Venue: The Syndicate (Rating: A+)
As soon as we walked into The Syndicate, I knew it was where I wanted to get married. We had both our ceremony (Flamingo) and our reception (The Grand Ballroom) there, and we received nothing but compliments on the whole night. Danielle was very helpful, and took all of the stress out of the process. I felt totally comfortable having Danielle make any last minute decisions on my behalf – she had some great ideas as far as setting up the room, flow of the evening, and where to put some of the decorations that I wanted. We got so many positive comments about the venue itself, how good the food was, and how well everyone was taken care of. It was also so nice to be able to drop off all the decorations the week of and know that Danielle would have everything set up for us. The only thing that was a little difficult was scheduling a rehearsal – they won’t guarantee you can come in the evening before, since it will depend on whether they have another event scheduled for that night, which makes it somewhat difficult to plan, but I also feel like it’s totally understandable. We ended up just doing a noon rehearsal followed by a lunch, which worked out great for us.
Bride’s Gown: Donna Salyer’s Fabulous Bridal (Rating: A)
I’ll be honest – I went to this store without intending to buy anything just so I could get the “bridal experience”, but I ended up purchasing my dress that day. When I told my consultant Donna my budget, I think I scared her because the budget was so low, but she rose to the challenge and took me to the “off the rack” area. My bridesmaids and I filled a rack with possibilities. Donna then showed me to a private dressing room (we actually had the whole second floor to ourselves that day) while my bridesmaids got comfy on the couch. Donna helped me into probably about a dozen dresses, listening carefully to what my ‘maids and I liked and disliked about each one. Finally, I found the one! The dress was beautiful, made by the house designer, and totally me – classic on the top, and fun and unique on the bottom. Donna was very friendly, helpful, and gave us some great advice as far as bustling- I think she even suggested the front bustle for my gown that made it so much easier to dance in and on which I was complimented all night. Donna also helped get me a great deal on the dress to bring it into my budget and I couldn’t say no. We celebrated with a glass of champagne, and I walked out that day with my dress. Fabulous Bridal gave me my dream gown at a price I could afford, and they made it so fun to shop for it!
Bridesmaids’ and Flower Girl’s Dresses: David’s Bridal (Rating:
I was glad that I had done my homework and pre-selected the gowns I wanted everyone in, because it was just SO busy when we were there and our consultant was not super helpful as far as selecting styles or whatnot. Anyway, I selected David’s because they had the color I wanted (silver, not gray or charcoal) and the price for the dress was right (~$149). Two of my girls bought their dresses that day, no problem. We also bought the flower girl’s dress right off the floor, which meant we could put it on layaway. My maid of honor bought her dress a few months later, without a problem. Then, however, David’s DISCONTINUED the color silver. With as many colors as they had, I couldn’t believe that they were discontinuing SILVER. So, my matron of honor had to rush in to the store to purchase her gown. Despite being the last one to buy it, she was the first one to take it to be altered, and she discovered that her gown had a train on it. I had to call each of the others to find out if they had trains on their dresses, which was a bit difficult to discern because all of them needed the length shortened. Eventually, we determined that there was a train on each of the dresses, which was NOT in any of the pictures on the website. The picture should really reflect the actual dress! All worked out, but it was a hassle to ensure that no one had removed the train already (either intentionally or inadvertently) and communicate that the person doing each girl’s alterations.
Men’s Tuxedos: Men’s Wearhouse (Rating: C-)
I had heard bad things about MW, so I was prepared for a mess, but that doesn’t excuse their “performance.” At the end of the day, we had men all over Ohio and in California, so we used them because of the convenience and because the guys could be fitted and order where ever they were, and pick up when they got in town for the wedding. My husband picked out a more expensive style (~$200/person), and despite confirming everything with MW well ahead of time and getting everyone’s orders in early, two weeks before the wedding, MW was calling my husband and leaving cryptic voicemails. We stopped in the store one day, and it turned out they just wanted to confirm things one last time, which would have been fine, but they could have just said that on the voicemail! Plus, by the time we talked to them, about ½ of the tuxes had already shipped, so it wouldn’t have mattered if something was wrong. In any case, only 3 out of 9 tuxes were correct. We had men that had pants that were way too small, vests that were the wrong size, shirts that were too small and that were too large, etc. For a national chain that MEASURED EVERYONE THEMSELVES, I expected better than 33%.
Photographer: No. 9 Images Photography (Rating: A)
We booked Robert after hearing about him online, sending a few emails back and forth, and viewing the albums of some of his other clients. We met him for the first time the day of our engagement photos, and I knew immediately that he was the right photographer for us. We had a really fun time during the engagement photo shoot, and we (including Robert) did a lot of laughing. About two weeks later, we had nearly 1,000 great photos to look through, complete with high res files and full copyright release. The day of the wedding, we had paid for a second photographer, so Robert dropped off the additional photographer with my husband and came down to meet me and the bridesmaids to capture us getting ready. Robert and Damon did a great job staying in contact (with each other and with us) before the entire bridal party met up in order to make sure everything was perfectly coordinated. They orchestrated an awesome first look, and we had a lot of fun doing our bridal party photos at Devou Park with them. They even managed to survive some chaotic family photos before the ceremony and get some good shots! We had asked them to get a shot of our first kiss from the point of view of the reverend, with the audience in the background, and I was super impressed that Damon sprinted around to ensure they didn’t miss the shot when we forgot to give them a cue for it. They were sure to get all of the shots we wanted, capture all of the “events” of the night, and confirmed with me that they had gotten everything we wanted before they left for the evening. Having Robert and Damon with us truly felt like we had two more friends with us for the day, and I can’t wait to see the photos, although I know they will be great!
DJ: Take 5 Entertainment (Rating: A)
Hiring Ryan was one of the best decisions we made! Ryan was truly a pleasure to work with, and made the whole thing so simple. Ryan provided the music for our ceremony as well as the reception. He provided us with a planning form ahead of time, which helped us identify what music we would have to select, and we got together for about an hour or so a few weeks before the wedding to go over the details. If there was any song that we wanted, Ryan purchased it so that he would have it, and he even provided some great ideas or alternatives to some of the more cliché songs that we had picked. Ryan ensured that the ceremony music ran smoothly, and then kicked off the reception. He helped us come up with some unique introductions for each member of our bridal party, and kept the entire night running on time. I also really appreciated that Ryan not only kept the party going all night long, but also maintained control of the music, being sure that the music was what my husband and I wanted it to be. There were a few requests that Ryan felt we might not like, and he waited for a thumbs up from me or my husband before playing them, which was awesome. The dance floor was packed all night long, and everyone was commenting how much fun they had.
Limo: A Savannah Nite (Rating:
It was relatively easy to book with A Savannah Nite. The limo (Tuxedo Excursion) was nice, and they provided the glasses as well as napkins in our wedding colors, which was a nice touch. Really, the only issue was with the directions. The limo picked up my husband and his groomsmen at our house and was supposed to take them to Devou Park in Covington. When I had filled out the itinerary, I had accidentally sent a version in which the address of the park was actually the address for Eden Park (I didn’t change it from the sample they sent me), but then I resent a corrected itinerary immediately following the original email. Well, they didn’t use the final version of the itinerary, so the men ended up at Eden Park. Luckily, my husband knew where he was supposed to be, so he let the driver know, but she had no idea how to get back to the interstate or to Devou Park, nor could she reprogram her GPS on her own. All the techies in the limo were able to get her rerouted, and they got to where they needed to be. The limo driver was super nice, and very skilled at maneuvering the limo. The other small issue was that they needed the physical card on the day of, but they never mentioned it to me when I called them to make the final payment, so there was a bit of panicking by my husband as to where the card was (I had it!) on the day of when he couldn’t get a hold of me. All in all, it worked out, though!
Hair and Makeup: Style Squad (Rating: A-)
I really wanted someone that would come to us the day of the wedding to do our hair/makeup, so Style Squad fit the bill. I coordinated everything through Angela, even sending some preliminary ideas back and forth via email ahead of the event. We ended up having 9 women needing their hair done and 7 women getting their makeup done. To be done by 2:30, we started around 10am, which made it very convenient that we could sleep in. Angela showed up at the hotel promptly, and was super friendly and easy to work with. We showed her our ideas that we had found on pinterest, and she did a great job executing everyone’s vision. She worked so quickly, it was awesome to watch. Everyone was so happy with the job that she did, and we had fun hanging out with her all day. Candace did our makeup, and with fewer people to do, she showed up about a half hour or so after Angela. Candace seemed much quieter and more reserved than Angela, but she was still super nice and did a great job. No one in our group had ever had their makeup done professionally before (and liked it), and everyone was very happy with the look that Candace achieved for them. The makeup stayed on all day, and we all got touchup bags which we used just before the ceremony, since it was a little warm during pre-ceremony pictures. Payment seemed more complicated than it needed to be, since they don’t take credit cards on location, and you pay each of them separately, but it wasn’t a huge deal. I would definitely recommend Style Squad to any bride!
Hotel: Courtyard Covington (Rating:
The hotel itself was great – the rooms were all very nice and spacious – large enough for us to use a standard room to get myself and all of the bridesmaids ready in (including hair and makeup) on the day of the wedding without feeling cramped. My family also really enjoyed the outdoor patio, which we totally used for partying the night before and after the wedding without complaints from the hotel staff. My only complaint was really in the details of the wedding block. Nearly all of our 200 guests were from out of town, so we knew that we’d need a lot of rooms. However, when we set up the block about 10 months in advance, they suggested (despite us telling them everyone was from out of town) we book only 20 rooms on Friday night before the wedding and 20 on Saturday night, the night of the wedding. They assured us that they would provide us with updates and let us know if our block was nearing being filled up so that we could add more rooms. They provided us an update in February (7 months before the wedding!) and then we didn’t hear anything more from them as far as updates went. We heard through one of our grandparents that the block was full. By then, they had also booked 2 other weddings for our weekend and it was difficult to add more rooms to the block. The hotel was extremely good about pulling reservations that guests had made outside of the block (at normal rates) into the block, but I had to know about it and communicate it to the hotel in order to get that done. So, it was obnoxious that corporate had provided such a bad suggestion and didn’t give us the updates they promised, but AWESOME that the local hotel was so willing to work with us and give our guests the discounted rate. They also provided a shuttle for our guests between the hotel and the venue, which made it super easy for everyone to drink and have a good time without worrying about getting a car between the places.