We were married last month, October. I finally have a chance to sit and type up a review of the the various vendors we used. I hope you find this helpful in planning your big day.
Venue-Regency Lodge, A+-We looked researched quite a few venues before we decided on Regency Lodge. Ours was an engagement of question marks, and we needed a place that would allow for different variables. Early on we wanted to have the ceremony in a church but knew this might not be possible, and we wanted a place that could easily accommodate the ceremony and reception if needed. Melissa at Regency Lodge explained a few different possible solutions if we needed to hold both events in one location (which eventually we did). The other unknown in our equation was his father's health. His dad was diagnosed with cancer soon after we were engaged, and we had no idea if we would need to change the original wedding date if things went south. Again, Regency was gave us the opportunity of a tentative date that had to be confirmed six months out. This offered us enough time to make an informed decision. On top of these, everything else went very smoothly. The service was excellent. Melissa was willing to meet with us multiple times in order to insure we got what we wanted. She and her staff put together all the centerpieces (I assumed my maids and I would have to do that), communicated with all the other vendors, and made sure the day went off without a hitch. Everyone raved about the food (Regency Lodge requires you to use their menu. We had beef tips burgundy and salmon for entrees). The general decor is beautiful and welcoming. At one point I even sent my aunt to the front desk with a jump drive (I needed printed copies of the readings because my printer at home ran out of ink) and they didn't hesitate to help with this. She was stunned. I would highly recommend this venue.
Gowns-Elegant Occasions, A-I searched long and hard for my bridal gown visiting at least seven different shops before finding "the one". The gals at Elegant Occasions in Lincoln, NE were wonderful. Other places I went either tried to pressure me into buying gowns I didn't want and didn't flatter me or left me completely to my own devices. These ladies helped most by being honest and letting me know which dresses they thought suited me best. They also helped by fetching and returning gowns as needed. The gown I ended up with was a discontinued style so the price was adjusted accordingly. As a bargain hunter by nature, I was thrilled with what I got for the money I paid. The gown was easily worth twice what I was charged. The one word of caution I have here may or may not have anything to do with the store. When my bridesmaids were measured they were all told they should order dresses sizes at least two bigger than what they normally wear (18 instead of 14 for example) based on the measurements charts available. Every single dress that came in was in the size ordered but fit was too small. I had the girls order at the beginning of last December in case we needed to move the wedding from fall to spring because of the groom's father's health. It turned out to be a good thing, too. While the wedding date didn't change it gave everyone plenty of time to fit into those gowns.
Tuxedos-Gentleman's Choice, A-My fiance worked for this company many years ago, so there was no question where we would get the tuxedos. They had a great selection of styles and colors to choose from and offered expert advice about colors, sizes (especially for the boys), and were able to accommodate out-of-town guests easily. They are part of a nationwide network so people living out of state could get their measurements done at home and uploaded into a database that GC would access. This made getting the correct sizes very easy.
Flowers-Piccolo's Flowers, A+-Frank Piccolo was wonderful. He has been in the industry for many years and really knows his stuff. I told him my budget right at the start, and he honored that. I told him my ideas, what I wanted my bouquet to look like, showed him some pictures, and he told me how he could make it affordable by offering alternatives that kept my vision (and budget) in tact. The flowers arrived to the venue on the day of the wedding in pristine condition and very fresh. The arrangements were the perfect accents to the party. I didn't order alter pieces, but I did get to see some they had in the store for another party, and they looked amazing as well. After visiting with a couple other florists who tried to upsell and over charge (I'd done my homework) Frank was quite a breath of fresh air.
Chair covers-Chair Cover Elegance, A-We honestly didn't know if we were going to use chair covers until about a month before the event. This company was recommended to us by Regency Lodge, so I gave them a call. After speaking with the lady for a bit, she offered me to mail me a quote on a contract along with some color swatches. I used the website to determine which knot I wanted for the sash. They had quite a few options to choose from! The cost was very reasonable. Set up and take down were included which meant I didn't have to do anything.
Decorating-Amato's Flowers, A-Decorations were becoming a headache for me. I knew what I wanted (kind of) but not how to do it. My fiance saw another wedding being set up and liked the work, so he got the name and number of the vendor for me. Again, this was nearly a last minute addition for the planning. We were about a month out when I contacted Pam the first time and told her what I was looking for. She ended up doing the decorations for the grand staircase, the archway, the cake table, and the head table. It all looked beautiful, and she even incorporated some of the personal touches I wanted but were not part of her general regimen.
Cake-Hy-Vee, 178&Pacific, A-Jackie was great. She was always so upbeat. She is also very talented. Again, I had some definite ideas about what I wanted for the bride's cake, and my fiance wanted a Creighton cake. He has season tickets to the basketball games. She created a sheet cake decorated to look like a basketball court and put a spherical cake on top decorated to look like a basketball with a bluejay! He loved it! I loved my cake as well. The hardest part of this whole process was choosing the cake flavors. They gave us about a dozen different flavors to taste, and almost every one was amazing. We settled on almond for his cake and the center tier of mine and dark chocolate for the top and bottom tiers of my cake. The raspberry champagne was like heaven, but decided we will do that for our 1 year anniversary cake.
Alterations-Fast Alterations, A-Anna is a very talented seamstress, and I had heard a lot of good things about her work. My gown was purchased off the rack and needed some beads replaced (it was the one everyone tried on before ordering theirs) and a bustle put in. I didn't need to many alterations, but my sister took her bridesmaid gown there for alterations. I was very pleased with her work. When I went in for the final fitting, everything looked perfect. Every bead that needed to be replaced was sewn on in such a way they looked original to the gown. My sister's gown did need alterations, and when Anna was finished the gown looked as if it had been tailor made for my sister. Also, when my gown was damaged (see below) Anna told me to bring it back and fixed everything in short order so that I would have a beautiful gown to wear at my wedding..I will keep using Anna for any future alterations I might need for my slacks and dresses. Her store is small, but don't let that fool you. She is a professional.
Pressing-Armstrong Cleaners, F--This was the one major sore issue in my wedding planning. I needed to get my dress pressed after the alterations were done and chose Armstrong because it is close to where I live. I took the gown in, looked over the gown with a female employee, and we both decided it really didn't need to be cleaned. It had been in the garment bag ever since leaving Elegant Occasions with the exception of taking it in for alterations. I went over the dress carefully at the seamstress shop to make sure the beads were attached securely (they were) so I knew it was clean and in good shape. The manager gave it a quick once over as well and said it looked pretty good so I sent it out to be pressed only. When I got it back there were a number of beads ripped off the train, black grease marks on the bodice, and purpley red spots on the underside of the train. Worst of all the manager was terribly unprofessional about it all basically saying the damage was there when I gave them the dress and that IF the beads came off while it was being pressed it could only be because there were not properly sewn on. He refused to fix the damage or give me my money back until I told him I would see him in court. I have contacted the BBB about this, but it doesn't appear anything will be resolved. BTW his rating with the BBB looked good, so I am not sure how accurate their ratings are. His written response was also quite flippant and basically accused me of trying to get away with something. I will NEVER use Armstrong Cleaners or anyone affiliated with them in the future. He is about the most unprofessional person I have ever dealt with in my life.
Cleaning and Pressing-Camelot Cleaners, A+-After the above debacle and with only a week left before the big day I took my damaged gown to Camelot Cleaners nearly in tears. I showed them everything that needed to be cleaned (grease marks and red spots) and asked if there was any way they could clean and press my gown in less than a week. They were appalled at the condition of the dress but assured me that everything would be taken care of. Sure enough I got a call about 5 days later, and when I picked up the dress it was perfect. Every mark was gone, every pleat sharp, every wrinkle gone. I fully expected to be charged extra for the rush on this job but no! I paid just about $15 more than I did Armstrong for what should have been only pressing. My dry cleaning will only ever go here in the future.
Photographer-TLC Photography, B-Again, we searched and researched for a very long time before settling on a photographer. We were very budget conscious, but I decided if we splurged it should be on this. He wanted the rights to the pictures and have them on a disk so that we could make as many as we wanted whenever we wanted without having to place additional orders. TLC offered us a great package at reasonable prices and rights to all photos. We were very excited and signed with them about five months into the engagement. I've never been through the rigors of wedding photography from an insider's perspective, but I'm not sure what we got was worth an A. Some of the pictures have people in awkward poses, eyes half closed, or it just doesn't look like they are quite ready. This is to be expected, but I would also think there would be additional pictures taken to compensate. It seems like what we got on the disk and what was printed out was either not enough (if they gave us everything they took) or a "best of" selection. Either way I am a bit disappointed because these are the only pictures I have of some people.
Our invitations were ordered online (beautiful) but I don't remember who we used. The design was almost identical to one we saw in one of the binders and was a fraction of the price. We also ordered our programs and Save the Dates online, and they came out great as well. The quality of the printing, paper, etc was equal to what I would expect from a physical store. Don't be shy about ordering online. We used different sites for each of these items, and they all turned out nice.