Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Alicia and Lynetta  | Photo by Signed Sealed Delivered Events
Today is the day to reflect on how much we love, honor, cherish and appreciate our mommas, the women in our lives who have raised us, whom we look up to, learn from and lean on.
Rebecca and Susan  |  Photo by Abbey Miller Sigler
The ones who walked us to school till we were old enough to take the bus. The ones who read us bed time stories. The ones who consoled us in the middle of the night after a bad dream. The ones who showed us how to shave our legs, to put on mascara and how to act like a lady. (Clearly this blog is geared towards the ladies…) The ones who taught us how to boil pasta, and to shop around for the best deals. To treat others with kindness and compassion and love. Who taught us how to wrap a gift with newspaper and yarn and still look beautiful. Who taught us all the words to the Sound of Music soundtrack…
Alison and her beautiful momma  |  Photo by Ten Sixteen Photo
I could go on and on and on… As a planner at Signed Sealed Delivered Events I work super close with brides and grooms. That’s a given. Bbbbuuuuuuttttt I also work with their mommas. Sometimes behind the scenes and sometimes even more than I do with my couples!
Shana and Doris  | photo by Brooke G Images
So today I would like to give a shout out to those ladies… my mothers of the bride and mothers of the groom. You ladies rock! And I love you all!
I gotta be honest, my mom is my best friend and although I am a wedding planner (in real life) I will have her in attendance for most of the big wedding decisions for my up future vows to my love connection {spoiler alert}.
This is me and my momma in real life! Photo by my dear friend BiBi check her out  Photo Elegance She does beautiful family portraits and weddings!!!
I am going to include just a teensy bit of wedding planning info from Signed Sealed Delivered Events to those who need it… but in the meantime, check out a few of my favorite mother daughter wedding moments!!!
Ashely and Kim |  Photo by Josie Anderson
Lauren and Dawn  |  Photo by friend of the family
Danielle and Diane |  Photo by Complete Weddings and Events
Times have changed and so have the roles for moms. Looking for some ways to keep the moms involved with the planning process? Here’s a few from Signed Sealed Delivered Events! – menu tasting – guest list planning – co-hosting the showers – some moms even come to bachelorette parties – budget planning- especially if they are contributing – I like to ask moms to come to the floral designer appointments because not only do they have good taste, but in some cases moms have been to way more weddings than you and your fiance so they will have a good idea of who on each side will get flowers in addition to the bridal party and centerpieces – in most cases your parents are your co-hosts of the wedding and they will be assisting in greeting guests when you are taking photos and visiting with other guests – wedding dress shopping – bridesmaids dress shopping – and of course you should definitely accompany her to HER dress shopping!
This makes my heart sooo happy!!! Jenny and her girls!!! Photo by Ravetta Photography
Have a wonderful mother’s day! Give your mothers and mother in laws a big ole smooch today and tell them thank you for being a part of your world and making it a better place.
Always a Bridesmaid … and the adventures of what not to do

Always a Bridesmaid … and the adventures of what not to do

After starring in several weddings as a bridesmaid (yes I said star because HELLOOOOO there’s a camera flashing in your direction all. day. long.), I have had a lot of fun and a lot of tears. Made new friends, lost some friends. Grew closer with others. And of course added to my formal wear section of my closet.
But mostly I have learned a lot of lessons. And because the topic of bridesmaids, do’s and don’t’s and expectations and support is a normal conversation I have with my brides… I wanted to share some of my experiences.
  • I’ve been the Maid of honor.
  • The Overachieving bridemaid
  • The bridesmaid who just showed up for all the parties and went in on the group gift.
  • The one who knows everything about the couple.
  • The one who barley knows the bride.
  • Who barely knows the groom.
  • The one who knows nothing about the couple, including their middles names or even occupation.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I was the jealous bridesmaid. Super duper jealous. I went above and beyond and complained most of the time until I literally gave myself a come to Jesus. This was one of my bestest most closest friends and I was acting a fool.
AND I’ve been the MOH who actually got kicked out of the wedding… After pricing out the bridesmaids dresses, the jewelry, the shoes. Getting that bride and groom phenomenal deals with killer vendors. Including a reception at MY VERY FAVORITE ballroom in town. The one which I imagined for years, making my own grand entrance into the space as the shades went up on the windows to reveal the most beautiful views of St. Louis. Talk about goosebumps. But yes, I loved her and I wanted the beautiful and the best for her so I negotiated with my contacts and got an INCREDIBLE deal for a HOT HOT HOT date. Either way, I got asked to step down and our friendship came to a steep hault. In fact it basically was pushed off a cliff and forgotten. All because I was unable to attend a dress fitting on a weekend in September. BECAUSE I AM A WEDDING PLANNER and WORK EVERY WEEKEND especially in the fall.  Oh and I also wanted to mention this was 14 months BEFORE her wedding. But I get it. Her wedding is important. Your wedding is important. Anyways I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason because I booked another wedding for that date AND I met some super awesome people after that door closed.
I’ve worn brown, and red and purple and persimmon and mocha and blush and black and maroon. And I did get to use them again. I had one ball gown torn apart to add some excitement to a bridesmaid dresses purchased from a consignment shop for a wedding I was planning. And I did wear one again. I wore it to her reception in the states after her destination wedding. And it was cut so low in the front AND the back that I was hiding NO secrets. At 25 years old, I thought this is sexy. But adjusting the “girls” every 2 minutes quickly changed my mind. I felt like I was wearing suspenders and grateful that my parents weren’t on the guest list.
I’ve been the bridesmaid who planned the majority of the wedding. Every little detail. Even spent a huge amount of time planning the best bachelorette parties and showers and creating the most perfect of gifts.
I’ve been the bridesmaid who showed up with NO moolah and NO gift. I was on my 8th month of unemployment and 3rd wedding that summer. I literally caught a ride to get across 3 states to the wedding…
I’ve been the MOH who kicked themselves out of the wedding. Or kindly stepped down, if you will. Sometimes you just have the feeling that you can’t and won’t live up to those expectations. The reason I am sharing this is because I  am human I talk to brides every week about their bridesmaids involvement and what is normal I understand a ton of the experiences of being in a wedding and of planning a wedding I have made the mistakes and know what that looks and feels like Expectations of bridesmaids now vs. 30 years ago are still the same, yet our lives, the               demands, conveniences, our jobs, our priorities are dramatically different. You are busy. Your bridesmaids are busy. We are all busy. It does not mean they don’t care about your wedding. It just means they are living their lives.
When the traditions of bridesmaids getting together to plan elaborate showers and bachelorette parties, making centerpieces, attending all the dress fittings and vendor meetings, were the norm, think about what a young woman’s life was like. Their job was to graduate high school, meet a man, build a home and have babies! Oh and to be pretty. Pretty was very important. Now we are all working, going to school, living independently, dating, volunteering, getting married, having families. And all the while still staying pretty. So basically I’m not saying your bridesmaids shouldn’t partake in all the excitement or all your scheduled events and to just show up day of. I’m merely saying that this is your wedding and it’s important to choose your maids based on your relationship with them. But knowing too that they have a lot going on and that they love you but may not have a ton of time to help glue wine corks together. That is what planners are for. To keep you excited, relaxed and enthusiastic. To keep you on track.   And heck, I am great at crafting. Call me, I love wine and glue guns. But most of all, I love weddings, I understand what your to do list looks like and I can help you stay organized and get you down the aisle to stand next to your bestest buddies, while you say forever to your other half.
It’s Been One Year

It’s Been One Year

Always N Forever Photography
Happy anniversary to me. Today is exactly 365 days since I left my job of wedding and event planning at a hotel and biweekly paychecks so that I could plan weddings full time with Signed Sealed Delivered Events- the little wedding planning business I had dreamed about in private and joked about in public since college. One year later, this is what it looks like. It is a rainy Thursday morning and I am writing from my dining room table while drinking chai tea. A regular occurance actually since we decided to adopt a puppy during wedding season (who’s the smartest b*tch in this place) so to spare the carpet and Holly’s sanity, I work from this spot many a mornings before I head to the office for appointments or tastings or tours or venues or networking events. I am not fluffing this blog up with pretty pics although you know I love pictures so much. My every day is documented by the iphone and then updated to all the social media sites so I can share how much I love these people I work with.  But today it’s just me and the computer and a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that I want to share. Raw. No filter. No pretty. Yes I am still in my jammies and glasses and a side pony because I am bringing the 80’s back. I also want to add that it’s a reheated chai tea from the Bucks from yesterday. Told you it’s not pretty and I am being honest. So here we go: musings from the love aficionado I am blessed beyond words. I am a super spoiled rotten girl. I seriously cannot imagine being loved and supported by more people. It’s just rediculous. Every morning I list them off in my head. Attitude of gratitude. And then it happens and I meet some new wonderful person and I pinch myself. There truly are so many good people in this world. I just say goodness, we are going to be great friends and I already love you. I never slowed down before. Yes, my hours are crazy and I dream about weddings and I wake up to text an idea or reminder to a bride or sketch out some back drop and I type up timelines and to-do lists till 2 am. But before I was in fight or flight mode, racing here to there. Always in a hurry, most of the time late, trying to get that last call in, pleasing everyone in my path. Having the best of intentions to be present and enjoy the moment, to read that book, to have coffee on the deck or go visit that 6 month old baby I haven’t seen since she was born. Constantly on the go and promising myself that I would make a vision board and go to yoga and read The Secret and devote time to a relationship and go four wheeling with my dad. Now I slow down. I notice that I don’t need music when driving or to be checking my email every 2 minutes (not to say that I don’t but I don’t feel like I NEED to). I meditate when I catch myself getting overwhelmed. I read that darn Secret twice in the last month and practice affirmations. I see the beauty in a country road, the sky, a couple of kids on bikes in the park, a simple and kind interaction on the street. An opportunity to open the door and smile. I even introduced myself to a stranger when walking the dogs yesterday. I am actually listening when people are talking. I still get frazzled but smelling the roses is a must, it’s a “bring you back to Belleville” if you will, connecting with nature and people. I still haven’t gone four wheeling but hey, I’m not perfect and it gives me something to look forward to. Speaking of perfection, it does not exist. And we are about to get personal. I have always strived for this rediculous expectation I put on myself and guess what, it made me miserable. I will be happy and love mysefl after I look and feel a certain way or do that next half marathon. Finally at thirty something I can say hey, you know you really do have great curves, and yes you gain and lose the same 10 pounds and sometimes it happens twice in a year. #dontjudge It doesn’t change who you are. I used to look in a mirror and look for something wrong. Now I go, hmmm those jeans actually look better tighter. #yourwelcome and wow, you look pretty today. Self talk is very powerful and although it seems silly it can actually make or break your morning. So no more getting down on myself when I go to the cake tasting or order a real calzone WITH gluten and WITH cheese because jeez, life is short and it tastes so good. Just may have to spend a little more time on those hill workouts is all. Miss Independent (aka me) wanted to know everything and do everything herself. My ma says I came out of the womb in heels and knowing more that everyone else and when I didn’t know it, I would stomp my feet. That is true, the stomping part. I used to get so upset when someone asked me to do something I didn’t already know how to do. Now I look at this as an opportunity to grow and learn and that I should always be growing and learning. Occasionally my blood pressure rises when I have to figure out something new and make mistakes and try again. But it’s ok and it’s always ok and I will eventually figure it out. And if you have to pour a glass of wine on your third try, that’s ok too. And it is ok to ask for help. This year my amazing ma didn’t make me ask, she just swooped in with answers and suggestions and support and very fierce loyalty. Sometimes it was just to be there to pour the wine while I figured it out. The point is I now know I don’t have to know how and I don’t have to do it alone. Following your intuition. Oprah talks about this A-ha moment. I love Oprah. I know I mention her often, but I can’t help it. Sometimes I even introduce people in her voice. #mygoodfriendjohntravolta For years I have been asking where this magical intuition is. The answer was: it was there but if you refuse to listen and base your decisions on the reactions of others, then of course you are never going to experience the A-ha. This year my sweet little intuition worked super hard for months to talk to me and at points, screaming at me. Now, I couldn’t necessarily understand what in the hell she was saying let alone defend my decisions to clients, family, friends, colleagues- but bottom line is I finally let that girl shout it from the rooftop and I just followed with unwavering trust. Lets be honest, it wasn’t totally unwavering. But she’s there now, shouting A-ha. We are a team and there are lots of high five’s. And damn it feels really good to say hey, I made that decision and that’s that and I trust myself (because the little voice in my head told me to). I love weddings soooooo much. It almost doesn’t make sense to me. I got teary eyed at a floral design meeting last week because the flowers were more perfect for the bridal bouquet than I could’ve imagined. I scan through engagement and wedding proofs and I am in awe. I can walk into a venue under construction that is merely a structure and a pile of bricks and I can see the space completed in my head and get goosebumps. I get so much joy from being with my couples and helping them pick out their first dance song or invitations or cake- you name it, it fills my heart with so much happiness to see the culmination of their love and their relationship come together and represented in this beautiful day that I find it unbearable sometimes. Someone once said Ashlee, you love love more than anyone I have ever met. And it’s true. My house and office are decorated like it’s Valentine’s day all year round. I used to avoid Valentine’s day. Perhaps a little saddened that I didn’t have a signif other or that I listened to the on and off banter of “he didn’t get me a gift” “it’s singles awareness day” “I don’t need to show you how much I love you just one day a year” But now I can’t get enough red, pink, gold, heart shaped jazz. And I tell people how much I love them everyday. And you best believe that on Valentine’s day I am going to go all out to make sure they know. Speaking of love, I had the idea for years that it had to look a certain way. It doesn’t. I have found love in the completely and utterly unexpected and that is quite possibly one of the coolest things I discovered this year. And that is how I know that I am in the right place. That I am living the once little dream that now has a family of the awesomest couples and coolest projects ever and the most incredible team of wedding professionals and support staff I could have never imagined. Happy anniversary to me. Can’t wait to see what the next year brings. xooxoxoxooxoxooxoo, Ashlee
Bridezillas: Myth or Reality

Bridezillas: Myth or Reality

It turns out that weddings are a booming business. Especially for those in reality TV production. I have plenty of clients who refer to David Tutera and Kleinfeld’s within the first 10 minutes of our consultation. I never actually paid much attention to these shows because they don’t really showcase all the magic of a wedding to me. And other shows sensationalize the not-so-great parts of a wedding. Sure, that’s awesome for ratings because folks love a little drama, they love to see a girl fly off her handle, demanding the best of the best, having unrealistic expectations and then coin her bridezilla.
Wikictionary defines it as such:
bridezilla (plural bridezillas)
  1. (usually humorous) A woman who, in the course of planning her wedding, exercises or attempts to exercise a high degree of control over all or many minor details of the ceremony and reception.
And exactly what may I ask is wrong with someone who wants to control all of the details?
We live in a society that expects perfection. The perfect job. The perfect house. The perfect body. The perfect clothes. The perfect spouse. The perfect relationship. The list goes on and on and on.
Now of course, daughter of the Life Coach, I know perfection doesn’t exist.
And as a planner of 6 years, I tell every. single. one. of. my. brides. that it won’t go perfectly.
BUT we will put a team of professionals together that will create the best day for you no matter the circumstances.
AND that something little may happen that you can’t control, your mom can’t control, the venue can’t control and that the planner can’t control, etc, etc, etc
BUT this dream team will do their best, I will do my best, to make sure it gets taken care of.
Let go of the idea of perfect.
Once you do that, things will seem way easier.
And not everyone understands this.
And not everyone operates under this idea.
And not everyone understands what it is like to plan a wedding.
You have one day.
One shot. One opportunity. (thank you Eminem)
to create and execute something you have imagined for a long time.
Something that defines your relationship with the person you are marrying.
Something that will entertain your guests.
Something that is breathtaking and beautiful.
Something that will be a night to remember.
That you can look back on with no regrets.
That is A LOT of pressure.
These girls have nightmares about it.
They have opinions being thrown at them from every direction.
They have a budget- and the majority of the time- its hard to stick to and still get everything you want.
They have moms that want it a certain way.
And mommy in laws that want it a certain way.
They have a groom that wants to elope.
They have dads that don’t think the groom is good enough.
And bridesmaids who are jealous that they aren’t getting married first.
And cousins who are mad they aren’t bridesmaids.
And venues that only allow set up 3 hours before show time.
I could keep going….
Oh and by the way, they also have full time jobs- some with multiple jobs.
And kids.
And volunteer.
And take care of their elderly family members.
Oh and did I mention taking care of yourself because you have a gorgeous dress.
You want to look your best.
And you need your sleep while still tracking those hours for work, and making it to the gym at 5am and helping the kids with the homework and keeping up with the laundry or even having a social life.
And there are only 24 hours in a day.
You see, I understand that it is a lot.
Which is why I am in business.
My clients understand the need for someone to help them keep it organized, to stay on track, to offer suggestions, advice, to listen, and to be there every step of the way, especially for those just-in-case moments.
But not everyone works with me. Or is me. Or understands the pressures and struggles of planning while still being a good mom, a daughter, a boss, a co-worker, a partner…
We are human. And it’s normal to get a little anxious with all the added stress.
So yes, you may snap when you didn’t mean to.
And you may cry because you want everyone to be happy.
And you may say things that aren’t true.
I understand that.
And so should, in my opinion, anyone who chooses to work in the wedding industry.
We know what the pressures are, what our clients are trying to manage.
And we certainly shouldn’t judge you for a few slips.
And we won’t take it personally.
Because we are professionals who know that this is normal.
That you are dealing with a lot.
And you will NEVER catch me calling my brides a Bridezilla.
In fact, when folks find out I am a planner, or ask about my business, they 9 times of of 10 say: any bridezillas?
No way jose, because they do not exist in my world.
Only girls who want their day to be magical.
To live up to their expectations, and their parents’ and his parents’ and the bridal party and the guests…
Moral of the story:
Brideszillas are myth. Because we are human.
Just a little wedding cake for thought:
If you are a wedding professional, be that calm, collected individual who offers a shoulder perhaps.
Who lends some kind advice such as: you look amazing, your girls will look amazing and we can find something in your budget.
If you are a family member, friend, co-worker of a bride, don’t take any of it personally; she really doesn’t mean it and she certainly doesn’t hate you.
And if you are the bride, take a deep breath pumpkin, recognize that it won’t be perfect, but in the end you are marrying your best friend.
And if that still doesn’t work, call me, I am a great wedding planner and I happy to help!
Reflections on Joy

Reflections on Joy

What brings you joy? They say life is short, I think we can all agree with that. So why spend your life stressed, unhappy or in a place, job or relationship that is less than fulfilling; that doesn’t bring you true joy? And have you found your joy? What fills you up? I have spent the last few years pondering this question. Journaling almost daily, having an attitude of gratitude (thank you Oprah), reciting affirmations and studying countless courses and books on self discovery. And here is what I have found… only when I finally slowed down to really sit and think about it, it turned out it was way simpler than I thought. It wasn’t money. Although that does make things a wee bit easier and it allows you distraction from these simple, yet challenging questions. It wasn’t getting a promotion or working the extra hour, extra day, extra weekend. It wasn’t having the perfect body. It wasn’t having the newest, latest and greatest fashions. Although looking good is feeling good. It wasn’t and certainly isn’t winning awards and being recognized by my peers. Although that feels pretty spectacular. And it wasn’t being in a relationship. It was waaaaaayyyyyy easier than that.
It is rolling on the floor with my dogs.
Scratching their bellies while their tongues dangle outside their mouths.
Legs kicking the air.
It is holding a baby and watching him sleep soundly.
Patting his bottom.
Rocking back and forth.
Imagining all the little dreams he is dreaming.
It is going for a walk, breathing in the chilly winter air as I listen to my feet crunch through the snow.
It clears my head and heart.
The stillness is so incredibly calming.
And so full of possibility.
It is seeing the sunrise as the world awakens.
It is listening to my dad tell the silliest of jokes while my mom gives him a look of disapproval.
I love this the most.
It is enjoying a cup of coffee and people watching.
It is getting REAL mail in my mail box… bills do not count.
It is laughing so hard I cry.
It is catching up with an old friend.
At a baseball game.
The crowd. The energy. It’s magnetic.
And the beers aren’t bad either…
It is wrapping a gift in the prettiest of papers with the biggest of bows and watching someone open it.
I love giving gifts.
It is spending time with my sisters as they try to outwit each other in a game of Apples to Apples.
It is watching two people fall in love.
It is seeing someone gain their confidence.
To finally see the beauty in themselves.
The beauty that you already knew they had.
It is baking a pie.
From scratch.
All by myself
…. or with the supervision of a really good cook.
Thanks Dave.
Birthday parties.
Giving back.
Bundling up in the freezing cold to go to a Bears game with my college buds.
A little kid’s laugh.
It’s meeting new friends. It’s connection.
It’s becoming more and more like my best friend, my role model and my mom.
It’s climbing into my own bed
in my own house every night
and realizing that I love the life I have created.
It’s waking up each day with a clean slate.
With direction and purpose.
With enthusiasm and love.
With gratitude for my life, my family, my friends.
That’s what brings me joy.
That’s what fills my heart.