preliminary budget in mind and found her wedding reception venue.  From there she was able to create her wedding planning checklist to include the elements most important to her.

Thus, with an $18,000 wedding planning budget that included the ceremony, luncheon, open bar, cake and wedding reception venue, this bride had an additional $12,000 to spend for her wedding reception.  Her wedding planning checklist for the basic remaining elements for her wedding day include the following:

Wedding Reception Flowers – Her idea is a twist on the usual table flowers.  The bride wishes to use the money normally reserved for table flowers and have a simple inexpensive table arrangement and then donate the balance of the flower budget to charity.

Invitations, Escort Cards and Thank You Cards – This is an area in which you can save on your wedding planning budget by creating these elements yourself on the computer or use a local stationary store or on-line service.

DJ – A DJ is less expensive than hiring a band as well as musicians for the ceremony and cocktail hour.

Gown – Can always rent versus buying a gown and then not have to worry about cleaning or storage!

Make-up and Hair – So many choices since make-up and hair is so personal. Most often, the least expensive mode for hair and makeup is to go to the salon versus having someone come to the wedding reception venue that day.

Photographer – Always nice to have a professional, but if you are finding your budget running low and you know someone who can handle the job, then you can chance it.  My recommendation is to interview different photographers at all different rate levels and select the one that best suits your purposes.  Maybe if funds are low, the professional photographer can do the ceremony and family shots and then friends or family can take the wedding reception shots.

Officiate – Got to have one to make it legal.  No way around this no matter what your budget is.

Of course there are additional items that can be added to your wedding planning budget such as party favors, specialty lighting, room décor and specialty rentals.  (For more information and cost-saving tips about these items, check out Budget Bash.) However, the above listed items are the basics of a wedding planning checklist, and most often, including the wedding reception venue, comprise the majority of the wedding reception budget.

I hope you found these tips helpful and until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun and economical for all!

How to Plan a Wedding

Monday, March 22nd, 2010


There are so many steps involved when planning a wedding.  In fact, it can be overwhelming and stressful for someone unfamiliar with special event planning.  I was asked by Great Places Directory to write about wedding planning and this article is the beginning of a series that will help explain how to plan a wedding.

One of the first steps when planning a wedding is to determine your wedding planning budget.  It is important to be realistic with this budget – don’t expect caviar and champagne and yet only spend what you would for hamburgers and beer!

No matter what type of wedding you are planning you must decide in the beginning how much you want to spend and stick to that budget.  This dollar amount will help you stay on track with your wedding and make your life a lot easier.  If something doesn’t fit in the budget, then you will need to take creative steps to find alternatives or eliminate it all together.  (More cost-saving tips can be found in Budget Bash.)

As a special event planning coordinator, I am often asked how to plan a wedding and when to start a wedding planning budget.  My first response is to consider all aspects of the wedding itself from the dress and invitations, to the venue, the menu as well as the guest favors.  In fact, here are some of the basic budget line items to consider when planning a wedding:

Invitations, escort cards and thank you cards
Food and Beverage
Venue Fees – including parking and ceremony site
Officiate Fee
Music for ceremony and reception
Event Rentals such as a special chair, linen or upgraded china to name a few
Room Décor and upgraded lighting
Photographer and Videographer
Special event planning or wedding coordinator fee
Party Favors
Hair and Makeup
Special Event Insurance

With each one of these line items, there are numerous options a bride should take into account when she starts to consider how to plan a wedding for herself and her fiancée.  And don’t forget, these days many fiancées want to be part of the wedding planning process as well.

In the upcoming articles on this topic, I will provide more details on the wedding planning budget in efforts to help ease your stress when planning a wedding.  Wedding planning is a job within itself and it is important to consider all aspects of the special event planning budget so that your lasting wedding day memories are a joy to remember.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun and economical for all!

Outdoor Wedding Venue in Santa Monica CA

Thursday, March 18th, 2010


Earlier this week I was at an event at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica CA.  I think this space offers some nice options as an outdoor wedding venue.

Wolfgang Puck Catering provided the delicious food at the event.  We were served a variety of interesting and creative appetizers from spicy tuna sushi cones to mint-pea soup with crap served in an egg shell as well as blue red velvet mini cupcakes for dessert.  Keeping with an outdoor wedding venue theme, they also served raspberry lychee nut lemonade.


It is important when selecting a wedding venue especially an outdoor wedding venue to consider the weather, time of year and your location.   You want to ensure you have an alternative if the weather is not cooperating on your special day.

Other important details to consider with an outdoor wedding venue are the cost of event rentals, catering and lighting to name a few as well as any noise or permitting issues.   More details on wedding planning on a budget can be found in Budget Bash – Simply Fabulous Events on a Budget.

What I liked about the Annenberg Community Beach House is that it offers many on-site alternatives whether for an outdoor wedding venue or an interior wedding space.  There is a private home on the property for rent as well as an outdoor pool area.   When considering wedding planning on a budget, you can easily plan a small wedding with lovely cocktails and appetizers with the spectacular Pacific Ocean just a few hundred feet away.

Other wedding planning on a budget options at this location include accessible guest parking as well as tables and chairs on site.  The floor to ceiling windows are a great decor bonus since the view to the ocean can’t be beat.

I hope you found these tips for wedding planning on a budget as well as my experience at this outdoor wedding venue helpful.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun and economical to all!

Corporate Conference Planning for a Skin Care Company

Monday, March 15th, 2010


Many of the same steps required for corporate event planning can also be translated to corporate conference planning.  We were recently hired by the skin care company, Aesthetics Plus to produce a training day for their estheticians here in Los Angeles.

We started out by asking what the budget was for this corporate conference, then researched venues and selected a final round of three corporate event planning sites that would meet the needs of this skin care company.  Aesthetics Plus decided upon having their conference at the Los Angeles Music Center, a Patina Group venue.  (Other important event planning budget requirements can be found on pages 5-10 in Budget Bash.)

This corporate conference for aesthetician training purposes included a meet and greet, information about the skin care company and the latest skin care product information, product sales and guest speakers to name a few of the corporate event planning elements.  And let’s not forget the all important lunch catered by Patina Catering.

One of the important elements in producing this corporate conference was to create an elegant event within the provided budget parameters.  The skin care company wanted to ensure that for their initial conference, a polished event look and feel was established as a footprint for future corporate event planning conferences.

When I walked into the room this morning, I was wowed by the transformation of the event site by the client’s use of signage and product placement.  They even had a signature chocolate candy bar at each place setting for that middle of the day “pick-me-up.”

To keep the conference moving and stay within the time allotment of the room rental, we decided to serve a box lunch which met all dietary restrictions.  It is important with all events whether they are social or involve corporate event planning that each attendee’s dietary needs are met whether they are vegetarian or not.  We did this by offering a selection of the following:  Cobb salad, turkey sandwich or fresh tomato, buffalo mozzarella cheese and basil sandwich.  Each lunch was served with bottled water in addition to ice tea.

To make sure each attendee received the correct lunch, we not only labeled the lunches at the buffet, but the skin care company also labeled the attendees’ name tags with their luncheon selection.

Finally, it is important for any corporate conference that the attendees can easily find the venue where the conference is taking place.   Aesthetics Plus accomplished this by providing a link on their invitation to the event site’s directional website.  I can’t begin to tell you as a guest how many times I have been either lost or late to an event because of poor directions or a wrong address.  It is always best during the event planning process to ensure the correct venue address is provided, and if possible, an accurate site map as well.

Again, whether you are planning a social event or a corporate conference, many of the same corporate event planning elements are involved.  Learning upfront the client’s budget and sticking to it, ensuring that all guests are comfortable with the selection of food provided at the event and that the guests receive the correct address and most current driving directions in order to arrive to the event on time.

This skin care company met these requirements and provided a great atmosphere for their attendees to learn and have fun in.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra:  make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun and economical for all!

Using Succulent Plants as St Patrick’s Day Decorations

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010


In keeping with the green theme for your St Patricks Day party, I thought I would provide you with some ideas for your dinner table decorations using succulent plants.  However, please note that in this article about St Patrick’s Day decorations, green will be referred to as good for the environment green.

Daily we are reminded about our environment and the importance of recycling, reusing and reducing everything we use.  Florists and restaurants are now getting on board with this mantra as well.  Recently, I have noticed various restaurants using succulent plants as table decorations on their dining room tables.  Bar arrangements and front desk floral arrangements are incorporating succulents as well.

According to Sherene Hulugalle, (who’s flowers are featured in this article), owner of Wisteria Lane Flower Shop, the idea of using succulent plants for table decorations is that once the flowers fade, the succulents can be re-planted and will keep growing.  Also, succulents don’t use as much water and will last longer and their colors will be more vibrant.

Another fact about succulent plants is that they last a long time as long as they are in well drained soil and watered regularly. They can thrive indoors as long as they have indirect sunlight.


Here are a few ideas for table decorations for your St Patrick’s Day party.  Incorporate succulent plants with cymbidium orchids in a flower arrangement as seen above.  The green aspect will be the succulents and to bring a bit of color in, use a pink orchid in the arrangement for your St Patrick’s Day decorations. (Other simple flower ideas can be found in Budget Bash – Simply Fabulous Events on a Budget.)

Using wheat grass is another idea incorporating green table decorations at your St Patrick’s Day party.  Use wheat grass on your dinner table and then place votive candles sporadically within the grass.  At the 5th Annual SAG Awards, we did this type of flower arrangement on the tables.

Be sure to place something underneath the wheat grass to keep the table dry.  Also, I suggest you use tea light votive candles to ensure there is plenty of room from the flame to the top of the glass votive candle holder.

Why not add a bit of color to your wheat grass arrangement with succulent plants?  You can place Zwartkop which has hues of purple within the grass.  Or you can also use a pretty ribbon and tie clusters of succulent plants such as Echeveria and then place them on the table.  Surround the Echeveria with black rocks to add texture and contrast to your St Patrick’s Day decorations.

Another idea is to place a row of simple one potted Carmen succulent plants down the center of the table for décor.  Then incorporate a combination of green and white votive candles along with pillar candles.  This centerpiece will bring a sophisticated look to your St Patricks Day party table decorations while keeping within the green theme.

I hope you found these ideas for St Patrick’s Day decorations using succulent plants helpful for your table decorations and until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun and economical to all!

Vegan Dishes Preview for the PCRM 25th Anniversary Gala

Sunday, March 7th, 2010


We had our tasting for the PCRM 25th Anniversary Gala on Friday at The Lot, and as the special event planner, I wanted to share with you one of the vegan dishes we will be serving at the event.

As a tray passed appetizer, one of the vegan dishes featured will be this Vegetable Samosa with a Serrano Chili Dipping Sauce.   Of course, as the special event planner, I had to try more than one to ensure the guests at the event will enjoy the food!

Working as the special event planner for the past year on this event, I have learned so much about vegan dishes, the importance of a plant-based diet to prevent heart disease, diabetes and other health-related issues as well as the unnecessary need for labs to use animals for medical testing.

For some more simple yet delicious recipes for vegan dishes, look up pages 98 to 106 in Budget Bash, a book I wrote that compiles my 15 plus years of special event planner experience.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra:  keep it simple, delicious, stylish, fun and economical to all!

Party Ideas for Green Events on St Paddy’s Day

Friday, March 5th, 2010


Party event planners are always looking for the next best thing for their events all the time, no matter if they are private parties, weddings or corporate functions.  More demands are made daily for party planners to create green events and since St Paddy’s Day is close at hand why not create an easy St. Patrick’s Day themed green event?

Green events are becoming more common and when party event planners are asked to produce a green event the first keywords to remember should be to reduce, recycle and reuse various components of a previous event.  For St Paddy’s Day party décor, dust off those green candles from your December holiday parties.  As party favors, why not give away small tree samplings that your guests can plant and watch grow throughout the years?

Other green event party décor ideas include creating place card holders with corks from previously opened champagne and wine bottles.  Don’t have enough corks?  Then just ask a few neighborhood restaurants to save some for you a few days or weeks before your party St Paddy’s Day party.

Make it easy on yourself with invitations and send out e-invites.  There are many websites now that feature this service for free.

Still like mailed invitations?  Why not use seeded paper and after the party, either you or your guests can plant the invitations and watch them grow into potted plants a literal take on green events.  (Other invitation suggestions and advice can be found on pages 15 to 19 in Budget Bash.)

Caterers are also leaning more towards green events when working with party event planners.  More and more caterers now look to local suppliers and farmers to provide the produce and equipment for their green event and in turn, this action cuts down on the event’s carbon footprint.  Creating a menu with seasonal food is another means caterers are using to help promote green events.

It’s not hard to produce a green event even for novice party event planners: it just takes a bit of thought, product exploration and flexibility.  In fact, here is a fun green-themed cocktail party menu to consider for your St Paddy’s Day party.

Cocktail Party Menu

 Green Vegetable Crudités with Warm Artichoke Dip

Pesto Cheese Tortellini Skewers

Chipotle Chili Cheese Poppers

Stuffed Grape Leaves Drizzled with Olive Oil

 Mini-Spinach Salad Cups


Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches

Green Apple Bites Covered with Caramel


Apple Martini

Mint Iced Tea and Green Tea

Many of these menu items can be bought already prepared at your local market or deli.  The recipe for the artichoke dip along with other menus, recipes, party planning ideas and advice can be found in Budget Bash.

I hope you found these ideas for green events helpful for your St Paddy’s Day celebration and until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun and economical to all!

Easy Vegan Recipes for Vegetable Side Dishes on Saint Patrick Day

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010


Saint Patrick Day is just around the corner so why not take a healthful approach to what you serve with these easy vegan recipes for vegetable side dishes.  Celebrating with holiday parties is fun and since there will be plenty of green beer to sip on make sure to include some fresh healthful food for your event.

It’s easy and cool to offer shot glasses filled with celery or asparagus soup.  Asparagus soup is one of the many easy vegan recipes that you can do the night before and then after work, simply take the soup out of the fridge, fill your shot glasses and serve on Saint Patrick Day.

How about green olive tapenade on a toasted sourdough baguette?  For holiday parties on Saint Patrick Day this dip can be made a few days in advance and again, just pull it out of the fridge prior to guest arrival and serve either already topped on the baguette or as one of your vegetable side dishes. (Recipe for olive tapenade can be found on page 83 in Budget Bash.)

Other vegetable side dishes your friends would enjoy on Saint Patrick Day are a cucumber salad with balsamic vinaigrette, Waldorf salad, fennel and mint salad or a cucumber and seaweed salad.

Of course, keeping it vegan and real let’s not forget a bowl of edaname either cold or warm with or without salt.  All of these easy vegan recipes mentioned for your holiday parties won’t take much time and some can be made well in advanced, refrigerated overnight and then quickly transferred into fun and simple serving dishes as vegetable side dishes.

Roasted Asparagus Soup Recipe

2 1/2 lbs. thin asparagus, trimmed & cut into 2″ pieces
2 leaks, white & light green parts only, cleaned and finely chopped
2 T. Olive Oil
salt & pepper to taste
2 1/2 C. vegetable broth
Chives for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a heavy roasting pan, combine asparagus, leeks, olive oil , slat and pepper.  Mix to combine.

Roast, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 35 minutes or until leeks are golden brown & asparagus are tender.

Transfer the vegetables to a blender and add the broth.  Process until completely pureed, taste to adjust seasonings.

Pour soup into shot glasses & garnish with chives if desired.

Waldorf Salad Recipe

3-4 Granny Smith Apples
2 Celery stalks, thinly sliced
4 oz. walnut pieces or pecans chopped
Mixed greens if desired
French vinaigrette dressing

Cut a few slices of apple with the skin on for decoration and then peel and core the rest of the apple and cut into thin strips.  Toss the apple slices in lemon juice to prevent apples from turning brown.

Add the chopped celery, apple slices, nuts and mixed greens and toss with French vinaigrette.

French Vinaigrette Dressing Recipe

2 tbs. Dijon mustard
2 tbs champagne vinegar
6 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix ingredients in a cruet and serve with salad.

I hope you found these easy vegan recipes for vegetable side dishes fun to make for your holiday parties on Saint Patrick Day.  Until next time, remember the Budget Bash mantra: make it simple, delicious, stylish, fun and economical to all!