An Afternoon at the Grafton Winery

An Afternoon at the Grafton Winery

I met the owners of the Grafton Winery a few years ago and now consider them friends. Mike and Lori are easy going, down-to-earth and have a passion for the vine incomparable to most. And it’s not just the wine that they have the love for, it’s the people who come to the Grafton Winery. They have regulars, harley crews, ladies nights out, date nights, family get-togethers, book clubs, and even the folks who come to sit alone and enjoy a glass of wine over a good book, just to get away, to be still. The views are breathtaking, the service is great, the food is outstanding – even their wraps and sweet potato fries were like Thanksgiving to me, I couldn’t stop eating even when I was full, the wine is YUM! When I met with Mike and Lori about opening the venue up to wedding receptions on a more regular basis my first thought was: we have 1.5 weeks max before the gorgeous colors of fall are gone and we MUST get a couple up here and a photographer to capture this space. And that we did! Our photographer is Michelle of Green Wall Studio, cakes and desserts from 10th Street Baking Company and theBAKERios. Bride and groom models are Alicia and Justin Powers married October 26, 2013- they were fresh off their honeymoon and looking as happy as ever. Props and style design by Next Door Finery and Signed Sealed Delivered Events. Enjoy a few of our favorite snapshots of our afternoon at the Grafton Winery and definitely go check them out for yourself. We are looking forward to coordinating weddings there in 2014!
Those Who Can’t Wed Plan

Those Who Can’t Wed Plan

The famous Jennifer Lopez line from the movie The Wedding Planner has been ingrained in my head since college. I will be cliché and admit that that movie did indeed spawn the dream for me to be a wedding planner. As a hopeless romantic who gushes over every single love story ever made, who loves her job more than she thought was ever possible, I wonder, if love is my favorite thing, why has it been such a roller coaster ride in the relationship department? Do I have too high of standards? Am I too picky? Do I expect too much?
And now I’m wondering: is that movie line true? Certainly not… right? I’ve pondered these exact sentiments and therefore opened myself up to the internet dating world a few years back. I kept an open mind. Got to know people before meeting them in person to check the chemistry. Even went out with folks I didn’t necessarily find attractive- which I think is HUGE if you want to have a family with someone… I mean… we all know where babies come from… it’s not always a bottle of Jack Daniels and a snow storm. I also have a history of re-dating. Yes, re-dating. This is where I give second chances to already failed relationships. Partially because I thought maybe we have grown up, maybe things will be differently. Maybe he is done cheating. Maybe I was not letting love in. You name it, I accepted it. And then I dated it. AGAIN. And for some, AGAIN and AGAIN.
Here’s the thing though, at 31, I look back and I am super duper grateful for my experiences, my past relationships because they not only taught me a thing or 200, but the stories I bring back serve as entertainment to my friends and family. Just ask my BFF and roommate for 4 years, you can’t make this stuff up… well you could but I’m a horrible liar. So if you are wondering why I am sharing this it’s merely because I have convinced myself that these little learning curves not only serve as lessons for who I am and what I am looking for, but seriously, to make other people laugh. So here goes.  A few of my favorite dating/relationship sagas. The one who had a very vulgar, very loud custody battle on the phone with his ex in front of me- a custody battle over a bunny for that matter. A bunny named Snickers. On our first date. The one who fell asleep at the movies after insisting that we sit in the very last row and on insisting on holding my hand the whole time. Which made it impossible to escape… The one who is 70 pounds heavier and a full 12 inches shorter than his on-line profile stated. The one who meets you at the hole-in-the-wall bars, not because they are quaint and full of character, but because he doesn’t want to risk running into anyone that knows him or HIS live-in girlfriend.  Since when do you need to ask if someone is single during the dating process? The one who played the perfect gentleman for the first 4 dates and then shows up fully loaded as a groomsman in a wedding you are coordinating.  A groomsman fully loaded is not what is surprising about this story…  What was surprising is that he did NOT acknowledge my presence… like he didn’t know who I was. I spent the evening making sure he didn’t break anything ELSE and kept his shirt ON… You know that song, “Don’t call me no mo, Don’t text me no mo?” The one who meets your 5 month pregnant friend and has an unusually strong and long hold on her tummy (you know folks just LOVE to touch a pregger belly)… only to find out later WHEN HE ADMITS IT- out loud – that he has in the past, dated (more like preyed on) single pregnant women because they have “low self-esteem, they are horny and they can’t get pregnant.” Who the frick says that? OMG you need counseling dude. OMG now I need counseling…. The guy who you have been talking to on and off for months (you assume at this point that you are on), leaves you for a Hooters waitress. Not once. But twice. And while we are on the subject of scantily clad ladies… How about the real fabulous date that ended at a strip club… really? Yes really. And we are talking it started at a museum, dinner, drinks, dancing, a first kiss on the dance floor … and then pole dancing…  And better yet, the pole dancer was a past girlfriend. And he acted surprised that she worked there… “I thought she was a waitress”… yea that’s a similar story to the best-selling nail polish from OPI bro. The one who you are convinced loves you (because he tells you) and wants to be with you although he can’t be public about it right now because the next step is marriage and he’s not ready for that… though you suspect his flirtacious personality might get the best of him one day, he couldn’t possibly do the unthinkable… but oh yes he did, I found her Tiffany’s jewelry on the nightstand. And no, I didn’t keep it. Fool me once, fool me twice… This same one who shows up with a HUGE gift “just because” when “just because” really means: just because I cheated on you… again. FAIL. I will say for the record that I LOVE that gift and still have it hanging proudly in my man cave. Oh and we can’t forget the “perfect guy” who your friend (love you Tasha, but seriously) sets you up with that gets belligerently drunk over cocktails on a Sunday night only to ask me to fly to ONE of his SEVERAL vacation homes on the beach (paying my own way he added), so that we can “get naked together.”  Um sir, I don’t care how rich you are, my momma taught me better than that. The one who was on hour and a half late picking me up because he “fell asleep” which really meant I have an addiction to muscle relaxers and couldn’t physically walk let alone drive. The one who kept ordering food that was NOT on the menu and then getting upset with the waitress because “all he wanted was a nice steak and calamari dinner”…  from TGI Friday’s. I might add for your enhanced entertainment that this clown proceeded to spill his “nice dinner” all over his shirt. I felt like I was on candid camera. The one who warned me to “not break his wallet” as he held the door for me… I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t. He kept track of how much my “expensive” glass of Yellow Tail wine and cup of soup cost. The one who pretends to like beer and baseball then throws a HUGE embarrassing fit in public over how much tickets and beer cost at the stadium. Um, you said you LIKED beer and baseball. Why are you surprised? Oh oh here’s a good one: so we are talking 4 months into being with someone. You know when you are in the inseparable stage. Where you only part ways to go to work. Yes indeed. Well one night his car is parked at the bar across the street. Your usual Cheers hangout, so you walk in only to be greeted by him and the bartender … in a compromising situation…  This one actually convinced me that “she forced herself” on him. The one who insists on buying dinner and then his card declines. The one who can’t figure out why the money he “transferred” isn’t in his account yet. And then we won’t stop talking about it…. Buddy, I already offered to get it. Let’s not make this any more awkward. …This one also proceeded to tell our mutual friends that I totally “wanted it.” Wanted what exactly?  You to pay the bill? Damn straight. Or how about the guy from your past who shows back up… again. Don’t act surprised, I already admitted to re-dating… Here’s where the excuse: “maybe he grew up” or “changed his mind” or “he’s ready for a relationship now” comes in. So he asks you out because well, “it’s just ironic that we keep running into each other.” And you go. Three different dates mind you.  Good times had by all. Or so you thought. Chemistry there. Or so you thought. And then the grand finale: Ashlee, if you can’t handle being friends, then let me know… Um jerk face, and a really cute jerk face at that, I don’t need any more friends. How about we take a trip to Mexico. All inclusive. With your BFF’s and their significant others. Fabulous idea. What was not a fabulous idea however was watching him spend a good 2 hours the first night you are out at the salsa club trying to get phone numbers. Great. So not only am I the clown, but now I’m a clown in Mexico with 5 more days left with this guy. One of my faves, so you have been talking to a guy for a few weeks, things are going good, until he gets drunk one night and admits that no less than a month ago his wedding was called off…  at this point he is crying because he didn’t want it to be over… and why I am here again? Oh yes, to pass the tissues. Hold up, they all haven’t been bad. I actually recall 3 very specific dates, whom I met on eharmony a few years back that were great. Or so I thought. There was the nervous chatter in the beginning. The spilled beer (again nerves), the comfort zone where you begin sarcastic banter and some light flirting. The end of the night wrap up where you hug, say you had a great time and we should do this again. I always followed up with a text thanking them and included something witty and clever to remind them of my charm… And then NOTHING. No call. No text. No email. No morse code. No letter. Maybe they sent the: “I’m sorry but I just wasn’t feeling it” post-it via carrier pigeon and it was delivered to the wrong broad. Maybe. But three times. How rude. Seriously. Now don’t worry. I am not jaded by any of this. I know I will find someone. I’m bound for a fairy tale romance. Disney style. I mean, what wedding planner isn’t? I still accept dates now and then.  And I do plan on getting married, just after I do an extensive background check.  I guess the point of the story is that anything worth doing or having is going to be a lot of work, to take time and patience.  And good things come to those who wait. Patiently for Mr. Right, Mr. Wonderful, Mr. Forever, etc.   I will probably get bonus points for having a sense of humor and good attitude about it. And he will eventually show up when it’s time. Until then, I will keep an open mind, and continue dating and entertaining folks with my stories. After all… what else can possibly happen?
***please note, I am well aware that I am breaking some grammatical rules in case my high school English teacher takes a ganderloo at this-… my disclaimer is that it’s part of my charm***
Two Turn Tables and a Microphone – my day as a DJ assistant

Two Turn Tables and a Microphone – my day as a DJ assistant

After my little stint as a florist for a day with B Huff, I decided I would tackle each part of the wedding industry in this manner and share what this job is all about. Behind the scenes. The work, the play, the sweat, the dance moves… I had this opportunity over the weekend to assist Allegro Entertainment  DJ Anthony. Being a DJ (assistant) is just as fun as you imagine.
Picking songs. Watching people have the time of their life. Literally. You know we played that jam from Dirty Dancing and yes it’s always way more entertaining when someone does the famous lift.
Having a full dance floor and people running up saying: this is my song! Totally. Awesome. The light show! The beats! The flowing champagne! It’s all just Simply the Best – Tina Turner Style! I couldn’t help but have a small dance party myself behind the booth – in fact I would much rather prefer to be on the dance floor to get funky funky funky funky everybody clap your hands clap clap clap clap your hands! but it’s not my day and there is a time and place for that. Even bringing tears to the grooms eye because you play the one song that reminds him of everything wonderful in his life. The group dances where they stand in a circle and out sing each other (not necessarily the right words but those are just details- details that I in fact struggle with myself so no judgement) while taking turns having dance-offs in the center. The slow dances that bring couples to the floor to sway closely together, making them stop and remember the romance of the day, perhaps reminisce of a slow dance they shared before.
As a single person enjoying the beats of Ke$ha and Usher, slow dances are always a big bummer to me because they ruin the flow. Let’s be honest, they don’t really ruin THE flow, they ruin MY flow. I’m cranky because I’m usually without a date having convinced myself it’s easier without one as I’m usually a bridesmaid or working right. But the point is, the slow songs gave me a new perspective on the party- there are folks who love a slow dance and you have to entertain all your guests. Not everyone is into sandwich dancing (as my parents call it), or line dancing or even the circle dance-off. Something for everyone guarantees a super happy crowd and that’s what we are going for. So bust out the Brian Adams and Tim McGraw because we are going to get slow and romantic for a few folks. Plus slow songs are a great time to freshen up your cocktails, hit up the photo booth or the potty. As a guest who always is bummed at the last song, I now understand why receptions aren’t all day affairs. It’s not just about saving their livers or bank accounts. This is one long night from start time to end time. After 5 And 6 hours of following the must play list, must not play list (usually 3 pages longer than the must play list), making sure each song transitions smoothly, handling requests, announcements and all the traditional and non-traditional pieces of the reception, and confirming that the couple is satisfied (although we do feel like stalkers checking in but you can’t redo this party) then our job is nearly done.
Nearly. But here’s how this not-so-glamorous job begins and ends. First you have to haul a van full of equipment into the venue. We are talking multiple trips even with a dolly. Sometimes upstairs. In my case, it was upstairs which means NO DOLLY. Can’t complain though, it was a great bicep and quad workout. However as cute as my heels were they were not the best decision I had made that day. So now you have to set up. Awesome. This particular party also had up-lighting. So literally we had a suitcase of power cords. A suitcase. On wheels. Thank goodness. It was definitely TSA approved as a carry-on but would require the assistance of at least two flight attendants to help get that bad boy in an over head compartment. So now you know lots of cords. With those cords comes the hazard of tripping… I tried twice sober so we know at a four hour open bar, it’s imperative to tape all the cords down. Safety first. I completely agree. Now we are tapping cords for 15 up-lights, a gobo, a slide show projector and the speakers, lighting and sound system for the actual booth. That’s a whole lotta tape. And guess what-It’s a whole lotta bending and snapping Actually it’s not as cute as Elle Woods- it’s more of a on-your hands-and-knees work out. All around the room. No big deal. But it feels so great when it’s all done and cords are safely and neatly concealed…
Until the end of the night when you have to remove all of this super sticky tape from the floor and the cords – it is NOT fun. In my case, I realize I’m calling myself out here but it’s part of the experience, the tape kept sticking together and then sticking to my fresh manicure which pulled the polish off. Annoying. Keep in mind, this is just the set up and break down which was what I had the pleasure in experiencing, but this doesn’t cover all the preliminary work that goes into preparing for a wedding. There is a whole list of things that the owners and office employees do to ensure that the couple’s every request is met and communicated. Needless to say, yes, a DJ’s job is fun, but it’s a TON of work and again, the similar lesson learned here is that they are worth every penny. I’m not saying that my shoes and nails aren’t cut out for the job of a DJ… nor am I saying that if given the opportunity again would I say no. In fact, had a blast and a new found respect for the DJ’s and look forward to droppin’ the beats again. What I am saying is that I will happily stick to my job as wedding planner and when I talk to my brides about the DJ’s they hire, I can explain in detail what that job entails and what to look for. Thanks for the awesome experience Anthony and Dori! ***please note, I am well aware that I am breaking some grammatical rules in case my high school English teacher takes a ganderloo at this-… my disclaimer is that it’s part of my charm***
No really… I am Living the Dream- The SSD Photo Shoot

No really… I am Living the Dream- The SSD Photo Shoot

For those of you who know me, when you ask how I am doing, my response is 9 times out of 10: I’m Living the Dream. Hell I say it so much it was piped on my birthday cake this year by one of my fave bakers (Don with 10th Street) as a surprise. And then one day. It came true. Shortly after I blew out those candle on that exact cake. When I envisioned Signed Sealed Delivered Events, I knew what I wanted my business announcement to look like and I knew who I wanted to be a part of it. It was quite the surreal day. Hair – thank you sweet Jamie at Whimz. Makeup – a million thank you’s to the oh-so-talented Bobby Brown and Chanel makeup artist, Patty Meketa Needleman. Costume (it’s more fun to call it a costume- makes me feel fancy)-  Picked out with the help of  Beth Foley, a dear FP bride who I hold so close to my heart. Thanks for helping me shop, even though you didn’t know what for.
I’m not used to having all that excitement!  But let us not stop there… Fabulous shoes- thank you rain for making me stay in Kohl’s that extra hour so as not to get drenched and having to scour over the clearance rack to stumble upon these gems!
You would think I just won a Grammy, right?The on-site location was down town Belleville, my home town, born and raised, and I am proud of it. Once my first brides arrived, some halfway in their dresses, the lacing and bustling began. Not too abnormal for me.
Then more and more people showed up. Even the sweet Noreen who I stalked for 9 months to get my job at the hotel as the wedding and events coordinator was there.Directing traffic. An audience of onlookers. Police escorts… All these people showing up to support me All these brides… And most hilarious, brides that were the background of the picture. At one point I said: it’s not about you broads today… And it didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel real.
Insert goosebumps and tears here…
As my dear friend June was up on a ladder taking my picture. THE very picture I imagined in my head for months and months, I couldn’t help but tear up. When I said EXACT, I mean EXACT. But it was kinda hard. Standing the right way, tilting your head just right, this hip here, that hip there, left foot green, right hand yellow. Seriously, its tough. And now I understand why Jennifer Aniston makes a ton of money- posing, modeling and acting is REALLY hard! I use the Jen reference as some of you may know I drink Smart Water because she endorses it and I wear her perfume. I’ve said for years, as long as I follow her regime, I will eventually look like her. Check out my “Get Your Hair Did” board on Pinterest- she is all over it. I will be darned if one day while meeting with the fabulous invitation/paper product designer Amanda from Unique Moments at the Bread Co., and elderly woman came up to me and said: I am sorry to bother you, but I just had to say, you look a little like Jennifer Aniston. Mind you she said “a little” not “just like” and she could be legally blind, but that didn’t matter. From that moment on, I was convinced that the law of attraction works. Anyway, back to the story. Everything about the day was fantastic.
Pops and Shel- you seriously will never meet a better father- daughter duo
THE most gorgeous dress, tattoo, personality and heart is packaged in this pretty lil thing.
Even the margaritas afterwards with one of THE most gorgeous dresses and brides ever- check out the FAB tattoo! and her dad, the director of traffic. And my sweet little friend Courtney who has supported me since the very mention of this idea, the one who has worked SEVERAL long event weekends with me was the first to volunteer to be a bride in this shoot in her most precious of wedding gowns- so Carrie Bradshaw.
The whole night was so emotional for me and perfect- it was just a huge wave of “holy-shit-this-is-real-are-you-ready?” Well rest assured, I more more than ready world. In fact, 2013 horoscope told me so. That too is a true story. When I got home I didn’t want to take my $15 shoes off… I really am Living the Dream… I have said it for years… all those motivational quotes, positive affirmations, the genuine “I-want-your-day-to-be-perfect-no-matter-what-it-takes” attitude, you get what you give way of life really has paid of.
And we can’t of course not give a shout out to these pretties:
Lacey Angel Natasha Courtini Alison my NYE bride Kate the Great Tena Lauren Lindsay Little Michelle Mag Pie
A shout out to the secret support staff- you know who you are. I am blessed beyond words to have met you 5 short years ago. And last but not least huge hug to my mom- I can’t help but say it every single day. Thank you for believing in me, for supporting me, for being my mom and my best friend. xoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxooxoxoxo
When I Grow Up

When I Grow Up

I love connecting with people, building friendships and creating networks of wedding professionals who can come together and make a girl’s dream come true and rock their reception- beyond what they thought was even possible. I’ve been making these connections for the last five years. Some are connections and others I consider friends. And although I am not new to the industry, I am coming from a different angle now; not representing a reception venue, but as an independent coordinator of Signed Sealed Delivered Events . One would think that networking and even “friending” someone who is seen as your competition would be bad bad bad bad bad. I guess I just don’t think that way. Why can’t we be friends? There’s plenty of business to go around… Help someone out, pay it forward, welcome them to your industry…. Not the general consensus that I noticed… Of course maybe it’s just me… But I am determined to play the game differently. I learned a very beautiful lesson from two very admired wedding professionals. Michael Nolte, wedding planner, designer and owner of Nolte’s Bridal and Kindra Browne owner of Simple Elegance Bridal Coordination Firm were featured speakers at the Wedding Market Expo I attended this past spring. Of all the pages and pages of notes that I took that week, one thing really struck me during Kindra’s session. She said when she started her business, a friend told her to contact Michael and ask him to lunch. Of course she thought this sounded crazy as he was the premiere coordinator in the area, why would he meet with her. She eventually built up the courage to ask him and guess what he said… he said YES! (all puns intended here friends!) So moral of the story is Michael offered his time, advice and encouragement to someone who was new in the industry. He didn’t see her as a threat; he saw her as someone he could mentor. How noble and kind and talk about passing it on…. I have got to meet people like that here.
Me, Kindra Browne, GiGi and Dana
GiGi, Michael Nolte and me
That day in April began my search for a mentor, my “Michael Nolte.” I found her at my first Association of Bridal Consultants meeting. Funny thing was, it wasn’t our first meet and greet. Aaren was a coordinator for a wedding I worked at the hotel on 9.10.11. Now the reason I remember the date is not because the catchiness of the numbers. It was because the reception was booked to start an hour later than what was printed on the invites. 200 people hanging out in a sun drenched lobby on a hot summer day while my staff, Aaren and her magical assistants and I began racing around to get things ready as quick as possible. Long story short, we became a team pretty darn quickly and everyone ate, danced and partied happily ever after that night. It was to my surprise that we met again just a few months ago. Although I don’t know why I act surprised as it is such a small, small world. I recently built up my courage to ask for advice that I knew I was going to need. I met Aaren and her adorable mini me, Angela, at the charming City Coffeehouse and Creperie in Clayton for a chat on the sun porch. If you have not ventured out to this delicious joint, you need to put it on your list. This is just a small sample of their menu, not even including all the crepes…. Mouthwatering I tell ya…. they even make their own bagel chips in house… buttery goodness that pairs perfectly with any salad.
Ok, back to what we are really talking about. I could have just hugged sweet Aaren, which come to think of it, I did. More than once. I am a hugger, I can’t help it. She was open and honest and answered every question I had. And most importantly, she had the same thought process as Michael Nolte; welcome to the club! Here’s some helpful tips that I wish I would have known when I started. Pay it forward. You will do great just remember this is a business… It was absolutely refreshing to be around this successful southern woman of wisdom, authenticity and positive energy- someone I want to be when I grow up.
Sweet Aaren is striking a pose second from the right at an ABC event at Villa Marie Winery in Maryville, IL last month
***please note, I am well aware that I am breaking some grammatical rules in case my high school English teacher takes a ganderloo at this-… my disclaimer is that it’s part of my charm***
My Day with B Huffman

My Day with B Huffman

Since I met Becky Huffman, about 5 years ago, I was convinced that I needed to become a florist and wear galoshes (yes I call them galoshes, not wellies, I prefer the traditional Paddington Bear galoshes) and an embroidered apron with my name on it.
I love making things pretty so this just seemed like it made sense.

And then I went to her store front in Millstadt (now in Columbia) and the chandelier, exposed brick and photos of weddings had me at hello.
But I had (and still have, mind you) a fantastic job at the Four Points by Sheraton so I put my little dream on hold and decided I would be great friends with B Huff, the talented florist instead of joining ranks.

Over a few beers one night, my now dear friend, Becky mentioned me working for her and I nearly fell off my barstool. Um of course! So that pushed my plan into action….
At this point I should share that I had already started SSD Events but hadn’t gone live with it. I convinced myself that this was just what I needed to get my dream(s) going.

So I signed up for a day as a florist working with Becky on 2 weddings, while her other employees with 3 company vans handled the other weddings on one of the busiest wedding months of the year- JUNE.
We loaded one of the big vans that would make magic (literally) happen at several different venues on the same day with gorgeous flowers for some of the happiest brides!
First stop a beautiful church in Kirkwood, then the Crowne Plaza in Clayton for the reception… and then to The Magic House for an onsite ceremony and reception. Coincidence that both weddings were yellow and blue.

I love my iphone, but it doesn’t take great pics. Word to the wise, always hire a professional photog. I know several if you need a referral. Either way, since these weren’t weddings I coordinated, I took the liberty of capturing a few pics. Enjoy! I know I did.
And thank you Becky for the LONG day of fun and hard work. I can honestly tell you that flowers are worth every single penny. The amount of work and time involved in preparing, designing and delivering these beauties was more than I truly bargained for.

Although I heart coordinating weddings the best, I will be filling in with B Huff in the future.

Love this cake from the Cakery Bakery- if you haven’t had their deliciousness, you need to!
Love these homemade coloring book!
Here comes the bride! Everyone was watching. I loved this moment. In the hustle and bustle of the quick flip, everyone paused to watch the bride walk towards her groom
What I tell ya? The apron is so cute right?? Makes you want to be a B Huff girl doesn’t it? I promise she makes it look easy, I assure you its hard work.
Sweet Katie Bee’s Cupcake and Coffee bar from O’Fallon, Illinois setting a delicious tower of cupcakes!
I was slightly nervous about climbing this ladder… I had the biggest pair of scissors in my coveted Becky Huffman apron and I thought if I do fall, I may lose the ability to have children. But no worries, I didn’t fall.