DC Wedding Planning: When to Splurge or Save

As a DC wedding planner, I spend a great deal of time advising our couples, so that their big day can be all that they’re envisioning and so much more. One area where initial questions come up a lot is the wedding budget, and what items to splurge or save on. The Knot reported in 2017, the average cost of a wedding was $33,391, with higher spenders (those spending an average of $60,000 or more on their weddings) spending an average of $105,130 on their wedding day. The study further reported that the average for Washington DC/Northern Virginia/Suburban Maryland was $39,465. Our sensational couples, on average, budget $35,000 - $100,000+ for their wedding, while planning for 75 - 250+ guests.

Navigating wedding budgets can be overwhelming for couples to do alone, especially when they have no point of reference for how much wedding essentials are on average. This is why I happily talk budget with couples during our complimentary consultations and of course throughout the planning process, so you can feel at ease knowing you have a wedding expert in your corner that can provide sound advice on your wedding investment. For many weddings, the biggest bulk of the budget is spent on the reception - more specifically venue/catering, with florals/design generally next.

For couples working with a more modest and specific budget and wanting to avoid going into debt as you start your marriage, the question then becomes what should you splurge or save on, in order to still have a sensational wedding? Well, I’m glad you asked…here are a few initial options to ponder:

SAVE - Food and Beverage options

Exploring different food and bar menu options is helpful to uncover possible savings. For example, choosing 3 versus 5 passed hors d’oeuvres for cocktail hour and a choice of entree for guests versus duet plates. Also, whether you have an alcoholic or non-alholic bar, it’s best to have beverages available for the entirety of the cocktail hour and the reception (with the exception of last call 30 minutes to 1 hour before the end of the wedding). However, options such as signature drinks, consumption bar, and BWS (beer, wine and soda) over a full premium open bar may be easier on your wallet, especially if your guests aren’t heavy drinkers.

SPLURGE - Your Top 3

When working with couples, I also ask them what are their top 3 priorities or must haves. For some it might be food, entertainment and florals. For others it might be venue, attire and guest experience. Whatever is most important to you two for your big day, focus the bulk of your budget there.

SAVE - Trim your guest list

The number one way to save is by starting with your guest list. While I’m sure your draft guest list may be 300 people, realistically if you’re working with a modest budget, feeding that many people alone is nearly impossible. I always encourage couples to think quality over quantity. Thus, envision sharing your day with the group of people who mean the most to you versus everyone you know.

SPLURGE - Calligraphy or typed guest addressing for invitations

Your invitation sets the tone for your wedding. Therefore, if you’ve selected a beautiful invitation, go all the way with it by ensuring you’ve selected a calligrapher to address the invitations or have the stationery vendor type your guests addresses.

SAVE - Utilize as much as you can that your venue provides

To achieve your wedding vision, there may be some rentals you want to bring in. However, definitely consider using some of the things the venue offers and ask questions about possible options they could provide that may not be listed in your package. For example, they may have chargers, china, flatware, stemware, linens, tables, toasting flutes, easels, staging/risers, cake knife and server, and more in-house or could acquire at an affordable rate through a third party, thus eliminating extra delivery fees and contracts for you.

SPLURGE - Hire a professional photographer and videographer

You can’t re-do this day, so don’t eliminate the 2 vendors who will capture these valuable memories for you, or worse, hire an amateur.

SAVE - Consider chatting with your florist about standard versus premium flowers and arrangements

Having a professional florist is essential for your big day, as flowers add so much beauty. When you have a smaller floral budget, being flexible with the type of fresh flowers can be really helpful. Also, alternating short and tall arrangements and incorporating candles is useful as well.

SPLURGE - Go for the elegant seating

If your venue doesn’t provide chiavari chairs, ghost chairs or other elegant seating for your guests, you may want to consider adding these to your rentals budget in lieu of chair covers. Elegant seating really does make all the difference in terms of wedding design.

SAVE - Things to have for the sake of having

Sometimes couples think certain wedding items are traditional staples that you must have, without realizing certain wedding staples have evolved. For example, who says you still have to have an aisle runner, cake topper, guest book, toss bouquet and garter, and the like. Many modern couples are shying away from these traditional items and adding more personalization to their day. Don’t do anything for your big day for the sake of doing it or tradition; instead incorporate only the things that matter to you most.

SPLURGE - Your attire

When you look good, you feel good! You should select wedding attire that you absolutely love, rather than settle for something that you don’t. Now, I will say, buying something that you love doesn’t mean you should buy something you can’t afford. I recommend setting an attire budget, and finding something you love within that budget. Save yourself heartbreak by avoiding looking at attire beyond your spending threshold.

SAVE - Transportation options

If your ceremony and reception are held at the same venue, you can save by skipping the fancy transportation. Many DC couples are using more economical and savvy options such as UberBLACK or UberSUV, which offers high end rides with professional drivers.

Last, but not least is a SPLURGE and SAVE regarding wedding planning. It pains me to hear a couple say they can’t afford a planner because essentially they don’t realize they can’t afford NOT to hire a planner. So I’ve detailed more about why you need a planner here. Now for couples who truly can’t afford a full-service planning option, you can save by choosing a partial planning or even month of planning package. While more work will be required on your part with both options, you’ll still get the expertise of a planner that you need and more guidance on the many more other items to splurge or save on.

I hope you’ve found these options helpful! Share below other things you’re considering splurging or saving on.

Sensationally yours,




Top Qualities of Our Sensational Couples

As a DC wedding planner (and destination too), I’m in the thick of engagement season and loving every minute of hearing excited couples share their love stories and plans for their big day! Happy New Year to all the engaged couples reading this, and I hope that 2019 is treating you great so far!

Sensational Couple photographed by Underwood Photography

Sensational Couple photographed by Underwood Photography

Nothing thrills me more than bringing our clients' dreams to reality. I pride myself on truly getting to know each couple, what they like, their love story and vision and how our team can best lend our expertise. This relationship building has helped me to discover the top qualities and preferences of our sensational couples. You’re likely to be a perfect match for us and us for you, if you and your fiancé:

  1. Are deeply in love - We truly believe the happiest couples are the most beautiful.

  2. Want your marriage to be more beautiful than the wedding - We aren't just advocates for your sensational wedding, but also for your sensational, life-long marriage.

  3. Can't wait to hit the dance floor at your reception - Somebody cue the Wobble!

  4. Appreciate modern style and personalized details - If you have impeccable style and desire to create a one of a kind wedding that’s all yours, then we love you already.

  5. Recognize that you need a planner with expertise that you can trust - Some couples come to us with many ideas already nailed down, and others with very few. However, they all share the commonality in needing the assurance and events management expertise of a professional planner. We love sharing valuable information with prospective couples up front, so you can begin to experience our commitment in being a resource you can trust and that will deliver.

  6. Desire a stress-free and enjoyable planning experience - Our couples want to fully enjoy their engagement, rather than stressing at every turn. Thus, they enjoy allowing us to take on the heavy lifting that comes with planning a wedding. All of our packages are created to provide the support you need and full day of wedding management, so you can relish in the excitement of your day without having to worry about a thing.

  7. Need assistance with finding the best venues and vendors in line with your specific needs - Since weeding through a huge vendor directory and sending out tons of inquiries is no fun, our couples love receiving our personalized, vetted vendor and venue recommendations. This gives them the assurance they are selecting the right choices.

  8. Consider yourselves to be foodies - Our couples enjoy a good meal, ranging from local mom and pop southern restaurants to posh, downtown fine dining. Needless to say, the food tasting is one of their favorite parts of the planning experience.

  9. Want your wedding to not only look good, but feel good - We marry sensational design and a sensational experience, and we believe weddings should be a perfect reflection of the couple. Thus, big smiles, happy tears, good times, tons of selfies, great dancing, family and friends reunion, exquisite design and details, and best of all - lots of love, can be found at a sensational wedding.

  10. Plan to invest in making your big day special - Our couples understand that just like they have invested into the growth of their relationship, memorable weddings require an investment, as well. Every couple, wedding and budget is unique, which is why we always ask prospective couples what are their top wedding wishes and priorities, so we can help them assess an ideal investment with their must haves in mind.

There are so many more things that our couples value, but I figured I’d just share a top 10 today. If you see yourself in some or maybe even all of the above, let us know in the comments section. I’d also love to chat with you soon, as we have a few 2019 dates available and are also booking for 2020 weddings. We welcome you to submit your inquiry here, and we’ll respond shortly with some additional information and to get you set up for your complimentary consultation.

Sensationally yours,




How To Choose Your Wedding Party

If you're engaged and wondering how to choose your wedding party, today's Tips Tuesday post is just for you!

Photo: Christopher Jason Studios

Photo: Christopher Jason Studios

Now that you've got the ring, hired your planner and picked out your venue, you're likely turning your attention to picking your wedding party. You also might be stumped on this task and find yourself in one of the following categories:

  1. Before you got engaged, you had ideas of who your future wedding party would be, but now you're reevaluating to be sure
  2. You have so many friends and aren't sure how to pick who's in or out of the wedding party
  3. Your fiancé has more friends than you, or vice versa, and you aren't sure if it's best to have an unbalanced number on each side or alternatively if you should add more people on your side so that it is balanced
  4. You have just a few quality close friends, so you're not sure if a wedding party is even necessary
  5. You have no plans to have a wedding party

Whether you're in any of the above categories or more, today I'm breaking down some tried and true tips to consider before you select your wedding party. Additionally, for those in category 5 above, I've had many couples opt out of having a wedding party and it worked out beautifully for them. In that case, it's almost as if all the guests are your wedding party and the ceremony focus is all on you.

Now, for those of you who totally want your girls and/or guys right by your side, I suggest the following 5 tips.

Photo: Christopher Jason Studios

Photo: Christopher Jason Studios

  1. Think Quality over Quantity - Regardless of whether your fiancé has more friends than you or whether someone told you 5 was the magic number of bridesmaids to have, when it comes to your wedding party it's about quality and not a specific number. Ideal wedding party members are those who have your back, wholeheartedly support your union, are reliable, positive and always great to be around. Now if there are tons of friends/family who fit this category for you, it doesn't mean all 20 of them have to stand with you at the altar. I recommend sitting down with your fiancé and discussing the potential wedding party members you're considering, and get feedback from each other on who is essential for the role. 
  2. Consider the Responsibilities - When someone accepts your invitation to be in your wedding party, they are essentially signing up to: be one of your bridal besties; stand in support of your union; help with some personal tasks you may need that are not handled by your wedding planner; buy their dress, shoes, and jewelry for the big day; pay for makeup and hair (if it's not gifted by you); help plan and attend your bridal shower and bachelorette party; show up on time for rehearsal, the wedding and other activities; and be a vital member in your bride tribe. While it's a fun job, for some that can be a big job or something they can't commit to due to other things going on in their life. Think long and hard about who would be all in or alternatively a headache, not able to commit, or unreliable.
  3. Choose from the Heart - Go with your gut and your heart when selecting your wedding party - NOT out of obligation. Just because someone has been your friend for years or because you were in their wedding party, doesn't mean you have to select them to be in your wedding party. Remember, just because someone isn't in your wedding party, doesn't mean they aren't very special to you.
  4. Children are optional - Nothing is cuter than a little flower girl and ring bearer! However, those roles aren't essential for every wedding. Perhaps you don't have children, nieces, nephews or godchildren to fill the role or maybe you don't want any kids at the wedding at all - that's totally ok. Alternatively, if you do want children in your wedding party, my suggestion is to choose children who will happily go down the aisle. On the flip-side, if they cry uncontrollably on day of, don't force them to walk down the aisle.
  5. Consider Other Roles - There are so many ways to celebrate your engagement journey with family and friends, so don't feel bad about not selecting everyone to be in your wedding party. For very close friends and family not in your wedding party, some other great ways to acknowledge them and roles they can fill are :
    • Reserved seat at the ceremony - this is a great option for aunts, uncles and first cousins
    • Ushers and Hostesses - these are other great roles to fill for the ceremony
    • Bridal Shower and/or Bachelorette Party Hosting - the wedding party doesn't necessarily have to host your pre-wedding celebrations, so if close family and friends volunteer to host and you love their knack for entertaining, let them throw your shindigs!
    • Bridal Gown Shopping - if you have a couple fashionista friends and family whose opinion means a lot to you and they are super positive and helpful, those are great folks to join you for your gown shopping
    • Have them wear a specific color - this is a great option for sorority sisters or fraternity brothers who'll be attending the wedding, and makes for a great picture at the reception
Photo: Christopher Jason Studios

Photo: Christopher Jason Studios

A final thought I'd like to share for those who may struggle with people pleasing is something I tell couples all the time - "it's your day, so do what feels right for you two and you two alone". Never feel obligated or pressured to go out of your way to include family and friends in certain roles for the wedding, as that shouldn't be the sole indicator of how close you are or aren't to someone. Those who truly love you will be honored to simply attend and celebrate your nuptials, with no strings attached.

I hope you found these tips to be super helpful, and that you're better equipped to pick your I DO crew. Now let's chat in the comments - share some other tips you'd add to the list or questions you may have surrounding this topic. I'd love to connect with you!

Sensationally yours,




Sensational Couples: Sherri and Antwone

Happy Wedding Wednesday! 

February is synonymous with love, and before we say goodbye to February 2018, I'm happy to be sharing a love story today. Our sensational couple Sherri and Antwone are set to tie the knot this June, and we are so excited for them! Find out more about these 2 love birds below.

DC Engagement

How and where did you meet?

We met on a blind date at Dave and Busters through our best friends. It’s funny because neither one of us wanted to go, but at the last minute we both decided to go, not knowing what would come of it. We both were thinking this is going to be boring and a waste of time, and clearly did not think that we would someday be getting ready to say “ I Do” to one another and becoming one.

What is your most memorable date?

Our most memorable date was a lunch date. We were talking on the phone and Sherri had the day off that week and she suggested we have lunch. So, she came to my job downtown and we went to the Green Turtle. Not your most fancy first date experience, but we had a great time just talking and getting to know each other more.

What about marriage are you looking forward to the most?

We are looking forward to spending the rest of our lives together as one, see who gets old first (lol), sharing the same last name, raising our family, making memories together, being able to have a life partner to enjoy this journey called life, having that special person to stand by you through all of life challenges, and to love you for the rest of each other's lives.

DC Couple

What do you love most about your relationship?

The bond that we have is without a doubt unbreakable. From the moment we met there was an instant connection. We actually talked the entire way to Dave and Busters the night that we met. We laugh and joke the majority of the day. We are a very playful couple and enjoy having a good time with each other.

What song would you dedicate to him/her?

A: I would dedicate Love by Musiq Soulchild

S: I would dedicate “Angel” by Lalah Hathaway

For fun...of the following who is your favorite TV/Movie couple? a) Martin and Gina (Martin), b) Darius and Nina (Love Jones), c) Claire and Cliff (The Cosby Show), d) Ross and Rachel (Friends), e) Whitley and Dwayne (A Different World), f) Akeem and Lisa (Coming to America), g) Lucy and Ricky (I Love Lucy), h) Choose a couple not listed.

Martin and Gina (hands down)

Maryland Engagement

Aren't they the cutest?! Help us celebrate this sensational couple by wishing them well in the comments below.

Sensationally yours,





6 Tips For Creating a Wedding Guest List

Happy Wedding Wednesday!

We're still in the thick of engagement season, and today I'm touching on a hot topic! I'm here to the rescue, giving help to the newly engaged couples who are scratching their heads trying to come up with a guest list for the big day. I know it can be hard - I've been on both sides as a planner and a bride, so I sympathize with you. But no need to fret, today's tips should send some relief and insight.

Photo Credit: SC Stockshop

Photo Credit: SC Stockshop

Here are 6 things to consider when creating your wedding guest list:


How do you envision your big day? For some, the answer may be sharing with a few of our closest family members and friends in a romantic, intimate setting.  For others that may mean, a large celebration of love, in a gorgeous and festive setting. Whatever your vision may be, be sure to let that guide you in creating your guest list, instead of letting your vision be drowned out by guest list guilt

Additionally, your venue has to be considered, as well. If you've fell in love with and booked a beautiful estate that comfortably accommodates 75 guests, don't try to squeeze 100 guests in there because of again, guest list guilt. Furthermore, before booking your venue, having a preliminary guest count is key, and sticking in and around that is important. If you know in advance you want a large wedding, don't waste time considering small venues. Again, let your vision (and budget covered next), be your guide! 


Let's face it, budget really is a huge part of creating a guest list that must be tackled early on in the planning. You may have tons of family and friends that you'd love to share your day with, but can you realistic afford catering and bar services for 300 people? Maybe yes, maybe no. Here's a pro tip, your reception will likely be the biggest expense of your wedding.

As a planner, one of the first steps I take with my sensational couples is creating their itemized wedding budget, with their wedding style and the guest count they are considering in mind. This is so valuable to do at the onset because in some cases a couple's guest count doesn't match their budget. For example, you want to invite 200 guests and the venue you love provides catering and bar services, which are $200 per person. However, you were hoping to spend $40,000 on the entire wedding, so there's a problem. Thus, crunching the numbers with your planner is crucial.


You and your love are preparing to join together as one, and a great way to start learning how to make decisions together is with the guest list. It's your big day, so come to a consensus together on who you two would like to share it with. Decide how you two want to handle the guest list, whether that means 75 guests for you and 75 for your fiancé, or your fiancé may want less guests on his side because you have the larger family, or simply you two list each guest together. Do whatever feels right to you two.

Now some of you might be saying, our parents aren't going for that, in the event that they are financing the wedding. I get it, sometimes money equates to decision making. However, that doesn't have to put a monkey wrench in the two of you calling the guest list shots. In many cases, some of the guests your parents want to invite, you were already planning to invite anyway. In other cases, it may call for a heart to heart with mom and dad, and letting them down easy, while assuring them you've carefully considered everyone YOU really want there. Outside of your parents, I would strongly encourage you to limit outside involvement with your guest list for the sake of your sanity. Thank me later :) 


Creating your guest list doesn't have to be a headache, with the a and b list option. This is especially helpful for couples who struggle with large guest counts. Instead of stressing yourself and considering an elopement, after you've done the tips above, create an A list based on the must invite guests that add up to the guest count you set. Another pro tip is you can add a few extra guests to this list to account for guests who may not be able to come - but a few, not 50 :) Now, for those 50 extra guests that you're thinking of, those folks can go to the B list. Once you've sent out save the dates to the A list, you'll likely get insight from guests who know they can't attend, in which case some B list guests can move up to the A list. 

Another tip is to arrange guests in categories, based on their relationship with you. This is helpful in organizing your guest list, and limits the chance of forgetting a VIP. Here are some guest categories to consider, and rank them in order of priority:

  • Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Godparents
  • First Aunts, Uncles, Cousins
  • Closest Friends
  • Family - not listed above
  • Co-Workers, Fraternity Brothers/Sorority Sisters, Church Family - Group 1
  • Friends and Friends of Family - not listed above
  • Co-Workers, Fraternity Brothers/Sorority Sisters, Church Family - Group 2
  • Children (if they are invited)
  • Other

When doing the category exercise, you may find that certain categories won't make the cut based on your guest count, such as children or some college friends, which is why ranking in order or priority will help to determine the essential guests.


Plus ones is another important item to consider when creating your guest list, and really deserves it's own post (coming soon), but I will break it down simply for now. First and foremost, your married guests' husbands or wives SHOULD be invited. Whether you've met that co-worker's spouse or not, it's proper etiquette to invite the spouses of your guests. Therefore, if you already started your guest list, but didn't include spouses, be prepared to up your numbers.

You don't have to extend a plus one for all unmarried guests. However, it's recommended to be strategic and fair if allowing some, but not all unmarried guests to have a plus one. For example, you may want your double date night crew who are not married to attend, which makes sense. On the other hand, you may have a friend who just got into a new relationship and you don't know her significant other yet, in which case it's fine if you don't want to extend a plus one. Also, it's important to consider unmarried couples who have been in a long-term committed relationship and/or live together, in which case it would be challenging to invite 1 person in a household and not the other (with the exception of children, who don't have to be invited to a wedding, unless you want them, too). In short, be wise and fair with plus ones.


When working with couples who are trying to cut down their guest list, I recommend that they consider their history and current state with those particular guests. Here are some great questions to ask yourself when contemplating if you want to invite a particular guest or not:

  • Are we really close or have we grown apart?
  • When was the last time I spoke to or saw him/her?
  • Has this person ever met my fiancé or know anything about us as a couple?
  • Was I invited to his/her wedding?
  • Has this person attended or declined the last 3 events I hosted?

Remember this is a big and special day, that realistically can't be shared with every single person you know, so choose your guest list wisely.

Tell me what you think about these tips, and share you guest list questions below!

Sensationally yours,