My husband (!) and I married yesterday, the 22nd, and I wanted to post reviews while it was all fresh in my mind.
Bridal Salon- Distinctive Designs in Rockville (A+)- I am tiny and a costumer by profession; translation, nothing fits off the rack and I'm picky. I found a dress there pretty close to my design, for way less money than I was expecting to pay, and Yolanda, their on-site seamstress, was great to work with. I had her make extensive alterations and she did a lovely job.
Attendant dresses- Alfred Angelo (A)- My mother, MOH, and flowergirls all got their dresses from AA even though they were spread out between CA, MD, and OK. AA's website was easy to use to talk through styles and colors, and when we went into the store even on a busy day the salesgirls were able to help us relatively quickly. They weren't able to give us more than a tiny swatch of the gown color, which made coordinating linens etc more difficult, but otherwise we found it very much as we expected.
Tuxes- Men's Wearhouse (B+)- The groom, Best Man, and various family members all got their tuxes through MW, which was nice because once again we had people ordering from MD, VA, OK, TX, and PA. There were a few problems when the tux from TX was caught being delivered there instead of to MD, the groom's pants legs were hemmed to different lengths and his jacket the wrong size, the groom's and my brother's shirts were mixed up, and the father-of-the-grooms shirt was the wrong size. All of these things were fixed by the local store the morning of the wedding, which redeems them in my eyes. I think my husband's shirt and cumberbund may still have been a little big, but it wasn't terribly noticeable.
Hair- Biago's in Clarksville (A-)- My mother, MOH, and myself had hair, nails, and pedis the morning of the wedding. We started out on the wrong foot at my hair trial because they didn't let me tell them much about the style I wanted when I called to make the appointment, and then when i arrived I hadn't gotten more than a sentence out of my mouth when the lady doing it (Nancy) said that my hair was too long to do it. I let her know that I had done it myself before and she agreed to try, but since my wedding was at 4pm and the trial version fell down before 4pm the day she tried it I was worried. The final version on the day was perfect however, and very secure. They brought us juice and pastries, and when I changed my mind and then smudged my nailpolish they fixed it right away. My mother and MOH also looked terrific.
Makeup- Natural Looks By Victoria (A+)- I called Victoria two weeks before the wedding because I was going to have my makeup done at the hair salon/spa, but they let me know the day of my hair trial that they didn't think it was a good idea because I'd have to bring the makeup to them (long story). The hairdresser gave the name and number of someone she was looking at for her daughter's makeup, and Victoria quickly confirmed for me that she was available, asked me lots of questions, and gave me good advice for prior to the wedding. On the day she arrived quickly, dealt well with my very difficult skin, worked within our time constraints and I was very happy with the results.
Photographer- Stephanie Miller (A+++)- I cannot rave enough about Stephanie's work. We haven't even received our wedding photos yet and I think I can safely say she was our favorite vendor. I found Stephanie here from someone else's recommendations, and I've consistantly seen her well-reviewed since. She's young so her fee is very good, but she could command a lot higher of a price for her work. Our engagement photos were phenomenal, she's good with posed and documentary-style photos, worked with our dog, was pleasant and unobtrusive, and surprised us at the reception by putting out an ipod with photos from the ceremony on it for us and our guests to enjoy. I cannot wait to see the rest! Oh, and she got our guestbook to us less than 24 hours after we chose the photos!
Florist- Wilhides in Ellicott City (A+)- My father has been getting flowers for my mother from Wilhides for years, so they were the natural choice. We brought the vases for the tables and some feathers and butterflies for my bouquet to them and they exceeded my expectations. The only problem we had was that my hair flowers were supposed to be on combs and weren't, otherwise it was perfect. A general note to brides who choose a pageant-style bouquet, they are top heavy so it takes more effort to hold onto them because they aren't evenly balanced.
Ceremony/cocktail musicians- Hill Chamber Music (A+)- We had a string duo (cello and violin) and a trumpet. Anna was easy to work with and promptly responded to my many permutations of song choices as I worked it out with the music minister at our church. She had good suggestions for ways to improve the overall smoothness of sounds, and the price was excellent for what we got. They sounded great at the ceremony, however I did not get to hear them at the cocktail hour because my husband and I were taking photos and did not attend. We did not have them at the rehearsal, but they anticipated the flow of the ceremony even so.
Cocktail hour/Reception site- The Walters Art Museum (A++)- Wow. Just wow. My husband and I love history and art so this was the perfect location. We rented out the parking lot next to the museum and handed out passes at the ceremony so all our guests had a convenient and secure location to leave their vehicles. Our first coordinator, Bob Zimmerman, was informative and helpful. When he left halfway through our planning process the new coordinator, Heather Poff, stepped in seamlessly. She even gave us a beautiful card with a membership to the museum. Our guests raved about the space, and it was stunning. They let us take lots of photos in the galleries, which surprised and pleased us. It is expensive, but I think worth the money if this is your kind of venue. Very classy.
Caterer- Linwood's (A++)- It's tough to say who we loved more, The Walters or Linwood's, both were spectacular. Sherri Levin, the catering coordinator is a total pro and by the end of the process I had complete confidence that she would take care of everything and i did not worry about a thing. They've worked with the Walters a lot of times before so that made things really easy. The food was excellent, she brought us a plate of appetizers during our photo session when we couldn't go to the cocktail hour, and the staff during the dinner were attentive without being disruptive. We went with the coffee and dessert bars at the end of the night and there was something for everyone. They even made our signature drink for us. Sherri helped us with the linens, table number holders, children's plates that made adults jealous, you name it. At the end of the night my dad was amazed at how fast they broke everything down. I highly recommend Linwood's and especially Sherri.
Cake- Linwood's (A)- The caterer also made our cake, and we asked them for something that looked simple done in a difficult way. We wanted a style that would be easy in fondant, but done in buttercream, and they delivered. We're not big cake-eaters so this was mainly for our guests, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
Band- Raggs and the Allstars (A++)- Another wow! We're both fans of Big Band and Swing music, and they play that and so much more. Our guests had the best time thanks to Raggs and we got an overwhelming number of compliments on them. We asked them for a difficult thing; a specific version of our choreographed first dance, and boy did they get it right. I was so nervous about this, but they were perfect with timing, we didn't have to adjust at all. They surprised us by learning another song that we had requested, but were happy to have from a CD, and they kept people on the dance floor who don't even usually dance. When prior to the reception our Apron Dance CD was not playing in their player they found a way to make it work. When during one swing dance song our guests made a circle on the floor the whole brass section came out and joined them to play, it was incredible. We couldn't have asked for more. One note: If you use the Walters the hall makes for a lot of reverberation so the sound was really really loud. My throat is sore today from yelling to talk to people. Also, they are really expensive, but an 8-piece band that has played at the White House etc is bound to be.
Wedding Night Hotel- The Peabody Court Hotel (A)- My initial experience booking the hotel was not fantastic, the lady I talked to was monotone even when I mentioned it was to be our wedding night and could have been a computer for her helpfulness. The rate was great for the niceness of the hotel at $139 for the night. We got a King room for that and were well-pleased. Parking is by valet only and was pretty convenient for $25 minus tip. The best part was that we walked the one block over from the Walters and didn't have to keep the car around during the ceremony because of it. We spent an hour at the bar with our MOH and Best Man after the reception, and the drinks were good if a little pricey.
Transportation- Her Majesties Service (A)- We were looking for a classic car and ended up with their 1962 Rolls Royce, which was lovely. I was so excited about this, especially after we went to see it and found that they also had a 1936 Rolls (Gorgeous!), and a 1953 Rolls in restoration. The 1936 understandably didn't have AC and in July that was a deal-breaker (it ended up being 104 degrees!), and we wanted the 1953 for our Casablanca-themed wedding, but it wasn't ready in time. The only odd thing was that the AC in the '62 was provided or supplimented by a strange contraption in the front seat, but we were grateful for it. Our driver was the man who showed us the cars initially and was very helpful getting me in my dress and bouquet in and out of the car. The price was really good too, but that's in part because we didn't have the car for very long.
So that's everything, I think. If you have questions or think I've missed something let me know and I'll fill in the gaps. Thanks to everyone for the advice that helped me find some amazing vendors. Nobody was less than great.