DC Wedding Planning: 10 Reasons to Hire a Wedding Planner - Pt. 1

Engagement season is in full swing, and my timeline was buzzing with beautiful proposals over the holidays! So in honor of the first Wedding Wednesday of 2018, today we're talking about wedding planning.

If you're wondering what you should do after your love pops the question, there are 3 steps I recommend here. Obviously, one of those 3 steps is to hire a planner. Why you ask? I'm so happy to tell you exactly why, hence today's post. Maybe you already know that you will definitely hire a planner for your big day, or perhaps you're questioning if it's worth the investment. There might be others of you who believe your venue, family members and/or friends can help you handle everything. Whether you are in one of these groups or maybe somewhere in the middle, today's post is here to shed light on the role of a wedding planner, why we're irreplaceable and how we add real value to couples. 

Photo Credit:  LaJoy Photography

Photo Credit: LaJoy Photography

This is a topic I'm so passionate about and could literally talk about all day, but to save you from excess reading, I'm breaking this up into 2 parts, so here's 5 of 10 reasons to hire a wedding planner: 


When you hire a wedding planner, you will in turn receive: a wedding advisor to lend expertise and insight, worker bee committed to you and the execution of ALL the wedding plans, a bridal bestie to share the excitement with, a visionary to deliver concepts to wow you, and an advocate for your wedding day dreams come true and marriage.

Many times newly engaged couples assume that family, friends or a venue appointed coordinator can fulfill the same role of a professional wedding planner. While the support of loved ones and your wedding party is wonderful, they are there to support you while a planner is there to be the source you can depend on to ensure your wedding is everything you hope for and much more. After all, that is not only our job, but our passion. We have so much experience in executing weddings, and we remain educated on all things wedding, which makes us both knowledgeable and reliable.

Many venues and caterers are offering day of coordinators that are sometimes referred to as wedding planners. However, any coordinator or planner from a venue or caterer is not the same as a professional wedding planner. A day of coordinator provided by the venue is an asset to couples and wedding planners in managing logistics from a venue and catering perspective, and I enjoy working with them. Given a planner's wedding logistics expertise and dedication to the couple, we thrive in managing ALL elements of your wedding so that it reflects you and your vision. A venue or caterer appointed coordinator will limit their service to the realm of what impacts the venue or caterer, while a planner will be involved with each aspect of the wedding from beginning to end.


This point perfectly segways from my first point, as your wedding planner is the one who will happily manage all the details for your wedding. Whether you have a small or large wedding, there are several details that go into planning a wedding such as choosing your color palette, picking out stationery, deciding on special elements to be incorporated, receiving and tracking RSVPs and much more. As the couple, it would be overwhelming for you to handle these details on your own, which is why a planner is there to lead this process and keep things organized along the way.


How much do flowers cost? How much should I estimate for catering? What else needs to be factored in the wedding budget? These are questions that couples will ask themselves and not have an answer for without having a planner. Sure, your vendors and venue will provide you with a proposal highlighting their service fees and rates. But only a planner will equip you with a comprehensive budget projection at the very start of the planning process.

It is very risky to begin booking a venue and vendors without an overall wedding budget or knowledge of what goes into a wedding budget to begin with. For example, if you book a venue and caterer that equals up to $30,000, but you later determine that you only want to spend $35,000 on the entire wedding, you will certainly be in a big predicament. Which is why the very first thing I discuss with my couples is their budget.

We will discuss the amount of money you want to spend on the wedding, and then in turn I will offer up average estimates for your wishes (tailored to your wedding style) and all the wedding budget categories - DJ, favors, photography, you name it. Furthermore, if your wishes don't align with the money you intend to invest in the wedding, then we revisit the budget and your wishlist until we are able to find a workable solution. In addition, for full-service wedding clients you get the added benefit of budget management throughout the process to ensure you stay on target with your vision and budget goals. The value of budget insight is truly priceless.


Planners are skilled in our ability to keep things organized, which makes for a stress-free planning experience. Couples find us valuable for so many reasons, and our knowledge of what tasks need to be done during the planning process is one of them. Often times newly engaged couples may only know that they have to secure wedding attire, venue and vendors, and decor. Then their stress comes into play when they don't realize floorpans need to be created, how to secure wedding insurance, how to properly address wedding invitations, how the wedding day will flow from start to finish, and more. However, as planners, we ward off the stress for couples by being knowledgeable of what is needed for a couple's wedding day and leading the planning process to ensure that everything gets done and at the right time. We go beyond those Pinterest checklists, and execute the important planning.

One of the things that my couples love is our online planning portal where the guest list, seating chart, checklist, vendor contacts, inspirational photos, contracts and so much more are housed. Additionally, they love that this is a system that I update frequently, and they can log on at anytime 24/7 to see everything related to their wedding in a clear, concise and orderly format. As a couple, your job is to enjoy the process, not be stressed with managing all the plans - therefore we take care of them for you.


In our Internet and social media driven world, it's quite easy to Google or hashtag search for anything or anyone. You could easily Google Washington DC wedding venues and find a long list of places. However, does weeding through a long list of places or vendors sound like fun to you? It doesn't to any of my clients, which is a part of the reason why they hire me. While they may know of some vendors or venues that they are interested in, they want to be sure that these places and companies are reputable and to receive other venue and vendor recommendations that I have.

As planners, we are known for working with amazing vendors and also networking with new vendors. Coupled with that, we are knowledgeable of our clients and the specific needs of their weddings; therefore, we are equipped to make the right venue and vendor recommendations for your event, instead of just a random list based on a generic search. For example, if I know a couple loves water, then I help them to personalize their day by incorporating their love for water by recommending waterfront venues or perhaps just doing a waterfront engagement session with an amazing photographer skilled in that type of scenery.

In addition to providing access to these reputable vendors, as a planner, I also communicate with them on your behalf. I understand couples are busy and want to avoid stress, so reaching out to multiple vendors and venues could be overwhelming for a couple, which is why we establish those initial touch points to gain the vendors availability and more information on their services to further assess if they are a match and available before even sending a couple's way. Again, a planner is there to add value and streamline the process for both our couples and vendors. 

I hope this post helped you understand more of what planners bring to the table, as the glue that helps keep all your wedding plans together. Stay tuned for part 2 on the next 'Wedding Wednesday'! Share below which of my 5 points you find to be most valuable. 

Sensationally yours,




Christmas Came Early

Happy Monday, and 1 week countdown to Christmas! I don't know about you, but I am full of holiday cheer! After all, it's the most wonderful time of the year, and I'm in full swing setting goals for the new year. Well, this holiday season there are 5 more things I'm loving and celebrating (plus some things you'll love too)!

1. The debut issue of B Inspired The Magazine
I have several reasons to be excited about this epic magazine filled with 300+ pages of stunning weddings, celebrations, styled shoots and expert articles. And 1 of those reasons is yours truly is featured in this magazine! With the help of some of my amazing friendors, a beautiful editorial I planned is gracing the pages of B Inspired. Do yourself a favor and pre-order the magazine today here, and be sure to grab one for a friend when it hits newsstands the day after Christmas!


2. Christmas Shopping Online (plus cash back!)
I primarily do most of my shopping online, especially when it comes to Christmas gift giving. It saves me so much time, and takes the stress out of shopping. Well, I recently learned of another incentive to shop online - cash back through Ebates! I've already earned $40 in less than a month, simply by shopping where I normally shop and clicking the ebates button when I do! You can sign up for FREE here, and start earning cash back on your purchases from stores/sites like Walmart, Macy's, Amazon, Sak's Fifth Avenue, Ugg, Old Navy, MAC, Expedia, Marriott...need I go on?! You can thank me later :)


3. I'm loving my mom's 55th birthday photo shoot
I'm trying to find the fountain of youth she drank from! I hope I can slay like this at 55! The one thing my mom wanted for her birthday was some updated photos of herself and our family, and thankfully my good #photograpHER friend, Rhea Whitney, was able to make that happen. Whether for your birthday, wedding or other special event or portrait needs, be sure to call Rhea to get your photos magazine worthy.

black girl magic.jpg

4. Everything Christmas (and these 2 cuties!)
Thanks again to Rhea Whitney because my family can send out season's greetings this year with updated photos! She even has some shots of me and hubby giving engagement shoot vibes! :) I love everything Christmas, and I'm grateful for this season of celebrating the birth of Christ, giving to others, tree trimming, quality time with family and friends and spreading joy!

family holiday photo.jpg

5. Engagement Season
Cue the confetti for engagement season! I always look forward to seeing the proposals fill up my timeline after Christmas, the New Year, and Valentine's Day! Likewise, I love welcoming new couples to the Sensational Soirees family, and planning the wedding of their dreams. We have availability for a few more couples for 2018, and already have some couples booked for 2019! So if you or a friend want to check our date availability and pricing, simply reply to this email or email info@sensationalsoirees.com. I'd be happy to send a planning guide your way, too!

dc wedding planner

Welp, that's what I'm loving this season! What are some things you are excited about this season and for the new year? Share in the comments section. I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas! 

Sensationally yours,




Meet Woods & Company

Happy Monday! Today, I'm sharing on wedding stationery and a vendor that you need to know!

Last week, I dished about my experience at the Grace + Ivory preview a few of weeks ago. Well, I not only learned about their great gowns, but was also introduced to stationery company, Woods and Company. They had such a lovely display at the event, and I immediately wanted to learn more about what they can offer for my sensational couples and clients. I reached out to the owner and designer, Sarah Tarantino, who is sharing today about wedding stationery and her amazing company. 




Tell us about you and your business.

My name is Sarah Tarantino, the owner of Woods&Company. I create luxury wedding invitations and stationery, and I LOVE what I do!

I am an interior designer by education and trade, and have always had an eye for design and details. As my career in corporate interiors went on, I found myself drawn to the more graphic design aspects of my job. I also wanted to "own" my own projects. I became really drawn to all the beautiful work that was being done in the wedding industry, particularly with wedding stationery, which was beginning to get very interesting, not the same old black script font on cream card stock! People were getting creative and I LOVED it! So, I started designing invitations and stationery on the side. Really wanting to help people "embellish" their events, I took the leap in 2012 and left the world of interior design behind. I now devote my time to my passion, which is designing beautiful, custom, luxury wedding and event stationery. I help couples get the exact invitation they want. After all, the invitation is the first impression your guests will have of your wedding, it should beautifully reflect your style and personality!

BM Wed-12.jpg

What are the various types of stationery products your offer?

Almost anything you can think of! Invitations, Place Cards, Escort Cards, Seating Charts, Menus, Programs, Signage, Thank You Cards, Save The Dates.

I work with couples on all aspects of their wedding stationery, and I strive to meet all of their needs. If they have an idea of a piece of stationery that they would like for their wedding, I do everything to make it happen.

For example, last year, I had a couple who really wanted their escort cards to be a coaster. So, we designed a really sturdy double thick coaster that had the guest's name and table number on one side, and a message from the bride and groom on the other that said "Trust Us, You Can Dance!", to urge guests to cut a rug when the band started. I LOVED that idea and had such a fun time working on it!


When should couples reach out to you for their wedding stationery and what's the process like?

Couples should reach out about 6 months prior to their wedding. I recommend sending invites 8 weeks prior to their wedding date, and printing usually takes approximately 2 weeks. That leaves ample time for the design process, and so you can get exactly what you want. I want couples saying, "Oh I LOVE it, it's exactly what I had in mind!", and not, "Yeah, I like them."

As far as process goes, there are a few steps:

First, I like to have a really nice conversation with my clients. Whether it's in person, on the phone, or via FaceTime or Skype, I really like to get to know my couples. We talk, of course, about their event (i.e. colors, theme, flowers, setting, etc.), but I also like to really get to know my clients. I want to know their personality, what things they are interested in, what their personal style is. All these things give me a much better picture of who they are and what they will be happy with. Couples are more than their wedding, and I like to produce stationery that reflects who they really are, not just their wedding day.

Second, after our chat, I write up a quote and send it along to the couple. Upon approval of the quote, we are ready to go! At this time, I require a 30% deposit and the preferred wording for their invitations.

Third. The design process!!! The fun part!! WE begin designing, and my clients receive PDF files of what we've been working on as we go through the process. I do not limit how many rounds of design a client can go through, I want everything to be just right. As long as we are still going to meet our deadline, we can revise as much as necessary! Typically, however, the design process is 3-4 rounds. Everything I send can be finessed and adjusted to suit my client's desires. We begin by sending 3-4 design options of the invitations. Once a design is chosen, we finesse the design, and bring the design elements through to the other elements of the invitation suite (rsvp cards, envelopes, liners, etc.). When all is worked out and approved, my client checks it one last time for spelling and correct names, places and times, and then we send to print! Once the suite is printed and QC'd by me, I package it with love and send it along to my clients!


Do you provide addressing as well for invitations?

Yes! Woods&Company can provide printed addresses for both the return addresses and guest addresses.

What are some new stationery trends couples should know about?

What I am seeing a lot of right now are large, classic florals, and florals mixed with bold graphics. Also, neons, dusty rose hues, caliente red, silhouettes, and mixed media (i.e. soft floral images mixed with almost magazine like graphics and bold fonts, letterpress elements mixed with digital printing, etc.).

But, most of all, what I like say to couples is just be YOU!!! Yes, get inspiration from what appeals to you, but if you have an idea of your own, GO FOR IT!!! This is your day to express yourselves, don't do something just because Pinterest says it's cool. BE YOU!


How can couples find you?


Website:  https://www.woodsandco.com (you can sign up on my site for news and events to stay informed of what I'm up to)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/woodsandco/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/woods_and_company/

Email: sarah@woodsandco.com

Phone: 510-967-5916


Thank you so much Sarah for sharing with us today! Also, special thanks to The Light & Co., Jackie + Jay, Lauren Carnes Photography, and Stephanie Kamerman Photography for the lovely photos of Sarah's work. I can't wait to work with Woods&Company for a sensational wedding. Share in the comments section some new stationery trends you love.

Sensationally yours,




Meet Grace + Ivory

Happy Monday! Today, we're dishing on wedding gowns, and I have a special treat for you. 

I had the pleasure of attending the Grace + Ivory preview event in D.C. a couple of weeks ago, held at Bureau Studio and styled by Elizabeth Carberry. I went with the intent of learning about this amazing bridal company to share with all of my sensational brides. After leaving the event, I was so sold on Grace + Ivory, their stunning, affordable gowns and equally important, their mission. I immediately reached out to Tina Zysk, the Founder and Creative Director, so that she could share more about her amazing company here on the blog. She graciously accepted, and today I'm happy to bring you all the 411 from our conversation about Grace + Ivory and why brides should totally choose them for their wedding gowns.


Photo Credit:  Stefanie Kamerman

Photo Credit: Stefanie Kamerman

When should brides reach out to you for their wedding gowns and what's the process like?

We recommend reaching out to start the process about 5-6 months before your wedding. You can learn more about setting up a design consultation, ordering a dress, measurements, shipping and the overall process here.

When designing your gowns, where do you find inspiration?

I like to think of myself as the Creative Director when selecting gowns for the Grace + Ivory collection. I work directly with a designer/dressmaker and she has the technical details and expertise when it comes to designing and dressmaking. I select dresses that I think represents today’s metropolitan modern bride – hip, on-the-go, hardworking, and kicking butt. I like having a variety of dresses ranging from pretty, soft tulle dresses with lace to a sophisticated, sleek look with hand-beaded details.  

Photo Credit:  Stefanie Kamerman

Photo Credit: Stefanie Kamerman

What is the starting price of your gowns?

Our dresses range from $695 to $1,595 plus tax. 

Do you also do custom work or customize gowns in your collections at the request of a bride?

Yes, we offer custom options to the gowns in our collection. If you love one of our dresses but would want to change something about that particular gown, contact us for a design consultation and we can discuss over email or over the phone about the custom options and any other questions. This is all before your dress purchase (if you decide to move forward).

Photo Credit:  Stefanie Kamerman

Photo Credit: Stefanie Kamerman

When patronizing your company, tell us more about the worthy cause customers are also supporting?

One of my biggest reasons for starting Grace + Ivory is to merge an awesome business making wedding dresses and being able to contribute to helping others who may not be as fortunate. As our mission is about women helping women, a portion of every dress purchase goes to helping women and girls in need. We’re currently supporting Plan International’s Because I am a Girl (BIAAG) Program, which runs programs in countries around the world focusing on girls’ health, education, empowerment, and community involvement. BIAAG’s call to action raises awareness about girls’ rights and the need for justice and equality. Grace + Ivory supports Plan’s belief that gender equality is central to achieving long-term change and the BIAAG call to action to ensure girls everywhere can learn, lead, decide and thrive.

I love your dresses done differently slogan and that your gowns are made to measure. Tell us more about this.

I founded Grace + Ivory with the intent to do dresses differently by giving brides another option with a socially conscious approach providing beautiful, quality, made-to-measure wedding dresses. During the search for my own wedding dress, I felt that wedding dresses were overpriced and I wondered why. After doing some digging, this gave me the idea of partnering directly with a dressmaker, cutting out a middleman, which allowed me to offer gorgeous dresses of the same quality of those from other designer brands at a fraction of the price. Every dress is made-to-measure saving a bride on alterations costs and giving her a beautiful, custom-sewn dress made just for her.

If a bride has an eye on a dress, we encourage her to reach out for a consultation with us over email on our website. We can answer any questions about measurements and custom details all before you buy and no commitment is expected.

We start each individual dressmaking process once an order is received. Our personal design stylists are there to provide the best customer experience. Our design stylists work with a bride from initial inquiries, to helping with dress purchasing, custom requests, follow-up questions, and shipping and receiving. With our dress process, the made-to-measure and custom aspects, and being able to help women and girls in need, we’re doing dresses differently. 

Photo Credit:  Stefanie Kamerman

Photo Credit: Stefanie Kamerman

How can brides find you?

Visit us at www.graceandivory.com and feel free to email us at hello@graceandivory.com.

Thank you so much Tina for sharing with us today, and Stefanie Kamerman and Paca Lee for the lovely photos! If my hubby and I renew our vows, I definitely know who I'm calling! Brides, I hope you check out Grace + Ivory for your wedding gowns, and tell them I sent you! Share in the comments section the type of silhouette(s) that you love for wedding gowns.

Sensationally yours,




DC Wedding Planning: 3 Things To Consider Before We Start Planning

It's Tip Tuesday! With so many newly engaged couples and folks planning for epic events, I decided it was so important to share some tips to help you as you consider your planning services.

Photo Credit: SC Stockshop

Photo Credit: SC Stockshop

Sensational Soirees is of course here and ready to help you with your beautiful soirees and weddings! We're literally one click or call away. Before or after you hit the contact button on our site, here are some great questions to ask yourself as you prepare to start planning:

1. What are your initial wants?

Rest assured, as planners we are here to assist you with shaping the vision of your event and executing the details and plans so you don't have to do it alone! But before we can present you with a proposal of service and make your event dreams come true, you have to share with us your initial wants.

Now, before you go running to Pinterest to figure out your wants, I would encourage you to grab a pen and paper first, and then sit and imagine your event or wedding. How do you want it to look? How do you want to feel? How do you want your guests to feel? What things would make you happy if they were incorporated in your event? What are your priorities - good food, beautiful decor and/or guest experience? Bring these answers (and your Pinterest board or inspirational photos, too) to your initial planning consultation. I also send all prospective clients a questionnaire, so this is a great place to elaborate on everything you're dreaming up.

2. How much CAN you realistically invest in your event?

While the role of a planner is definitely to help event hosts and couples to navigate budget and all the categories and factors that go into it, it is first good for you to consider how much you can or will financially contribute to your event. This is key whether you're working with a modest or big budget.

When I ask "what's your budget", I would recommend trying to avoid saying that you don't have a budget (even if in your mind you really don't have one yet). Perhaps you're really saying "I have no idea how much events cost" or perhaps "whatever the important things costs, I'll just be willing to pay for it". In either scenario, try to come up with the max amount you believe you are able to invest as this is so helpful. During the planning process, this number may change after I share my expertise and insight on the average costs of the things you want. However, coming to the table with a number is so beneficial, so that I can better advise you upfront based on your budget. 

3. What are you looking for in a planner?

I remember when I was planning to get married 9 years ago, and although the planner in me was being birthed during that time, I 100% knew I needed a professional planner - not a hobbyist. My planner was there every step of the way to cheer me and my husband on towards the aisle, provide expertise on vendors and everything that went into budget, and fully managed the wedding day and my stress level. She was someone who I relied on and someone I valued. To this day, I'm grateful for the investment we made in hiring a planner.

My wedding day was very important to me and required a certain level of service that only a professional planner could provide - again not a hobbyist or venue appointed coordinator. For weddings, I completely recommend hiring a professional planner; otherwise, it will be challenging to ensure your vision is executed and for you to relax on wedding day. For those of you who were like me 9 years ago and know there's no way you alone could plan the type of event or wedding you desire, I encourage you to share how my team can best serve you.

We would love to work with you, but truly believe it's all about making the right match for us both. Therefore, the things you are looking for are so helpful to communicate in your inquiry, questionnaire, and/or during your consultation. Additionally, our planning guide is an added asset, as it highlights the different levels of service we offer. Beyond service offerings, some of things our clients have mentioned that they love about us are: our personalities, background in weddings and special events, responsiveness in communication, creativity, great vendor connections, and being able manage it 'all' so they can relax. Maybe you need someone to help you stay on budget or an assuring voice that the day will go off without a hitch, whatever it is share it with us. When it comes to that over the top party for your child's first birthday, or your corporate holiday party or the day you say I do to the love of your life, we work hard to get to know you, and are eager to provide value to you and your event.

Photo Credit: Rhea Whitney Photography

Photo Credit: Rhea Whitney Photography

I can't wait to learn more about your upcoming wedding or event! Share in the comments section 1 thing you look for in a planner, and stay tuned for a future post where I'll be outlining WHY you should hire a planner.

Sensationally yours,