If I were to do it all again... 5 things I would do the same and 5 that I would do differently

There is something so awesome about an event that you get to design for yourself and your husband-to-be. When I was a fiancé back in the day, I was only 24 years old and at that point in my career I was really still figuring out my aesthetic. Luckily I still like a lot of what I was aiming for but there are just a few things I would change about what I planned and designed if I were to do it knowing what I know now. First I will start with the things I really loved about my wedding.

1. I loved that I picked a different format - I actually planned for my wedding to start at 7:00pm and end at 1:00pm. It was a black tie optional cocktail party. I was fortunate to have a venue that allowed me to go past 10:00pm with music, but seriously, EVERYONE stayed! It was awesome. It also alleviated the pressure of designing a perfect table to impress my guests with, and even though we had appetizers flowing and a pizza station for those who didn't get dinner beforehand, it was nice to just get married and start dancing pretty much right away (that is my favorite part of wedding receptions anyway!) 

2. I loved having JUST my sisters as the bridal party. I have friends don't get me wrong, but even 5 years into it, the groups of friends have changed as I have moved and I have lost touch with more than I would like to admit. Friends come and go in life, siblings will remain forever. :)

3. I loved my hair and makeup. Dress styles these days are way more my taste, but I cut out the back of my dress and had a top hair stylist in the area (Skyla Arts) and lovely makeup artist (Taryn Warren) doll me up and I loved every single photo. Wirth every penny. In the same thread I also hired a trainer and lost 20 pounds.. he was amazing. also worth every penny. 

4. First look was the best part of my wedding day. We both cried and had a really sweet moment together. I loved every second and it really is one of my fondest memories of the day.

5.  Definitely would pick the same groom... but that goes without saying. 

Now for the fun stuff, what would I do differently... ?

1. I would have let my sisters pick their own dresses, and then let them sit down in the front row with our parents. My poor sister in law had just had twins and I had picked a dress that was VERY tight in the top and through the rib cage... I wasn't thinking. 

2. I would have budgeted for tips. A lot of vendors really stepped up to help me out and I took full advantage but I didn't think about tips.. and I still regret it. Luckily I can send them business but it isn't really the same. TIP YOUR VENDORS! 

3. I wanted to have an attitude of "I don't care about the details, I just want to get married" because in my head that sounded so romantic to have that frame of mind. Turns out it led to failed expectations that I never vocalized and totally drove my family nuts because they knew I cared. A big failure on my part was not communicating the scale and colors of my bouquet well enough to the florist so now I don't like wedding photos of my flowers... so sad. 

4. I would invite way fewer people. Sure I was happy we had a full dance floor, but I barely spoke to any of the 125 guests. And thats even less than the average I plan for these days at 150. True, I was the first of three daughters to get married, but I wish we could have scaled down a bit. I might even consider doing more of a weekend long event with less people just to stretch that time out a bit. 

5. I would have done the wedding in early spring. I was already set on picking a venue I could take photos outside but do everything indoor because I had been in rough situations with wind and freezing cold/ extremely hot weddings. If I could change the date to when the flowers were prime and all the vendors were fresh minded and rested, that could have been better for everyone. Me included. I had 12 weddings before mine, and one after my honeymoon. what was I thinking????



Lara is a godsend and is exactly who you want behind the scenes at your wedding - Calm, intelligent, confident, detail oriented and not overbearing. Lara helped me one month out with my wedding on Memorial Day weekend at the St Francis Yacht Club. In hindsight, I wish we had spent the money to hire her earlier on instead of doing heavy lifting on our own. She has exceptional judgement and helped create our wedding – not a cookie cutter template, or a way to give money to preferred vendors. Actually she saved us money on wine, vendors and more.  From her masterful google doc with 18+ tabs to keep us organized, to the hour by hour planner which was sent to all the key members of the wedding party so they/we knew where to go, to pro tips on colors and last minute details we had forgotten she made our event seamless.  Most importantly, my mom, husband and I enjoyed our wedding and did not have to manage any problems the day of the event because of Lara. She went to the venue early, coordinated with all the vendors and left us free to do what we wanted – enjoy ourselves! Also it turns out that my husband would have forgotten the rings if Lara had not gone through a last minute check list with him. LOL! Thank you Lara. I would recommend you to family, friends and hopefully my own children in the future.


Best decision I ever made? Marrying my husband. Second best decision? Hiring Lara for full wedding planning and design! In retrospect, it was a no brainer. We interviewed many planners and we could tell that Lara’s experience was a good fit for our desire to have a guest-centered, fun and “effortlessly” elegant wedding. In choosing a wedding planner, sometimes some people are a little more “planner” and others are a little more “designer.” Lara is the best of both worlds! With her eye for design and business savvy, we not only stayed within budget, but we optimized our spending to have the most gorgeous celebration that I could have ever dreamed of! It was beyond magical. (Background: I’m a surgeon and my husband is a techie. I would describe both of us as busy people who like a deal and pay attention to detail.)

She quickly got a sense of our preferences and working style. Throughout the process, if a snap decision had to be made, we trusted Lara to do it and we were always happy with the outcome. With Lara’s help, we did not waste any budget on frivolous design details. She involved us through the vendor selection process and really took our budget to heart. She was great at giving us an honest opinion when we asked for it. You can trust her to recommend only vendors with the best reputations and that you will get your money’s worth. She is detail oriented, organized, and has fantastic style. I literally could let her decide everything, and it turned out perfectly. 

Lara’s organization and coordination of logistics were on point. She is a consummate professional and yet so warm and approachable. Our nearly 200 family and friends were so impressed with the way that the experience was individually personalized for each of them. Credit to Lara for her creativity and making that possible. I didn’t for a second worry about the big day. All I had to think about on my wedding day was what a wonderful, incredible experience it was to be with my loved ones and that I got to say I do to my husband. I am so grateful to Lara that I didn’t have to think about the schedule, logistics, vendors, event space regulations, headcounts, or even the weather etc. I remember my friends remarking how relaxed and happy I looked. My best advice to someone who is busy, but wants a personalized wedding experience and to stay on a budget (if only for the principle of it all): hire Lara for full service wedding planning and design. Wedding planning CAN be stress free and fun if you have Lara at the helm of your team! If you are wondering if it’s worth it, let me tell you that I’ve already done the math many times over, and hiring an experienced wedding planner/designer, like Lara, will actually save you money and prevent you from making costly mistakes. I am so happy to have met Lara. I consider her a wonderful friend and feel incredibly honored to be able to give my highest recommendation for her services.

Things you should know: Wedding Budgets

Photo by Kayleigh McCullum

Photo by Kayleigh McCullum

Wedding Budgets.... Where people go wrong

Most of the potential clients bring this up on our first call. They say, "Should we expect to spend 20% more than we tell you we want to spend?" My answer is simply, "That is up to you". The first thing to check in with yourself is your expectations. If you are expecting a $150K look but have $70K to spend, or maybe insist on having a band without knowing what they cost, OF COURSE you will go over budget. Part of my role as a planner is to help you navigate the wedding world and stay as close to that number as possible. Unfortunately we often take the blame for the budget being over the initial amount. I personally ALWAYS offer options for you to stay within budget, but that is not always the direction my clients go.

Photo by  Shot With Love

Location, Location, Location.

Depending on the location of your wedding, you may have to add hefty travel and delivery fees to your budget. Sure, getting married at some ranch in the middle of nowhere might be lovely, but you will probably need to pay for hotels, gas, and any other travel fees companies might charge to actually come make your wedding happen out there. Before you start getting excited about specific design elements, it is really important to check out local rental company inventory so you know things like what types of chairs you have to chose from, if farm tables exist in that part of the state, if gold flatware is even an option, etc. 

When to use Pinterest, and when not to use Pinterest.

Honestly, I would recommend using pinterest SPARINGLY. Seeing too many things that are beyond what you can afford might leave you feeling disappointed with the end result. You also don't want your guests saying  "I saw that on Pinterest!" when they walk into your wedding. It will immediately be less personal. Ideally, you might use Pinterest to find a wedding dress designer you really like, maybe a piece of art that has colors that appeal to you, and frankly I find it extremely helpful to communicate with florists about your bouquet and centerpieces. I even like to use images that illustrate scope so they know my expectation for how large or small (but let's be real, it's usually how large) the arrangement should be on the table. Invitation inspiration is another great thing to search for. 

Photo by  Jenna McElroy

Photo by Jenna McElroy

People don't think about ALL the elements of the wedding.

Caleb, my husband, told me one night that if he wasn't married to me he would literally think "I need to feed the guests, have flowers on the tables, hire a photographer to capture the day... and maybe a cake?" I would imagine my sweet husband is not the only one that thinks like that. To make things worse, when people seek out all the things to actually include in the budget, places like TheKnot.com, their pricing calculator might be accurate for some parts of the country, but NOT for the Bay Area. Again, I circle back to expectations. I might give you a long list of every single possible thing you could ever want on the budget, but you may not want some of those things. Wanting a custom bar built for your reception, but I might not put that in the initial expected budget because thats not a typical item people will spend money on. It is tricky, and best to hire a planner to process what your vision is for the day, and allow them to help you navigate what the expected cost will be for everything. 

As an example, let's use one single item - a chair. Let's use the average wedding guest number of 150 guests for this example. 


 Approximately $2.75-$4.00 on average (depending on the company you rent from)   x 150 guests= $412.50 to $600.00 plus tax, delivery, and sometimes set up/strike ($1-$2 per chair)

courtesy of Standard Party Rentals

courtesy of Standard Party Rentals


Approximately $8.00-$11.00 per chair on average (depending on the rental company) x 150 guests = $1200.00 to $1800.00 plus tax, delivery, and sometimes set up/strike ($1-$2 per chair)


Approximately $15.00-$35.00 per chair on average depending on style.

The cross back style typically goes for $15.00-$17.00 per chair x 150 guests = $2250.00 to $2550.00 (sometimes pads are added for $3-$4.00 per pad)


French Dining Chairs typically cost between $25 and $35 per chair on average x 150 guests = $3750.00 to $5250.00 plus tax and delivery.


So based on this example, you can spend anywhere between $412.50 and $5250.00 plus tax and delivery on just the chairs for 150 guests. Can you see why it's difficult for planners to just throw out a number without knowing what your design expectations are? 

I hope this article was helpful for you all! Keep all that I mentioned above in mind when you are planning your wedding, or maybe consider a consultation to go over the expected budget with a professional (or me!).

Things you should know: Bands vs. Djs

I don't know about you, but I absolutely LOVE to dance. I am that person that doesn't need a drop of liquid courage to get out and be the first one breaking it down on the dance floor. Am I a great dancer? Nope. But I love to just have FUN. The Band or DJ is a really important part of the party atmosphere you are creating when you celebrate your new commitment. There is a difference between hiring a band or DJ for the event. Below are the key things to consider:

photo by  Cameron Ingalls


Bands are super appealing because they brig a great level of energy and it feels like a different type of experience. A really great band will be a lasting memory, and can be really fun. This is a wonderful option for those who enjoy live music, seeing concerts together, finding new bands, etc. There are a few things you should know about hiring a band though, things I have learned from my experiences with them. 

They cost a lot more. A LOT more. Bands in the Bay Area that are most popular typically start between $8K to $10k and go up from there. I have even seen some bands that charge in the $35K range! If you find a great band for less, AWESOME, but that starting $10K or so is what I would put in an expected budget to start the process.

You should also consider the extras that come with a band. You need to typically pay for 7 band members plus a sound engineer (sometimes), adding up your vendor meals rather quickly. They also need to eat before they perform, so it is very important to make sure the catering team knows to have 8-10 plates prepared for the band, and they are served DURING guest dinner, not after. They might also have a rider - sometimes this includes alcohol (which I always refuse them - sorry guys, you are working!) almost always includes water, and sometimes mirrors or rags for sweat. Their contracts almost always include a green room of some kind, sometimes with a private bathroom, so make sure you talk with your venue coordinator about where they have done it in the past or how they could provide this for them otherwise.

photo by  Rachelle Derouin

When you hire a band, consider that they typically don't include ceremony, cocktail hour, or dinner sound. If you would like them to provide this, make sure you let them know in advance so they can quote you accordingly in the proposal. The band you hire may have lighting included, they might not. Ask! I would say more often than not they are OK making small general announcements in between songs like, "The 9:00pm shuttle is leaving in 10 minutes!" or "LAST CALL AT THE BAR" but they are not always comfortable doing that. 

They need breaks. Every 45 minutes they need a 10 to 15 minute break. Some bands will play 60 minute sets, but again, it depends on the band.   

With song selections, you may be limited to the songs they have rehearsed already if you don't get them your main dance songs soon enough.

With bands or Djs you might want them to be on a raised stage so consider adding money to you budget for that, should that be the case. Also make sure you know the dimensions the band prefers for the stage size before adding it to your rental order.

YO DJ, turn it up!!

I mean, I won't lie to you... I love a great DJ. They are very used to doing the ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing sound so most packages are inclusive of that. In general, they tend to be more flexible and easy to work with from my perspective. If you have a venue where each of the main events (ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing) are happening in different spaces, you may need additional speaker set ups (which will be an extra charge) but best to consult with the DJ company and venue coordinator first if you aren't sure. A standard decent DJ will run about $1700 and when you get to the high end DJs they can run $2500 to $5000 easily.  *Note these prices reflect bands and Djs I have had experience working with in California, your market may have different prices! 



Things you should know: Wedding Day Timelines

There has to be some boundary here so that you guys actually consider hiring me (can't give EVERYTHING AWAY!), but there are a couple things that can impact a timeline so I thought I should bring those up not he blog: 

Photo by  Charity Maurer

When can we start?

When I say "we", I mean "me." Knowing what time the venue will allow the catering staff and my team to come in to begin set up on the wedding day will greatly impact the level of staffing needed. At the beginning of your planning process it is important you find out when the vendors can load in and what time they need to strike and be off the venue premises.  

Photo by  Cameron Ingalls

Hair and makeup.

Typically hair and makeup artists like about 2-3 hours for just the bride's hair and makeup. For bridesmaids, I typically schedule 30 minutes for makeup and 45 for hair unless the stylists would like more or less time. I always check with them first! Also, make sure to ask the moms and grandmas if they would like to have their hair and makeup done, because we don't want to leave them out of the fun that morning!

First Look.

I love a good first look. Mine was literally my favorite part of the wedding day (we both cried, it was super sweet) I typically like to give about 45 minutes of time for this activity, before the bridal party is invited to participate in photos. Almost always first look photos are the ones you will hang on your walls at home so give yourself some time. 

Photo by  Megan Robinson


YEESH. My least favorite thing to deal with honestly. Great for convenience to the guests but man-oh-man. I could probably write a whole blog post about this (and probably will)! "Spotting" is the term they use to talk about the actual arrival time of the vehicle. They will typically "spot" at the first pick up location about 10-15 minutes before the actual pick up time. That's the first thing to address. Then, you need to recognize that people move like cows on wedding days... not sure why but I am totally serious. Give the bridal party about 5-7 minutes to get in and out of the vehicle and give shuttle about 10 minutes to load in and load out guests. Add cushion time to shuttles and limos for travel time and adjust if traveling in the city, adjust more if there is a big event like a Giants game, Pride Parade, or some other function happening that day. If you have multiple stops, make sure they have the accurate address for each stop, and that you allot the appropriate time for load on and off at each place. Aim to have the shuttles drop about 30 minutes minutes before the ceremony start time. 


If you hire a band for your event, they typically play 45 minute sets with 15 minute breaks. They almost always need to eat before they play, and typically need time for a sound check before guests arrive.

Sunset Photos.

Most photographers would LOVE to snag you for 20-30 minutes of sunset photos during golden hour (the hour before the sun sets) so I recommend Googling "Sunset on {your wedding date} in {the city of your wedding venue}" to find out what time to plan for that.

At the end of the day, it's really best to hire a wedding planner to deal with he ins and outs of your wedding day timeline, but I hope that this was helpful to get you going!