Thursday, November 29, 2018

Safety in Paradise

With so many of our couples booking their honeymoons and destination weddings next year I wanted to share some travel tips and tricks with you and them!  I’ve been traveling down to the Caribbean by myself several times a year for the past SIX years.  Never, have I once felt threaten, scared or afraid but I also am very smart about traveling alone. 

I know my dad gets onto me all the time about my social media posts and “letting everyone know” where I am…but isn’t that a good thing?  I know my home is secure between my two “attack dogs” (okay those might actually lick you to death before eating you alive…lol), but really between my mom stopping by to check in on them during the day, my roommate and boyfriend there in the evenings and fabulous neighbors that know when I’m traveling… my home is as secure if I’m there or not… plus if someone wants anything I’ve got they need it more than me and I’ll just pray for them. 

If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I would be traveling alone to the Caribbean I would have probably laughed and said “yeah right.”  But since joining the Association of Bridal Consultants a little over 6 years ago I’ve traveled more in these past few years than my entire lifetime!  I’m blessed to be partnered with Sandals & Beaches Resorts and try to go and see as many properties as I can so I can get to know the staff and experience the resort first hand.  Now I travel to lots of conferences throughout the US but honestly I feel the safest traveling outside of the country…. Crazy right?

Not at all!  I’m just smart about my travels and you can too!  Here’s some of my travel tricks & tips to stay safe on your next adventure whether it’s local or my preference out of the country:

·         Book your travels through a TRAVEL AGENT or Certified Specialist!  It won’t cost you anything extra but they know the area, city/country and the resorts they are sending you to! 

Did you know I am Sandals & Beaches Silver Level Certified Specialist both in honeymoons, travel and destination weddings?  I’ve been to majority of the properties (hoping to see the few I haven’t in 2019)…and IF I didn’t love the property, know the staff, feel welcomed, comfortable and safe… I wouldn’t be partnered with them nor would I send people down to the Caribbean every month! 


I’ve never felt safer than when on property… why is that? Well, I contact the resort General Manager, Sales Team, Hotel Manager, and the Wedding Team prior to my arrival to let them know I’ll be on property and that I would personally love a tour of the property and that I want to meet any staff I haven’t met prior.  I already know all of the GM’s in the Caribbean because I’ve met them over lunch, dinners, meetings and Familiarization Trips (FAMS), so it’s easy for me to chat with them.  They also always know when one of my couples are headed their way because I want them to check in on them, get to know them and make my couples feel like the ROCKSTARS they are!  I also reach out to my couples’ butlers prior to their arrival also and get to know them…it’s just that extra step I do to make my couples’ guest experience stand out.

·         Although Sandals & Beaches offer a FREE shuttle to and from the airport, I usually pay a little extra and book a private transfer for those resorts further away.  This gives me again more one on one personal touches with the community and I book that through Island Routes.  This way they can assist me with luggage and teach me about the 
island culture along my journey to the resort if further than 
10-15 minutes from the airport. 

          Traveling to Jamaica…DEFINITELY book the Club Mobay Bundle Package! I will
       never travel through Jamaica without that!  As one of my couples this fall said: “I’m not sure what is better Club Mobay fast track through Jamaican customs or the fast track at Disney!?!?” ~Truth!  They greet you right after you get off the plane, they walk you through customs (private fast track line) by passing everyone else, they help with your luggage and take you to the Sandals lounge where you are greeted by the Sandals team awaiting your arrival.  Again I always book this for my couples through Island Routes.

      ·         I book all off resort excursions through Island Routes… there are soooo many adventures to experience while on an island!  Although the resorts offer free snorkeling and other fun activities & entertainment… it’s off of the resort you really get a feel for Island Life!  Just be smart and always book through your Travel Agent or while on resort with Island Routes so that they will be there for all of the transfers, adventures and you are among the safety of their staff the entire time. 

·         Be wise when selecting your room.  I have had some that loved a walkout to the beach…but just remember to keep your doors locked when you’re not close by (again safety first).  I have some that prefer a balcony higher up for better views and again safety reasons.  I’ve stayed in all levels of rooms, ground walkout, penthouse, luxury, club, butler and again…I’ve never felt uneasy or unsafe.  I just remember to lock all of my doors both balcony and my deadbolt prior to bedtime or while I’m in the shower (again safety first).

·         Plus I post about my adventures and check in with family and friends during my stay.  That’s really how my family and friends trust I’m safe.  I know it definitely calms my mom’s nerves when I post constantly!  (plus it helps me tell the story of that resort and usually couples and friends are asking me about that particular resort before I even get home…bonus!)

So use these few safety tips & tricks and you’ll have a blast on your next adventure. I personally can’t wait for my next trip back home away from home… until then I’m counting the days. AND if you need assistance in booking that adventure please feel free to reach out to me directly:

Direct cell: 910-617-2271


Military both active and veterans receive 10% discount

Firefighters that are part of the Union receive 10% discount

Sandals & Beaches offer a FREE night stay for Anniversaries (7 days or more)

Sandals & Beaches offers FREE weddings for 4 days or more

Beaches has an Autism Program that is AMAZING w/ Julia

~ask me for details~

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

First Dance With Florence

We are honored that Natalie from #FOX8 called us earlier today to check in and see how we are handling #Florence… especially since she interviewed me during Hurricane Irma last year exactly the SAME weekend…. I told her we’re planning for worst, hoping for the best and we’ll see what Florence gives us to work with as she gets closer.  Same as last year one of our wedding party members is from the location of the hurricane… last year it was a groomsmen from Florida; this year one of our bridesmaids has an ocean front house on the NC coast…so leaving and not knowing what you may or may not return is scary!   Wanna really know the #lifeofaplanner:

It's been a busy week...

ü  All last weekend we watched the news updates closely as Florence inched her way to NC coastline...

ü  Monday starting around 6:45am we began contacting vendors and making plans for options to move our once planned outdoor wedding to an indoor magical intimate affair (which is going to be STUNNING!)

ü  Monday at noon spoke to our bride about all of our options with vendors for her approval... She was moved by how we came together as a team and she knew she didn't need to worry about the professional team

ü  Tuesday around the storm shifts once again... we felt it was smarter to make sure everyone traveled to & from the venue in daylight so we decided to move the wedding from 5pm to 2pm...

ü  Tuesday we worked to ensure all vendors could shift times without any issues... the flexibility of our team is AMAZING!

ü  Tuesday evening... our couple personally contacts each and every guests letting them know of the changes.... out of 125 guests.... ALL LOVED the idea of the new time, only 4 are no longer able to come due to flights, 6 are waiting until Friday to decide.... #theshowmustgoon (as my bride posted)

ü  Wednesday...It looks like Florence is Wobbling into SC first then possibly heading back to NC… so we’re still keeping our eyes on her but we’ve sent final schedules out to all of our vendors and printing our copies for the weekend….just in case we lose power (fingers cross we don’t)

ü  Thursday- We moved all of our deliveries for Thursday to avoid any issues if things shift again…we’ll be watching Florence to see what her path looks like for Saturday BUT ALSO Sunday early morning because we are

also handling our sweet couple’s Sandals Honeymoon in Jamaica.  So we’ve got to see if we need to switch flights from Charlotte to Greensboro or Raleigh.  Time will only tell because no one really knows what exactly when, where and/or how bad.

ü  Friday- we’re looking forward to a beautiful rehearsal and the kickoff for a great wedding weekend!  We want to continue to keep everyone in our thoughts and prayers as we are impacted with what’s yet to come.  #StaySafe

ü  Saturday…. It’s Wedding Day…. And they will get their #FirstdancewithFlorence

ü  Sunday…fly off to paradise!

It’s been a busy week and we’ve not only been handling this wedding but we’ve been preparing our home & our office for Florence and any aftermath of hers… here’s our look at our safety checklist we completed earlier today:

We just set a plan for the week:

ü  Move all patio cushions into garage (this allows wind to move through furniture)

ü  Move smaller loose furniture to garage

ü  Clear all patio furniture to edges of fence in backyard

ü  Cut back tree branches

ü  Bring flags & wind chimes in

ü  Fill gas tanks in cars

ü  Fill propane tank on grill

ü  Pick up 2-3 cases of water, snacks,  and batteries

ü  Take photos of each room of the house and save/store online

ü  Charge all cell phones, tablets and laptops

ü  Wash laundry by thurs night

ü  Wash dishes by thurs night

ü  Get extra-large zip lock bags and extra trash bags and cleaning supplies

ü  Make sure your bills/payments are out on the mail by Tuesday...

ü  Update vendors-moving wedding inside

ü  Print all wedding schedules by thurs am

ü  Back up info on iCloud and zip drives

ü  Print all school assignments and readings

ü  get ahead on all assignments and readings

ü  On top of everything, we’re also preparing to fly out to Sandals to tour Barbados next week so we’re watching the tropics for Isaac and we’ve gotta pack for that too!

*praying we don't need any of these... and all of these supplies could be used if we don't... but they are comparing this to Hugo, Fran, and other major storms

If you didn’t think that was enough…we’ve got another couple honeymooning in Jamaica currently and they’ve been giving me day by day Beautiful Sunny updates…

If this blog doesn’t share with you thousands of reasons WHY you should hire a FULL PROFESSIONAL team… then just ask the dozens of DIY couples that have already canceled their big day this weekend because they couldn’t remain calm and handle the chaos.  Florence keeps telling me the “storm” is coming… what she doesn’t know is “I AM THE STORM” & a force to be reckoned with…  our ultimate goal is focus on what’s the most important part of this entire weekend… to have our couple leave for their honeymoon married and full of magical memories!  I am determined to make it happen~

Friday, September 7, 2018

1000 reasons WHY to hire professional Catering Companies!

Advice I have learned just this summer alone from one of my past weddings that decided our preferred catering was a little pricey and they wanted to allow an "up & coming catering company from their church" is one any planner and/or couple should take note on:

DON’T go cheap on the catering & food!  People will remember leaving hungry or so hung over from not eating!  Plus they will remember if you run out of food or if the food was horrible. 

So here’s a few tips we suggest avoid any Catering issues:

TRUST YOUR PLANNER...if a planner/venue says they "recommend or prefer" a certain company....there is a reason!!!

·         Everyone should drink Lots of water the week of your wedding.

·         Eat a delicious meal at your rehearsal dinner.  When I was younger we'd always "fuel up" the night before a track meet or soccer game....same concept!

·         Start your day off with a hearty meal & a bottle of water!  Provide breakfast if hair & make-up begins early.  Send biscuits over to the guys before they go out golfing or for their morning activity. Make sure the hotel you have your vendors in (and hotel room block) offers a free HOT breakfast.

·        Have lunch delivered where everyone is getting ready and include your hair & 

make-up team in the headcount.  Send over a pizza or subs over to the venue where your vendors are busy setting everything up.  IF YOUR “TEAM” IS FUELED your day will be FUELED! 


  Think of it as a marathon…not a sprint…. Lots of water and snacks all day!

o   Surprise your vendors with a cooler of juices, Gatorades, water & sodas and a basket of snacks at the venue

o   Have a cooler of nonalcoholic drinks and basket of snacks in each area the wedding party is getting ready in.
*We even love surprising our staff with ice cream on the hot days!!!

·         If your wedding is outside offer small bottles of water and/or lemonade on warmer days and hot cocoa and/or warm apple cider on cooler days.

·         Make sure to offer appetizers at cocktail hour… more than just crackers & cheese!  (*plus those look really gross in hot summer months sitting outside in the sun) You never want you guest drinking on an empty stomach.

·         Offer plated salads or family style salads & bread baskets when guests first take their seats.  This will prevent some guests from just getting up for the buffet and majority will wait for their table to be called.

·         Talk to your catering team to decide which type of meal is BEST for your reception.

o   Large crowd?  Two double-sided buffets may be best               

o   Do you have a lot of elderly, guests with disabilities, small children?  A plated meal would be best for this audience

o   Ask your catering team to provide “kid friendly” plates for kids to save on money and create a guest experience for the little ones too!

o   Do you have a small guest count? Action stations and/or food trucks may be a great option

·         Other tips for your catering company?

o   Hire professionals that only focus on one service at a time.  If they are doing too many things and offering too many services WE see that as a RED FLAG!!!  UNLESS they have an EMPIRE behind them taking on each role.  ONE person cannot give 100% of themselves to multiple tasks at one time… so be hesitant to book a vendor that is your “Cheficciant”= your chef and your officiant OR a company that says they will be your chef, florist, rentals, bakery and venue… and THAT one person says they will personally be handling everything by themselves to save you money…. It takes a TEAM (a mini army) on wedding day! So make sure to ask them how many will be on property during the event... you should have a couple beverage attendants, some staff to clear dirty dishes, a few focused on buffet/stations and a lead chef in the back managing the whole crew... usually you want at least 1 per 20-25...for better service even more!

o   Make sure to give your catering team the RIGHT headcount.  YES they will always provide a few extra meals… but DO NOT BANK on those counts!

o   How professional is your catering team?

§  Does your catering team have a written contract?

·         Did you receive a formal invoice?

§  Where do they cook? Is it a commercially graded kitchen?

§  Have you seen a copy of their insurance and health department inspections?

§  Do they have a website?

§  Do they have reviews online?

§  Are they on preferred vendors/venue lists?

§  Are they a part of any associations, networking groups, and/or the local chamber group?

§  Were you able to do a taste test at their restaurant or did they come to you?

§  Is it just a drop off catering company or full service?

§  What will your catering team be arriving in?

·         Will they be able to haul off trash & recyclables if your venue requires?

§  How many staff will your catering team consist of? Again we can't stress this one enough!!!

·         What will they be wearing?

§  Who will be cleaning up? (taking out the trash)

o   Ask about the presentation. 

§  Does your catering team provide chaffing dishes & sternos?

§  Does your catering provide all of the display dishes or do they need to be rented?

§  What does their set-up look like?

§  Do they provide Hot boxes to keep food hot & coolers to keep food cold (or do they cook everything onsite)

·         How long prior to your event do they begin cooking

·         When will they arrive onsite

§  Will your catering team be providing china or plasticware for appetizers, dinner, salad, and desserts?

§  What about glassware for the bar & nonalcoholic beverages?

§  What about drink dispensers and pitchers (do they walk around and refill beverages)

§  Does you catering team provide linens, napkins, beverage straws, etc.? (do they own it or are they renting it?)

§  Does your catering provide bar set-ups, mixes, stir straws, beverage napkins, etc.?

·         ALWAYS provide your vendors with a HOT meal and a space for them to take a
quick break while you are eating (don’t worry, no one wants photos or video of them chewing either….)

·         Offer late night snacks… this is a great time to break out the cheese and crackers and fruit platter to go with wine and desserts

·         Think ahead…if you have a large hotel room block, ask the hotel to leave donuts or muffins with a thank you card in their rooms upon their return from your reception.

Now those are a few tips to have a successful wedding reception! 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Rustic Barn Overflowing with Love

Rustic Barn Overflowing With Love         

Just like every individual, every couple and wedding are different from all others. For Lindsey and Mitch, the focus of their special day was not only their love for one another but for their families as well. They used their collective creativity to share that love with their family, friends, and honored guests. With the use of beautiful flowers, lanterns, and photos from their past the couple brought their special day together to join each other, and proudly honor their passed loved ones.

As you entered Millikan Farms on this beautiful sunny day, you could feel a light breeze blowing off the lake backing up to the property, you could see the beautiful garland draped down the stairwell leading up to the ceremony, as well as a magnificent chandelier hanging above the ceremony. As you went up the stairs the aisle was lined by photos of the couple through the years hanging on the end chair surrounded by flowers. The Memory table was off to the right out of the sight of the bride, Lindsey, as she came down the aisle; and front and center of the room stood a backdrop made of three handmade wooden doors, that Mitch made just for their special day.
Lindsey asked KYAE to move the memory table out of her line of sight coming to the altar at the rehearsal because just a few weeks before the wedding her grandmother passed away. She shared that it had been an unexpected loss and that her Grandmother was on the memory table. Because Lindsey was already upset that her Grandmother would not be there for her special day she recognized that it would without a doubt upset her before the ceremony to see the photo of her grandma. So, the KYAE team moved the table back so family could visit it before the ceremony and again while guests were participating at cocktail hour so that the ones who may have missed it would see the table going through the appetizer line.

Mitch made so many beautiful items for the wedding starting with the massive doors that were used as the backdrop for their ceremony, they were so large it took a team of six men to get them down after the evening was finally over. But he also made three sizes of lanterns that were used as table centerpieces, these also held flowers. All of this was beautiful and wonderful but it was something far more simple that set this whole day apart.

Lindsey and Mitch were married the day before Mother’s Day, and this was what made this wedding special, they used the holiday to bring their whole family together. After all of the first dances, the couple asked anyone with their mother present to come to the dance floor with her and dance, this resulted in large circles of people hugging and dancing with one another, and almost every guest on the dance floor with the couple. This may sound like some small thing but it was easily the most moving dance I have ever witnessed. I love that Lindsey and Mitch used their special day to honor their mothers and loved ones that are not here anymore. 

Flowers: Flowers By Gary
Linens, and Chairs: Party Reflections
Cake and Cupcakes: Cakes by Manfred
Dessert Bar: Family and Friends
Photographer: C Saul Photography
Videographer: Carolina Wedding Films
Party Favors: Etsy
Hair and Makeup: Updos Studio

By SUmmer Intern Alex